I spent hours scouring these message boards for advice before my two teen-age daughters and I left for our vacation to SF. Thank you to everyone who made our vacation wonderful!
Saturday - July 19
Arrived at SFO. Took a taxi to the Radisson Fishermans Wharf. It was around a 30 minute ride and $46.
Loved our hotel! I got a rate of $179 per night for a room with two double beds and a refrig. Very clean, comfortable Sleep Number beds, fluffy comforter...no complaints. The location is just ideal! One block from Pier 39, Boudin Sourdough Bakery, etc. There is also a Safeway and Walgreens 2 blocks away.
Explored the wharf area and walked along the Embarcadero...very beautiful street. Loved the Ferry Building! Great food stands like Scharfen Berger chocolate, gelato, sourdough bread, cheese, etc.
Had dinner at the Fog City Diner. Very nice American meal. I had the chicken schnitzel with broccolini and buttermilk mashed potatoes. Yummy!
The girls had peanut butter and fudge sundaes at Ghirardelli Square for dessert. The Ghirardelli store hands out samples of their chocolate as you enter. Who can resist?
Sunday - July 20
Had breakfast at the IHOP which is adjacent to the hotel. They have a pancakes across America promotion right now which features flavors from each state such as Georgia Praline or New York Cheesecake.
Took the 3 hour Mr. Toad's Postcard Tour of SF. Wonderful! You tour in an antique car which holds about 9 people. We like smaller tours much better than bus tours. Our driver/guide was a wealth of information and we covered the highlights of the area. It was quite chilly on the morning tour! So everyone cuddled under blankets since it is an open-air car. There are plastic touring windows that can be dropped in bad weather. This tour embarks from Mason St. right by the wharf. It was just around the corner from our hotel.
Rode the cable car to Union Square. Really fun! $5 per person. Tried to walk up the very steep Hyde St! Then we walked down Lombard St. The flowers are beautiful along this street and so are the homes. The Princess Diaries was filmed in this area.
Monday, July 21
Took the ferry from the Ferry Building to Sausalito. (This ferry is a few dollars cheaper than the Blue & Gold ferry that leaves from the wharf.) Pretty ride over and back! Sausalito is a Mediterranean looking town...cute shops, houses perched on the sides of the mountains. We ate at the Lighthouse. They are known for their pancakes with fresh fruit in them. Had Lappert's ice cream. Bought a beautiful sterling silver necklace made by a local artist at Something Anything...my favorite store in that town. Hamburgers looks like a good place to eat! Thick, juicy hamburgers are grilled right by the restaurant's front window. The tourists all gather around to watch them cooking.
Walked to Coit Tower. Be prepared for a very steep, aerobic walk! Once you are there, an elevator takes you to the top. The views are lovely but it is quite windy up there! Beautiful murals along the walls inside the tower depicting workers.
Ate dinner at Tommaso's in North Beach. Our favorite! Small, noisy but wonderful Italian restaurant on Broadway and Kearny. Excellent food and reasonable prices.
Great gelato place along Columbus Ave in North Beach for dessert.
Tuesday, July 22
Rented a car to drive to Carmel. Took the faster inland highway route down that was recommended on this website. It took about 2 hours and 15 minutes. What a charming little town! Cute stores nestled in the trees and wonderful restaurants. Tommy Wok's was recommended to us by the local bookstore clerk. It was outstanding! We were plenty full and paid only about $8 per person. We also tried dim sum for the first time.
Stuck our feet in the Pacific at the local beach. Gorgeous views to Pebble Beach. I could have lingered there longer.
Did the 17 mile drive.
Drove back on the Coastal Highway. Some parts were agricultural and then we got to the stretch with stunning views of the Pacific! Wind surfers, dramatic cliffs, etc.
Crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and then went to Muir Woods. The drive is about 30 minutes from SF. Crazy, crazy roads to get there...sharp curves and steep drops with no guard rails! Since we arrived around 6:30 PM the woods were not crowded at all. In fact, we didn't even have to pay an admission.
My youngest daughter was anxious to try In and Out Burger...she had heard much about this fast food chain. It is located along the wharf area. It was quite good! What makes it special is that everything is fresh from the meat to the potatoes used in the French fries.
