Insight into why we chose San Francisco as a holiday destination, inspiration for planning your visit, where to stay and why you should visit this vibrant, fun and ideal foodie destination.
Why We Chose San Francisco as a Holiday Destination
The city of San Francisco made its way on to our bucket list around six years ago after I subjected Adam to a cheesy American dating reality show I like called The Bachelor. This particular series had Ali Fedotowsky, a San Francisco girl the same age as me who had given up her job at Facebook to find love on the show. I couldn’t help but be drawn into her story as well as her hometown, which was to become a future holiday destination of ours.
Very few of our close friends had been to San Francisco, therefore we were pretty clueless in terms of attractions with the iconic Golden Gate Bridge being the only exception. Further research of the area unravelled the story of the notorious criminals of Alcatraz Prison, picture postcards of the city’s cable cars, the windiest street in the world Lombard Street and we couldn’t wait to see what else San Francisco had to offer.
In the past year after the tragic death of Robin Williams, we learned that he was a resident of the city, which he is quoted to have loved dearly and I realised many films we had seen including Mrs Doubtfire had been filmed right here in the city. Since Robin Williams death many local residents and tourists have paid homage to the actor at the Mrs Doubtfire house with many locals sharing stories of his loss to the city during our visit.
Planning a City Break is key
With any city break detailed planning of an itinerary to ensure you see all the sights is key and I have to admit whilst over the year I had saved numerous attractions, restaurants and general places of interest found on social media to my secret Pinterest board, in the weeks prior to our trip I had been pretty lax on the organisational front. In light of this I turned to Twitter and called upon my fellow bloggers for any assistance with recommendations and to my delight a travel company called +Utrip came to my rescue. To my surprise, +Utrip had contacted their local experts to provide me with recommendations for my trip and having reviewed my twitter page had personalised an itinerary for me based on my profile assessing my likes and preferences. This itinerary formed the basis of our daily diary after logging on to the website I was able to find other areas of interest. Another blogger local to me @foodinmk contacted me on Twitter to recommended the restaurant Hops and Hominy, which we tried and loved (details to be provided in my San Francisco Diary).
Our intention for our trip was to visit the Living Digital Space at Pace Gallery in Palo Alto as their light exhibition is running until the 1st July, although to our dismay the gallery is not open on Sundays or Mondays and we had missed our opportunity to visit. Thus highlighting the importance of planning in advance!
I had ordered a +Lonely Planet guide book for our trip, which are always useful for city breaks to not only give you top tips for sights and local life but the guide also comes with a handy map to the city.
Although, we also found social media apps such as Instagram a great port of call to see what pictures and tags locals and tourists were uploading at the present time, providing us with current trends and recommendations for restaurants and sights.
Being a top contributor on +TripAdvisor , I was aware of the destination guides on the site and had already saved guidebooks from the app from other reviewers who had visited San Francisco. The guides were a great way to ascertain what attractions were within close proximity and what others had done on each day touring the city.
Sights and Attractions
We reviewed the most popular attractions on +TripAdvisor and realised the importance of booking Alcatraz Prison in advance as the tickets are often booked out weeks ahead. We met a few people who were unable to get tickets, therefore booking ahead was a wise move.
We also booked a two day tour with Big Bus to show us around the city and get us to attractions a bit further out. I would recommend booking a bus tour if planning your first visit, whether that be with Big Bus, Gray Line or one of the other tour companies as they are a great way to get your bearings as the attractions are more spaced out than other cities such a New York. For those with walking difficulties, the buses offered a great way to tour the city. Although, in all honesty we did prefer the bus tour experience we had with Gray Line when we visited New York as the tour guides were on every bus and were much more informative with the buses offering different loops and being a lot more frequent.
San Francisco Weather
Upon researching San Francisco we read that the weather can be a bit hit and miss with the fog affectionately known as Karl according to some Instagram pages, looming over the bay area; making San Francisco colder than other areas of California.
Some of the tour guides mentioned that September and October are some of the warmer, sunnier months to visit the city with July tending to be quite wet, which is something to bare in mind if you are planning a similar trip. If you are visiting the city on a particularly foggy day it’s worth heading out to Sausalito, as it’s position on the bay means that it is far enough away not to be caught up in the fog and this area offers its own tranquil, Mediterranean feel with pretty restaurants and boutiques a-plenty.
Where to Stay & Transportation
Being our first visit to San Francisco, we wanted a hotel in the heart of the city and with this in mind we chose The Orchard Hotel just off Powell Street in Union Square. My review of The Orchard Hotel is on a separate post and we were happy with our choice of hotel within close proximity to the shopping areas and it’s nearby transportation links. Other areas such as Fisherman’s Wharf may be better suited to those with families and areas such as North Beach or Haight Ashbury suited to younger groups of travellers into the city as these areas have a younger vibe with cool shops and bars away from touristy Union Square. The Mission District is also a fantastic area to spend an evening with its number of bars, clubs and renowned area for authentic Mexican food.
The B.A.R.T train is a great way to travel into the city from the airport to keep costs down and cost us around $9 each for a one way ticket into Powell Street Station, which is located within close proximity to areas such as Union Square. It’s worth noting, there appeared to be fewer taxi ranks than I’ve seen in other cities with the Uber boom meaning those in the States are more familiar with booking a taxi via the GPS mobile app.
Dining in San Francisco
Choosing where to eat in San Francisco can be one of the biggest challenges, given the vast choice and amount of eateries throughout the city. One of the tour guides mentioned that a new restaurant in San Francisco is given approximately six months before going bust as the market is so competitive with locals being very particular about their food options. Before our trip we scoured San Francisco food blogs and particularly liked Infatuation San Francisco’s Instagram page and blog as this gave daily recommendations of places to dine in the city as well as blogs for other cities.
One way we found helped with our dining experience was to use the +OpenTable app as this enables you to locate restaurants within close proximity, view menus, check ratings and book a table with a click of a button. An email notification confirms your restaurant booking and this is handy app made booking a table in an unfamiliar area easy.
Visit San Francisco
Whilst San Francisco was the former home to some of the most notorious criminals in the United States with Alcatraz Island now a national landmark, a large homeless community is present in the city today, but don’t let this put you off visiting. This diverse city is also home to hippies, tech geeks, yuppies, foodies, liberals, immigrants as well as having one of the oldest gay scenes and Chinatown areas in the States making for a vibrant, fun and foodie dream destination.
If the above tips have not already inspired you to visit San Francisco, hopefully my upcoming San Fran blog and pictures will; giving you insight into my personal experience of the city and recommendations to inspire a future visit.