This was my first time on the west coast, so with that it was also my first taste of California and San Francisco. I’ve heard from tons of people about how much they love this city. I’m happy to say it did not disappoint!!
As I talked about in the last post, we rented a car to drive from our friends house in San Jose to San Francisco. It’s about 45 min – hour drive. The GPS took us up and around the city and then brought us back into the city over the Golden Gate Bridge.
We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge into the city in our rental car and promptly did two things. 1. Find our hotel, check in and unload our stuff. 2. Immediately returned the rental car because driving in the city is too stressful and we didn’t need a car for the rest of the trip. We actually found out we didn’t really need it in the first place. Lesson learned: Research more! We could have just rode the Cal train into the city. Next time we’ll know!
We stayed at Hayes Valley Inn. It was perfect for us, centrally located, close to stops for most public transportation options, and very budget friendly. I had a hard time trying to find somewhere to stay, because hotels in San Francisco are expensive!! I searched and searched for something not $200+ a night and finally found this place on Yelp! of all places. (I always just associate Yelp! with finding restaurants, but they actually have reviews on anything and everything you’d want to know about!) Just a heads up Hayes Valley Inn is Budget friendly because it’s a little different then a regular hotel.
It’s a bed and breakfast, but it’s a communal style. We didn’t have our own bathroom in our room. There are a few bathrooms in the main hallway on each floor that are shared among all the travelers. We had no problem with this as we never had to wait, there was a bathroom open every time we needed one.
Since we spent most of our 1st day driving around and visiting Muir Woods by the time we made it into the city and found our hotel we decided first to find somewhere to eat dinner. We ended up going to a Sushi restaurant that was right around the corner from our hotel. It was a very small place, but it was amazing!! The Sushi was so good and on our “long way around” walk back to the Inn we discovered an ice cream place.
It was called “Smitten Ice cream” and it was a little different then your usual ice cream place. They used all fresh ingredients (example I ordered mint chocolate and it was actual mint leaves chopped up in it) and they made the ice cream with liquid nitrogen which meant it was mixed in a puff of “smoke” while you waited. The explanation was that pre-made already frozen ice cream changes flavor over time. With this method it’s always made to order and eaten right away. It was quite interesting. More of these places have popped up since we discovered this one but this was a first for us at the time.
The next morning started our two day exploration San Francisco! My husband spent a summer in this beautiful city when he was in college, while his Mom lived. That made this not not as exciting for him since it wasn’t a totally new experience like it was for me.
We had bought tickets for Alcatraz so we did a little exploring on our way down to the pier to get in line. We made our way to Lombard street, the famous crooked street. It was pretty and winds down a hill. We were walking and started at the top and went down the side walk. Lots of cars were winding their way down the street though. Can you imagine living on this street and not only having to back out into this crooked street, but also compete with all the tourists driving down constantly.
Side note everywhere we walked I was obsessed with looking at home values on Zillow! I mean this city is beautiful and I would love to live here but who can afford these prices! I wanted to ask everyone I saw taking out their trash or doing something outside “Hi, what do you do to afford this house?” I mean seriously look at these prices!
Next we headed down to Fisherman’s Wharf and wandered around looking at all the seafood stands. We tried a lobster roll and it was delicious! We passed a bakery where they were making all kinds of animals with the dough, which was interesting. We also made a stop at Pier 39 to see the sea lions. I think we were there in off season because there weren’t that many out and they were all on the plat forms farthest away from us!
Next was on to explore Alcatraz. It’s pretty popular so just a tip we learned is that you should really buy your tickets ahead of time. If you don’t you will be stuck with limited choices of times for your tour. We lucked out because I don’t think October was a very popular time for visits, so it wasn’t too limited on times. I had a friend who went recently and she said they couldn’t get tickets on their own, they had to go through a tour company and had to pay for a larger city tour that included Alcatraz.
The weather in California was amazing our whole trip so waiting in line was nothing like having to wait in line for things in Florida. We had to wait about 30 min before it was time to load our ferry for the trip over. It was windy out in the bay during the short trip over, and the view was beautiful of the city from out in the water.
We did the Audio tour and it was great and very informative. The stories were good a few about escape attempts and hidden tunnels inmates had dug out. They say they have no record of anyone surviving an escape attempt because of the rough waters they would have to swim and survive in order to make it back to land. I really enjoyed this tour, and highly recommend everyone make sure to fit it in your schedule when you visit San Francisco. However if I was ranking prison tours Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia had more history and higher profile criminal residents.
After we finished with our tour of Alcatraz, we headed back through the wharf to find the famous cable cars. They are at the top of every “top things to do in San Francisco” list I found when I was planning our trip. Just a heads up the cable cars only run through a small corner of the city. I don’t know that they’re ideal for actual transportation, I think most people are just riding them as a tourist attraction. Also it costs about $5 to ride one way which doesn’t take you very far. It was fun though. We got on in the back platform. I didn’t realize when my Husband kept asking if we should move up front, which looked packed to me, that he meant on the outside. I realized this after we made it to the end of the route. So I made him go back so we could at least take a picture on the outside as any “true” San Franciscoian would do.
One of the off the beaten path things we wanted to find while there was something my cousin Ashley told us about. It’s called the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps Project. It took us awhile to find the steps because they are in a more residential part of town. We had to take the train to the west side of the city and then do some walking and a little searching to find them. We actually found another set of tiled steps called “The Secret Garden” first. Once we found the steps we followed them all the way to the top (you have to take a few more sets of stairs after the tiled steps end) where we found a small park that had beautiful views of the city and the Ocean. One side looks towards downtown and the other side looks to the Ocean. It was pretty cloudy the day we were up there, but I can only imagine how breathtaking the view must be on a clear day.
On the day we were set to leave while packing and figuring out how to get from our hotel to the Airport, I decided to we had time to squeeze in one more adventure. I was looking up where the Full House house was in proximity to us and saw that the Painted Ladies were only a few blocks down and the house wasn’t too far from there. We finished packing and had just enough time to make it to both. We got to the Full House house to find that it is now painted a dark purple and has a gate on it’s steps. I guess the homeowners got sick of people coming up the steps to take pictures. I mean you did buy the Full House house what did you expect you would be dealing with. Anyway a few quick pictures and an Uber back to our hotel and we were on our way back to Orlando.
We made it back home safely with thoughts of how cool it would be to live in San Francisco! (PS we return home with the same thoughts from almost every trip!) My husband in the tech business and that area from San Francisco to San Jose would be a dream area for him. However the shock of the cost of living and what to do with our two houses in Central Florida (renting them out while living in California would probably drive me crazy!). The thoughts however slowly die off to dreams when we return to our little acre of no neighbors and two crazy pups that would never be able to be city dogs!
Until next time San Francisco!
** If you have any suggestions on things we should see/do on our next visit (because we will definitely be back!) leave me a comment and let me know!