8 Days in San Francisco and Sonoma

While I’m currently planning NTLP’s leadership camp for teens this summer, I started to think about summer trips. People often ask about visiting San Francisco in the summer so I thought I’d share the plans I made for our friends from New Orleans who came to visit in July 2018 and stayed with us for a week that included a trip to Sonoma. As Mark Twain famously said, “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” However, you really never know what the weather will be like around here. We lucked out with quite pleasant weather in early July. No matter what time of year you visit San Francisco, I advise to always dress in layers and be prepared for the micro-climates that will literally pop up around a corner.

I planned the week long trip to include a lot of walking, food, and libations. For much of the week, we had Apollo with us who was only a year and half at the time. We were able to visit many neighborhoods and places in the Bay, which was fun for everyone including a toddler. BTW, July is during baseball season so you can squeeze in a Giants game. Our friends were debating on it and ended up not going.

Sausalito Ferry

Saturday:

  • Arrived in SAN FRANCISCO, CA (SFO) at 09:25 AM
  • Enjoyed Dim Sum at Hung To in South San Francisco. It was the first Dim Sum meal for one of our friends. He couldn’t believe the amount of food that kept arriving on the lazy Susan and the speed at which the dishes were served.
  • To burn off some calories, we walked on Crystal Springs Trail and took in the beautiful scenery and rolling hills they’re not used to in New Orleans.
  • I threw out the idea of grabbing dessert at award winning Tartine Bakery or ice cream at Mitchells, and then visiting Dolores Park but they were still full of Dim Sum.
  • We went to “The Mission” and made our way to Standard Deviant Brewery, a semi-new brewery in town with lots of different beers, picnic tables, and yard games for kids. They don’t serve wine and you can’t bring it in either. Our friends also stopped by a dispensary to see what the rage was all about. They had never been to “The Mission” nor a dispensary, and they were impressed and loved both. “The Mission” is the real San Francisco to us with pretty tiles sprinkled in between gritty gray cement squares of sidewalk, mom and pop corner stores selling fruit and vegetables, and smells of tacos and bacon wrapped hot dogs filling the air.
  • Standard Deviant Brewery

  • Next, we went to Bear vs Bull Bar because the line for rooftop drinks at El Techo was super long. Bear vs Bull let us bring Apollo because it’s located inside the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema so it’s not 21 and over. The bar is a little dark, yet cozy, and is reminiscent of the 80’s. Our friends really dug the bar atmosphere. I was actually in this very bar as a DD a week before giving birth!
  • To close out the night, we had tapas as Cha Cha Cha on Mission. We were stuffed silly full with my all-time favorite Cajun Shrimp, Seafood Paella, and other delicious Caribbean style Spanish inspired dishes. You should definitely stop by for some Sangria and family style meal sharing.

Sunday:

  • Went to the Ferry Building to walk around and grab a quick bite for breakfast.
  • Walked to Pier 41 for the boys to rent bikes for a ride to Sausalito. Us two ladies and Apollo bought our ferry tickets and had drinks at the Franciscan Crab Restaurant to await the late morning departure on the ferry. They had superb panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, San Francisco’s spectacular skyline, and Alcatraz, plus great service. They were extremely accommodating of our little toddler. We then took a ferry ride to Sausalito to meet up with the boys.
  • You can fit in walks of Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf and/or Ghiradelli Square if you want here or on the way back. Our friends had visited them before and chose not to.
  • Fish's Fish and Chips

  • The Sausalito ferry terminal was a good 2 mile walk to lunch at Fish. Pushing a stroller along the sometimes non-existent sidewalk was a little challenging. My friend wasn’t so happy with the long walk because we would have to do it again on the return trip, but it was at least beautiful out. If you make your way out this way, you should try and head to Fish, and with cash because they are cash only. They have good food, nice patio, and a fantastic vibe of Northern California.
  • Downtown Sausalito has a very popular ice cream store and cute little stores to pop into. Bear in mind, the wait for the return ferry is ridiculously long as everyone is trying to make their way back to San Francisco before the ferries stop running.
  • Sodini's Spaghetti

  • Once we were back at Pier 41 in San Francisco, we walked to Pier 23 Bar and sat outside along the Embarcadero for drinks to deliberate on dinner options. Pier 23 is a very popular bar with live music, a front and back patio, where you might encounter a celebrity siting. We had the choice of dinner in Chinatown or North Beach. We opted for North Beach and went to Sodini’s for dinner. Steve and I walked with Apollo to Sodini’s while our friends took a ride service and we met them there. Dinner was fabulous. It’s an old family friendly Italian joint with a non-pretentious vibe, wonderful service, and delicious food. There were many regulars at the bar more than willing to entertain Apollo and they were very interested in what we did all weekend.

