We touched down in San Francisco around lunchtime on a Friday. We were a bit nervous about going through US customs but it was a breeze. An easy US$9 train took us right into Union Square. We were staying at Amsterdam Hostel, which was about a 10-minute hilly walk away. We were immediately struck with the beauty of San Francisco. Those picturesque houses that you see on postcards were on every street, the fire escapes reminded us of every classic American movie.
After settling in to the hostel we went on a bit of a tiki tour through the streets of San Fran. Hills, lots of hills! First stop was an American Diner and it was happy hour, ideal. We also took a walk through Chinatown, which was pretty massive but definitely just the same as every other Chinatown that we had been to. After a long afternoon and some serious jet lag we tried to get a good sleep.
The good sleep was not achieved on the first night. Unfortunately the hostel was very loud (I suppose it was a Friday night), which resulted in a pretty grumpy Emily in the morning. However, after free pancakes for brekkie we rallied and took a walk up to Coit Tower for some incredible views of the city, and our first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge!
Next stop was the Exploratorium near Fisherman’s Wharf. Andrew was like a little kid in the candy store, that’s if by ‘kid’ you mean grown man and by ‘candy store’ you mean ‘endless science experiments’, then you would be spot on. It was basically a science lover’s paradise. The experiments were simple, interactive, and fun. Definitely worth a visit. To read more about the Exploratorium visit Andrew’s blog Design Scroggin for some awesome videos and notes.
After getting our science fill we visited Fisherman’s wharf for the famous San Francisco clam chowder, delicious. It was also a good spot to check out some Sea Lions.
After filling our bellies we decided to work it off by hiring bikes and cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge. We were sold the ride as an easy breezy cycle and a nice down hill to Sausalito. Well, after the second, third, fourth and fifth hill and the uphill all the way to Sausalito we realised we had been led astray! Nevertheless it was absolutely worth it and a fantastic experience! A highlight of our trip to San Francisco. Andrew even saw a whale while cycling over the bridge!
The ferry back to San Francisco was gorgeous and we got great views of the famous Alcatraz prison.
On the Saturday night we were keen to check out the famous San Francisco nightlife. A bit easier said than done because we were not exactly sure where to go. We ended up walking down Ellis Street, which turned out to be incredibly dodgy. Before we arrived in San Francisco we were told about the abundance of homeless people, however, we hadn’t really noticed until our walk down Ellis Street at night. Both sides of the street were lined with homeless people, a lot of who were doing drugs, Andrew saw someone shooting heroin. I’m glad I missed it.
After getting past Ellis Street we managed to get into a club near the Tenderloin district. It was pretty much the same as home. After a bit of a dance we headed to another bar for some low-key live music. And we finished off the night at a Mexican bar in the Mission district. It was a fun night and overall successful considering we had no idea what we were doing.
After a late morning wake up we checked out the Beat Museum. I had no idea what the Beatnik generation was, but it originated in San Francisco and was the pre-curser to the 60s social liberation and freedom movements. It was incredibly interesting and we were stoked we made the visit.
We were surprised by the amount of garlic that was everywhere in San Francisco, and it turns out that garlic is grown in California. We were in heaven. We found a hilarious restaurant called The Stinking Rose and literally stuffed our faces with garlic!
We finished off our time in San Francisco with another stroll around Fisherman’s Wharf and an incredible Italian meal in Little Italy. San Francisco made us full constantly with the tasty food options everywhere, safe to say we are a few kgs heavier after our time there. San Francisco is an amazing city with far too much to do in the short time we had there. We will definitely be back to visit Google and do other tech tours.
Here is a breakdown of our costs for 3 days:
Budget = US$745 (NZ$1,080)
Accommodation – US$220
Activities – US$173
Food/Drink – US$400
Miscellaneous (Uber, Buses etc) – US$115
Total spent – US$908 (NZ$1,317)
So we ended up being US$163 (NZ$236) over budget. We could have saved money on not eating such extravagant meals (especially that Italian meal at the end!) but we knew that San Francisco is an expensive city so anticipated we would be over budget. San Francisco is a foodies paradise and we couldn’t resist.