San Francisco, home to hippies, techies, and incredible food, was without a doubt the most picturesque and vibrant city we visited in the United States. There is just something unique about San Francisco’s charm that makes you fall in love with it despite all the fog and the cold weather.
After four wonderful days in Los Angeles, we flew to San Francisco and checked into our hotel. Hotel Zephyr, which is conveniently located in one of San Francisco’s most popular districts – Fisherman’s Wharf, has an adorable ship-themed décor. Even the lobby felt more like a ship than a hotel with sunken ceilings, porthole windows, and wooden walls. Our room had a nautical theme and offered a fantastic view of Alcatraz Island and Pier 39.
As you can imagine, the first thing on our agenda was to see the Golden Gate Bridge (shocker). Instead of going to the usual spots to view the bridge from, we decided to take a sunset cruise and get a view of it from the water.
We went sailing on a boat with a small group of people, and although it was incredibly cold and windy, the views of the city as we sailed away from it and that of the Golden Gate Bridge as we went under it were to die for. Of all the beautiful sunsets I’ve seen, this one takes the cake. The sunset cruise was an amazing experience overall, only made better with some scrumptious snacks and beers that were being served on the boat.
We spent the rest of the evening exploring Pier 39, checking out the talented street performers and indulging in some good food.
We took Dylan’s Famous Tour the next day, which basically took us all around San Francisco. We started off driving past Fisherman’s Wharf, the famous Chinatown, North Beach and the City Hall. Our first stop was at Clarion Alley in The Mission, which is known for its prominent and colorful mural installations and wall art. I could have easily spent hours walking down Clarion Alley and taking in all the amazing art, but because we had a long day ahead of us and a lot to see, we couldn’t spend too much time here. Nevertheless, the Clarion Alley is a must-visit whether you’re an art lover or not.
Next, we stopped at the Twin Peaks, from where you can get a panoramic view of San Francisco. The Twin Peaks offer one of the best perspectives of the downtown skyline, surrounding hills and the vistas of the Bay, making it an absolute must-see.
We then drove past The Castro, one of the first gay neighborhoods in the United States and stopped at Pacific Heights, which is home to the famous Billionaire’s Row. If the name doesn’t give it away, it’s where some of the richest people live.
We then went to Haight Ashbury, which is the place where hippie culture originated. From the stunning Painted Ladies to the homes of music’s favorite 60’s bands, this district is said to have started the counter-culture movement across the USA. We drove past houses that were at one point home to famous music icons like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and the Grateful Dead.
After having lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Haight Ashbury, we drove past Presidio and went on to see the Golden Gate Bridge from Marin Headlands. The enormity of the bridge is truly breathtaking.
We also drove past the cute-looking city of Sausalito, which has the vibe of a European-Mediterranean town.
We then visited Muir Woods National Park, where we spent over an hour walking around and exploring some of the oldest and most beautiful trees in the world. It’s amazing how there’s a whole different world so close to the city where you can just go away to get some peace.
Once we were back in the Bay, we spent a couple of hours exploring the city on our own. We walked down the famous Lombard Street, the most crooked street in the world. This curvy street is one of the best-known landmarks in San Francisco and attracts a ton of tourists.
We started our third day in San Francisco on a very delicious note by taking a two-hour food tour in the Ferry Building. SF is known for it’s good food so we thought it would be fun to go on a food tour and try out different foods that we wouldn’t normally try. The Ferry Building & Farmers’ Market Food Tour by Edible Excursions provides tastes from over 10 businesses in the Ferry Building and from a couple of farmers’ market stalls as well, and is an excellent way to try out different cuisines.
We sampled the award winning Mt. Tam cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, paired with sweet and sour loaves from Acme Bread. We also tasted handmade chocolates from Recchiuti and some brilliant French macarons from Miette, which by the way is named one of the top ten pastry shops in the world by Conde Nast Traveller. Another memorable item we ate were the Vietnamese spring rolls with peanut sauce from The Slanted Door. We also made stops at Frog Hollow Farms, Sow Juice, American Eatery and a few stalls at the farmers’ market where we ate the best peaches and tangerines we’ve ever eaten.
With full bellies, we spent the next few hours just walking around Chinatown and other parts of San Francisco. Chinatown in San Fran is supposedly the biggest and oldest in the US, and is definitely worth walking through. It’s interesting to see how diverse each area in San Francisco looks and one of the best things about SF is how you can explore the entire city on foot.
We spent that evening meeting my dad’s college friends and their families at a Japanese restaurant (SF was really all about the food) before we called it a day.
On our last day in San Francisco, we took a fun day trip to Monterey Bay and Carmel, driving through the scenic California’s Pacific Coast Highway. After curving around the Monterey Peninsula, we stopped at the coastal city of Monterey and had lunch at Austino’s Patisserie, before visiting the world famous aquarium. Located by the ocean on Cannery Row, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is the largest aquarium I’ve been to and has an impressive variety of marine life.
We then drove past the famous and extremely picturesque 17-mile drive, stopping to see the Pebble Beach Golf Course and the Lone Cyprus tree, before reaching the quaint town of Carmel.
Carmel-by-the-sea is lined by lovely shops and beautiful architecture, and is a treat to the eyes. The walk through the town to get to the beach is in itself an amazing experience because of how charming Carmel is. This was the first time I had to wear a jacket in a beach because of how cold it was! But nonetheless, Carmel beach was surreal and extremely beautiful.
On our way back to San Francisco, we took an alternate route via the tech haven of Silicon Valley.
Fog and cold weather aside, San Francisco is an amazing city. To me, it was a magical land of good food and interesting people, and I’d definitely love to go back and explore parts of it that I didn’t get a chance to on this trip.
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