So get this, a few weeks ago I’m in the shower, lathering my hair and deep in thought, thinking about how I never get to travel. Ever since I had my daughter, I’ve honestly blamed motherhood for my lack of experiences in my twenties. That’s the reason I haven’t done all that I’ve wanted to do, because I’m a mom now. However, during this magnificent shower, I realized I was just making excuses for myself, called myself out on it, and thought “Megan, if you want to travel, then travel!”. An hour later I had my trip to San Francisco that booked for that upcoming weekend. YOLOOOOO. And it was one of the best trips of my life! Here is a recap of my three-day SOLO adventure to San Francisco! If you are reading this and looking for San Francisco travel tips, be sure to read to the end where I have a list of recommendations if you are looking to visit!
I took a 9AM flight from Minneapolis and arrived in San Francisco around 11:30AM. I took the BART train system from the airport to downtown San Francisco and then took an uber from downtown to my hotel in Fisherman’s Warf, where I checked into my hotel and grabbed some lunch before starting my first adventure!
Muir Woods. One of the items on my bucket list was to hug a big tree. Muir Woods is the closet redwood forest to the San Francisco area, and although it wouldn’t have been my first choice in terms of redwood forests, I am definitely glad I went! During the weekend, Muir Woods has a shuttle service for $3, which I 110% recommend – parking was CARAZY! Muir woods has a main paved trail for easy walking, but also has unpaved hiking trails throughout the park. Walking the trails was definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip because it’s the best place where I was really able to be one with my thoughts and really re-center myself and where I want to go the rest of the year. The next time I go back to San Francisco I am going to go back and explore more of the outskirt trails or rent a car and go to another redwood forest in the vicinity of San Francisco – or both!
Fisherman’s Wharf. After my trip to Muir Woods, I went and explored Fisherman’s Wharf, a super popular area in San Francisco. Fisherman’s Wharf is home to Pier 39, which is full of fun local shops and restaurants, a carousel, and the Pier 39 sea lions! I grabbed some dinner and then headed back to my hotel for a good night’s sleep!
Day two was by far my favorite day of the trip and frankly one of the best days of my life. So many “I can’t believe this is my life” and “I am so unbelievably blessed” moments in one day. Day two was my exploring day and I did so much in one day, it was awesome!
Lombard Street. I started the day off at the “Crookedest Street in the World,” Lombard Street! Okay, that’s a lie, I started the day WALKING to Lombard Street, which was only a mere 6 blocks from my hotel. No problem, right? WRONG! The one thing you can not see on Google Maps is the elevation! Walking to Lombard Street was legitimately a 45-degree angle for 6 blocks – the best workout my booty has seen in a great while. I walked to the bottom of Lombard Street, took a pic, and then continued my San Francisco workout by walking to the top of Lombard Street to not only get another pic, but to catch a ride on the cable car!
Cable Car Ride. Cable cars are so famous in San Francisco, I definitely wanted to catch a ride on one during my trip. I was so happy to see that there was a cable car stop at the top of Lombard Street that took you to Chinatown, another one of my stops! I got to hang off the edge and live my best life for only $7. Definitely recommend!
Chinatown. I got off my cable car ride in San Francisco’s Chinatown, one of the most iconic Chinatowns in the US. It was so so cool to walk the streets and see all of the different shops, cultural elements, statues, and more in the area. I walked through Chinatown to Dragon’s Gate – the “start” of Chinatown and the most recognizable area of Chinatown.
Painted Ladies. From Chinatown, I took an uber to Alamo Square Park for lunch and to get a glimpse of San Francisco’s famous Painted Ladies, as seen in the Full House opening credits. This park was SO cool! There is a dog park area, a tennis court, and playground, and more! I grabbed lunch and ate at a picnic table directly in front of the Painted Ladies and thought to myself “is this really my life?” at least five times during my meal. Definitely a must-see while in San Francisco!
Full House House. From Alamo Square Park, I took a 15-minute walk to the Full House house, which was honestly more so I could get the selfie more than anything else. It looked like a house? It was cool, if you’ve never seen it I would recommend going there. I read an article that the creator of Full House now owns the house and is planning to use it for filming and eventually open it up to the public. There was construction going on, so it’s looks to be true, so I may head back that way during my next trip to see if it’s any different, but otherwise kind of a one and done attraction.
