“i left my heart in san francisco
high on a hill, it calls to me
to be where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars
the morning fog may chill the air, i don’t care” – Tony Bennett
oh, babes, where do i even start? this san francisco trip was SO MUCH FUN.
a little backstory: my family hosts a big reunion every other year, and this year it was going to be up in northern california just a few hours away from san francisco. so my mom, sister and i decided to just make it a long weekend and visit SF before heading out there. it was also boyfriend’s birthday weekend so i flew him up friday evening to celebrate ( BONUS: one of his best friends lives up there and he had been dying to go see him – BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT ) and sight see! the boy and i ended up ditching the reunion (sorry fam!) to keep hanging out and explore more of the city!
wanna skip right to a list of san francisco recommendations? click here!
okay so i guess i’ll just take you through everything we did on our trip in chronological order…seems to be the only way that i won’t leave something out haha.
after a delayed flight and dinner at the airport, we arrived in SF and ubered to our hotel in Union Square…or so we thought.
FUNNY STORY: out hotel was actually in the Tenderloin district aka the sketchiest neighborhood in SF. our tour guide literally called it the “black hole of san francisco” and i can see why. oh gosh, i bet our uber was like WTF are these three girls doing staying here?! I’M DYING. but never having been to SF before and trying to stay somewhere in town and on budget, the union square plaza hotel seemed like a good fit – it worked for the few nights we stayed there but i def DON’T recommend. honestly, i was horrified while we were there, but now it seems so funny!
you know those big bus tours you see rolling through cities like NYC, LA, las vegas and…san francisco? call us cheesy but YES we took a bus tour. a SEVEN HOUR bus tour.
now before you call us crazy and tell us we wasted our money, let me break it down for you: we did NOT take a big bus tour. we took a dylan’s famous tour with about 13 of our “closest friends” haha! i truly thought 7 hours was going to be brutal, but by the end of it, i was kinda sad it was over.
we hopped on our minibus down at fisherman’s wharf (right by ghirardelli square) with our tour guide, jose, drove through almost every neighborhood in SF, learned the history of the city & fun facts about each neighborhood and took several small “field trips” (as he called them) off the bus. we took a pit stop in sausalito for lunch at the best bay side sandwich shop, and then continued on to the muir woods. after over an hour of exploring we headed back to fisherman’s wharf to wrap up our tour!
all in all, i’d say if it’s your first time here & you don’t know much about the city, this might be the perfect idea! we seriously learned so much and had a great time seeing the sights & taking allllll the pics (OF COURSE!). 😉
head HERE to get more details on our specific tour!
LATER THAT SAME DAY:
y’all, our first full day in SF was a lonnnggg one (in the best way). after our tour we took a pit stop at the hotel for a power nap and a quick change then continued on with our exploring.
SIDE NOTE: we met up with some family (who was also in town before the reunion) that had gotten a rental car. this made exploring the city SO MUCH easier. the city is pretty small (only 7mi x 7mi) but that’s a lot of hills to walk up & down. if you’re going to be in town for a few days, a rental car or utilizing MUNI public transportation might be worth looking into…unless you want to rack up an uber bill. your choice!
moving right along! we then went to walk the famous lombard st AKA “the crookedest street”. y’all, i’m a SUCKER for flowers & there are flowers EVERYWHERE in SF. lombard street’s hydrangeas were beautifully in bloom, and if you timed your photo just right you could avoid unsightly car bumpers. 😛
for dinner that evening we did a little googling and ended up at The Tipsy Pig over in the Marina/Cow Hollow area. it was super yummy & had a great atmosphere thanks to the final NBA championship game! i had the bbq pork sliders and french fries – highly recommend!
friday morning we woke up early, grabbed some starbucks and made our way over to union square to catch the POWELL-HYDE line up to fisherman’s wharf, grabbed some ghirardelli chocolate and hopped back on to meet our family at union square.
for all you newbs like me, YES you can stand on the outside! but hold on and get ready to be skinny when you pass parked cars or another cable car! and for tickets, there are booths at both ends, OR you can get them on the SF MUNI app, OR if you don’t get on at the turnaround you can pay when you jump on. – click RIGHT HERE for more info!
the last thing we did that morning was a quick pit stop at The Painted Ladies! WAAAAKE UP, SAN FRANCISCO! you can bet i was living my best DJ tanner life for about 10 minutes! we had driven by on our tour, but you know me, i NEEDED a pic at this famous “full house” scene!
