San Francisco, what a place! I can’t even begin to tell you the ups and downs I have had in this city. I moved here 3 years ago, right after grad school, and it was only my second time that I had been to SF. I came when I was 12 with my family and I remember thinking, why would they build a city here? It’s geographically bizarre. There are steep hills everywhere and it’s not exactly big. It’s basically a 7-mile by 7-mile peninsula. The important radius is 3 miles for me. The important radius means everything that you need to get dome that is somewhat important, can be done in 3 miles or less. I love that. That means that you don’t really need a car and a quick trip on the muni or in an Uber is very practical. I have to admit I hate the bus, so I only take Ubers. I figured that my $400 Uber bill a month is equivalent to a car payment, plus gas, plus parking, Actually it would be much higher if I had a car, so I am happy to Uber a lot. I also walk A TON. This means a good workout is always in your near future in this city. I used to walk to my office everyday when I was in accounting and it was so nice. I also walk to get my groceries, to friend’s houses, to the water, and to run errands. “Why the heck am I talking about transportation?”, you might be wondering. Well, it actually has a lot to do with Colette Prime and my sense of fashion. You see, I’m from Virginia and in Virginia we drove everywhere and spent a lot of time in the AC or outside. You can wear high heels when you drive everywhere. You can also wear warm weather clothes half the year in Virginia. You absolutely can not wear high heels if you plan on walking in SF. You also cannot wear warm weather clothes unless you drive over the GG bridge out of the gloomy fog. You better load up on at least 5 pairs of sneakers to make it in this city. You also need to wear sweater weather clothes everyday. There is rarely a day where you don’t need an extra layer. The average temperature is in the upper 60’s. Add the wind to that and it feels like the 40’s real quick. I moved here and realized I had to ditch the mini skirts and heels. I had to invest in PANTS, because pants are a good bet you’ll never get too cold. And not just any pants, but comfortable pants. Walking in comfortable pants and sneakers is the only way to do it really. Also, SF does not dress up. Back home, I was queen of tight, going out dresses. In SF, you’ll regularly see people dressed in hoodies and leggings while out. It’s more uncommon to be dressed up then dressed down. Does that mean that I don’t dress up ever? Heck no! I still dress up because I love fashion, but I did make some adjustments. Instead of heels, go for some chunky boots with a little heel. Wear the leather leggings, but maybe without the sequin crop top and instead with a cropped sweater. Make sure to have a leather jacket or jean jacket with you at all times! Y’all should be familiar with my amazon site, so PLEASE check that out as it is very San Francisco ready. So, there is a little information on what to wear in San Francisco in case you need some guidance. Definitely DM me on IG if you have more questions. I always try to reply to my honey bunnies (meaning y’all)!
Now that we know what to wear and pack, let’s talk about where to stay. If it were me, I would search for an Airbnb first. I understand that a hotel is sometimes a better choice for some people, but I usually prefer an Airbnb. Why? Because I like to have a kitchen and space. A hotel sort of forces you to go out for every meal because you are crammed into one tiny room. Renting a one bedroom apartment with a kitchen allows for you to make a cup of coffee and eat some meals in. Also, it is usually cheaper to rent a place than stay in a hotel. I still have not understood why hotels are double the price of having an apartment to yourself. Try and rent a place in the following neighborhoods: Nob Hill, Pacific Heights, North Beach, and Hayes Valley. I linked some airbnbs in those locations so you can get an idea of where I am talking about. Tip: Avoid an area called the Tenderloin. These prices might be the cheapest, but this place is a bit sketchy and the homeless live here. You will feel unsafe and that to me is never worth it.
