I can’t believe that our NoCal trip has finally come full circle! It has taken a while, but I hope that you’ve enjoyed my recaps of the places that we visited, the things we did and saw, and some of the fantastic restaurants that we visited! Below are a listing of all of my posts related to this trip, and I hope that you have fun looking at them all! I’ll also recap our final few hours in San Francisco below!
The last day that we were in San Francisco, we only had a few short hours to enjoy the city before we had to leave for the airport. We decided to make the most of our time and walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Even though we had already biked across it a couple of days earlier, I knew that it would be a different experience to walk across it, because we would actually have the time to stop, take pictures, and enjoy the amazing views from the bridge.
We decided to drive across the bridge towards Sausalito, and then walk about half way over the bridge towards San Francisco before walking back to the car. I loved being able to take pictures of the details of the bridge while we were walking, since the whole time we were biking I was concentrating so hard on not running over all of the pedestrians or running into fellow bikers.
Our last day in NoCal was kind of a wash, because Southwest doesn’t fly direct to San Francisco, we basically had to sacrifice a half day of sightseeing for travel. Although, I think that by the time our last day rolled around, we were both exhausted (a rightfully so with our full schedules) and ready to head home to Texas.
Our whole trip was absolutely amazing, from the wine tasting, to hiking around Lake Tahoe, to exploring San Francisco, and to finally road tripping to Big Sur, I don’t think that I could pick a favorite thing that we did.
On our second day in San Francisco (read about our whirlwind first day here), we got to celebrate my wonderful husband’s birthday! When we officially set the dates for the trip, I knew that I wanted to make his birthday all about him and things he would love to do, especially since we weren’t going to be home and he wouldn’t be able to see his family.
Our day started off bright and early with a trip to Alcatraz. This was something that the hubby was dying to do, so I made sure to reserve us tickets well in advance for the second or third group to go the island. (You can purchase tickets online months before your trip, and they recommend that you do this because there’s only a certain amount of people that can ride the boats over there at a time).
When you arrive, they have multiple groups of people waiting to load at different times, so make sure you’re with your group! After the typical before Alcatraz photo, you board the boat and set sail for Alcatraz. (Word of warning, San Francisco is pretty darn cold, and if you don’t have a jacket, you will freeze if you sit outside during the boat ride). The hubby and I did opt for sitting on the deck of the boat in the front of the boat, and it was pretty amazing to see Alcatraz appear out of the fog. (Another word of warning, a lot of people will end up crowding the deck to take pictures as you approach Alcatraz, so I recommend that if you want your own pictures, stand up before the masses of people come out).
Once we arrived at Alcatraz, we had a brief welcome message from one of the park rangers (yes, Alcatraz is a state park), and they tell you all of the things you can and can’t do while you’re on the island. After that we were ready to begin our tour. Both of us loved our tour of Alcatraz. The tour is narrated by both inmates and correctional officers that were imprisoned/used to work there when Alcatraz was still a prison. It was very interesting to hear about life there from both sides, the officers and the prisoners.
I also have to talk about my complete nerd out moment while we were at Alcatraz. The hubby and I are HUGE fans of Walking Dead on AMC! It’s literally one of three shows that we actually watch live on TV and sit through all of the commercials because it’s that good (and maybe because you need a little break from all of the intense zombie action). Anyway, during the past two seasons of Walking Dead, the survivors are at a prison (sorry for anyone that hasn’t watched it yet!). So, of course, the whole time that we’re walking through Alcatraz during our tour I keep on thinking that there’s a zombie that’s about to pop out! It was so awesome! Ok, end of my nerd out moment.
Biking The Golden Gate Bridge
After spending a couple of hours on Alcatraz, we headed back to San Francisco on the boat. Our next activity for the day was a guided biking tour of San Francisco, but we still had a couple hours before we had to check-in. So, once we docked we decided to walk over to Pier 39 to see some of the famous sea lions. There ended up only being one or two on the platforms that they have set up for them, because I think that we were too early for them. Next we walked back over the Fishermans Wharf area and had lunch at Chipotle before heading to Blazing Saddles for our bike tour!
If you’ve ever been to San Francisco, you know that there are a ton of bikers in the city. There are seriously a ton of people riding around on bikes, and with all of the hills, I seriously don’t know how they do it! Some of our friends who had been to San Francisco a couple of years ago told us about a tour that they did, where you basically rent bikes and then bike across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. There are now a ton of different companies that offer the bike rental service, but we decided to use Blazing Saddles because our friends had such a good experience with them. (We also opted to do the guided tour instead of the self-guided tour because the hubby and I are kind of directionally challenged and didn’t want to risk getting lost).
