Jun 14, 2014

San Fran

Not enough in Diego to keep us out of trouble for 10 days, so we reverted to San Francisco for summer holiday.  We'll drive this trifecta loop in a Ford Focus rental:

1)  Francisco and Silicon Valley
2)  Cabin and hike @Yosemite 
3)  Lake Tahoe

I booked the bird, Curls did the heavy lifting on scouting activities.  Here's the bay list she scribed:

San Francisco

  • Fisherman's Wharf/Pier 39/Embarcadero                                        
  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Biking Tour
  • Trolley and/or Cable Car
  • Chinatown & North Beach (good restaurants, coffee, bakeries)
  • Alcatraz
  • Beaches
  • Max Napa Tours - wine country
  • Lombard St.
  • Union Square
  • Twin Peaks (sounds naughty) - Best views of the city
  • Golden Gate Park - Japanese Tea Garden
  • Ferry Building Marketplace - Blue Bottle Coffee
  • Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory (tour?)
  • The Painted Ladies
  • Palace of Fine Arts (Wed free?)
  • Seward Street Slides and Delores Park (Helen Diller Playground)

San Jose/Silicon Valley

  • Apple Company Store and HQ 
  • Buck's of Woodeside - Silicon Power Lunch
  • Tour of Google, Ride in self-driving car
  • Art District (Art Walk - Thursday nights)
  • Original Town Square
  • Stanford University
We'll also drink Sonoma and drive south to Fremont to meet Elon at Tesla.  While spanking a 400 hp Model S.

Up to 6 people read this blog, I know at least one of you lives in Fran/Silicon Valley.  Let me know what we missed in the above list, and is Blue Bottle Coffee the right place for morning java?  We'd like to sleep in your basement (creepy).



  1. We did San Fran a few years ago and loved every minute. Have a great time.

  2. Anonymous6/14/2014

    I used to live there so I'll give you a list later-- Do you ever listen to This American Life? If not this story might interest you-- and it might be fun to try out the toast at this place... Its Act 3 (although the whole episode is good). Quirky things like this were the hallmark of living there and I'll get a list together for you as well.

    1. I do not know if this is spam.

      Carry on.

    2. The story about toast on This American Life was actually really interesting… though the comment does read a bit like spam.

    3. Oh dang-- It is SO not SPAM--Sorry-- I just always post as Anonymous and I totally love TAL and the story in that episode made me want to visit the toast place out in SF. I am now adding my list below as well. Have a good trip and I'm sorry that I sounded so generic!!

  3. You would love the Computer History Museum just down the street from Google in Mountain View. I highly recommend taking a tour before walking around yourself.

    Stop at Fiesta Del Mar for Mexican food before or after your tour. They are known for their margaritas and excellent seafood specialties. Three types of salsa are served with freshly made chips. I grew up eating there and this place is a must every time I go back for a visit.

    If you're in the mood for Indian, Amber India on El Camino Real is fantastic.

    1. That all sounds great, thanks!

    2. P.S. You are saying I'm a geek. You are correct.

  4. Anonymous6/14/2014

    Coit Tower in SF. Always liked as a kid; Pigtails should too.

    1. Anonymous6/14/2014

      Avoid Coit in the high season. Very, very long line to wait to ride a rickety elevator to the top - and you pay for the pleasure. View is nice but you can drive up and see it, then run away!!

      Exploratorium is great, zoo is fun and across from Fine Arts. If you can carve an afternoon, do the drive over the hill to see the Pacific and Mavericks.

  5. The Jelly Belly factory is up in that neck of the woods. They do tours and give samples. Heard from friends it's a great one to do with kids. Have fun!

    1. Don't bother unless it's a weekday. The tour is incredibly boring on a weekend when production is stopped. I've done this tour multiple times and it was definitely more fun when I was a kid. Not the greatest as an adult but if Pigtails is a big jelly bean fan she'll enjoy it. You can buy packs of the funky shaped dud beans which is always fun.

  6. I really love 826 Valencia in the Mission District. It's a pirate supply store / seller of McSweeney's books and whatnot. It's also really close to the best burrito in the Bay.

    1. Steven6/16/2014

      Also highly recommend 826 Valencia and also Paxton Gate which is just down the street. This area of the Mission district is fun to wander for a couple of hours.

  7. Although I used to live in SF, it was before having a kid. I think there's more on your list than is actually possible to do (and still have fun) in a week. However, I'm beyond excited for you to go to Yosemite. It's more beautiful than you can imagine. Have fun!