the rest of this day was pretty chill. i split up from the fam and spent my afternoon in san mateo, ca (just south of SF where C’s friend lives) waiting for his plane to arrive. if you are staying down there, i highly recommend walking around downtown san mateo & downtown burlingame. such cute little spots to eat and shop. – we had dinner in downtown burlingame at RISE pizzeria..SO GOOD.
when C got to town, we decided to see what night life SF had to offer! we ubered over to Bar None (total college bar) in Cow Hollow and ended up bar hopping around the neighborhood. my favorite spot of the night was definitely Palm House (pictured above). we got margaritas in coconut cups, i got to shake my drink (which i thought was so fun) & it was just such a great atmosphere overall!
after a quick breakfast, we headed out for the Muir Woods. (yes, i went on day 2, but the woods were on C’s list of things to see!)
this place is BREATHTAKING. seriously, y’all, god is SO AWEsome. i was in total awe. not really even looking where i was going because i was just looking up the whole time.
we spent the rest of the day just exploring san francisco. we walked around chinatown, saw the seals at pier 39 (FINALLY), rode scooters down to fisherman’s wharf where we all reenacted an iconic princess diaries scene, i tried oysters for the FIRST TIME at hog island (it doesn’t get much better than that!) & we ended the crazy day with irish coffees at the buena vista.
OH! and if you know me at all, you know i made the boys stop for ice cream on the way home. we went to salt & straw in burlingame which is LEGIT my FAVORITE ice cream spot thanks to my summer in cali! a MUST if you’re near one.
FIFTH & FINAL DAY:
C’s friend/our host for the weekend insisted we have nini’s for breakfast, and that we must order a side of sourdough toast. y’all, this little hidden gem is a winner in my book.
SAN FRANCISCO RECOMMENDATIONS BY NEIGHBORHOOD:
places marked with a * are personal recommendations. all others are from friends & family.
- Everlane Flagship store is here on Valencia street!
- El Techo de Lolinda – tapas, drinks, great rooftop bar for city views
- Foreign Cinema – great dinner spot that shows old movies
- Valencia Street – great vintage shopping
- *Dolores Park – stopped here on our tour! large, beautiful park so perfect for a picnic
- Flour + Water Pizzeria
- Beretta – pizza, small bites, craft cocktails
- this is a great area for nightlife! check out Union and Chestnut streets.
- *Palm House
- The Dorian
- White Rabbit Bar
- cute area to walk & shop around during the day time!
- Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters
- *The Tipsy Pig
EMBARCADERO & FINANCIAL DISTRICT
- *Ferry Building – grab a coffee or snack from the food hall and explore! there are tons of merchants to shop from and a farmers market.
- *Hog Island Oyster Co – had my first oysters here & it was the best first experience! totally worth the wait. plus the bay views are A++
- Jane on Larkin – technically in the Tenderloin, but super cute coffee stop!
- San Francisco MOMA
- Coqueta – happy hour, yummy drinks & tapas on the patio
- *super touristy (consider yourself warned), but this is where the old arcade museum (Musée Mécanique) is from Princess Diaries if you wanted to see it!
- *Hyde Street Cable Car turnaround is down at Fisherman’s Wharf too!
- *The Buena Vista – home of the irish coffee
- *Lombard St aka “Crooked Street” – this is technically in Russian Hill but it’s close to the wharf.
- this is a great area to just explore! cute shops & restaurants galore!
- *Painted Ladies – these iconic homes are just a couple blocks over
- *Salt & Straw – my favorite ice cream shop! unique flavors & unlimited tastings. you’ll smell the fresh waffle cones from blocks away!
- The Riddler – a wine bar i’m dying to go to
- Fig & Thistle – another cute wine bar
- Papito Hayes – mexican restaurant
- Azalea Boutique
GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
- *head on over the bridge to Sausalito, CA! such a cute little beach town.
- *we went to the cutest little, hole in the wall sandwich shop, but i can’t find it for the life of me.
- Barrel House Tavern
- The Trident
- Amorino Corte Madera – ice cream!
- continue on north to Muir Woods
and that’s a wrap, babes! throw in a lot of airport travel frustrations and you have a weekend in SF that i’ll never forget. there’s so much to see & do in san francisco there’s no way you’ll get to every neighborhood in the city. if you’ve been to SF and there’s a must see/do/eat that i missed, leave it down in the comments and i’ll add it to the post!