Backyard Adventure in San Francisco: Our Picks for the City by the Bay

Growing up in Illinois, I really didn’t know much about California except for Hollywood. I just knew that I wanted to spend my collegiate years and start my career in New York. I stayed in Illinois for college and an internship my senior year changed my dream of heading to the Big Apple.

So here I am during the summer of 1996 on my way to San Francisco. I didn’t know anyone but learned I had cousins there and in Seaside close to Monterey. Arriving from Chicago, I had a suitcase full of all the wrong clothes. Lesson number one: When traveling to a place for the first time, check the weather. San Francisco’s weather can be very funny but now after living in the Bay Area for 11 years, I got it down to a science. My introduction to this much talked about city was not what I expected but in a surprising way. And when my internship was over and my parents picked me up from the airport, I said without hesitation, “Mom and dad, I am moving to California.” And in a little over a year I did.

San Francisco is just one of those cities that you have to visit once. The best time to visit in my opinion is during the months of August, September and October. You’ll find that even one week won’t be enough time to see everything, but that is okay because it gives you a reason to come back. I always love being a tourist right here in my own backyard because even I haven’t seen everything the city has to offer. There is always something going on, wonderful restaurants to enjoy, scenery to daydream in, and people to meet with stories to tell.

Each year when my parents and friends come to visit, I get to play tour guide and I have to say… I don’t think I am too bad at it. I continue to be amazed at the beauty of the city and can see why San Francisco was recently voted the “best city to visit in the U.S.” in a recent travel poll done by Conde Nast Traveler.

Now that I have convinced you to call your travel agent, what shall you do when you arrive? Well, glad you asked. Here are just some of Cuisine Noir’s San Francisco hot spots to put on our travel agenda:

  1. Market Street – Tons of action going on here. You can wait to grab a trolley ride, go shopping at Bloomindale’s or just sit down and watch the people walk on by. Whatever you do, trust us, you’ll be entertained.
  1. Fisherman’s Wharf – If you love seafood, then Fisherman’s Wharf is definitely the place for you. It is known to have the best crab around. The Wharf also reminds me of Jamaica Avenue in New York. Always a bargain waiting to be made.
  1. The Piers along Embarcadero – Just a walk down the Piers will take up a nice part of your morning or afternoon. At Pier 39, you can have lunch, do a little shopping, go to the Aquarium of the Bay and watch the infamous sea lions. You can also catch a boat tour over to Alcatraz. At Pier 35, you can see which cruise line is sitting at the dock. A little further down at Pier 29, you can see one of the longest-running shows in town, Teatro ZinZanni. Keep going and eventually, you will run into the Ferry Building which welcomes daily commuters and is also a great marketplace for shopping and dining.
  1. The Golden Gate Bridge – This is a given. But you can’t just drive or walk across it, as there really isn’t any excitement in that. Instead, once you cross going North, make a left and go all the way up to the very top of the hill. From there you will be able to look over the bridge and actually see how the San Francisco Bay actually flows into to the Pacific Ocean. Catch this during the perfect sunset, priceless.
  1. Sausalito and Tiburon – I love these two towns. Drive about 15 – 30 minutes or so away from San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge and you really will be singing the song “California Dreaming.” Both offer peace and tranquility when you just need to get away from it all.
  1. Lombard Street – If you like roller coasters, then hold on because this CN pick will have you screaming for more. Known as San Francisco’s and America’s “crookedest” street, I’ll have to admit that even after living here 11 years, I just can’t get enough. Start your approach from Van Ness Avenue and you’ll soon find yourself going up and up and up at angles you probably will think are not safe for a car with people in it. Passengers can look back and see an amazing view of the city and Golden Gate Bridge. Once there, follow the line of cars and go left, right, left, right all the way down. End with a downward hill which lands you into North Beach. Then do it all over again.
  1. Coit Tower – There are two ways to get to this beautiful monument. Those who are brave do it by foot and while others take the easy route and drive. Located on Telegraph Hill, the tower offers some of the most amazing views of San Francisco.
  1. Union Square – Shoppers unite here all day long and into the night. Macy’s, Neiman’s, Saks, Tiffany’s, Nike and Louis Vuitton all call this popular spot home. I once went to a Jamiroquai concert here. That was years ago but the Square always has something going on.
  1. Fillmore District – Also known as the Fillmore, this area is making a nice comeback. Music and food continue to play a part in bringing this area alive once again as many remember how it used to be back in the day. While there, have a bite to eat at 1300 on Fillmore and then enjoy a show at Yoshi’s Jazz Club.

I could go on but I hope you got a good start. However, like I said, it is impossible to see everything in a week, month and even a year. So although you may leave, I guarantee your heart won’t.

For more information about San Francisco, visit www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com.

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Sheree has been penning stories since the fifth grade. Her stories took a delicious and adventurous turn as an adult when she became a foodie.