Over Memorial Day Weekend, I drove to Northern California with my boyfriend for his little brother’s graduation from San Jose State University. We only had one day off and wanted to explore San Francisco. Let me say this, the city is absolutely beautiful and full of so many amazing must-see-and-do things. But narrowing everything down to four or five things to do in one day is daunting. How do you choose?! Well, since my boyfriend is a Bay-area native, I let him do the itinerary-planning and set the agenda. We explored little restaurants and places off-the-beaten trail, and really immersed ourselves in the city as much as we could for the day. It was awesome and honestly so helpful to have a personal tour-guide! So, I wanted to share with you some of our favorite places and our itinerary for exploring San Francisco. If you only have a day or two in the Bay-area, here are our recommendations for getting the most out of SF (from my personal experience). Without further adieu, our guide to San Francisco in a Day!
1. Morning Hike in Muir Woods
Muir Woods is a thirty minute, 11-mile drive from the City. With giant redwoods around 600 hundred years old, this place is truly historic and equally magical. The trees tower around 250 feet creating a thick canopy casting shadows on the many trails below. The light peaks through the leaves highlighting different varieties of plants including fern and moss. A palpable, hushed silence fills the air as you stand in absolute amazement at the natural beauty of this place. There are several dirt walking trails making loops around the park. Most go for two to four miles and vary in incline. I would say they range from easy to moderate in difficulty level, very do-able for most people. We got here around 9:00 AM on a Sunday. There were crowds but once you get in the park everyone seems to disperse in their own direction on different trails making the hike still fairly isolated and quiet. Our recommendation: Get here in the morning. Do the 2 mile loop.
2. Brunch at Cafe GoLo in the Marina District
This tiny restaurant on the corner of Gough and Lombard (hence the name GoLo) is delicious with the vibe of a mom-n-pop-shop. The service, at least when we went, was excellent. They were very friendly, helpful and seemed to really enjoy working there. That set the entire precedent for breakfast – being in a friendly environment of happy people! I ordered the “GoLo Breakfast” which was your traditional two eggs, meat and toast. My boyfriend ordered the breakfast burrito. Both dishes were scrumptious! Downside? It can be a little cramped. The place is small and easy to miss with only about about ten small tables. The prices can be a little high (especially for out-of-towners not used to SF prices) for breakfast but for the ambiance, good food, and eating in the Marina district? It’s the standard.
3. Union Square Shopping – Specifically UNIQLO
Let me preface this by saying, I don’t generally enjoy shopping. The thick crowds of shoppers and millions of clothing options overwhelm me most of the time. Union Square is no different – there are literally hundreds of stores from expensive, luxury shops like Louis Vuitton and Tory Burch to inexpensive, fashion stores like Forever 21 and Converse. The area is also packed with people. But – the silver lining – is a store we discovered there called UNIQLO. They sell quality basics at an affordable price. So, if you’re like me and obsessed with finding the perfect pair of skinny black jeans or the perfect fitting white tee, honestly look no further. I think I found my favorite pair of jeans. I’m literally obsessed and have told my mom, sister and best friend about these pants. At $40 for a solid pair of black stretchy jeans? This is perfect and well-worth the hassle of fighting the crowd. Although, you might enjoy shopping so this could be the cherry on top of the whole experience! Trust me. Get the jeans.
4. Picnic Lunch in Alamo Square looking towards the “Painted Ladies”
After shopping we took a Lyft (just sooo SF), basically a taxi driven by someone who seems very much like your BFF, to Alamo Square to sit on the grassy hill overlooking the iconic “Painted Ladies” or as I like to call it the “Houses from Full House”. They might not be the exact house from the show but they are iconic and made famous in part from the show just the same. 😉 It was great to take a breather and just relax on the hillside. We grabbed sandwiches from Subway on the way and chilled for a good hour or so. I would suggest bringing jackets to layer whenever you go to San Francisco, as it can be very windy and cold even when the sun is shining brightly. With this little stop and picnic under our belt, it was time to do our last major activity of the day – hit the Golden Gate Bridge.
5. Biking Across the Golden Gate Bridge
Last but definitely not least, we had to see the famous Golden Gate Bridge. We decided to rent bicycles near Fisherman’s Wharf and bike across to get the full experience. We rented bikes from a shop called Bay City Bike. It came equipped with everything we needed – the helmets, maps, locks etc. We also were able to leave some of our bags with the people at the store behind the desk – super helpful since we didn’t want to lug it around with us on the ride. Biking was in one word, HARD. I wasn’t expecting it to be as strenuous as it was and had to stop several times. There were a lot of hills even leading up to the bridge. I’m in pretty good physical shape and was a little embarrassed by my lack of bike skill, especially since my boyfriend didn’t seem phased at all. There were a lot of great photo ops along the way though so it made the stopping worthwhile. After we were finished however, I felt invigorated and seriously in love with the city. We passed so many people out walking their dogs, playing on the grass, even swimmers in wetsuits swimming laps in the freezing water of the Bay. It seemed visibly full of life and activity. Plus with the breath-taking backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge, it was so beautiful. Definitely a perfect way to end our day in San Francisco.