While in San Francisco, my sister, her boyfriend and I had an intense week filled with a lot of sight seeing and eating. We tried to pack our week long trip with as many things to do and see as possible before we left to go back to the east coast. I mean, when would we be back on the west coast?! We didn’t know, so our goal was to see everything San Francisco had to offer in a short period of time. It was definitely a lot of traveling around and a lot of tourist spots, but it was all worth it! Below are the five favorite places (maybe touristy places) that I loved in the beautiful city. [not in any order!]
#1: Sausalito, California – Tucked away on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, is the small city of Sausalito. This city was one of my favorite places that we visited! With small boutique shops, street cafes and gift shops, the city is mostly known as a tourist destination but also a great place for a day trip! There are a few ways you can get to Sausalito; over the Golden Gate Bridge or by ferry. A lot of people rode bikes around the city, especially because it was a small area. There were piers and docks that visitors could walk on and the cutest coffee shops that offered sidewalk seating to overlook the Pacific Ocean.
During our short visit to Sausalito, we visited a small coffee shop that had fresh baked pastries. We lounged outside, talking and letting ourselves rest after a full day of traveling and visiting different tourist spots. I would definitely recommend visiting this small city if you are ever in San Francisco! (: It’s perfect for a day trip with family or a cute date day.
#2: Yosemite, California – Technically, Yosemite is not part of San Francisco, but it’s relatively close enough that we were able to make a trip out to visit the National Park. Yosemite was the one thing I was looking forward to the most while in California. I’ve seen plenty of pictures and heard about the breathtaking views, but being able to experience it for myself was completely different. We booked a Yosemite Valley Tour, which was about $25 and this allowed us to see all the major landmarks that Yosemite had. Our tour guide mentioned that this was an off-season for the National Park, but it was still a good time to visit because the snow was just melting which allowed us to see the waterfalls.
Although I didn’t particularly like the tour too much, it still allowed us to cover a lot of ground at Yosemite in 2hours. The one thing I didn’t like about it was that we were stuck on the bus most of the time and our tour guide lulled me to sleep with a lot of story telling, oops! My cousin, who had already taken the tour before, mentioned that each tour guide is different and that when he went, he had a great one. I still recommend booking this tour because it lets you stop at a lot of different areas in Yosemite for prime picture taking and seeing a general layout of the park. Definitely walk around by yourself after the tour, that’s when you are able to get closer to different waterfalls or you’re able to hike the grounds as well.
#3: Golden Gate Park – Known as the Central Park of the west, the Golden Gate Park is huge! I think the park is a little smaller than Central Park, but it still has a lot of activities for anyone. During our last day in San Francisco, we drove through a little bit of the park and then decided to stop and walk around the area. There was so much to do and see, it was a bit overwhelming! The weather was perfect, as usual, and the park was buzzing with tourists and locals. I would suggest visiting on a nice day and take a look at the Japanese Tea Gardens! We didn’t get the chance to actually see the place, so if anyone does visit the gardens, please let me know what they think. There are also areas where you can rent a canoe or a paddle boat, or perfect picnic spots for any occasion.
#4: Fisherman’s Wharf – The Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 are almost one in the same. Located on the coast of San Francisco, we stayed at the Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf for two nights, which allowed us to be a block away from the piers and the area. The hotel was beautiful! It had a slight nautical theme through out the entire place, but nothing too overwhelming. Our service was great and the rooms were always clean and a perfect home away from home our two nights there. Upon our check in, the front desk manager saw that it was my birthday in a few days; and we received a box of chocolates and bottle of white wine compliments of the hotel! Can we talk about great service? What more could you ask for! In the front of the hotel, there was a small cafe where guests could receive free wifi access and enjoy a coffee or a glass of wine. If you weren’t looking to sit inside and wanted to lounge with your group, there was seating outside around large incased fires for guests to chat and enjoy the night.
There was a lot to do around the area, with an abundance of local seafood restaurants and shops, we were always busy and occupied. My sister, her boyfriend and I walked along the pier and eventually made our way to Pier 39, which resembled a boardwalk. There were restaurants on either side and even on a second level. Intermingled with the restaurants were souvenir shops, coffee shops, candy shops, or other random places. Also on Pier 39 were games and different carnival games to play, for example the giant claw game! My sister’s boyfriend, Juan, actually tried it… but I promise those are rigged… and sadly he didn’t win anything. We ate at a seafood restaurant named Wipeout Bar & Grill which was mediocre and offered the basic American and seafood eats. When leaving we bought a bucket of 36 mini donuts from Trish’s Mini Donuts, which were delicious! And 36 seemed like a lot, but between the three of us, we crushed the entire thing in minutes. Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 are definitely places to visit and sight see. Upon looking out of the pier you can see the Golden Gate Bridge on one side and Alcatraz Island on the other. Visit on a warm and sunny day, because walking around with a cool breeze from the ocean and the sun on your face was nothing short of perfect.
#5: Alcatraz Island – There are many different stories and movies that are based off of this island and prison. Some say the island is haunted, with what or whom… we don’t know. But, Alcatraz the prison does give evening/night haunted tours if anyone is interested! We booked our tickets for an audio tour of Alcatraz Prison, which asked us to set aside about 2hrs for an entire tour and maybe extra time to walk around the other parts of the penitentiary that wasn’t for prisoners. If you are interested in touring this place, I highly recommend it! The tour itself was a little hard to follow because there were so many people walking around listening to the same audio tour as yourself. Some specific areas that the recording asked you to stop and look at or read were crowded so it was hard to see or you had to wait your turn.
I liked and disliked the tour. It definitely gave me a lot of information that I would never have known about Alcatraz, but trying to follow it was a bit difficult for me. I enjoy walking around on my own and looking at different areas in no particular order. What was great about the audio tour was that you were able to pause and press play whenever you pleased if you wanted to roam around a different area or wanted to take a break. Another great part of the audio tour was it was narrated by four police officers who worked the prison and four inmates who served a time at the prison, which gave you two different perspectives of how the prison ran and what others felt while there. Learning about the history that is incased in those cells and in the prison was overwhelming, in a positive way. Being able to walk in certain cells and walk the hallways of some of the most famous prisoners like Al Capone was surreal. Touching the solitary confinement walls and imagining putting myself in the shoes of an inmate that had to serve time there was terrifying. It definitely made me more aware of the hardships that prisoners must also endure and how scary it is to be put in a place like that for the things you have done. I really recommend taking a tour and learning about a famous aspect of American history.
If you are interested in booking a tour to Alcatraz Island, you can follow a link here. I would recommend booking a tour for the afternoon, so that you are able to grab lunch on Fisherman’s Wharf or Pier 39 beforehand. The ferry leaves to the island at Pier 33 which is a short 10-15minute walk from Pier 39.
I am hoping to return to San Francisco soon and make a visit to Wine Country (: