On our last day in San Francisco, standing in line to once again hang out of the yes-they’re-just-as-fun-as-they-look cable cars, we exchange small talk with the woman behind us. When we tell her we left our kids behind with their dads for a mom’s long weekend getaway, her eyes light up. OMG, she enthuses. I WISH my girlfriends were here. The SHOPPING, the RESTAURANTS…Did you go to the MARKET!? I thought of them SOOO many times, she exclaims. She’s enthusiastic, but she’s also absolutely right. We cram in an incredible amount of food, shopping, wine, and laughter on our weekend escape from our angelic children (after you’ve been away for at least 48 hours, they officially become perfect in every way). Here are some highlights:
Ferry Building Market
Ahhh! The sights, smells and tastes of a bustling market - there’s nothing like it and the Ferry Building is one of the best. At the market, we immediately gravitate to the Blue Bottle Coffee stall. A strong, rich brew in hand, we take in the view of the bay and decide what we want to try most. Everything, it turns out. Hours fly by in a blur as we nibble and click our cameras through the stalls and crowds tasting oysters, cheeses, preserves, scones, chocolate brittle, exotic fruit, sourdough bread, pork belly sandwiches and local wines.
Outdoor market is open Wed & Sat, but the building is open daily.
Westfield Shopping Center and Union Square Shopping
Westfield Shopping Center with its domed ceilings and open courtyard is more of shopping palace than a mall. Some of the world's largest American chains, including a five-story Nordstrom's, are within its walls. As I’m more of a foodie than a shopper, the best part for me is the food court (and how often can you say that about a mall). We dined on mussels and fries, Pad Thai and all-natural cream puffs from Beard Papa’s. A destination on its own or a stop for sustenance for further retail therapy and lo and behold, a few blocks away at Union Square there’s Macy’s, Anthropologie and Bloomingdale’s.
Foodie Tour of Chinatown and North Beach
If your idea of a tour is being stuck on a motor coach with a never-ending commentary of useless trivia droning on, then this walking tour of two of San Fran’s most colorful neighborhoods will change your mind. Stops include Chinese Tea tasting, dim sum at the city’s oldest Chinese restaurant, Golden Gate Chinese Cookie Factory and pizza and wine at Cinecitta. (Tip: don’t eat too much dim sum so you can save room for the authentic, thin crust Roman specialty at Cincitta – a real treat)
Walking through the alleys and streets with a small group and a knowledgeable guide gives us an insider view of these historic neighborhoods in only a few hours. www.localtastesofthecitytours.com
Sonoma Wine Tour
With so little time in SF, we hesitate about going out of the city for a daytrip. But the vineyards call and we answer and off we drive out of town via the Golden Gate Bridge. The view when you’re on it surpasses any other – truly breathtaking. After a detour to Muir Woods, where 800–yr-old redwoods tower above you in a forest dream, we make our way to the vineyards, managing to fit in three before the sun starts to set on the rolling hills. All are very different. Quivira, the first, has the most welcoming staff and an eye-candy view of the vineyards at the tasting bar. Next is Lambert Bridge, more pretentious, but nonetheless fabulous wine and the most lovable Saint Bernard. Lastly and grandest is the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. The grounds themselves look like a movie set and inside you can see actual props from some of the director’s favorite movies.
Between wine, shopping and food, we squeeze in some sight-seeing - Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard street, the crookedest street in the world, and a Bay cruise past the infamous Alcatraz and, of course, the cable cars.
City PASSes: Not only do they give you admission to five SF attractions, they also let you ride free on public transportation, including the cable cars, as often as you like. (excluding BART)
Hotel Vertigo: Its convenient downtown location, funky design and reasonable rates made it an ideal crashing pad for our adventures. www.hotelvertigosf.com
For more information on San Francisco, visit www.sanfrancisco.travel
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After travelling the world teaching ESL, she’s now 'settled down' in Toronto, but continues to indulge her passion for travel as a family travel writer. Her website/blog www.justkidstravel.com helps kids plan and get excited about their travels.
Located: Toronto Canada
Likes: family,culture,nature,soft adventure, photography,food