If you're a fan of The Rebel Chick on social media, then you know all about my recent obsession with New York City. For the last few months, I have been traveling every other weekend to the bustling city of New York...while I'm slowly but surely falling in love with the city (that much like me) never sleeps...there's still another city that has had a firm hold on my heart since my first visit in 2006. Yep, it's all the way across the country - San Francisco.
What is it about this city that made such an impression on me? It's hard to pinpoint. The vibe, the close proximity to the water, the food, the people - it's a city positively bursting with life, and I'm always happy when I'm there. After my first visit with friends in 2006, I came home and begged my husband to consider moving there.
I'm a lifelong Miami girl, but I knew after one weekend that I could be happy in this city, despite it being so completely different than everything I'd ever known - and thousands of miles away from my friends and family. Each time I travel to San Francisco for work, I've fit in as much time as I could exploring, and I fall more and more in love with each visit.
When my husband and I split up last year, my daughter announced that she had decided to join the Navy...I knew almost immediately that it was time for me to leave Miami and start the next stage of my life somewhere new. The only places I've ever visited that struck me as a place I could move to were San Francisco, Austin and New York City. So when an old friend of the family asked me to come visit earlier this year, I thought, why not? It would be a great way to get a better feel for the city in the company of a local.
How to Spend a Weekend in San Francisco
Brunch at Beach Chalet in San Francisco
Beach Chalet in San Francisco is exactly what you'd think based on the title: a restaurant with a view of the beach. My friend and I began with brunch with a beachfront view. While the menu was pretty generous, I opted for beignets and a bellini. Hey, a girl can't pass up the opportunity to eat dessert for breakfast when it presents itself!
Beach Chalet is also a brewery and seafood spot...since my friend doesn't like seafood and I am allergic to shellfish, we opted for the brewery portion, Park Chalet, and parked ourselves near the bar and prepared for a beer tasting. I am not a huge beer fan, but there are certain ones I like - oddly enough, I liked ALL of the beers we tasted!
Ocean Beach in San Francisco
I've never seen the beach in many trips to the San Francisco area over the years. During the second day of my visit, my friend took me to Ocean Beach after brunch at Beach Chalet, which is a 3.5-mile stretch of white beach on the westernmost border of San Francisco. All through our brunch, I just kept staring out the window at the waves crashing across the street. Ah...so close, yet so far away!
Ocean Beach is right next to Golden Gate Park and is great for long walks, surfing for experienced surfers, flying kites...while the water is freaking COLD by my subtropical climate standards, it was beautiful and I regretted only staying for a short time.
See that? That's a happy Jenn. It was overcast, rainy and cold but beautiful nonetheless. If I hadn't been in jeans, I would have run towards the waves...but I was able to do that later, at another beach. You'll see that farther down in the post, because that beach definitely warrants a visit as well!
Moments like that, on the beach in great company, they go a long way to healing some of the damage done to my soul over the past year. There was a special moment shared with a friend on this beach that made me smile and laugh, and for a brief moment, I remembered what it was like to be happy.
I shared this on Instagram during my trip, it's one of my favorite quotes and for this water baby, it's 100% true.
I was happy anywhere I could see the ocean. - Ai Yazawa
Cliff House and Sutro Baths in San Francisco
I also visited the Sutro Baths, which used to be a public bathhouse (no, not THAT kind!) but is now just a gorgeous outdoor recreational area. The Sutro Baths were built by Adolph Sutro in 1894, and is one of the coolest things I've seen - it's literally an ocean pool aquarium built at the base of the beach using the rocks as part of the filtering process to warm the water.
Sutro's dream for the Baths was to provide a healthy, recreational and inexpensive swimming facility for thousands of San Franciscans. A classic Greek portal opened to a massive glass enclosure containing seven swimming pools at various temperatures. There were slides, trapezes, springboards and a high dive. The power of the Pacific Ocean during high tide could fill the 1.7 million gallons of water required for all the pools in just one hour. The Baths could accommodate 10,000 people at one time and offered 20,000 bathing suits and 40,000 towels for rent.
There are gorgeous views to be seen throughout the area - including the Golden Gate Bridge!
For outdoor enthusiasts, there are plenty of opportunities for hiking and walking. While it was pretty rainy the day I visited, I did manage to make a short walk up the hill from the bottom of the baths to the parking lot. Hey, for this clumsy chick, that totally counted as a hike!
You can find out more about Sutro Baths here.
Golden Gate Park in San Francisco
There are a ton of parks and historical landmarks that make up the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and this recreation area is the second most visited park in the National Park Service. There are 396 parks listed, to give you a better idea of how popular it is! The Golden Gate National Recreation Area receives over 16 million visitors every year - that's more than Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and Glacier National Parks combined!!
Stretched across 80,000 acres north and south of the Golden Gate Bridge, these parks also constitute one of the world’s largest national parks in an urban setting.
The Golden Gate Recreation Area includes:
37 distinct park sites, from Muir Woods National Monument to Fort Point National Historic Site to Alcatraz Island.
More than 130 miles of trails.
1,200 historic structures.
1,000 types of plants, 250 bird species, and the 3rd largest number of federally endangered and threatened species of all 401 units within the National Park Service.
Significant natural resources making the parks a “biodiversity hotspot” designated by UNESCO.
19 separate ecosystems in 7 distinct watersheds.
Also? Bison. Or as my friend referred to them, Tutonka.
Again, I found the views absolutely breathtaking....is there really anywhere in San Francisco where you can't see the Golden Gate Bridge?
St George Spirits Distillery in Alameda
I also had the opportunity to do a distillery tour and tasting at St George Spirits Distillery in Alameda, not too far from San Francisco (just across the bay - that's where I snapped the photo of the city skyline!).
A little history about the brand: they are the original owners of Hangar One Vodka! The company was founded in 1982, and after selling Hangar One Vodka, they began working on single malt whiskey, agricole rum, absinthe, and several gins, vodkas, brandies, and liqueurs.
This distillery is literally in an old Navy hangar...a 65,000 square foot hangar! That means there's plenty of space for creating awesome spirits...in super pretty equipment, might I add!
We pledge to craft quintessential spirits to delight hedonists and genius bartenders alike—and when you taste our spirits, we hope that the character and quality of what’s in your glass will convey to you what we’re all about.
I did a tasting of vodka, gin, brandy, liqueurs and absinthe after the tour, and while I am not used to drinking liqour without a mixer, I did see the potential for them tasting great mixed with a little tonic - especially the Green Chile Vodka!
The liqueurs were AMAZING, with my favorite being the Spiced Pear.
You can find out more about St George Spirits Distillery in Alameda here.
Stinson Beach in San Francisco
Because you guys know how much I love the beach, I also want to tell you about Stinson Beach. My friend that I spent the weekend with is also originally from Florida and gets my love of the ocean, so he took me there too - after a botched attempt at hiking in Mount Tamalpais.
This beach...I think it was my favorite.
Despite the Great White Shark warning signs - and the freaking Tsunami warning signs.
It wasn't quite as foggy as the day we visited Ocean Beach, and as I was wearing leggings that day, so this happened. I just handed my friend my things and began stripping and ran towards the water - I've never had my toes in the Pacific before, so I had to do it!!
He was such a sweetheart, he actually snapped a series of photos without me even asking.
So I have proof. I ran into the Pacific.
I can't wait to go back to San Francisco and spend a little more time exploring the city...have you ever been there? Are you a local? I'd love to hear your recommendations for things to do and see - and which neighborhoods you think are best for a 30-something chick who might be relocating!