This may not be the best way to lead out this post, but we’ll just go ahead and say it…
48 hours is just not enough time to truly experience San Francisco. Fact.
San Fran is a dynamic city, a layer cake if you will of culture, history, and architecture. And while 48 hours might not be enough to “experience” the city it is plenty of time to get your feet wet, and hit some highlights.
Take a walk with us…
Whew! What a day, by the time it was all said and done our feet were sore, our bellies were full, and we felt like we had nailed our own personalized walking tour of the City By The Bay!
Here’s the complete list in order with a handy dandy map of all the stops we made during our walkabout of San Francisco.
Located At: 203, Pier 39
Pier 39 is a must stop for any visitor to San Francisco. This was our natural stopping point based on where we parked. If you arrive early enough in the morning (like we did), you’ll find this world-famous pier, home to over 90 shops and restaurants, a carousel, and beautiful waterfront views relatively deserted, which is a very good thing, because you’ll also find yourself getting to enjoy a private show put on by the famous Sealion residents of K-dock.
These gregarious little critters are hilarious to watch lounge, argue and swim around their favorite haul-out spot. These silly sea lions first started “hauling out” here shortly after the 1989 earthquake and much to the initial dismay of marina residents have been here ever since. They are now a much-loved addition to the Pier 39 community, and a definite must-see when visiting San Francisco.
Located At: 160 Jefferson St
If you’re getting up early to enjoy a private sea lion show, you’re going to need some early morning sustenance. Just a short half-mile walk from K-dock is Boudin Bakery and what just might be the best Sourdough bread in all of San Francisco. Which is saying something for a city known for this yeasty doughy concoction.
Boudin boasts the claim to fame as San Francisco’s oldest operating business. The bakers here have been using the same sourdough starter from the days of the California Gold Rush. It’s magnificent. Today, the business has grown to include a full-scale restaurant and coffee shop.
Traveler’s Tip: As you wander to the bakery line lookup, you’ll catch a glimpse of fresh-baked loaves making their way out of the kitchens, via a sky tram that runs along with the ceiling, across the building and onto the shelves of the bakery. It’s genius!
We ordered a coffee and a loaf of chocolate sourdough here and it did not disappoint. In fact, we loved it so much we went back before leaving town and stocked our pantry with more of this carby goodness.
Located At: 286 Jefferson St
Fisherman’s Wharf as its name suggests is the historical home to fishermen in the city of San Francisco. An early Italian immigrant to the city Achille Paladini found success in selling his catch wholesale from the wharf front, which gave birth to Paladini Fish Company, and put Fisherman’s Wharf on the map, as the go-to spot in the city to purchase fresh catch from the sea. Today, you can wander in and out of the stalls, stare in amazement at the variety of seafood on offer, and even pick yourself up to something tasty to munch on- assuming you’re not still stuffed from all that chocolate sourdough!
THE HISTORIC SHIPS AT HYDE PIER
Located At: 2905 Hyde Street
San Francisco is a city built of the backs of mariners. Seafaring is not just a hobby here it’s a way of life. The best way to acquaint yourself with the rich history of life on the sea is to stop by the Maritime Historic Park’s Visitor’s Center admission here is free, and there is loads of interesting exhibits and displays about the history of maritime culture in the city. Feeling intrigued? Head across the street and check out the historic ships at Hyde Park…
You could easily spend an entire day wandering around these amazing pieces of history, and if you’re a history nerd probably even longer than that. The variety of ships of display and the history and purpose of each one is truly astounding. Even more impressive is that some of these ships still sail today. There is a small $15admission fee to check these bad boys out but if you are a National Parks Pass holder you get in for free!
There’s lots of info to share on this one and for the sake of not being redundant if you want more detailed information on visiting this amazing park we’ve gone ahead and linked the NPS’s website here, for you!
Located At: 900 North Point St
Did someone say chocolate? Yes, we’re talking about THAT Ghirardelli.
What is today considered a premier shopping and dining area in the city was once the large-scale chocolate factory established by Domenico “Domingo” Ghirardelli. But don’t worry, they still make and sell the famous chocolate here!
It may be hard to believe that what is nowadays one of the most widely known gourmet chocolate companies in the world started out as a very humble general store specializing in spices, coffee and of course chocolates. Arriving just 13 days before the mass of gold rushers with 600 lbs of raw chocolate, Domingo” Ghirardelli built his empire on the back of hard work and ingenuity. Today his entrepreneurial spirit is still celebrated and the site of his famous chocolate factory is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Even if you’re not in the mood for one of Ghirardelli’s delightfully sinful ice cream sundaes, popping into their sweet shop is a must-do, plus they hand out free samples of chocolates, what’s not to love about that?!
Located: Grant Avenue & Stockton Street
San Francisco is home to the largest “China Town” in North America, and the largest population of Chinese outside of Asia. It also happens to be a very, very cool place to visit and grab some seriously authentic and delicious food.
When wandering through China Town your culinary options are limitless. You can’t go wrong here. During our visit, we were on the hunt for Dim Sum, and we had heard there was no better place to go than Dim Sum Corner. We ordered up a huge variety of delicious treats to much on, and it did not disappoint. If you’re looking for something more substantial worry not, they also serve up an array of traditional noodle dishes as well.
Once you’ve satisfied your food cravings take some time to walk the streets, from walls adorned with art to small family owned shops, and streets lined with paper lanterns, there is no shortage of cool stuff to stumble upon. We had the good fortune to wander across a park with a heritage music festival taking place, where traditional songs accompanied by instrumentalists were being performed. Moral of the story, if you hear music, seek the source!
THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
Located At: No Physical Address For This Stop! But Here Are The GPS Coordinates; 37.8199° N, 122.4783° W
Can you go to San Francisco and not visit the Golden Gate Bridge? I’m certain there’s some law against that, or at least there should be.
After making the trek from China Town back to our parking spot on the waterfront we buzzed back through Pier 39 in all of its late-afternoon busyness and encountered a whole different pier then the one we had spent time on that morning, it’s was crowded loud, and downright overwhelming. People were staked 6 deep to get a peek at the Sealions. Heed our earlier advice, go early. As the sun started to make its slow descent into the sky, we decided to make our way across what might just be the most famous landmark in the city; The Golden Gate Bridge.
At the time of it’s opening in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge was the longest and tallest suspension bridge in the world. There are tons of amazing ways to experience and view the bridge- had we had more time we would have opted for a bike ride across the bridge- alas we’ll have to save that for our next visit. Instead, we settled on viewing the sunset across the city from Marin Headlands Vista Point, which gave us the chance to both drive the bridge and stop for the view at the end. Other great spots we have heard to view the bridge include Marshall’s beach, Fort Point, and Battery Spencer.
Located At: No Physical Address For This Stop! But Here Are The GPS Coordinates; 37.8065° N, 122.4049° W
We might have saved the best for last with this one! No visit to San Francisco would be complete without a visit to Alcatraz. There is so much to see and do on this tiny island that once was home to the most famous prison in America, that you’re going to need a whole day to explore it. We certainly did! You can find out more about that adventure and details on visiting, “The Rock”, in next week’s post!