My husband surprised me for Mother’s Day with a trip to San Francisco, California. I couldn’t have been more excited. As soon as he told me, I started planning. I booked an Alcatraz tour with Bay cruise, a sunset catamaran cruise, and a trip to Yosemite and to see the Sequoias. These were the only tours we booked a head of time and we planned to explore the rest on our own.
The morning of our flight, I was up at 1:00 am and couldn’t go back to sleep. For those that really know me, know I have a problem sleeping and even more of a problem sleeping when there’s a big day coming up. My anxiety kept me up through the night, but I made sure we were ready to head to the airport at 4:30 am.
Traffic was bad from a few accidents on I-75 North, but luckily I buffered in quite a bit of “uh oh” time. We made it to the airport in plenty of time and got checked in.
We arrived into San Francisco on Thursday 17 June and headed to the hotel to drop off our luggage. Luckily we were able to check in early and went to the room to get settled in. We stayed at Hotel Adagio, Autograph Collection. This historic hotel was built in 1929 and is located on Geary Street near Union Square. It was nicely appointed and we were very comfortable in our room. The only downside was the restaurant/bar was not open still due to COVID-19.
After we relaxed for a little bit, we headed out to explore. First stop was lunch. The name I can’t even remember, because the food was very forgettable. It was a Thai Restaurant that was recommended at our hotel; so I made a note to self, “Do not listen to her recommendations anymore”.
We explored near Union Square, down Market Street all the way down to the Ferry Building. The Ferry Building seemed like the place to be, with a lot of cute restaurants and eateries and shops. You can also get a decent look at the San Francisco Bay Bridge from behind the Ferry Building.
We headed back to the hotel for a quick shower and get ready for dinner. I chose BOTA, Tapas and Paella Bar. It is located a few blocks from our hotel on Geary. We had a pitcher of sangria and tapas for dinner. I had the Potatas Bravas & Brussels Sprouts and hubby had the Octopus and Lamb Chops. Then we had the churros for dessert. The restaurant was good, but had a few shortcomings on the preparation of the lamb chops. It was a few steps down from the hotel, so a very convenient location to Hotel Adagio.
We called it a relatively early night, because Friday morning, we had to be up really early to meet our tour at 6:00 am to head to Yosemite National Park and to see the Sequoias.
Our tour started out a little bumpy to say the least. The tour guide was rude to the driver…but she said she normally drives and does the tour, but her bus was in the shop. Also her mic wouldn’t work, and she said she couldn’t do a tour without a mic. She was very frustrated and was not a very good problem solver. Her frustration clearly showed to us on the tour. It started out as a pretty rough start. We were fine, but her attitude about the start of the day, according to her it was “in the pits, put a damper on the mood of the bus.
On the way to Yosemite, there were beautiful windmills to see. We stopped in Oakdale for breakfast, snacks and a picnic lunch if we pleased.
Yosemite was very busy and we had to wait about an hour just to get through the gate. Make sure you have a reservation made for the day you plan to visit.
Our first stop was to see the Sequoias in Tuolumne Grove. It was a mile hike down to the grove; let me stress “down”. Remember you do have to come back up. It was a very tough hike for me on the way back up as it reached 99 degrees that day and there is quite an elevation change. Make sure to take water and carry as little with you as possible. We spent an hour and 15 minutes here and honestly we could have spent a lot more time here, but this was a tour time-limit.
Then we drove through the tunnels and stopped to see El Capitan, Half Dome, Clouds Rest, Sentinel Rock and Cathedral Rocks. We got to get off of the bus at this way point for photos and breathtaking views.
A lot of photos were taken as we were driving, as Yosemite limits where tour buses can stop. There were a lot more pull offs that we could just not stop at in the tour bus. If you visit in a car, there are a lot more way points to stop at, so be prepared for them.
We went to Yosemite Valley Lodge area to explore. At this stop we had two hours. We hiked to the “swinging bridge” that is no longer a swinging bridge…it’s stationary now, but it still keeps the swinging bridge name. You can get in the river here and it’s a perfect way to cool off. Then we hiked over to Lower Yosemite Falls…there is a little incline to get up to the falls, but not too strenuous. While we were there, we dipped our toes in the river to cool off.
Last stop before we headed back to the bus was the gift shop for a few souvenirs and snacks.
The road heading to and from Yosemite has some very curvy sections, make sure to take your Dramamine before the trip to Yosemite and when you leave as well…because I got quite queasy on the way back because I didn’t take a second Dramamine until too late. We stopped at Oakdale for dinner and then headed back to the city. We made it back to the hotel at about 11 pm. It was a very long day, but Yosemite was beautiful and well worth it!
Saturday we had the Alcatraz Tour scheduled. We woke up early, grabbed breakfast and headed towards Fisherman’s Wharf to stop at Lombard Street. Lombard Street is known for the one-way block on Russian Hill between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets, where eight sharp turns are said to make it the most crooked street in the world. The Gardens in Lombard Street were so beautiful and fragrant and even with as steep as it was, it was well worth the climb for the view and the frangrance.
After Lombard Street we wandered around to see if we could get a view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the city. It was quite foggy, but we got a quick view and photo.
