The first time I visited San Francisco was for a Family Trip in 2013 when my brother Nick had a lacrosse tournament in San Francisco for Ohio State University; we decided to make a family trip out of it, and I’m really glad we did. In 2015, after Mike and I drove up the coast along the pacific coast highway, we spent two nights in San Francisco. I was also here for a client in 2015. In 2019, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area with my husband, so I was able to explore much more of the city and surrounding areas as well.
Alcatraz Island is probably the most popular and touristy thing that people do in San Francisco. If you want to visit, make sure that you buy tickets far in advance. For the tour, you get a headset and it tells you where to walk around in the building. It was really interesting hearing all of the history about the island. I never knew that Native American’s lived on the island for a little over the year for a protest. We happened to be visiting the island when it was Fleet Week in San Francisco, so we went outside to watch all of the jets including the Blue Angels, Navy Leap Frogs, Team Oracle, United Airlines, RCAF, USCG, Lucas Oil Air Shows, Air Force F16, and the Canadian Snowbirds.
The famous Fisherman’s wharf is right on the San Francisco Bay, and it’s traditionally a spot where local fishermen sell their fish on the market. We stayed at the Marriott right there in the wharf, which was really nice because it was in walking distance to everything.
This pier has rows and rows of shops for tourists, including chocolate stores, restaurants, souvenir stores, games, etc. At the end of the pier are these floating socks where there are hundreds of Sea Lions chilling out and sun bathing. It was so cool to watch them play around with each other, and play king of the castle and push each other off of the docks. When Mike and I went, it was July, and the Sea Lions had all migrates south to mate. Make sure you go to SF during the winter so that they are there!
The famous Ghiredelli square is where they make Ghiredelli chocolate, and it smells amazing outside. We went into the store and split a delicious and ginormous ice cream Sunday with cookie dough ice cream, Ghiredelli chocolate sauce, some mini Ghiredelli squares, and lots of whipped cream.
Ghiredelli Square also has many shops and a beer garden.
This street is known as the most crooked street in the world. It zig zags back and fourth going down a very steep hill, and has thousands of colorful flowers along the sides with houses lined up right next to it. All of the streets near here are very hilly. When Mike and I walked up here from Ghiredelli Square, I was out of breathe.
A unique mode of transportation in San Francisco is the rail trolley cars. People can buy monthly passes and when the car is coming by, they just run up to it and jump on. We bought a day pass took one on a ride all around the city.
The town has a little Italy, so of course we had to go there for dinner one night since my family is Italian. The streets are lines with Italian restaurants, and the smell on the street is like fresh garlic. It is really amazing how steep some of the streets in the city are!
The San Francisco Chinatown is one of the oldest and most established Chinatowns in the U.S. There is an iconic Dragons Gate, and the area has many stores that sell fruits, herbs, bakeries, souvenirs, and cocktail lounges, and karaoke bars. We walked through just after they had a parade and there was glitter all over the place.
The Coit Tower is at the top of the Telegraph Hill, and it is 210-feet high. The tower was built in 1933 based on a gift from Lillie Hitchcock Coit, who left a $125,000 bequest “for the purpose of adding beauty to the city which I have always loved.” You can visit the top of the tour for 350* views of the city for $9.00.
Every Saturday there is a farmers market at the Ferry Building, and the Ferry Building itself is like a farmers market every day of the week with many different vendors inside selling their local goods. We decided on eating at the Sidekick Cafe & Milk Bar and Cowgirl Creamery. We got amazing grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. It was perfect for a cool fall day.
San Francisco Flower Market
When Mike and I lived in Los Angeles, we LOVED the LA Flower Market because it was so huge. We thought the SF Flower Market would be very large as well, but it was actually very small. We still enjoyed it and there were options to choose from, but the pickings were very slim and slightly more expensive.
This is one of the tallest hills that sits way above the city of San Francisco, and over looks the entire city and bay. We went at sunset, and it was a beautiful site; it was also extremely windy.
San Francisco Fall Lacrosse Classic
My brother played lacrosse for Ohio State and played in the San Francisco Fall Lacrosse Classic. It was a really fun experience to watch him play in the city.