Wednesday, July 23
Waited 2 hours for breakfast at Mamma's in North Beach! Crazy! While it was quite good, no breakfast is worth waiting that long. They make fresh jam each day and wonderful quick breads, stacks of pancakes topped with fresh fruits, etc. They are especially known for their omelets.
Went to Golden Gate Park and walked through the Japanese Tea Gardens. Very pretty! You can have tea and a light snack there as well.
Got lost several times trying to find our way out of the park to Haight St. Even the locals that we asked for directions said that they are often confused as well.
Haight St. is quite a step back in time to the 60's. My daughter got a cute T-shirt at a store called Villains.
Took the bus to Golden Gate Bridge visitor's center. Walked the bridge over and back! Quite a thrill! Fortunately Wednesday was around 70 degrees or so. With long pants and jackets, we were comfortable. Everyone had warned us that it gets really chilly on the bridge and to dress warmly.
Had dinner at Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store on Columbus Ave right by Washington Square. This is a place that locals frequent. Really yummy sandwiches on wonderful bread, etc. Walked across the street and discovered Mara's Italian Pastry Shop. The 3 of us devoured 4 different desserts! Reasonable prices too!
Walked through Chinatown. One street is mainly shops and the other street is mainly food markets. It is quite interesting to browse the shops.
Thursday, July 24
One day trip to Yosemite with Incredible Adventures. Here's my advice about this...DO NOT book your tour with this company! The itinerary per there website is very inaccurate. We were picked up at our hotel at 6:15 am and never returned to our hotel until 11:45 pm. (We were supposed to be back in SF no later than 9:30 pm.) Our driver/guide was on his first tour! We got lost leaving SF and he did not give us any tour what so ever of Yosemite. We never arrived at Yosemite Valley until 1:30 pm, 7 hours after our pick-up. The website said that it would be a 4 hour drive. Everyone in our little van was pretty frustrated! However, the 2 hour tram tour of the valley with a park ranger is outstanding!!! You see all of the highlights and learn so much about the park. I think that that was $22 per person.
Friday, July 25
A free day to do whatever we wanted to do one last time. Had a yummy lunch at Mistral in the Ferry Building. It is a French style bistro in which you pick from various dishes in the refrigerator display case. Then they heat your plate up and you eat outside along the waterfront. We each ate half an herb roasted chicken, macaroni & cheese and steamed broccoli. It was ample and delicious for only $9.95. Honest Abe's drinks are delicious too! We cracked up about everything being organic in California!
Walked across the street from the Ferry Building. There were many craft/artisan tents set up selling jewelry, T-shirts, etc.
If you continue to walk beyond that area, there is an area with restaurants that our concierge recommended. One Market, Cosmopolitan and another one that I can't think of. They looked very nice but very pretty pricey for lunch. We did have a Yo Cup in a food court in what looked like an old postal building. Yo Cup is a frozen yogurt company started in SF. You pick your toppings...like fresh mango, berries, etc. It was quite good!
Shopped at Macy's in Union Square and walked through Chinatown. The Benefit make-up counter at Macy's has an eyebrow bar. My oldest daughter got her eyebrows waxed and tweezed for $18. Wow! Do they ever do a good job! That is really a fun counter!
We wanted to end our vacation on a good note with a nice dinner. We loved Tommaso's so much that we ended up going there again. Once again, we were not disappointed! The ravioli are homemade and the spaghetti and meatballs were the best that I have ever had. We shared a Caesar salad that was as large as our dinner plate. They are actually known for their pizza baked in a brick oven in the back of the restaurant.
Saturday, July 26
Had another good breakfast at IHOP and said our good byes to SF. We loved our vacation in this beautiful city! I especially loved no humidity, no rain and nice cool temperatures. (This is definitely not a shorts and tank top destination in the summer! Come prepared with a warm jacket and long pants!) Everyone was friendly and we never felt afraid while walking all over the city. It seems as though everyone is from a different country. We heard so many different languages being spoken.
We hope to come back again one day! In the meantime we have some wonderful memories of this city by the bay!