San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities to live in in the United States, but also one of the more culturally rich and diverse. This makes it a great destination for a vacation. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone: fashion, outdoors, eats, and an interesting history. It’s hard to know what’s worth dropping the dough on and what to pass up in order to get the most out of vacation money and time.
The significant lover and I scored a sweet deal on tickets with Virgin Airlines to SF and booked them for what the locals claim to be the best month for consistent weather: October. If you have never flown Virgin, I would highly recommend it — and don’t forget to pack your headphones. From the cool purple lights to the sexy flight attendant uniforms, even a domestic coach seat feels a bit luxurious.
Our adventure began on a Wednesday morning, touching down just before eight thirty a.m., and ended when we took off the following Saturday. We found three whole days to be a good amount of time to be in the city, but certainly not enough time to see everything. Tips: Wherever you walk in the city, do remember to look up. The architecture in San Francisco creates an urban art gallery showcasing styles from art deco to Victorian. Be mindful of bicyclists; they own the road possibly more than the cars do.
Ferry Building: One can score all of the day’s necessities at this historic landmark, and it’s a great place to be introduced to the history behind the port city. Whether you wish to splurge on exceptional chowder (see Seafood) or grab a ham and Mt. Tam sandwich at Cowgirl Creamery, the Ferry Building hits the mark for foodies. Come on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday morning and you can grab a cup of Blue Bottle coffee while you collect picnic goodies at their farmers’ market.
Seafood: As SF is the west coast land of clam chowder, don’t pass up the opportunity to warm up with a bread bowl full of the creamy goodness from the original Boudin or along the Fisherman’s Wharf seafood carts. If you have money to splurge, go to Hog Island Oysters at the Ferry Building where the clams are so fresh that the shells still float atop the chowder!
Golden Gate Bridge: Yes, this is a must. For the adventurer, rent a bike to ride across. Not so adventurous? The viewpoint right at the toll gives a firsthand look at the impressive engineering as well as a perfect place to snap postcard-perfect photos.
Union Square: Stay in this neighborhood but don’t shop (their mall is only a bigger version of your hometown’s). The neighborhood is central with easy access public transportation. Pick up a 3-day Muni Passport (not the CityPass) at the Walgreens for $20 and it will get you everywhere you want to go. The Muni Passport even works for the historic cable cars, which normally costs $6 per ride.
Chinatown: Fun souvenirs and $2 pics with the fortune cookie maker to be had. Don’t be intimidated by the bustling streets, but pop into a bakery and grab a xiao pao — a steamed bun filled with anything from pork to chicken or veggies.
Golden Gate Park: Here is a great escape from the busy city and a great place to picnic and eat all the goodies you picked up at the farmers’ market. Take a stroll through one of the many gardens and know that you don’t have time to see it all. The De Young Museum has an amazing art collection for the creative enthusiast; however, the Japanese Tea Garden allows guests to slow down and rest with a cup of jasmine tea. If science or learning about ecosystems is your thing, visit the California Academy of the Sciences and start your tour there with the biodome — the biggest and busiest part of the museum.
Dottie’s: You’ll know by the line wrapped around this brick building that it’s worth the hour wait, even if the neighborhood is a bit dingy. With a menu of fresh baked goods and specials that include wild boar sausage and pumpkin french toast, you’ll leave with a full belly and a smile on your face. The owner who is always on site and cooking in the kitchen prides himself on serving you a hot meal. Notice your server won’t stay with you long, just to ensure that no plate sits under a heat lamp!
Three days may not be enough time to uncover all the avenues of Frisco but there’s magic in a place that you can return to through the years and discover something new each time. Relaxed, renewed, and maybe a just tad homesick, we boarded our plane home with satisfied grins.