My tradition of ending and starting the New Year in a new city or country continued this year as I jetted off to the West Coast to bid adieu to 2017 and hello to 2018. And, what better place to do just that than the West Coast, namely San Francisco. I’ve always heard that ‘the west coast is the best coast’, and due to the fact that I hadn’t been in years, I was super excited to experience the food, culture and hospitality in the city by the bay.
While this wasn’t a super long adventure, (4 days) it was just the right amount of time needed for me to pack in the main attractions, foodie hotspots and people watching. To say four days was enough would be a lie but if you’re limited on time like I was, here are some spots you MUST do.
The Golden Gate Bridge (duh!): A trip to the Bay area would not be complete without a visit to one of the most photographed bridges in-da-world! San Fran’s most famous landmark which has been dubbed a wonder of the modern world is simply a stunner! Standing at 746 feet tall x 8,981 feet long, the Golden Gate Bridge which was built to connect the city of San Francisco with Marin County is an Instagrammer’s dream, (if you’re into that kinda stuff :)) Aside from snapping hundreds of photos, you can rent a bike or walk over the bridge or you can explore the surrounding areas which have tons of exciting things to do.
Lombard Street: Dubbed “the crookedest street in the world”, Lombard Street is perhaps the most interesting street that I have ever seen in my life. The crooked and jagged block which was created in the 1920’s to increase driver safety can be found between Jones St. and Hyde St on Russian Hill. You can drive down the functional one-way street which features eight sharp jagged turns or take a scenic stroll and admire the million dollar homes and lush gardens. Sidenote: Climbing up the hill to get here made me realize how grossly out of shape I was….yes, it is excruciating.
The Painted Ladies: I’m a certified TGIF kid. Every Friday evening I had a date with the t.v. and the Friday lineup which included one of my favourite shows, Full House! As an honorary member of the Tanner family, I could not visit San Fran and not see The Painted Ladies, a row of seven beautiful & architecturally stunning Victorian homes that appear in the opening scene of Full House. Think, “everywhere you look, everywhere you go…” that scene was shot in Alamo Square Park directly across the street from the houses. If you’re wondering, the Tanner’s never lived in any of the Painted Ladies.
Ghiradelli Square: If you’re a chocolate lover, prepare for a taste of heaven on earth! While there are tons of restaurants and stores in the square which was once was a chocolate factory, the real stars of the square are the three Ghiradelli chocolate shops. Satisfy your sweet tooth with a visit to the Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop where you can view chocolate manufacturing equipment, and snack on hot fudge sundaes and lots of chocolate bars. The lines are usually long, but the chocolate is so worth it.
Boudin Bakery: The history of sourdough bread in the Bay dates as far back to the gold rush era in the 1800’s when French migrants discovered that natural yeasts and bacteria in the air could be used for fermentation of dough; it’s safe to say this discovery changed the course of foodie history in San Francisco. You can not visit San Fran, the home of sourdough and not sink your teeth into this sour goodness at Boudin Bakery, home of the “The Original San Franciso Sourdough”. While there are a few locations around town, aim to dine at the flagship store at Fisherman’s Wharf where you can see the bakers rolling the dough and creating works of art. While the menu is quite extensive, I chowed down on an enormous clam chowder bread bowl. It was delicious!
The Waterfront: If dinner with a view is on your list of things to do, then The Waterfront restaurant located on Pier 7 is a must. This upscale restaurant offers unobstructed picture-perfect views of the San Franciso Bay. We happened to be very lucky to snag coveted bar seats on one of the busiest nights of the year, New Year’s Eve. While we weren’t able to indulge in the full menu, the offerings available on the prix fix menu were enough to make us want to return for a second sitting.
Crab House: I need a weekend trip back to San Francisco JUST to eat at the Crab House at Pier 39. Thanks to an old friend, I indulged in the most delicious crab I’ve probably ever consumed in my life. When Abby insisted that I try “dungeness crab”, I was like….o.k. If you’re unfamiliar, like I was, dungeness crab is simply a species of crab that is unique to the West Coast and a few other places. I can’t stress how delicious it was. I ordered the whole crab which was roasted in “secret garlic sauce”, crab cakes and crab chowder. Everything ordered was yummy, BUT the whole crab was a life-changing experience.
Larson Family Winery: Spending only four days in San Fran alongside the recent fires made a visit to Sonoma Valley & Napa Valley a last minute decision, but I’m so happy that we decided to book a tour. While a few people told us to skip it, it was a thrilling experience in wine county. We booked a full-day tour with Green Dream Tours and had the best driver/tour guide ever, thanks Dillon!! Our first stop in Sonoma was the Larson Family Winery where we sampled a selection of red and white wines, snacked on delicious peanut brittle and played with the friendliest golden retrievers. Fun fact, the Larson Winery was once a horse & cattle farm so the winery is now basically in the barns, (which I absolutely loved!) Seabiscuit, the famous American thoroughbred racehorse was said to have lived on the farm for some time.
Nicolson Ranch: One of the reasons I decided to visit Sonoma & Napa was to support the wineries in spite of the devastating fires that nearly decimated the regions. As we drove through the regions, the destruction was clear, but what was also clear was that the show must go on. The Nicolson Farm, our second stop in Sonoma was nearly lost in the fire but the fire department was able to save the farm and wine thanks to an early alarm. As we strolled and sipped red & white wine on the 40-acre estate we were able to see remnants of the fire which scorched and jumped over buildings. So the wine, how was it? It was good, tasty!
Andretti Winery: Stepping into race car driver Mario Andretti’s Napa Valley winery was like stepping into a quaint Tuscan winery, the architecture, foliage, everything reminded me of my visit to my favourite Italian city of Florence. The wine, on the other hand, did not. I was not a fan of any of red or white wines and called it a day in the middle of the tasting. I tried to love it but I couldn’t.
Oracle Arena: One does not simply visit the Golden State and not catch the NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors in action at Oracle Arena! If you’re visiting the same time as a Warrior home game, do yourself a favour and buy a ticket! Even if you’re not an NBA fan it’s an awesome and fun experience. The fans are heavily invested in their team and very passionate! I sat next to a lady that knew the first name of every player on the court. Fun times indeed.
Have you ever visited San Fran? What are some of your favourite things to do? What did I miss?
LET’S KEEP IN TOUCH!