Friday, March 30, 2012

San Francisco Guide

In October 2011, John and I went on a trip all along California. We had never been there before and were surprised by how much we enjoyed it. First we flew into San Diego detailed in a post here, then we drove up the coast to Los Angeles which is detailed in this post, next we drove up the Pacific Coast Highway detailed in a post here and finally we ended up in San Francisco.

We rented a car in San Diego and decided that we would turn it in as soon as we got to San Francisco since they have good public transportation. Since we had the car until 6 pm that night we did a short driving tour of San Francisco while we could. We were staying in Union Square so we decided to drive to the other side of town since it would be unlikely we would walk or travel over there. First we stopped in Alamo Square, where the great Victorian Houses are. These are the same houses featured in the opening credits of Full House and I have wanted to see them since seeing that show. I'm a dork, I know lol. John and I also love Victorian architecture.We parked and took some pictures

There is a great park (Alamo Square Park) across the street so we meandered through there. The weather was great with clear skies and about in the 60's apparently that is unusual. So after this park we wanted to check out the Golden Gate Bridge so we went to the Presidio of San Francisco National park which is right along where the bridge starts and borders the Pacific Ocean on the left. We did a driving tour through the park and stopped when we saw something cool. This park was really beautiful and interesting because there were old army barracks and cannons that were abandoned there. John of course loved exploring those. Below are some of the pictures from this park.

The bottom post is the panoramic view. It is so pretty with the Pacific on the left the bridge in the center, Alcatraz and SF to the right and mountains all around. Below is the view from on top of one of the barracks.

On the right you can see Alcatraz.

This is on top of the barracks looking toward the Pacific Ocean. I definitely recommend walking the trails through the barracks so you can get these views.

Below is the view of San Francisco.

I highly recommend driving through this park (it's really big) to see the breathtaking views. Since we had to take the car back we went to our hotel Handlery Union Square Hotel. The hotel was really good for the price. I got the room through Priceline and got a pretty decent deal. We also requested a room with a view and had a view of the city. Union Square is definitely a great spot to stay for your first visit. There is a very small park in the center of the square and then it is surrounded by amazing high end shopping. There is everything from H&M to Prada. Also if you go to Macy's customer service and tell them that you are visiting from out of town then they will give you a 10% off coupon. Union Square has a lot of activity too. We were there Halloween weekend and as we were walking down the street a Halloween bicycle parade came through. It was a lot of fun.

We ended up having dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. This one was at the top of the Macy's building and provided a view of Union Square. We sat outside (they had heaters going) and enjoyed the view. John and I split a Shrimp Pasta dish so we could save room for cheesecake. Plus there portions are huge and we didn't want leftovers. We split the Reese's cheesecake for dessert and it was amazing.

Union Square is also a main stop for both of the trolleys. We got passes for the trolley at Walgreens and rode them. The streets are seriously hilly. People always say they are steep but they really are. You can hop on the trolley and ride on the front just holding on the the pole and when you do that its like riding a roller coaster through the hills. Riding the trolley is a an absolute must for a first timer and riding multiple routes is a great way to see all the neighborhoods.

The next morning we went to Cafe Mason for breakfast and jumped on the Trolley down to Fisherman's Wharf. 

Once we got down there we saw an antique game museum and explored it. It also had some fun history on SF.

Then we walked along the bay front and saw Alcatraz along with submarines and ships.

The views were great but overall Fisherman's Wharf was kinda disappointing. There is not much going on there. So we started waling over to the financial district and saw the observatory up on the hill.

It was really high up and we had been walking a while so we didn't venture up there but we'd like to go back and see it. The financial district was ok but not much was going on as well. We stopped in some old book stores and such.

Then we walked through Chinatown and made our way to Little Italy or (North Beach) This was the place to be. Restaurants lined the street all with outdoor seating and the area was full of life. We had lunch at Calzone's and split a delicious handmade pizza. There is also a good nightlife here.


After strolling around North Beach, we walked over to the Trolley Museum. This was amazing. For some reason I thought the trollies were electric, but they are instead only controlled by cables. There are big wheels in the museum that turn the cables and that powers the trollies. They just grab a hold of the moving cables and start moving. Conversely to stop they let go of the cable. 

It is definitely worth checking out!

Then we rode the trolley to the financial district. Here are some pictures.


We also explored Knob Hill by taking another trolly. This is the high end part of SF both geographically and financially. It was fun checking out.

That night we ate dinner at Scala's Bistro right in Union Square. It was delicious. I had a tasty tagliatelle pasta and John had the salmon. It was low lighting in the restaurant, so the pictures didn't turn out well. It was also our anniversary so they gave us a complimentary dessert too!


On our last day we decided to rent a car and use it for the day and then drive ourselves to the airport with it instead of using public transportation! I'm so glad we did this. Since we had a car we drove to Lombard St which is famous for their 8 hair pin turns. 

This was the view from the top of it

Then we drove over to Haight-Ashbury. We had breakfast at Crepes on Cole. It was delicious and I highly recommend going there. It was very busy though. 

Right after breakfast we drove through Golden Gate Park. It was very beautiful and full of museums. We could have spent days just in the park. Sadly we had to do the abbreviated tour and only drive through it. Once we got to the end we realized we were right on the Pacific Ocean and the beach was right there! San Francisco is such a cool city with an amazing mix of mountains, city, beaches, etc. Right as we got near the beach though the fog started rolling in and we saw what the typical weather is like. We were so lucky to have clear skies and warm weather for our trip. We had an amazing time there and I would highly recommend going! Next I wan to fly into SF and dive north to Portland, but that might have to wait a while.