Updated: Jul 30, 2019
Napa was our reason but San Francisco was close by. With thousands of things to do in San Fran, we decided to make it our primary destination and do Napa one day/night in the middle of our trip. See my blog on Napa Valley. https://chrissy0426.wixsite.com/mysite/post/napa-is-always-a-good-idea
We planned our trip one year in advance in order to afford it. California is pretty pricey. Every meal was a splurge. But the food is out of this world when it comes to taste and experience. It's hard to find a bad place to eat. Hidden treasures are everywhere, whether its a delicious, hole-in-the-wall eatery or a spectacular view. California is such a diverse and beautiful state, it's obvious what draws people there. Read on for tips, tricks and recommendations. Read photo captions for foodie info.
Our wedding anniversary is January 3rd and 2019 was our 10 year! Wow! So for our 9 year anniversary we made the decision to bring in our 10 year wedding anniversary for New Years 2019. We found a hotel and flight bundle on Orbitz for a great price after patiently waiting and watching the rates. Once they were within our budget, we booked!
China Town was a must! The shopping is fun and that food was incredible. Souvenirs for the kids and others, must be bought in China Town of course. At all hours of the day there were young people traveling to and from classes in full traditional costume or uniform. Dragons everywhere. The smell of the fortune cookie shop (the last in the country to make their own in tradition) was intoxicating and is definitely a must see. The best food in China Town was definitely the Far East Cafe. I gotta be honest, our waiter was not friendly but I usually don't judge a place by friendliness. If my food is wonderful and the service is quick and the establishment is clean, I usually recommend it. It's usually your company that you are dining with that makes the experience extra special any ways.
Our second day was Napa. Remember to book a room in Napa for at least one night during your California stay. It is only a 45 minute drive from San Francisco so to rent a car and leave most of your stuff in your San Fran hotel is ideal. See my Napa blog. Napa is a dream that you never want to wake up from and it deserves an entire feature itself.
New Years day was a day for sleeping in and relaxing. You do so much walking in San Fran that you wake up almost sore every morning. The day before, we made reservations for a lunch at Cliff House. Be sure to ask for a window seat and try the crab cakes. You'll be so grateful you did. Afterwards we went walking and got lost in the city. We viewed the "full house" house that was under renovations with several signs asking for quiet and privacy so we obliged. We saw the painted ladies and other iconic landmarks before heading back to our hotel to get glammed up for our New Years Eve night out.
The moment that we had booked our California trip, we decided to do our research for NYE parties in San Francisco. We are from the Savannah Ga area, so hotel parties are usually the way to go. They are pretty upscale here and always tons of fun. This is not exactly the case for San Francisco. There were a plethora of hotel parties to choose from. We decided to go with one of the Hiltons in Union Square since that was where we were staying and we did not want to pay for a uber with skyrocketed price spikes. Garrett wore a tux and I wore a gown. Most everyone else was dressed for a club scene. The music was so loud that you could hardly talk to one another let alone even know what song was playing. There were no hors d'oeuvres and the cash bar was cheap liquor. We were a little disappointed that it was not like home. We found out, after it was too late, that the more intimate and elegant parties were at upscale restaurants. The restaurant ticketed events were not much more than what we had paid for our hotel party tickets. We definitely plan to go back one new year and try again.
The best idea we had that saved a TON of money, was getting our "going home" flight as a red eye at night. We packed all of our stuff up and gave it to our hotel concierge for safe keeping the morning of our departure. We then ubered to a bike rental company that covered tours across the golden gate bridge over to Sausalito. Once you made it to Sausalito, you were given instructions on where to leave your bike and then you could have lunch where you wanted. You were then given a meeting time and destination to board a bus with other tourist to ride up to Muir Woods. This tour is SELF guided. You are alone and able to stop whenever and where ever to take pictures, grab a drink (or two) and go at your own pace. But be warned. Riding on open (major) roads is part of getting to your destinations. Do not be late, or you will miss your tour and pay a hefty price for your ride back to your hotel. If you are not comfortable riding a bike along side motor vehicles, this tour is not for you. Garrett and I had no idea it was a self guided tour when we booked. Had we known we would have probably chosen another tour. TIP: Pay the little extra for a motorized bike. You'll thank me later. Once our tour had ended at Muir Woods, our tour guide took us back to San Fran. He was only supposed to stop at two check points and the tourist got off at the one that was closest to their own hotel or desired destination. Our tour guide was so awesome. He was so kind. Garrett and I were the last ones to be on the bus and he asked us what our hotel was near. We told him Union Square. Since he lived near China Town he offered to take us with him and let us get off there so that we didn't have to pay for an uber or walk a long ways. Of course, you should call and tell a friend or family member about who you are with, when and where just to be safe. But Mr. Ronando kept us on very public roads constantly and there were several open windows and exit points all over the bus. Be smart.
Once we made it back to our hotel we grabbed dinner nearby. We then returned to our hotel lobby to retrieve our luggage. We went to the lobby restroom and freshened up and changed clothes for our flight home. We then ubered to the airport and flew home through out the night. We had one quick lay over where we got a midnight snack and drink and finished our journey home. Doing it this way gave us an entire day in San Fran and didn't cost us another night in a hotel and also saved us money due to the time of flight.
Bring a cell phone tripod. The picture opportunities in CA are endless. This flexible one is great to attach to something to get that perfect shot. Just set a timer on your mobile device and say "Cheese". https://www.amazon.com/UBeesize-Phone-Tripod-Wireless-Compatible/dp/B07837W5NX/ref=sr_1_7?crid=1LTDJR6GO29H6&keywords=cell+phone+tripod&qid=1563398671&s=gateway&sprefix=cell+phone+%2Caps%2C167&sr=8-7
I will add that Garrett and I had one night that was free during our stay. We had made no plans. Garrett's cousin had extended family our age that lived in the middle of the city with breath taking views from their terrace. After texting back and forth, asking for recommendations on where to eat, what to do, they invited us over for a drink one evening. This was by far the best part of our trip. The couple was an unbelievably kind and gracious hosting duo. We had, what was meant to be, one glass of wine on the rooftop, that turned into three bottles in front of a fire pit complete with gorgeous views of Coit Tower all lit up. They pulled out a cheese Raclette and served us an assortment of melted cheeses, jams and toasts to die for. We laughed, we shared, we drank and it was good for the soul. Spontaneity and a will for adventure brought us to their home and we loved every minute of it.
Part of travel for adults is always meeting new people and connecting. It really does make a great trip even better. Grab a seat at the bar instead of the table where you sit with stangers. Talk to your wait staff about the city's best kept secrets. Ask questions. Be curious. This is what takes traveling to the next level. Then share it with others. Cheers.