Once you arrive at Blazing Saddles they fit you for the proper bike (if you have children, you can even ride on a double seater) and give you a helmet, and normally send you on your way. We met up with the rest of our group before heading out on our tour. WARNING: San Francisco is very, VERY, VERY hilly! The video that they show you of your route talks about a hill that you have to go over right off the bat and they make it sound like not a very big deal. If you’re from a flat state, like Texas, that hill is almost impossible to go up, unless you’re in super biker shape, so don’t feel embarrassed if you can’t bike it (the hubby and I and almost everyone else in our group wasn’t able to).
After that first big hill, we made our way over to the Palace of Fine Arts which was absolutely beautiful! Then it was finally time to bike across the bridge! I have to admit, it was pretty nerve wracking to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. The bike riders are in the same lane as pedestrians, and on weekdays, bikers are going both directions. So we really had to concentrate on not hitting pedestrians (who aren’t paying attention to where you are or your ringing bell), and then you’re trying to concentrate on not running into other bike riders coming the other direction. Although it was very intense, it was also one of the coolest experiences! I’ve walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, but it was a totally different experience biking across it.
Sausalito was our next stop after biking across the Golden Gate Bridge. This part of the trip was the easiest, as it was all downhill, but also a little scary because you’re driving downhill on a two lane road with cars coming both directions. But it was totally worth it once we made it Sausalito! Sausalito is a beautiful little town with lots of shops and restaurants. We locked our bikes up and ended up grabbing some ice cream at one of the stores before heading back to San Francisco on the ferry.
All in all, we really enjoyed our biking trip, despite the scary times with the other crazy bikers and pedestrians, and when we had to drive in the actual street. I would definitely recommend it to anyone, whether you’re active or not. Chris and I are not super health freaks that go to the gym everyday, and we really enjoyed ourselves and weren’t too worn out afterwards. I would also recommend that you wear lots of sunscreen, especially on the tops of your hands. That was the one place that I forgot to put sunscreen on, and it was the place that looked like I had some skin disease for a week after because I was peeling from my sunburn.
Once the ferry docked, we headed back to our hotel to change and get ready for a special birthday dinner for the hubby. This was the night that I really focused a lot of my time on to find the perfect restaurant to celebrate the hubby’s birthday. Lately, Chris has been talking about how much he loves oysters and could eat them all the time, and I just happened to stumble upon an article in Huffington Post that talked about a restaurant in the Embarcadero called Waterbar. After reading the reviews, I immediately made a reservation here for his birthday.
The reviews for Waterbar were absolutely on point! We both loved this restaurant, and it actually ended up being Chris’ favorite restaurant from the trip (yay, major wife points!). We both got appetizers to start, I had a sashimi and Chris had oysters, of course. With dinner we split a bottle of Sauvigon Blanc and we both had excellent fish dishes that were to die for. After dinner they brought a cake out for Chris to celebrate his birthday.
This was definitely one of our favorite restaurants on the trip. Not only was the food fantastic, but the location was also great. We had seats right near the window (which I definitely recommend if you can pick your seat), so we were able to watch the sunset over the bay. The restaurant is actually right next to the Bay Bridge, and after the sun sets, the Bay Bridge lights come on, and it was absolutely beautiful to see! After stuffing ourselves yet again on this trip, we were ready to for some sleep so we headed back to the hotel for the night.
I hope you enjoyed my recap of the hubby’s birthday celebration in San Francisco! Check back later to hear about our day trip to Big Sur!
Well, after a very relaxing couple of days in Lake Tahoe, we were ready to drive south again and finish off our NoCal trip in San Francisco. This was the longest drive of the trip (it took 4 hours to drive from our hotel in Tahoe to our hotel in San Francisco), but we passed the time by listening to one of the many World Cup games that was playing at the time. After we checked into our hotel we were ready to start the remainder of our day in San Fran!
After a 4 hour drive, I was starved and very ready for some lunch! The plan for the day was to do the typical San Francisco touristy things, so I wanted to start off at Fisherman’s Wharf. Our hotel was located on Market Street in the financial district so before we could hop on a bus or one of the cable cars to get to Fisherman’s Wharf, we went to a drug store right around the corner from our hotel and bought a 3 day pass for the public transportation in the city for $20/person. This was probably one of the best things we did during our trip, and one of my biggest recommendations if you’re going to stay in San Fran for a while. Every time you ride one of the cable cars it’s $5 each way, which really starts to add up if you’re in the city for a few days.
So now that we had our pass in hand we headed to the cable car stop and made our way to Fisherman’s Wharf. Our first stop was for lunch at Boudin Bakery. Boudin Bakery has been in San Francisco for a long time, and is best known for their freshly made bread and bread bowls, so of course we had to try some of their clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl! The weather is San Fran was beautiful and cool so we enjoyed our lunch on the patio before we headed to our other activities for the day.