If you do prefer a hotel, make sure to download the App called Hotel Tonight if you want to book a hotel last minute (or a couple days before the trip) and want the best deal. I love Hotel Tonight because it matches you with hotels that are willing to give you a discount price very close to the date. The hotel benefits because they’d rather fill up a spot then not and lose money. Your last minute self wins too. Now, interns of areas to stay, there are 2 (maybe 3) main areas where hotels are located in the city. Union square/financial district and Fisherman’s Wharf. Union square is where the big shopping is and the surrounding area is the financial district. The financial district is where corporate America thrives in SF. This is not to be confused with the gross area where Salesforce and other start ups thrive, called SOMA. SOMA means south of Market, a Main Street in SF. These downtown areas are super busy during the week days due to everyone going to and from work. If you want to be close to the mall and some tall buildings, this is the place for you. Personally, I will do anything to avoid these areas unless I am staying at the Palace Hotel. Sadly, I would never be one staying at the Palace hotel because I am on budget when traveling, The palace hotel is exquisite and if you wanted to feel like a princess and spend money like a princess you should stay here. One night here is about $650. If you can’t do that like myself, just go here for a delicious cocktail right inside past the lobby, which is a gorgeous ballroom that also acts as a self seating bar area with a lovely piano man. If you do prefer to be right in the middle of a busy city and noise doesn’t bother you, then checkout the Hilton right in downtown (both the one in Fidi and Union square are great), Hotel Triton, and the boutique hotel Cornell Hotel de France. All three of those are in a similar price range and in the area I prefer when it comes to downtown. I DESPISE the SOMA area. So, if you are looking at the map and the hotel you are considering is in SOMA, avoid it!! This area is unpleasant due to the homeless population, gross sidewalks, and continuous construction. I like to be more in Fidi and Union Square. These areas are also less congested compared to SOMA. Now, if you aren’t a loud noise, mall hopping, city girl, then stay in Fisherman’s wharf. I could do a night in downtown, but I cannot do 3. I do not like crowds and I do not like noise. Fisherman’s wharf is much more quiet and boutiquey. Check out the Argonaut, Courtyard by Marriott, and Hyatt Centric in Fisherman’s Wharf. All of these hotels are cheaper than the downtown ones. Also, if you stay here you will be closer to the water (always a plus for me) and around some of the best neighborhoods in SF. The closest neighborhoods are North Beach/ Telegraph Hill and Marina. You can run to an awesome view of the GG Bridge from here, which I love. You can also run to the Bay Bridge on a path along the Embarcadero. The last and most fabulous place to stay in the middle range of prices, is Nob Hill. When my parents come to SF this is where they stay. Specifically they stay at either the Fairmont or the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins. Both of these are located at the top of the neighborhood called Nob Hill. It’s beautiful up there and still a quick trolley ride downtown, but far enough from the madness. You should attempt to get a drink at the top of the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins. There’s a restaurant on the top floor overlooking the entire city. When you get up there, they will ask if you are guests at the hotel. Say yes with a big smile. Confidence is key ladies! There is usually a piano set and the view is definitely worth the expensive drink.
What to do in San Francisco as a couple (or even with your best friend):
San Francisco can be very romantic. There’s beautiful scenery in all directions and the lit up streets and buildings at night are very inspiring. For a romantic night out I recommend starting with a great view and a great drink. Top of the Mark has one of the best views in the city. It’s located in Nob Hill, right at the top of a crazy steep hill. No need to make a reservation for a drink. I linked it to a site that reserves a table only because it shows the location and photos. Remember, when you walk in the hotel, the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins, take the elevator all the way up. When you get off the elevator and someone asks you if you are a hotel guest, you say “YES!” with a big smile on. That will allow you to enter in case they are being picky that night. I have been times both when they do not ask and when they do ask a lot of questions. It just depends. Grab a seat at an open table closest to a window. You can’t sit in a bad spot as there are views from every table. For another amazing view in the city, head to The View which is a great cocktail and light bites place at the top of the San Francisco Marriott Marquis hotel. This is in the downtown area, so you will have to enter a bit of traffic if you are going on a week day around 5-7. If you go after 7, you won’t hit too much traffic. When you get here, you need to be a little aggressive if you want one of the seats closest to the windows. All of the walls are windows, but you want to make sure you get as close to it as possible. The inside seats might be taken when you arrive, but send one of you to do a whole sweep of the place. If no good seats appear to be open, start at the bar. Do not forget to keep checking the good seats! These WILL open up, you just need to be on them like a hawk. Do this for 20 minutes, and if nothing comes up, I will be surprised. It’s first come first serve, so act like you deserve that seat and you will get that seat!
