We have just returned from the most amazing trip to San Franscisco for two weeks. We absolutely fell in love – what a beautiful city!
The first 5 nights we stayed in Sausalito at the Inn Above Tide. With 8 hours time difference, there was a bit of jet lag to get over and this was the most amazing hotel to do it in. I can’t say enough about this hotel, it really is superb perfect in every way – we had our own big deck, right on the water with the most amazing views of the city. The staff were great, very attentive and every single little detail is thought of, from the DVDs you can borrow at no charge to the bikes you can borrow (also at no charge), Ipod docking station, binoculars, v comfortable robes and slippers, complimentary wine and cheese from 5-7 – you name it, it’s all there.
Sausalito – you can do this in a day, it is a lovely little town (city) and there is some cracking places to eat there. The first day there, we just explored.
The next day, we took bikes from the hotel and cycled over to Fisherman’s Wharf and back. This cycle ride, whichever way you do it, is an absolute must – it’s a beautiful ride. We stopped at the viewing point just before the bridge, then went over to the other viewing point after the bridge, then down to Crissy Field and stopped at the Warming Hut (loved this – thanks so much to Ramblin Sal for the suggestion), spent some time at Crissy Field beach, then the Palace of Fine Arts. We had a great lunch at Lori’s Diner at Ghirardelli Square. The traffic got a bit busy and confusing coming into Fisherman’s Wharf and cycling on the right hand side of the road got a bit too much for us, so we turned back. I am by no means fit, so we stopped a good few times for me to push the bike up some hills!
The next day we had a day trip to Napa and Sonoma, through Extranomical tours. We paid for the Wine Tour and got automatically upgraded to the Wine Lovers Tour as there were only 6 people touring that day. Our guide was great and this day trip is another “must do” – the tastings were quite varied, we visited 6 different wineries – all beautiful – and it was very hot and sunny all day.
On our final full day in Sausalito, we caught the boat over to the ferry building, had a wander around the city, rode the full length of the Powell/Hyde line and caught the ferry back from Fisherman’s Wharf.
Sausalito is a lovely sleepy town and it was just the ticket to get over our jet lag, watching the sun rise on our deck the first couple of mornings was just heaven.
We then swapped hotels, to the St Regis. The St Regis wasn’t quite so nice, but don’t get me wrong, it is a good hotel, we were just spoilt a bit too much at the Inn Above Tide, so didn’t appreciate it quite so much. The staff didn’t seem at all genuine, the “Butler service” was non-existent, the pool area was not kept clean and tidy well enough, and the bath was, I think, too small for a hotel of this quality. (I’m really sorry if that criticism sounds snobby, I clearly have problems, I get so particular about hotels!) Apart from that, there were a few great things about the hotel – e.g. the rain shower and the maid service was outstanding.
For the next 9 days, we then proceeded to discover every area of the city as possible
We did the AT&T park tour – OH is a big sports fan so he loved this, and it was a good tour, even for me, who doesn’t know anything about baseball.
Alcatraz- I booked the night tour originally, then I had a bit of a wobble – what if it was terrible weather? What if it was foggy? What if it was too dark to appreciate? So, as a bit of an insurance policy before we went, I also booked us on a day tour a week later.
We went on the night tour and we absolutely loved it – although I was slightly disappointed to be “herded round” as soon as we got off the boat. Despite dressing in our warmest clothes, it was a really, really cold night, also foggy, and we couldn’t appreciate the outside areas as much as we’d like.
So... you guessed it.... we went back on the day tour. This was absolutely perfect. We got to explore in our own time and we found a load more things that we missed the first time round – we actually missed the whole exercise yard – I was so so pleased we went back and it was a beautiful, clear, sunny day – a real contrast to the night tour. It was great to have both experiences and we were absolutely captivated by it.
Beach Blanket Babylon – we’re not really theatre-type people, and we weren’t sure what to expect at all from this – but we did love it. Being English, we were slightly concerned we wouldn’t get the humour, but there was only one joke we didn’t get (about a politician we weren’t aware of). It was super flamboyant and I’m really glad we did this. We had a few drinks round North Beach that night too and loved the area.
Cable Cars – I would quite happily have spent a whole day riding the cable cars, just hopping on and off – I got so so excited everytime I saw a cable car. Also the F Trains, how great are they? Loved them. I said they were “F for Funny” trains and excitedly pointed and said “There’s a funny one!” each time we saw one!
We didn’t half end up walking loads this holiday – for example one day we walked from Market Street all the way up to Coit Tower, then the length of Lombard Street and down to Fisherman’s Wharf. That was a great day.
We spent a whole day in Golden Gate Park, explored it, went up to the top of De Young (thanks again to Ramblin Sal!), then walked the entire length of it to the beach. We had dinner at the Beach Hut, which was lovely.
My favourite day was the walk from Ocean Beach, on the Lands End Trail, all the way round to Golden Gate Bridge, then we carried on walking to the Palace of Fine Arts. The sun started to set as we got to the bridge, then we saw the sun set and it was fully dark by the time we got to the Palace of Fine Arts. This was the most amazing walk I’ve ever done – I really really recommend this.
Our least favourite part was Fisherman’s Wharf – it was still a great place, but we just didn’t enjoy it as much as the rest of San Francisco – too crowded and a bit too much tackiness in one place. This is with exception of seeing the Sealions and also the Musee Mechanique – that was great fun!
We loved the shopping in the city – Market Street/Union Square area had everything we wanted. We went out to Stonestown Galleria, but that really wasn’t necessary (although the food court was great!), as everything we needed was in the centre of the city.
We explored Mission, Castro and Haight Ashbury. The shopping at Haight Ashbury was great. We spent a bit of time in Dolores Park, what a great atmosphere! Out of these 3 areas, I really enjoyed the Castro.
We did Twin Peaks, but it was a bit too foggy to enjoy it properly – I should imagine this is great on a clear day.
Chinatown was great fun – we went to Golden Gate Cookie factory and loved it there! Cookies were yummy.
Don’t miss the Cable Car museum, it was so great seeing everything in action.
As you can tell, we had the most amazing time. Two weeks was just about right to get around everything we wanted to see.
We were going to get Muni passes, but never got round to it. I calculated that we probably wouldn’t have saved much, if any, money but getting one, as we ended up walking a lot. However, the Muni system is very, very easy to understand.
Homeless – I was a bit concerned about this before I got there, especially as our hotel was about 10 mins walk from the action – but this really wasn’t an issue. Yes, there are homeless people there, but they generally just talk to (or shout at) themselves and really aren’t anything to worry about – at no point did we feel unsafe in the city at all.
You may well be tempted to walk everywhere like we did and some of the hills really are steep so take comfortable shoes.
We ate at places like Cheesecake Factory, Max’s, California Pizza Kitchen – as we’re not foodies at all We love comfort food. Our two favourite meals were Biscuits and Blues and the Mac & Cheese at Epic Roasthouse (overlooking the Bay Bridge) – best mac and cheese ever!
Best lunch was at Tartine Bakery.
The weather is crazy, one minute very very hot and the next freezing, so layers were our friend. However, OH still wore shorts every day (not at night)
Hope this helps some people. Thanks so much to everyone on here, I found this forum invaluable when planning the trip.
Feel free to ask any questions!