As we mentioned earlier in the week, Seattle was a total blast (details here) to explore with Casey & Finn! But since Matt and I are both off for the summer, we stayed out west a little longer than our weekend in Seattle. As Casey and Finn boarded a plane back to Chicago, Matt and I rented a car and drove Highway 101 along the Oregon and California coast until we arrived at our final destination– San Francisco!
The trip was absolutely AH-MAZING, and I feel like I have soooo much to share, especially since we were both first-timers to the PNW + San Francisco. Today’s recap focuses on our San Francisco adventures, but I wrote a bonus post that highlights the most stunning views we have ever seen thanks to our travels down Highway 101. You can check it out here.
For now, let’s chat all things San Francisco, shall we?
We actually arrived to SF earlier than we thought we were going to, so we immediately headed out to check off one of Matt’s “points of interests”. Matt is a big sports fan and loves to check out new stadiums, so he was pumped that were able to check out a Giant’s game while we were in town. Here’s a play by play of our time in SF:
Stadium & Giant’s Game
AT&T Park was a really cool stadium (right on the water!) and the Giants were playing the Seattle Mariners, which was cool for Matt to see since he just toured the Mariner’s stadium while we were in Seattle. I’ve never seen such a variety of food in a baseball stadium– so cool! And luck was on our side that night because we were able to take a picture with the Giant’s World Series trophies!! Needless to say, Matt was on cloud 9 and the SF trip was only beginning. #greatstart
Bike to Sausalito
Matt and I are typically “early birds” so we woke up early and rented bikes to ride over the Golden Gate Bridge to the most charming town across the bay, Sausalito. The trail from SF to Sausalito is an 8 mile bike ride and was SO MUCH FUN. My advice? Definitely get helmets!! Other speedy/experienced bikers + car traffic = better to be safe than sorry. I would not necessarily recommend this bike ride for young children, especially on the Sausalito side. The hills are intense and we were cruising alongside cars on a 45 mph road that didn’t have sidewalks. I’m not a mom, but I can imagine this would be extremely dangerous for little ones, heck it was a little scary for me! Overall though, biking the Golden Gate Bridge was a #bucketlist item that did NOT disappoint. And because we got a jump start on the day, there was hardly any traffic or congestion on the bridge or sidewalks. I would definitely do the morning ride again… just gorgeous.
Wow, wow, wow… Seeing Sausalito was awesome! We rode into town, not knowing what to expect and were pleasantly surprised with the most charming, quaint, and adorable town overlooking the bay. The houses up on the hill are amazing, the shops are adorable and again, because it was still early… we felt like we were the only ones in town! No Crowds = Happy Tourists. We parked our bikes and explored the shops and harbor. We could have ridden our bikes back 8 miles to SF, but instead the bike rental shop said it’s common for bikers to buy a ferry ticket ($11 each) to ride back via boat instead of bike. I would recommend this (not only because you don’t have to bike back another 8 miles) but because the views from the ferry are totally worth it!
We returned our bikes, enjoyed a relaxing lunch on the water and decided to purchase tickets for the bus tour. Such a tourist move, but we love these tours because we feel like we get a better sense of the city, a better sense of directions and the tours help us figure out what sites we want to see more of later in the trip. For $45, we purchased two-day bus tickets that allowed us to jump on and off at different spots throughout the city. We ended up doing both tours that the company offers that afternoon because it was so empty… one of the tours we were the only ones on the bus!! We sat back, took in the sights, and made a list of what areas we wanted to go back and explore.
Disclaimer: I hate to say it, but I’m not a huge lover of seeing museums or historical landmarks when I’m on vacation. Maybe that makes me the worst traveler ever, but it’s the brutal truth. That being said though, I was ironically pumped to see Alcatraz and really loved everything about it. The history of this landmark fascinates me, so being able to visit it was really interesting. My advice? Buy tickets ahead of time. A co-worker gave me this advice and I’m grateful she did because ALL of the tours were sold out while we were there. I think I bought our tickets about 2 months in advance online. With our tickets, we boarded the ferry and then were able to stay on the island as long as we wanted. We took the FREE audio tour, watched a little video about the history in a mini theatre (also free), and then headed back a few hours later. Rumor on the street is that the evening tour is spooky and awesome <– I’m way too much of a chicken to try that. Also, the ferry out to the island and the island itself offer some spectacular views of the bridge and city. #photoOp
Another Alcatraz Tip — dress warm! It’s windy out there on the island!! Actually, bring warmer clothes to SF in general. Mornings were cool, evenings even cooler. I definitely would have brought less shorts and more light sweaters if I knew what I know now. #lessonlearned
Other Tourist Attractions
Alamo Square & the Painted Ladies
We jumped off the bus at this stop because yes, I NEEDED to see where the Tanners lived. (Full House Trivia for 100?). The Painted Ladies were gorgeous and surrounding blocks of Victorians were really cool to see. I wonder if Full House 2 (Fuller House?) will take place on this iconic hill too?
We stayed in Fisherman’s Wharf, so we spent quite a bit of time exploring this area. If you’re looking for fresh seafood, I think this is the place for you!! Fresh crab in tanks on the street, amazing clam chowder, fish and chips galore. This space was filled with boats, birds and lots to eat. Plus, if you are looking for any type of “traditional” souvenirs, check out Fisherman’s Wharf.
SEALS! At the very end of Pier 39, you have to check out the seals sunbathing, making lots of noise, and just being playful & entertaining. <– especially if you have kids!! I’m sure this will be a fan favorite =)
If you’re a chocolate lover, you should probably hit up Ghirardelli Square for obvious reasons. But when you get there, you may be pleasantly surprised to find some adorable shops! If you’re looking for a more “non-traditional”/adorable California keepsake or just looking to browse some unique (and adorable) items, definitely hit up Ghirardelli Square. (the free chocolate samples probably won’t hurt either!).
When in San Francisco, why not take a ride on the iconic trolley cars?! It’s just that simple.
We walked UP Lombard Street to eventually get to the top and see the zig-zag street on the other side of the hill. Let’s just say, Lombard street’s title as the “steepest street in the world” is VERY well-deserved. I think I’m still huffing and puffing. Well worth the trek though, partly because Lombard street is beautiful and filled with gorgeous hydrangea bushes, and partly because this hike means I don’t need to hit the gym anytime soon.
And last, but very not least…. the Golden State Warriors won the NBA title while we were in San Francisco. To me, this doesn’t really mean anything. To Matt, who is obsessed with the NBA, this was super cool to be in the city while they clinched the title. Of course we had to pick up the San Francisco Chronicles and take a few pics of him on the top of Lombard street with the winning print! Starting the trip with a baseball game and ending it with some NBA history…. I think San Fran was a big hit with Matt. =)
Overall, San Francisco exceeded our expectations! We would highly recommend checking out this gorgeous city because there’s so much to do!! Our only advice — dress warm and bring lots of money… SF is one EXPENSIVE place.
And although I LOVED Cali, this Chicago girl is happy to be back home sweet home. Until next time,
P.S. Check out this post for the scoop on our drive from Seattle to San Francisco via Highway 101.