I also visited San Francisco many times for work, and I always like to stay at the JW Marriott right in Union square. The square is where a lot of local artists sell their art work during the day, and the city holds events there. There is also a Bart subway station not too far away, which is a quick and easy way to get around the city.
We visited the famous Haight Ashbury because we wanted to go here to see all of the pretty colored houses that look like the ones in full house. What we found was a bunch of hippy and hipster shops. We stopped at a really unique coffee shop.
Golden State Park
At the entrance of the park, there were a lot of homeless people lounging around, which was pretty sad to see. Once you keep walking in the park, it is truest a great park for San Francisco to have. They have basketball courts, tennis courts, soccer and football fields, gardens, and so many activities for people to do. We went to the Japanese Tea Garden, which was unique to see, but cost 8 dollars to get into (that doesn’t include tea, that is separate). The garden was really unique and cool to see, but for 8 dollars a person, it was really small, and didn’t have much to do.
Outside Lands Music Festival
Every summer, there is a music festival called Outside Lands inside Golden Gate Park. I went in 2018 with my husband and some of my work friends. They have many different themed “lands”. I don’t know if my favorite was the Wine Lands, Chocolate Lands, Cheese Lands, Comedy Lands, Flower Lands, Grass Lands, or Beer Lands!
Wanderlust Yoga Festival
Mike and I went to Wanderlust Yoga Festival in May of 2019, and we had such a fun weekend practicing yoga in Golden Gate Park. I love how the festival had so many different options of classes to take. We participated in a vinyasa flow, amplified kundalini flow, guided meditation, soundbath and learned about ayurveda and essential oils. They also had barre, HITT, aerial, and acro classes too! Definitely recommend checking out the festival if it comes to a city near you!
de Young Museum
The de Young Museum is located inside of the Golden Gate Park, and it has art installations from the past, present, and installations to shape the future.
We visited the Monet Exhibit on the last weekend the installation was at the de Young Museum – Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Monet was famous for his Water Lilies from 1914–1917, and he had many other paintings as well. The museum was perfect for a rainy San Francisco day.
Academy of Sciences
Also in the Golden Gate Park is the Academy of Sciences Museum. Every Thursday night in the summer they host an event called “Nightlife”, where the museum is only open for adults. They have specialty cocktails and bars located throughout the museum. The museum has an aquarium, albino alligator, a rain forest exhibit, planetarium shows, an earthquake simulator, a skins exhibit, and many more interesting exhibits.
16th Avenue Tiled Steps
Near Golden Gate Park are the famous 16th Avenue Tiled Steps. There are over 160 steps, and they feature a sea to sky mosaic mural up them. They were pretty packed at the top when I got there, but I was able to enjoy the bottom of them without too many people around.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area – Lands End
We visited the Golden Gate National Recreation Area on a pretty foggy day. We first stopped at the Sutro Baths were a large saltwater swimming pool complex in the Lands End park. We also walked along some of the trails to take in what we could see of the coast.
Golden Gate Bridge
When I drove across the bridge with my family, it was so foggy, and it looked like it was going to storm. It was so bizarre. When I went across with Mike, it was clear and beautiful. It really crazy how quickly the weather can change in San Francisco!
Mike and I went to Baker Beach to participate in Silent Disco beach yoga with Outdoor Yoga SF, and it was so much fun! A really awesome Bay area teacher guided us through a 75-minute experience of yoga, zen beats, dance, and the beach vibes. We played in the water, pranced around, and listened to some really great songs. I would highly recommend anyone of any age or any yoga experience (or no experience) to check this out! It was so much fun!
The Mission District is a fun and hipster neighborhood with Latino roots and old-school taquerias and eclectic live-music clubs mix with chef-driven eateries and craft cocktail lounges.
Mission Dolores Park
Dolores Park is in the Mission Area, and every weekend during the summer it is packed with people picnicking and hanging out with friends. During the Summer of 2018, while we lived in Redwood City, we came to the city with my work friends to celebrate Mike’s birthday. It was a beautiful day, and so much fun!