  8. Steven6/16/2014

    If you want to play pure tourist I highly recommend a couple of places in San Jose –

    Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum & Planetarium. - http://www.egyptianmuseum.org - This small little museum is a little dated but at the same time they have some cool Egyptian artifacts. Also loved the garden/grounds the museum sits on. Well worth a couple of hours of your time if you’re in San Jose anyway.

    Winchester Mystery House - http://www.winchestermysteryhouse.com - Yes its extremely touristy. Yes it’s a tad expensive but overall it’s a cool story and house and we loved getting to see some of the quirks etc. If you like the weird/peculiar you may enjoy the tour.

  9. Anonymous6/17/2014

    You should check out the Saturday morning Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building. Delicious food, lots of options, and reasonably priced. A great way to start the day!

  10. Martha6/17/2014

    My daughter and I did a San Fran City Tour when we visited back when she was 13 or so. Japanese Tea Garden and the Palace of Fine Arts were my favorite spots. Beautiful!! Can't wait to hear all about your trip!

  11. I live in the Bay Area and this is a pretty great list. I will add:
    - Phillz has eclipsed Blue Bottle as the place to get coffee, there's one in Palo Alto pretty close to Stanford so you can probably kill two birds with one stone while there
    - I recommend a visit to Top of the Mark! It's the top of the Mark Hopkins Hotel in Nob Hill and as you can imagine, the drinks and snacks are a bit pricey but it's an amazing view and you can go up there without buying anything. Depending on when you go, it shouldn't be too crowded so check hours!
    - You should make sure to try Napa but Sonoma is where it's at for the more relaxed wine tasting experience.
    - Sonoma's town square is worth a stop for a meal or ice cream, Girl & The Fig will NOT disappoint you or your daughter for food (breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner!)
    - If you are headed to Sonoma for a day trip, stop at Angelo's Wine Country Deli for the free beef jerky samples and a sandwich (sliced sausage!) to take with you to picnic at one of the wineries. They're pretty huge and you can get them with or without sides so choose wisely. :)
    - Make sure to get some Mexican food in the Mission district! El Farolito supposedly has the best burritos but you pretty much can't go wrong with Mexican food in the Mission.
    - See the Bay Bridge at night time- it has a cool light installation on it.
    - Skip most of the beaches, they're FREEZING. Unless you love beautiful northern California beaches for non-swimming stuff, in which case I love Half Moon Bay (try the brewery!) and Moss Beach (try the patio at the Distillery for sunset!). There's a wicked cool hostel on the coast (with private/family rooms) in Montara that may suit your needs for low cost and it's pretty close to SF where you could still drive north! My family stayed there for my wedding and enjoyed it.
    - Definitely add the Exploratorium to your list for Pigtails
    - We have a lot of crazy good food and crazy food places in SF, the list could go on forever. My aunt has been going to an Eritrean place called Assab for years run by a family that I always recommend because when's the last time most people have had Eritrean!? It's delicious and you eat with your hands. Also, been meaning to try the place written about in this article which only serves espresso, coconuts, and toast.
    - Make sure you get a meat cone (cone of meat) at Boccalone in the Ferry Building and try ice cream from Humphrey Slocombe there as well if you don't visit their original location! I know someone mentioned visiting during the farmer's market but it can be crazy busy during that time and I think the shops/restaurants are great without the farmer's market vendors outside, too.

    Hopefully that helps!

    1. Oh and PS since you'll be in the South Bay (San Jose area) you may also want to check out Japantown in San Jose and Santa Clara University (my alma mater) for the mission church and rose gardens, also it's the oldest school in California!

  12. The list is good, but you are missing Haight-Ashbury. I am a conservative mama, but come on...a good history lesson, lesson on drugs, immorality, faithless living and then find all those songs of the 60s and 70s that glorified Make Love Not War and do an exegesis on them while applying to modern culture. I'm only partially kidding BTW.

