I Heart San Francisco
posted by Vicki in Gypsetters Guide
Why go: When Tony Bennett crooned, “I left my heart in San Francisco,” we could completely understand. There is so much to love about the Bay area: its eclectic food, nightlife, shopping, culture, arts, quirky neighborhoods, nearby wine country. I’ve been going to the Bay area since I was around 11 years old to visit my brother who lived there. Last month I took my 10-year-old son Enzo to see the city for the first time and it was great fun seeing it through a child’s eyes again. San Francisco is extremely kid-friendly! With its tourist attractions like the sea lions at Pier 39, Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, Union Square and more, San Francisco is a place you will never tire of.
What to pack: No matter what the season, you need to always remember to bring lots of layers when visiting the City by the Bay. San Francisco’s weather can change in an instant so it’s best you cover all the bases. It is generally cold in the morning, warm in the afternoons and cold in the evenings, but the wind chill factor can drop temperatures down even when it’s sunny outside. Enzo constantly wore his jackets from Uniqlo and Zara and I wore my travel-friendly reversible Promod puffy jacket, puffy vest from Zara and comfy sweater by Mandy de la Rama, all of which we never get to wear in tropical Manila! I layered his T-shirts over long-sleeved shirts for that California cool vibe look. San Francisco is a pretty laid-back city, so women need not bring their sexy dresses for a night out. I wore a mostly neutral palette of beige, cream and grey outfits and to bring them to life I brought several accessories such as a hat, sunnies and a scarf from Parfois, Joyce Makitalo necklaces and rings, Stockton Row and Nicole Whisenhunt earrings for daytime and night, respectively; and of course, all the shoes we designed for Sapato Manila! Wearing comfortable shoes is imperative for walking around this big city. Men are seen wear their usual trousers and jeans and they style it up with chic sweaters and jackets and perhaps a nice scarf. They wear a stylish sports coat for dressier evenings out. Last but not the least, you definitely should bring workout gear! Californians are very active and on the weekends you can see the locals out running, biking or walking. I was happy to do Zumba in the mornings to offset all the eating I did.
Love/lust: I love that San Francisco has always been an innovator and at the top of their game when it comes to being an environmentally-conscious city and you will see this when you dine in their restaurants with their recyclable packaging or when you go shopping. Being a big foodie, I think the food options here are wonderful: they’ve got organic, vegan, paleo-friendly, carb-free etc. choices and because of the great melting pot of cultures that call San Francisco its city, you can find any kind of cuisine as well, from Burmese to Asian to Brazilian. Shopping wise, the city offers both luxe labels and homegrown shops. I love seeing art all over the city. In Hayes Valley, there is an art installation that encourages you to fill in the phase: “Before I die…” on a big blackboard and in the Mission district, artists are free to paint their own murals. Last but definitely not the least, being a big cosmopolitan city, musical acts usually add a tour here. One concert on my bucket list is to watch U2 and I was so lucky to catch their two-day only Experience + Innocence Tour in San Jose.
Stay: If you want to stay somewhere central to Union Square, you can opt for Hotel Adagio or The Handlery. My sister enjoys the luxury of The Fairmont Hotel in Nob Hill. I would definitely like to stay at the boutique Mystic Hotel. Don’t forget to book through agoda.com to get an awesome rate. Another option is finding a house or apartment using airbnb.com for your stay as hotels can get pretty pricey, not to mention the all-day parking rates!
Eat: There are so many great places to eat at in San Francisco. In-N-Out Burger is always a good lunch stop while in California and you can always find one on a road trip to the outlets or to Napa Valley. The Bay area has amazing fresh seafood, from its large variety of local oysters to the delicious dungeness crab to the quintessential San Francisco clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Aside from its thriving restaurant scene, I appreciate how fresh produce is here and luckily I arrived during the season of my favorite fruit, cherries. Hands down, California avocados have the best flavor and texture and its super easy to add it into sandwiches, salads or make it into a homemade guacamole. For those who enjoy cooking and just browsing, the supermarket is always fun to visit with its endless varieties of everything. However, between Stephanie and I who have been Bay Area regulars, we have tons of restaurant recos so we came up with a combined list of our favorite joints! Check it out here.
