A few weeks ago we flew into San Jose, California to spend the weekend with my brother and sister-in-law who re-located to the area.
It was my first time visiting the west coast and I wanted to get the most out of what little time we had there, so they put together a little itinerary for us.
Actually, it wasn’t little at all.
It was super impressive. I’m talking exact times, and reservations made. Thanks to them, we got to experience a little bit of everything and had a truly amazing weekend.
They are literally the definition of “hostess with the mostest.” I mean, I feel like they should start a California tour company or something. We were traveling to Maui right from San Jose, and my SIL had stocked our shower with “Maui” brand shampoo & conditioner- how cute is that? No detail was overlooked. I just love them!
OK, here is my round up of 10 fun things to do in San Francisco:
1. GOLDEN GATE FORTUNE COOKIE FACTORY
When you venture down Ross Alley from the main street you might think you’ve been led in the wrong direction- until the aroma of fresh baked fortune cookies reassures any doubt. When you step inside you’ll see barrels upon barrels of the popular post-meal treats. There are so many delicious variations- we opted for frosting and sprinkle covered (Arabella’s choice), and green tea with chocolate drizzle. You can even write your own fortunes, and have them put in your cookies. Such a good time for kids and adults alike!
2. ESCAPE GAME
Escape games are becoming a popular activity for team building, bachelor/bachelorette parties, or just plain fun with any group. They can be found in pretty much every major city and are worth scoping out if you have the chance. The one we did was called Spellbound Supper. It was a projection table game where we had to complete a series of puzzles to make our way through an extensive supper menu. If we failed to make it through the menu in it’s entirety, we would be turned into rats by an evil witch. We made it all the way to the last menu item and ran out of time, but luckily we’re still human, so there’s that. Arabella blew us away by quickly answering the first puzzle on her own as we all sat there stumped. That’s my girl!
3. REDWOOD FOREST
I live in upstate NY so I’m used to being surrounded by nature, but the Redwood Forests are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. The sheer massiveness of the trees, and the opportunity to go inside of them is something you don’t want to miss. The drive alone was an enjoyable experience (for those with a good stomach). Narrow, winding bends and gorgeous mountain views carried us to a well marked trail where we explored the mighty redwoods. I suggest rolling down all of the windows on the drive- you can literally smell the scent of untouched forestry the closer you get!
4. LOMBARD STREET
I have a funny little story about this one. Arabella really wanted to ride a trolley, and we were running out of time before our dinner reservation on the way to Lombard Street. Uncle Mikey was not about to disappoint, so he transformed our car into a trolley instead. How might one do this? He found a recording of trolley noises on YouTube, cranked up the volume, and rolled down all of the windows. We could not stop laughing at the confused expression on people’s faces as they tried to make sense of our “trolley car.” Again, best host ever.
On to Lombard Street- it’s a famous street consisting of one block, with eight hairpin, zig-zagging turns. I couldn’t imagine being a resident there with all of the tourist traffic and pauses for photo ops. I don’t know how they manage it daily. It really is something to be experienced though, and from the top there is an incredible view of the city. The houses are all adorned with gorgeous blooms, and quaint flower gardens. We let Arabella do her thing out of the sunroof- it’s about a 5 mph stop and go situation.
5. FOREIGN CINEMA
If you love food, and I mean GOOD, foodie status food, you cannot skip this place. We had an outstanding feast at Foreign Cinema, and didn’t stay for the film, but that would have been the icing on an already decadent cake in my opinion. The food was incredible and very Insta worthy. I didn’t have the chance to snap many pics before the fam (including moi) began to pick away at it. Every detail from the decor to the kids menu was paid the utmost attention. Arabella is big on judging kid menus- she’s an aspiring food writer. Most restaurants don’t waste too much energy on little eats, so when they do it’s a nice surprise, and an A+ in her book.
6. GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE SAIL
A great way to experience the Golden Gate Bridge is to sail under it! We took a chartered sail boat ride on a beautiful afternoon in San Francisco. The sun was shining and it was a perfect 75º F. I will say, on the water the temp is much cooler and with the wind it feels even more so. I suggest bringing a light jacket/sweater to block the breeze, and keep you comfortable. On our voyage we saw sea lions basking dockside, a round about view of Alcatraz, bobbing jelly fish, the Golden Gate Bridge, and some lovely views of the coast. It was a very enjoyable sail, and only took up a small fraction of our day- efficiency is key while traveling. Here and here are a couple of choice companies to sail with.
7. PAINTED LADIES
Seeing the painted ladies was one of Arabella’s top requests. Her fascination with them originates from the iconic opening sequence of the beloved family sitcom Full House. For anyone unfamiliar, the painted ladies are a historical row of Victorian style houses. We stopped and picked up some lunch to go, then headed to Alamo Square Park for the perfect picnic view. After a few moments of basking in the sun with full bellies, we ventured across the street to get better acquainted with the ladies. Our favorite was a light blue beauty with inviting marble steps. The park also offers incredible views of the city too!
8. GOOGLE ANDROID LAWN STATUES
The Android Lawn Statues are a series of statues located near Google’s headquarters at 1981 Landings Drive. They are based on the code names for versions of Google’s Android mobile operating system, which are delightedly named after various desserts and sweets. This is a great quick stop for kids, but fun for adults to explore the area too. You can catch Google employees riding signature Google bicycles around too. If you’re feeling adventurous you can pick one up and take it for a spin yourself- just be sure to leave it where you found it 😉
9. SNO-CRAVE TEA HOUSE
My SIL Danielle was raving about this honey toast that we had to try so of course we headed to Sno-Crave Tea House for a late night treat. When we arrived the jet lag was really sinking in, but we remained dedicated to the goal. We chose to share the Jenga Honey Toast, but Arabella couldn’t wait and opted for a macaroon ice cream sandwich. While we waited, which unfortunately was a very long time, we played an intense game of Jenga that lasted longer than any of us could believe. When the edible Jenga tower arrived it was just as picturesque as we’d imagined. It wasn’t the best dessert I’ve ever had, but definitely indulgent and worth the Instagram pic if you’re in the area. They have a huge menu full of monsterous looking sweets, perfect for sharing with a group, and lots of tea too.
10. PIER 39
Pier 39 is a touristy haven located on the water and there is a lot to see and do there. We popped in and out of shops, snacked on cotton candy while watching street performers entertain, and completed a mirror maze (Bella’s fav!) more than once. Bella and Danielle (both talented pianists) found a fun piano staircase that played different notes on every step. We ventured a short walk from there to Musée Mécanique where we tested our gaming skills on a few antique arcade classics. Eventually we made our way to Ghirardelli Square for an ice cream cone. I chose chocolate of course, how could you not?
Honestly, these are just a few of the highlights from our short trip to San Jose & San Francisco. There is so much more to do there and I cannot wait to go back! We are so grateful to Mike and Danielle for being such amazing hosts. Their generosity and kindness during our stay is something we will never forget.
If anyone is traveling to the area and has questions, please feel free to leave a comment, or send an email. I’d be happy to offer suggestions!