  13. Another Bay Area reader here :).
    - I enjoy the drive from Silicon Valley up to SF on Skyline/Highway 1. Great views of the ocean and the Valley on a clear day, with a stop off at Sam's Chowder House in Half Moon Bay for lunch overlooking the Ocean.
    - Just North of the Golden Gate is the Nike Missile Launch Site - you can hike around to get there or park nearby and walk up for a tour (check to see, they aren't open every day of the week). Also great views of the city/GG Bridge.
    - I like starting at V. Sattui Winery in Napa if you are there on a weekend - they have an outdoor lunch BBQ and a lot of cheeses and wine (of course), then drive back towards SF stopping at other wineries along the way.
    - Plenty of great food options (and a bit of sticker shock coming for me when I came from the Midwest). I like Castro street in Mountain View if you are checking out Silicon Valley. Fiesta del Mar too is located on Castro st (same family as Fiesta del Mar, which another reader mentioned). Dish 'n Dash is another great stop for lunch or Dish Dash for a restaurant in the South Bay.
    - I've also heard people really enjoy Phillz Coffee, and Blue bottle for the experience (don't drink it myself).
    - Buy tickets in advance for Alcatraz if you haven't already, they tend to sell out weeks in advance.
    - Recently found out there are a lot of great (free) walking tours of various San Francisco neighborhoods that both locals and tourists enjoy: http://www.sfcityguides.org/ and other events if your timing overlaps: http://www.sundaystreetssf.com/event-information/.
    - Looks like you have a lot of great options above, and I look forward to checking out a few places your readers mentioned as well!

  14. Anonymous6/18/2014

    I am not sure if this is mentioned already..Monterey Bay(Aquarium) ,17 Mile Drive,Carmel beach, Santa Cruz boardwalk,and must must visit place..Big basin Redwood trees and Mystery Spot .


  15. Pigtails hit all of the major things to do.
    Here is my personal list.. .which is largely focused on the north end of town where I lived and I’ve been gone awhile now but I still think these things are good

    Walk up the filbert steps on telegraph hill to coit tower--- beautiful views and telegraph hill is completely enchanting with its flora & fauna.

    Breakfast at Mamas is AMAZING
    Located on Stockton& Filbert in North beach.
    I think its cash only and I would recommend getting there early to enjoy the Tai chi in the Park across the street.

    Drive down or have a cab take you down one of the steepest legal hills in SF—it’s a trip
    Filbert between Hyde and Leavenworth

    City Lights bookstore in North Beach on Columbus- it’s the birthplace of the beat generation.

    Take a Ferry to Sams café in Tiburon

    Mountain play-which is only in May/June… not sure of your trip but its so much fun

    One of my favorite restaurants is Betelnut in Cow hollow.

    Smallest bar—FANTASTIC place for a pint (not so great for pigtails though)

    The ferry building was built after I left but I hear it’s a feast for the senses.

    The BEST pot pies that you’ll ever eat in this quaint hidden neighborhood (Bernal Heights)

    826 Valencia in the Mission is completely cool—LOVE McSweenys

    As for the touristy things—they are pretty much worth it-
    Alcatraz is a must
    Golden Gate park is also beautiful and the vintage shops on Haight are also a lot of fun
    Pier 39 is a complete tourist trap- panpipes and all
    Careful how much time you invest though.
    You might wait for hours for the cable car that goes from Market Square up Hyde st. but hardly at all for the cross town one on California street.
    You can walk up Hyde street and get the view on foot and you’ll have the whole experience in ½ the time.
    Same with Lombard street--- driving down it isn’t really worth the wait (I also hear they are closing it to cars some days)

    Like most cities- the flavor is found in the neighborhoods and on foot.

    1. Curls made the list. I'll mark these down and dig in, thanks!

  16. I lived in the Bay area for a minute or two (I was essentially a long-term tourist) and I loved Santa Cruz for the fun shops. Big Basin is quite close for hiking and seeing giant Redwood trees which don't exist in the midwest. Biking across the Golden Gate Bridge was wonderful and with a fun ferry ride back (might be too long a ride for for Pigtails? It has been a while since I did this). Have a wonderful trip!!

  17. San Francisco: the charm on America's chain. Enjoy!

  18. Just catching up beard .. . next time you can do San Diego because indeed there is plenty to do in ten days, heck, you could spend ten days happily in yosemite alone. and have my basement (due to earthquakes there are no basements in california)

    YosemiteValley is worth a trip in, but if you have a car you can camp up on Tuolomme Meadows a bit easier or rent a yurt at camp curry which is designed for pigtails fun and right under half dome . . . don't sell that part of the trip short for tourist stuff in SF. . .but you may want to skip Lake Tahoe this time and wait until it is ski season / spend more time in Yosemite.

  19. Anonymous7/03/2014

    Muir Woods!


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