Three days are perfect for a whirlwind romance with the city of San Francisco. Here’s where to eat and play, plus a site trip to Muir Woods National Monument.
Start your day with breakfast at the Ferry Building. Grab a latte at Blue Bottle Café or graze from one of the many on-site vendors before taking a two-mile stroll along the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf. Then circle back to Pier 33 and hop on a (booked in advance) ferry to Alcatraz to tour the former island prison. Back on land, walk west on Bay Street for about six blocks, then board the Powell-Mason cable car at the intersection of Bay and Taylor Streets. Hop off for some window shopping and lunch at Union Square.
In the afternoon, head to the Sunset District to explore verdant Golden Gate Park. The fabulous de Young Museum is directly across from the California Academy of Sciences. Art lovers and science geeks can part ways here or squeeze in a trip to enjoy both! Near Golden Gate Park, visit the Haight, the hippie enclave made famous in the 1960s. Enjoy the finely crafted cocktails and nibbles at Alembic or head back downtown to splurge on dinner at Farallon. End the day with martinis at the swank Top of the Mark.
North Beach is home to Mama’s on Washington Square, whose specialty “m’omelettes” have made this joint a local favorite for decades. After brunch, stop in at City Lights, the legendary Beat Generation bookstore, then enjoy an old-school cappuccino at Caffé Trieste. Climb to the top of Coit Tower to catch a great view of the city skyline—look west to find crooked Lombard Street.
Spend the afternoon in the hip Mission District. Order an authentic Mission burrito at La Taqueria or sweets from Tartine Bakery. History buffs should visit 18th-century Mission Dolores. End your stay in the Mission with thin-crust pizzas and classic cocktails at Beretta.
Get an early start for breakfast at popular Dottie’s True Blue Café. Afterward, spend a few hours discovering the world of science at the Exploratorium, or, if the weather cooperates, explore The Presidio and take a hike along Crissy Field. Stop for coffee and a snack at Warming Hut Bookstore & Café, then it’s off to the ultimate San Francisco photo op, the Golden Gate Bridge.
Muir Woods National Monument Side Trip
Extend the love affair with a side trip to wander the redwoods in Marin. Muir Woods National Monument is home to acres of staggeringly beautiful redwood forest just north of San Francisco. The Muir Woods Visitors Center is a great place to begin your exploration. Hike the Main Trail, a paved boardwalk through the beautiful redwoods. Pick up a self-guided trail leaflet at the visitors center and follow the interpretive numbers along the way to learn about the flora and fauna of this unique ecosystem.
Fill up on a hearty lunch of British comfort food at The Pelican Inn. Dark wood and a long trestle table give a proper Old English feel to the dimly lit dining room. It’s just a short walk from the restaurant to lovely Muir Beach, perfect for wildlife-watching and beachcombing. End the day with oysters and drinks at the Farley Bar at Cavallo Point Lodge. Snag a blanket and a seat on the porch to watch the fog roll in over the Golden Gate Bridge.
Excerpted from the Seventh Edition of Moon Northern California.