City on the bay: Trip recap from San Francisco

I absolutely love California. With that being said, I had only ever been to LA, but I loved it so much that I can’t wait to go back. I had obviously heard amazing things about San Francisco, but when I think about California I think of the more southern parts rather than the north. I knew I would make it down to San Fran one day, but it was never on my immediate bucket list.

Wednesday’s post I chatted about my time in Texas last week and we actually headed to San Francisco right after Austin. Thankfully we caught a direct flight, but even still it was over three hours until we actually touched down in the bay city (by comparison it was about the same amount of time from Calgary to Houston). San Francisco, like New York, is notorious for expensive hotels, but luckily my boyfriend has friends who live right downtown in one of those turn of the century houses on those iconic steep hills that the city is known for. The house was just above Chinatown so it was an incredible location due to its proximity of all the famous tourist attractions.

San Francisco Chinatown Walking in San Francisco Chinatown Mr. Holmes Bakeshop in San Francisco Mr. Holmes Bakeshop San Francisco
Lombard Street in San Francisco On a streetcar in San Francisco Sea Lions at Pier 39 in San Francisco View of the Golden Gate Bridge

Since all the touristy things in San Fran are actually quite close together, we hit off almost everything in one day. We started the day early on Monday walking through Chinatown and stopping to get some dim sum. After, we made our way through Union Square and then towards the pier, making sure to first stop off at Lombard Street, also known as the windiest street in the world (the street zig-zags as you drive down). Once we got to Fisherman’s Wharf I knew we hit a major tourist trap, which I don’t typically mind since there’s always tons of things to see and do. As we were walking by we noticed that there was this random one-hour boat cruise that took you on the bay around Alcatraz and under the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve done boat tours in other cities and always find they are tourist traps, but this one was only $15 (well worth the money) and you could bring your own drinks on the boat. If you are heading to San Francisco, I highly recommend checking this out, the boat was called Wacky Jacky and they are located near the Applebees; it was well worth the $15 per person. After we got off the boat we walked around Fisherman’s Wharf and made sure to stop by Pier 39 where the sea lions are. I was blown away by how many of them there were and how they were all just chilling on the docks. I didn’t think I would enjoy Fisherman’s Wharf that much, but it really is a cool part of the city (plus I love anywhere on the water).

I ended up visiting Alcatraz the next day, which takes off from Pier 33. I had bought my ticket about two weeks in advance since I had heard that it often sells out if you wanted to buy it the day of. If you want to visit Alcatraz (which is apparently the number-one tourist destination in the United States according to Trip Advisor), definitely buy your tickets ahead of time since my time slot was very full and I’m sure all the other times had limited tickets, if any. The ferry ride over is about 10 minutes and then you listen to a park ranger speak about the history of the island before walking up the hills to explore the former prison. I had known that it was a federal penitentiary that held some of the most dangerous criminals, however, I didn’t know that prior to that it was a military base and then after that a place where Native Americans went to protest in the ‘60s after their reserves were taken away. The island is also home to so many beautiful flowers, which were planted there by the inmates so many years ago. In the jail itself there is an audio tour which is really well done and it was super cool seeing how they have preserved the building (plus I love super old creepy stuff in general). They also had a former inmate there signing books, which was really cool (although if I did time there I don’t think I would want to go back).

Jail cells in Alcatraz Alcatraz Watertower on Alcatraz Island Administration building at Alcatraz Fauna on Alcatraz Island Castro theatre in San Francisco Walking in front of the Painted Ladies, San Francisco At the top of Mission Dolores Park Pretty houses in San Francisco

After Alcatraz my boyfriend’s friend ended up showing me around the parts of the city we hadn’t yet covered the day before. We went to Tartine for lunch, a famous bakery located in the Mission area, then walked around there before heading to the Castro district. Along the way we stopped at Bi-Rite for their ice cream (the salted caramel was incredible) and took in the views at Dolores Park. The last thing on my list of things to see was the Painted Ladies, so we actually ended up renting these electronic scooters which made the trip way more fun (seriously, I’m so sad I didn’t find out about these earlier, they were called Lime Bikes and you just find them randomly on the street and activate them via the app).

We headed back to Winnipeg on Wednesday but I would love to travel back again to visit. The city is so beautiful and really blew me away by how different the architecture is compared to the rest of North America. Obviously I had seen the style of the houses in the movies and TV, but I wasn’t expecting nearly every house to look like that (we stayed in one and it was super cool). I will say that I didn’t ride a streetcar, but I figured the photo was good enough (they are $7 to ride one way; we were going to catch one at Union Square but the line was too long. I’ll do it next time). I’ve been to a lot of beautiful cities, but I had to stop myself multiple times to really take it in. Whether it was on that boat overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge or on top of the hill at Mission Dolores Park, it really is a gorgeous city and I can’t wait to visit again.

Have you been to San Francisco?

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