As I’ve stated before, I visited San Francisco a few years ago for training during an internship, but I didn’t have a lot of time to sightsee (we really just walked the Golden Gate Bridge and saw China Town). So with this trip, I was really excited to see more of the city because there really is so much to see and do in San Fran! Our first stop after lunch was at Ghirardelli Square. I have to be honest, I was really expecting there to be a museum or something to commemorate the fact that the Ghirardelli factory used to be located here, so it was a let down when we got there and there were just some apartments, shops, and restaurants. (I probably should have done a little more research on what you could actually do at Ghirardelli Square).
Golden Gate Park
After we walked around for a few minutes, we talked with a lady at the information desk and caught a bus (thanks to our 3 day pass) over to Golden Gate Park to see the Botanical Gardens and then made our way over to the Japanese Tea Garden. The Botanical Gardens was very beautiful. One of my favorite things to take pictures of are flowers, so I was in heaven just a little bit. They also work hard on having different exhibits, and while we were there they had a Venus Fly Trap exhibit that was very interesting.
Next, we made our way over to the Japanese Tea Garden, which was another interesting place to see. One of the coolest things there was a circular bridge that was over one of the little streams that they had flowing through the Tea Garden. You can’t tell by looking at it, but this bridge was extremely steep! I had to hold on very tight when I was walking up to take a picture because I was so scared that I was going to slip and fall (clumsiness tends to run in our family)!
All in all we had a very good time at Golden Gate Park. The park has so many unique things that we can’t see at home, which was very enjoyable.
Alamo Square was next on our list of places to see while we were visiting, so the hubby and I hopped on another bus (I’m telling you the pass is totally worth the money!) and headed over there. Any 90’s child remembers the opening credits from Full House and those beautiful Victorian Homes that they zoom in on during those scenes. Well, that scene is filmed in Alamo Square, and those houses are the beautiful Painted Ladies. And of course, being the 90’s child that I am, we HAD to stop by that park and see those houses. It was a little sad that a few of them were under construction, but they were still beautiful!
Although there wasn’t much to do at the park, this was the place that I felt the most immersed in “normal” San Franciscan life. Yes there were still tourists walking around taking pictures (we were some of those), but there were also a lot of people in the park with their dogs or kids enjoying the beautiful weather. If we were to go back, I would definitely want to stop by here again.
After we saw the Painted Ladies, we were starting to get a little hungry so we decided to head back over to the Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39 area for dinner. While we were riding the bus back over to that area, we saw that we would be dropped off not that far from Lombard Street (the world’s crookedest street), so we decided to stop there before making our way to dinner. When we got off at the stop nearest to Lombard Street (or so I thought), we realized that we would need to walk up a street to get there. I didn’t think that it was going to be that bad of a hill to walk up, but boy was a wrong, and I have the screen shot of my FitBit stats to prove it! That hill that we didn’t think was too bad turned into an extremely steep hill that almost felt like we were going straight up. Yes, I know that San Francisco is known for having a ton of hills, but we’re from Texas, we really don’t deal with this on a daily basis.
When we finally made it to the top we were finally at Lombard Street, so we walked down the street and took some pictures as we went. The street was beautiful, and the houses there were absolutely amazing, and one of them even had these purple flowers growing up the side of it. I can honestly say, that I don’t know how people live on that street though! While we were there, of course there were a ton of tourists driving down Lombard Street, taking pictures and videoing as they went.
Needless to say, after our workout of getting to Lombard Street we were starving and ready for dinner. We decided to grab a bit to eat at an In-N-Out Burger. There are several In-N-Out Burgers in Texas now as they’ve been expanding, but we don’t one near where we live, so the novelty is still there for us. We both got cheeseburgers and fries (animal style, of course), and really enjoyed our meal after a very busy day of exploring San Francisco.
We weren’t that far from the end of the line for the Powell-Hyde Cable Cars (which just happens to be near Ghirardelli Square), so we decided to walk that way to catch a cable car back to the hotel. Before we headed back, we decided to stop at one of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Stores and split a salted caramel sundae for dessert. That sundae was one of the best sundaes I’ve ever had! There was real sea salt that they added on top, that really kicked it up a notch because you got the sweet with the salty.
Now that we were completely full and couldn’t possibly eat another bite, we got into line to wait for a cable car to take us back to the hotel. This was the least fun part of the day. Riding the cable cars is one of the most touristy things to do in San Francisco so there was a huge line of people waiting to get on a car. Also, when you take into account that you have to change the direction of the cars manually, that can add a huge amount of waiting time as well. But, because it is the typical San Franciscan thing to do, we waited in line and got to ride the cable car back to our hotel.
I hope that you enjoyed reading about our hectic first day in San Francisco! Check back later for how we celebrated the hubby’s birthday in the Bay Area!