Bry's 30th birthday was in August, and if you know me, you know I LOVE surprising him… especially for his birthday. I knew I really wanted to make this year extra special. When we first got married we decided that traveling with just the two of us was something that was always worth saving our extra pennies for. A few months back, I snagged some killer deals on flights to San Fran and a hotel without Bry knowing. Since he's never been there and it's one of my favorite cities in the U.S., I decided I would gladly be his tour guide. ;) So I did my research, looked up the food spots I wanted to try, and we had the best and most romantic 3 1/2 days to ourselves without kids. I'm a big believer in continually doing the things that fuel your marriage... date nights, overnighters, vacations, etc. and this was yet another memorable experience for both of us.
If you haven't been to San Fran yet, it's a must-visit city in the U.S. This is our itinerary, and I'll give my tips and things I would've changed along the way to make your trip absolutely flawless. Out of everything… Bry and I would both agree the FOOD and seeing the city by BIKE were our favorite things. San Fran boasts some of the greatest food in the world, and since both of us are foodies, this was such a highlight. We ate and biked our way through the city, and I hope you enjoy!
Fly into SFO and catch an Uber or Lyft ride to your hotel. We stayed at Warwick Hotel and LOVED this place- you can't beat the location (right next to Union Square, our favorite Mexican dinner spot Colibri, and San Francisco Rental Bikes around the corner), and it gets bonus points for being so dang cute. Whatever hotel you decide on, get there to unpack, settle in, and then get ready to be a tourist for the day.
Here are some things we did the first day that I’d recommend, if you’ve never been to SF before. They’re touristy, but for good reason.
Take the trolley down to Fisherman’s Wharf. Either you can pay for the old cable car down there ($7/one way/person, and be ready to wait in line), or take an older trolley from Market Street for $2.50/person. Be ready to have cash to pay. **Word on the street though, is that if you download the “Muni” App, you can ride the cable cars and all other public transportation for only $12 a day and kids under 5 are FREE! Totally worth it! That way you can take the cable cars or trolley or bus and access it all day long.) Fisherman’s Wharf spans several blocks, and Pier 39 is probably the most visited. Make your first stop for food at Boudin Bakery in Fisherman’s Wharf. Clam chowder in a bread bowl or the grilled brie with fig and apple. YUM. I personally don’t love the tourist shops around that area, but it’s fun to walk the boardwalk, and you may have to stop at Lola Toy Shop when you see it. It has some cute trinkets and things to take home. Make sure to watch the seals at Pier 39 too- they make me laugh so hard.
Bike Golden Gate Bridge. This is a must! We always love to see cities by bike, and this is a fun and scenic ride. We walked through Fisherman’s Wharf, picked up a donut at Krispy Kreme on the way to the bike shop, and picked up our bikes at San Fransisco Bike Rentals. *Tip: go online beforehand to make your bike reservations. You’ll save around 20% this way! We did a full day of bikes and figured we could cover more ground, avoid the trolley and bus fees, and that the price was worth it to us. If you wanted to opt out of the full day reservation and pay hourly, that’s an option too! I do have to say, we loved the bikes so much, we ended up reserving them for two more days… way too much fun! You can bike Golden Gate Bridge to Saulsalito and then take the ferry back. If you do this, make sure to take pictures at Vista Point in Saulsalito. We decided to ride the bikes there and back since we were looking to ride a little further. It was so foggy on one side of the bridge, and complete sunshine on the other. Make sure to get a pic with the bridge in the background and plan on anywhere from 2-4 hours to complete this whole route depending on what stops you take along the way and how fast you bike. TOTALLY WORTH IT!
Next up, Ghirardelli Square. For a bite of chocolate, obviously, but also just to see this fun little square. If you go inside the chocolate shop, make sure to ask for a sample square of their chocolate- you can taste test the ones you want to. My favorite: the dark chocolate sea salt caramel. I also love their regular milk chocolate fudge and chocolate dipped Oreos. There’s this shop in the square called Gigi + Rose (children). This children’s store was the CUTEST ever. I wanted everything in it, but decided to screenshot all the picture books and other things to see if I could find them online for a cheaper price haha.
We were so hungry, and didn’t want to go looking too far for dinner, and so we ended up taking our bikes back, walking the wharf, watching street performers, and eating at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. back at Pier 39 before taking the trolley home. The best part of dinner was for sure the ocean view!
DAY ONE RECAP:
Check in at hotel and unpack
Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 / seals
Bike Golden Gate Bridge to Saulsalito
Dinner on the wharf
I personally love getting in exercise as I travel, and so we got up early-ish and walked up the street to 24-hour Fitness. Did you know they have “Bring-a-friend-for-free Friday?” If you’re ever traveling, and there’s one in your area, you can go workout on Friday for FREE. I also like looking up to see if there’s anything else fun around: Orange Theory Fitness, Soul Cycle, or any other gyms, etc.
