3 days, 72 hours — was how long our “kid-free” weekend lasted! It was a dreary five-hour drive from Los Angeles to the Bay Area, but the excitement set in as we crossed over the Bay Bridge.
We finally arrived in, the City by the Bay, San Francisco.
We planned and reviewed our map to fit almost everything into our short weekend, but first things first, an adult drink was in order.
A normal bar wouldn’t do, we needed something campy, fun, and off the beaten path. The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar, in the basement of the Fairmont Hotel, hit the spot. The Fairmont Hotel, built in 1907 atop Nob Hill, is steeped with history. The United Nations Charter, which formed the United Nations as we know today, was signed in the Garden Room of the hotel.
Stairs, stairs, and more stairs — they never ended. Up we climbed, from one steep street to another set of stairs until we reached Pioneer Park and the base of Coit Tower. Built in 1933 with money given to the city by Lillie Hitchcook Coit to beautify the city. The tower stands as a tribute to the San Francisco Fire Department. The park and tower offer some of the best views of the city.
We walked down the Filbert Steps, a hidden hillside sanctuary in the middle of the city, and ended up at the Embarcadero — which strangely enough means, “a place to embark in Spanish.”
A short mile walk along the waterfront and piers and we ended up at the tourist trap of Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. I say tourist trap lovingly because no trip to San Francisco would be complete without a stop here. From the end of Pier 39, there is a stunning postcard view of The Rock.
Alcatraz was a former federal prison housing some of the United States worst criminals. Originally built as a military fort for protection of the bay, it was repurposed and used to house prisoners. They say inmates could hear people playing and living life in San Francisco as they sat locked away. (The Alcatraz pictures below were taken on a previous trip. With only 72 hours, we didn’t feel it was necessary to visit again. But if you have never been or if its been over 15 years, its a must-see. Walking tours include a headphone audio tours well worth the time. The tour is narrated by former guards and prisoner telling not only the story of the Alcatraz but stories of their time on the Rock. Just make sure to go early, as it is always popular!)
Six hours in San Francisco and it was time for food, drinks, and rest. The rest would have to wait till first light. For food, we headed to Caffe BaoNecci Restaurant, a truly family run Italian restaurant in North Beach. Father and son waited tables while the mother and eldest son prepared food in the back—fantastic Italian meal! Now fed, we tiredly wandered from North Beach over Nob Hill and back to relax at our hotel — San Francisco Marriott Marquis. Luckily for us, our hotel has one of the best breathtaking panoramic views of the city from the iconic View Lounge.
Up early, we ventured into the Tenderloin to dine at the popular Dottie’s Café and then strolled down to the waterfront en route to the Golden Gate. Not the bridge, but the Strait between San Francisco and Marin at the mouth of the Pacific Ocean. There are many ways to get around the city; taxi, MUNI, or tour bus. But the Beans, we walk. What better way to see the city then to walk the neighborhoods and streets.
Next stop, the Palace of Fine Arts. Originally built in early 1900’s after the Great Earthquake to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal, it was part of a huge international exposition that was open for 9 months. During those months, over 19 million people visited the exposition. The Place of Fine Arts in the only building still remaining from the complex.
With little time to spare, we stopped at Crissy Field and took in the amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Pressing into the wind and fog, we pushed onward to Fort Point. Once am artillery installation to protect the entrance of the bay, its now a FREE museum with amazing views you don’t often see of the bridge and Gold Gate.
With a little help from San Francisco’s historic streetcar, we made it safely back to our hotel. Refueled and gathered strength at the Mikkeller Bar, we opted for one last evening adventure. Down along the Embarcadero and the Port of San Francisco Ferry building we took in the most incredible breathtaking nightscapes of the Bay Bridge and skyline.
Our weekend in San Francisco was quickly coming to an end, so the next morning we rushed over to Alamo Square Park, home of the Painted Ladies. Built in the 1890’s, the homes are some of the few remaining Victorian homes in a row painted in the traditional three color paint scheme.
From there, we took a short twisty drive down Lombard Street, billed as the crookedest street in the world. The turns were instituted as a solution to the street’s original 27% grade and is famous around the world around from TV and movies.
Driving through the Presidio, and under the bridge, we ended up at Baker Beach, a secluded stretch of sand on the western side of the Golden Gate. Just make sure not to wander too far north along the beach — clothing is optional.
Just a jaunt down the coast is Lands End. A beautiful stretch of land overlooking the ocean and cliffs — perfect place for photos. Unless San Francisco gives you what its known for, fog, like we got. It’s still a beautiful place, fog or not.