Monday, April 8, 2013

Travel log: San Franscico - See & Do

My in-laws have a really cool holiday tradition. Instead of exchanging gifts, they plan a family trip, so for the past six years (wow - long time) I've been lucky enough to travel with them. In December, we visited San Francisco—definitely on the top of my favorite trips list. Three days isn't enough time to see all of the city, but we fit in as much wine tasting, clam chowder eating and sightseeing as possible. I narrowed down our activities to the our top three favorite, listed below in no particular order. Stay tuned for more San Francisco recaps coming soon!

See & Do

Fisherman's Wharf was really, really packed the week after Christmas, but it is worth braving the crowds to see the sea lions at Pier 39. They're just so cute, like water dogs. Perhaps if you don't like dogs they are not as cute, but I would highly recommend a trip to see them.

Touring Alcatraz is a must. The only thing that would have made it better is wine, but that's sort of true for everything.  It's a short ferry ride from San Francisco to Alcatraz. When you get there, take the cell house audio tour or a guided tour and prepare to be really, really intrigued as you hear about prisoners' escape attempts and learn about every day life on the island. The prison employees and their families lived on Alcatraz and the kids took a ferry into the mainland for school everyday. On Christmas Eve, they sang carols outside of the prison. We debated not taking the audio tour, but everyone was glad that they did.

Outlines of the knives in the kitchen, so staff could see quickly if one had been taken.
"Warning: Persons procuring or concealing escape of prisoners are subject to prosecution and imprisonment."
Breakfast menu from the day the prison closed. Prisoners were allowed to take as much food as they wanted but were required to eat everything on their plates.
We loved Alcatraz so much that we watched Escape from Alcatraz shortly after returning home. Another plus of the trip? The ferry ride makes for some pretty photos of the bay.

3.) Day trip to Napa Valley

Andrew and I couldn't come this close to wine country and not visit Napa Valley! We booked a day trip through, and highly recommend it. Our tour included transportation to Napa (via a bus), stops at four wineries, lunch and and a ferry ride back to San Francisco. The morning started early—we got up at 6 a.m. to catch a cable car over to the Ferry Building. Once we got on the bus, our tour guide gave us a short history of San Francisco as we drove out of the city. We also stopped to take photos at the Golden Gate bridge, which was a huge plus of the trip.

Since wine tasting started at 10 a.m. at Franciscan Estate, we shared a few tastings (a few, not all, mind you!) throughout the day. Some people did not share tastings, which was entertaining. Next up, we visited our favorite winery of the trip, V. Sattui. During Prohibition the owners built a false wall so that they could keep producing wine. V. Sattui had great tastings and lots of delicious food samples. We wished that had been our lunch stop! We ended up having lunch at Andretti Winery after tasting a Sangiovese straight from the barrel. The wine tour ended at Rutherford Ranch Winery, where we bought our only bottle of the trip, the Predator zinfandel. (We weren't checking bags on the flight back the next day, so we didn't stock up.) If you have more than a couple days in San Francisco and you love wine, definitely, definitely, definitely consider a day trip or a day tour.

Wine country is beautiful even when the grape vines are bare! (Please ignore the glare - I took this from our bus window.)

So those are our top three favorite activities from San Francisco! There's obviously a lot more to do, so I'll be back with more posts about delicious food, where we stayed and other highlights from our trip. Have you visited San Francisco before? What were your favorite things to see and do?

I'm linking up to #YOLOMonday today because you only live once, right? Also, it is Monday.


  1. How fun! I went to SF when I was young and was really car sick the whole time (we drove from my cousins' house in Oregon). I would love to go back someday with Charlie (Charlie Carl). But I wouldn't want to tour Alcatraz. CREEPY!!
    Also, I love that picture of you and Andrew. Too cute!
    WHY can't I be included on the family vacations!!??

  2. amazing photos! I love San Fran, I wish it wasnt so expensive to live there!

    new follower

  3. We went to San Francisco last July and adored it. Great shots!

    Our time at the GG bridge overlook was foggy and drizzly. It's nice to see the sun there!

    We didn't get to do Napa. Maybe next time.

    I love the idea of no gifts but a trip instead.

  4. One of my bucket list cities, looks like a blast!