Wednesday, February 20, 2013

California Love: 10 Things to do in San Francisco

Dear Em,
* This is the third of 5 posts recapping our California adventure. See also California Love: Where were you during the blizzard of 2013?California Love: the FoodCalifornia Love: Wine Country, & love letters *

I started planning our surprise trip for Daddy's 30th birthday back in November. While I lived in California, I was only in first grade & don't remember much. So, after booking our plane tickets, the first thing I did was google "things to do in San Francisco." One of the first links I found was was Time Travel's San Francisco: 10 Things to Do (Time Travel's 10 Things to Do has become my go-to for when I start researching about traveling to any new place). Now that our adventure has come to an end, I'm creating my own 10 things to do in San Francisco. Here they are in no particular order.

1. Climb Coit Tower

Trust me, it gets steeper, but this spot made me think of Full House.

For us, it was more of a climb to get to Coit Tower than to climb the actual tower. Coit Tower is located at the top of Telegraph Hill. To me, it was more like climbing a steep mountain. I don't know how people live & drive & park their cars on this massive hill. We realized how out of shape we were halfway to the top. By the time we got to the top of the hill, we asked ourselves "Do we really want to climb up this tower now?" Luckily, there's an elevator that will take you up to the top. It's $7 to go up. Looking back on it now, I'm not sure I would have paid the $7. There are so many spots where you can see an amazing city view. In fact, there are some incredible views just outside Coit Tower without going up. Really, I just enjoyed the experience of climbing walking up Telegraph Hill, seeing how silly the cars & the homes look placed on such a steep angle. It was a nice way to start out trip, & resting taking in the beauty of the city at the top was an awe inspiring way to introduce ourselves to the city.

2. Compete in Rogue Trivia night

I talked about how much we loved Rogue Distillery & Public House. I was thrilled that we happened to be there during trivia night. I've never done a trivia night, & it was really fun to challenge our brains (& my iPhone) at a place where there was good food & an interesting beer selection. I think we were the Rhody Rams or something like that, & we were kicking butt...until the time difference really hit us & we turned in at something like 10pm. I know. Lame, right? It was fun while it lasted.

3. Break Out of Visit Alcatraz

I'm sure we've all seen it in the movies or TV shows, & we really wanted to see it in person. Alcatraz is probably the most famous prison of all time, & now it's a Golden Gate Recreation Area. You can ferry out to the island, & take an audio tour of the prison & surrounding buildings once inside. It's kind of eerie to stand where some of the most infamous US prisoners stood. To feel closed in the tiny cells & walk to the rec yard was an experience I won't ever forget. I'm a little bit of a nerd. I love history. The Alcatraz tour was a perfect mix of history, San Francisco skyline & Golden Gate Bridge views, & picture taking opportunities. I heard they have Alcatraz triathlons. If I were to compete in a triathlon (which I likely won't, 5Ks are a challenge for me), that would be the one I would want to compete in.

4. Take a Day Trip (or two or three)

There's so much to do in San Francisco, but there are also gems just outside of the city. Your daddy said Pebble Beach golf course was one of the most beautiful places he's ever seen. Two of my favorite parts of our California trip were our visits to Napa & Muir Woods National Monument (I'll highlight them in my next two posts).

5. Take an Open Top Bus City Tour

Some of the buildings amidst the electric lines the city buses run on.

It wasn't just your daddy & I on this trip. We were thrilled that your aunt Andrea & Lowell joined us on our California adventure too. There was one day when your daddy & Lowell went to the PGA tournament at Pebble Beach. Andrea and I were free to do anything we wanted. We wanted to see THE WHOLE CITY & get a little history lesson at the same time. I also wanted a chance to do something else I'd never done before, ride on an open top bus. We found a bus company that takes you throughout the whole city, but you also have the ability to get off the bus & explore if you want. 30 minutes later we could catch a new bus & continue the tour, & our tickets were good for 48 hours. We certainly saw everything, although some of the stops seemed to be in questionable areas. We didn't do a whole lot of getting off & exploring, & I don't think we realized how freezing it would be to go over the Golden Gate Bridge on an open top bus. I still loved our tour. We saw San Francisco in just a few hours, & I enjoyed filling your daddy in on some of the San Francisco facts we learned.

