Tuesday, December 4, 2012

san francisco: where i found and left my heart

travel guide SF

it's no secret. i'm obsessed with the city of san francisco.

it is where i met my husband, interacted with so many inspiring individuals, and truly found myself again. it is the 'city' in a ' a city born love'

needless to say, my time there was magical. almost as if it had been waiting for me, patiently. knowing that i needed any and all of the experience it had to offer. i often have people ask me my thoughts on moving there, and my answer is always yes--do it!

and though it is an aggressive place to 'settle down'--being single and dating in sf was an absolute blast. it will forever be a part of me. and even though i'm now living on the opposite coast, i hope to travel back to visit often.

and in the future, introduce my kids to the city that their father and i fell in love in!

so for those of you wanting to visit san francisco--i have created a travel guide, full of  my favorite activities/suggestions/tips and experiences. i've broken it down into categories (for the most touristy, for the stomach, and for the outdoors) so you can choose what interests you during your time in the bay.

for the most touristy.

here are a few of my favorite 'touristy' activities in sf.

1. ride a sf cable car. it's classic, but really enjoyable--unless it's freezing cold, which it sometimes is in san francisco.

2.union square shopping. every store imaginable in one of the coolest cities in the world. unfortunately, i worked about a block from union square...and it took some serious self-restraint to keep from doing some 'after-work' shopping...everyday.

3. go to the twin peaks lookout. you can drive up to it, and it's a fantastic view of the city. an unbeatable spot to take some beautiful pictures.

4. have lunch and visit the farmers market at the ferry building. nothing better than a sunny saturday morning/afternoon spent down by the water. you can also go visit fishermans wharf/ pier 39it's extremely touristy, but is just one of those things you can't really pass up when visiting sf. the shops aren't really anything special, and it's swarming with kinda creepy street performers and overpriced beverages. but it really is a classic stop for the sf tourist! if you do stop by fishermans wharf, make sure to stop and get some pics with the sea lions!

5. the palace of fine arts. this is a great option for anyone--with or without family or children. it's a beautiful spot to visit, take pictures and experience a beautiful part of san francisco.

okay, now this last part of my "touristy" suggestions...and yes, it's a very special section.

did you grow up in the nineties? do you have the same kind of ridiculously cheesy-slightly-creepy childhood connection to the rugged rock-n-roll charms of uncle jesse and ability to relate to the growing pains of d.j. tanner? anyone else a full house fan? yes, i may or may not own every season, but that's not important. what is important, is that you can truly re-live the full-house experience while visiting sf.

first stop-- alamo square (click for address)

it's the park that you see in the opening credits section of the show--it's extremely touristy, but i went there probably four or five times while living there. everytime a friend would come visit i just couldn't resist showing them!

second stop-- the real full house.

this is a little secret that only the hard-core full house fans or local sf-ians are going to know. click above to get the address to actual house they use for the outside shot of the tanner home.

and if you could care less about full house....disregard this whole section. and moving on.

for the stomach.

oh heavens, san francisco can easily make you a fat girl! (or boy) some of the best food in the world was the food i consumed in that crazy city. here is my top five--all highly recommended.

1. burma superstar. ever sat and felt like you died and went to heaven after eating coconut rice? well, now is the time, because this burmese food will truly change your world. make sure to make reservations in advance, and check when it is open (it is always packed and has some weird hours). you won't regret it. my husband and i still talk about it to this day.

2. little star pizza. down in the colorful mission district, this place was one of the first restaurants i ever went to in sf. and being that it was fairly close to my house--and i probably went there one too many times. but it's one of the most delicious pizzas i've ever had. my favorite is the "little star" pizza. please go eat some for me. i miss it dearly.

3. chai yo thai. husband and i are thai food addicts. we could probably eat thai food every night of the week and not even care. and though we went to many good thai restaurants in the bay area, nothing impressed us like the curry and shrimp fried rice at chai yo thai on polk street. probably some of the best thai food i've ever had--and trust me, i have consumed more than my fair share of massaman, yellow, and pumpkin curry in my lifetime. it's a must-eat while visiting sf.

4. la taqueria. i'm a born san diego girl. aka--having a strong love for cheap mexican food was practically ingrained in my dna. my mom once told me i like spicy mexican food so much because it was basically all she craved while pregnant with me. so obviously, the carnitas tacos and chicken burritos at la taqueria in the mission won my heart at first bite.

5. bobs doughnuts. okay, even if you're not a doughnut person--you need to try bob's. and though it may be open 24hrs/day do not just choose to go at any random time. for the best bob's experience you need to stop by around or after 10 pm (because that's when they start making the fresh doughnuts) and then make sure you order what is most fresh out of the fryer! i promise, they are the best. i can not tell you how many times i ended up begging my friends to go there with me at midnight. like i said, sf can easily make you a fat girl!

also, see more fantastic recommendations on the sf 7x7 "big eat 2012" list. it's no wonder the whole city isn't obese.

for the outdoors.

sf is a very active city, but it can be hard to know what outdoor activities you can do as a tourist. here are my suggestions.

1. rent a bike down by pier 39 (website here)--you can even rent bikes with baby/child seats and they aren't that pricey. then follow the tour map that they offer, which will take you over the golden gate bridge (super cool to take pictures on the bridge--it's much better than just driving over it) and then will take you into the little town of sausalito on the other side. sausalito is a dream. it's this quaint little seaside town with lots of little shops, art galleries, and coffee shops. and while you're there, promise me you'll stop into this bakery and buy yourself a gigantic delicious cookie. seriously, they're so good--and you deserve it after burning all those calories on the bike! yes, this is the way i think.