Golden Gate Bridge. From the Full House house, I took an uber to the Golden Gate bridge welcome center to get my Facebook-worthy bridge photo. This was another one of the top highlights of my trip. I walked down the coast down to Crissy Field beach and it was so so beautiful. Seeing the Golden Gate bridge is literally a photo on my dream board, so really getting to take it in was absolutely amazing.
Golden Gate Park. After checking out the bridge, I took an uber to Golden Gate Park where I had scheduled a Segway tour of Golden Gate Park, but it was cancelled because they needed at least two sign ups and I was the only one – one of the downsides to traveling alone! I think this would have been the best way to see the park, so I may look into it again during my next trip. (Tip: a full tour is 16 people, so if you are traveling alone, pick a time that has 15 or less spots available to ensure you’ll go) Golden Gate Park is GIGANTIC, so you either have to plan to spend the whole day by foot there or pick what attractions within the park you want to visit. I ended up renting a bike to try and see more of the park, but it’s honestly not a very bike friendly park, so I wouldn’t recommend doing that. You can only really bike around the park, when all of the things you’d want to see are within the park. I ended up returning the bike after only an hour and walked to the Japanese Tea Garden. This was honestly more of a selfie moment than really getting to enjoy the garden – I got there 15 minutes before close and did a quick walk through the garden. Overall, I think that Golden Gate Park is INCREDIBLE, seeing as it’s like this full blown beautiful nature space in the middle of a city, but it seems like more of a place for San Francisco residents over tourists. Fun to see, but not high on my favorites from the entire trip.
Walk the Golden Gate. Now, had I known the biking was going to have been a bust (it closed at 6:30), I would have stayed at the Golden Gate Bridge originally and walked the bridge then before heading to Golden Gate Park, but when I was done at Golden Gate Park there was still a few hours until sunset and walking across the bridge was something I definitely wanted to do during my trip, so I headed back because with the amount of walking I had already done that day, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to function the next day, so I figured I better get it done while I was still able to walk. It was a really humbling experience, especially after watching The Bridge documentary and seeing this video I will NEVER forget. On the bridge, there is a phone for emergencies and crisis counseling. It was such an unforgettable experience to see something so breathtaking, but to also think about how many people have lost their lives by suicide on that same bridge.
Ocean Beach. To end the evening, I took an uber to Ocean Beach to watch the sunset. While it was extremely windy, it was like a postcard. There was a boat leaving the bay and a windsurfer hitting up the waves. I put on some mellow music and reflected on all the amazing things I had done that day – it was the absolute perfect ending to a perfect day.
Alcatraz. On my last day, I started my day by visiting Alcatraz island, which was SO SO cool! They have an audio tour to take you through the cell house that I definitely recommend. Did you know that some prison workers and their families lived on Alcatraz island while it was a prison? It was like its own little town! That was so cool to learn. I, of course, recommend this awesome tour. Be sure to book tickets in advance! When I started planning the trip (five days in advance, lol) Alcatraz was booked for that weekend, which is why my trip went from Sunday to Tuesday, which was seriously perfect timing!
Bay Cruise. Here is where my trip went a little sour, but I am not letting it affect my overall experience of San Francisco. Originally, I had booked a whale watching excursion to end the trip, only to have it cancelled with no time to catch an earlier boat. I was seriously devastated, like crying on a public bench devastated. Whale watching has been on my dream board for SO LONG and one of the things I was most looking forward to on my trip, but I am telling myself there just weren’t any whales to see and would have been a bust had the excursion continued. So it remains on my dream board and I’m planning a trip to Alaska to cross this off. :) So instead I booked a bay cruise that took us down under the bridge and around Alcatraz island. It was nice, definitely something I would recommend if you weren’t able to get into Alcatraz, but since I had already seen the island, it’s not something I will do again. But it passed the time until I had to catch my flight, and I am grateful for that!