After you have a drink with a view, get a delicious dinner with either a water view or some great music. Places near the water with a view include Coqueta, Waterbar, and the Waterfront restaurant. My favorite is Coqueta simply because of the food. I’m a vegan gone pescatarian so I love grilled veggies and Tapas style, which Coqueta has to offer. Check out the menus of those places and think about which one is your style. Waterbar and Waterfront are seafood inspired, as they should be with names like those. All 3 restaurants have great seafood! You can get some gnarly crab legs andd oysters at Waterbar! And all 3 have a view of the Bay Bridge, which is beautifully lit up at night. I like for people to see both bridges when they visit SF. The Bay Bridge is better at night and the Golden Gate bridge is better during the day. I have to include Greens in here in case any of you are a Vegetarian. Greens is also on the water, but near the Marina Green, meaning near the GG Bridge. Greens is the BEST vegetarian restaurant in the city and probably on the West Coast. Make a reservation for all 4 of these places on Open Table or by calling. Now, for a place with good music, Bix has a live jazz band during the weekend that is fabulous. The trio plays on the weekend and the pianist and singer play during the week. This restaurant has food for everyone and if you view yourself as a foodie, you will not be disappointed. I love it because the menu has things for the indulgent foodie lovers and for the veggie lovers, like myself. If you can snag a table upstairs, I definitely recommend doing so. Even if you have to wait for it, just grab a drink at their beautiful bar near the music. You can’t help but feel like you’re at an old speak easy when sitting at this bar. Take in that ambiance! Now, let’s say you want a quiet place to eat where you and your partner can cozy up together. I recommend Isa in the Marina, Seven Hills on Hyde, Calzone’s in North Beach, and Cotogna in Fidi. I love all 4, so it just depends on where you are closest to. I am closest to Calzone’s, so that is my go-to date spot. It’s the most European of all the restaurants in my opinion. Sit outside under a heat lamp and dip their bread in olive oil while you wait for your mussels. Okay, so I just implied you would order the mussels, because you really should! All 3 of those spots are fun to cozy up in and the food is outstanding. IF you do eat at Calzone’s, promise me you will stop in Comstock Saloon a couple blocks away on Columbus. It’s an upscale bar with cozy booths. Usually there is someone performing on the second level and it’s fun to grab a booth beneath them with a carafe of wine. Every seat is a good seat here and you will feel like you time travelled back to the 1920’s. Even the bartenders are dressed the part! And y’all know I am always paying attention to the fashion sense of a place.
If you are a sushi hunter, I will list some of my favorite sushi spots. Okoze in Nob Hill, Elephant Sushi in Nob Hill, and Roka Akor in Fidi. The best hidden gem Chinese restaurant is Begoni in China Town. You can order an entire duck, lobster, endless vegetables, and a bottle of sake for a very affordable price. It’s delicious and surprisingly the menu has very healthy options if you are like me and prefer the veggie life.
What to do in San Francisco as a big group (4 or more):
Make reservations at the Foreign Cinema for dinner. This my go-to recommendation for a place to eat with a big group. I’ve been here for birthday dinners and reunions. And it is perfect for those events. The place is big and has high ceilings, with a dimly lit sensual ambiance. The total experience combines great food, wine, film, and art. It is called Foreign Cinema because they will screen a movie on the open wall while you enjoy you’re dinner. The reason I say this place is good for groups is because it is loud and the atmosphere is energizing. I wouldn’t recommend this for a date night because you might be frustrated with how distracting the place can be. Instead of gazing into your lovers’ eyes, you might be gazing into the eyes of the actors on the wall.
Another great place for a big group and family is Acquolina in North Beach. Ask them to sit outside under the heat lamps and enjoy sharing some pizzas and pasta with your friends. They can put together two tables and your group will have an entire section of the outside area to yourself. I love that! The place is run by an Italian family, so you if speak any Italian, use it and I am sure they would appreciate it. I love this place for family style as you can honestly split everything on the menu from wine to appetizers to the main dish. If your group wants to hit the town after, you are in the prime location to walk to fun bars. Check out Maggie McGearys and Tupelo for some live music and a good crowd. If you want somewhere more intimate with couches, check out Tony and Nicks or Tope. These two are less crowded and I prefer them over the loud hopping places. Two years ago, I would not have said the same thing. Just depends where you are in life my loves. Another great spot for dinner with the family is Et Tutto Qua in North Beach. If you are with your family and want to get a drink after dinner in North Beach, take them to Bodega. Bodega is a quiet wine bar and a very close walk from Acquolina. Comstock Saloon is also family friendly.
Let’s say you are with a group of girls who are in their prime and want to be seen in their prime. Eat in the Marina and go out in the Marina. Single men are thriving here. Eat at Belga, Palm House, or Delarosa. I ordered those 3 in order from upscale to less upscale. Belga is right by Palm House, so maybe pop in both and then make your decision based off the crowd. Delarosa is casual and you can pop in without a reservation. It is also the least expensive place out of the 3. I love seafood like ceviche and shrimp tacos, so Palm House is my go-to when my girls come to town. Also, the margaritas at Palm house come in a carafe so it’s fun to split those. Try the spicy margarita here and let me know what you think! They can also make a delicious skinny margarita. After dinner the crowd comes to Palm House to “dance” and Belga to drink more wine. I say “dance” because no one is really dancing, but they all look like they want to. Palm House does not get down and dirty but they do play music around 9. Head to the Dorian after for another upscale bar with lots of boys. I say boys because they are more boyish looking, LOL. If you go you will understand what I mean. For you country music lovers, Jaxson is a MUST. It is the only thriving country bar in San Francisco and I must admit I even like it. There is also a small cover here.