We headed down towards Fisherman’s Wharf to pick up our Bay cruise tour tickets and to get some lunch. After lunch we went to Bodega and had a glass of wine and then headed to Coit Tower. You can see 360 degree views from the top of Coit Tower and there are beautiful murals to look at as you wait to ride the elevator up. NOTE: There are glass covers on the windows up top, so be prepared with filters if you want to be able to reduce glare on the glass when taking photos.
After Coit Tower, we headed to Pier 33 to meet for our Alcatraz tour. We took a quick boat trip to Alcatraz island. The federal prison on Alcatraz Island in the chilly waters of California’s San Francisco Bay housed some of America’s most difficult and dangerous felons during its years of operation from 1934 to 1963. Among those who served time at the maximum-security facility were the notorious gangster Al “Scarface” Capone (1899-1947) and murderer Robert “Birdman of Alcatraz” Stroud (1890-1963). No inmate ever successfully escaped The Rock, as the prison was nicknamed, although more than a dozen known attempts were made over the years. After the prison was shut down due to high operating costs, the island was occupied for almost two years, starting in 1969, by a group of Native-American activists. Today, historic Alcatraz Island, which was also the site of a U.S. military prison from the late 1850s to 1933, is a popular tourist destination.
After Alcatraz and all our city walking (almost 9 miles), we ubered our tootsies to dinner at Amber India. It was quite nice and will make my must try list for San Francisco! We decided to book a tour for Sunday and found a wine tour that I thought we would enjoy.
Sunday we had a Napa wine tour booked. We woke up early and grabbed breakfast. We showed up at 8:20 to meet the tour and nothing. So we phoned the reservations desk and then we were informed that the tour was at 9:20 and that there was a problem with their website…after being on hold for 15-20 minutes. Another tour with a shaky start. Our tour guide, was more of just a driver, she didn’t do much touring or explaining, as was advertised for our tour.
Our first stop was the North Overlook for the Golden Gate Bridge.
Next we were headed to Sonoma for wine tasting. We went to Roche Winery then went to lunch in Sonoma. We ate at Oso for lunch. Next up was Napa Valley. We stopped at Madonna Estates & Kieu Hoang Wineries. These two were the favorites of the day. These wineries were a lot more welcoming and actually toured us around and told us about the wines. At Madonna Estates, it was a small vineyard with a Tasting Room and barrel room. Kieu Hoang was the most impressive of the three we visited; there were outdoor couches set up with umbrellas, a house with tasting area and porches and a large vineyard. At Roche Winery, in Sonoma there wasn’t a tour or explanations, they just poured the wine and walked away; we were however able to walk around the vineyard.
Monday we had the Bay cruise booked at 11 am and the San Francisco Bay Sunset Catamaran Cruise booked at 7 pm. We walked through Chinatown on the way to Pier 39 from Union Square.
The Bay Cruise was nice. It was windy and a little chilly, but not unbearable with a simple sweatshirt on. We got views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge with NO FOG! So that was amazing!
It’s about an hour tour that takes you from Pier 39 to the Golden Gate Bridge and then towards Bay Bridge and back to Pier 39. After the Bay Cruise we ate lunch at Fog Harbor on Pier 39. We also checked out the Aquarium. My favorite exhibit there was the jellyfish.
The sunset catamaran cruise also left out of Pier 39. It sailed pasted Alcatraz and down under the Golden Gate Bridge and once again we got lucky and there wasn’t too much fog! It was a nice relaxing cruise. Had some rose and enjoyed the views. The way the sun was shining also lit up the bay bridge and the city in a beautiful manner. This tour was the most inviting of them all. The tour guides were the most fun and laid back of the trip. It was much cooler than the day time trip, so I added a layer with my raincoat and was fine. They also had extra windbreaker/jackets aboard the catamaran that you would wear if you were cold.
After the catamaran cruise, we headed into town to eat at Serafina. It was a very small Italian restaurant. We had reservations at 9:15 pm, but they seemed to be overbooked and we still had to wait a while. We had to sit outside, which we weren’t very happy about because it was cold (they did turn on a heater for us though); I would still recommend you go here to eat. The owners/workers were authentic Italian, the food was phenomenal and the service was good and food came out quick even though they were completely full. I would definitely call before you go to make sure they aren’t packed.
Tuesday we were returning home, but we had an afternoon flight, so we took advantage of the few extra hours to explore. We rented a car and drove the Muir Woods for a quick hike. We couldn’t be this close and miss it! The rental car was a last minute decision and was located one block over from our hotel. We didn’t reserve it until Monday night. We only rented it because I thought we were leaving later than we were…I think some cylinders aren’t firing in my brain lately. But thankful for my missed fires because Muir Woods was one of my favorite stops of the trip.
We arrived back to the airport with plenty of time to get checked in, get through security and on to our flight.
Our 6 days in San Francisco! There were some bumps in the trip, but that gives us good stories to tell! We were glad to be home though and get some rest!
TIPS for San Francisco: Wear good walking shoes, no matter what because San Francisco’s hills are no joke. Even if you’re walking a block or two, to me comfort is trump over being cute! I tried wearing my sandals one evening just to dinner and my calves and shins were very upset about it to say the least. We walked over 37 miles during our trip and we even did quite a bit of ubering too, so if you want to see and do, be prepared to hike/walk a lot. Also women, take a hair tie where ever you go. It can get very windy especially when down by the bay and the last thing you want is hair all in your face. Lastly, take a raincoat/windbreaker with you that you can roll up and put in your bag because one moment I was sweating and the next I was freezing.