Honeymoon in San Francisco
Our Trip In Review, With Photos
for purposes of easy-lists, everything per category is in alphabetical order[more photos at the end of the page]
We spent a full 10 days on our honeymoon and I must say that it was a well-needed vacation, and a chance for us to reconnect after a stressful few months with the move to the new house. We did something new and exciting every single day, and took the time to relax when needed. Great company, good food, and a ton of fun. I’ve put together a list of all the cool things we did, where we ate, where we stayed, and gave recommendations and a review where I could. We loved San Francisco, and I highly suggest you add it to your travel list if it is not already there!
ATTRACTIONS & ACTIVITIES
Beach (Ocean), Sunset District & Outer Richmond
After our 3 hour walk to the beach we discovered that it was a non-swimming beach, so while it was a little disappointing, I still got to dip my feet in and enjoy watching the HUGE waves crash as the tide rolled in right before the sunset. Great for pic-nics, walks along the beach, and dipping your toes in–just watch out for the jellyfish! For swimming, head to the Crissy Field East Beach.
The Big Bus Tours, San Francisco & Sausolito
We didn’t have any intention of booking a bus tour for our stay, but when it came highly recommended by the hotel (so much so that they gave us an amazing coupon!) we decided to give it a go. It brings you all around the city and the guide explains everything as you go through the 21 hot-spots and landmarks, and you can hop-off-and-on through the entire day at your leisure. There is also a two-day ticket available if you don’t want to rush through it all in one day. We opted for the Sausolito tour because it brought you to two amazing photo-op spots for getting the Golden Gate Bridge in your images. There was also a night-tour option available, but we had other plans that night and opted out.
Church of 8 Wheels, Hayes Valley
If you want to feel like a local, this is a great little gem that I found and highly recommend. They host an adult-only roller disco on Friday nights, and skate rentals are super cheap! This is probably the most fun I had all week, but boy were my legs sore the next day–totally worth it. My only recommendation is that you bring thicker socks, for comfort. You can choose to leave as much as possible of your stuff at the hotel, or they have a bag/coat-check for a few dollars per item.
Coit Tower, Telegraph Hill
This one is great as a free activity to get TO the tower, or you can purchase a ticket to take the elevator up to the top for some amazing views and photo opportunity. The trek down the side of the mountain to Embarcadero was my favourite part of this activity. Tons of gardens and flowers on the way down, and the awesome feeling that you are scaling down the hill (there are stairs).
Dragon’s Gate, Chinatown
Nothing too special, but it was fun to walk through Chinatown to check out the shops and the art. Great place to get little souvenirs on the cheap too!
Exploratorium, Embarcadero (Pier 15)
With the weather being almost perfect for our entire stay, we didn’t get more than the one rainy day to tour the museums so we missed out on going inside this one. BUT their outside displays are free to browse, and the best part about this particular museum is that everything is hands on and you are encouraged to touch things. So naturally, hubby and I took advantage, and we learnt some new cool things. And ran though the fog, naturally!
Ferry Building, Embarcadero
If you are in San Francisco on a Saturday, you absolutely need to head out to the Ferry Building in the morning and check out the amazing farmer’s market in addition to the regular shops inside. This puts any market I’ve ever been to to shame, in the best way possible. Had we had cooking facilities in our hotel room this would have been a daily attraction for us to get fresh food to cook during our stay. There is also a wine market and a few gift shops inside.
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco & Sausolito
This is THE landmark of San Francisco so there is no reason not to visit it, at minimum for a photo to say you were there. The two best spots for photos with the bridge are at the visitor’s centre on the SF side (paid parking & public transit) and near the kid’s museum on the Sausalito side at Horseshoe Bay. And yes, it is THE bay where Otis Redding wrote his hit song.
