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


A visit to the Perot Museum

Perot Museum Dallas

In the category “things I love to do but don’t do nearly enough:” visit museums! The history buff in me adores winding through exhibits, learning about anything and everything, and museum-hopping is usually a highlight wherever I travel. My parents also love a good museum, and so on my recent trip to Dallas we decided to check out the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.

Perot Museum Dallas architecture

Located in the heart of downtown Dallas, the museum building itself is not only gorgeous but sustainable.

Perot Museum Dallas

I personally enjoyed the mini-exhibit on animal poo, located just outside the restrooms.

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While I was never the kid into dinosaurs, I did enjoy exploring the T. Boone Pickens Life Then and Now Hall. Did you know there’s a dino called the Dallasaurus? Me neither, but it’s now officially my favorite.

Perot Museum DallasPerot Museum DallasPerot Museum DallasPerot Museum Dallas

While I’m not a science person in general, there are two specific types that get me excited. I’ve always loved meteorology and the weather – my kindergarten teacher got more than she bargained for when she asked if it was sunny or cloudy and got a five-minute lesson on the day’s barometric pressure. And I’ve also loved astronomy since our second-grade unit. As an adult, I’ve carried that over into writing about the space-shuttle program and exploring the Air and Space Museum in DC when we only had time for one museum. I was really excited to see exhibits on both meteorology and astronomy at the Perot Museum! And of course I had to pose in front of the green screen weather studio.

If you want to visit the Perot Museum (and I highly recommend you do, although maybe not on a Saturday – tiny humans everywhere!), it’s $19 for adults and you can get tickets here, although the line in person moved quickly. Info on parking is here, although we found a public lot just past Lot B on the map that was cheaper than museum parking. 

A(nother) weekend in Dallas

By now you all know the little secret I was keeping: I spent last weekend in Dallas, surprising my mom for her birthday! Ever since I left home at 18, I’ve dreamed of someday returning and surprising a family member. I kind of always figured it’d be my sister, but the stars aligned and I was able to go for my mom’s birthday weekend without taking any vacation time and using points to pay for the flight.  And so that’s how I ended up back Allen, Texas, for three days!

Tacos in Dallas at the Company Cafe

The first order of business, as always,  was a stop for tacos: specifically, breakfast tacos at Company Cafe. Tacos are my favorite food, and it’s a bit of a game for me to see how many I can eat in any given weekend down south.

The Perot Museum in Dallas

On Saturday we played tourists (I suppose I technically was a tourist!) and ventured to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science where I channeled my inner child. More to come on this soon!

Sunset in Allen, TexasDallas, Texas skyline

Though I spent my six years living in Dallas whining about how boring it was, the more time I spend away the more impressed I become each time I visit for a weekend. You can’t argue with that stunning suburban sunset in Allen or the Dallas skyline on a cloudy day.

Another successful weekend trip in the books.

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A delightful guide to Washington, D.C.

I am so excited to bring you my SECOND delightful city guide! As travel becomes a bigger part of my life I hope to bring you more tips and advice in addition to stories and pretty pictures, starting with Washington, D.C.!

Of course, the three days I spent in the District weren’t nearly enough to scratch the surface, so I brought in some reinforcements when compiling this guide: Courtney, Kathryn, Danielle and Julia are all good friends of mine whose taste I completely trust, and they all live or have lived in D.C.! I know that this guide will certainly shape my own future visits to the District, and I hope it will help you plan yours as well.

Bold indicates I have been there

Asterisks* indicate that this spot comes recommended by multiple people


Real good coffee at Compass, Washington D.C.

Real good coffee at Compass




Chicken and chips at Nando's Peri-Peri, Washington D.C.

Chicken and chips at Nando’s


Roasted duck breast at Urbana, Washington D.C.

Roasted duck breast at Urbana