After our workout, we walked back to our hotel and hit up Farm Table on Post Street for our post workout breakfast. This is the cutest little place. The kitchen is TINY but you’ll see people there and out on the sidewalk every day. The workers are super personable and I love that this food is all FRESH and using the best ingredients. Follow them on Instagram at @farmtable to see what their special is. I got the House Cereal and Bry settled for the Savory Tart. And their fresh-squeezed juice!? Yum.
After coming back to shower/get ready, we were off to Chinatown. We walked, but you could totally take the cable car too! So many hills, but we made it. We figured that if we were going to eat our way through San Fran, we may as well walk and bike our way through San Fran too haha. In Chinatown, make sure to try the boba smoothies. The boba pearls weren’t our favorite, and next time I’d opt out of getting those, but they have some fun flavors. Also, visit Golden Gate Bakery to get warm Chinese custard egg tarts while you’re there too. It’s fun (and amusing), to walk past these little shops. We didn’t stay too long in Chinatown, because we wanted to get to our next food destination. ;)
Little Italy: If you walk through Chinatown, you’ll eventually get to Little Italy. And once you’re here, there are two places to try. They are both a MUST. First, Tony’s Pizza. And second, Mama’s. Okay let me explain. Tony’s pizza is DIVINE- some of the most authentic Italian pizza in San Fran… think thin crust, fresh ingredients, straight out of the oven… You can either sit down in the restaurant, or go next door to the Slice Shop where they serve single slices to-go. We opted for that since we knew we’d be waiting in line for Mama’s. We called it our “appetizer” for brunch haha. You could even take a couple slices to go and eat at Washington Square across the street and take a gander at Saints Peter and Paul church just down the street.
Mama’s is some of the best brunch we have EVER had. I can’t even believe how good it was and already dying to go back to try more things off their menu. If you go in the morning, you can wait in line for up to 3 hours. The trick is to go right before they close at 3. We made it there by 2 and waited for ~30 minutes before getting our food. I even saw some people almost walk in without a wait around 2:30. Either be there bright and early or late in the afternoon to avoid the lines. I ordered the Eggs Benedict special (you can’t go wrong with the Eggs Benedict!) and Bry ordered the Swedish Cinnamon French Toast. I’ve heard incredible things about everything there.
From Mama’s we did a whole bunch of walking. You could opt to take the buses or bike, but we thought we’d walk and see the city along the way. We stopped at Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world, and then headed all the way back to Coit Tower. You have to pay to go up the elevators and see the view, but it was such an incredible view. I feel like it’s worth it doing it at least once. Looking back, I probably would’ve just caught the bus to Coit Tower and then done Lombard Street a different day, but you live and you learn! We sure got in our steps the second day. ;)
We ended up shopping in Union Square that night. There are SO many fun shops to visit… from Anthro, to Nordstrom, to a HUGE Nordstrom Rack, to Crate and Barrel, to Madewell, to Uniqlo (which has the my favorite PJs ever and fave undershirts known to man)… they have it all! Make sure to take a peek into Britex fabrics… one of the largest fabric stores. So incredible.
We shopped for a bit and were so hungry that we were looking for anything on our way back to our hotel that looked decent. We came across this place a few doors down from our hotel, and it ended up being the BEST surprise… we ate there two nights in a row! The place is called Colibri. Best. Mexican. Food. Ever. Okay here’s what you need to order when you go. It was about 9 pm when we finally sat down to eat, and by the time Bry finished his last bite he said, “Meg, I’ve just had a spiritual experience.” We were laughing so hard because we realized we hardly had said a word to each other the entire time. We were just scarfing everything down… Literally heaven. You need to order the Tacos de Pescado (fish tacos). I know it’s listed as an appetizer, but trust me… just order it for your entree and get the fresh guac for your appetizer instead. And then came the best part. Drumrolllll……….. the dessert: Churros Rellenos: churros filled with caramel cream served with dulce de leche ice cream on the side. Do I need to say more? I’m not even kidding you, I have craved these every week since. We took the churros “to go” for two nights in a row and ate them in our PJs in bed, and I pretty much died and went to heaven. SO FREAKING GOOD. Please go and order that exact same thing if you visit. You’ll love it.
DAY TWO RECAP:
Workout and Farm Table for breakfast
Chinatown, boba smoothies, and Golden Gate Bakery
Little Italy for Tony’s Pizza and Mama’s
Shopping in Union Square
Colibri for fish tacos, fresh guac, and churros
As you can tell by now, we didn’t waste any time. Day three was another jam-packed, but adventurous day.
