I am so lucky to have my amazing boyfriend, Dustin, in my life for many reasons, but one nice benefit is certainly that he comes with a built-in excuse to travel to California, since he has friends and family there from his childhood in San Jose. We took a weekend trip to San Francisco as an excuse to visit and also fulfill my need to travel last weekend. With Monday off for labor day and both of us taking Friday off, it ended up giving us a good amount of time in California, so we stayed one night in San Jose and two nights in San Francisco.
We stayed with family friends in San Jose and then went down to Salinas to see family on Saturday, and then drove up highway one into the city on Saturday afternoon. This means it worked out to about your standard time of a weekend trip actually in San Francisco, which I know is what you want to hear about, so let’s get on with it, right?
We stayed at the Hyatt Regency right on the Embarcadero, which proved to be an excellent location choice as it was just across the street from the Ferry Building, where we enjoyed walking around and shopping a little here and there. It was right near the water and we were upgraded when we arrived (it pays off to join the hotel rewards programs!) and got a little balcony. The angle of the deck wasn’t perfect, but the view was great over the water and it was lovely in the early morning light when I got up at 6 one morning. The room was nice and big and there was a little coffee maker, so I was happy with the hotel and room. I would return more for the location than anything about the hotel in particular, but that’s a great reason to return in my mind!
We started off our exploring by walking across the Golden Gate Bridge. It was an amazing walk, and there were some truly stunning views on both sides and in the middle of the bridge. It was a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone, but you need to wear comfortable shoes. It’s about 1.5 miles across, so you’re doing enough walking to dress for comfort, not fashion. I wore fairly comfortable shoes and my feet were killing me by the end, with blisters and squished toes. It was just the start of a day that involved a lot more walking, so that was rough. Comfy shoes and a camera are must-haves for this adventure. You can also just go halfway across and turn around, which might not be a bad idea if you’re feeling tired or have a blister coming on. I don’t feel like you’d miss anything much by turning around in the middle, it looks about the same throughout.
For lunch, we had to hit up Fisherman’s Wharf and it was such an experience that I’m putting it in the play category, though the food was awesome. I had clam chowder in a bread bowl and I have to say, if you’re getting anything else you’re pretty much doing it wrong. The wharf area was just packed with people walking up to the food stands outside of the tiny restaurants to get their chowder and crab salad, so if you hate crowds, be warned. I thought it was fun to be around the hustle and bustle and eat our chowder standing up by the water. Plus, it was an easy walk to Ghirardelli, where, of course, we had to get some ice cream.
For shopping, it was of course necessary to wander over to Union Square, which was maybe a 10-minute walk from our hotel. Here, they had all the stores I’d ever dreamed of, including an absolutely dreamy Nordstrom and Macy’s. I got some new Adidas Stan Smith sneakers because of the previously mentioned walking-induced foot pain. I’ve been eyeing these sneakers for a long time, so it seemed like as good an excuse as any to finally pick them up. Union Square was an awesome area, and even though it was all big stores, not local spots, I really want to head back sometime when I have a little more time to shop.
Eat and Drink
La Mar, a Peruvian place right across the street from our hotel, was the absolute hit of the trip. We shared everything family style with some family friends of Dustin’s and enjoyed an amazing meal. We started with a purple potato dish with crab salad (because Peru is known for potatoes) and shared both a lomo saltado, which was an amazing beef dish in an oyster sauce, and a tuna belly that was on special, as well as some fried rice. Everything was amazing, and if you go there you have to try a Pisco Sour, their signature cocktail and a Peruvian specialty.
Nick’s Crispy Tacos was a completely different but also awesome dinner. We tried their fish tacos as well as their fried chicken taco (yep, you read that right!) and they were all really good. Their margaritas were great and only $7, and their signature taco topping is guacamole on top and chips inside the taco. Basically, it was awesome.
Pied Piper, inside the Palace hotel, is a great place to grab a drink before dinner or when you need a mid-day shopping break (since it’s right in Union Square). I had The Last Cocktail, which was extremely good. The claim to fame of this place is the painting that hangs behind the bar, entitled The Pied Piper, which was painted by Maxfield Parrish. It is 6 feet by 16 feet, so it dominates the space and you can’t help but stare at the masterpiece while you sip your drink. The painting is so beloved by the natives that, when the hotel tried to auction it off in 2013, the locals protested so much that the hotel ownership had to keep it in its home behind the bar.
Don’t forget your camera and walking shoes. Plus, you’ll want a jacket pretty much any time of the year that you go, since it’s so often chilly and windy in San Francisco. It also gets famously foggy due to the difference between the air temperature and the water temperature, so it can be a damp coolness, so don’t forget a jacket or sweater.
Have you been to San Francisco? Let me know your tips in the comments!