“San Francisco itself is art, above all literary art. Every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every home a poem, every dweller within immortal.”
I first visited San Francisco in 2011, and fell in love. I’d never seen anything like it in terms of architecture and style. It’s as quirky and colorful as you imagine it to be! The drive into the city from the airport is a buffet for the eyes as everything is SO different from where I live. The buildings, the shops and the people are a gorgeous feast that awaken my artistic thirst. I drink it in happily, and fall in love all over again!
Flights from Dallas typically arrive at SFO around 10AM, so we drive directly from the airport to have lunch. Let me recommend The Blue Mermaid (in the Argonaut Hotel) for a great spot to dine. They have a nice patio (with heaters if it’s chilly) and the service is top notch. Blue Mermaid has an award winning crab chowder, and it is so delicious! I order a bowl of it and a side of garlic/parmesan French fries every time- it’s my standard order. Oh my goodness. So yummy! The Argonaut Hotel is lovely, and if you eat at the Blue Mermaid, you are welcome to visit the hotel restroom to freshen up after a morning of travel. The Blue Mermaid is right by Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman’s Wharf. The area is REALLY touristy, but also a fun place to walk around.
Another really great place to walk around is China Town. I’m sure there are several tours that include China Town, but since we ALWAYS rent a car, I can’t recommend one. What’s really wonderful about China Town is that you leave just about everything “American” behind once you pass the boundary. My husband is a Diet Coke drinker, and we could not find a single bottle in all of China Town!
Exploring the shops and markets was such an adventure and we left with jade rings and figurines, origami Christmas ornaments, and neat gifts for the kids. I highly recommend a stop in China Town!
Another really interesting place to visit is Fort Point. Basically, it’s a fort built under the Golden Gate Bridge. What I loved about this museum is that you can walk all around the fort- even up to the top where you see the underside of the bridge. Just know that when the fog horn sounds, you’ll jump out of your skin! It’s. So. Loud.
On the way to and from Fort Point you’ll pass Crissy Field, and on the Fort Point side of Crissy Field is a Warming Hut and Cafe. Not only will you find something lovely to nibble and sip, but they also sell unique gifts, books, and posters. Definitely worth a stop.
Over the years we have visited Coit Tower, the Embarcadero, the Presidio, the Full House house and Lombard Street. All are worth at least a drive-by depending on your level of interest.
No lie. Driving in San Francisco is a hair raising experience. The city is so incredibly hilly, and there are times you feel as if you are driving straight up or straight down. This is not the time to be driving a stick shift!
After wrapping up a glorious day in San Francisco, you’ll be primed and ready for a drive across the Golden Gate Bridge. I definitely recommend making a stop to walk along the bridge, if you have a chance. It’s quite an amazing experience, and you will feel a deep sense of awe at what man has built. Even if it’s a foggy day, make time to stop.
Just past the bridge on the north side, is an exit that will take you up to a lookout point where you can see the bridge and the whole city on a clear day. It’s definitely worth the time, if you go when there are not a million cars trying to get up there. We’ve learned that mornings are best.
Driving across the GGB going north is free, but be aware that if you re-enter the city via the GGB, you will have to pay a toll. Always ask your rental car provider for their policy on tolls.
Take your time exploring San Francisco, or pack it all into a half day- either way the flavor of this city will soak into your heart and stay there forever. There are lots of reports out there about the decline of this majestic city, and I can reluctantly agree that we have seen some of that over the last 8 years. However, we’ve never experienced anything that frightened us or put us off to returning, so my best advice is to simply practice safety precautions as you would in any other unknown place. So open your heart, explore the hidden streets and share in the experience of this amazing city!