A weekend in San Francisco: Foggy but Fabulous

A weekend in San Francisco: Foggy but Fabulous

Let’s start with some full disclosure! San Francisco has been on my bucket list for many years and I was truly excited to get a photo like the above, but we were treated with the famous San Fran fog for much of our trip and so I admit the above photo is not mine (it’s from the wonderful Unsplash!)!

In a similar way to how I felt in New York, San Francisco already feels familiar as soon as you visit due to the number of times you’ve seen the iconic Golden Gate bridge in films, the steep, cablecar-dotted streets and the cute ‘Mrs Doubtfire-esque’ homes. Read on to find out what we did during our 3 nights in September 2022, what we loved, and what we would do differently next time.

WHERE WE STAYED:

After scouring Booking.com for lots of hotels, we chose Hotel Zoe at Fisherman’s Wharf. The design was beautiful, and free morning coffee was much appreciated! Breakfast was not included with our room but we ate there on our first morning and it was delicious – huge American style portions as you would expect, that certainly fueled us for the day. The next two mornings we went to a breakfast cafe nearby called ‘Eight AM’ – nothing spectacular from the outside (or inside!) but a really nice menu. On our last morning we planned to go to ‘Cafe de Casa’ just a few doors down from Eight AM but it seemed to have such a big queue every day (must be good!) that we didn’t have time as we had to pick up our car for the next leg of our roadtrip!

Whilst the Hotel Zoe itself was great, and the location very convenient for getting to where we wanted to, if we visited San Fran again we would not necessarily pick this area again. Fisherman’s Wharf is definitely the touristy/slightly tacky area with the classic souvenir style shops etc. I’m not sure I would have felt that safe there at night if I was on my own, however that might just be the remnants of having barely left the English countryside for 2 years throughout Covid!

GETTING AROUND

We got a taxi from the Airport to the Hotel as we were so tired from the long journey that we didn’t want to faff around with public transport, however I believe there is a BART system (Bay Area Rapid Transit) which can get you into San Fran for around $10, this had been our initial plan. Whilst exploring the City you can do lots of walking to get around (but be prepared for the steep hills!) or there is of course the cable car system that you can use too which we did a couple of times, as well as hiring bikes!

WHAT WE DID:

CYCLE OVER THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE

We rented from ‘Bay City Bike Rentals & Tours’ right next to the Powell/Mason Cable Car Turnaround and it was $35 each for the afternoon. They had e-bikes too which you might want to upgrade to if you don’t fancy such hard work pedaling up the hills. We cycled all the way to the foot of the bridge, and then over the bridge (both scary and exhilarating at the same time – the combination of wind, fog and heights was an interesting one but a great experience!) to the viewing point just at the other side. We were also determined to get to the Battery Spencer viewpoint that we had seen so many photos of, and were crossing our fingers that the fog would clear for us. We dragged ourselves up another hill to get there and were not greeted with the blue skies we hoped for, but it was certainly a good workout and by the time we dropped the bikes back we had cycled about 16 miles.

Battery Spencer Viewpoint

ALCATRAZ

Alcatraz prison is located about 2km offshore and was in operation as a prison from 1934 to 1963. It housed some of the most notorious criminals in American history, including Al Capone. We were not sure whether to visit or not as there was so much we wanted to see in the City, but both really enjoyed it and highly recommend going – there’s just something weirdly interesting about prisons! We also watched the film Escape from Alcatraz when we got home which was so fascinating! We went with Alcatraz City Cruises and it was $41 each. The sun came out too!

CHOWDER AT BOUDIN

We couldn’t not give some famous San Francisco food a try! We visited Boudin which is ‘the place to go’ and they serve their clam chowder in a HUGE sourdough bread roll. It was absolutely delicious and a perfect first night dinner when we were so tired from travelling and just wanted some food in our tummies before crashing back at the hotel. Highly recommend (if you like chowder!)

PIER 39 SEALIONS

Another iconic San Francisco tourist spot – I feel like it’s all iconic in this blog post! They were very vocal and fun to watch, I could have stayed there for ages, but we had more to see and do! The first sea lions appeared at Pier 39 in the 1990s and at one point there were over 1500 of them occupying the docks! They were drawn there due to the ample supply of herring and seemingly they are there to stay, and at the same time provide a free tourist attraction for visitors!

THE PAINTED LADIES

Also known as the ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ and ‘Full House’ houses, the Painted Ladies are colourful and ornately designed Victorian and Edwardian houses located near Alamo Square. We took the tram there as it would have taken a long while to walk, and did a little walk around the area too to look at some of the other beautiful houses in the neighbourhood.

LOMBARD STREET

Lombard Street is located in the Russian Hill area of San Francisco and consists of 8 hairpin turns, designed to make the steep descent passable for vehicles. It’s very popular for visitors to either walk or drive down, and admire the manicured gardens alongside the road which adds to its charm! The view from the top is great too, due to it being so high up.

Not my photo – we didn’t take the drone!

CHINA TOWN

San Francisco’s Chinatown is one of the oldest and largest Chinatown neighbourhoods outside of China! We went for a walk through the main street and sampled some dim sum for lunch.

PALACE OF FINE ARTS

A hidden gem of San Francisco I think! I hadn’t heard of it before researching for our trip and it is beautiful! A really lovely park to wander through and admire the architecture, lake, and perfectly maintained gardens.

Wow, it is only now that I have written about our 3 nights in San Fran that I realise just how much we manage to cram into our trips! I must stress that we are very ‘fast’ travellers in that we rarely leave much space for down time as we are always just too eager to explore. So, any itineraries that you see from me that are 3 nights, you may well prefer to stretch to 4 or 5 if you want some chill time included. Sometimes I think we have the tendency to zoom around a little too quickly, as we worry that we might never go back again and try to tick everything off! In saying that, there was still lots we didn’t see, such as the Golden Gate Park, loads of museums, Union Square and shopping district, Coit Tower, the Muir Woods, Ghirardelli Chocolate, lots of viewpoints, Sausalito and more!

Anyway! I hope this was helpful and gives you an idea of what you can cram into a weekend in San Fran if you put your mind to it! We loved it as a destination, just wished it was a little warmer…I learnt the hard way having not packed enough warm layers (due to heading off to the desert for large parts of our trip I didn’t think I’d need anything very warm…) so ended up wearing the same jeans and hoody nearly the whole time we were there! So be more organised than me when you visit!

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