Golden Gate Park, from Haight-Ashbury to the Ocean
We took advantage of the chunk of nature in a very packed city and walked all the way through the park from Haight-Ashbury to the Ocean Beach. Make sure you pack a snack (or you can pick some up at the Whole Foods right before you enter) because it is a 2-3 hour walk, or longer if you stop to take in the scenery or check out the museums inside of it. Plenty of greenery and flowers and wildlife to soak in on your way through. Don’t forget to say hi to the bisons!
PROXY, Hayes Valley
This area of town has most of the top must-eats on my list: Smitten Ice Cream, Biergarten, Ritual Coffee, etc. If you’re going to pick a place to stay, let it be a choice between the Fisherman’s Wharf and Hayes Valley (Hayes / Octavia). Just make sure it is still around as they have future plans for turning the strip into affordable housing (it’s been ‘future plans’ for over 5 years now so don’t be too worried).
Hippie Town, Haight-Ashbury
This area of town has a bunch of vintage boutiques, including an authentic tie-dye store and a thrift shop or two. Hubby scored a pair of wingtip brogue shoes and the vintage dress collections were fantastic! The neighbourhood doesn’t really open until noon, so make it an after lunch trip if you plan on doing any shopping.
Indie Christmas Fair, Embarcadero (Pier 35)
While I am certain this is a seasonal thing since we were there over the American Thanksgiving weekend, I am sure there are other pop-ups throughout the year to keep an eye out for. There were several hundred makers and crafters, with booths filled with goodness. We scored an amazing barnwood frame to commemorate our honeymoon adventures, a few punny holiday cards, and saw plenty of other super cool finds.
Musée Mécanique, Fisherman’s Wharf
This museum is one of the free ones to enter, but the activities are all pay-for-play. The giant warehouse is filled with vintage arcade games and coin-operated carnival fun dating back to Playland and beyond. Get your pennies squished into souvenirs, play a few rounds of skee-ball, have your photos taken in the photobooths, and listen to a few chords of music-makers. Whatever your fancy, they’ve likely got it. Heck, they even had a toothpick carnival scene!
Painted Ladies, Alamo Square / Hayes Valley
These are a visual icon of the city of San Francisco, also known as Postcard Row, and are often mistaken for being the Full House house. It is a great photo-op regardless, but don’t let the tour guides fool you. The park across the street is also great for a pic-nic or taking a nap.
Pier 39 (Shops, Food & Sea Lions), Embarcadero/Fisherman’s Warf
I could go on forever at these ones, so I will stick to the best things. This is where you get to see a great view of Alcatraz if you’re not the type to want to go visit it. This is where you get to watch the (stinky) sea lions bark for your attention, fight over who gets to be king of the castle, and strike a pose for the camera. There is also the Bubba-Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant, which has a novelty photo-op of Forest Gump’s bench. There are a ton of other restaurants and gift shops on the pier, and there’s even a Christmas shop (all year round). The carousel is a great option if you have kids, or simply want a romantic moment with your spouse. Plenty more if you check out the Pier 39 website.
Sausolito, Marin County
In the little town of Sausolito, you will feel like you were transported into the Mediterranean with all the mountain-side housing and the house-boats. Great photo-ops of the bay, and plenty of yummy food & shopping options. And a little ways out of the small town, in Marin County at Horseshoe Bay, you will find one of the two best views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Union Square, Lower Nob Hill
If you’re wanting to do some ‘regular shopping’ while in town, this is where you will find all of your brand name shops like Macy’s, Cartier, Zara, etc., the famous heart sculpture / painting, and depending on the time of year you can also find a giant Christmas tree and an ice skating rink.
La Boulangerie de San Francisco, Hayes Valley
This is a quaint little place near the park, where you can choose to enjoy your fresh brew inside or out. We stopped in on our way to Alamo Square to visit the Painted Ladies. While I didn’t get to indulge in any of the baked goods (allergies), the cream latte they made me was delicious and made me wish I had ordered a larger size. On the flip side, Mr. “I drink my coffee black” said his americano was good but needed to cut the strong flavour with a little cane sugar.
