San Francisco has a rich history dating past the Gold Rush of 1849. With winding streets and whistling winds, the city is a playground for travelers of all ages. To kick off 2016, I visited the City by the Bay for the very first time.
With a weekend getaway ahead of us, Nic and I packed our bags with warm layers and comfortable shoes. Thank goodness we did! We spent the next three days exploring a variety of spots around the city on foot or with the help of Uber. If you're visiting the Bay Area soon or are experiencing a moment of wanderlust, here is a list of places to see and try in San Francisco, from a newly experienced first-timer.
Where to dine:
Sauce - Located in San Francisco's Financial District, Sauce is tucked in a line of small restaurants and bars within Belden Place alley. Their menu consists of delectable bar dishes from New England Chowder to Portobello Mushroom Fries. Nic and I toasted to the first night of our vacation with an American Honey Side Car and Don Julio Blanco mojito.
Mo's - Our trip to San Francisco wouldn't have the same without our visit to Mo's. We found our way to this small diner after deciding to avoid the insane line outside of Mama's. With a long day of sight seeing ahead of us, Nic and I needed a big and fueling meal. Nic's breakfast burrito was packed with flavor and the blueberry pancakes were so good that I'm drooling just looking at the photo.
Tosca Cafe - If you're looking for mood lighting and great drinks for a night out on the town, check out Tosca Cafe in Northbeach. My tropical daiquiri was a smooth mixture of white rum, Persian lime, and sweet cane sugar. Nic ordered the ankle breaker -- a combo deal of sorts which allowed him to pick any of the draft beers from their list and the bartender selected a complimentary shot. His IPA was delivered with a shot glass full of Wild Turkey bourbon. This bar is great for a round of drinks and a light appetizer, but could get pricey if you stick around for a full meal.
Pier 23 - We decided to stop by Pier 23 for some afternoon libations after an Uber driver included it in his list of cool local hangouts. The atmosphere was very casual and we enjoyed a view of the water from their heated, outdoor patio. My Lost Coast Mai Tai featured a splash of pineapple and lime juice with Meyer's Dark Rum and Sailor Jerry Rum. Nic warmed up with a Golden Gate cocktail, consisting of Maker's Mark Whiskey, lemon and mint leaves. I wish we would have had the opportunity to visit Pier 23 on a busy Saturday night because it had a fun atmosphere.
Franchino - Located in the heart of North Beach this family-owned restaurant is sure to leave you full and happy. Nic and I walked up Columbus Avenue and into Francino around 7:30 on a Saturday night. We were quickly seated at a table a few steps away and given a plate of bread to start. My cheese tortellini arrived smothered in their red meat sauce. A sauce so good, my tastebuds were celebrating until the very last bite. But not to be outdone, their New York cheesecake included a sweet raspberry sauce that transformed our slice of cheesecake into the dessert of my dreams. The moral of the story is if you're in San Francisco, make sure to visit Franchino.
Where to explore:
San Francisco Botanical Garden - Filled with plants from around the world, the botanical garden is located inside Golden Gate Park. You can explore all 55-acres on twisting pathways around ponds, up rocky hills and through their Garden of Fragrance. Walking the gardens is an amazing opportunity to breathe in some fresh air, but may not be idea for those who tire easily or need walking assistance. Entry for this part of the park is $8 for adults (unless you have a San Francisco address) and $6 for children and seniors.
Conservatory of Flowers - Learn from my mistake: Nic and I walked through every part of the botanical gardens expecting to see the Conservatory of Flowers, only to find out that it was a separate part of the park and cost an additional $16 ($8 each) to get in. However, once you're inside you'll find yourself in awe at the endless amount of green from the highland tropical flowers to the aquatic plants. Depending on your energy and time allotment, I'd say chose either the botanical gardens or conservatory since the experience is pretty similar.
Crissy Field and The Golden Gate Bridge - Another lesson you can learn from me: The Golden Gate Bridge is NO WHERE CLOSE to Golden Gate Park. As a newbie, it took walking around the park and finally looking at a map to realize the bridge is on the opposite side of the city. So once we grabbed an Uber, we had him drop us off at Crissy Field to walk through the sand and see San Fransisco's world-famous suspension bridge. If we had the foresight, it would have been the perfect place to throw down a blanket and enjoy a meal.
The Embarcadero Waterfront - Filled with bars, restaurants and ocean views, the Embarcadero lets you walk from Pier 1 all the way to Pier 47, which is home to the popular tourist spot, Fisherman's Wharf. While you're exploring the shops, make sure to see the sea lions near Pier 39 and bring a bag of quarters to The Musée Mécanique, one of the world’s largest collections of antique arcade machines. Nic and I spent over an hour looking at the old games and playing a few as well.
With just a few days to explore the busy city by the bay, Nic and I weren't able to experience everything we had hoped to enjoy. But we made sure to explore the essentials, while learning a thing or two along the way. If you're in need of a place to stay for your trip, we'd highly recommend Club Quarters. It's central location allowed us to walk to many of the places on this list and their staff was very respectful.
Where should we visit next?