Happy to have this guest post by The Coastie Couple on San Francisco, California. Please visit my Duty station guest post page for posts on other locations or more information about how you can write a guest post about where you have been stationed.
When we initially moved to the west coast, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew things would be different but I didn’t realize how different they would be. There was a bit of sticker and culture shock in the beginning, but I’ve learned to accept the differences and to appreciate the area for what it has to offer. And it has a lot to offer!
When people talk about San Francisco, what they fail to mention is how big the city is and that there’s a huge surrounding area that’s worth seeing as well. My husband was stationed near San Francisco (you can see the skyline across the water) and we actually chose to live a little further inland in Concord because the prices are much cheaper and the area is less urban. If you’re looking to live in the area, I highly recommend looking beyond the city. If you’re coming to visit, I’d highly recommend staying in the city because everything will be easily accessible that way.
There is absolutely no way I could share everything about San Francisco in one post. In the two years that I’ve lived here, I haven’t even had the chance to see everything that there is to see (and we spend almost every weekend exploring something). That being said, I’m going to highlight a few of our favorite places in this post. I encourage you to do some research before you come out here – there’s so much to do!
Before you head into the city, I recommend learning how to use the BART system. These trains are similar to the subway system of New York which makes them convenient for getting around. They can be a bit tricky for newcomers though. I recommend utilizing your favorite map app to figure out which one will take you where.
Pier 39 is one of the most famous attractions for the area. This is the pier where the sea lions like to hang out. It’s also filled with restaurants and shopping. It’s a fun area to explore and you might even stumble across a cool street performer if you’re there on the right day! Pier 39 isn’t the only pier though. In fact, if you get off the BART at the Embarcadero station, you’ll have the opportunity to walk along the piers where you’ll find the ferry station, boats to Alcatraz, and the Exploratorium.
The Exploratorium is a neat attraction that I would highly recommend to visitors – young and old alike. If you have kids, it’s a great place to enjoy as a family. The hands on science exhibits and many things to tinker with will keep the family entertained for hours. Don’t have kids? Catch them on Thursday night for their adults only night! This was the option we chose since it’s just the two of us. It was a great time with cash bars and all of the same exhibits minus the kids. My husband and I had a blast exploring the museum.
This is definitely a tourist attraction but I wouldn’t rule it out. I’m a strong believer that tourist attractions are worth checking out in addition to the cool local finds of an area. I do have to caution you though – you’ll need a bit of patience when you visit. The crowds can get a bit frustrating and overwhelming. On the up side, you’ll get a lot of steps on your step counter!
While you’re at the Fisherman’s Wharf, I recommend eating at Boudin Bakery, which is known for their sourdough bread (they even make it in all sorts of shapes!). They have a simple café on the first floor with bread bowls that are an awesome choice for lunch. They are relatively moderately priced as well (at least for California – remember that sticker shock I mentioned?).
The Wharf is also a great place for picking up cheap souvenirs for all of your family and friends. You can find postcards, tshirts, and keychains on every corner. If you’re a craft beer fan, I recommend checking out Jack’s Cannery at the end of the Wharf. Then, trek up the hill to Ghirardelli Square where you’ll find unique stores and free chocolate at the Ghirardelli Store. If it’s Christmas time, you’ll also find an impressive tree.
If you’re into shopping, this is the place for you. The streets are lined with shops and restaurants galore. It’s a very diverse shopping area with bargain stores mixed amongst the more high-end retail stores. It’s definitely a good chance to exercise your legs and pocketbook. If you come in the winter, you’ll notice a massive tree in the center near Macy’s along with an ice skating rink. This is definitely a favorite among locals and tourists alike.
Golden Gate Park:
Remember when I mentioned that the city is huge? Golden Gate Park is a prime example of how big the city is. It’s a large park filled with attractions and hiking trails in the middle of the city. It is home to the California Academy of Sciences, which is a great place for kids and adults alike. It’s sort of a natural history museum meets science museum. It’s filled with lots of cool exhibits and they even rotate them out based on the time of year.
Golden Gate Park has a lot to offer beyond the museum. We spent an entire day simply exploring the trails and taking in all that it had to offer. In fact, if you walk all the way to the end of the park, you’ll find yourself staring at the Pacific Ocean. I also recommend checking out the Beach Chalet restaurant that’s located on the edge of the park. Be prepared to spend an entire day if you head down to this park.
I haven’t even touched on half of the attractions in the area and yet I’m out of time. Feel free to follow us on our blog or social media where we’re often posting about our adventures and sharing snippets from our lives!
The Coastie Couple is a husband-wife duo that shares honest accounts of their adventures from coast to coast on their blog, The Coastie Couple. He’s in the military and she’s a teacher. They both love to travel, create, and experiment in the kitchen. These are the adventures they share on their blog.