San Francisco is one of my favorite little getaway spots because it's close, cute, charming, and FULL of good food!!! Seriously that's one of my main motivators for getting away to this darling city, to eat ALL THE THINGS. San Francisco is also insanely Instagrammable and has some amazing shopping, fun things to do with kids, full of history, I love it so much! So today I'm sharing my guide to San Francisco including my favorite places to eat, how to get here, and what to do.
Best way to travel to San Francisco
PCH by car: I've actually never done it, but it's a LEGENDARY drive up Pacific Coast Highway starting really in any city along the California Coast. We have friends who make this drive every year and take the fast way up, and the slow way (PCH) down so they can see everything. From Orange County you can make it to SF in about 6-7 hours taking the fastest freeways, but it will take you AT LEAST 10 hours from San Diego (the southernmost part of California) to San Francisco traveling on the scenic PCH. Most people will break it up in at least a couple days so you can stop and enjoy all the pretty places along the way.
PCH by train: I've also never done this but I know you can take a train from LA to SF and enjoy the beautiful scenery without having to stress about traffic! Sounds so beautiful. But this will take you a very long time as there are many many stops along the way, so just make sure you're not in a hurry or with anyone else who is!
By plane: I've only been to San Francisco by plane and I am 1,000,00% serious when I say the very nicest and best flights I've been on to San Francisco have been through Alaska Airlines. And what's even better is they have some of THE MOST affordable rates of anyone, but somehow still feels like an elite airline. Check out all the comments on this Instagram where I shared that we were taking Millie on her first flight through Alaska Airlines – I'm not the only one who's obsessed with them and thinks they have the best customer service in all the land!! And I love that they fly all over the United States (not just Alaska or LA or SF, but everywhere from Hawaii to Florida and all over in between).
Where to stay in San Francisco
We've tried everything from 5-star hotels to airbnbs and never had a bad experience with anywhere we've stayed, but I also research every place like crazy before we stay there. This time we stayed at The Proper Hotel San Francisco and loved every little detail, from the ridiculously cute wallpaper to the beautiful bathroom to the very comfy bed to the yummy food in the restaurant, I thought it was one of the prettiest hotels I've ever stayed in and would like to invite their decorator to come sparkle their fairy dust all over my house and make it this cute! Haha. And I LOVE that while The Proper Hotel SF is absolutely stunning, it's also reasonably priced.
If you're going with a family it can be tricky to find a hotel that can accommodate a bigger group which is why we've done airbnb in the past. But The Proper Hotel has bunk bed rooms to accommodate families – genius right?! They also had a cute little crib with fresh bedding on it for Millie, so much nicer than a pack n play that you never know how clean it is for baby to sleep on! It was also incredibly quiet. We did not hear a single peep from anyone else's room and we were right next to the elevator and didn't hear that once either – a huge deal to me when traveling with small children who might get woken up easily.
Where to Eat
Let's be honest, this is what I love most about SF!! My two sources for finding the BEST food to eat in San Francisco are my sister's blog Female Foodie, and The Infatuation (which Brooke told me about!). I love when we travel to a city that has a Female Foodie Bucket List to go with it because it makes my life super easy to quickly find a DELICIOUS restaurant in specific neighborhoods of that city. Here are some of my very favorite places I've eaten at in San Francisco that I'm certain you'll love too:
Brenda's French Soul Food
I loved this place so much on my last SF trip that I dragged Neil and Millie in here with me straight from the airport after not eating all day because my starvation was next level! I knew this place would hit the spot, and it did. Chocolate beignets anyone? How about fried chicken benedict? Breakfast (almost) all day and gigantic portions of comfort food that will make you want to plan your next trip while you're still there. Also that super cute wall of mirrors above is from this joint so yes, it's just begging to be grammed.
THE most delicious hot baked sourdough bread I've ever had in my entire life. Period. And everything else there is TDF too. Pro tip: get there just before 4 p.m. to get HOT fresh bread as it comes out of the oven. We literally ate this while it was still steaming on the inside! People line up every day to literally “get it while it's hot.” Rumor has it their new location Tartine Manufactory serves hot bread 2-3x per day so you have an even better chance of getting it hot there no matter when your schedule allows you to pop by.
Just down the street from Tartine (in case you didn't carb load enough!) is my favorite ice cream shop in all of SF, Bi-Rite Creamery. And I'm the ice cream QUEEN. Like I could eat ice cream 3x a day and feel just fine about it. I have dreams about this place! A close runner-up is Humphrey Slocombe, which is right next door to one of my other faves Cowgirl Creamery (more on that later), and if you're headed to Fisherman's Wharf anyway, it's definitely worth your time. Plenty of people will fight you about Bi-Rite being the best and swear on their life that Humphrey Slocombe is the best ice cream in SF, but I guess you'll just have to try both to decide for sure!! Not a terrible problem to have two to choose from.
