I adore my sister-in-laws but rarely do the three of us get together (one is a labor and delivery nurse who works nights, the other a new mom and then there’s me – the blogger with anything but a regular schedule). But thanks to a gracious nudge from our mother-in-law, we combed our calendars for a free weekend and found four days that worked perfect to getaway – just the three of us. We looked up at Caravan.com tours for options and Google Flights and the best airfare from Seattle was direct to San Francisco for $200 via Alaska Airlines – so we booked it!
I had a visit to Monterey on my travel lineup this year, so we made that our final destination for the trip. But first, we knew we had to take advantage of our time in San Francisco before heading down the California coast. We arrived in San Francisco at 8:30am and didn’t have dinner scheduled in Monterey until 6:30pm…so we had a few hours to explore.
Fortunately, a few weeks before our trip, I discovered IfOnly, a marketplace for curated experiences hosted by local ‘luminaries,’ and a portion of the proceeds benefit a worthy cause. In the search box I added ‘local tour’ in ‘San Francisco’ and several options came up including food, wine and art experiences. The ‘City Tour of Golden San Francisco‘ looked perfect – it was a private tour, where you could customize the number of people and time. We chose the three hour option, however, ended up going for four hours because our guide, Tourlimo, was incredibly thorough and allowed for plenty of photo ops!
Before you book on IfOnly, you can message the host (or ‘luminary’) to ask any questions, confirm details, etc. So I asked Tourlimo his thoughts on timing since we’d be heading straight from the airport, picking up the rental car, etc. and needed to know where to park. He responded immediately and helped me figure out the best time to meet and where to park (remember – locals know their city best!).
Once we arrived, everything worked according to plan and our guide picked us up in an SUV, providing complimentary water and even a phone charging cord (thank goodness because I needed this).
In just under four hours we hit every major landmark:
- Union Square
- North Beach (Little Italy)
- Grant Avenue (the oldest street in San Francisco)
- Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 (home of Boudin Bakery – where we stopped for clam chowder bowls and nutella waffles)
- Castro & Haight Ashbury Districts
- Alamo Square and the famous Painted Ladies (pictured above)
- Golden Gate Bridge
- Golden Gate Park
- Lyon Street Steps
- Golden Gate National Recreation Area
- Lombard Street
- Ghiradelli Square
- Sutro Heights Park
We were surprised to learn that San Francisco is the 1st city in the United States to have a park within 10 minutes of every home. And has one of the largest urban parks, Golden Gate Park, spanning 3 miles long and half a mile wide, with over 1,000 acres.
Of course when you think of San Francisco, the Wharf and Golden Gate Bridge immediately come to mind, but this tour really opened our eyes to the pockets of the city that often get overlooked. There’s no way we could have replicated this experience on our own, or had known where to start. For this, IfOnly was truly invaluable.
Another gem discovered was Sutro Heights Park above the Cliff House, overlooking Ocean Beach. Aside from the dramatic history of this land dating back to 1881, this spot holds incredible value for the view. You feel a world away from the city as you face miles of salty air and sand dunes lined against the wide open Pacific Ocean. I’ve never thought of sunbathing in San Francisco as you would say, San Diego, but this spot is definitely the cool respite locals flock to when they need some fresh air and a classic California beach day. *Noted for our next trip.
I could go on and on about our trip to San Francisco, but essentially I want to be a basic reference guide for you and encourage you to plan your own adventure to the ‘City By The Bay.’ I definitely recommend considering Tourlimo via IfOnly as we were able to hop out, grab photos, like the one below (trust me…parking is a nightmare), and spend the time we desired at each location. We didn’t feel rushed, yet we saw so much of the city in only 4 hours. There is absolutely no way we could have been as efficient on our own. To get specific, it breaks down to $80/person. On your own you’d have to consider paying for parking, gas…a car! Definitely think about it…
Definitely pin the image below, save this for reference, and start planning a trip with your friends or family!
Disclosure: IfOnly graciously hosted us. The opinions expressed here represent my own, which I take great pride in providing pure honesty…because I’m OBSESSED with sharing the Good!