Ghirardelli. After the cruise, I went to pick up my luggage before heading towards the airport and walked the few blocks to Ghirardelli Square. This picture is a lie and the literal extent of this adventure – I was there for two minutes. There is an ice cream shop that I would have loved to go to, but there wasn’t enough time before sunset.
Twin Peaks. To end the trip, I looked up cool places to watch the sunset in San Francisco and came across Twin Peaks and decided to check it out on my way to the airport. I am surprised I didn’t come across this in my original planning because WOW was it amazing! Twin Peaks brings you to the top of the city and gives you an AMAZING look of San Francisco. Unfortunately, it was a bit cloudy/foggy, so the actual sunset wasn’t great, but it was such a cool spot that I definitely recommend visiting. You take a car up the hill for the most part, and then there are two peaks you can hike (maybe five stories of stairs, nothing crazy) to bring you to the very top. It was actually kind of scary up there, because it was SOOOO WINDY. Like I hope that’s the closest I ever get to seeing the inside of a tornado windy. But nevertheless, an awesome experience and last-minute gem I’m glad I found.
And there you have it! My mini getaway to San Francisco. Whether you are just looking to hear how my trip went of stumbled across this while planning your own trip to San Francisco, I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventure! It was one of, it not the, best trips I have ever been on, and I will forever my grateful for my spontaneity in planning it. San Francisco forever has a piece of my heart and I can’t wait to visit again, and soon!
San Francisco Travel Tips
- This can be used anywhere, but I discovered Uber Pool on my trip and it’s a game changer. When I first saw the option, I was a bit skeptical and picked the normal Uber, but once I tried it I never went back. Basically, uber pool is like a normal uber, except you share the uber with other people and the price is SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper. Like 50-70% cheaper. When using Uber Pool, you either get picked up with someone in your uber or may stop to pick someone up and you share the uber. Taking an uber pool makes your arrival range a little longer and you may have to walk to and from your pickup and drop-off spot (I never had to walk more than two blocks), but it was well worth the savings in my opinion. The only times I didn’t use Uber pool was when I was running late and needed to be to my destination quickly, but otherwise Uber Pool is a great option.
- Stay in Fisherman’s Warf. I recommend this because out of all the places I visited, Fisherman’s Warf is the most walkable, so there is a lot to do and see within walking distance of your hotel. I stayed at the Holiday Inn Fisherman’s Warf. It was a pretty basic hotel, nothing super fancy, but still plenty nice and enjoyable.
- Book the most important adventures early in your trip. This is more of a tip if you are traveling alone or as a couple, but had I known my whale watching excursion had a possibility of being cancelled, I would have most definitely done it on Sunday or Monday to ensure wiggle room if needed. You won’t have this problem as much on the weekends, but if you are traveling during the week, ask the excursion company what their cancellation policy is and if there’s a chance your reservation will be cancelled, plan accordingly.
- A lot of my pictures aren’t selfie style, and that’s due to my traveling alone tip. When I would see one person taking a picture of another at a popular place when it was obvious they were together, I would offer to take their picture together (apparently this is weird and a midwestern thing? Let me know in the comments below) and then after they were done it was the perfect transition to have them return the favor. Boom, pictures for Megan.
- I mentioned this in my travel summary, but be sure to book your Alcatraz trip ASAP once the trip is booked, it fills up quickly, especially on weekend.
- Golden Gate Park was my least favorite attraction. The overall idea of this amazing park in the middle of an urban area was so cool, but once you get over that the park itself felt very similar to the bike trails and areas in Minnesota. If you have the time check it out, but if you need to cut something, I would pick this first.
- BART vs. Uber. I took BART from the airport and an Uber to the airport. BART gave me a nice view of the city during the trip and was slightly cheaper than an uber, but if you are going with someone else, the Uber is going to be your best bet. If traveling solo, it’s a 50/50 on which to choose. Try one of each like me!
That picture trick is definitely not just a Midwestern thing! I’m in Alabama, and my family growing up always did this for every vacation, sporting event, or concert. Now my boyfriend and I do the same, haha! Sounds like you had a great trip. San Francisco is definitely on my vacation bucket list!