California Dreaming: San Francisco in a Day
As Mark Twain once famously said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Looking back over my life, the trips I’ve been fortunate enough to take around the world have indeed been some of the happiest moments. So with that in mind, I’m adding a travel and leisure section to my Baby Boomer Bliss blog.
My first article will feature my most recent trip – a quick one to San Francisco the first part of December. And I do mean quick. My son, Jonathan, was attending a one-day work conference in Monterey and my daughter-in-law, Johnni, had never seen either Monterey or San Francisco.
Even though we only had one day in each place, that inspired a last minute sprint up the I-5 from our home near Palm Springs to Monterey. Sometimes the best road trips are the ones you don’t plan.
Our one day in Monterey was spent walking along Cannery Row and visiting the amazing Monterey Bay Aquarium while Jonathan attended his work conference. Then it was on to the City by the Bay.
Of course, I don’t recommend seeing San Francisco in a day, but if you’re in a situation like ours and you only have 12 hours or so to explore, here are my recommendations. Turns out you can fit a lot into just one day and have a blast doing it! However, to achieve this feat, try and visit during off-season like us.
This was our itinerary:
After a quick stop at the set of Myth Busters for a photo (yes, we are a bunch of nerds), we ventured forward to the famous Painted Ladies.
A must-see if this is your first visit to the Golden City. The quaint and colorful Victorian houses with downtown skyscrapers in the background provides a stunning contrast. Be sure and climb to the top of Alamo Square Park across the street for some spectacular photos of the city.
This is a touristy spot that normally I would avoid. The long line of cars waiting for their turn to go down the “crookedest street in the world” can be awful. However, this was Johnni’s first time to Frisco and she wanted to see the famous sight.
We lucked out – during the winter months it wasn’t crowded at all and we entered the steep, windy street and drove past all the gorgeous Victorian mansions. I have to admit, for me, the funnest part was watching my son, Jonathan, run down the narrow steps trying to take photos of us. He,he,he.
Tip: After visiting the Myth Busters set, we ran across another alternative to Lombard Street: Filbert Street. According to Wikipedia, it ties with 22nd Street as the steepest street in San Francisco. It was less crowded than Lombard Street and one adventurous ride. When you start down the hill, you can’t see the road below. It feels like you’re driving off the edge of a cliff. Wheee! Fun stuff!
Fisherman’s Wharf runs all the way from Pier 39 to Municipal Pier at the end of Aquatic Park. Famous for having some of the best seafood restaurants in the city, we were sure to end our busy day there with a relaxing dinner at Fog Harbor Fish House.
Before crossing the Golden Gate, we stopped at Municipal Pier to take photos with the historic cable cars and visit every chocolate lover’s paradise, Ghirardelli Square. Heavenly! And since we love all things sailing, we made a quick stop at the Maritime Museum.
Palace of Fine Arts
Don’t ask me why I had never visited this place on previous trips to San Francisco. This has to be one of the most peaceful places on earth with its classic Grecian Roman rotunda and elegant swans floating in a European-style lagoon.
We stopped briefly, but next time I come here, I want to have a picnic and unwind in this idyllic park.
The Golden Gate Bridge
Goes without saying, right? Johnni was jumping up and down in her seat with anticipation. She squealed with delight at the sight of the spectacular world-renowned bridge. We parked at the crowded north vista point and walked part of the bridge.
However, the best part for me was heading up the winding road past Battery Spencer to Hawk’s Hill with lookout points perched on mountain tops. The panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the city, and the Bay Area were breathtaking.
As a child, I lived in northern California (Willits and Ukiah), but somehow never hiked the Muir Woods. Don’t ask how we found the time, but we took a short drive north of the city to walk among 380-foot-tall redwood trees on this easy, but spectacular, hike. My cousin, who lives nearby in Napa met us there and confessed she had never been there before either. As I mentioned before, our family is kind of geeky and we were impressed by the fact that part of The Return of the Jedi was filmed there.
So, there you go. At 55, I still have it! Oh yes, there was some recoup time involved when I got home, but it was worth it!