Early in January when winter had already seems too long, Aaron and I got the itch to travel somewhere warm(er). We looked at a few different locations that had direct, cheap airline tickets. Well not the warmest location we could have picked, when Aaron said tickets to see San Francisco sights were cheap for the mid-February weekend we were discussing, my ears quickly perked up.
One of the top-rated beers in the U.S., Pliny the Younger, is released in the Bay Area for two weeks every February. I grabbed my phone to see what dates the beer would be available and, when it lined up with our possible travel plans, I knew that was the location for us.
Pliny the Younger is a triple IPA—meaning it has a lot of hops and alcohol—brewed by Russian River Brewing and only available onsite on draft for two weeks a year. People camp out and wait for hours in line to get this beer. It really is one of the top destination beers for people in the U.S.
San Francisco Sights
While it might sound wild to many to plan a trip around the beer release, that’s the kind of people we are. And with a nice climate and outdoor activities, the San Francisco Bay Area was picked as our destination for a long weekend, and with only a month between when the trip was planned and we went, I eagerly waited.
This was Aaron’s first trip to San Francisco and I hadn’t gone in 21 years, so we were ready to explore together. And unlike last time when my side trip was south to Monterey, we would be heading north after a few days.
I discovered that leaving Minneapolis after work Thursday and paying for a hotel was cheaper than flying to San Francisco Friday, so we were able to hit the pavement (of which we did a LOT), first thing Friday morning. So that’s something to keep in mind when planning a trip.
Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street and The Presidio
We started our day leaving our hotel located near Union Square and walking north, making our way to Fisherman’s Wharf with some stops to look around along the way. From Fisherman’s Wharf we cut back and walked up Lombard Street (which, much to the delight of my brother and me, we drove down last time I was there). If you aren’t aware, a certain one-block section of the street has eight hairpin turns and claims to be the crookedist street in the world. It’s worth a look from the top or bottom at the very least.
From there we walked west, stopping for lunch on Union Street, making our way to The Presidio, a 1,500-acre park on a former military post. The park has a lot of different uses now, including housing many businesses (including Lucasfilm Industrial Light and Magic), Golden Gate overlook and visitor center and Fort Point, among many more.
I recommend viewing the Golden Gate bridge from both the east and west views in the park, they are both great but different. It was great to walk the park, until it wasn’t. While the park has a shuttle service, it isn’t marked where they will let you off and on, so you really have to know when and where to be to use it.
After missing a bus, walking for a total of about 10 miles that day and wanting to rest before dinner, we took a rideshare back to the hotel. I should have known, when the people at the hotel warned us to wear comfortable shoes. I did, but still ended up with a few blisters. Lots of steep walking will do that to me.
Golden Gate Park and Haight Ashbury
Even though we were rested the next day, we still started our day by taking the bus to Golden Gate Park. I had downloaded the Muni app and it’s easy to navigate. I highly recommend the public transit there, as we had good luck taking the BART into San Francisco from the airport and across the bay to Oakland and back. The systems are clean and clear to understand, just be aware of your surroundings and direction like you would be anywhere else (including your hometown) taking public transit.
Golden Gate Park is a large park that is often compared to New York’s Central Park. There are such a variety of things to do, from trails to gardens to museums. We walked around the trails and gardens, and went into the Japanese Tea Garden (as I’m a fan of Japanese gardens). It was built in 1894 for the World’s Fair and is the oldest Japanese garden in the U.S. It is a compact garden that features winding paths, ponds, structures, statues and small cement pagodas.
Another part of the park that is worth A visit includes the National AIDS Memorial Grove. It is a beautiful setting to remember, reflect on and pay respect to anyone affected by AIDS. It’s a secluded spot within a large open park, made up of seven acres of spots to get away and think. It’s really well done and worth some time.
After the park we headed east on Haight Street for a late lunch, seeing the sights and brightly colored buildings. While not required viewing, if you are in the area it’s worth a stop to see the birthplace of the hippie movement.
Aaron travels to China for work so he was very excited to check out Chinatown. He enjoyed comparing and contrasting Chinatown sites to what things would be like in China.
In the end he came away that it is an American version of China. I’ve only been to Chinatowns (including this one) in the U.S., so it was exactly what I expected, but fun to hear through Aaron what he has seen there and how things were similar or different.
Muir Woods National Monument
The next Day we got up and grabbed a car and headed north. About 10 miles north of San Francisco is Muir Woods National Monument, home to California Redwoods. These are magnificent, beautiful trees, and it was great to have so much nature so close to San Francisco.
Be warned that you need Parking or Shuttle reservations before going. The park has one flat path that is mostly boardwalk and has a lot of signs and descriptors about what you are seeing. The park is surrounded by Mount Tamalpais State Park, which has a lot of connector paths off the Muir Woods path.
Aaron and I ended up walking down the Muir Woods path and back on a Tamalpais path that was along a ridgeline so we could see the ocean on one side and forest on the other, for a total of about five miles. There are so many paths you can make it a lot of different lengths, times and levels of challenge.
More in This Series
All the parks (and walking) we did are highly recommended. I love how compact (even if hilly) everything is so we were able to see a lot in a short time.
In other posts, I will talk about what we ate and drank in San Francisco and in Sonoma and Napa counties.