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.
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.
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, 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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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?