San Francisco is one of those romantic, idyllic cities people all over the world dream about, with its winding roads lined with Victorian houses and its abundance of dramatic ocean views. San Francisco is one of my favorite cities in the world, but I don’t make it there nearly as often as I’d like. So when I had to fly to San Francisco for a business trip this past year, I was thrilled. Unfortunately, my excitement quickly faded when I realized my itinerary would be filled with one meeting after another, so on the last day of the trip I decided to extend my trip and enjoy a short one-day vacation in San Francisco.
To make this last-minute vacation a reality, I checked out HotelTonight and booked a great hotel in San Francisco for that same night. The hotel happened to be located in one of my favorite neighborhoods, so I walked a few blocks, checked into my new hotel room and hit the ground running. I didn’t have much time to see all that I wanted to see in the city, so I narrowed down my itinerary to some of my favorite areas. Since I’ve been to San Francisco several times before, I’ve seen most of the touristy sights, such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. So I made it my mission to explore the city like a local rather than a tourist this time around, because that’s always the best way to really get to know any city.
When you arrive in SoMa (the name given to the neighborhood south of Market Street), you’ll find it hard to imagine that the neighborhood was once a gritty, industrial district. Now, it’s home to some of San Francisco’s best museums and fine arts centers, such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Children’s Creativity Museum and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. I decided to start my day by browsing the bizarre and fascinating artwork at the Museum of Modern Art, where I saw works by famous artists like Henri Matisse and Andy Warhol.
You may think that this photogenic hilltop park is a tourist spot thanks to the famous “Painted Ladies,” the quaint Victorian homes that line the road, but it’s actually a popular local hangout. San Franciscans come to Alamo Square to let their dogs off their leashes, play with their children on the playground, or just sit back and unwind with a picnic and some friends. So I decided to do as the locals do – I grabbed some food at a nearby eatery and set up a little picnic on the lawn. As I sat there eating my sandwich, soaking up the sunshine, and watching the San Franciscans enjoy the beauty of their city, I thought to myself, “It really doesn’t get much better than this.”
There are plenty of touristy things to do in the Embarcadero, from taking a ferry to Alcatraz to grabbing a bite to eat at Fisherman’s Wharf, but I’ve already crossed these spots off my San Francisco bucket list. So instead, I decided to check out a different attraction in the Embarcadero – the SS Jeremiah O’Brien, also known as the Liberty Ship. This ship, which was active during World War II, is a living museum that will fascinate any history lover. I could have spent all afternoon exploring every inch of that ship, but since I was trying to see as much of San Francisco as possible, I limited my visit to two hours.
Dolores Park is the heart of Mission District, and I’d be willing to bet you’ve seen photos of this postcard-worthy park before. However, there’s a great deal more to do in the Mission District than just lounge and picnic at Dolores Park. If you want to shop, dine and experience hip nightlife in San Francisco, the Mission District is a great place to visit. I had a few gifts I wanted to purchase for friends and family back home, so I meandered down Valencia Street and popped into a handful of trendy boutiques and shops.
I’ve heard that the Marina is where all of the trendy, wealthy 20-somethings and 30-somethings want to live, and I can totally see why. This San Francisco neighborhood is situated along the water, boasting some of the most breathtaking views in the city. There are a number of art galleries in the Marina, but since I had already conquered one museum that day, I decided to skip the galleries and instead indulge in another local Marina favorite – eating. Possibly the hardest part of my day in San Francisco was choosing between all of the upscale, hip restaurants in The Marina.
By the end of my day in San Francisco, I felt that I had explored parts of the city I had never seen before, which was my number one goal. I know that I’ll return to San Francisco in the future, as it’s a city that always seems to call me back to its sparkling ocean views and its vibrant urban streets. Next time I find myself in San Francisco, I’ll be sure to book a hotel room through HotelTonight so that I can spend less time searching for a good hotel and more time exploring this one-of-a-kind city.