9 delightful highlights of San Francisco

As you know, my recent trip to San Francisco was my first – and therefore, I felt obligated to see as many of the “top sights” as I could squeeze into a four-day trip. Not only that, but I was on my own for three of the four days as Jordan was occupied at her conference. Not to toot my own horn, but despite the challenges, I think I did a pretty great job of sight-seeing! Here are the highlights of San Francisco.

Alamo Square

The Painted Ladies, Alamo Square, San Francisco

The very first thing I knew I wanted to see was the Painted Ladies, a row of quintessential San Francisco houses overlooking Alamo Square – which has incredible views of the city as well. Luckily for me, Alamo Square is just a couple blocks from the church I wanted to visit, making for an easy Sunday morning welcome to San Francisco.

Marina Green

Marina Green, San Francisco

Obviously getting a glimpse of the Golden Gate bridge was a must, and so I visited the Marina multiple times throughout my visit to San Francisco. I lucked out with weather – it was sunny and 70, with no fog to be seen, for four days straight – so this stretch of the waterfront became my favorite place to plop down with a book whenever I needed a walking break. (Which was often – there are A LOT of hills in San Francisco!)

Lombard Street

Lombard Street, San Francisco

Lombard Street, famous for being “the world’s crookedest” even though it’s not, was near where Jordan and I were staying in North Beach. I hopped a famous cable car and jumped off here with the tourists, snapping the necessary photos and wandering down the staircase. Although Lombard Street is gorgeous, it is a bit underwhelming – the famous part lasts only one block, perhaps a 15 minute activity if you take your time. Still, I’m glad I went!

Macondray Lane

Macondray Lane, San Francisco

In nerdy vacation ventures, I just had to visit Macondray Lane. Remember in January when I got hooked on the Tales of the City books? Well, the series revolves around a house on the fictional Barbary Lane – which is based on San Francisco’s very real Macondray Lane. It was as beautiful and strange as I expected from the novels!

The View

Sunset over San Francisco from The View

As suggestions on things to see and do came pouring in from my friends, one thing that showed up on everyone’s list was to have a drink at the Marriott Marquis’ rooftop bar, The View. Jordan and I were hesitant because of the steep prices we knew would be waiting, but neither of us had any regrets when we got to watch the sun set over the San Francisco bay.

Pier 39

Sea lions at Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco

The epitome of San Francisco tourism seems to be Fisherman’s Wharf, and while I’m not big on tourist traps, I just knew I couldn’t miss it on my first visit. The highlight? Seeing the sea lions that gather on Pier 39! About 1300 sea lions take over an entire yacht marina each year – and they have for as long as I’ve been alive. These guys had such personality as they alternated between lazing in the sun and fighting each other for prime spots.

Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco

I’ll be honest, I only went to Ghirardelli Square because it is the only thing my mom remembers from her own trip to San Francisco in the ’80s. I love reliving her experiences (as I did in the swan boats in Boston last summer), and it was definitely cool to see how the chocolate factory operates behind the scenes.


Chinatown, San Francisco

Not far from our humble North Beach abode was Chinatown; in fact, we had to walk through it every time we wanted to go downtown. Needless to say, we really soaked in the culture as our senses were assaulted – and of course reveled in cheap souvenir shops and a delicious dinner. We also happened upon some Chinese New Year celebrations!

City Lights Books

City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco

City Lights bookstore is famous for a lot of reasons, including winning a huge free-speech ruling in 1957. Any place that sells books supports free speech, and is a part of history is a win/win/win in my book (puns!) I visited this iconic shop twice in our time, and would absolutely be a regular if I lived on the west coast!

After a whirlwind trip to San Francisco, I feel great about the things I accomplished – and can’t wait to return and check more off my list! What did I miss?

San Francisco in video

Last fall, when my person came to visit New York City, I casually mentioned San Francisco among a list of cities I might like to visit in 2016. San Francisco is Jordan’s favorite city, and it turned out she would be attending not one but two conferences there this winter. Next thing I knew, I had lined up some vacation days and this week we spent four glorious days exploring the city by the bay. It was my first visit to any part of California that isn’t Los Angeles, and it’s safe to say I adored it! Here’s a little video of our adventures.

San Francisco 2016 from Leigh Anne Zinsmeister on Vimeo.

If you’re interested in how I make these videos, check out my post here


2015 in review

2015 is drawing to a close, and it has been quite a year. I’m not going to sit here and tell you how fast it went, or that I can’t believe it’s over, because you already know and everyone says the same thing. I said a year ago that 2015 was going to be a year of commitment and stability, and I was right: I’m writing to you now from the same Brooklyn apartment, where I live with the same roommate (plus one!) after a long day at the same job. It was a good year, don’t get me wrong – but I’m looking forward to some excitement in 2016. Before that, though, here’s a glimpse of the past 12 months in this delightful life of mine.


