I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on San Francisco, however, we’ve had the opportunity to explore SF 3 times and I would like to share what we have done based on my research on what to do in the city (mostly the touristy stuff).
About a year ago when we lived in Visalia, CA (the Central Valley), we made a weekend trip to SF (December 2016). We made another trip in August of 2017 when Leslie’s mom and sister came to visit for a long weekend. With all that there is to see, it took a lot of planning to figure out what we were going to do with the limited time we had. From comparing restaurants, breweries, and the site-seeing, I will share with you all the activities that seemed worth doing, along with the restaurants/breweries that were worth going to and were the best bang for our buck (and convenience based on where we were). A link to my full list of all researched places is at the bottom of the post.
Fisherman’s Wharf / Pier 39
Lands End Trail
Fisherman’s Wharf: I doubt you need my blog to tell you about Fisherman’s Wharf or Pier 39. Other than the Golden Gate Bridge, these are probably the 2 most touristy tourist attractions in SF. Fisherman’s Wharf is actually a section the Northeastern tip of SF and is a fantastic (and busy) place that’s definitely worth walking around, getting some food, viewing the sea lions, and enjoying the Bay. We love stopping into Boudin Bakery for clam chowder bread bowls! They have awesome pizza as well. We haven’t taken a tour of Alcatraz Island but this is a great spot to see it.
Ghiradelli Square is of course famous for the Ghiradelli chocolate factory. (There is more to do there…we just didn’t do it. Click here for the Ghiradelli Square website). When you walk into the chocolate company, a very nice employee will hand you a piece of chocolate (at least they have each time we have gone!). You can walk around and watch chocolate get churned. It’s a cool shop and has the old fashioned vibe to it. The menu prices are a little overwhelming but if you can put that aside, the ice cream is heavenly…and I mean heavenly.
Lombard Street: The famous windy road. On our first touristy trip to SF, we were able to drive down. On this trip, the road was closed off and I think it was because a pedestrian was hit by a car. [Pedestrians are NOT allowed on the road, however, there are sidewalks on both sides.]
Crissy Field: This is a dream spot for a picnic, to walk your dogs, or maybe throw a frisbee? Basically, whatever you’d do hanging out at the beach, you could do here. It’s a giant field. Bring a blanket and have a picnic and watch people and the Golden Gate Bridge. Below a view you can get from here.
Fort Point: According to nps.gov, Fort Point defended the SF Bay after the CA Gold Rush through WWII. It is a National
Historic Site. Along with the excellent views of the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge, tours are offered as well. Also
according to nps.gov, Fort Point and all activities are free. I have seen some very impressive photos taken here, as it is a
dream spot for photographers. Here’s what I came up with when we went.
Baker Beach: We came here in winter 2016 for the excellent photo opportunities of the beach with the bridge in the background. What we learned by coming back in the summer was that this is a nude beach (I guess it was too cold in the winter)! Way to go for bringing Leslie’s mom Here. Nonetheless, it does offer fantastic views of the bridge and is a great
beach. Just need to be careful where you look!
Lands End Trail: A fantastic, easy, but very crowded hike. We were able to plan it that we came early in the day and on a Monday when Les and I came alone. During this summer trip with the family, we came smack dab during the day on a weekend. After driving around a bit, we found parking in the lot across the street and explored a bit. Of course here
you also have the Sutro Baths that were used as baths back in the day. The hike is about 4 miles RT. We just went out and back but I think there are some other areas that can be explored as well. There are views all along of the Bay and of the Golden Gate Bridge yet some more
Lands End Trail
Japanese Tea Garden
Twin Peaks Lookout
Black Hammer Brewing
21st Amendment Brewing
Japanese Tea Garden: We were here on Aug 21, 2017 – I remember that because it was the day of the solar eclipse and it was totally cloudy and we got to see nothing. The Japanese Tea Garden though was pretty cool. We did buy some tea that comes in cool mugs. I don’t know if it was any better than any other tea but it’s the experience! It was a fun time sitting in the middle of the garden sipping on the different teas. Check out the menu and make your pick. We got the one that comes in the cute little pot.
Japanese Tea Garden
Twin Peaks Lookout: I’d consider this a SF must. It’s about 6 miles (which doesn’t say anything for how long it would take) from Fisherman’s Wharf more toward the center of the city. You can drive up to the parking area and there are some trails and areas you can explore (the two peaks). I’d say it’s probably the best overall view of San Francisco (that’s my opinion, of course). You can see the Golden Gate Bridge, the city buildings, the Bay, and even more from the 360 degree panoramic view. Just make sure you stop at the stop signs.
Twin Peaks Lookout
Painted Ladies: They are located a couple miles North of the lookout back toward Fisherman’s Wharf. Very famous and surprisingly enjoyable to look at. It’s worth getting out of the car. There should be plenty of street parking right near by and there’s a field right across the street where you can sit down, relax, and enjoy the view! Somehow, my Painted Ladies cell phone shot never saved. Not sure what happened there.
Chinatown: I don’t have much to say about Chinatown. Let’s see…it was the most difficult place to find parking during the trip (we did finally get a spot after driving around for a little while). It was very busy. We original went to another Asian neighborhood for lunch thinking it was Chinatown…it was not. There are lots of little shops but we didn’t find any great deals on fake brand name stuff.
Black Hammer Brewing: We chose to stop here for a beer before going to the next brewery for a beer (and dinner). They don’t have food here (not sure if they ever have food trucks or anything). We were a little confused when we came here because Black Hammer and Pacific Brewing Laboratory are listed at the same location. When we went, it was just Black Hammer and I believe that they sometimes have Pacific Lab beers on tap (but they didn’t when we were there). And when we were there they only had 4 choices on tap. With that said, I went with a fruity wheat beer and it was very good. I would like to go back when there are more options!
Black Hammer Brewery
21st Ammendment: This place was fantastic and lived up the the expectations. I honestly don’t remember which beer I got but I would guess it was the Blood Orange Brew Free! Or Die IPA. I remember the beer was good and the food was even better. I went with the Buffalo Chicken Cobb. It was $15 and it was fantastic – worth every penny. They crushed that Buffalo chicken Cobb salad and I want to go back and get another one right now.
AT&T Park: It was the summer so we made sure to catch a game! Before heading to the field we had dinner and beer at 21st Ammendment Brewery, which I would highly recommend!
SF Giant Game
Whenever I plan out one of our trips, I list out all of the potential things to do in a Google Doc as a tentative itinerary. Everything on there is based on the extensive research I did ahead of time of the best things to see, restaurants, breweries, coffee shops, etc. Click here to check it out.
As always, please comment below and let me know about your San Francisco travel experience or what you plan to do on your upcoming trip!
or email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org