You’ll Leave Your Heart in San Francisco

The Golden Gate Bridge is San Francisco's Calling Card. Photo by Mira Temkin.
Spread the love
Hop on an iconic cable car in San Francisco. Photo by Mira Temkin

Walking along the Embarcadero, one can’t help but but be taken in the grandeur that is San Francisco.  A city steeped in history, exquisite seafood, handmade chocolates, and rich, savory sourdough bread is a delightful destination for making memories.  

After spending a few days in this lovely town, I came away impressed with the myriad of offerings for families, couples, and even those traveling solo like me.

Stellar Cuisine

San Fran has always been a melting pot of cultures ranging from Chinese and Japanese to Mexican, Mediterranean, and other ethnic varieties. Their cuisine reflects the changing diversity of the population. With the Pacific Ocean at their doorstep, San Fran boasts a delicious sampling of freshwater trout, snapper and anchovies.

Of course, fresh seafood is abundant here, making this Bay City a real foodie town. Lobster, shrimp, clams, oysters, and chowders all reign supreme at hundreds of restaurants from high-end to food trucks.

Go Where the Action Is

Pier 39 is the ideal place for dining, shopping and entertainment. Photo by Mira Temkin

My first stop was Pier 39, a multiplex of restaurants, entertainment venues, and shops. Built by the Simmons family in 1978, this bright mecca of family fun provides the Aquarium by the Bay, Fly Over Theatre, a beautiful carousel, and the SkyStar Wheel with its impressive views of the Bay, Alcatraz Island, Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. The Wheel goes 150 feet in the air with 36 gondolas that hold up to six guests. It’s a glorious ride, day or night.

SkyStar Wheel, Fisherman’s Wharf. Photo courtesy of SkyStar Wheel

Simmons operates six restaurants at Pier 39. I opted for the Fog Harbor Fish House for a fabulous meal, only matched by exquisite views of the Pacific Ocean, yachts, and SkyStar Wheel. The salmon with couscous, tomatoes, and crispy onions was perfectly grilled and very tasty. I saw other diners indulging in the seafood tower and the scent was intoxicating. Best thing is that there were plenty of kids in the restaurant enjoying the city with their families and just as happy.

Fabulous salmon dish at Fog Harbor Fish House. Photo by Mira Temkin.

The Fly Over San Francisco is a flyer theatre experience that gives you a bird’s eye view (literally) of the incredible beauty of the city, all from the comfort of your movable seat.

The carousel is a big draw for families, I chose the stationery seat and took a few spins around admiring the twinkling lights.

Two-story carousel is a family favorite. Photo by Mira Temkin

The big draw is Aquarium of the Bay with more than 200 species and 24,000 local marine animals. Come face to fin with interactive exhibits for an experience that’s both educational and fun.

The Pier’s most playful residents are the Sea Lions which you can watch frolicking in the water. The abundant food supply and warm water are an ideal environment to live.

Chinatown – Biggest in the U.S.

The entrance to Chinatown. Photo by Mira Temkin

I hadn’t been to Chinatown in many years so I was thrilled to see that its charm remains intact. The oldest in the U.S. and one of the largest outside of the Far East, Chinatown began in the 1850s when Asians began emigrating to America. Filled with shops, restaurants, and even a fortune cookie factory, Chinatown is fun for all ages. Stop in an herbal pharmacy for wellness products. Don’t miss Portsmouth Square where you’ll see men playing Chinese Chess. Come hungry and eat your way through the streets.

Alcatraz Island – Dare To Escape!

Take a tour of the cells at Alcatraz Island. Photo by Mira Temkin

Once a former military fort, Alcatraz is the world-famous former Federal penitentiary that once housed Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, and “The Birdman of Alcatraz.”  I recalled the last time I had been in San Fran, Alcatraz was closed for remodeling

Since it’s been reopened, it remains one of the top tourist attractions in San Francisco, run by the National Park Service and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. Catch the Alcatraz Cruises boat for a 10-minute jaunt out to the island. Stay as long as you want as you wander around.

Visit the historic Cellhouse, see where the inmates got fresh air and listen to the audio tour. It’s mostly self-guided with interpretive programs throughout the day. They even show you how they lock and unlock the doors.

One of Alcatraz’s most famous residents. Photo by Mira Temkin

How frustrating it must have been for the prisoners to see the city, only a mile and a half from land, and knowing they had to swim through freezing, shark-infested waters to freedom. Few tried, and only one group ever made it out in 1962.

