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Oh, City by the Bay!

Winding down my “What’s your passion?” feature this month, I thought I’d post about a fabulous vacation we took recently to the magical city of San Francisco… City by the Bay, the Paris of the West, the Great Fog City! As a destination with a rich history layered with terrible tragedy, San Francisco is a fascinating and truly amazing place to visit.

We were lucky to have spent six wonderful years there – nestled right in town just outside the Western Addition, below Pacific Heights and above Haight-Ashbury. It’s been over ten years, but we returned to San Francisco for a recent vacation. Much has changed, but so much more, strangely, has remained the same – including the creaky gate to our old apartment building!

To those who are debating a visit, I thought I’d share a few things we thoroughly enjoyed during our time there.

Alcatraz – You don’t want to miss this amazing attraction! Take a lunch with you, hop on the ferry and enjoy a fascinating transport back to the days when Alcatraz was the most infamous prison in the country. Be sure to get the guided headphone tour… it is truly worthwhile.  We used Alcatraz Cruises and the service was excellent. Yelp Review »

Pier 39/Fisherman’s Wharf – This area is certainly a tourist destination, but you gotta love the view of the bay with the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.  During a sunset with a little fog in the distance is just breathtaking!  Grab your postcards and magnets for family back home, and don’t miss the Sea Lions just off the pier.  They are mesmerizing! Stroll over to any of the seafood vendors and grab some steamy clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.  Or, head to the second floor of Boudin Sourdough Bakery for a fancy lunch, beautiful view and neat tour, including an overview of the kitchen.

Musee Mecanique – If you love any sort of antique, you will fall in love the the Museum Mechanique! Row after row of vintage arcade games await your exploration.  They are so unique and you’ll be amazed that these actual machines were enjoyed by folks of the Victorian era! Check out the website for an even more fascinating story of the collector! The museum is conveniently located at Fisherman’s Wharf. Yelp Review »

Lombard Street – It’s the crookedest street in the world! You’ll have a blast driving down this crazy street and will love the gorgeous view out to Coit Tower and the bay in the distance.  The flowers are beautiful and the homes equally fascinating. Yelp Review »

Haight-Ashbury – A true icon of the city, the Haight is crammed with colorful shops and restaurants. Find your standard tie-dye clothing and psychedelic posters along with organic restaurants and fun bars. Yes, you’ll see the obligatory hippies still hanging around but discerning shoppers will love the plethora of thrift and vintage stores. Our highlight was visiting “Loved to Death”, the morbid shop featured on the show Oddities SF. Check out my Yelp Review on it!

Chinatown – This grand spot is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia! The buildings are stunning: ornate, colorful and you’ll love the strands of lanterns that criss-cross the main drag. There are tons of gift shops piled high with lovely jade, buddas, chopsticks, and herbs. Check out the Great Eastern Restaurant for some fabulous dim sum!

Golden Gate Bridge – Another must-see!  When heading out of town on Rt. 1 (Presidio Parkway) look for the signs to pull off to Fort Point where you can park and walk the bridge!  You might enjoy the “emergency phones and crisis counseling” phones strategically placed along the way.  Visitors info at

Hog Island Oyster Company – Oyster lovers: celebrate! Rent a car and head north of the city about an hour to the dreamy, oyster heaven of Hog Island. Take a cooler filled with picnic favorites (ours include salami, cheese, fruit, olives and sourdough bread from Boudin, of course,) a few malted beverages or wine and enjoy a lazy afternoon along the Tamalis Bay with a tray full of oysters, lemons and hot sauce. We got the 60 of the mini-oysters for only $48. What a deal! If going during the weekend, reserve a table.  Yelp Review »

Muir Woods – What can compare to the quiet, lush landscape of gigantic redwoods just under 40 minutes north of the city? Muir Woods is absolutely amazing with trees that can tower more than 30 stories high. Escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a few delicious hours of pure tranquility! See my Yelp Review for more tips, especially regarding parking!

San Fransicso has a little something for everyone: young and old alike! This fabulous city is a must-see destination.

View my travel photos on Flickr »