Our second wedding anniversary was coming up and we were itching to go on an adventure together. Since we originally honeymooned in San Diego/Coronado Island, we decided it would be fun to go back somewhere new in California every couple years or so for our anniversary. San Francisco has been on our radar for awhile, and we have heard nothing but good things about the city, so we jumped on in! The food, of course, was AMAZING, the sights to see were endless, and the company was perfect.
San Francisco weather is perfectly described by Katy Perry’s song:
“Cause you’re hot then your cold, yes then you’re no, in then your out, up then you’re down” – WEAR LAYERS.
Warning: fair skinned beauties out there, this city could very well (or should also be) be known for its wind. You will come out of this with a wind burned face! Trust me though, it’s worth it ?.
Here’s a breakdown of the delicious food we ate, amazing sights we saw, and little hacks we learned about San Fran while we were there!
- The Mill Coffee House – this was our first experience with a real San Francisco coffeehouse. We were taken there by an old co-worker and friend of mine and her husband. Oh boy, I will never think of a mocha the same! Getting the chance to watch how they hand spun my coffee creation together was also a big bonus. This looked like it would be a great “usual” stop for coffee, baked goodies, bread, and the infamous $8 toast. What we got: a mocha, a medium roast coffee, pumpkin bread, and a maple bacon donut.
- Iza Ramen – Holy smokes! This is a must-go-to place. I have never tasted ramen that had so much flavor and depth. I am still racking my brain as to how I can re-create this flavor profile. The staff there all greet you in unison when you come in and when you leave. It just sets your mood right for the delicious noodles you are about to slurp down! It is a smaller place, so a reservation or getting your name in early may be beneficial. What we had: garlic edamame, karaage fried chicken, Iza ramen (regular), and spicy tsukemen.
- Blue Bottle Coffee – This was by far our favorite coffee joint while we were in San Fran (we went there multiple times). It was another recommendation from our local friends that live there, and it did not disappoint! The mochas were rich and robust, and almost too pretty to drink! Make sure you go to a location that serves the waffles, because there is nothing better than a waffle in one hand and a mocha in the other. What we got: mochas and waffles.
- Boudin Bakery and Restaurant – I realize this may be a chain restaurant in California, but it is a great stop! Nothing like a big bowl of clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl after a day of exploring in the city. We stopped here twice during our trip, just because it was that good. If the bakery tour is open, make sure you take it! This place can be especially busy during normal dining hours, so be ready for a small wait in line if you go. What we got: clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, the Italian classic sandwich, and a pepperoni pizza.
- In-N-Out – if you know anything about this California/southern state food chain, you know this was an obvious decision. We admit it, we are hooked for life. Just give me an old-fashioned cheeseburger and I’m set. Sometimes my husband will take a double double animal style (double patty, double cheese, mustard cooked patties, extra sauce and grilled onions). It’s a classic and a must. Plus, they’re open till about 1 in the morning if you need a midnight snack.
- Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory – need I say more? I crave this all year round. You just can’t beat it! Any time you can get your hands on som dark chocolate Ghiradelli fudge, do it! What we got: Midnight Reverie and Espresso Escape
- Tartine Bakery – this place is well-known and legendary. It was referred to me multiple times by people who have been there, and the said it was definitely worth the wait if there’s a line out the door. They were right! Don’t be scared of the line, they move through customers quickly and efficiently. Something I loved about this place is how well-known it is, yet it wasn’t over-the-top decorated or overdone. Simple atmosphere, and amazing food. What we got: Croque Monsieur with ham, Seasonal Fruit Torte, and a Chocolate Hazelnut Torte
- Restaurant Gary Danko – lets just get one thing out in the open here about this amazing, Michelin Star restaurant, there are no words to describe it. We heard all the rave about this place, and decided to save up for it for our anniversary dinner. Make sure to call far in advance for your reservation, because they fill up quick! We were lucky enough to call two weeks in advance and reserve the last opening they had on a Monday night, which was a 9:30 reservation. We arrived giddy with excitement (ok I was the giddy one), and were greeted and taken care of by an amazing staff. The food WAS OUT OF THIS WORLD. The layers of flavor in every dish just made you want to close your eyes and savor every bite. The pure goodness of the food displays as to why this place has such a reputation. But it doesn’t stop at the food, I have never had such an exquisite dining experience. The staff and our waiter were top of the line. You have to experience it for yourself! We chose the 3-course dining experience and we were literally filled to the brim. They not only served us our 3 courses, but brought out chef tastings in between each course, gave us an anniversary dessert to go along with our other desserts, and little breakfast cakes to take with us for the next morning. I’m not going to go into long detail as to what we ordered, because I wouldn’t be able to do it justice, and the pictures certainly don’t either. But you just have to go! Here’s a couple pictures for a sneak-peek as to what we experienced that night, and I am still day dreaming about the flavors I got to experience.
