Visiting San Francisco has always been on my U.S. travel bucket list, and I finally decided to pay my first visit to a city that I have heard too much about from friends over the last couple of years. My favorite type of trips are ones that have a variety of landscapes for me to explore, and my short trip to the West Coast exceeded my expectations on all accounts (not that I doubted it wouldn't). I actually decided pretty last minute to spend my 4th of July holiday week in California since I had no solidified plans back in New York City at the time. I came to visit a friend who had just moved out here a couple months ago for work along with two others who flew in from DC, and also to hang out with another close friend who has been trying to get me out here to visit for years! Special thanks to Andy and Alina for hosting and I cannot wait to see you guys again soon. Thanks for a fabulous welcome to a city I quickly fell in love with this past week. I’ll be back again, I promise.
This by no means if a full itinerary of SF, but it does summarize a lot of the highlights that the city has to offer, and captures the beauty of what I was able to experience here. I hope you find this helpful in planning your San Francisco trip or that you just simply enjoy scrolling through my personal travel album! Thank you to all of you who played photographer.
Painted Ladies (Alamo Square Park) Alamo Square Park was actually the first place I explored on my own one morning on my way to a café for some coffee and toast from The Mill. I grew up watching Full House and have seen pretty much every single episode over the years, so I definitely made it a point to see the famous lot of houses featured in the series. I would recommend stopping by to snap a few photos and to feel the nostalgia if you’re a fan of the show like me, and if it’s a nice day out, grab a couple sandwiches and have yourself a picnic in the park overlooking the Painted Ladies and the city skyline!
Fun fact: I have also seen the first season of Fuller House, which I am personally a fan of.
Mission Dolores Park No one ever fails to mention Dolores Park in their SF suggestions, and there’s definitely a reason behind it! There’s nothing like sprawling out on the vast lawn on the rolling hills of the park and people watching as you soak in the sun. I never got to personally see the truffle man I’ve heard all too much about, but maybe one day I’ll get to spot him in the park! Dolores was such a happy place to be on a Friday afternoon, and there seems to be a party there every weekend, contributing to why I associate the views here with classic San Francisco vibes and scenery. You can get a great view of the Mission District, San Francisco Bay, and East Bay at the southern half of the park, so pack for a picnic!
Bernal Heights There are many different ways to see a skyline of San Francisco, but Bernal Heights has to be one of the best spots for some truly breathtaking views. We took an Uber up the hill, but continued the short hike up to the very top to enjoy some golden hour beauty (I'd recommend some sensible shoes for this walk). There is even a Bernal Heights Slide for all of you out there with an inner kid spirit and for those nostalgic with playground memories.
Tennessee Valley Hike
As a group who loves outdoor activities, we wanted to escape the busy city for an evening and headed to Tennessee Valley for a short 3 mile hike to a small, secluded beach. We drove about 45 minutes outside of San Francisco, and enjoyed a leisurely golden hour walk before dinner (aka In-N-Out). There weren’t many others doing the same hike, which meant we pretty much had the valley to ourselves. It was incredibly peaceful and helped us to recharge for a long day of hiking the next day.
San Francisco Ferry Building Market
I love myself a great farmers market, and one of my absolute favorite things to do when I travel is to ensure I visit the local hot spots for fresh food and produce. The weekend market here is bustling, and there are dozens of vendors selling everything from lavender bunches and fresh-picked peaches, to unique regionally cooked foods and natural juice stalls. For those of you brave enough to try, we even saw a vendor selling bug snacks and cooking ingredients made with various insects (worm spices and dark chocolate covered crickets anyone?). We filled up on Nepalese bison dumplings and crispy pancetta sandwiches, and of course I finished my meal with a delicious coffee ice cream cone from Humphrey Slocombe, which also has a stall inside the market.
Napa Valley – Domaine Carneros
I’ve always loved the idea of spending an entire day navigating my way through wine country, though I have to admit that wine isn’t exactly my cup of tea. The first stop on my trip was actually a visit to the Domaine Carneros (about an hour and a half drive from San Francisco), and I got my first taste (literally) of what was to be a beautiful week here. We didn’t do a tour but did a wine sampling, complete with my favorite - cheese and crackers! Domaine Carneros is known for their sparkling wine and Pinot Noir, so make sure you don’t miss out on it if you’re visiting.
I actually hadn't heard much about Lombard Street prior to visiting San Francisco, but my friend made it part of our itinerary and got me excited to see one of the most famous streets in the city. Lombard Street is known as the "crookedest" street in the world, attracting millions of tourists every year. It's also really fun to watch cars navigate through the 8 hairpin turns and to walk along the beautiful Victorian mansions lining the street.
Chocolate lovers rejoice! Find yourself in cocoa heaven at Ghirardelli Square, located in the Fisherman's Wharf's area of SF. This public square is lined with shops and restaurants and is definitely a historic landmark in the city. Of course, I fond my hands on some ice cream and we were in a rush to leave right after, but definitely spend a few hours walking through the area and exploring since there's a lot to see that I missed out on!
Sausalito Sausalito is a San Francisco Bay Area city in Marin County located 7km north of San Francisco. We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and stopped by on our way up to Tennessee Valley for the evening. Sausalito is home to many local dining establishments and boutique shops, and is the perfect getaway for a outside of the city. Take a look at this site for more details about a full day's adventure in Sausalito. Unfortunately, we only had the time to walk around for an hour or two, but I would have loved an entire day ferry hopping and visiting the beach as well!
