Stef's Family Trip to San Francisco
MY SISTER GRADUATED FROM UNIVERSITY THIS YEAR, SO TO CELEBRATE WE WENT TO SAN FRANCISCO
To be honest I didn't plan on going on vacation this year; I had so much time off last year with Ethan's accident and I genuinely enjoy working (/can be a crazy workaholic) so I wanted to make up for lost time and shoot as much as possible. I knew my mom wanted to plan a vacation but we were all working so much we didn't think it was going to happen. Then suddenly I get a call from my mom saying 'Ok. SF in a few weeks. Flights are booked'. My mom, sister, and I were so busy right up until we left we didn't have much time to plan anything, so I asked the Instagram and FB universe for some recommendations on things to do, sights to see, places to eat, etc. and I got a lot!
It just so happens that a friend of mine will soon be going to SF so after getting back I sent her all of the tips and tricks I collected from other people as well as my time there, and after seeing everything I sent to her I thought, let's share this with others in case you too are going to San Francisco!
Continue reading for a few personal photos + SF travel tips!
I'll start by sharing some recommendations I got from our incredible couple, Tess + Ryan, who live in downtown SF!
Walk the neighbourhoods: Start in the Mission (I would recommend walking up Valencia) > Noe Valley > Castro > Haight Ashbury > into Golden Gate Park.
Potrero Area - Anchor Steam Beer (SF’s native beer!)
Mission - Tacos everywhere. There’s an ice cream place there called Cream where you can make your own ice cream cookie sandwich! There’s also a fab place called Urban Putt - it’s this wild indoor mini golf course (+alcohol) and each hole was designed completely differently.
Golden Gate Park. It’s like Central Park (same designer), but much more wild. The park has tons of random things in it, like a Buffalo paddock. No idea why.
The Japanese Tea Gardens are really cool if you’ve never been to anything like them before, but go in the morning on a weekday, it’s packed on the weekend. Botanical gardens are massive and beautiful.
Museums- Cal Academy of Science is a great visit, as is the Exploratorium down on Embarcadero. If you do wander down past the Exploratorium but don’t want to go in, they have something called the “Cloud Bridge” that basically coats that area in simulated fog every two hours.
Fisherman’s Wharf - Touristy, but if you go down you should wander into the Musee Macinique. It’s in this warehouse on the water and it’s basically an interactive arcade museum. It’s free and you just pay to play the games, but it’s got these totally wild games from DECADES ago that are worth paying a quarter or two to see.
Ferry Building - Hog Island (famous oyster place up North) has a restaurant there. It's best to go during a weekday, the building is totally packed on the weekends.
Restaurants- Nopalito is great. If you end up near Hayes Valley (which is one of my FAVORITE neighborhoods), Chez Maman and Papitos are also reliably good. DONT eat in Chinatown if you can help it - the number of places we’ve seen with rats is pretty horrendous.
Something that they said that I don't think you'd read or hear about anywhere else, but something I that I think is worth passing on is this:
I will mention that if you’re downtown or in Haight, there are a lot of homeless people and the occasional shockingly blatant drug use (hard stuff, not pot, although you’ll smell a ton of that too). It’s all part of a really drastic socioeconomic change that’s happening out here and very sad, but try not to let it ruin it for you - sometimes people are really taken aback by it.
(Click the photos below to enlarge and browse through)
While we didn't get the opportunity to do everything on T+R's list here are a few additional spots we went to, and some other recommendations I got from friends!
Market Street: Lots of shopping to do at the Westfield Mall. There are also a ton of other outdoor stores in the area (your usual Sephora, Aritzia, Macys, Saks, Nordstrom, Trader Joe's, etc.) The Museum of Ice Cream is a couple of blocks away from the mall as well, as is the classic SF trolley car that you can ride up/down.
Other touristy spots: Painted Ladies and Lombard Street. Both are busy with plenty of tourists, but if you've never been to SF they're easily accessible and worth seeing just once! City Hall is, hands down, one of the most beautiful city hall's I've ever seen (if anyone wants to elope here please bring us with you!). Pier 39 is walking distance from the Fisherman's Wharf and where you can find all of the sea lions!
A little something I've been meaning to gift my mom is taking our family photos for the first time in a few years and I thought doing so during this trip would be a great opportunity! I got in touch with Kati at Xilo Photography who brought us to Baker's Beach to shoot one evening. The beach wasn't as busy as I expected it to be and you get a beautiful view (pending no fog) of the Golden Gate Bridge! Kati was the absolute sweetest and easiest person to work with, I can't recommend her enough if you're looking for a photographer in the Bay Area!
Redwoods: The more popular redwood forest is Muir Woods which is about an hour drive outside of SF but you need a parking permit so don't forget to book yours before you go (like we did). We ended up going to Armstrong Woods on another day instead (about 1.5-2hr drive outside of SF) and it was quieter, you don't have to pay for parking/admission, and if you wanted, you can actually drive through the forest (for about $8 or $9/pp). The trails are really easy to hike- a 1 mile loop on flat ground will bring you to the tallest redwood tree and the oldest redwood tree in the park- but they also have more advance trails for those interested.
About a 10 minute drive from Armstrong is Big Bottom Market and here you can find Oprah's favourite biscuits! We totally forgot to go on our way out of the park so if anyone wants to pick up an extra biscuit pack for me I'd 10/10 appreciate it hehe.
Vineyard Tours: Napa is the more popular wine area (I think), but you can still find a lot of great vineyards in Sonoma! I last minute booked this one at Quiviras Vineyards through Air BnB and it was super lovely! There are so many vineyards and wineries in the area you can easily hop from one to another. Unconfirmed but apparently Korbel has free tastings!
A few more recommendations other people had but we didn't get to do are:
Alcatraz there's only one cruise ship that'll take you to/from the island and it sells out pretty quickly so make sure you book in advance! Boba Guys for bubble tea, Tartine Bakery for everything, Marin Headlands for the hike and view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Twin Peaks to hike and for a really beautiful view of the city (day and night)! And finally, Hearst Castle- this is about a 4.5-5hr drive from SF, but you can take the coastal highway and stop into a bunch of smaller towns (Santa Cruz, Monterey, Big Sur- see the bridge from Big Little Lies- then down to Saint Simeon for Hearst Castle).
(Photos by Stef, shot on an iPhone 8+ and Nikon D800)
Friends, have you ever been to San Francisco/the Bay area? Is there anything on here that I'm missing? Share your insight below!