I stepped into the bright daylight from the Powell Street BART Station, feeling a bit silly carrying my powder blue puffy coat over my arm. The sun was shining and the temperature was close to 70 in San Francisco, a far cry from the recent snow showers I left in Chicago. It was the last Friday of February and I was finally checking San Francisco off my list with a three day visit.
I arrived around noon on Friday and soon made my way downtown to check into my hotel – the boutique Andrews Hotel on Post Street. As I walked down Post Street to meet up with my fellow Passports with Purpose board members at a café on Montgomery, I couldn’t help but smile. My initial impression of the city was a good one – a friendly reception at my hotel, rows of buildings with a historic feel and again, the sunshine!
I didn’t squeeze in any sightseeing my first afternoon in town, but I did get to check out a cool food truck park for drinks and dinner, courtesy of the Women’s Travel Fest, which was taking place the same weekend. I headed straight for the bacon-themed truck and gorged myself on fries topped with a variety of bacon and pork, which was truly awesome. Unfortunately, the chocolate-covered bacon that I got for dessert was not so awesome. Yes, that’s right. Something with bacon was not good. But I digress.
I woke up bright and early Saturday morning with every intention of going for a run, but ended up going for a long walk instead. I strolled all the way down to the Embarcadero and then made my way around to Pier 39 and then on to Fisherman’s Wharf. It was still early when I stopped by Pier 39 and I was delighted to discover the presence of dozens of sea lions sunbathing nearby. To heck with the rest of sightseeing, I just sat and took pictures of sea lions for half an hour!
By mid-morning, I was already losing steam a bit. I had been struggling with back problems in the weeks leading up to my trip and unfortunately by the time I took a short walking tour of the historic waterfront district, I was in a bit of pain. After a stop at In-n-Out Burger for a double-double (wrapped in lettuce, so-called “protein style”) and French fries, I bought a ticket to a hop-on, hop-off bus tour to allow myself to see more of the city and relax my poor back.
Bus tours often get a bad rap (more on that in another post), but the tour I took of downtown San Francisco was pretty good. The guide was freaking hilarious and wove in interesting facts with a high level of interaction with all of us on the bus. We drove all around downtown, Nob Hill, Chinatown, North Beach and the Embarcadero and after 90 minutes on the bus, I felt like I had a much better sense of my bearings and knew just a little bit more about San Francisco.
While I had planned to catch another hop-on, hop-off bus to take me across the Golden Gate Bridge, the timing didn’t work and I ended up on another long walk around the city. I headed uphill from Fisherman’s Wharf to the top of Lombard Street, which is known as the crookedest street in the world. After walking down and up the street (and watching dozens of cars carefully navigate the tight bends), I headed in the general direction of the Golden Gate Bridge, hoping to catch up with the bus.
Long story short, I did not catch up with the bus and instead ended up walking all the way to the bridge myself via Crissy Field, which offered some great views of the bridge from below. After the 40-minute walk across the bridge (and almost as much time spent taking photos), I took a rest at Vista Point to wait for the last run of the bus to take me back to Fisherman’s Wharf via Sausalito. By the time the bus arrived, I was pretty much freezing as the sun had started to set and the wind picked up, dropping the temperature from the balmy 65 it was earlier in the day to more like 50 degrees. We took a short drive through Sausalito (which seemed adorably cute – I would love to go back to explore more!) and then up to a lookout spot for an amazing panoramic view of the Golden Gate Bridge all lit up. As it turned out, that wasn’t actually part of the tour, so we ended up arriving more than half an hour later than scheduled. By 8 p.m., I was back at my hotel, chowing down on Chipotle and ready to fall asleep.
My third and final day in San Francisco didn’t exactly go as planned. I tried to join a walking tour of Chinatown at 9:30 a.m., but the guide never showed. Instead, I joined a third hop-on, hop-off tour route that took me through Golden Gate Park and Haight Ashbury. After sitting through the entire tour, I stopped back to my hotel to check out and then walked back toward the park to explore some more. On the way, I stopped by Alamo Square for some nice views of the city and to check out the colorful Victorian homes. I also stumbled upon a real cool wall mural that took up close to a full city block!
And then I started my wander through Golden Gate Park. As I passed gardens and roller skating and swing dancing and waterfalls and bison (bison!!) and lakes with ducks swimming, I just kept wondering if I could move to San Francisco solely to hang out in the Golden Gate Park every Sunday?
Finally, I made my way back to the grounds of the Academy of Sciences, where I grabbed a late lunch from an Indian food truck and rested until the bus came back around to pick me up. I ended up back at Pier 39 in time for the sunset before heading over to the In-n-Out Burger at Fishermans’ Wharf for my last dinner in San Francisco (and yes, if you are keeping track, that is two food truck meals, two In-n-Out Burgers and a Chipotle while I was in town – I’m not much of a foodie!). Finally, I decided to walk back to my hotel via Russian Hill, which required a crazy steep uphill walk but rewarded me with some amazing views of the city.
My weekend in San Francisco came to an end as I hopped a late night red eye flight back to Chicago. Between the time change and the soreness in my legs and back from hours upon hours of walking around the city, I think it took me the whole week to recover! But it was well worth it – despite (or maybe because of) the crazy hills, San Francisco grew on me quickly. From the runners along the Embarcadero to the charming architecture to the escape of Golden Gate Park, it just felt like my kind of city. I will be back soon.
How would you spend a weekend in San Francisco?