Winter Storm Juno 2015 in Manhattan

January & February

I’m clumping these two together because they were frankly the same: Work, schlep home in the snow, repeat. Before winter began I joked about hibernating from first snow to my mid-April birthday, and it ended up being a little more real than I anticipated. My friend Nicole did visit in February, and we ate our way around Manhattan for two days, which was a nice way to break up the monotony of the coldest New York February in nearly a century!

Also: I lead my first community group at Liberty Church, spent a day on the Upper West Side, prepared for a blizzard that never came, and went 21 days without social media.

The suburbs of Cleveland


In March I finally snapped out of my Brooklyn routine and flew to Cleveland for a girls weekend with my family! It was just the spark I needed to snap out of my winter funk: I reunited with my mom, sister, aunt and cousin – and remembered just how cool my birthplace can be.

Also: I celebrated one year in New York City with the best friends I could ever ask for.

Brooklyn Botanic Gardens


With April came the spring we had all been waiting for. I spent the month cherishing the opportunity to be outside, venturing to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens to soak up the sun and admire the cherry blossoms. April also brought my twenty-fifth birthday and all of the reflection that comes with such a milestone.

Also: The first-ever She Is Free conference, and Becca and I welcomed our third roommate, Faby!

One World Trade Center on a foggy day


May was supposed to bring a vacation, but I couldn’t get my act together in time and ended up with a New York staycation, one of my favorite things! Unfortunately, I got hit with a pretty bad head cold in the middle of it, and May got boring, but at least I wasn’t out of town when I got sick – and didn’t have to use sick days at work. Before I became bed-bound, I did see Mamma Mia!, visit One World Observatory for the first time, and pop by the Whitney – one of my favorite museums.

Also: I picnicked at Prospect Park for Memorial Day, and welcomed a slew of friends to my neighborhood as Crown Heights suddenly became “cool.”

Boston as seen from the Prudential Tower


In June my long-planned vacation finally fell together, and I headed off to Boston on my first solo trip. I had an incredible few days doing whatever the heck I wanted: Basically a dream come true!

Highlights included going to the top of the Prudential Tower, walking the Freedom Trail, and catching a game at Fenway Park.

The Venice Canals of Los Angeles


I kept up my summer travel streak by hopping over to the West Coast to reunite with some of my favorites:  I crashed with my college bestie Kathleen (also my unofficial blog adviser) met up with my aunt and uncle, and took a vow to never ever go two years without visiting California again!

Highlights of my LA trip include seeing the Venice Canals, visiting the Getty and hanging out in my favorite LA neighborhood, Santa Monica.

New York City as seen from the Top of the Rock


I kept still in August, but the excitement found me! My sister Ally came to visit over her nineteenth birthday, and we had adventures including a picnic dinner, a trip to Top of the Rock, and as much junk food as I could shovel into her health-conscious body. Hosting visitors is one of my favorite parts of living in New York (seriously, come visit), and I cherish getting to show off “my” city to people who have only seen the touristy parts before.

Also: I took a cruise around New York Harbor with my besties, started using Vimeo, and celebrated one year of A Genuine Delight!

New York City as seen from One World Observatory


The beginning of fall brought more visitors, with my parents and cousin overlapping their visits – and my best friend Jordan following shortly thereafter! There was a lot of sightseeing, including a one-day whilrwind, and catching up with loved ones. Bonus that I didn’t have to leave New York to make it happen!

Also: I launched my delightful guide to NYC!

A giraffe at Kruger National Park, South Africa


October was the defining month of my year: I took my first trip to Africa, mainly to do missions work with Children’s Cup, but ended up having the most transforming week of my entire life. From hitting the plains on a safari to getting to know my sponsor child in person, I am absolutely not the same person I was when I left, and I have a suspicion this trip was really only the start of a journey for me.

No “alsos” here. Africa defined October – and 2015 – and that’s perfectly fine by me.

Santa Claus at the 2015 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade


I was worried November would feel like my life screeching to a halt, but luckily I fell right back in love with New York City – and even with fall! I spent the month jumping in piles of leaves, eating tacos in the neighborhood, and celebrating Thanksgiving surrounded by loved ones – even if we don’t share blood.

Also: I checked “Go to the Macy’s Parade” off my bucket list, and tricked my travel bug into thinking I’d left the city by trekking out to Queens County Farm.

The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza


December has been blissfully, blessedly uneventful. I spent lazy days with friends, had some freelance work published for the first time in years, and celebrated Christmas in Brooklyn for the second year in a row. I really cherish getting to slow down when it feels like the rest of the world is going crazy!

Also: I ate my weight in snickerdoodles and saw a lot of Christmas trees.

Other highlights of 2015 include reading 38 books (on a goal of 30!), having my photos featured on Instagram by @travelmail and @nypost, and becoming a little more comfortable with commitment (to the city, to my job, to a blog). Tomorrow we’ll look to the year ahead – but for tonight, I hope you have the loveliest time celebrating all we’ve done in 2015.

Happy new year, friends!