Honeymoon in My Hometown: San Francisco

To interrupt my regularly scheduled recap posts, I decided to participate in a special Bee series, Honeymoon in My Hometown, in which we pimp our home bases to the masses, should you be considering a honeymoon in our backyards.

This Taco is a Bay Area gal through and through. I grew up in South San Francisco: a suburb that, contrary to popular belief, is not part of its famous northern neighbor. I returned home for a spell (gah) in 2003 after college, and I bounced around the Bay Area a couple times until moving to San Francisco almost three years ago.

I love it here. And you will love it here, especially if you like some key things: hilly city scenery, fresh, organic food, wine, and walking.

I’m not categorically opposed to tourist things, but there are some I could do without.

I still don’t really get why people go to Pier 39, though it’s a hub for ferries to Alcatraz and Angel Island, our pet islands in the middle of the Bay. But Pier 39: maybe check it out on your way to something else, but it really doesn’t have much in the way of interesting San Francisco stuff and the food isn’t good. No one hangs out here for nighttime activities, either. There is, however, a nice carousel; I spent a lot of time on it as a kid, so it’s near and dear to my heart.

The Buena Vista Cafe is a short jaunt down from Pier 39. They say Irish coffee was invented here, and it’s a really good way to warm yourself up in one of our blustery “summers.” Real summer, for us, doesn’t start until September or October, and even then, it maybe breaks 80. Even in November, we had fantastic weather in the high-’60s. But June, eh. Windbreakers and numb faces rule the day. To be fair, I say this as someone who gets chilly in the grocery store and dresses in front of the space heater, even when it’s arguably not that cold.

Also near the Buena Vista is the Powell-Hyde cable car line. This is a tourist thing I love doing; it’s the only true, operating cable car in the world. It chugs up hills with ease (its purpose in life), and it’s a charming vestige of the old Victorian city. This is another wait-in-line situation, but waiting at the start of the line is the best way to get a good spot on the car.

In North Beach; we work near here

Coit Tower

All pics by Right Angle Images unless otherwise noted.

I love Coit Tower, too. That is, I love being around it because I think it looks cool and there are some good views. I’ve never been to the tippy top, but hanging out on the lawn there is actually really calming and quiet. If you bring a light snack, it would be fun to picnic. A tiny, adorable bus called the 39-Coit will get you there, but I think hoofing it (with water, good shoes, and plenty of energy) is a nice challenge. There are plenty of websites about stairway walks up to this landmark, if you’re interested. Then, you can brag to people back home about how you took on one of our most famous hills.

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Alcatraz

Pic by yours truly.

You have to do Alcatraz. It’s very, very cool. Great views of the city, great history, and worth-it audio tour. Buy tickets ahead of time, definitely.

Angel Island: This state-run park makes for an outdoorsy day trip or overnighter: hiking, picnicking, Frisbee, camping all good here. Stellar views of the Bay Area from certain points, with Lost-esque qualities thanks to some old military barracks.

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Golden Gate Bridge

Pic by Mr. Taco

Golden Gate Bridge

This is the most beautiful bridge in the world. The rusty, unparalleled International Orange sets it apart for me; it’s like they knew it would be shrouded in fog at least half the time. It’s really windy and cold over here, so prepare accordingly. I’m freezing in the pic above, don’t be fooled.

In an alley in our 'hood

Street Art

The first pic above is in Clarion Alley, in the Mission District. That area is home to food (including tacos of the edible, non-blogging kind) and some of the best street art in the city. The second pic is in North Beach, another touristy destination that does have some tasty gems, but, overall, is home to the most overpriced bowl of spaghetti you can buy. For North Beach, stick instead to dinner at The House, stop for a drink at Spec’s, or have lunch at Giordano Brothers, a Pittsburgh-style deli.

At the deYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park is out of the way, on the west side of town. But it’s a great place to ride a bike, walk around, and go to the museum: specifically the de Young (pictured above; the building itself is made of copper), the California Academy of Sciences (get there early, like before it opens, preferably not on a weekend), or the Conservatory of Flowers. I have never done the paddle boats around Stow Lake, but they’re supposed to be a good time, lest you get pooped on like one friend did on a first date. (He married her, so maybe that is good luck?)