One of my very FAVORITE things we did in this entire city, was visit the Farmer’s Market at the wharf on Saturday. It’s held outside and inside the Ferry Building. YOU HAVE TO GO. We ate some of the best food, tasted the most delicious produce, and spent a solid couple hours walking around all the booths. It was the most incredible experience. We rented bikes again in the morning, rode down there, parked them while we walked through everything, and then hopped on them again afterward. When you go to the Farmer’s Market, don’t look any further for your breakfast. Stop at The Farmer’s Wife for their breakfast sandwich (Bry’s favorite thing in the universe), or at Roli Roti to get the Porchetta sandwich. You’ll see a line at Roli Roti, but it moves fast. Those two things are a MUST. The other place to visit if you’re there around lunchtime is Primavera. The best Mexican stand with shrimp and snapper tostadas to die for.
Other things we loved at the Farmer’s Market: Dirty Girl Produce has the best tomatoes. I could’ve eaten a basket by myself! Make sure to find the “Pasture” stand and taste all their different flavors of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The pomegranate balsamic vinegar with bread? OMG. If you see “Frog Hollow Farm,” snag a bag of their dried fruit: either the apricots or the cherries to take on the go. And then a secret hidden gem: inside the Ferry building, there’s a woman at a table selling her homemade hot cocoa with cream. Your belly might already feel like it’s going to explode haha, but get a cup to share! SO good. And she’s the sweetest thing.
After the Farmer’s Market, we hopped back on our bikes and rode the wharf again and watched more street performers. I love San Fran’s big bike lanes. Bry and I had never been to an MLB game before, and so we bought tickets online. We rode our bikes to the AT&T park to watch the SF Giants play the NY Mets. And you bet we went all out… matching hats, salted pretzels, and cheering our guts out. So much fun.
I wouldn’t suggest seeing these next things in this order, and especially on bike (unless you want a long full day of riding and a LOT OF HILLS like we did). If you have another full day, I’d suggest doing these next things and covering more area the next day. But, if you’re cramming it in like us, these are some fun things to add to your list. After the game, we rode all the way to Golden Gate Park, and mostly because we wanted to find the Twirl and Dip Ice Cream truck: Dark Chocolate Dipped Vanilla Bean and Sea Salt ice cream cone!? UMMMM YES. #worthit. The truck is right in the middle of the park, and it was such a beautiful spot in San Fran. Even though we biked up so many hills to get there, it was also fun seeing a new part of the city I had never seen.
On our way back to our hotel, we stopped at Painted Ladies, the famous houses against an amazing backdrop of the city. And then a little bit of shopping with … yes… you guessed it… Colibri for dinner again and their churros to-go. Guys, sometimes I’m a little embarrassed about how much we ate every day while we were there… but then I think, why the heck would I be!? The food was our favorite part of the entire trip and we lived it up. No regrets. YOLO.
DAY THREE RECAP
Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Building
SF Giants game
Bike to Golden Gate Park
Twirl and Dip Ice Cream Truck
Colibri for dinner + last minute shopping
We didn’t need to be at the airport until 4:30 pm and so we were able to sleep in (until 9:30! That neverrrr happens haha), grab bikes again and ride to church, stop for the best brunch of our lives at MyMy Cafe in Nob Hill (order the Baja California Eggs Benedict and French Toast or Souffle Pancakes and your life will be changed forever), and pack up to take an Uber ride back to the airport. San Fran, you treated us well.
My friend Emi has the best food suggestions after living there, and this list helped me to plan a ton. Thank you, Emi! Also, these bags are our favorite travel bags ever, and I have a special 20% discount with the code “momstrong20” until November 27th. USE IT! Also, scroll down to the bottom to shop my style. I hope you loved this travel guide and let me know if you have questions!
Other things we didn’t make it to that were on our list:
Twin Peaks: an amazing view of San Fran if you have time to go!
Sourdough class at La Victoria Bakery in The Mission (taught by Sour Flour) - I’ve heard great things!
Other food places I’ve heard are good: The Creme Brulee Cart + chile pies and ice cream
Palace of Fine Arts
Dolores Park and Tartine Bakery to get an eclair or banana cream tart
Seward Street Slide
Lyon Street Steps to get in a workout outside
If you have any more suggestions of places to see or places to eat, I’ll add them to this list!
SHOP MY STYLE
Click the images above to shop my travel clothes/items. The sandals are only $24!!! Also, I linked my favorite undershirt EVER and also my favorite PJs. (Christmas is coming up, and these are super affordable PJs!) Also remember to use “momstrong20” for 20% off your Nomatic travel bags/accessories.