San Francisco

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While we were in the Bay Area, there were tons of spots we wanted to check out.  We went to Napa Valley, Muir Woods, Sausalito, San Jose to visit B’s family, and even took a drive down to Monterey and Big Sur.  This didn’t leave too much time to explore San Francisco, but we saw as much as we could in the three days we did have!

I was expecting to be cold all the time and shrouded by fog at least for the greater part of each day.  These things everyone always said about San Francisco, but were not true at all the three days we were there.  We walked out onto sunny streets each morning, and I was a little overdressed in sweaters two out of three days.  This unbelievable stretch of weather we had was perfect for all of the outdoor ventures I had planned.

Where To Stay.

Hotel Zoe.  This was the hotel I had originally planned on booking.  If you want to spend most of your time near the Marina District or Fisherman’s Wharf, it’s probably a great bet!

We opted for an Airbnb since they are so much more reasonably priced then most hotels, and generally with much better locations throughout the city.  Feel free to email me (thesolcompass@gmail.com) if you want to know the place we stayed – our host was great and the location worked out perfectly for us!

Where To Eat.  

Maven.  The first day we were in San Francisco, we went to Alamo Square to see the Painted Ladies and were walking around the Lower Haight area, with some time to kill before our dinner reservation.  We stopped in Maven and grabbed some seats at the bar, almost instantly ordering the rhubarb crumble (topped with pistachio bourbon ice cream!)  It was so amazing, I would recommend checking this place out just based on that one dish.  They also have a sizable selection of wine, beer, and cocktails.  Every detail of the interior design was better than the next- from the live edge bar, to the open floor plan, and the greenery filled wall!

Hong Kong Lounge II.  There was no question we would be having dim sum at least once while we were out west.  Even though there were plenty of recommendations, we decided on this one.  Everything we had was amazing, but I particularly loved the dumplings!

Akiko’s.  Another non-negotiable SF food I knew we had to have was sushi.  Akiko’s is a small and very cool place so, as with everywhere in San Francisco, I would highly recommend making a reservation beforehand!  The quality of the fish here is outstanding, though I wasn’t super impressed with the assembly of their maki rolls, so I would definitely recommend going with a nigiri or sashimi tasting!

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Coqueta.  B and I absolutely adore tapas, so we made a reservation at the waterfront Coqueta as our last dinner of vacation and it absolutely did not disappoint!  They started off strong: with a location on the water, huge windows with views of the bay, and a huge ceiling with exposed beams and pipes.  Our reservation was for the chef’s counter, a bar perfect for couples who want to sit close or for foodies who want to look into the kitchen and watch the artful preparation of their meal!  We started off with a pitcher of sangria (11/10 would recommend) and the Iberian cheese plate, which you can really never go wrong with.  All the tapas we ordered and the churros we got for dessert were amazing, but I would love to go back again to try their paella and manchego cheesecake!

Mr. Holmes Bakehouse.  The Insta Famous bakery has a different flavor of Cruffin (croissant muffin hybrid) each day of the week, which changes quarterly.  We went on a Monday morning, so the line to pick up one of the famed pastries wasn’t too bad.  You definitely have to check it out (and snap a pic of their neon sign!)

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Boudin’s Bakery.  Home of the original San Francisco Sourdough, you definitely have to get clam chowder in one of their legendary bread bowls while you’re in town.  I didn’t particular want to go to Fisherman’s Wharf, having a personal track record for impatience in that type of tourist trap, but we went after our Alcatraz cruise solely thanks to B’s recommendation of Boudin’s and it was 100% worth it.  If the clam chowder can impress two native New Englanders, it can impress anyone.

Ferry Building.  One of my very favorite activities in a new city is to snack my way around some local treats (shout out to my Dad who taught me the joy in eating one’s way around cities).  Places like New York’s Chelsea Market and San Francisco’s Ferry Building make this super easy to do!  The Ferry Building is absolutely gorgeous both inside and outside, plus I love that you can pop outside the back to enjoy your treats by the bay!  (Check out all the merchants, food and otherwise, here).

What To Do.

Alcatraz.  The only thing B said he absolutely wanted to do on vacation was the Alcatraz tour, and it certainly did not disappoint.  Make sure to buy your tickets it in advance, since some of the times will sell out.  We chose to take the earliest tour possible, since the island would be slightly less crowded than it would by the time more visitors arrived.  The ferry ride over to the island was very enjoyable, and the audio tour of the penitentiary is absolutely incredible.

Golden Gate Park.  Let me just start this off by saying Golden Gate Park is huge.  It’s beautiful, but it’s also huge.  I think you could spend a full day here and still not see everything that’s housed inside.  The Japanese Tea Garden is absolutely stunning in its serenity, and the Conservatory of Flowers should not be missed either!  There is even an aquarium and a fine arts museum on the grounds, so even if a stroll amongst nature wasn’t on your itinerary, there’s probably something here for you.

Presidio.  This former military post was one of the coolest places we saw.  In modern day, it’s basically a huge outdoor playground and a hub of SF history.  Once you’re here, there are two free shuttles that will take you around the park, plus a free shuttle that will take you back across SF to the downtown area!  I mean, how great is that?!  Their website has a comprehensive guide to planning your perfect trip to the Presidio, but definitely make sure you get in some history at the Officer’s Club and some stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge down at Chrissy Fields!

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Alamo Square.  We weren’t planning on going to see the famous Full House street, but we found ourselves with some extra time so we went anyway.  The park is quite nice, the houses are stunning, but there’s a gorgeous tile mural on the Hayes Street entrance to Alamo Square that you really shouldn’t miss.  I was so impressed!

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Lands End.  The only place on our list that we didn’t have time to get to was Lands End.  I’ve heard that the sunsets here are absolutely stunning, and who doesn’t want a short hike followed by some beach time in California?!

Where are your favorite places in San Francisco??  Let me know in the comments!

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