Drink: Laszlo next to Foreign Cinema. Revolution Bar where you can sometimes catch classical music. See my post here. Go to cool whiskey bars. Tonga Room & Hurricane bar is a true life tiki room in the basement of The Fairmont, which is actually really fun and unexpected in middle of San Francisco. Go to mysterious, hip, no-signage bars like Odd Job for a cool vibe and customized cocktails.
Do: Because I was with Enzo, we had to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge so we could take photos it was my first time to visit the California of Academy of Sciences at the Golden Gate Park and The Exploratorium, both great fun and these visits lasted a whole day each. The kids enjoyed the various interactive experiments at The Exploratorium – there were so many we didn’t even get to finish the whole venue. It was also cool to see a replica of the Philippine Tubbataha reefs at The California Academy of Sciences, as well as hang out with the albino alligator and learn more about their new exhibit on whales. I also enjoyed exploring art at the Legion of Honor. It has a wonderful collection of Rodins and visiting exhibitions such as the Houghton Hall, a real-life Downton Abbey. Of course, I had to bring Enzo to Pier 39 to watch the sea lions and visit the cute boutiques. It was here he proclaimed, “I think I like San Francisco!” After enjoying our delicious chocolate milkshakes and sundaes at Ghiradelli Square (it’s here where I remember Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction wondering what a $5 milkshake tastes like) this was his chance to also ride a cable car for the first time. We rode the Powell-Hyde line and it was fun (and a little nerve-wracking!) to hang onto its side like in the olden days while chitchatting with all the other tourists. Being squished can do that to you. Be sure to buy your tickets at the booth before getting on. Finally, the kids enjoyed playing games at Chuck E Cheese and exchanging their tickets for prizes.
Shop: I like browsing the cute boutiques on Hayes Street and discovering vintage finds on Haight-Ashbury. It was here I bought a vintage Dior clutch bag for $80! Audiophiles will be happy to park themselves at Amoeba Records, also in Haight-Ashbury. For designer labels, shop around Union Square and Stanford Mall. A trip to San Francisco is not complete without outlet shopping at Livermore or Gilroy. Enzo was very happy to just shop at Target for his Legos.
Book: Here’s a link to the best books on San Francisco.
Soundtrack: You can go hippie vibe The Doors or listen to homegrown bands like Counting Crows and Jefferson Airplane.
Watch: Movies filmed in San Francisco: The Maltese Falcon; The Sweetest Thing; Sneakers; Big Hero 6; Pacific Rim; Godzilla and Need for Speed.
In the know: For those who live outside the US, go local and buy a To-Go smartphone from Target and load it as soon as you can. This can also act as your GPS when you download Waze – imperative when driving around the city. For those who wish to rent a car, do so near the airport so that you can drop it off before you fly off. Car rental companies usually have shuttles to take you to the airport from their premises. The best months to visit the city are in spring, May-June or fall, September-October. May-June is also strawberry and artichoke season! Eat local while in San Francisco, there are so many amazing things to try. Don’t forget to bring a reusable bag when you go shopping as stores in San Francisco are now required to charge you if you want a shopping bag with your purchase. Despite so many things to do and see in San Francisco, for me what’s most important is creating lifelong memories with cherished friends and family.
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We are two friends who were former magazine editors. Having moved onto other things, we both realized that the creative flow the publishing world used to offer us was missing from our lives. Armed with a common love of travel to the exotic and familiar, a penchant for the bohemian, an obsession with food and a lust for writing, we decided to collaborate our unique and fashionable journeys through life together in one passion project.
We are The Gypsetters.