2. go for a hike or bike ride in the muir woods. there are a variety of different hikes. some just a few miles, others much longer. i'd recommend trying to squeeze in a shorter one if you can make time for it.

3. it obviously has to be the right time of year, but if you can--go to a sf giants game. husband and i were lucky enough to be at "the perfect game" this last season and it was an unreal experience.

4. golden gate park. sure, you may run into a few sketchy characters and a few thousand homeless people, but it really is a gorgeous park. while you are there, make sure to stop by the conservatory of flowers. it's always been a favorite of mine.

5. visit china beach. by-far my favorite, in a great neighborhood and has a magical view of the golden gate bridge.

okay, there you have it. i could probably go on and on, and keep coming up with more activities, but these are definitely some of  my favorites. it will absolutely be one of the most unique and entertaining trips you'll ever take. feel free to e-mail me if you have any suggestions, questions or thoughts!

and if you know anyone thinking of moving to san francisco, needing some encouragement...please send them my way!

more of my obsession can be read here in this past post.

SF Travel Guide 2 SF Travel guide



  1. Thanks for this! Pier 39 is a family fave, but I'm always looking for new things to do when I visit SF! I love it there!

  2. Pier 39 is such a classic! (And I won't lie--I always end up buying some ghirardelli chocolates at their little store down there on the pier and eating a boudin breadbowl and clam chowder!) So fun! Glad I could offer some new suggestions though! :)

  3. I love this post. I'm a resident of Marin, just on the other side of the bridge, and I feel like you captured a lot of the city well. Great recommendations!

  4. Thanks so much! And I went out to Marin a few times :) Love it there. If you have any other must-do's make sure to let me know, because I'm always looking for new activities when I go back!

  5. i love this a little too much. i like your new blog a lot. a lot. a lot.
    p.s. add "Sunflower" to your food list! UNREAL.. it's vietnamese food.
    SF with you was a dream. I miss you and roberto.

  6. Love love love it! Thanks for sharing!! It'd be cool to see your fave shopping spots! ;)

  7. Ooh great suggestion! I'll put that on my list! thanks girl!

  8. I love your new blog! So fun. This is a great list. I miss SF!

  9. Hi, I would thanks to you for sharing nice information about San Francisco. San Francisco is being Premier Travel Destinations in United States.

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  10. Kristen,
    Don't mind my blog stalking--I just remembered (from talking with Mandy {Madson} Voisin) that you once lived in SF. My husband and I are going for a quick trip next weekend. We will fly in Saturday and leave Monday afternoon. We both have been there and have seen the "touristy" places. I am looking for suggestions of what to do. We will definitely be checking out some of your Thai restaurants. Anything else you suggest for a quick trip?

  11. Laura,

    How fun! I am jealous you are headed to SF! I love that city with all my heart. In answer to your question, definitely enjoy some good food (and yes, the Burma Superstar and Chai Yo are both musts in my book--and get the coconut rice at Burma and the shrimp fried rice at Chai Yo)

    Have you been to Bob's Doughnuts? It's open 24 hours a day, and the best time to go is around 10pm when they start making more doughnuts--and just order whatever is fresh out! They are the best when they are hot.

    I don't know if you've ever experienced "The Castro" neighborhood, but that's where I lived and it's a very eccentric area (like a nude man used to hang out on my street corner ever Sunday...just because) but that area can be a lot of fun if you're down for an interesting afternoon. There are some really yummy restaurants in that area as well.

    We also used to love going and hanging out in Dolores Park in the Mission. On sunny days it will be really packed with people--it's really fun and there is a great view of the city. I used to live very close to it as well.

    And of course, there is tons of shopping downtown and there are the farmers markets down by the pier on the weekends. Also, I don't know if you'll have a car, but my husband and I used to love going driving around the Presidio, Pacific Heights, and Knob Hill area (There are some gorgeous houses in those neighborhoods. You could also go walk around the Marina which is gorgeous in the day, but also has a very upbeat nightlife over there--mostly a younger bar/club scene.

    I hope that helps a little! If you have any other questions please let me know! I'm extremely jealous!!! :)

    Have fun!


  12. Kris, my mom and I are thinking of going this summer, we've never been! Do you know of good hotels to stay in? When would it be too hot to go? I'm going to read through your other comments soon to see what we can do there. :)

  13. I'm leaving to SF in a few hours and wanted to do some planning. I have been there in the past but it was always with family and I was young. Now at 21 I can just explore on my own so I am very excited for that. Your blog helped TONS! Thanks so muchh. (:

  14. Oh I am so jealous! Have so much fun! Glad I could help :) Please let me know how your trip goes and what your favorite parts of your SF trip are! xx

  15. Love your blog :) my bf & I leave on Saturday for San Francisco and we are SO excited! Found your blog on Pinterest and I have taken a lot of notes from it. Thanks for sharing !

  16. Oooo, so glad you found my blog! I'm obviously a SF fanatic! I love that city with all my heart! Please let me know how it is! :)

  17. Found a link to your SF advice via pinterest! Thank you, added all your stuff to my notes section in my iphone :) Any advice on how to spend 4th of July!??? First time to the bay area and headed on July 3!

  18. Wow awesome photoghraphy.
    What a great Blug. Its worth to read it.
    Well Done
    Thank you!!!

  19. You are such a talented writer. I loved how your story unfolded. I also laughed at some similarities between you and me. Whatever your reason, every little TRIP TO SAN FRAN worth it! Relate to this post!

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