What to Stuff in a San Francisco Trip
Updated: Apr 6
When your best friend is going through a rough spot in life, you do the right thing and distract her with a trip to San Francisco! Or at least that's what I was lucky enough to be able to do a month ago. In this post I'll go over what not to miss!
- Don't let the parked cars in the picture above confuse you; you do not want to drive around this city. Or rather you don't want to try to find parking. Get the Clipper app and use the public transit to get around here! Clipper works for both the Muni and Bart systems.
- This city is expensive, but if you can, try to get an airbnb in the Inner or Outer Sunset areas or a quiet area like Glen Park! That's where the typical colorful crooked houses are that everyone associates with the city. Downtown and the Tenderloin area have nice hotels too but if you're not very used to city life it might be quite the change of pace, even for a couple days!
1: Japanese Tea Garden
This place turned out to be by far one of my favorite parts of the city and the trip. The cost (around $10) is well worth it to see the beautiful bridges, plants, water features, and to chill and eat at the tea house in the center of the garden where you can get great tea and snacks like daifuku (mochi and red bean paste) and pork buns for a reasonable price.
Though I wouldn't recommend going here in the morning when there are millions of people crowding the markets, in the evening you can get amazing food over here and the colors and lanterns are super lively and fun to see. We went to Rural Ramen and I got a great poke salad and my friend, Patrena, got a pork ramen bowl that she thought was amazing.
3: Lombard Street
Duh! This street is crazy! Whether you're driving down it or walking down this is such a cool spot. Famous for being so steep that they had to make eight hairpin turns on a single block, this is a neat spot to walk around and admire the landscaping and the neighborhood.
4: Golden Gate Postcard Lookout
What a beautiful way to see the bridge and the ocean! There are so many areas to choose from when you want a look at one of the most famous bridges, but this was my favorite spot filled with lovely landscaping and super easy to get to and walk around.
5: Palace of Fine Arts
Pretty close to the Postcard Lookout is the Palace of Fine Arts, a free outdoor space that looks like it fell out of ancient Rome. This is a great place to walk around and enjoy the outdoors.
6: The SF MoMA
This museum was as beautiful as it was inspiring. I'm a bit biased since I was an art student, but I really loved the layout and the chosen exhibitions. If you enjoy modern art, this is the place to be. It took us about 3-4 hours to get through the whole thing and we were even a bit rushed, but thankfully there is a lovely cafe on the 5th floor that has delicious and reasonably priced meals that you can eat on the balcony outside.
7: The Batteries of West Presidio Park
You could certainly skip this area, but we really enjoyed seeing pieces of history scattered next to the beach to the west of the Golden Gate Bridge.
8: West Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach
I was so impressed not only by the amazing windmills on the west side of the Golden Gate Park, but the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden right next to the Dutch Windmill. After visiting these sites I also strolled over to Ocean Beach.
9: The Piers
I spent a lot of time at the Ferry Building near Pier 1 for the food and views in the early morning. I am gluten free so the Mariposa Baking Company came in clutch with the most amazing gluten free goodies and sandwiches. From there you can take a cute little trolly car (yes, they use Clipper too) over to the popular Pier 49 to see Alcatraz Island, take a short boat trip, eat clam chowder, and walk to Ghirardelli Square.
10: Contemporary Jewish Museum and Asian Art Museum
I'm grouping these together because they're close by and I did them in one day easily.
I was so impressed by the Jewish Museum. It's a beautiful contemporary art museum with Jewish morals and experiences displayed for a 21st-century audience member / art lover. The Asian Art Museum was HUGE and though I wish they had more contemporary work in there it was totally worth the visit.
To Eat and Drink:
Coffee: Sight Glass, Saint Frank, Iron Horse, Flywheel
I didn't have time to visit all of these but these were all suggestions that were given to me by a friend who has been working in different coffee shops all his life.
Lunch: Mariposa Baking Company or Crepevine Restaurant
These restaurants had something for everyone at easy prices. I am gluten free so these places worked well for me, but if you're not gluten free there are plenty of other lunch places at the Ferry Building and in the Inner Sunset area south of Golden Gate Park.
Dinner: Lolo, Sushi/Poke, or Chinatown options
Most of the best food we had on this trip was either seafood, Asian meals, or Mexican meals. I personally had one of the best meals of my life at Lolo in the Mission District but ate tons of Pho as well and it did not disappoint.
Drinks: Boba, The View Lounge, and The Beehive
If you like Boba or have always wanted to try it do NOT skip out on San Francisco boba places. I have been so disappointed with the boba in Colorado ever since this trip.
For drinks, night one we went to The View Lounge at the downtown Marriott Hotel on the 39th floor and it had the most amazing views of the sunset and the city. It gets busy fast, so get there early if you can. And be aware, the drinks are pricey but we thought they were worth it.
The Beehive, a retro cocktail bar in the lovely Mission District, was also very impressive. The drinks were creative and super tasty and the bar was very cute. This was a good place to go to after eating tacos at Lolo.
If you are planning on doing any shopping in San Francisco, I would recommend three areas:
The first is the Inner Sunset Area, which has many sweet local shops. I enjoyed My Favorite which has cute, unique items to take home like avocado plushies, embroidery kits, candles, puzzles, music oracles, patches, and more to take home with you. The other store I loved was Sakura, which is a Japanese goods shop. Irving Street also has plenty of funky clothing stores and unique gift shops.
If you would like more of the traditional big city shopping experience head to the Tenderloin Area where they have everything from Urban Outfitters to Sephora.
The third is the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, which is primarily vintage clothing shops. They can be pricy but there are some great finds in there.
Places we wanted to visit but couldn't:
I did an epic amount of research for this trip and had so many cool ideas that we just did not have enough time for, so here are the places I found that we couldn't go to so you don't have to search:
A beautiful trail in the Presidio area, the same area where the Golden Gate Postcard Lookout was (which is also close to the Palace of Fine Arts).
Cute area to take photos of yourself and loved ones!
Cute park with amazing buildings surrounding it. This would be a great place to sit and eat take out.
This looks like such a fun museum space for kids and creatives alike, and situated on Pier 15, near great seafood restaurants and shopping on the other piers. This is a popular tourist area.
I remember going here when I was in high school and it was such a cool place to learn about the history of the island and look around. It really looked like something out of a movie.Well worth the cost and the ferry ride.
Right on the pier and looking out towards the water, this looks like a great place to enjoy some seafood.
I'm actually kind of devastated we didn't make it out here! It looks pricey but so worth it for the super cool idea and ambiance. This place serves great looking Mediterranean food while screening old foreign films. Make a reservation if you can for this place!
Ugh Fable looked so rad too! Such a beautiful interior space to enjoy great looking food at a reasonable looking price.
Want good seafood for cheap? Go here.
enjoy this map I put together for my trip which helped us plan our days.