Need Advice: San Francisco

We are going to San Francisco and area this July! I’m open to all of your wonderful suggestions to keep me (you know me) and 2 boys (10 and 6 years old) happy. Here is what I have down so far.

Days 1 – 2: We are driving from Vancouver, BC and need to stop half way overnight to preserve the sanity. Any good place? Mountain St. Helen’s? Rosenburg? Been to Portland before.

Days 3 – 5: We will be staying in Union Square in this hotel (surprise-surprise – complimentary wine hour at night). I have booked Alcatraz trip and plan on walking the Golden Gate bridge with the kids. Am I crazy? Should we drive it? Should I bring scooters for the boys to ride while we walk off doughnuts, so less whining?

Lombard Street? Chinatown? Baker Beach? AT&T park?

People, where to eat? Good and nothing crazy expensive because 1US$ = 1.40 CAD$. The scariest emoji ever goes here but life is damn short.

4th of July fireworks – what is the best place to watch? There will be fireworks, right?!

Day 6: I was planning driving inland down to Big Sur and come up on Hwy 1 to enjoy the beautiful views. However, is Hwy 1 partially closed? How can I still see Big Sur? Monterey? Santa Cruz? What is a good place to stay overnight passing Big Sur – I honestly am not interested in US$500 per night ocean views haha.

Day 7: Napa and Sonoma. Is there anything else to do besides knocking myself out with wine tasting? Any specific wine tour that is good? I was thinking visiting a few wineries and then check into a nice hotel with a pool for the boys. Yes? No?

Oh, and I AM driving through Amy’s!

Day 8-9: Going home. Again, anything we should see off of Hwy 5 and a good place to stop half way home?

Thanks a bunch! Have a great weekend, guys, while I go rob the bank to fund my inner wanderlust.

5 Secrets to Easy Healthy Dinners

Plus sign up for weekly emails with recipes to make your cooking stress free, delicious and healthy.

About Olena

Welcome! I grew up in Ukraine watching my grandma cook with simple ingredients. I have spent the last 11 years making it my mission to help you cook quick and easy meals for your family!

Pin this recipe now to save it for later

Pin Recipe

You may also like


  1. Oh, really? Just these random people with great intuition 🙂
    Lol, ya I’m a bit over when it comes to trip-planning
    I’m doing good, just graduated from college, so plan to enjoy one more careless summer in order to make this endless Alberta winter survival possible.
    I feel like through the blog I know most things that are happening with you and family, so will just say: “Hang in there. Your kids can always marry other Slavic immigrants’ daughters” 🙂

  2. Oh yeah, feel free to ask anything, since it could be endless post. I’ll try my best to suggest something as one Ukrainian to another 🙂

  3. Hi Olena,
    Not sure if you remember our email chat over a year ago (maybe more), but I’m still checking your blog from time to time. So when saw this post, I thought “OMG, I know I can give some ideas here!” 🙂
    We were in SF last June for just 3 days, so I had all the routes planned on the map beforehand. Want to share one of them, I think it was our best experience. It consisted of a lot of walking and bicycling and took us around 8 hours (including breaks for food, bridge gazing and sitting on the beach), so maybe you’ll need to adjust it depending on your kids endurance. Suggest opening Google Maps to follow.
    1. Rent bikes to get to the GG bridge and to cross it! Won’t regret! The park that you cross to get to the bridge is sooo nice, and then it’s so much faster to cross the bridge (cause walking it quickly becomes boring, and it’s soo windy there). There’s a bike rental shop on the 1669 Haight St. Our hotel was on the Union Square as well, so if you decide to walk to the bike rental, you can pass City Hall, Painted Ladies, Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood (the hippie area) and just a lot of pretty houses on your way.
    2. After you rented bikes ride the Arguello Blvrd through Presidio Park towards the bridge. I honestly forgot which exactly route we used through the park, but we didn’t have trouble navigating once there. Just don’t use Lincoln Blvrd going TO the bridge, use it FROM there, and you’ll be riding downhill all the time. Otherwise there were few uphills, but nothing extreme.
    3. Bikers are using the left (East I think) sidewalk of the bridge, when walkers – right one, so that’s cool too. Remember to take some wind/water-resistant jackets, as it’s very windy and mostly foggy on the bridge.
    4. Since you’ve crossed the bridge on the left, it’s more convenient to stay on that side and using Conzelman Road go up to the Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point. I’d say it’s optional, cause views are so-so because of the fog, and the road up there is steep (but good workout).
    5. On the way back we used Lincoln Blvrd – amazing views! Stop at the beach (if you’re not tired of Vancouver water :)) You’ll also pass Legion of Honour which is kinda neat place, rich people’s houses, and I highly recommend stopping at the Cliff House for a lunch. For some reason we didn’t have luck with dining in SF, except that Cliff House place – beated all the failures.
    6. From there just go down Point Lobos Ave(Great Hwy) till you reach Golden Gate Park. Use John Kennedy Drive to cruise through it, stopping everywhere you wish – there are a lot of interesting spots.
    7. That’s it. Bike rental on Haight St is very close from the park. They close at 7:30 pm, so now I recall we did the entire trip without rushing, and we certainly didn’t arrive at the shop first thing in the morning.