Other Museums

Modern art is my favorite, and SF MoMA has a fabulous collection of it. The Legion of Honor is good, too, but also a pain in the ass to get to; it’s north and over, in the northwest corner of town, from Golden Gate Park.

Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair

I like that song, though I rarely come to the Haight.

The famed Haight-Ashbury district is very near Golden Gate Park. There’s nothing wrong with it, exactly, it’s just not my style and I don’t dig the food and drink options. Though, a noteworthy exception is The Alembic, a quiet, romantic, expensive place to have a drink. They’ve got great cocktails and impressive wall of Scotch and whisky.

The Haight drew hippies in the ’60s and it still draws runaway teenagers and their dogs, many of which line the sidewalk all day. But exploring and window shopping here is definitely a very San Francisco experience, albeit a touristy one.

Ferry Building

The actual building is the pointy guy off to the right; this is a cool fountain in nearby Justin Herman Plaza.

This is another expensive touristy place, but the goods in here are actually good. The Beaux Arts building is wonderfully preserved in all its historic goodness, even after an extensive renovation into its current iteration: land of organic, local everything, from cheese to wine to olive oil to caviar to coffee. My favorites are Cowgirl Creamery for cheese, and Blue Bottle Coffee. The farmers market is every Wednesday and Saturday. Samples!

Transportation

Yikes, well, we suck at transportation. You can drive, but parking lots are expensive. You’re looking at $20 on the low end to park all day, including at your hotels.

BART is often reliable, but it’s more of a Bay Area-wide transportation system than an intra-city one. It’s good for coming in from the airport or going to anything downtown, along Market Street, one of our main arteries.

Our bus/light rail system, god bless the damn thing. It actually goes everywhere in the city. Everywhere. I ride it every day and I help run a website about its ups, downs, and weirdness. Many lines are hideously inefficient, but riding the bus is definitely one of the most local experiences you can have. You just have to balance a lengthier, cheaper, possibly more frustrating trip with the need to circle or pay for parking.

Visitors love going to on the streetcar, the official name of which is F-Market/Wharves. I take this every day to go to work, and it is always jam-packed with commuters and tourists heading to Alcatraz around 8:50 a.m. It then ferries a metric assload of people back between 5 and 6 p.m. So, your best bet is to go really early in the morning, some time in the middle of the afternoon, or at night. I like it better at night because everything, including the inside of the streetcar, looks a little nicer from the glow of a street lamp.

Noms

Let’s start with tacos, duh. Taquerias are popular in the Mission District (the murals ”˜hood and home to this Taco), for good reason. Head to Pancho Villa or, our favorite, Taqueria Can-Cun (in a continued typographical WTF, the hyphen comes and goes). This is also the cheapest local food you can get, along with Sunflower Vietnamese. Coffee and pastries? Tartine, hands down, is the best place for this. The line is 30 people deep if you go at the wrong time (brunch on a weekend), so try to go early-early. All of these options are in the Mission District, so let’s expand our options.

For honeymooners, intimate, romantic stuff is probably high on your list. Enter Top of the Mark, a lounge at the tippy top of the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel in Nob Hill. It has a massive drink menu ($12 each, for the most part), live entertainment, usually, and a great view of the whole city.

A lot of our favorite intimate dinner-type things are expensive, in the $150 to $200 per couple range on the lower end. That always factors in starter drinks and/or a bottle of wine; not to worry, because even if you don’t know anything about vino but would like to try some, servers are all very knowledgeable and helpful when it comes to recommending something to your taste. Though they’ll cost you a pretty penny, these celebratory, greatest-hits restos will knock your socks off. Fleur de Lys (French), SPQR (Roman), NOPA and Nob Hill Grille (rustic, French-influenced American favorites), Boulevard (French), and Jardiniere (French).