Peet’s Coffee, (local coffee chain throughout the city)
They make a great cup of coffee, and an even greater keto-friendly matcha latte (and it’s green!). Any of them in the financial District are closed on weekends, but the others throughout the city are open and ready for early-morning
zombies customers. We experienced the ones at the Ferry Building and in the Boudin Bakery at the wharf and they were both great for service, speed and taste.
Ritual Coffee, Hayes Valley
I personally did not like this one, but my husband swears by it, and as a coffee-lover you should go with him on this one. The yummy sounds coming out of him were enough to make a tea drinker want to try the espresso!
Cafe Trieste, Little Italy
This little hole-in-the-wall cafe has one of the best mochas you will ever taste, unless perhaps if you actually went to Italy. Served in the ‘proper’ glasses and mugs for each drink, they keep everything authentic. We stopped in for a caffeine boost before our hike up to the nearby Coit Tower.
Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, Hayes Valley
We have a completely different restaurant by the same name here in Ottawa, and this one absolutely lived up to our expectations! The food was amazing, the ambiance is fantastic, and despite the fact that you need to reserve a table days in advance for lunch or dinner, it was totally worth it! We were actually quite lucky and were able to get a table for two separate dinners during our stay in SF and I am still drooling over the food. I got to try the cauliflower soup, the crispy pork belly with butternut squash puree, and the steak tartare, and they were all stunningly beautiful and delicious. Hubby enjoyed the octopus with squid ink risotto and the braised duck with parsnip puree. Between the two of us making yummy sounds, it’s no surprise this place is always packed! Completely worth the wait, and you might even be lucky enough to get a seat at the bar if you forgot to make a reservation.
Biergarten, Hayes Valley
This place is exactly what it sounds like. They offer beer and German sausages, served to you at your table within a street-side garden area. My curry-wurst was delicious despite the fact that it photographs terribly, and hubby enjoyed is brat with kraut and an ice cold beer. This is a perfect lunch option before you walk next door to the most amazing ice cream shop ever (Smitten). Great stop en-route to Alamo Park, the roller disco, or to the theatre.
Bubba-Gump Shrimp, Pier 39
Be sure to put your name on the list BEFORE you take the time to get your photo taken at the iconic Forrest Gump bench. The wait to get into this place is never less than a half hour during non-peak times (but at least they have the movie playing to distract you from the long wait!) and be prepared for them to walk you through an empty restaurant to get to the great view at the back despite having to wait so long (staffing issues I guess, max 4 tables per server as per head office). The food is okay, but nothing to rave about, and at least the overpriced key lime pie tasted good. My advice, make a point to go for the novelty photos if you’re a fan.
Cliff House, Ocean Beach
The view from this places makes it worth it to sit for diner, especially when you get to watch the sunset over the ocean. My salmon was good, and they happily offered to accommodate my food sensitivities. Hubby’s fish and chips came in perfect sizes for hand-held dipping in the tartar sauce, and filled him right up. The sourdough bread was the best of the week.
The Crêpe Cafe, Fisherman’s Wharf
With there being so many crepe places across the city, I was surprised by the scarcity of the true floppy version rather than the crispy skinny-pancake being paraded around as a crepe. This location off of Jefferson in the Fisherman’s Warf has actual crepes, available in sweet or savory options. I splurged on a ‘filled-with-strawberries’ option and it truly was–there were berries in every layer!
Fish & Farm, Financial District
This was the first place we ate at, and the overall impression was great–good ambiance, good service, and totally worth the extra money. Our server was more than happy to offer substitutions due to my allergies and dietary sensitivities, and he even brought us a little desert treat to share when he found out it was our honeymoon.