The boat departs from Pier 33 and make sure you arrive in plenty of time. There are also night cruises and a behind-the-scenes tour.

Note: Capone did not die in Alcatraz. When he got sick, they moved him to a hospital and then let him live out his final days at his Florida estate.

Exploratorium – Big on the Wow factor

Yes, it’s a museum, but it’s a place to explore the inner depths of science, art, and human perception. Founded by physicist and educator Frank Oppenheimer in 1969, the Exploratorium is filled with interactive exhibits that will blow you away.

Large than life moon at the Exploratorium. Photo by Mira Temkin

Discover the Presidio

Strategically located on the San Francisco Peninsula with great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, this former army base has been turned into a thriving community with residential housing, schools, hotels, restaurants, and more. The Presidio is mostly known for their Tunnel Tops opened in 2022, which has created a 14-acre park on top of the tunnels with walking trails and more.

Stay at the Lodge of the Presidio, a 44-room hotel offering an authentic historic experience. This is the closest you can stay on this side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Start at the Visitors Center to learn more about all there is do at this National Park. Get maps, take the free shuttle and talk to a park ranger. Rent bikes to ride or walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.

I enjoyed Colibri Mexican Bistro with food inspired by Central Mexico, like Chile Relleno, Ceviche, and Carnitas. It was awesome watching the tableside guacamole preparation, served with homemade chips.  You can also sit on their outdoor patio and watch tortillas made to order on a comal as you sip a craft cocktail.

The Walt Disney Family Museum

The Walt Disney Family Museum is a tribute to his life and legacy. Photo by Mira Temkin

Located in the Presidio, The Walt Disney Family Museum is a hands-on museum where kids can try their hand at animation and learn more about the remarkable life story of Walt Disney. Contemporary, interactive galleries feature state-of-the-art exhibits narrated in Walt’s voice alongside early drawings, cartoons, films, music and a spectacular model of Disneyland. It’s more of a behind-the-scenes look at Disney magic.

Check out their Cats & Dogs exhibit in another building through June 2. Walt Disney loved dogs and his affection for them is expressed in his movies.

The WDFM was created by daughter Diane Disney Miller as a lasting tribute to her father. Opened since 2009, this museum is ideal for kids 10 and older with their families who will appreciate seeing the Disney memorabilia they grew up with.  

Ride the Cable Cars

Riding the cable cars is something you must do. There are three lines running in different directions. The cable cars began operating in 1853 with one operator in the front and one in the back. It’s exciting to go up and down the hills while I kept looking for Mrs. Doubtfire’s townhouse. For a more in-depth look at the inner workings and history of the cable cars, stop at the free Cable Car museum. Single rides cost $8.00 or you can buy a day-pass or multi-day pass.

John’s Grill

This traditional steak and seafood restaurant has been a San Francisco favorite for more than 100 years, opening after the earthquake in 1908. The wood-paneled walls, celebrity photos from the past, and servers dressed in black create the ultimate steakhouse ambience. I opted for the salmon, grilled to perfection with a creamy bearnaise sauce, baked potato and steamed veggies. The steaks looked amazing. Recommended is the famous seafood combo salad and their signature “Sam Spade Lambchops” based on the character from Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon” which you can actually see on the second floor.

John’s Grill is famous for its steak and seafood. Photo by Mira Temkin

Get a Sweet Taste at Ghirardelli Square
Once the site of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory, Ghirardelli Square is filled with shops, restaurants and a luxe hotel. Be sure to stop in the renovated Original Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop with 15 sundaes, a replica cable car and amazing chocolate treats.

Sweet treats at Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop. Photo by Mira Temkin

The Jay Hotel

I was a guest at the Jay Hotel in San Francisco’s financial district and I loved it. You’ll feel the warm ambience when you walk into the building. You’re whisked up to the 3rd floor lobby for check in. Everything is first class, but understated. The king size bed was comfy and luxurious and the lighting was subdued, but ample with plenty of outlets. The furnishings were contemporary with interesting touches. My 19th floor room even had a window that opened.

Dinner at the Jay – Third Floor Restaurant

The restaurant, the cuisine, the ambience was exquisite. They serve an eclectic mix of global cuisine with San Francisco influences. I started with the green bib leaf salad with toasted almonds. My entrée was roasted chicken with slice carrots. For dessert, I couldn’t resist the assorted cookies and had enough to bring home.

Views of the city from Pier 39. Photo by Mira Temkin

Make your plans to visit San Francisco soon and discover all the wonder that is the “City by the Bay.” You’ll leave your heart in San Francisco. I know I did.


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.