Pro tip: if the line is insane, they have soft-serve in their smaller little stand next door that's also totally out-of-this-world AND baked goods like apple pie if you realize you actually really need that with your scoop of ice cream, or for later, or for breakfast the next day, which I did once on a trip to SF which was genius if I do say so myself.
Flour + Water
Literally some of THE BEST pasta I have ever put in my mouth, or my belly. It's nearly impossible to get a reservation here unless you're really on top of your game and you book early, but pro tip: show up 15 minutes before they open for dinner and you might get lucky with one of their walk-in spots! We did this in June with a group of 8 and took up almost all the seats at their community table but it was perfect! I was trying things off people's plates who I had only known for 6 hours that day and didn't even feel weird about it because I didn't want to leave that restaurant with FOMO about anything I could have tasted if you know what I mean.
One of those places I always hear people who love food (the kind of people I LOVE) talking about when you ask where you MUST eat in SF. The food absolutely lives up to the hype but a pro tip: go after dark because the whole point of this place is to watch a foreign film while you eat and you can't see the film when it's all sunny outside. I know cause I tried. Also GET A RESERVATION! And get it way in advance.
Not pictured but more favorite spots I salivate over:
Right next to Humprhey Slocombe at the ferry building and a grilled cheese and tomato soup experience SO GOOD I inhaled it before I even had time to take a picture. Which, if you've ever eaten out with me even once, says a LOT. Ha.
Hog Island Oyster Bar
The food was delicious but this is a mostly-outdoor seating restaurant so don't go here with kids at night when it's freezing (like we did!) or you'll have crying kids who don't even want to eat their food they're so cold. Eek.
Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop
LEGIT old school gigantic hot fudge brownie sundaes, the type your mom took you to get after a whole semester of straight As. Or maybe that was just me? But really, go here because it's iconic and so yum.
Super good little treats and super CUTE everything.
I ate here once super late when everything else was closed and MAN did it hit the spot!!
San Francisco has this funny/weird thing about rotisserie chicken. It's like all these places claim to have THE BEST and some of them you need a year-in-advance reservation (insert eye roll emoji) but RT Rotisserie can compete with the best IMHO and you can walk right in – we did at least! Everything was lip-smacking good but that rotisserie was something I wanted to take home with me and eat for a week after as leftovers.
Things to do in San Francisco
San Francisco is one of those cities you'll never run out of fun things to do in, but here are some of the highlights I know about after visiting quite a bit the past few years!
We went on a super fun food tour and obviously this was RIGHT up my alley (ha!) as we ate our way through one of the foodie-est hoods in the city, The Mission. At this point in the guide you're probably thinking wait, I thought she was going to stop talking about food?! Haha. Keep reading.
Full House House
If you literally search “full house house” on your google maps it will take you right to this tourist bait spot. I wasn't mad about it though! Any child of the 80s/90s will get all giddy on nostalgia seeing this spot. I dare you to not sing the theme song as you pull up.
Bay Area Discovery Museum
If you have kids with you this is an AMAZING children's museum. Seriously the best one I've ever taken my kids to. They still talk about it. And bonus! It has a killer spot for a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. And a SUPER cute gift shop with toys so cool you will actually want them in your house, that your kids will be able to play with for longer than 10 minutes after you bring them home because they aren't junky or cheap.
Hike the Muir Woods
Did you know there are Redwoods just 20 minutes outside of San Francisco? They're stunning and so easy to access if you're staying in the Bay Area. Just make sure you leave early enough to get there pretty close to when they open because the parking lot is known to fill up! We went to the Muir Woods last Fall with the girls and took some GORGEOUS pictures.
Brunch in Sausalito
I know MORE FOOD TALK, but we went to brunch at Bar Bocce in Sausalito on our most recent trip with Shopstyle and Alaska Airlines and it. was. BEAUTIFUL. And so warm! And busy. The place was packed within an hour of opening so (again!) the early bird gets the worm.
Union Square Shopping
If you're looking for comfort zone shopping – all the shops that will make you feel right at home like Nordstrom, Anthro, and Sephora all within 100 yards – then you need to wind up here during your stay! They have as fancy as Chanel to as affordable as Forever 21. See all their shops here.
If you've never toured this fascinating landmark you NEED TO! It's easily the #1 most popular tourist destination in the city and it completely lives up to the hype in my opinion. Pro tip: go on the LAST tour of the day and they'll take you to some extra places in the prison, and it feels even more scary in the dark! And reserve your tickets early, because they definitely do sell out!
Drive down this “most crooked street in the United States” and hold your breath and pray to survive if you're like me!! Another place you can just google the address and show up.
Did you know most people riding the cable cars are just tourists?! Yeah, I didn't either at first. None of the locals use the cable cars to commute, but I still think they're so cute and kids really think they're fun!
Hope you LOVE San Francisco!
I hope this guide helps you plan out an epic stay in San Francisco whenever you decide to visit.