The Grove, Hayes Valley
This one took me by surprise. We walked by many times during our stay and from the outside it looks like any other sit-down restaurant, but when you actually walk in the place you discover that the seating area is a combination of standard tables, living room chairs & side-tables, and bar-stools. To order, you walk up to the counter as if it were a fast food restaurant and order yourself a sandwich or all-day breakfast, and they bring it to your table when it’s ready. Hubby absolutely loved his pastrami sandwich (with thick and real meat, he says) and my eggs benedict had an amazing hollandaise sauce with a hint of lemon (though if you like your egg whites cooked, ask for poached medium). Their drink selection went far above the usual soda options, which was great, and they had good coffee.
Homeskillet, Market Street
This breakfast joint was nothing special from the outside, but a cutesy little place on the inside. It is order-at-the-counter-and-we-deliver-to-your-table style, and they serve breakfast all day. The drip-coffee was horrendous and tasted burnt, but the actual food was awesome. I enjoyed the Joe’s Hash (with cheese instead of hash browns) and it was super yummy.
Lou’s Fish Shack, Fisherman’s Wharf
This is one of the places along the Fisherman’s Wharf that doesn’t seem to stand out visually from the crowd, but as it turns out they devote the attention to the food instead–a win in my books. Hubby says that they served him the best fish tacos he has ever had! and I happily enjoyed the crab bisque with a side of pan-fried brussel sprouts. Great place for lunch or a light dinner.
Pläj, Theatre District
This in-hotel restaurant is only open for diner, and seating is by reservation only. That being said, you could usually get a same-day reservation or sneak in to eat at the bar section. The food is Scandinavian inspired, and absolutely delicious! We enjoyed the butternut squash & yellow pepper soup, the elk tartare, and the __________ (I’ll have to ask hubby what it was).
Smitten Ice Cream, Hayes Valley
This is one of the coolest ice cream places I have ever seen (ha ha, get it!), and even better because they make everything with organic and fresh ingredients. No chemicals, other than the liquid nitrogen they use to make the ice cream right in front of you. Made-to-order means it is the smoothest it can possibly be, and the flavour they can achieve with such little ingredients is amazing. The ones I tried were Earl Grey and Dark Chocolate, and we loved them so much that we went back FOUR times during our vacation! Yumm! If you can’t make it out to Hayes Valley, there are a handful of other Smitten Ice Cream locations throughout California that you should definitely make a point to visit. They each have different flavours too!
The Spinnaker, Sausolito
This restaurant is an off-shoot with glass walls that overlooks into the Sausalito bay so you get to see everything as you enjoy your meal. Lots of meal options from pasta to steak and a large selection of seafood, and the view made the tasty-but-expensive worth it. They also have a lunch menu with a daily soup
Stacks, Hayes Valley
This place looks like it was once a fancy Italian restaurant that got converted to a classy version of a Denny’s. They’ve got all-day breakfast in addition to some lunch and dinner options, so a variety that is sure to please everyone. They happily subbed my home-fries for strawberries and toast for tomatoes, but be warned that their “crepes” are actually just super thin crispy pancakes and not actual crêpes.
Waterbar, Embarcadero (near the Bay Bridge)
We ended up there on a Saturday for lunch, which actually means we scored a chance to look over the brunch menu <– perfect for me! I don’t remember what it was called, but I enjoyed an amazing dish of what seemed like a deconstructed eggs benedict with a ton of fresh crab meat and it was delicious. Hubby devoured the potato-less hash and the bite I stole from him was pretty good. The restaurant is right by the Bay Bridge so there’s a great view to be seen from the majority of the seats, and it’s right off the Embarcadero walking path along the water. And they offer complimentary sparkling water with your meal!
