To celebrate ten years of marriage, my husband and I decided to travel to San Francisco for a few days of best friend time and conversation that wouldn’t be interrupted by children. I love to travel, but Jeron, not so much. We’re both actually our most content when just sitting on the couch together, but with a little encouragement from me he always seems to enjoy himself out in the big, wide world.
I can’t remember why I chose San Francisco in the first place (probably the food). I researched a lot of different trips and landed on this one because we could afford it and it sounded like an exciting place to visit.
Then I got pregnant and instantly wished I had picked somewhere less… exciting. I just wanted to lay around all day and I knew that wouldn’t happen in San Francisco. There was just too much to see and do!
Jeron and I love to travel like locals, staying in an Airbnb and avoiding the real touristy spots. We only did one super touristy thing on this trip, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here’s my list of where to eat (and where not to eat) and what to do if you want to visit San Francisco like a local!
We got in around 5:00 Thursday night. I don’t recommend renting a car in San Francisco unless there are a ton of places you want to go or you really want to travel outside the city.
There are a ton of street parking requirements and the streets themselves are really intense. I’ve done my share of city driving and even I was glad we didn’t have to drive. Getting into town around rush hour made it tricky to figure out how to get to the apartment we had rented.
Taxis and Uber can end up costing a small fortune based on traffic, and other forms of public transportation seemed pretty complicated. Luckily, the woman who owns the apartment we stayed in offered to pick us up from the airport and drop us off for one flat rate!
She even took us up to Twin Peaks for our first and possibly best view of the city. We got to hear all about the area while she drove us home and didn’t have to try figure out how to get there. Win!
We had zero energy left after a day of traveling so we had Chinese from Tenglong delivered for dinner. The food we ordered was ok, but it turns out we were not in Wisconsin anymore and didn’t realize that authentic Chinese food doesn’t automatically come with a boatload of rice, so it was a little unsatisfying. It didn’t really matter because we fell asleep shortly thereafter thanks to a little jet lag.
The next morning jet lag woke us up bright and early, so we walked a few blocks to Eats for breakfast. This place was great. The atmosphere and food were all fantastic.
They also have fresh squeezed juice, which is my favorite. I had the Power C, a mix of orange, grapefruit, and pineapple juices. For my meal I ordered a spicy tomato skillet that was full of veggies and came with runny eggs on top and crusty grilled bread on the side.
It was good but SO SPICY. I actually couldn’t handle it and ended up not finishing it despite my best efforts. Jeron got breakfast potatoes with his egg sandwich and I really wish I had gotten some of those because they were amazing.
From breakfast we decided to walk through the Presidio. On the way there we passed a bakery. I ducked in to grab a chocolate croissant to help ease the spice from my meal, which I then proceeded to eat (and get all over myself) as we walked the streets. I am obsessed with really good croissants and I just can’t get them where I live, so that was a real treat.
Walking through the Presidio was one of my favorite things we did on the whole trip. This is a huge forest/park with trails running throughout. We got a tiny bit lost, but that’s only because we were trying to end up in the Pacific Heights area for lunch.
I would recommend hiking around without a specific agenda for the most relaxing experience. We were able to catch our closest glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge so far behind the Walt Disney Museum. We also found the Yoda fountain at the Industrial Light and Magic building, which I consider a bit of a hidden gem.
We ended up at The Plant Cafe Organic for lunch. Everything there looked so fresh and delicious, it was really hard to choose! I ordered the plant burger and Jeron had the tempeh BLT – they were both fantastic!
On the way home we walked up the Lyon Street steps. These stairs are beautiful and intense. I would definitely recommend a walk DOWN the steps. Walking up we realized there were way more of them than we anticipated. We were rewarded at the top with another entrance to the Presidio. No more street walking for us!
For dinner that night we ended up at Delarosa. The restaurant itself is pretty small and noisy. We were seated outside which I liked because it was strangely a little more private.
Here I had my first taste of burrata (with honey and hazelnuts) – yum! I had been told to order pizza here, but I really wanted the eggplant sandwich. I think I got the best of both worlds because it was like a sandwich on pizza dough – so crispy yet fluffy with perfectly cooked eggplant.
Jeron ordered a big plate of fried seafood and vegetables that might have been his favorite meal of the trip. He also had an absinthe cocktail which he loved.
On Saturday we slept in and did brunch at Zazie. There was a pretty long wait, but it was totally worth it! When you get there, write your name on the list outside the front door and you don’t need to talk to anyone in the restaurant (it’s actually discouraged so they can keep working and get you in there sooner!).
I ordered Greek scrambled eggs with breakfast potatoes. It comes with bread and they have homemade jam sitting on the table that you will want to stuff in your purse (I didn’t. No really, I didn’t!).
There was somuchbutter on the potatoes and don’t think for one second that I’m complaining. Jeron had dungeness crab eggs benedict (WOW).
From there we walked through the Haight-Ashbury area, where the hippie movement got started so many years ago. This place was packed with people and I didn’t find the shops all that interesting, so I would definitely recommend skipping it if you have a packed agenda.