If your group of girls want a real dance and club experience, I recommend Hawthorn and Bergerac/ Audio. Both of these are classy clubs in my opinion. Well, as classy as a club CAN be. Bergerac is the bar below Audio, which you should start at and then decide if you want to go to the actual club above. You have to pay a cover at Audio usually, but not at Bergerac. Hawthorn might have a cover depending on when you show up. If you come at 10:30 then no cover, but if you come at 12 then it will be $20. SF is not known for it’s night life, so don’t expect to be having the time of your life until 4 am here. That is what NY is for. In SF we value sleep, work, and hiking. These clubs can be hit or miss and it truly is a different experience every time I go. Go with your girls and you will have fun not matter what. Or if you and your partner want to sweat it out after a big meal, these are also great for that! I sometimes like to go dancing with my boyfriend because we have indulged a lot on our vacation. I am not the best sleeper when I don’t get an exercise in. I use a club as my gym sometimes when I travel, I must admit.
If you have a couple days in SF, I have some day time activities you must do!
The first is to rent a bike and ride it over the Golden Gate Bridge. You don’t need to be an athlete to do this, I promise you! You can take as many breaks as you want and you don’t have to ride the bikes back. In fact, I Insist you take the ferry back. Let’s back it up. You need to rent a bike first. Go in the morning (sometime before 11 am, as you want to get your day started early) to these spots:
The ones that are close to the Ferry Building are the spots that you return the bikes at, as your ferry will drop you off by there. You need to double check that the place you are renting from has a spot by the Ferry. I prefer to rent the bike closer to the GG Bridge, at the San Francisco Bicycle Rentals. This way you bike a little less on the way there, but get to soak in the whole experience. They will help you with everything you need to know. The rentals are about $40 a person. It’s definitely overpriced, but you won’t regret this day one bit. PLEASE eat a decent breakfast before as you will be burning some serious calories on this day. Tip: show up around 10 am to get the journey started early. I say 10 am so you can arrive in Sausalito right around lunch time. Sausalito is the first town after you cross the Golden Gate Bridge. This is also where you will eat lunch and take the ferry back to San Francisco with your bikes. Eat at Bar Bocce and ride your bike all the way there. There will be plenty of photo opportunities of Sausalito when you get here. Feel free to stop along the way for as many photos as you want as well! Bar Bocce is the best place to stop in Sausalito because of the water front access and the little beach area where you can stick your toes in the sand and water. Put your name down after you lock up your bikes and wait in the sand if there is a wait. If it’s longer than 20 minutes, feel free to walk around down the street to see the other restaurants and shops. Order some small bites and a pizza at Bar Bocce. The grilled calamari is one of my favorite appetizers. Also, you must get a carafe of their Sangria, I insist! Remember to have an idea of the Ferry schedule, from Sausalito to San Francisco, before you start drinking. There a couple different lines so check with the Bar Bocce hostess if you have any concerns about the right or wrong Ferry. Tip: The later the Ferry, the more likely it will be filled up. Opt for a 5 o’clock Ferry and you should be fine. Tip: Get to the Ferry 20-30 minutes early to guarantee your spot. There will be a line outside the Ferry and if you don’t make it on, you have to wait for the next one or bike home. If it’s the last Ferry of the day then you HAVE to bike home. Remember, you do not have to return your bike at the exact location you picked it up at. Make sure you have the right drop off location for your bikes when you first get your bikes. It’s easy to get confused after a couple glasses of Sangria.
Let’s say you are fine without riding a bike over the GG bridge, but you want an awesome view of it. You can still rent a bike and ride the bike path to the point before you cross the bridge. You can get very close to the bridge without actually going over. Take your cute couple pictures, pack a bottle of wine and a blanket, and post up on the beach by the bridge. Crissy Field beach is a great spot for that. If you don’t want to spend $40 on a bike, then uber/walk to Crissy Field beach! Use the $40 on some crackers, cheese, wine, and solo cups for the beach. Also snag a towel from the hotel to sit on at the beach. Do not tell the hotel I told you this :). Otherwise sit down on your extra sweatshirts and twist open that wine! Yes, make sure it is twist off so you can easily get to chugging. Prime time to come here is- whenever the sun is out. And if the sun isn’t out, still come because you need to see this view. Just realize if the sun isn’t out you will freeze without pants and a jacket.