- The Fishermans Warf/Pier 45: SS Jeremiah O’Brien – Our first day in San Francisco was spent with our luggage lost. This actually turned out to be one of my favorite mornings of the trip, because we didn’t have anywhere to be, weren’t worried about what we were wearing (because all we had is what was on our backs), and we just started to adventure. The Fisherman’s Warf is definitely a must-see just to walk around and experience it. After we did that, we just kept walking and came across the SS Jeremiah O’Brien. My husband, loving history, just had to tour it. And it ended up being pretty darn neat! Besides the fact that you have to walk up a very long and steep ladder to get onto the ship, and my husband thought it would just be so funny if he filmed me doing so. I think touring the ship is a great experience for all ages!
- Exploring by foot – honestly we spent a lot of time walking around the city and exploring. I can’t tell you where we were, what routes we took, or what turns you should take. But what I can tell you, is that it was worth it! Here is a little bit of what we saw.
- The Painted Ladies – these houses were so fun to see! They are a huge icon known from the tv show Full House, and they were a top item on our list to see! The Alamo Square Park is right across the street from them, and was unfortunately being renovated. So space was tight, but it was still worth it. The architecture in the city is like nothing you’ve ever seen.
- Vista Point/Marine Headlands Vista Point – the first day we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge the fog was really starting to settle in. There was almost no visibility of the bridge, so our local friends kept driving us up past Vista Point to try to get above the fog. It didn’t end up working out to see the bridge, but it was still a fun drive and you can see how the fog gives it a magical atmosphere! On a clear day, I can only imagine what the view would be like from the Marine Headlands Vista Point!
- Palace of Fine Arts Theatre – we didn’t spend much time in this magical place, but what we did spend there was gorgeous! This would be a fun place to wander around and snap pictures. It is a go-to for photographers, so there were many! Don’t be surprised if you see senior photo shoots, engagement pictures, or weddings happening. The houses that circle around the palace are almost as fine as the palace itself!
- Lombard Street – this iconic street is known for its tight curves, and gorgeous landscaping. Here’s a little tip/trick if you are stopping by: if you are REALLY wanting to drive down it, it is about an hour line of cars. Take side streets to get down to the bottom, find a parking spot (or be dropped off) and walk up it. I feel like this approach is so much better, because then you actually get to spend as much time as you would like there, and don’t have to go with the flow of traffic! Don’t forget to turn around and face the other direction on Lombard Street, because you get an awesome view of the city.
- Golden Gate Bridge – our first trip across the bridge was foggy, so the moment it cleared up we jumped on our chance to see it! We ended up taking an Uber across the bridge to Vista Point, and spontaneously decided to walk back across it to the city. I think that is was so worth it! If you get the chance to walk, run, or bike the Golden Gate Bridge, do it! You really get to soak in the bridge, the bay and the view of the city. It was fun to see how just on your walk across the bridge it goes from sunny, to foggy, to sunny and back to foggy. How can you go to San Francisco and not see the Golden Gate? The Golden Gate Trails on the San Francisco side are also worth taking a stroll down.
- Alcatraz Island – if you are going to go to Alcatraz, don’t make the same mistake we did and not purchase your tickets ahead of time. We were lucky enough to get in line in time for the day-of ticket purchases, but it was a cold 2 hour wait outside at 5 in the morning. If you do happen to make our same mistake, the ticket office holds about 50 tickets for a first-come-first-serve line. Tickets go on sale at 7:30 AM, and the line started at 5, so be prepared! Needless to say, it was well worth the wait. The ferry ride across the bay to the island can be cold if you are sitting outside, so dress appropriately. The main thing I loved about touring the island, is that they let you do it at your own pace. You don’t have to follow a group (but they do offer that if you would like) and you can explore the island at your own leisure. We did the audio tour through the prison, and it was fun to get to walk through what actually happened day to day in the prison. And you can still see where people tried to escape! If you are a germ freak like me, bring your own head phones for this part. My Apple head phones worked just fine. Another thing that amazed me, was how beautiful the place actually is! Knowing it as a prison you wouldn’t expect that, but the place was gorgeous! I think you just have to experience it.
Transportation: Uber, by foot, or rail cars.
Hotel: The Holiday Inn Express and Suites on the Fisherman’s Warf