After spending a week in Portland (see my travel guide here) I headed down the coast to San Francisco.
Since we have friends that live in the area we were able to stay at their place instead of our usual Air BnB. They technically lived in Redwood City so a few of these locations are in Redwood City.
We arrived in San Fran right in time for the 4th of July celebrations.
First off was a trip around Redwood City which included coffee at Red Giant (a stop we frequented almost every morning)
We walked through the city where everyone was lined up for the parade. We stopped by the local fire station for their pancake breakfast before watching the parade from the rooftop of their apartment building.
Next we headed towards Downtown San Francisco to pick up some All Birds for our journey before checking out
They have tons of shops and food stations inside the piers - we stopped off at a chocolate shop, mushroom store, and ice cream parlor. There is a park across the street and a view of the bridge out back. Perfect for a stroll and people watching.
If you've ever seen the show Full House you'll recognize this historical landmark of Victorian Houses all in a row. The park was crawling with tourists due to the holiday all waiting for the perfect view of the fireworks later that evening.
There are tons of firework displays in San Francisco. It's like almost every city has it's own show. We were able to watch three from the rooftop in Redwood City.
The next day we made the trek to Muir Woods to see some Redwood Trees (aka the moon planet of Endor from Star Wars)
You have to have a reservation to park at the lot, which you have to make online, and then there is a fee to enter the park. The best advice I can give you is GET THERE EARLY. We had the earliest reservation at 8am and had the park entirely to ourselves until 9 when all the buses showed up. Luckily we were able to explore in peace before all the people came through.
Another plus is at the end of the hill that leads to Muir Woods is this adorable surfer themed coffee shop. The coffee was delicious as well as the pastries (downside is there is no bathroom so make sure you go before you leave the park)
When you travel back from Muir Woods there are several view points to get a good photo of the Golden Gate Bridge, however our favorite is kind of hidden. Take the first exit off the bridge (on the opposite side of Muir Woods), head up the hill past the official viewpoint, and pull into the gravel lot of the abandoned military fort. Climb up into the fort (there are actually several stairways and access points) but the best is at the very top. It leads to a grassy hill and an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
This is probably one of the more famous San Fran areas. Famous for housing Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and being the home of the hippie movement of the 60's this street is full of novelty shops and designer stores. I would have loved to visit before it became commercial, but besides getting to say that you've walked the streets there isn't much here. I was actually super surprised that the one record store on the block had more DVDS/VHS's than actual music.
There are quite a few thrift stores but they have higher price tags but they do have a great selection. You can totally spend hours sifting through all the clothes.
Chinatown was definitely the most interesting place we visited in San Francisco. From the insane rolling hills - to the people - to the dialect - and the insane amount of restaurants.
We settled on the oldest Dim Sum restaurant in America - which is located down a little alley way next to a park. This place is pretty clean but do some research before you order because there are no descriptions of the food. It was definitely authentic and a little oily. (and they forgot about our food for 45 minutes)
But it's probably your safest bet if you want to try something in the district.
Don't be fooled by the shady nature of this area when you drive through. One of my favorite neighborhoods was the Mission District. This hispanic section of San Fran had my favorite Vintage Thrift Shop - Mission Thrift
Seriously everything was less than $20 and the selection was amazing (especially with how trendy vintage is now)
They have amazing and colorful murals that reflect hispanic culture.
Also this area was home to my favorite restaurant of the whole trip, La Taqueria. This place had a line out the door so you know it's good and it is cash only so come prepared. The burritos are giant and the salsa verde has that kick a lot of others lack. I would eat here everyday if I could.
Want to check out NoCal (or Northern California) look no further than the scenic drive to Half Moon Bay and Pacifica. We didn't have a lot of time to check out this area (we mostly ate at Half Moon Bay Brewing and stopped off the side of the road at Pacifica - but this was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen.
If I could have spent a day just strolling the beaches at Pacifica I would have. There's just something about beaches that also have mountains that is just so alluring.
A few of the other places we went were in Redwood City and ate at several local chains which I would look up if you're in need of something delicious and fast to eat in the area.
Fast, delicious greek food that's super fresh. Also I'm never against Gyros that have french fries in them.
Anytime I visit the West Coast I have to stop at In-N-Out. Typically I'm not one for fast food but their simple menu, fresh ingredients, and fast service make this a west coast classic.
Fresh, organic ice cream with a vegan option. For how granola San Fran is supposed to be this was the only ice cream shop I found that actually had a dairy free option. I ate here twice. It was delicious.
This was the first bar we stopped at and although the music was super loud (man I feel so old just typing that) the drinks were strong and delicious. Has a moody ambiance and outside seating, excellent for California nights
In a moment of drunken cravings we headed to Milagros for fish tacos, salsa trios, chocolate cake, and churro sundaes. All were delicious but the margaritas were a little light on the liquor which was sad since we had just left The Blacksmith