Monday, March 31, 2014

If You Only Have One Weekend in San Francisco

San Francisco is one of our favorite cities to visit.  In fact, when we travel, we often try to not go back to the same spots over and over again because we want to explore the whole wide world.  San Francisco is one of those places that we don't even think about when the opportunity to visit arises. We always go back.  Last Fall, we were barely able to visit when my brother-in-law got married in Napa Valley. While we all loved our incredibly brief time in the city, everyone wanted to return and we were happy to indulge the boys over Spring Break a couple of weeks ago.

If you only have one weekend, I really recommend that you stay in the Fisherman's Wharf.  The area is very close to most popular attractions as well as a bevy of amazing restaurants and yet is very accessible to other areas like Chinatown and Union Square.  As I've noted in the past, unless we have to stay somewhere specific, we've gotten really great at the Priceline game and have lucked out with fantastic hotels.  We've stayed at the Holiday Inn - Fisherman's Wharf and The Sheraton - Fisherman's Wharf.  Our favorite by far has been Pier 2620 Hotel also in the Fisherman's Wharf.  It is a beautiful boutique hotel with very comfortable beds and a cheerful and accomodating staff.

Traditional Eggs Benedict at Beach Street Grill
When we travel for fun, Mr. Fantastic and I rarely spend money on breakfast.  We like to sleep in and then we usually just brew coffee in the pot of our hotel room before heading out to explore.  We then pick a spot to eat lunch wherever we happen to be and splurge on our dinners.  We try to stick to this script as much as possible, but we have found a few cafes that we enjoy a bit more than Starbucks like Pat's Cafe near the Cable Car Museum and Emporio Rulli Cafe in Union Square. Our "hands-down" favorite place for breakfast is the Beach Street Grill in the Fisherman's Wharf which we've now discovered is very close to all the hotels above. :)  Their Chicken Habanero Sausage Omelette is a must try for everyone, not to mention, my favorite dish, Traditional Eggs Benedict.

For lunch, we've enjoyed Cioppino's with the family. Italian is always hearty and gives you energy for all subsequent activities. Also in the Fisherman's Wharf, we like King of Thai Noodle House and in Chinatown, we love the Vietnamese food at Golden Flower.

Some our favorite meals have been dinners in San Francisco. When we took the boys, we found a great pizza place, aptly called Fisherman's Pizzeria, where we could order a family pizza and a couple of beers for the frazzled parents while catching up on the lastest sports events.  A couple of years ago, Mr. Fantastic and I enjoyed drinks and appetizers at Capurro's while cheering for his beloved KU from our table at the bar.  One of my favorite dinner dates with my husband was at McCormick and Kuleto's in Ghirardelli Square. All the tables are set on gradient floors and face the tall floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the bay.  There is not a bad view in the house and watching the sunset, sipping champagne, and sharing calamari while we waited for our food is still one of my favorite memories.

The hardest thing of this post was narrowing down what exactly you should do with just one weekend.  While, we have often used San Francisco as a springboard to visit Wine Country, Yosemite, or San Jose for work, I will focus on what to do in town.
Lombard Street
If you rent a car, you absolutely MUST drive down Lombard Street.  As fun as that has been for us in the past, we now know that unless we are heading somewhere out of town, we really don't want to rent a car to stay in town when the public transportation system is so accessible and parking is so expensive.  If you don't rent a car, you can still enjoy the crooked street from one of the Cable Cars, which are another must do.  Even though, it is a very "touristy" thing to do, we always make sure we grab a Cable Car to get to Union Square or Chinatown at least once during our visits. It's fun and something unique to the city, so why not indulge?
View of the Golden Gate Bridge from a lookout off of Hwy 101
Every visit to San Francisco should also include a quick stop to see the Golden Gate Bridge.  When we rent a car, we always head towards the Alexander exit on Highway 101 and take the meandering road up until we find a good spot to get some photos.  While, we have been unsuccessful at finding the exact spot at Golden Gate Park, there is a great photo op there as well if you don't have a car to make the drive.

From Fisherman's Wharf, it is a short walk to visit The San Francisco Maritime Park, also referred to as Aquatic Park with it's wonderful views of the bridge as well as Ghirardelli Square and the various piers along the boardwalk.  We discovered during this last trip that one of our favorite museums, The Exploratorium, has moved from the Palace of Fine Arts to Pier 15, but it is well worth the trek, especially if you have science nerds in your family like we have.
View of Alcatraz Island
Finally, depending on how much time you have to explore, the one attraction that everyone should do at least once is a tour of Alcatraz.  We took the audio-guided tour and it is so much fun to learn the history and the odd tidbits! Plus, how fun to lock up your kids in jail?!?!?

Other things that are so much fun and close by are a walk in the Muir Woods to see the Redwoods, taking a ferry to Sausalito for the day, or spending an afternoon shopping in the Union Square area.  If you are a sports enthusiast, you could taken in a Giants game or a 49rs game depending on the time of year.

What are your must do's in San Francisco? Did I miss anything?


  1. Love this post! Pier 23 Cafe is always on our list of places to visit either for lunch, or just to rest and grab a beer and enjoy the view! I love that it's right on the water, but yet is just far enough away from Fisherman's Wharf to take a little step back from the crowds.


    1. Thank you for the recommendation. We are heading back there next month for a trip to Sonoma and I will be sure to stop by while we wait for our flight home. :)

  2. LOL-missed a lot, too many things to mention. A lot of little places that you need to visit. You did a great job in a weekend,

    Remember, I was born in S.F., grew up in the East Bay and work in S.F.

    1. Ah! Of course the local has me beat! Spill your secrets!


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