San Francisco for the First Timer

ALL the things! Courtesy of Christie Boskovich, bridesmaid :)

Welcome to San Francisco! We are so excited to have you visiting our favorite place. While you are here, there are lots of incredible sites to see and food to eat :). Here is an example of a “perfect day in SF” that hits all the key sites and weaves in some of our favorite places to go. It is truly a “bridge to bridge” guide. Enjoy!

To fully enjoy SF, it is important to be prepared for the weather. Although we are in California, it can get shockingly cold if “Carl the Fog” comes to town, and he usually takes up a permanent residence here. We recommend you wear lots of layers so you can be ready if it hits the high 70s or stays in the low 60s :).

Breakfast at the Ferry Building: The Ferry building is packed with SF gems- from Acme Breads, to Blue Bottle Coffee, to juice bars, to Heath Ceramics (one of Amy’s favorites!) it is truly worth a trip. There are lots of restaurants inside to grab a quick bite and you can enjoy the shopping before and after! Take a stroll on the Embarcadero afterwards to get great views of the Bay Bridge.

Union Square: Who doesn’t like to start their day with a little shopping? Union Square is famous for its great stores and you can truly shop till you drop! Tiffany and Co has an especially beautiful store here that is worth a step inside :).  It also is home to some of the San Francisco Heart Statues which are perfect for pictures. You will definitely also see some cable cars near here!

Coit Tower and North Beach: Head to the top of Coit Tower for some breathtaking views of the Bay! You can’t get a better view than from up there. Afterwards, cruise around the North Beach neighborhood, our Italian district, and take it all in! It is a very cute and historic neighborhood with lots to do! North Beach is a great place if you’re hungry. Tony’s Pizza isn’t just the best in the city, it has won multiple international awards - but prepare for a wait. Want to grab a slice to go? Hit up Slice House right next door from the same team and walk across the street to enjoy it in Washington Square Park! If deli sandwiches are more your thing, Molinari’s is the oldest deli west of the Rockies (established in 1896) and still going strong. If you need a coffee pick me up, Caffe Trieste is one of the most traditional, old-school Italian places around, and a neighborhood institution.

Lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf: Can you think of a better place to have lunch than right on the water? Head to Fisherman’s Wharf for lots of fresh seafood and good eats. Our favorite spots are Boudin Bakery, known for its Clam Chowder in a fresh San Francisco Sourdough Bread Bowl and Cioppiono’s.  Save room for dessert at Ghiradelli Square and be sure to grab a famous Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista Cafe. If you are really in a hurry, there is of course always In n Out Burger, which is a California favorite. Be sure to check out the Secret Menu- the Animal Fries are crazy good :).

Walk it Off- Hike to the Golden Gate from Crissy Field: Palace of Fine Arts, take a few pictures, and then start walking towards the water and you won’t be able to miss the trail. The Golden Gate will be your compass, and you can walk all the way to the base. Be sure to take a picture with the “Hopper’s Hands” at the end and see if there are any surfers! 

Dinner Time in the Marina, Pac Heights/Russian Hill, or Hayes Valley

There are lots of great options for dinner in these neighborhoods of SF. Here are a few recommendations to help you narrow down your search!

Marina District- the two best streets are Chestnut Street and Union Street

Perry’s San Francisco- this is a classic SF restaurant that has been around for years! Yummy comfort food here.

Tacolicious- great tacos, margaritas, and guac! Can’t go wrong here.

A16- come here for an Italian Feast! Right in the heart of Chestnut street.

Pac Heights/Russian Hill- see what is happening on Polk street! Fun fact: Amy and Mike met and had their first date at the Bell Tower followed by Shanghai Kelly's. 

House of Prime Rib- this is a San Francisco classic, but you will need a reservation so be sure to book far in advance!

San Francisco for the Seasoned Visitor

Ideas for the second time around. Courtesy of Nicole Baudouin, bridesmaid :)

So, you’ve been to San Francisco before. You’ve seen the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ve eaten some sourdough bread, and maybe you’ve ridden a cable car. But good news, there is so much more to explore! Sail out to Alcatraz

It’s worth the boat ride. This now defunct prison held some notorious prisoners over the years, sitting in the middle of the Bay within sight of the city. (Go watch The Rock for some inspiration. Or just to enjoy Nicholas Cage + Sean Connery). Alcatraz can get crowded, we’re big fans of going early or trying out the nighttime tours. (Reservations necessary for any and all tours)

Wander around Golden Gate Park

Contrary to the name, it isn’t actually attached to the bridge. But walking through this huge park will make you forget you are in a city. Within the confines of the park are two world-class museums, the California Academy of Science (an especially good option for kids) and the De Young, one of the best art museums in town featuring art from the U.S., the Americas, and Oceania/Pacific. If you visit the De Young, definitely take a trip up the observatory tower – on a clear day you can see the whole city! Also within Golden Gate Park is Stow Lake, where you can ride paddleboats, the San Francisco Botanical Garden, a Japanese tea garden, and the all-glass Victorian-era Conservatory of Flowers – plus buffalo! Or even a Frisbee golf course, if you’re into that. Thirsty after wandering the park? Head to Magnolia Brewery on Haight St for some local beers. You can explore the Haight Ashbury area along the way, which was the heart of 1960’s San Francisco counter-culture, and has kept its offbeat vibe.

Explore the Mission District

The Mission has become a melting pot of a neighborhood, mixing Latino heritage with the newest cool kids of the city. Grab a six-pack and head to Dolores Park if you want to spend some time in the sun (just don’t bring glass). Or if you want to enjoy some history, check out Mission Dolores next to the park, the oldest mission in California and the oldest building in the city! The Mission also has a crazy amount of excellent restaurants and bars, just a few of our favorites include El Techo de Lolinda (rooftop drinks!),

More museums

If modern art is more your thing, the SF MOMA just underwent a massive renovation to make it even more amazing.

Prefer Classic European art? Head up to the Legion of Honor, one of the most spectacularly located museums in the city, which houses an extensive collection of European painting, sculpture and decorative arts.

Drinks worth the trip

Top of the Mark has been a San Francisco destination since it opened in 1939, with good reason. Located at the top floor of the Intercontinental Hotel at the top of Nob Hill, you get sensational 360 degree views of the city to go along with your cocktail or afternoon tea. Soldiers during WWII used to have their “farewell” drinks here before shipping out. If tropical is more your style, the nearby Tonga Room in the Fairmont has been making mai tais and bowls of punch since 1945, complete with live music, tiki decorations, and the occasional fake thunderstorm.

Getting out of town

If you want to get out of town entirely, head north! Grab the ferry from the Embarcadero and head to Sausalito for a seaside lunch with a killer view of the Bay - our favorites are Sam’s, Bar Bocce and Cibo. If you want to take a road trip, keep going north to Muir Woods to walk through the California Redwoods. Just note you’ll now need a parking reservation to visit the redwoods as the park attempts to limit the number of visitors each day.