Your Bay Area Guide
Welcome to the beautiful Bay Area! We've got an embarassment of riches - scenery, food, wine, music, art...Oh, and fog. You can't forget about the fog.
- For a guide to San Francisco, read on below.
- For a guide to Sonoma County, click here.
We hope that while you're in California for our wedding you'll get to spend some time in chilly, windy, hilly, beautiful, exciting, totally unique San Francisco. Flowers in your hair are optional, but a scarf and coat probably aren't. Maybe we'll even get to show you around! We did recently discover it's possible to rent a streetcar for a private city tour...
San Francisco in the summer is mostly cold and foggy. Think late-fall-on-the-east-coast cold. Bring a wool coat or a fleece, a scarf, maybe even a hat. You won't need them once you get to Sonoma, but you'll be glad for them when you're getting slapped in the face with a chilly Pacific wind. But take heart! Walking up giant hills will warm you right up, or just settle down with a nice glass of pinot noir and listen to the foghorns on the bay.
We live on Haight St at Divisadero, where the Lower Haight meets the Western Addition (in a sure sign of gentrification, this area is also called NoPa - North of the Panhandle - or the Divisadero Corridor). We have our biases - we love our neighborhood, craft spirits and beer, vegetarian food (Mike) and seafood (Genevieve), and delicious but casual restaurants - but we're happy to make recommendations based on what you like. Don't hesitate to email, text or call and ask for help planning your trip.
Most hotels are downtown, which is convenient to sights and transit. For a different experience, though, we recommend the Metro Hotel in our neighborhood. It's a small, affordable ($100/night) hotel that's just around the corner from our apartment.
Food + Drink
There are hundreds of fantastic restaurants in San Francisco, but here is a map with some of our favorites. Note that it's the rare restaurant that doesn't get full starting about 7 p.m., no matter what day of the week. Make reservations, go early, or be prepared to wait a bit.
- Bar Crudo (on Divisadero, right in our neighborhood): outstanding fresh fish, a good wine and beer list, and a killer happy hour. Come before 6:30 for $1 oysters and $5 bowls of stellar chowder. Mike has never set foot here, but the servers know Genevieve by name.
- Bi Rite (on Divisadero, also on 18th in the Mission): a local gourmet grocery to end them all. Stock up on fine cheeses and chocolates, wine and brews, or get a cone of the famous salted caramel ice cream.
- Nopa (on Divis, right next to Bi Rite): a delicious, delicious sign of gentrification, this place books up early but is worth the reservations vigilance. Come early for seats at the communal table, or just get a drink at the bar. Everything's good, but save room for the sopapillas, Genevieve's favorite dessert.
- Nopalito (on Broderick, near the above): classy Mexican, fantastic cocktails, and a relaxed vibe.
- Tacolicious (on Valencia in the Mission): the closest Mike has found to TexMex in the city. Delicious margaritas, tasty tacos, and a hip ambiance. On the pricy side for Mexican, but worth it.
- Slanted Door (in the Ferry Building): if you want to get your fancy on, with great views to boot, spring for this Vietnamese institution.
- Sodini's (in North Beach): where Mike and Gen went on their first official date. He even wore a bolo tie! An unpretentious, old-school Italian joint with big portions of classic dishes.
Things to Do:
Most of our favorite activities involve scaling hills, but we've sprinkled in some less taxing activities because hey, you're on vacation. Everything below can be Googled; Google Maps will be your friend, especially the walking directions feature.
- Climb Buena Vista Park and then continue on to Corona Heights for two peaks with gorgeous views in our neighborhood.
- Stroll the Panhandle to Golden Gate Park, or just drive and wander through all the park has to offer: The Conservatory of Flowers, the DeYoung Museum (you can go up the tower without paying entry), the Academy of Sciences, even a bison range. If you make it all the way to the beach, reward yourself with a beer at the Beach Chalet.
- Putter around the Ferry Building tasty fancy olive oils and chocolates. Get oysters at Hog Island, buy an overpriced sunhat (ha! like you'll need it in the fog!), or sit outside and watch the ferries come and go.
- Ride a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, then take the ferry back. If this sounds appealing but too ambitious, we're happy to walk you through the details - it's a classic San Francisco experience!
- From the Ferry Building, walk the Embarcadero to the Filbert Street Steps. Haul yourself up them to Coit Tower, admiring the hillside homes, then stroll down the other side into North Beach. Get yourself a book at City Lights, a coffee at one of the Italian cafes, or a drink at Vesuvio's for your efforts.
- Drive across the bridge and up into the Marin Headlands, which is especially stunning at sunset. Keep going to the top and through the tunnel if you want to take the longer route and wind up at Rodeo Beach; loop around back to the bridge. If you're feeling ambitious and want to hike, ask us about the walk down to Kirby Cove at the base of the bridge.
- Take a ferry ride around the bay, to Sausalito, Angel Island, or even Alcatraz. Alcatraz is awesome, but you'll need to book a tour far ahead of time.
- Shoot down the Seward Street Slides (also known as the secret slides) in the Castro if you're feeling adventurous; if you're a real daredevil, bring cardboard or even wax paper to really fly.
- Walk Valencia Street from 16th to 24th to check out the shops and restaurants, then head east on 24th to see the Latin character of the neighborhood in its (rapidly disappearing) form. Get a sundae at Sir Francis Fountain, a crazy cone at Humphrey Slocombe, a beer at Southern Pacific Brewing, or a cocktail at Trick Dog.
- Walk Crissy Field down to the base of the bridge, then back to Fort Mason, admiring the art installations and the coastline. Get yourself a fancy vegetarian lunch with gorgeous views at Greens.
- Stroll Land's End from one end to the other, ducking out onto Coyote Point to see the sand mandala and the bridge. Don't miss the Sutro Baths. For a real winner, do Land's End at sunset.
- Drive (or take the bus) to the top of Twin Peaks to see massive views east - downtown - and west - out to the ocean.
- Take the F line streetcar from the Castro (the original gayborhood) all the way downtown and up around the Embarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf. The streetcars are Italian antiques, very chic. If you MUST check out Fisherman's Wharf, at least get yourself some nice wine and a crabcake at Scoma's.
- See a Giants game at AT&T park. Don't worry about sitting in the cheap seats - the views over the Bay get more stunning the higher you go. (Note that the cheap seats aren't really cheap, anyway.) Beware the wintry wind, though, and bring layers. Definitely get a Ghirardelli sundae, even if you're shivering.
- Have yourself a lovely day in Haight-Ashbury and Cole Valley by strolling the shops along Haight St and Cole Street. Get yourself a tasty French lunch at Zazie, scope Genevieve's favorite store (Cole Hardware, not really a necessary stop), stop in at the Booksmith, or get yourself a huge bowl o'noodles at Citrus Club on Haight.