Urban Putt Putt
This fun putt putt course is a fun spin in putt putt in an old building where you start by putting a ball into a machine, and then you go throughout a maize house and play. I ended up winning!
Angel City Brewery
Angel City Brewery has a really fun vibe with good beer, food trucks, cornhole, basketball, and other board games. It is a fun place to come on the weekend with friends and hang out.
I went to the comedy club the Independent for a live taping of my favorite podcast “Almost 30”. I did not know anyone that was going, so I met a random girl and went with her and we actually had a really great night. The girls that host the podcast, Krista and Lindsay, are really funny, and the host they had on was Lacy Phillips, and the discussion was mainly focused around manifestation.
San Francisco is known for having some of the best Asian Cuisine. They have amazing soup dumplings and boaba tea in multiple locations. It is great to be able to experience different cultures.
SOMA stands for South of Market Street, and Deloitte is technically in this district. There are so many different businesses and restaurants in the area.
The Deloitte office is located at 555 Mission St. and it has a beautiful art installation outside by Jonathan Borofsky. They are currently in the process of renovating the inside, and I cannot wait for it to be complete!
Salesforce Park is above the Salesforce Transit Center, and it connects to the Salesforce Tower, which is the tallest building in San Francisco. The park is a beautiful green oasis in the middle of the city.
Westfield Mall is a 9-story mall featuring over 170 shops & restaurants, and it is beautiful inside. It has every shop you could think of. I thought it was really fun to walk around and shop before the holidays.
ALX by Alexander Steakhouse
Mike and I visited ALX by Alexander Steakhouse, which was a fun and hip steakhouse where you do not have to get all fancy and dressed up to dine there. They had a huge drink menu and amazing food. Our appetizer was a goat cheese tater tot mix, and it was GREAT. Also, Mike got a delicious prime rib, and I got a delicious white fish. I highly recommend coming here if you are in the area.
Right on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, is a cute little town on the water called Sausalito. The first time I visited, Mike and I ate brunch outside at a really cute restaurant. So many people rent bikes and ride them across the city, and then hang out there. I think it’d be fun to rent them and do that one day.
The second time I visited, we went to Crab House & Prime Rib right on the water. We ate outside looking out at the bay. Everyone had a delicious meal, and we also had really great service.
San Francisco Ferry
Mike and I took a ferry back from Sausalito to San Francisco. The ferry goes right near Alcatraz, which is a unique site. The ferry ride was about 20 minutes, and it was beautiful to see the city from the water.
Muir Woods National Monument
Muir Woods National Monument is about 30 minutes further north from Sausalito, and it is a beautiful preserved area of nature with a cathedral of redwoods that age from 400 to 800 years old, and their height up reaches up to 250 feet high. For many people that live in the city of San Francisco, it is truly a breath of fresh air to visit here. The park is 554 acres, with many different hiking trails of various degrees of difficulty. There are boarded trails that families walk with babies in strollers, and there are others where you hike for days across the mountains. It is definitely worth checking out for a quick trip away from the city!
I had a client that was downtown Oakland. From the reputation I heard about the city, I decided to stay at the JW Marriott right downtown in San Francisco in Union Square. I took the Bart underground subway to Oakland every day, which goes underneath the San Francisco Bay. Downtown Oakland reminded me of Detroit how parts were nice, and other parts were desolate. There were many cute restaurants and shops for people to go to on their lunch breaks. I bought some of the most amazing chocolate I’ve ever had at a little market.
This city is on the hill top above Oakland with amazing views looking at San Francisco. It’s so unique, and I can see why it is such a popular place for people to go to college. While I was here, I had to drive past the Kappa Alpha Theta house; it was so massive and so beautiful.
Napa and Sonoma Valley
First Trip in 2012
Wine country is about an hour drive north east of the city. We stopped in Sonoma first, which is less famous, and honestly I liked better. We went Evolve, which is the wine tasting room that one of the past Bachelor’s on ABC owns. We also stopped at Domaine Chandon which was massive and beautiful, and we had a champagne flight.
