Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How to Make the Most of San Francisco in 24 Hours

On a recent trip to California with my husband and friends, we chose to spend the first night of our five night trip in San Francisco, before we ventured on to our destination.  We were flying into SFO, so instead of getting in the car and traveling out to wine country straight from the airport, we decided to stretch our legs after the six hour flight and do so some sightseeing in San Francisco. 

Nothing about our first night in San Francisco was planned in advance except for our hotel and our dinner reservation for that evening.  My friend and I chose the hotel based on the fact that we wanted to be within walking distance of Fisherman's Wharf, which would enable us to explore the area on foot with ease, and then walk to dinner later that night, as well. 

At 12:00 PM, our 24 hour whirlwind tour of San Francisco began when we arrived at SFO airport. We made our way to the hotel, dropped our bags at the front desk, and set out for the pier to grab some lunch.  We found a bar and grill right on the water with a great view of Alcatraz Island.  

The view of Alcatraz from the restaurant .

At 3:30 PM, after our inaugural drink and sour dough bread, we were off to explore the pier, when we spotted the seals relaxing in the sun on a nearby dock. They were sunbathing  and singing their seal songs as people snapped pictures. 

Sunbathing seals on the docks of Fisherman's Wharf.

At 4:30 PM, since we had no time to take formal tour of Alcatraz, we purchased tickets for a one hour ferry ride  on the Blue and Gold Fleet that cruised under the Golden Gate Bridge, and circled Alcatraz Island. This cruise was not only scenic for all of the obvious reasons, but since we departed at 4:30 PM, we were able to view the Golden Gate Bridge during sunset.  This was such a bonus, because it made the views, and photos even more majestic.  

By 7:00 PM , we were walking to the Stinking Rose for dinner,  a restaurant famous for using a lot of garlic in its recipes. Many people who have visited San Francisco recommended the restaurant as a "must do" when in town, so we reserved our table in advance.  Overall the restaurant was great and we enjoyed our dinner. 

At 9:30 AM the next morning we had breakfast at a local restaurant, purchased some souvenirs, and then walked the pier for an hour where we checked out the old battleship the  SS Jeremiah O'Brien.

At 10:30 AM we packed up the car, checked out of the hotel and drove a few blocks toward the curviest street in the USA, Lombard Street.  We took a quick, yet careful,winding drive down the road while snapping more pictures.  

By 11:00 AM we were on the move toward Marin Headlands, which hailed breathtaking views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge from up above.  After walking around the old arsenal, and snapping about fifty more pictures, we were off to our next destination.  

The View from the Marin Headlands.

By 12:00 PM , we were no longer in San Francisco, so this technically didn't count toward the 24 hours of San Francisco fun, but we did make a quick stop in the quaint town of Sausalito for two hours where we had a quick bite to eat and we did some window shopping.

At 2:00 PM, we visited Muir Woods where there are scenic paths to walk through the giant redwood trees. It is also the location where scenes from Return of the Jedi were filmed.  

All that in 24 hours, and it didn't seem rushed because we let the plans develop at our whim. When traveling to different cities,  I have found that it's best to have a few things planned with a lot of buffer time in between, and then leave the rest to impromptu exploration.  I don't suggest going into a city with no ideas about what sights there are to see, but planning every minute will only lead to frustration if lines are delayed, or if it takes longer to walk/drive from destination to destination.  

So even though I had never been to San Francisco before, I packed in 24 hours of fun that made me feel like I had been in the city for much longer. With a few things planned, and a list of possibilities, my group was able to maximize our experience in San Francisco in just 24 hours.

Here's the list again of all of the places I packed into my 24 hours:
1. Lunch at  on Fisherman's Wharf
2. Visited the seals at the Pier
3. Ferry Ride Under the Golden Gate and around Alcatraz
4. Dinner at The Stinking Rose
5. Breakfast near Fisherman's Wharf
6. Shopped for Souvenirs
9. Drove over the Golden Gate Bride
10. Views from Marin Headlands.