That closes the Taco tour guide through the 7-by-7 mile square I call home. It’s dirty, gritty, yuppie, and outdoorsy all at the same time, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

~~~

See all the posts in the Honeymoon in my Hometown Series here!

BLOGGER

Mrs. Taco

Location:
San Francisco
Wedding Date:
August 2010

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  1. Member
    Mrs. Hermit Crab 3901 posts, Honey bee @ 10:48 am

    I have been wanting to visit San Fran for some time – this makes me even more excited!

  2. Guest Icon Guest
    CarMar, Guest @ 11:02 am

    Ah! Your post makes me miss SF so much!

  3. Member
    Miss Britt 915 posts, Busy bee @ 11:03 am

    My husband and I took a short trip to San Jose back in September and we absolutely fell in love with that area. We went to San Francisco for one day, and it was just such a fun city.

    I would agree with you about Pier 39…I wasn’t impressed with the food/shopping. I wish this post had been around a couple months ago! Alcatraz was super cool and worth it, it was the best audio tour I’ve ever had. And I totally didn’t expect the bridge to be covered in fog! That was a bummer!

    I wish we had more time in SF…and now I just want to move out to the West Coast!

  4. Member
    sewing 2649 posts, Sugar bee @ 11:05 am

    panchoooo villaaaaa! :3 yum yum yum

  5. Member
    ms. rice crispy treat 943 posts, Busy bee @ 11:06 am

    ahhhh…your pictures make me miss San Francisco so much!! I grew up in Sacramento, went to college in Rohnert Park, and moved away from CA almost 3 years ago. Every time I visit CA I’m so busy in Sac/North Bay with friends & family that I can’t get to SF…boo :( BUT!! I am planning on having my bachelorette party in the City the same weekend of B2B this coming May so I’ll include the “race” into my party weekend! Cannot wait!

  6. Member
    crayfish 10384 posts, Sugar Beekeeper @ 11:17 am

    So, random question from someone about to move there – are Zipcars a popular thing in San Fran? We use them in Boston instead of owning a car, and were hoping that would translate over to another big, dense city :-)

  7. Member
    cinnamonbun 1116 posts, Bumble bee @ 11:26 am

    Cinnamon Buns and I got engaged on a vacation in San Francisco in June! We both absolutely loved it there.
    We found the bus system pretty easy to use for us tourists, I actually felt like the city had very good transportation systems (especially compared to here!). We got a 5-day City Pass that got us in to a lot of things for free, including a full day wine tour of the Sonoma Valley! http://www.smartdestinations.com/san-francisco-attractions-and-tours/_d_Sfo-p1.html?pass=Sfo_Prod_Go
    We loved Alcatraz (we did the night tour), the Disney museum, Japantown, and got engaged on the island on Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park. :)
    And we have a photo of us on that same fountain by the Ferry Building!

  8. Member
    cinnamonbun 1116 posts, Bumble bee @ 12:02 pm

    Oh! I forgot! Another highlight was the Boudin Bakery, because I’m obsessed with baking. Their little sourdough museum was great, and I loved watching the bakers make bread from way above the kitchen.

  9. Guest Icon Guest
    Sarah, Guest @ 12:04 pm

    We’re going to San Francisco for our honeymoon in June! I’m so excited! Neither of us has ever been there before & it just seems like there’s so much to do :)

  10. Member
    taco 946 posts, Busy bee @ 12:32 pm

    @crayfish: Zipcars are pretty popular, yeah. I know tons of people who don’t have cars but like to use them now and then, so it’s a good option if you fit into that category! We have one car between us, which is plenty, so we’ve never opted in to car-sharing.

    @ms. rice crispy treat: Great idea! The city will be wayyy busy on that Sunday and possibly Saturday, so try to get here before the weekend if you can.

  11. Member
    arborgirl 41 posts, Newbee @ 12:35 pm

    What I would give to be back at Taqueria CanCun right now…

  12. Guest Icon Guest
    rheabee80, Guest @ 1:02 pm

    Total second on the Cowgirl Creamery! Mmmmmmmmmmm cheesey goodness!

  13. Member
    Moody 113 posts, Blushing bee @ 1:14 pm

    OMG Mrs. Taco, I am so happy you did a post on SF! I live and work here, too, and did a City Hall ceremony in September.

