San Francisco Travel Guide

I am so excited to write about our trip to California! I will be doing multiple posts, since we went to three different, distinct places, and the posts will be photo heavy.

First, some back story. Tony and I got married back in October, but we knew wanted to wait until summer for our honeymoon, both to save money and so that I would have more time. Originally, we were thinking Europe, but I definitely want to save up more money and do that right, with hopefully more than one country being visited. So, we started thinking of other options, from a Caribbean resort, to Nova Scotia. We ultimately decided against the Caribbean, because we wanted a mix of exploring and relaxing, and then decided to stay in the US. So, Tony brought up California. Immediately, we both thought of Napa, since we both love wine, and thought that would be a lot of fun. Luckily, the three things that were on the top of my California bucket list are fairly close to each other; San Francisco, Napa, and Muir woods. A perfect mix of city exploring, wine country, and hiking. And you guys, it was! We had such an amazing time, and I am so thrilled to share our experience, tips, and photos of California.

We flew out of Buffalo at 6am, which was very early, but with the time difference, we would be arriving in California around noon. We flew Delta, and our first connection was in Minnesota, and from there we flew into San Francisco. We got our bags, and then made our way to the BART train. My first tip is to get a Clipper card. It can be used for all public transportation; the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transportation), the bus and cable cars, and the ferries. We decided not to rent a car, and that was definitely the right decision for us. We fully embraced the public transportation system, and it is pretty easy to get around! The BART took us right into the city, and we stored our bags and hit the city. We actually did one and a half days in the city, and everything we did would be a lot to do in one day.

Tuesday we decided to venture away from the bay and explore China Town, and I am glad we did, it was fun to walk around, and the food was amazing. On our way into China Town, we stopped in City Lights books to walk around, and it was right up my alley.

 After the bookstore, we decided to wander around China Town. It was fun looking in all of the store windows, seeing the architecture, and just wandering. However, we were really, really hungry, so we just picked a random place to eat lunch, and it was delicious. I like to do a mix of planning places to eat, and then being spontaneous as well, because you find some great places that way just as much as recommended ones online. However, a neighborhood like China Town can be overwhelming, so I did decide to look up some recommendations from others. Many people recommended the Golden Gate bakery, as well as seeing the Fortune Cookie factory, both obviously touristy, but definitely worth checking out. We stopped in the Fortune Cookie factory first, where you walk through, get to try a cookie fresh out of the oven before they are folded, and then see the folding process happen. We also bought some chocolate covered cookies to bring home as well. After that, we found the Golden Gate bakery, which did not disappoint. There was a short line out the door, which is always a good sign! We got two egg tarts as recommended, and they were so good.

Then we made our way to the Embarcadaro after getting our bags, which is where the ferries depart from. The Embarcadaro is definitely worth checking out all on its own, even if you aren't taking the ferry. It is like a giant market, and then on Saturdays and I believe Tuesday and Thursday afternoons there is a farmers market which unfortunately we didn't get to check out. There are nice restaurants, and all kinds of vendors, from wine, cheese, truffles, and sourdough bread. At first, we were confused, because there was a huge line for the Vallejo ferry, and we were worried that they fill up, but when you are ready to board, everyone just quickly walks on and there is plenty of space. Our airbnb was actually in Vallejo, which worked out really well, firstly, because the bungalow was so cute and was perfect for two people, and it was a quick walk to the ferry, and close to Napa. The ferry ride was an hour, but I didn't mind I actually really loved riding the ferry, it was one of my favorite parts of the whole experience. A lot of people use it to commute, and you get amazing views of the bay. We finally got to our house and I took a nap before we used Uber eats to get some amazing burritos. The time difference kind of through me for a loop!

Day 2: San Francisco exploring

Our next day we got to sleep in a little, and then we walked to the Ferry building, had breakfast, and then headed across the bay back to the city. It really worked out that we had been there the day before, because we felt like we had a better idea of how the ferry worked, and where things were. After docking, we started walking down the Embarcadaro along the bay. We had things planned that we wanted to do, but I also love when you just stumble along the most perfect spots. We came across this pier, and just had to take some photos, as well as a nice man who I asked to take our photo and he was more than happy to oblige and get several angles. There was a beautiful view of the Bay Bridge.

We kept walking along the bay, headed to Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf. My main draw for wanting to go here was the Sea Lions that hang out along the docks there, but I had no idea that it was a whole developed boardwalk, with restaurants, stores, and a mini carnival. It was obviously very touristy and busy, but a very cool atmosphere, and amazing views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate bridge as you walk along the water. We ended up eating lunch at Pier 39, and doing a little souvenir shopping. I also loved seeing the Sea Lions, I could have watched them for hours.

 After Fisherman's Wharf, we headed to the bus to head up to Golden Gate Park and the Painted Ladies. I loved seeing the Painted Ladies, and then we walked through Golden Gate park, which is huge, before we got ice cream, and had to head back to the Embarcadaro and ferry, where we picked up some pasta and wine at one of the markets for dinner the next day after our wine tour, and enjoyed the ferry ride home since we were exhausted.

So much walking but such an amazing day. San Francisco is amazing, and has such a distinct wonderful feel to it. It is a busy city, but doesn't feel rushed like New York does. I read that everyone is chill about time there/being on time, and I definitely saw that and loved it. Also, my very last tip is don't expect that it will be warm there in the summer, because it isn't! It isn't cold, but it is pretty windy, and I needed a jacket the majority of the time, which I actually loved. I guess it gets warmer in September/October. It was great for exploring and walking around. So wear layers! I was very glad I brought my trusty jean jacket. So to recap, my main tips for San Francisco are
1. Buy a Clipper Card
2. Wear layers
3. Just enjoy exploring!
Next time, I want to get closer to the Golden Gate bridge, although we saw some great views from the ferry, and go all the way to the end of Golden Gate park to the beach.
Have you been to San Francisco? What did you love about it?
In the next few days, I will be posting guides about our trips to Napa, and then Sausalito and Muir Woods.
Thanks for reading!