Tuesday, May 19, 2015

San Francisco Lovin'

We returned from our first official kid free vacation (whoop!) about three weeks ago and boy, did I leave a big piece of my heart in San Francisco!  What a fantastic city! 
I'll be the first to say that since living in a big city, I prefer to stay far away from the "touristy" attractions and to find the little hole-in-the-wall city gems that are known mainly to the locals.  I feel like we were able to successfully meld the two-- doing both the touristy and the non-touristy.  I wanted to share some of our favorites for any of you who are considering a trip in the future!
On our first full day in San Francisco, Jeremy and I drove from our condo in the Potrero Hill neighborhood and headed to Pacific Heights for coffee and some exploring.  I'll be honest -- my motive for driving to this little neighborhood was to check out the "Full House" home located at 1709 Broderick Street.  God bless my sweet husband for entertaining the 90's child that still lives in me. 
We found coffee at a great little hole-in-the-wall shop called Cumaica and then headed to the Haight Ashbury neighborhood to Alamo Square Park for an unparalleled view of the San Francisco skyline and to get that iconic picture in front of The Painted Ladies.  I'm sure Alamo Square ranks high on the tourist list for San Francisco but really, this park is a must visit even if you are a bit cynical about touristy type attractions. 

Head to China Town in the North Beach neighborhood and grab din sum at You's.  This tiny gem fed us well!  We loaded our plates with sticky buns, fried rice, noodles, dumplings and egg rolls.  A small disclaimer...if you are looking for extra clean and upscale, this is not the place for you.  However, the service was fantastic and the four of us ate for around $25.  We all commented that if we were locals, this place would often get us into trouble! 
Definitely a score of find.

After you've finished your din sum, head to the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church located right in the heart of downtown San Francisco at 666 Filbert Street in the North Beach neighborhood.  The ornate architecture make this sacred church worth a visit.  Be prepared to sit in silence and take in all of the beauty.  Just make sure you take off your hat when you enter or you'll get a good scolding. 

 Sausalito is a little beach side town right off of the San Francisco Bay.  You can catch the Golden Gate Ferry from the San Francisco Ferry Building  (Embarcadero at Market) or Blue and Gold Fleet From near Pier 39.  The fair price is $10.75 each way.  The ferry has a full service bar with alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks as well as food.  You can also reach Sausalito from the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge by car or bicycle. In my opinion though, the ferry was a beautiful way to see the San Francisco skyline and enjoy a nice cocktail along the way.

Upon arriving in Sausalito, we opted to skip the "touristy" part of town and head for 99 Liberty Way-- If you take a right at the main town square and head down the street you will find Shoonmaker Beach and marina.  This little beach was a perfect little hideaway!  We spent our afternoon with our toes in the sand and guessing yacht prices from the dock.  I'm not kidding-- one yacht we googled was worth $20 million. 
Talk about a small town with big money! 


While in Sausalito you MUST hit up Salsalito Taco Bar located off the beaten path at 1115 Bridgeway.  It is the quintessential road side taco bar that everyone dreams of finding--and we did.  If you do nothing else on your trip to Sausalito, please go here!  The menu was fantastic and the outdoor seating made the atmosphere divine. 

When you are done eating, you can make a quick left out of the Taco Bar and head to the nearest bus stop (about half a block down) where you can hop on the #10 bus for $5 per person.  The bus will take you back to San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge for another iconic experience! 

I'll admit, I didn't quite understand all of the fuss about Alcatraz Island but because every person I spoke to before our trip recommended this tour, I reluctantly paid the hefty price for two tickets ($40 a person).  I can say now, that I'm so glad I did.  This was one of the highs of our trip-- Alcatraz Island has a fascinating history and experiencing it hands on was well worth the price!

Some tips to get the most out of visiting Alcatraz-- buy tickets beforehand online because they sell out quickly!  Book a very early tour (either the Early Bird or one of the 9:00 am hour spots).  This tour gets incredibly crowded.  Once on the island, be sure to find one of the ranger interpretive guides for the inside scoop on living conditions of the prison and famous escapes.  And you will NOT want to miss the 45 minute audio tour through the jail house itself.  This was by far the best part of the visit to Alcatraz Island.
   Gayle's parents made sure that Buena Vista for Irish Coffee was on our list of must visits for San Francisco.  They were locals of the city over 30 years ago so we knew it must be good if it was still in business. We also heard of Buena Vista from a bar tender at Tony's Pizza (another must visit) early on in the week.  Needless to say, on our final day we made sure we stopped in.  It did not disappoint. 

The Buena Vista is located just to the left of the Powell-Hyde Cable Car's last stop on Fisherman's Wharf at 2765 Hyde Street.  The bartenders have their Irish Coffee making skills down to an exact science, pouring a line of at least a dozen all at once and divvying the drinks out to pretty much everyone who walks in.  And our bartender at Tony's was right.  Buena Vista does serve some incredible Irish Coffee!
 One of the highs of our trip was the accidental stumble upon The Presidio and Crissy Field while searching for a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Unbeknownst to us, this is actually the view most locals take advantage of while many tourists don't make it past the base of the bridge. We opted not to walk the Bridge and found ourselves on a trail leading us through the Presidio and down towards Fort Point.  The views of the bridge from this trail are just breathtaking.  Not to mention the amount of life taking place from the trail and surrounding parks... bikers and runners, dog parks, boaters and fishermen...

Gold Gate Bridge View From Crissy Field

Some other helpful tips I'll add before saying goodbye...
Have you heard of Uber?  Uber is an internationally (up and coming) alternative to the taxi service.  Using Uber was our primarily method of transportation around the city and I have to say it was brilliant.  You can connect with Uber by downloading the app on your smart phone.  Using the app you can request your ride and track your driver to see when he/she will arrive to your location. 

The best part-- all of the "kick backs".  You get a free ride "kick back" code for signing up and also a new code each time you refer friends.  In total for ALL of the rides we took around the city?  $20 bucks.  That's it. We used "kick back" codes each time and it made our transportation SO easy and SO cheap. 
It was fantastic. 

To use my Uber kickback code just sign up using this link --> Free Uber Signup Code.  When you sign up you and I BOTH get a free $20 Uber ride code.  When signing up you'll have to link your payment information (don't worry-- no one but you and Uber will see it).  This is just incase your first ride costs over the $20 coupon code.  Really though, how can you turn down a free ride around the city?

Another tip when planning your trip to San Francisco--Check out Air BNB for your lodging.  It's a more comfortable, cost effective alternative to staying in a hotel.  We snagged a 2 bedroom condo in Potrero Hill and it was absolutely lovely.  Free street parking, gorgeous views of the downtown skyline, our own kitchen and privacy.  I could not recommend AIR BNB more!

And one more, because how can I not share the two sweethearts we came home to?  While I won't lie-- we LOVED our kid free vacation, coming home to these smiles was exactly what this momma's heart needed!  We can't wait to return to San Fran someday with these two to explore even more of this city!


  1. We love AirBnB when we travel these days too! Lovely photos - and thanks for the handy tip on Golden Gate Bridge. One day, we'll make use of that tip ;)

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