We finished our walk at Bi-Rite Creamery. I’ve been wanting to try this ice cream for years and am so glad I was able to make it happen. I’ve been told the line can be insane, but I actually had trouble finding the store because there was ZERO line when we got there! It was insane.
The guy behind the counter kept shoving spoonfuls of flavors at me to try to the point where I couldn’t even discern which one I liked best (they were all great, obviously). I ended up with one scoop of salted caramel and one scoop of brown sugar with ginger swirl.
Later we went to Land’s End and the Sutro Baths. This was also one of my favorite stops of the trip. Bonus points that the gift shop had a lot of really unique, thoughtful gifts that weren’t as tacky and in-your-face as some of the other shops we went into.
The baths themselves get you right up to the rocks and the ocean. I could have sat all day staring out into the sea, but dinner was calling my name right up the hill at Cliff House Bistro. For anyone feeling a little adventurous, you can climb from the sea’s edge of the sutro baths right up to the road outside the restaurant. It’s totally safe and not scary for a pregnant woman at all (Ummm, whoops. We survived.).
Overall I was pretty disappointed with Cliff House Bistro and would not recommend it. The view was the best I’ve ever seen, but the food was average and overpriced.
I had chosen it based on the meatless options I had seen online, but when we got there the menu was different (which I totally understand). I got the fish and chips which I felt like could have been from anywhere for half the price.
The next day we were hoping to eat brunch at Mama’s, but when we got there the wait was over 2 hours long. Lesson learned – don’t try to go there on Mother’s Day and get there early. We walked down to Fisherman’s Wharf and had brunch at Eagle Cafe, which was pretty good.
I had gotten nauseous from walking without eating so I ordered some simple pancakes, eggs, and potatoes and they hit the spot. I did not love the Fisherman’s Wharf area. There were tons of tourists and tacky shops.
We spent the afternoon at Alcatraz despite wanting to just go home and take a nap. You need to buy tickets to Alcatraz at least a week in advance. That bummed me out because I would much rather be spontaneous on a trip than be tied down to a timeline (see: desire to nap).
Still, the tour was pretty interesting and there was a great view of the city. Plus we rode on the back of the ferry on the way back which really made me want to jump in the ocean (I didn’t, brrr!).
We were so tired after Alcatraz. We wanted to go somewhere nice for dinner since it would be our last meal before we left. Obviously I had a hard time choosing, but ended up making a very late reservation at Wayfare Tavern.
The hostess (who is now my mortal enemy) made it sound like if we showed up anytime we would be able to wait for an earlier table. I figured the reservation would be a fallback incase it didn’t work out and they were super busy (like Mama’s). We sat at the bar for a while and the bartender made Jeron the best Old Fashioned.
She was even nice enough to share her tricks with us since we’ve been trying to perfect that drink at home. After waiting a long, long, long time I realized that if you ask to sit at the chef’s table (basically a bar behind a sneeze guard that looks into the kitchen) you can be seated in about twenty minutes. At this point we had waited so long for a spot in the actual restaurant that we might as well stick it out.
The food turned out to be fantastic. While you’re waiting for your food they bring you fresh popovers, which felt (and tasted) like a gift from heaven. The waiter asked if we wanted more, to which we obviously said yes, but they never came. So that was a strike.
I ordered the halibut and mashed potatoes, Jeron had the (*gasp*) fried chicken. There was some sort of fried little morsel on the side of my fish that I couldn’t identify, but I have reason to believe they may have been oysters. It was the best part of the meal! Kind of soft and surprisingly spicy.
I had been looking forward to dessert but by this point I was so full and tired and we decided to just go. But they bring you dessert anyways! Two tiny squares of salted caramel brownie were placed on the table and they were the perfect sweet little bite to end the meal.
Most of the time we were in San Francisco we walked or took Uber. Uber has a great deal going right now where you can carpool with other riders anywhere in the city for only $7!
We used this exclusively with the exception of our ride to the airport. I don’t feel like it really took longer and sometimes we never even picked anyone else up. I found when we were in a busier part of town we sometimes had to wait about ten minutes for our ride to get there, but any time we ordered a ride from the apartment we had to wait until we were already outside to do so because they were less than a block away.
If you’re planning to walk, make sure you don’t have to go too far and take the intense hills into consideration. As soon as you go up one you’re coming back down and climbing another.
They should really offer topographical maps of the city! I found Duboce Avenue to be exceptionally steep, to the point where we thought we might just end up toppling down the hill. They’ve even inserted these impossibly tiny steps in a section of the sidewalk to help you gain traction (or look ridiculous).
Be advised that San Francisco is cold. It was actually about the same temperature as it was in Wisconsin, so we were fairly prepared for it, but what we didn’t anticipate is that the buildings wouldn’t have heat.
They just kind of live in this eternal chilly median where you need to bundle up or put on another blanket. The average temperature every day of the year is somewhere in the upper 50’s, so dress a little warmer than you think and it’ll be a treat if you get to lose a layer in the sunshine.
I’m totally embarrassed that we didn’t get up close and personal with the Golden Gate Bridge or get to a lot of the other “must sees”, but when you’re traveling like a local you just get a feel for the every day, and that’s alright with us. What are some of your favorite spots in San Francisco?