The Best Things To Do In San Francisco

After several months in San Francisco, I can officially say I have a solid list of recommendations to share. These past few months have been filled with a lot of adventures that have helped me narrow down a few faves around The City. So today, i’m combining them all into one post. Consider it a curation of touristy must-do’s, local faves, and personal preferences — according to me anyways. Enjoy!

WHAT TO DO

Shop Union Street

This was one of the first spots I fell in love with, which is why I’m giving it first dibs 😉 There’s just something about Union Street in the Marina neighborhood that’s so chic. Imagine a street that has all of the cool workout classes, eateries, and boutiques a girl could ever want. Then, throw in some ocean views and gorgeous houses, and that pretty much sums up Union Street for you. While you can find me catching a SoulCycle class, or picking up a mint-chip smoothie from this spot, some of my favorite moments have just been wandering the streets soaking in the sun in one of the warmest areas of in The City.

Explore The Embarcadero

When Saturday rolls around, The Ferry Building on The Embarcadero is the place to be. With a weekly farmers market, it’s always bustling with people trying to grab all of the free samples they can find. Even on a rainy day, it’s easy to walk through the building, making stops at the indoor vendors, including one of the sweetest spots in the city — Miette Patisserie. The Ferry comes in and out of the dock daily, so regardless of the time of week, it’s fun to stop by for a quick bite or sunset cocktail while checking out views of both the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge.

Bike to Sausalito 

Up for an active day? This in the ultimate thing to do. Head down to Chrissy Field to scoop up some cheap bike rentals, then hit the bike path that takes you over the GG bridge. On a fog-less day, the views as you pedal over the ocean are breathless. Once you’re on the other side, take the winding, twisting route down to the seaside town of Sausalito. I could dedicate an entire post to this place I love oh so much, but in an effort to be concise, i’ll just say: Make a stop at Bar Bocce. After about an hour or so of biking, a drink right on the beach is all you’ll want — and need.

Spend the Day in Wine Country

Another no brainer that probably deserves its own post as well. I feel so fortunate to live within a short drive of this magical area. A couple quick highlights: It’s always warm and sunny, so it’s a great escape when the city weather won’t cooperate. Sonoma offers some very affordable/free tastings compared to its bougier sister city, Napa. However, my favorite wineries all lie in the Calistogia area. Sterling is my top pick {how can you beat a scenic gondola ride?!} followed by the very pretty and sophisticated, Ferrari-Carano. Check out both of their websites before booking your next trip out here.

WHERE TO EAT

Jane’s

This little gem is situated several blocks from my home, and I consider it the most instagrammable attraction around. Luckily, their food and drink selection is quite impressive —and healthy— so it’s well worth the trip. I’d recommend grabbing a spot on the cute, patterned tables to indulge in some Nutty Bird bread and a big, frothy latte.

Leo’s Oyster Bar

If Lilly Pulitzer herself came to San Francisco, I’d picture her here. Stationed right in the heart of the Financial District, it’s a hidden tropical oasis you’ll never see coming. Boasting palm prints and pink velvet chairs, the fun starts even before you begin eating. Grab a quick pic of the scenery, then order a chic cocktail {I prefer the one with the popsicle sticking out} and a round of their signature baked oysters — you will not be disappointed! Perfect for girls nights, or date nights alike, this is one spot I love absolutely everything about!

Foreign Cinema

Movie night just got an upgrade. This dinner joint positioned in The Mission neighborhood projects old black-and-white movies on the outdoor brick wall, all whilst you dine under some antique string lights. Consider it a fun “treat yourself” night when you really feel like switching up the scenery. Note: Reservations are required due to popular demand, and I’d highly recommend getting one after dusk so you can check out the movie display.

Waterbar

Saving the best {views} for last! For great seafood with some ambiance, this oceanside spot is worth a visit. It has a classier vibe inside, so be ready to shell out for dinner accordingly. With glittering views of the Bay Bridge, it’s definitely worth it, because once those lights go down, you won’t be able to stop staring out the window.

WHERE TO SHOP

Minted

I’ve been using Minted for some time as a source for all of my wall accent or stationary needs. Therefore, the moment I discovered that their one brick-and-mortar location was a short walk from my apartment, I just had to visit. The second you step in the door of the store, you’ll most likely find something you love. I’m partial to their location-based selection of cards, which serve as a nice personalized touch to send home. Although, just about any of their prints make for a nice purchase, or present, too!

Cary Lane

This store is a recent discovery, and I’m so glad we were introduced. Featuring designer styles at up to 80% off their original ticket prices, i’m almost always guaranteed to leave with a new item I love. And unlike many other boutiques in the Bay Area, this one isn’t consignment. So each and every piece is brand new and unused. Featuring styles for all four seasons, it’s my new go-to when a shopping trip is due.

Green Apple Books

I have yet to convert to a Kindle, so I rely on the classic bookstore to meet all of my reading needs. This one in particular is great because it offers secondhand bestsellers — at a fraction of the price. With locations in both The Sunset and The Richmond District, I stop in just about anytime i’m passing by, always leaving with the latest and greatest read in hand.

ReLove

My first few weeks in The City were very rainy, so I quickly became familiar with the string of secondhand shops on Polk Street. ReLove is my favorite because of their trendy selection of clothes. While styles come and go, the apparel, shoes, and accessories at this shop always seem relevant. With several high-end brands (think: Chanel and Louis Vuitton) thrown into the mix, the search for my next find is always guaranteed to be an exciting one.

WHERE TO STAY

Claremont Hotel & Spa

On a weekend staycation, I had the pleasure of visiting this majestic and historic hotel stationed just over the bridge. On views alone, the palace-like accommodations, complete with a palm-tree clad campus, is definitely appealing. Once you step into the lobby, you’ll discover they have several top-notch restaurants, and a sprawling pool and luxury spa, too. For anyone looking to post up outside of The Bay and experience all of the warmth the California sun has to offer {while laying poolside, of course!}, this spot is for you.

Westin St. Francis

Here is another ideal place to stay that is more closely situated in the heart of The City. Located right in Union Square, the options to explore beyond the hotel doors are endless. Boasting gorgeous interior decor, original artwork, high ceilings, and large historic windows, staying in the hotel isn’t half bad either. 😉 This is definitely a must-stay for anyone searching for central accommodations in SF.

Fairmont Hotel

The Fairmont is a world-renowned hotel featuring awe-inspiring panoramic views of The City and The Bay. Located right atop Nob Hill, it’s possible to experience the true hilly terrain of the city before stepping inside. Once you do enter the building, the luxe lobby and 592 guest rooms and suites will leave you impressed and ready to book your next stay in the area. I’d suggest this option in particular if you’re looking to avoid the busier Financial District, while still staying within easy access of the main attractions of the area.

 

All in all, there are so many great spots to hit, but this is just a condensed list of what I’ve found + loved. Of course, i’m always open to giving more thorough reco’s, so don’t hesitate to reach-out!

images: what to do/where to shop

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    Comments

    Kathleen A Schneider

    Sarah, I have loved the Claremont for decades! It is the best in every way you mentioned. The spa is incredible. Over the years, I have had every treatment available, new ones always being added. The rooms are beautiful, restaurants perfect. I took Grandma Agnes there for Easter, 1983 when we visited John. It’s been awhile, but I hope to return for a spa visit at least. Lucky you are to be living in such a beautiful area of California.

    @sarahakoller