36 Hours In San Francisco

I was flipping through Jackson’s work calendar and had to look twice when I saw he had two full days of work off. That’s when I whipped out my phone and started browsing weekend trips in California.

It didn’t take long for us to decide to road trip to San Francisco. Golden Gate Bridge. Painted Ladies. Pier 39. But I do not recommend trying to find a reasonably priced hotel two days from your trip to San Francisco. However, it is doable—as we found out.

After work on Friday, we packed up the car and headed north—jamming to The Greatest Showman soundtrack all the way through five times.

We arrived in the city around 11 pm and checked into the hotel. The manager gave us a key and said, “Your room is 110.” We climbed the narrow stairway and saw a sign that pointed to rooms 111-123, but no 110. I had a mini heart attack thinking we just got duped. Jackson began holding up the magnetic room key to the unnumbered doors nearby. When he held it up to the one with an “S” on it, it opened right up. Turns out we had the suite! (It sounds a lot better than it looked. It was basically a normal hotel room with multiple rooms.)

The next morning we laced up our comfy shoes, threw on our rain coats and set out to discover the most amazing breakfast place in San Francisco—Sweet Maple. Multiple friends raved about this spot and it was only about a mile from our hotel so we figured we better check it out. We ordered the Florentine Eggs Benedict served with a potato medley and the Big Hip (deep fried french toast) with a side of Millionaire’s Bacon®. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better breakfast in my life. The french toast tasted like a breakfast funnel cake—definitely not a healthy choice, but with all the walking we did that day I don’t even feel bad. We liked the eggs benedict so much we started dipping the potatoes into the creamy sauce until the plate looked like Jackson licked it clean himself. But the best part of all was the Millionaire’s Bacon®, hands down—think cut, candied strips of bacon that melt in your mouth. With our taste buds dancing, we couldn’t have asked for a better way to start our day.

After breakfast we walked another mile or so to Alamo Square. We pulled up YouTube and started playing, “Everywhere You Look,” and sang along to the Full House theme song, imagining we were picnicking with the Tanner family. The architecture is arguably the most beautiful part of San Francisco. I could have spent the whole day walking around the city looking at the uniquely crafted houses and their colorful details, but the Painted Ladies were by far the best. Their delicate details and pastel colors sucked me in.

Once we checked the Painted Ladies off our bucket list, we went to the next big ticket item—The Golden Gate Bridge. It took a hilly four-mile urban hike to get there, but once we made it, it was absolutely worth it. We snapped photo after photo of that bridge. It’s massive beauty seemed too good to be true. When we reached the bridge entrance, I was surprised how loud it was from the wind and cars rushing past. I didn’t realize how much I disliked heights until we ventured out a ways on the bridge and I found myself clutching to Jackson’s arm. The incredible view made it all worth while.

The next adventure item on our list was to head to the Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. Although our feet were starting to feel the miles at this point, we kept trucking and enjoyed looking at the beautiful houses on our route.

When we reached the northern waterfront we grabbed an Irish Coffee from Buena Vista Cafe—known for bringing this Irish drink to the United States in 1952. The place was packed. Apparently, everyone else heard how great this cafe was as well. Luckily they had an Irish Coffee to-go stand outside that we were able to hit up since that was the reason we were there anyway. It was the perfect treat after another four-mile walk. We sipped away while looking out into the bay and watching eight people push a tie-dye Volkswagen bus.

After our feet recovered a bit, we wandered around Ghirrardeli Square for some delicious chocolate samples. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that much chocolate in my life—it was incredible.

We ventured toward the Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 to explore the shops and restaurants. We spent about 20 minutes gazing at the sea lions at Pier 39. They were so entertaining! It was like watching a bunch of potato sacks wrestle, bark, and lounge on a raft.

Our stomachs started to rumble so we popped up to the second story for some beer and garlic fries. It was St. Patrick’s Day and they were serving green micro brews—we were sold.

After our appetizer we were ready for the main course—clam chowder sourdough bread bowls from Boudin Bakery. Every person we talked to said we had to get clam chowder on the wharf. They were right. We sat at a tucked away table with a perfect view of bakery, watching bakers pull fresh loaf after loaf out of the oven. As soon as we slurped that first spoonful of soup, we looked at each other with bulging eyes. THIS IS SO GOOD! There wasn’t a drop left in our bowls, nor much of the bowl itself, when we were done. We rolled out of that bakery patting our bellies with content.

We started to walk back to our hotel when we saw the red Hot Now glow across the street. Next thing we knew we were stumbling into Krispy Kreme. Watching how doughnuts are made was fascinating. Watching the quality checker at the end of the conveyor belt smash the not-so-perfect doughnuts was torture. Unfortunately, our stomachs were so full of bread as it was that we someone how managed to walk out of there without a single pastry.

The world’s crookedest street was just a couple blocks away. We incline walked our way to Lombard Street and watched vehicle after vehicle zigzag down the road. Whoever built that beast had some serious creativity, and we were impressed.

After seeing crooked street, we decided to keep the curves going by checking out the spiral escalator in Nordstrom. Our hotel manager told us it was one of three in the world. When we walked into Nordstrom we were a little disappointed that it wasn’t a continuous spiral escalator, but we road it all the way up and down nonetheless until we were ready to call it a night.

As fun as it would have been to explore more, my feet were telling a different story. Blisters and tendinitis were approaching and we had a long walk ahead of us to get back. Somehow we made it, and it was lights out after an 18 mile day.

The next morning we found a cute little cafe for breakfast. It was the first time either of us had had a lox bagel and it certainly won’t be the last. But the real reason we chose that place was because it was just around the block from Sightglass Coffee—another must-go-to place in San Francisco. There are multiple locations, but wherever you go you can’t go wrong. Jackson got a latte and I had the most amazing vanilla cold brew I’ve ever had in my life. Words can’t describe the rich quality of this beverage so I’m not even going to try. You’ll just have to see for yourself.

We left the coffee shop and headed toward Golden Gate Park—1,017 acres in the city. Because my feet took such a beating the day before, we drove through the park. The amount of people running and walking their dogs was truly inspiring. We drove all the way across the park until we reached the ocean.

There was one last item on our San Francisco bucket list that I was dying to check out—the tiled steps. I learned about this artistic craftsmanship when I was browsing San Francisco must-dos on Pinterest.  Sure enough, Google maps lead us to the beautiful stairway and we happily took out our phones with the other tourists and snapped away.

San Francisco was good to us, and we’ll definitively be back. But next time, we might consider utilizing their Uber services.