In mid-February I ventured down to San Francisco for the Bay Area Travel Show to see what was happening this year in travel, make a few contacts, and get a little break from my family. My friend Gen got wind of my trip and decided to come along. Our kids are about the same age, and a good night sleep was necessary for us both after a long winter of night wakings with infants. It was Presidents Day weekend; we could stretch our trip a an extra day since our husbands had a 3-day weekend. Our dates were set, now we just had to start planning.
My Sunday would be filled with the travel show and Gen sleeping the day away. We knew our time would be short to explore, shop without kids, and eat at any hour we wanted. It would be a whirlwind, but we were up to the challenge.
Where to stay
I won a 2-night stay at an Omni Hotel last summer, so we started off our trip in downtown San Francisco, making the most of our 24-hour car rental, and then our Nob Hill location at The Huntington House across from Grace Cathedral.
Omni San Francisco. If you are looking for a spot in the middle of the financial district, on a trolley line, and easy walking distance to Fisherman’s Wharf than the Omni is a great place to settle into. The rooms were comfortable and quiet, and the staff was very helpful. When we needed a late night snack room service was available to grab a salad and chicken fingers at an OK price as far as room service goes. As far as a girl getaway spot this hotel, and even the location, didn’t offer up too much in the way of extra amenities like the Huntington House (see below) for gals to indulge in. However, it was walking distance to Union Square and plenty of shopping, which is always helpful, and some of the city’s fabulous food offerings and Chinatown.
The Huntington House. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I could afford a night at the Huntington House if I had in fact known that it was a luxury hotel with a killer location. I had no idea. Gen assumed I was mistaken in the name. Basically for under $200 a night I scored a back corner room with two double beds on a Monday night at a hotel that on any other day would have cost me $400+. How I landed this deal I could never tell you. I simply did a search and it popped up in my price range. I do know that February is low season in San Francisco. I also booked the room last minute; two things to keep in mind for a future trip.
The hotel felt like a boutique spot. It had been renovated, keeping all of the character of the original building, but including modern amenities, and thread counts we all know and love in a first world nation. Our room had a spectacular view of the city, Twin Peaks, and if I poked by head out the window I could see Grace Cathedral. The staff was courteous and efficient, although our request to use the town car went unnoticed as another couple hopped in ahead of us without the driver realizing it. The Nob Hill Spa was the real highlight of this hotel though. All guests of the Huntington have access to the spa pool, hot tub, steam room, and sauna. After walking the hills of San Francisco in not the most practical shoes our feet luxuriated in the warm waters of the hot tub. We could have ordered room service and sat in the lounge chairs around the pool, or if it had been warmer we could have eaten al fresco on the balcony.
Where to Eat
Crepes were high on our list as far as easy, cheap meals for this trip. With all the shopping we were doing we couldn’t afford to splurge on too many great meals, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t eat well. Gen had lived in San Francisco for several years, and she had loads of recommendations for where to eat on a girl’s weekend away.
- Crepe Express, 1476 Haight St San Francisco, CA 94117
- La Belle Crepe, 2165 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123
- The Slanted Door, 1 Sausalito – San Francisco Ferry Bldg #3, San Francisco, CA 94111
- Fresca, 3945 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94114
- Ella’s, 500 Presidio Ave, San Francisco, CA 94115
- Mama’s, 1701 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133
- Cha Cha Cha’s, 1801 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117
- Citrus Club, 1790 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117
- The Pork Store, 1451 Haight St, San Francisco
- Presidio Social Club, 563 Ruger St, San Francisco, CA 94129
- Limon, 524 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110
- Gracias Madre, 2211 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
If you want to shop until you drop you can of course head to Union Square, but if you want to check out more of the local stores and boutiques do not miss the Haight District. It once refused to let any chain stores in, has a fabulous thrift shop, great food, and boutiques, like Ambiance, that may have your credit card asking for a break.
- Favorite Shop: Gen turned me onto a chain of shops found in San Francisco called Ambiance (1458 Haight Street). Prices range from bargain to splurge, and the inventory changes depending on the neighborhood you are in. We hit up 3 of the shops, mainly because we happened to be in the area (Haight District), although the 3rd one (Marina location) was because they had boots in my size that the shop in Noe Valley didn’t. Other great shops include Koze and Citrus.
What to do: Sample Itinerary
- Fly into SFO or Oakland in late afternoon
- Take BART to your hotel
- Check in to hotel
- Walk down to Fisherman’s Wharf, explore the shops, and take in the bay views
- Happy Hour/Dinner at the Slanted Door (make reservations for dinner or sit at the bar for limited happy hour menu)
- Breakfast at Ella’s on Presidio or Mama’s on Stockton (yummy down home, big portioned breakfasts!)
- Rent a car for 24-hours
- Golden Gate & Marin driving tour: Exit off the 101 onto the 1st main exit after the Golden Gate Bridge for Sausalito. Drive through downtown Sausalito to see the view of the San Francisco skyline from Marin.
- Eating in Marin: Spinnaker or Scoma’s in Sausalito, or keep driving north to downtown Tiburon to shop and eat there.
- Shopping: Koze, it’s a boutique that carries upscale trendy designers as well as many great local and eco designers too. Citrus is also a great place to buy adorable purses and bags.
- Eating in Tiburon: Eat at either Guaymas (Mexican) or Ginza Sushi. Both have amazing views of the city. Enjoy dessert at Caffe Acri- the gelato is out of this world.
- Continue driving north on the 101 to Corte Madera (more upscale and mainstream shopping and eats) and San Rafael. San Rafael’s downtown is a very cute walk-around, and if you’re still hungry, hit up Sol Food (Puerto Rican). You can’t miss it; it’s a bright green building, many times with a line out the door.
- Drive over the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge to head to the East Bay. Stop in Emeryville to drive by the Pixar campus, downtown Berkeley, and the Cal campus.
- Drive on over the Bay Bridge, back into San Francisco.
- Explore Golden Gate Park. The Conservatory of Flowers that was recently renovated and museums like the de Young and CA Academy of Science are just waiting for you to explore. Wear comfy shoes! This is a wonderful spot to wander around and people watch.
- Evening shopping and dinner in theHaight District.
- Dinner recommendations: Crepe Express, Cha Cha Cha’s, Citrus Club or the Pork Store.
- Take a stroll through Union Square and call it a night.
- Ride bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge and ride back.
- Explore Presidio: Grab breakfast at the Presidio Social Club, right near the LucasFilm campus, or Squat & Gobble, in the next district over- Cow Hollow/Marina.
- Head southwest towards the Mission and Castro Districts towards Noe Valley.
- Lunch at Fresca followed by shopping in Noe Valley
- Drive up to Twin Peaks to take in the view
- Dinner in the Mission District at Limon (Peruvian food) or Gracias Madre (Mexican). A local favorite taqueria is a taco truck in the Best Buy parking lot in the Mission called El Tonayense. Try the Carne Assada or Al Pastor.
- Wind down at your hotel spa (if available)
- Coffee shop breakfast
- Ride BART to the airport (exact change is necessary for ticket stations)
- Fly home and kiss your kids
As you can see there is so much to do on a weekend getaway to San Francisco. We ran out of time and found ourselves planning our next girls-only getaway. Next time I will definitely ride a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. We tried to do it, but it was too windy the one day we both had available. There is also so much shopping and eating to do, and I’m sure a few new restaurants have popped up that Gen hasn’t even been to yet.