For years, my family and I have enjoyed going to north-cal to visit San Francisco. It is one of those cities that is always on the move, buzzing with life. We love it!
Today, I will be sharing with you a few ideas of what to do with your family during a one night stay.
For starters, how do you get there? The fastest mode of transportation is a plane ride, which takes about an hour and a half. It can be expensive depending on the number of travelers accompanying you; however, look out for domestic airlines that sometimes have cheap flight deals. Then, you have Amtrak – for those who prefer not driving themselves. And lastly, there’s the driving option. It’s close to a 6-hr. commute. We went for the latter.
Truth be told, driving can be quite exhausting. Still, we feel we had an advantage since it was three of us driving. We were able to divide driving time more equally, making it more tolerable. There are two notable routes to get to San Francisco. Consider the 101 freeway for scenic views of the ocean as well as some inland. Then you have the interstate highway 5. It is not the most aesthetically pleasing path; however, it is the most direct route. Again, we opted for the latter option.
To get into San Francisco, we passed through a bridge. The toll fee is $5. There are several lines drivers can opt for; some are designated for individuals who have a transponder (FastTrack) so you can drive in without being stopped, and others, are selected for individuals that have to pay with cash or credit card. Once you are on the bridge, you’ll find yourself surrounded by water, and in the distance, the tall buildings beckoning your name.
Before you drive right in to the city though, we suggest you make a quick detour. Exit on Treasure Island. From here, you will get a beautiful vantage view of the bridge and city. This a great scenic picture spot.
After that quick stop, we drove straight to our hotel. This time, we stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel. It is located close to the South of Market district. It’s just a few blocks away from Union Square. Keep in mind, parking is limited in Frisco, so, valet parking is the way to go. But because it is limited, the overnight pricing for keeping your car in hotel garage’s is high.
We left very early on a Sunday morning, and arrived at around noon (we made a stop along the way for breakfast). After resting, we got an Uber ride to Pier 39. Pier 39 is a popular shops and restaurants area at the edge of Fisherman’s Wharf. There are video arcades, street performances, boat rides and other goodies you can enjoy with the family.
By around two to three in the afternoon, we were starving. We started walking at the pier and most of the restaurants seemed packed or like there was a long waiting list. We managed to find a hidden gem. Swiss Louis Italian & Seafood Restaurant. What drew us first is that it was not as packed as the other restaurants.
However, once inside, we were pleasantly surprised with the table our waiter took us to. We were seated near windows that overlooked the sea lions below us, as well as the city to the south of us. The food is a bit on the pricy side – but this is San Francisco we are talking about; everything seems pricy to us. As far as food quality, I got fish and chips. So, I got what I expected. My plate was tasty, and my dad and brother seemed to enjoy their meals as well.
With our stomach’s appeased, we wandered back in the direction of our hotel. The streets of San Francisco are not flat. You’ll find that more than walking, you’re hiking up hills. We stopped by Telegraph Hill, and saw Lombard Street in the distance. It’s always interesting seeing cars drive that zig-zagged street.
We passed through Little Italy. Gosh, the food smelled so good. If we had not eaten prior, I would have gone for those cannoli’s. Then we entered one of the areas we had not familiarized ourselves with though we have visited a few times. Chinatown.
Chi-town is one of those centers where everyone seems to be on the move. Sidewalks are packed with people buying goods, making lines to bakeries, and others checking out fruits and vegetable produce. You hear vendors shouting out their sales. It reminded me of markets we have seen in other parts of the world. You’ll be entranced by the bright colors, like the red hanging lanterns, and the sound of the drums from street artists. There’s also lots of street art, which if you are an Instagram lover, like myself, make for good backdrops.
After our exposure to Chinatown, we continued towards our hotel, passed through Starbucks and made it to Union Square. At the time (January), they had an ice-skating rink on the center. Good area to people watch and drink hot chocolate. Around this area, you’ll find many well recognized brand stores. We thoroughly enjoyed window shopping around the malls.
And that was the end of day one.
The following morning, we got up early because we wanted to beat the traffic rush. But we could not say good bye to San Francisco without visiting a new place and an old. First, we went to visit a location we had not seen before; The Palace of Fine Arts. This area is so beautiful. I think that pictures do not give it justice. When we arrived, it was isolated, except for the few morning runners. There is a structure with a dome that looks larger than life. A small lake surrounds the building. Pictures do not give this place justice.
Lastly, we were able to see a sight that never gets old for us. The Golden Gate Bridge. We usually go to Fort Point. If you haven’t gone to this fortification, it is worth checking out. Aside from that, you get really amazing shots of the Golden Gate Bridge. That morning that we went though, I was honestly terrified. The waves would hit the rocks in front of us with such force that it splashed water on top of cars. My brother and dad did venture outside, but I preferred to stay in the car. Did not want to risk the chance of getting wet. The guy who was next to us didn’t realize this and he got drenched. Twice. You’d think he would have moved after the first time. I’m going off on a tangent…
We took another 6-hr drive back home. We were there before 6 pm. Made several stops along the way because we took a detour to see the Apple campus; which unfortunately, was closed. We marveled at the huge structure nonetheless. It is totally possible to have a weekend getaway at The City of the Bay. It is very fun but exhausting when you try to cram a lot in a day. Which is why we tried to focus on one area alone. There is so much more to see! I hope you check out some of these places next time you visit.