6. Stay at Fishermans Warf

To me Fisherman's Warf almost didn't feel like it was part of a large city. It actually reminded me a little of Ocean City, New Jersey. It's full of fun little shops & restaurants. There are vendors that sell kites & bubbles floating through the air. If you're looking to bring home souvenirs, there are tons of souvenir shops. Walking along the piers, you have amazing views of Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, & the rolling hills beyond. Here you can walk without the tall buildings blocking out the sun.

The best part of Fishermans Warf are the sea lions at Pier 39. To the delight of visitors, sea lions have hung out at Pier 39 for over 20 years. You can hear them as you approach the pier. Walk to the end of the pier & there's a viewing spot. It was so fun to watch them sleep & bark & swim & play. My favorites were the instigators who would tease by pushing the others off the docks & into the water. Moments later, they would have their paybacks as they got a big shove in. I loved watching them so much, I went twice. One of the best parts is it's absolutely free.

Everything else in the city is a quick walk, cab, tram, or trolley ride. We had the opportunity to stay overnight at Fisherman's Warf & Union Square, but Fisherman's Warf was absolutely my favorite.

7. Do a Little Shopping
Did you know Gap is headquartered in San Francisco? There is shopping everywhere. I was lucky to have a whole day to spend with just your aunt Andrea. There's no way your daddy would've listed shopping in his list of top 10. Andrea & I could've literally shopped until we dropped (and we almost did). At Union Square you'll find a ginormous Macy's, Urban Outfitters, H&M, & a ton of other clothing stores. For vintage clothing, Haight Street is the place to go. Fisherman's Warf has beachy & souvenir shops. Chinatown is filled with produce markets & shops with traditional Chinese instruments & clothing. If you're looking to shop, San Francisco has a little bit a lot of everything.

8. Ride a Trolley

Sadly, we didn't do this, & I'm super bummed about it. On our last day, I found myself outside of an empty trolley & your daddy took a quick picture. I didn't get to experience the wind rushing through my hair as I stood on the trolley platform, holding on tight. Oh well, it's just something I'll have to go back for.

9. Visit Chinatown

Known for being the largest & oldest Chinese community outside of Asia, as I walked through Chinatown I felt like I was in another country. I've been to Chinatown in Boston & New York & DC. They just don't compare. We happened to be staying in Union Square, a couple blocks from the entrance gates. I was amazed to see the Chinese architecture of the buildings & the lanterns hanging above the streets. It was fascinating to see all the produce markets & Chihuly looking glass shops. We picked up a pink pajama set for you there (I was so tempted to buy you slippers as well). If I went again, I would be sure to visit the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory where the fortune cookies are made handmade the old fashioned way.

10. Bike from Fishermans Warf to Sausalito (& take the ferry back)

It was during this trip we saw some of the most beautiful views of the city & it's surroundings. We booked a self guided tour from Bay City Bike, but there are a ton of bike rental & touring shops. It's less than a 10 mile bike ride, & we saw & explored so much during those 10 miles. There are some steep hills to bike up, but it's a fairly easy ride. I loved being able to hop off our bikes whenever we found something we wanted to explore. Once on the Golden Gate Bridge, there are a few viewing areas. While we looked off the bridge & toward the city, we saw dolphins jumping & swimming in the water. It was incredible.

Sausalito is a quaint & upscale town. Once we reached Sausalito, we were agin reminded how out of shape we are. We were pooped. My legs were sore. My bum was sore. We were happy to grab a small lunch & sit by the water to eat. It felt so good to sit in the sunshine before doing a little souvenier shopping. We took the Ferry back & relaxed while taking in the views of Sauslito, San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, & Alcatraz.

I feel like I'm leaving things out. There's so many things about San Francisco I fell in love with, it was hard to just pick 10. I'm hoping someday we can return & find 10 new favorite things to do.

I love you so,

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