“If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear flowers in your hair…” ~a song Stella had us listening to again and again on her San Francisco CD.
If you saw my road trip map, you noticed that I drove from San Francisco, down to LA, and back again. Stella was flying out of LA and really wanted to go to San Francisco. So we stayed in SF, then drove down to La where I dropped her off at the airport and picked up my friend Emily before we headed back up to SF.
I did my college internship in San Francisco and really, really love the city! It’s one of my favorite places in the States, and a city I would love to hang my hat one day (if only it were not so damn expensive and would get really hot in the summer, it’d be perfect!). Stella and Emily had never been to San Francisco, and I think everything touristy about the city is great, so I was more than happy to spend some time here.
San Francisco also happens to be a city where I know a lot of people. Sadly, even spending over a week there I didn’t get to catch up with everyone. But I did split my time staying with two friends I met from my job in South Africa and got to catch up over meals with people I met at my internship.
Stella and I had about five days in the Bay area. We explored Chinatown, Haight-Ashbury, Fisherman’s Wharf area, several parks, and did a daylong bike ride that included biking the Golden Gate Bridge and visiting Sausalito. Biking through the Presidio and across the bridge is one of my all time favorite things to do in the city. However, this was my first experience biking downtown as well, and it was one of those ‘We’re not in Kansas anymore’ moments. I guess you get used to biking in traffic if you live in the city though. We had a great balance of sightseeing and exploring during the day, and catching up with friends and cooking at home in the evenings.
On my return visit with Emily, we essentially had two days to spend in the city. We spent one of them sightseeing (yet it ended up raining most of the afternoon) and having a nice dinner in town with a friend and we spent the other day with our friends and ran the Golden Gate Bridge.
It was hard to say goodbye to friends we stayed with and friends that we barely had much time to catch up with, but it was so great to be back in the city and to be able to share it with Stella and Emily. As Emily and I left San Francisco to head up to to Sonoma, it took us over an hour just to get out of the city. Thank goodness for public transit the other days. We stopped for one last photo-op of the bridge before saying Bon Voyage to San Francisco.
A few things to note if you’ve never been to San Francisco:
1. It does have a lot of hills, but San Francisco is a very walkable city. Wear comfortable shoes and take time to explore on foot.
2. There is no shortage of sightseeing activities in this city: Visiting the winding Lombard St, biking or running the Golden Gate Bridge, feeling like a hippy in Haight-Ashbury, visiting the overlooks and Alamo Square (think Full House), taking a day trip up to the wineries, checking out the Fortune Cookie Co. in Chinatown, taking the ferry over to Alcatraz, riding the Powell St. cable car, and strolling through the Golden Gate Park are just a few of them.
3. If you would like to visit Alcatraz, book in advance! It’s really difficult to get tickets otherwise.
4. Maybe I realize this more coming from a city that is not nearly as diverse, but take advantage of eating some of the magnificent cuisine that the city has to offer. Because it has it all!
5. Parking is a total pain. This is the first time I’ve ever had to deal with having a car in the city. When I stayed with a friend south of San Francisco, it was fine, but when I was staying in the city and over in Berkeley, I was at a loss at to what to do with my car. I ended up paying to leave my car at the North Berkeley BART station under the Airport/Long-Term Parking option. It is worth noting that you must pay for this and print your slip out online in advance! You cannot pay for this option at the station (I had to learn the hard way). For more info on that, check here.
6. You can buy 1, 3, or 7 day passes for the public bus system in San Francisco, however we found with as much walking as we wanted to do as well, that we were better off paying each time we took the bus. But if you are interested in purchasing a pass, you can check it out here.
7. And finally, while the city is quite expensive to live in, so many of the activities are either cheap or free. Plus, it has plenty of affordable hostels in the city (which is where we got a big discount for the bike rentals). So, if you haven’t been to San Francisco, you should go!