    I love that you highlighted Golden Gate Park. So many people forget about this gem. An interesting fact is that GGP is actually bigger than New York’s Central Park! The fountains in the Music Concourse have been renovated and are running after 80′s of not working! I’m a bit biased as I work for the Academy of Sciences, but it’s definitely a day trip worth doing :)

  14. Member
    earrings 2611 posts, Sugar bee @ 1:18 pm

    I have only been to SF once, and it was just for a day, but i LOVED it. Despite it being a big city it kinda has a small town feel. Cant wait to go back and experience some of the things you have suggested!

  15. Member
    simplifiedbride 1072 posts, Bumble bee @ 1:30 pm

    yay! SF (please don’t call it “san fran” haha) is my adopted hometown, where we got engaged, where FI grew up, and we lived for a decade until we bought our home out of the city a few years ago. :) there are sooo many awesome things to do, no matter what your vacation style is. great roundup, taco!

  16. Guest Icon Guest
    periwinkle, Guest @ 1:32 pm

    Grew up on the peninsula and spent all our special occasions in The City – I miss it so much! The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park is my favorite place in the city.

  17. Member
    missbiscuit 1054 posts, Bumble bee @ 1:37 pm

    <3 Cowgirl Creamery. We’re having an “artisnal cheeses” display during our cocktail hour and I requested Mt. Tam brie specifically. There’s NOTHING better. Yummmmm

    @ms. rice crispy treat: Go cossacks/seawolfs? :)

  18. Member
    bearcub 1561 posts, Bumble bee @ 2:00 pm

    <3 <3 <3 tartine! We were visiting Mr. BC’s grandma who lives in the Mission a few weeks ago – I just had to go to tartine!!

  19. Member
    cheetah 1192 posts, Bumble bee @ 3:30 pm

    I’ve been to SF a dozen times, but I’ve never been to Alcatraz! Must check it out next time I’m in town!

  20. Guest Icon Guest
    katjobin, Guest @ 3:37 pm

    I spent a semester in college studying in San Francisco and loved it so much that my fiancé and I took a trip there. I’d love to move there if it didn’t cost so much to live there, let alone the cost of moving cross country. It was on the top of our list of honeymoon destinations, but the cost of airfare was just too much sadly. I can’t wait till the next time we can afford a trip there!

  21. Guest Icon Guest
    carol, Guest @ 1:52 am

    Ferry building – cowgirl creamery right next to Acme bread – wonderful, and

    There are so many places to eat here in SF – here are some of my favorite (I’m a pastry chef here so I actually eat out a lot, I try and call it research):
    *Epic Roasthouse – the burger is out of this world, and the view of the bay bridge from here is crazy (pretty pricey but worth it)
    *tartine – best ham & cheese croissant EVER
    *mitchells ice cream – awesome creamy goodness
    *charles chocolate (westfield center, right at the base of the cable car turn around on market) – this chocolate is made in SF and is perfectly simple
    *Tommy’s mexican restaurant (out in the richmond) – if you like tequila – this is the place for you
    *sushi ran – it’s across the golden gate bridge in sausalito, but if you like sushi, it is well worth the trip. This is considered the best sushi on the west coast – it gets crazy busy at night, a good way to get a sf experience would be to rent bikes, ride across the bridge to Sausalito, have some great sushi and take the ferry back to the city. The view from the ferry is great.

    Also, everyone gets the view of the Golden Gate bridge from the SF side but if you want a unique view, go across the bridge and go down into Horseshoe cove, you can go under the bridge, the bridge is amazing from here.

  22. Member
    MissMargie 769 posts, Busy bee @ 12:19 pm

    Ahhh we celebrated our 5 year anniversary at Fleur de Lys and had the most amazing restaurant experience ever! We even got to meet Hubert Keller and his wife :) I adore SF and can’t wait to go back!

  23. Guest Icon Guest
    Jessica, Guest @ 5:19 pm

    Hometown girl, What What!

    You make me yearn for my city.

  24. Member
    Megrit 478 posts, Helper bee @ 4:10 pm

    San Francisco is absolutely on my Must Visit list. Thanks for the great tips!

  25. Member
    taco 946 posts, Busy bee @ 1:19 am

    Thanks for reading! SF makes a great honeymoon, no doubt!

  26. Member
    jordynrose 6351 posts, Bee Keeper @ 3:26 pm

    Love the tips!

  27. Member
    taco 946 posts, Busy bee @ 3:41 pm

    @missbiscuit: *dies* I love Mt. Tam. It’s like butter.

  28. Guest Icon Guest
    Make Money Online, Guest @ 3:45 am

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