Club Quarters Hotel, Financial District
This hotel was within a 10 minute walk to the water (piers), which had most of the activities we wanted to do, so while we did a ton of walking during the day, very little of it was due to travelling to-from the hotel (so no rental car required–took the BART (subway) direct from the airport and plenty of public transit within SF). The attached restaurant Fish & Farm was great–good ambiance, good service, and worth the extra money. If you are looking for a nearby place to sleep, and plan on spending your days out at the Fisherman’s Wharf or touring the city on a Big Bus, this is an ideal option. Kudos that most rooms had a window, even if the view was another room a few feet away–natural light is always preferred in my books. BUT the coffee machine was broken for our entire stay (Friday-Sunday), so at least there was a Starbucks next door that was open during the weekend. With the complimentary breakfast being apples and granola bars, if you plan on staying for more than a few days you’ll want a room with a kitchenette and to make a trip to the nearby Safeway for a few staples (no breakfast places close by, and most coffee shops are closed on weekends in the Financial District). ALLERGY WARNING: The ‘snack bar’ in the lobby had a few options during the afternoon (peanuts, wasabi peas, chickpeas, M&Ms), but being deathly allergic to nuts this made me very uncomfortable in any common area, especially seeing as there were trails of peanuts on the floor leading all the way up to my room every day [messy patrons]. So all in all, if you are looking for a place to sleep at night in a great location, and are happy to spend your days elsewhere or are in town for business–great, just make sure you budget for eating out for every single meal. Otherwise, I recommend finding a different hotel, perhaps one with a full kitchen if you are staying for more than a few days.
Inn at the Opera, Theatre District
The Inn at the Opera was located within a 5 minute walk from all of the local theatre amenities (opera house, ballet, symphony hall, jazz center) and from Hayes Valley (a must-visit neighbourhood!), and a 45 minute walk or 20 minute transit ride to everything else worth seeing (Fisherman’s Wharf, Ferry Building, etc). The ocean beach (Ocean Beach) is a 2 hour walk through Golden Gate Park, and the swimming beach (Crissy Field East Beach) is an hour’s walk or 30 minute bus ride <– there’s also a free shuttle to-from the Golden Gate Bridge tourist center so you can take advantage of both while you are out in that area. They had a free breakfast every morning with toast, english muffins, cereal, fruit platter, hard-boiled eggs, tomato slices, muffins, and yogourt. On the weekend they added cottage cheese and rice pudding, and on Sunday there was bacon (arrive early!). In addition to the usual coffee and tea, they also had milk and orange juice. ALLERGY WARNING: They also brought out freshly bakes cookies every day at 3pm in a few varieties, but one of the daily flavours was always peanut butter so we didn’t get to take advantage. Every day we came back to a room that had been rid of all of the used dishes (kitchenette) and garbage, and a freshly made bed with new towels and toiletries when needed. The attached restaurant (Plaj) was only open for diner but the food was delicious, and while it was reservation-only you could still sneak in and eat at the bar section after a long day. The overall feel of this place is fancy yet vintage (think old-school elevator with closet doors and a bellman) and quite the quaint little place. Perfect for a few nights while you are in town for a show, or for the whole week since everything is pretty close by.
Airplane, United Airlines
Easy booking, made connections just fine, and courteous staff. If your flight is less than 4 hours, eat beforehand as there aren’t any meals offered, but they do come around with the drink cart. Make sure you download the app on your personal device BEFORE you head to the airport if you plan on using the entertainment system (no screens on aircraft).
Public Transit, BART (Subway)+ MUNI (Buses & Cable Cars & Light Rail)
The BART takes you directly from the San Francisco & Oakland Airports, and there are drop-offs throughout the city / peninsula. At less than $10 per person, it was the best option to-from the airport (versus a $50+ cab). The MUNI transit system allows for you to travel from pretty much anywhere in the city. We stayed in the Bay Area so we used it to go to the beaches, the piers, and even shorter travels after long days of walking. At less than $3 per person it was much more budget-friendly than taking an uber or taxi, and meant we didn’t have to pay for a rental car or parking.
That’s it in a nutshell. If you want to know more, leave a comment and I will answer you with everything I know! Below are some other fun photos from the trip.