I’ve Fallen in Love with The Bay Area

Almost a couple years ago, I wrote a post about the fact that I love San Francisco, but I am in love with Chicago. Since then, I’ve written and thought a lot about my times in Chicago. In the subsequent months, I’ve come to fall in love with San Francisco too, more specifically the entire Bay Area.

With family and friends coming to visit quite often, I’ve made it a habit to do something in the two plus years here that I never really did while living in Chicago for twenty years – be a tourist.

If you are spending the weekend (and have more days where you’ll be in the Bay Area), here are some more thoughts on things to do and places to see… Quite frankly, there is so much to do that I am only just scratching the surface.

San Francisco

  • Hike Lands’ End (aka Sutro Baths). If you decide to stay in the city during the day (instead of going to Sausalito, Tiburon or wine country), you must do this. It’s by far my favourite hike, cos it’s easy and there are so many beautiful scenes as you hug the San Francisco coastline. If you decide not to hike it, park at the lot by The Cliff House where you can grab lunch at the diner near Ocean Beach, and head down the stairs, down the slight hill to Sutro Baths or up the hill to the flat concreted area to see Seal Rock. If you look at it just right, you’ll be able to see the opening between the rocks which looks like a heart (and from my understanding naturally formed this way, though you’d need to confirm that).
  • Goto The Palace of Fine Arts. There’s nothing much here except a stunningly awesome structure that’s a remnant from the 1915 Worlds Fair hosted in San Francisco. You can chill at the surrounding park, and bask in the sun with swans and ducks in the pond. To me, this is a must-see place. If you decide not to renew your vows by the Bay Bridge, this place at night is stunning. And by stunning I mean, pictures do not do it justice, with the way it’s lit during the night sky.
  • Hang out at Dolores Park for some fun people watching
  • Bar/restaurant hopping in the Mission
  • Drive down the Lombard (the famous s-street)
  • Walk and bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. I feel like this is another must-do. There are four lookout points I’d recommend, if you do NOT decide to walk/bike but instead drive. If you’re going to do the GGB, you have to hit all of these points.
    • Crissy Field which provides a stunning view at the bottom of the bridge on the San Francisco side
      Vista Point as you’re going north on the 101 (towards Sausalito – exit before you turn into Alexander St; you’ll see the sign for Vista Point)
    • Vista Point as you’re going south on the 101 (back towards San Francisco), which provides a stunning view looking across to the GGB from a vantage point slightly higher than it
    • Another scenic overlook past Hawk Hill on a drive on Conzelman Road up the massive hill that borders the Marin Headlands, past the turnabout to the very dead-end of the extremely fun and windy road from Vista Point heading southbound from the 101.
    • Cavallo Point at Fort Baker which provides a stunning view at the bottom of the bridge on the Sausalito side.
  • Picnic at Fort Mason (see Off the Grid food trucks below under restaurants)
  • Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. This place is instant serenity, so tranquil.
    Fisherman’s Wharf. All tourists go here, and it’s worth seeing, but to me, there are just much better places.

Outside San Francisco.

Impossible to do all of these, so you just have to pick which ones you want. Some of these could be day-long excursions

  • Point Reyes (stunningly gorgeous): Oyster shucking (I like going up here even if it’s not in season, cos it’s so darn breathtaking)
  • Hike Muir Woods
  • Hike Mount Tamalpais. At the top (about a half mile up) you get to see the entire Bay Area, stunning view.
  • Wine country (of course): Napa & Sonoma
  • Sausalito: Saturday or Sunday morning or afternoon to grab brunch (and goto Philz Coffee for the best freakin’ coffee!). Best bet is to take the ferry from the Ferry Building which is a 25 minute ride along the bay of pure beautifulness, and you’ll pass Alcatraz.
  • Tiburon: Saturday or Sunday morning or afternoon (Sam’s Anchor Cafe along the water is so awesome), and then drive up the hills to see the amazingly beautiful homes. You could also take a ferry from the Ferry Building here.
  • Hike Angel Island, which I’ve never done, but heard is awesomely beautiful with stunning views of the city. This is a good thing to do in conjunction with going to Tiburon as they are right by each other. The ferry will take you to both.

There is so much to do that I have not even scratched the surface… I have not even brought up Santa Cruz or Pacifica or Carmel, and so many other places…

Restaurants

  • My favourite w/o a doubt is Burma Superstar. It’s not fancy, just a joint in the Richmond area. I’ve been there now 14 times, ordering the Chilli Lamb 30 times (twice for takeout). The negative is that it’s not a “hip” area, but there are bars around.
  • Umami Burger in the Marina. Best burger in the Bay Area. Rivals Au Cheval in Chicago, which is the best burger I’ve ever had.
  • Salitos in Sausalito. It’s right off the water and their crabs, cioppino and fish & chips are amazing.
  • Sam’s Anchor Cafe in Tiburon. It’s got the best view on the water looking at San Francisco.
    With both Sausalito and Tiburon out of the city, it should be paired with another activity, like hiking in Marin County (see above section).
  • Anything in The Mission district (essentially around the blocks of Mission & Valencia between 16th and 17th, though you can venture outside it as well) cos there are bars and restaurants everywhere.
    • Dosa if you like Indian
    • West of Pecos if you like margaritas, beer and good ol’ southwestern food
    • Mission Bowling Club. Admittedly, I have not been here; and it’s a little outside the neighborhood described above (but walking distance). The burger is top five in the country.
  • Slanted Door. Phenomenal Vietnamese fusion. Walking outside after dinner can provide a romantic even, especially with the Bay Bridge (lit at night).
  • For something totally different, on Friday night, you could try Off the Grid food trucks at Fort Mason. The food is phenomenal as you’ll have food trucks with a wide variety of gourmet food, beer and wine with bands playing. Super fun.
  • Izzy’s Steakhouse in the Marina. I personally think Chicago blows away San Francisco on steak, but I do like this place. If you like prime rib, those that do highly recommend The House of Prime Rib.

I know that I am missing a bunch. There is so much to do in the Bay Area.


Go Adventure. Go Travel. Go Live.

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