Monday:

  • Our friends rented a car and drove to Sonoma for two days for wine tasting and relaxation.
  • This is a good time to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge or at least visit the vista point for photos.
  • Steve and I highly recommend Cline Cellars. You can picnic on their grounds, learn about their preservation efforts of the California missions and visit their museum. They have a pond with turtles and ducks, as well as birds and other animals on the grounds to keep both kids and those young at heart entertained. The staff at Cline provide outstanding friendly service while pouring tastings and guiding you on their tours.

Tuesday:

  • They then enjoyed wineries in Sonoma by hiring a driver to take them around for the day.
  • A hike at Muir Woods on the way back was on the itinerary but the attraction needed reservations for parking. They didn’t book a spot in time so they had to forgo the outdoor adventure.

Oysters

Wednesday:

  • Months ahead of this trip, I made advanced reservations for 10 AM at Hog Island Oyster Co. in Marshall, where we had a fantastic picnic. You have to make your reservations early as they book up fast! Hog Island supplies many of the Bay Area restaurants with oysters. The Marshall location is right on the water in Marin and allows you to to bring your own wine and food to BBQ while shucking oysters to slurp down, straight from the source. If you don’t want to shuck your own, you can order them already shucked or BBQed.
  • For dinner, we decided to meet up with friends in the Peninsula and had Chinese hot pot at Little Sheep Mongolian in San Mateo. It was the perfect place for 8 plus the baby to have wine and beer over a fun, interactive dinner. If you’ve never had hot pot, it’s a very social way to have dinner. Hot pot involves cooking your veggies and thinly sliced meat in steaming hot broth that you then dip in savory sauces. Little Sheep also has meat filled Dumplings, Skewers, and very yummy Sesame Pancake to start. This San Mateo location also has complimentary Soft Served Ice Cream for dessert.

Thursday:

  • Our friends slept in and then met me downtown at Parc 55 Hotel where I had a Bloody Mary or two while I waited after a doctor’s appointment to prime my belly for the day.
  • We took the bus to Haight/Ashbury to walk around. After having lunch at Magnolia Brewery, we went for a short hike up through Buena Vista Park and came down on the backside to head to “The Castro.” The park is a bit uphill but the views of the city are worth it.
  • Walking the hills became a little much so we took a car service to “The Castro” where we had drinks at Hamburger Mary’s just for the heck of it. Our friends were a bit pooped out at this point. “The Castro” is a hidden gem. It really was because my friends hadn’t heard about it and enjoyed walking around and learning some of its Gay rights history.
  • I was going to have us walk to Hayes Valley and then continue our way to Chinatown down Market St but they weren’t interested in walking anymore. Hayes Valley is home to many boutiques, stores in recycled shipping containers like my fave Smitten Ice Cream where you can watch as your ice cream is made with their liquid nitrogen Brrr™ machine, and Greek food at Souvla made popular by Michelle Obama.
  • Instead, we rode the F line down Market St and walked to Chinatown for drinks at cash only Buddha Lounge. It’s a total dive, yet a very fun, popular place with a friendly down to earth bartender…much better than the service at the bar across the street which shall remain unnamed.
  • House of Nanking Calamari

  • Steve and Apollo met us for dinner at House of Nanking because it is one of my friend’s favorite restaurants in San Francisco. I continue to stand by my thoughts of House of Nanking. It’s a touristy spot with pretty good food though oily. I would never choose to eat here but many people visiting request to dine at House of Nanking so I oblige. They’ve won a number of awards and the owner’s daughter Kathy Fang was a Food Network ‘Chopped’ Champion Expect a long line and the likelihood that you’ll have to share a table with strangers is high.
  • I prefer Chinese food in Chinatown at Hunan Home, Harborview Restaurant and Bar, City View for Dim Sum, and Enjoy Vegetarian for vegetarian/vegan Chinese.

House of Nanking Dumplings

Friday:

  • Our friends liked “The Mission” so much, they returned and drank their way through the neighborhood until we met up for dinner.
  • I had planned for our friends to visit some museums, Golden Gate Park, or have a picnic and see live music at Yerba Buena Park today for a leisurely day but they weren’t up for it.
    Nihon Whisky

  • Some friends met us at Nihon Whisky Lounge and Sushi where we had early reservations, allowing us to take advantage of their Happy Hour menu. If you like Japanese food and fine whisky or sake, this is the place to go!

Nihon Whisky

Saturday:

  • We thought about having brunch at Puerto 27 overlooking the ocean in Pacifica but ended up having pho at Pho Saigon followed by coffee from Philz Coffee and pastries at Paris Baguette. There are always long lines at both places because there’s a ton of hype surrounding their coffees and pastries.
    Philz is all about individuality and making each cup to your liking. Their coffee beans are awesome and there’s a blend to meet everyone’s particular taste buds. Paris Baguette offers a huge variety of light airy pastries and a comfortable setting to lounge about.
  • Then we dropped our friends off at SFO at 2 PM for their 4:15 PM flight.