Second Trip in 2017
Mike and I stayed at the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa for one night. The resort was recently renovated, and we had the luxury to get an amazing couples massage. The spa facilities were extremely clean and nice; we were very pleased. The hotel also had a really nice pool, fire pits outside, and they had wine tastings every day in the garden as well.
The Andretti Winery (Napa)
The first winery we went to was the Andretti Winery, which is owned by the Nascar driver Mario Andretti. We did a wine tasting on site at the bar with some cheese and meats, and then walked around a little bit. In my opinion, they should have had more tables set up for people to do their tastings outside, but it was still nice regardless.
Monticello Vineyards – Corley Family (Napa)
After the Andretti Winery, we walked down the street to a family owned vineyard called Monticello Vineyards. It was in a cute mansion style house, and there was no one in the tasting room besides Mike and I. We received a two hour long tasting of 10 different wines with one of the workers. It was very personalized, and a very fun experience.
Judd’s Hill Winery (Napa)
On Sunday, we went to Judd’s Hill Winery, we did the Bottling Bootcamp, and we created our own blend of wine that we are going to serve at our wedding rehearsal dinner to our family and friends. It was such a personalized and fun experience. We worked with four types of wine straight from the barrel, and tweaked the percentages of each wine until we created the wine that we decided was perfect for us. After we decided our percentages, we bottled 16 bottles by syphoning the wine from the barrels, mixing it, and then using different machines to bottle the wine, seal the wine with a cork, seal the wine with a sticker, and add our own personalized labels to the bottles. I would highly recommend this experience.
Third Trip in 2019
This was our first time seeing the Napa Valley Wine Train, and I thought it was a fun idea. The Napa Valley Wine Train offers different types of tours where you can ride the train for half a day or a whole day to visit many of the wineries. You can do just wine tastings, wine and food pairings, murder mystery tours, etc. If you are staying in the city of Napa, I think you should check it out to see if it is something you are interested in doing.
Napa Valley Welcome Sign
Make sure to stop at the Napa Valley welcome sign if you see it. Super touristy, but oh well! 🙂
Robert Mondavi Winery (St. Helena)
Our first stop on this Napa trip was at the Robert Mondavi Winery, which was built in 1966. My dad went with some of his friends when he was younger, so it was fun to go back again with him, my mom, and their friends. We went on a 30 minute vineyard tour for $25, where we tried 2 different wines, and we walked thr grounds, learned a lot about the Mondavi family, and learned about the grapes. The production rooms were impressive with large vats and barrels for days. We really enjoyed our experience here.
Castello di Amorosa (Calistoga)
Next, we went to the famous Castello di Amorosa, which I was really excited to visit because it looks like a castle. It ended up being SUPER crowded (probably because it is a castle), so it was a little chaotic inside. We still had a nice wine tasting experience for $30 per person where we tasted 6 different wines down in one of the tasting rooms.
Ledson Winery & Vineyards (Kenwood)
Our final stop of the day was in Sonoma Valley at the Ledson Winery & Vineyards. This was much more calm and relaxed than our previous stop, so we really enjoyed it. We bought a bottle of wine, some cheeses, meats, and bread, and the workers plated it for us and we had a picnic outside all to ourselves. It was great!
Fourth Trip in 2019
We tried to visit Caymus last time that I came to Napa, but they were full; they gave us vouchers to come back next time for free, which was amazing because tastings are $50 per person! We had 4 free wine tastings! They have indoor and outdoor seating, but it was really cold and windy, so we opted to go inside. If it is not too cold, they have blankets and you can sit outside. The vineyard is family owned, and the family has created their own lines of wine. Everything was delicious!
We stopped at V. Sattui for lunch and had a nice picnic outside. The winery is family owned as well, and they make over 60 different wines. We enjoyed walking around through their large market and picking out what we want to eat. The grounds are beautiful as well.
Our final stop on this trip was at Raymond Vineyards, which was the most interesting vineyard I have ever been to. The building is full of red velvet, crystal chandeliers, and mannequins hanging from the ceiling. Definitely not something you see at most vineyards. Outside they have a really nice garden you can walk through.