If you are a hiking type of gal, take the Ferry to Angel Island from SF and do the 1 hour, casual hike. I say casual because it is casual! This hike is on a tiny Island that offers awesome views of the Bay Area. If you are hungry after and want to eat lunch, Ferry over to Tiburon and eat at Sam’s Anchor Cafe. You can eat here in your hiking clothes and no on will even notice. This place is casual and delicious! You can easily google ferry schedules and buy your tickets in advance for a round trip from SF to Angel Island, Angel Island to Tiburon, and Tiburon back to SF. You can also uber from Tiburon to SF for $20-30 if you are over the Ferry life. I am usually over the Ferry Life once I get to Tiburon. You must take a Ferry to and from Angel Island however, because well, it’s an island :).
Let’s say you are in SF for a quick 24 hours and you don’t want to deal with Ferry’s and Ubers across the bridge. There are plenty of lovely free parks and two beaches (Crissy Field I mentioned above) with views. The second beach is called Baker Beach and has an iconic view of the GG bridge. It is another 10 minute drive from Crissy Field Beach and more of an actual beach. People and kids are swimming at Baker Beach. Avoid the area all the way down to the right, towards the bridge. Gay men are hanging out here naked. Don’t give them the pleasure of walking by their disturbing naked bodies. Nothing like a group of pervs to put a bad taste in your mouth. Regardless of the pervs, you will love Baker Beach for the views and photos. You can stick your feet in the Pacific Ocean, but let me tell you, it is very cold! The parks that I love include the small one near me, Washington Square Park, (WSP) and the one in the mission, Mission Dolores park. The Washington Square Park is right by Telegraph hill/ North beach. This means you are somewhat near the water ( Fishermans’ Wharf) and near Coit Tower. Walk up to Coit Tower if you are in this area as it has beautiful views and gives you some good exercise. Coat Tower is iconic to SF. Also, while at WSP, enjoy the beautiful Church (you cannot miss it) where Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio got married! Grab some snacks at the local market right by and some Rose to sip on if you want to stay bit. Saturday and Sunday there is a farmer’s market in this area, which is good people watching. You can also walk to Fisherman’s Wharf from WSP to see some seals and water if you are okay with dealing with a bunch of Tourists. I only go here when friends are in town, personally. You can buy SF shirts and trinkets for friends in this area. Just know that there are crowds here. Now, Mission Dolores Park, is 4 times as big as WSP and lots more going on. This is where young people come to relax on a sunny day with their friends. You will hear music and see a lot of strange SF people, which is very entertaining. Expect to smell some you know what in the air as well! I don’t go here too often because it is far from where I live. If I want to be outside I just head to WSP instead. For people watching and lots going on, Dolores is the place for you. I’m old now, and I like quiet and calm. I like less people also. So depending on where you are in life, you’ll be happy at one of these parks. AND they are FREE! Love a good day of minimal money spending.
If you love art like I do, the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco is spectacular. If it’s a rainy day and you need a healthy dose of art, this is the place for you. I like museums because I am constantly looking for inspiration. I find that the MOMA is very hip, relevant, and inspiring. This isn’t a boring place whatsoever. If you are down here, promise me this. You go to the Palace Hotel for a drink/ light bite. It’s equivalent to Grand Central Station in NY. No, its not a landmark, but it is grandiose inside! The ceiling itself is enough for me to pop in if I am close. And you are in the neighborhood if you go to MOMA. Get a drink right past the lobby where there is a large sitting area and piano. A person will come by to serve you in just a couple minutes. Dress nice as you might want to take some photos in here. And by nice I mean boots, your favorite pants, and a nice blouse. SF isn’t known for dressing up or fashion, so don’t worry about how dressed up/dressed down you are. This ain’t no Manhattan.
Where to take photos:
If you want photos that are iconic to San Francisco, the golden gate bridge is definitely a start. You can bike, uber, or walk pretty darn close to the bridge. If you get dropped off at Marina Green, you can get a backdrop of a ton of boats and the bridge. If you want to go across the bridge, Sausalito has a beautiful view that looks at SF from across the bay. I think the architecture is what makes San Francisco truly unique, so I love to bop around Nob Hill and North Beach neighborhoods. In Nob Hill, start out at the Mark Hopkins Hotel and walk around from there. Or, get dropped off at Hyde and Washington street and try and get the cable car in the background. In North Beach area, start at Washington Square Park and walk in any direction. You always see me standing on a lot of hills, which is easily found in both of these areas. I love taking photos sitting out at Calzone’s in NB as the tile and colors are unique. There are tons of restaurants up and down Columbus that work if you want a cafe setting in the photo. Keep in mind the wind is always blowing, so hide behind buildings to help if necessary. I have embraced the wind in my photos at this point.