Japantown Mel and I just came back from Japan about 2 months ago, so trust me when I say that I miss it so much! It was really cool to get a chance to see Japantown in SF since it brought back lots of great memories from my trip (from the fake food windows to the beverage vending machines). You can find some of the most authentic Japanese restaurants and shops here, so make sure you don't miss out on exploring this cute area! Take a look at all of our Japan adventures here.
Golden Gate Bridge
Is there really an explanation for why you need to stop and soak in the views of Golden Gate Bridge? I'll leave a few fun facts here to feed your curiosity.
* Construction began in 1933, took four years to complete, and cost about $35 Million
* It's cables are made by the same company that built the Brooklyn Bridge (one of my personal favorite bridges in the world)
* A few different colors were proposed for the bridge (carbon grey aluminum, black, etc.). Irving Morrow, the consulting architect eventually settled on "International Orange"
Golden Gate Park As an eternal fan of Central Park, I have pretty high expectations when it comes to public parks! Golden Gate Park is a sprawling urban park consisting of 1017 acres, and you could easily spend all of your weekend exploring all that it has to offer. From the California Academy of Sciences and Conservatory of Flowers, to the Golden Gate Park Aquarium and Strybing Arboretum, there is no shortage of entertainment.
I decided to spend an hour or two walking exploring the vast botanical gardens (Admission: $8), even though I ended up walking only a small portion of the whole area given that I would have been in there forever if I didn’t pick and choose what I really wanted to see. Ask the person at the counter when you buy your tickets to point out the highlights and must-sees when you’re there so you can maximize your time. There is also a Japanese Garden with an admission price of $8 that looks really awesome and well-kept, but given that I had just come back from Japan, I picked the botanical gardens instead!
Haight Ashbury "The Haight"
Haight Ashbury is a district in San Francisco and is named for the intersection of Haight and Ashbury Streets (go figure!). We spent a few hours in the early afternoon exploring the neighborhood, which is noted for its role as a center of the 1960's hippie moment. There are a ton of eclectic shops to browse, including the vintage emporium, "Decade of Fashion" for all you fashionistas out there. A stroll through this district will undoubtedly make you smile; I simply cannot describe the happiness I felt in the air.
San Francisco's Chinatown is actually the oldest and largest Chinatown outside of Asia! I've spent plenty of time in my life in NYC's Chinatown, so it's always really interesting and exciting when I get a chance to visit another city's Chinatown (Toronto, Lima, Vancouver, etc.). I spent about an hour walking through the area, starting at the Dragon's Gate, which serves as the entrance! There are tons of shops restaurants, and attractions here, and if I had more time I would've explored the area more fully. Check out this useful website for planning your time here.
16th Avenue Tiled Steps
What a gorgeous masterpiece of 164 beautifully designed and painted steps (located at 16th and Moraga). This community project began in January 2003 with the support of the Golden Gate Heights Neighborhood Association. Parking is free along the residential streets so there is no excuse not to visit. I didn't get a change to walk to the top, but apparently the view is worth the exercise up!
Yosemite North Dome Hike
I hopped onto this trip having a very vague idea of what my itinerary would be like (extremely spontaneous if you know anything about how I love to trip plan!). Apparently, Yosemite was always part of the plan and I was more than excited to get to go a beautiful hike with some of my favorite people! We drove to the park on a Sunday Morning, and unfortunately got stuck in a ton of traffic getting in and out of the park given that it was a busy holiday weekend, and everyone else also had the brilliant idea to spend the weekend hiking. We had set out to hike up Upper Yosemite Falls, but made the conscious decisions to just see the Lower Falls after our long hike to the starting point and save up our energy for the next day. Our next morning began with a beautiful, strenuous hike on the North Dome Trail, which was a total of 8.8 miles back and forth (took us about 5.5 hours with a few short breaks and a time for lunch at the top with a gorgeous view of Half Dome!). We totally recommend this less popular hike because you will avoid lots of crowds and you get an incredible panoramic view of the valley and dome.
Tip: Book hotels and accommodation well in advanced, since rooms seems to book up well in advanced on the weekends and of course during busy holiday times. Tip: Bring lots of water, and be prepared for some steep inclines and lots of creek hopping!
SAN FRANCISCO EATS
What’s a trip without some incredible food? I am blessed enough to live in a city where foodies find themselves flocking to, but I was equally as excited to check out the San Francisco food scene since I love to eat as I much I love discovering new places! I won’t get into the nitty gritty and review every dining establishment, but I’ll leave some photos and some short descriptions for you.
Tuba Authentic Turkish Restaurant
(Dolmas- grape leaves stuffed with rice, pine nuts, currant), Adana Kebab- spicy ground beef with lamb mixed with green and red bell peppers, Cevizli Ezme -Walnuts, Turkish red pepper paste, tomato paste, fresh garlic, olive and cumin)
Iza Ramen (Karage Chicken - left, Iza Ramen and Iza Tsukemen- dip ramen on right)
Siam Lotus Thai Cuisine (Butternut squash panang curry and mango tofu w/ rice)
Green Tea Rose Milk
Birthday Cake Latte
Almond butter and sea salt on raisin bread
Saving the best for last! The secret is probably out about my ice cream addiction, but that just means I can now voice my love for it without holding much back. I was able to try some of SF’s finest ice cream institutions in the span of 3 days, and my binge set off the trip on a very high note. Thanks for the ice cream extravaganza Andy!
Bi-Rite Creamery - Salted Caramel (most popular flavor) - Black Sesame
Smitten (Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream)
- Blueberry Lavender - Honey Thyme
Salted Caramel between chocolate chip and macadamia nut cookie
- Iced Vietnamese Coffee - POG Sorbet (Passion Fruit, Orange, Guava
Thank you so, so much for reading this post and extra thank yous to everyone who was a part of making this trip so fun!