It's time to head to north to the city by the bay, San Francisco! I remember going to San Francisco pretty frequently when I was growing up, or maybe it was just from watching episodes of Full House. Even though there's a little bit of a schoolyard war with SF and LA, it's still a great place to go for a weekend getaway!
How to Get to San Francisco
There are a few ways to get to San Francisco. The fastest way would be to take a short, one-hour flight from LAX or Burbank and fly into SFO. I enjoy flying to San Francisco because it's pretty easy and it's a nice airport. I would only opt to drive if there were stops I'd like to take along the way.
If you opt for a road trip, then have two options: take the fastest way on the 5 Freeway, or the scenic route up the 1/PCH. If you have eight hours to spare, then I would highly recommend the scenic route. If you have even more time, I definitely suggest stopping at some beach towns on the way for a meal or even an overnight stay - Morro Bay, Big Sur, Carmel, Monterey, and Santa Cruz are all noteworthy detours.
Thanks to Buick for providing transportation on my last press trip, the Buick Encore was especially fun to drive while I was in NorCal!
If you're not interested in flying or driving, you can also take the train! Amtrak's Coast Starlight departs from the Los Angeles Union Station and takes just under 12 hours. You can get a regular seat or even reserve one of their bedroom suites. This is definitely something I want to do someday or even take it all the way up to Seattle!
Where to Stay in San Francisco
There's definitely a large selection of places to stay in San Francisco and it all depends on the budget, neighborhood and where you'll be going during your stay. Here's a list of areas and recommended hotels in the San Francisco Area.
Union Square - If you want to stay in the heart of the city, then you'll definitely want to stay at Union Square. This is a centralized area with lots of shops and things to do.
If you're looking for a newly renovated boutique hotel that's only two blocks away, I definitely recommend Hotel Fusion. It's so convenient and walkable to everything!
The Hotel Intercontinental San Francisco is also just a short distance away from Union Square shops, restaurants and activities. It’s definitely my recommendation for a luxury hotel with gorgeous city and bay views that houses Michelin-starred restaurant, Luce.
Nob Hill - How about a more quieter option? Just a few hills over from Union Square is this cute, trendy neighborhood. I was lucky enough to get a sponsored stay at the Fairmont Hotel (thanks Buick!) and can't say enough about the beautiful lobby and impeccable service.
Airport - If you're not too keen on staying in the city and looking for budget lodging, the Homewood Suites at the airport is a great option. It's right on the bay so you can get some fresh air on the boardwalk and it's only a short drive into the city, or you can take the BART.
These are the only hotels that I've stayed in while traveling to San Francisco, because I would usually only drive in during the day or stay with friends. I will continue to update this list if I have other personal recommendations.
Where to Eat in San Francisco
Mymy - This cute diner spot is great for brunch in the Nob Hill neighborhood. It can get crowded during peak times so try to get there early or after the brunch crowd.
Taste on Ellis - This new restaurant is located inside the Hotel Fusion and is a pescatarian's delight. There's an amazing seafood selection, many with Hawaiian-fusion twists, and definitely make room for dessert!
MKT Restaurant - This market-to-table restaurant is located on the fifth floor in the Four Seasons San Francisco. My favorites from the brunch menu include the Dungeness crab fritters, tomato soup, and shrimp and grits.
Hog Island - Located right on the San Francisco waterfront, this popular spot is a must for all oyster and seafood lovers! I recommend ordering oysters in a half shell, grilled oysters, and the grilled squid salad. Beware that there's always a line at this place, but it's so worth the wait!
Slanted Door - This modern Vietnamese is located in the San Francisco Ferry Building with a beautiful view. There are plenty of pescatarian and vegetarian options including my top picks - papaya salad, crispy imperial rolls, vegetarian bahn bot loc (dumplings), and wood oven roasted arctic char.
Alba Ray's - They claim that they have the best beignets outside of NOLA and they're absolutely right! But that's not their only claim to fame as their oysters and vegetarian jambalaya are just as delicious.
Things to Do in San Francisco
Catch a film festival - I was lucky enough to go to the CAAM Film Festival's opening night screening and party on behalf of Buick. We watched The Tiger Hunter, a movie about an Indian man who travels to America in the 1970s in the hopes of chasing the American dream.
See the Asian Art Museum - The CAAM Film Festival's opening night party was held here and it's a great event venue! You will be able to see more than 18,000 works of art from all the major Asian countries.
Take pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge - A visit to San Francisco is incomplete without visiting the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. There's different ways to see it and get the best pictures.
One way is to go to Crissy Field and get a great view from the East. Another way is to ditch the car and walk across the bridge to get the closest view and an amazing view of the water. Lastly, you can drive across the bridge to a vista point in the Golden Gate Recreation Area.
Visit the Palace of Fine Arts - This is a favorite place to go for tourists and locals alike! One of the most Instagrammed places in San Francisco, it's also a popular wedding venue and featured in many TV and film productions.
Go shopping at Haight & Ashbury - This district is a popular spot in San Francisco which is known as "the birthplace of America's counter-culture" a.k.a. where the hippies lived. It features colorful Victorian houses and great shopping with lots of vintage clothing and record stores.
Grab a drink at The Clock Bar - If you're around Union Square and craving a cocktail, head to The Clock Bar at the Westin San Francisco. Their menu features era-inspired drinks that utilizes ingredients from local farmers, distillers and brewers.
Ride a San Francisco Cable Car - You must check this off your SF bucket list! There are three routes: Powell-Mason, Powell-Hyde, and California, and it's best to go early since the lines do get really long!
Hang out at Pier 39 - A great place to take the whole family, Pier 39 features scenic views, fun attractions, sea lion sightings and tons of eating options. You'll enjoy watching street performers, browsing the local shops, or going for a boat ride that takes you under the Golden Gate Bridge.
If you need more ideas for things to do in San Francisco, visit SF Travel for itineraries, hotel recommendations and more. They were able to help me out with connecting me to their partners and I had an amazing trip!