I was sat in work on an average weekday when I received an email to say I had won a pair of flights to San Francisco with Thomas Cook Airlines – what an exciting surprise (I’d like to say a huge thank you to Thomas Cook Airlines if you are reading this)! I text my other half and once we were both over the initial excitement we started planning our trip right away. There was no minimum or maximum time between the inbound and outbound flights which meant that we could visit San Francisco for a city break or make a proper holiday of it and stay for longer. In the end we decided to stay for 10 nights & started to plan the route of our road trip.
In the research stage we went through a few different route options but in the end settled with the following: San Francisco > pick up hire car & drive to Monterey > drive on the Big Sur Coast to Cambria > drive to Yosemite > drive back to San Francisco.
Unfortunately the day before our trip to California there was a huge landslide on the Californian coast which changed our plans and meant it didn’t make much sense for us to stay in Cambria anymore. It was possible to still get there but it would have been a 40 mile diversion in land and the drive along the coast was the main thing we were both really looking forward to.
Day 1 – After a 10 and half hour flight and a lengthy wait at US customs we finally made it to our hotel at around 5pm. At this point it was around 4am in England so you can imagine, all we wanted to do was sleep! At check in to the Hilton in Union Square, we were given the option to upgrade to a 37th Floor tower room with a panoramic view of San Francisco, we were in the holiday spirit so thought why not?! I am so glad that we did as even though we didn’t spend much time in the room, seeing the view for sunrise and sunset was amazing. This was the first time that we saw the Golden Gate Bridge & Alcatraz Island and as we had plans to visit both in the next couple of days it was really exciting.
We had a walk around got some dinner & checked out the neighbourhood & went on a search to get James a hoody, (can you believe he hadn’t packed a single hoody or jacket!). It was an early night for us as we hadn’t sleep for over 24 hours and we knew we had a busy day coming up!
Cable Car Ride: Cable cars are an iconic part of the San Francisco history and a key attraction with tourists who visit. One route that was recommended to us before we arrived was Powell & Market to Fisherman’s Wharf, we made sure this was one of the first things we did.
It was really fun and something I would definitely recommend doing, although the ride we took was really over crowded. Throughout our time in San Fran I saw plenty of cable cars that were half empty so you just need to time it right. On the cable car ride you have the choice of riding inside or hanging outside the car – we chose to hang outside, not only is it more fun but you can definitely take better snaps.
The one thing to be aware of when visiting San Francisco is the amount of impressive hills there are and these are definitely highlighted on this route.
Trip to Alcatraz:
The one thing that everyone said to me when I said we were going to San Francisco is “make sure you book Alcatraz before you go”. Alcatraz is probably the most popular tourist attraction in San Fran and when we went it was fully booked until the following week so we were really glad that we had booked in advance.
I cannot recommend going to Alcatraz enough, even if you don’t know much about it’s history or aren’t usually interested in that type of attraction – the whole excursion is really well put together and a must do when in San Fran. As Alcatraz is on a separate island ‘The Rock’, you have to get a cruise ferry over to the Island which is a nice cruise in itself. With regular ferries on the Island once on ‘The Rock’ you can actually spend as long as you’d like there.
San Francisco Giants baseball game:
I loved the thought of trying to go to either a baseball or basketball game while in America and there being a giants vs Atlanta Braves game the day after we arrived worked our perfectly. We actually met an English couple on their way back from Alcatraz that were also going to the game so we met with them and enjoyed some drinks before going to the AT&T stadium. We were all dressed up in San Francisco clothing & SF Giants hats – what tourists! I was told before that lots of Giants fans and locals drink in the pubs opposite the stadium before the game so we made sure to do that too. Everyone was drinking beer so I did get a bit of a strange look when I asked for some prosecco.
We missed kick off and the national anthem as we were too excited drinking with the locals but when we arrived in the stadium there was a great atmosphere. The game to me seemed very slow and just seemed like a big game of rounders but it was still great to watch. The AT&T stadium is a very impressive sports ground with a fab view over the bay, interestingly I was told when it was first designed it was meant to face away from the water. The Giants weren’t playing very well, losing the game with only 2 goals but for us we just wanted to be there to soak up the atmosphere and experience something a bit different.
We actually attended the game on their fireworks night which apparently only happens a few times a year so that was nice timing too. If you’re planning on visiting San Fran you should definitely take a look and see if there are any games you can attend. Unlike lots of British sports you can actually get tickets really cheap, I would recommend trying to get a seat with the best view over the water.
Fisherman’s Wharf & Bay Aquarium:
Fisherman’s Wharf and in particular Pier 39 is a key tourist spot and a must visit on a trip to San Francisco. There are plenty of restaurants specialising in fish (if you like crab chowder this is sold everywhere, but for the non fish-lovers there burgers sandwiches and lots of other options too), cute gift shops to explore and lots of other tourist attractions to book. We ended up visiting Fisherman’s Wharf quite a few times during our trip, it almost feels like the hub of San Francisco for tourists.
As part of our Alcatraz trip we booked a 3 day sight seeing package which included a choice of other excursions throughout the city. We both love sea life so chose Aquarium of the Bay as one of them. There were some nice parts in the aquarium but overall it was very small. I’m sure if you’re visiting with a family you will take a lot longer in there but we must have been in there for a maximum of 30-40 minutes.
Our first couple of days in San Francisco were great, it was also memorial day weekend so there was a great buzz around the city. There really is so much to do in San Francisco and I was excited that we would be visiting again at the end of our road trip.
Thanks for reading, I hope you have enjoyed!
Katie Travels xo