    As for other experiences, I love walking the city streets a lot, and SF is perfect for it! So as for me Downtown was nice, The Embarcadero, Fisherman’s Wharf is crowded but fun to see, Grace Cathedral, Dragon’s Gate to Chinatown, Transamerica Pyramid, Columbus Ave, Lombard Street, and of course a ride on the old Cable Car.

    In any case you guys gonna love it! Enjoy!

    1. Hi Yulia. Of course I remember you. In fact, I was recently thinking of you haha. This is a very detailed itinerary with great advice. Yes, we love biking, strolling, people watching, so I will print this. Thank you so much! Hope you are doing well!

  4. I live in San Francisco and hope you love it as much as I do!
    -The Golden Gate Bridge is long, but you can walk part way out and back again. I do recommend walking, because you can take in the views.
    -Baker Beach is lovely, great views of the Golden Gate Bridge. If your kids are into a fairly easy hike, I recommend the Land’s End trail. It starts by the Pacific.
    -Coit Tower has great 360 views of the city
    -Your boys should like Lombard street, the famous “crooked street”
    -Fisherman’s Wharf is pretty gimmicky in my opinion, lots of chain restaurants and souvenir shops
    -Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey is $ but amazing. Monterey/Carmel area are my favorite part of California! Santa Cruz is lovely too. The boardwalk is a little cheesy (amusement park) but fun
    -I do think access to Big Sur isn’t restored yet, but you can drive down 1 and view the famous Bixby Bridge. I’m not sure how much is open now
    -Fireworks: by the Embarcadero. However, note that July is a pretty foggy month and there have been times I couldn’t see the fireworks. Last year I viewed them from Sonoma’s downtown town square
    -Lots of wineries have play areas for kids and there’s great hotels with pools/spas, I think that is a great idea

    For food, I am not into dining out too much, I like to cook (which is how I found your blog!). Yelp is your best friend in San Francisco. The Chinese food in Chinatown is not really authentic. SF is known for its sourdough bread and clam chowder though! The Ferry Building at the Embarcadero has a fabulous farmer’s market on Saturdays with lots of food options, besides just produce. You can snack your way through it.

    1. OMG, this was so useful! You nailed it! I am not too much about the wharf because we have our own in Vancouver, so I know how it goes. We are not regular inland tourists, we live by the ocean. All other suggestions are so good! Thank you!
      Which place is better to stay overnight, Santa Cruz or Monterey? And the next day I planned to drive to Sonoma and Napa. Is it not far? Traffic is OK? Also, what is the closest place to see redwoods in San Fran, keeping in mind I don’t want to drive all the way home hwy 1 but go more inland on Hwy 5.

      1. I’d say Monterey has more “stuff” but both Santa Cruz and Monterey are good choices. Sonoma is a little closer than Napa from SF proper. I think it would take you 2-3 hours at least, depending on where in wine country you want to go.

        Muir Woods is close to San Francisco and would be on your way to Sonoma, if you wanted to see redwoods. Coastal redwoods are tall but not as thick as the ones you see inland, like in Yosemite (the ones you could drive a car through). Nevertheless, they’re lovely.

        1. This is such great info you are giving me. Like real life advice. I just booked hotel in Monterey according to your advice – we will explore Carmel, Monterey and go down to the bridge and back up.
          I just want to experience that famous wine country life for a day. Are Napa and Sonoma similar in terms of experience? Like vineyards and that’s it? What are good small towns to book hotel in?
          Muir woods would work for now. Yosemite is another year trip along with Grand Canyon etc. Need more time to explore it properly, I hate being rushed through life.

        2. My pleasure, I’ve lived in SF for 7 yrs (originally from Chicago) and truly love it! Napa and Sonoma are definitely similar in terms of experience, of pretty vineyards. To be honest I’m not sure what else there is to do in that area, though I have biked (between wineries) and there are hikes too.

          I prefer Sonoma because I think it’s a little less snobby, usually fewer tour busses and bachelorette limos. Small towns that are nice to book hotels in are Calistoga, Healdsburg, Santa Rosa. The latter two towns have really cute downtowns with good dining experiences, lots of California-esque cuisine. Please let me know if you have more questions, happy to assist!

  5. I tagged along with my husband when he went to a conference in San Francisco. We love baseball so AT&T Park was a must for us! We also took the BART and went to Oakland for a game. I walked the steps up to Coit Tower; the view at the top is amazing! We walked part way on the Golden Gate Bridge; had lunch on Fisherman’s Wharf. I loved walking through the Marketplace at the Ferry Building. Don’t know if you’re boys would enjoy that though. I also took the ferry over to Sausalito one day. Bunch of little shops and places to eat. Enjoy whatever you do!

    1. We will do Coit tower for sure and I will add Sausalito to our list. Thank you! Boys would enjoy to walk around the marketplace, as long as they get yummy food. Thanks for your recommendations, Debbie! I’m sure we will have fun no matter what we do.:)

  6. I spent a whole day at the Academy of Science (?? I think that’s the name) Museum. It was sooooo good. They set it up like an Amazonian eco-system, and theres a planetarium and geoscience section. I loved it. The kids will to!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.