In my opinion, there's no place like San Francisco.
The colorful, charming buildings, the amazing food, the stunning views, the fun walks, the trolleys... what's not to love? The fact that this city is incredibly dog-friendly also adds to the appeal for our family. We've now been to San Francisco countless times, so we've decided to put together a list of our favorite hotels, restuarants, neighborhoods, museums, and activities for you. And voila!
The Buchanan: This hotel was extremely fun to stay in. Located in the beautiful Pacific Heights, the Buchanan was the perfect family-friendly hotel, with nice, clean rooms, lovely views from the balcony, and helpful staff. This hotel is pet-friendly.
Hotel Griffon: We've probably stayed in this hotel more than any other hotel in San Francisco. Why? Location, location, location. Hotel Griffon is located just across the street from the Ferry Building, home to tons of mouth-wateringly good food. As an added bonus, some of their rooms include huge outdoor balconies. The only downside is that this hotel is not pet-friendly.
Hotel Vitale: Hotel Vitale is also located across the street from the Ferry Building, but is pet-friendly. The hotel is beautifully decorated and incredibly nice, with a colossal rooftop deck that we ate take-out on nearly every night, enjoying the view of the sea.
The Palace: This is a really fun hotel to stay in during the Holiday season. Located in Union Square, the Palace Hotel is the place to be. This hotel is decorated fancily, but that only adds to the charm. An extra bonus: there's a Ghirardelli Chocolate shop located in the hotel, where you can get chocolate sundaes and more.
Our Favorite: Overall, Hotel Vitale is much recommended. It's beautifully decorated, has a fantastic location, and is dog-friendly. The staff were extra helpful and friendly. For families without dogs, Hotel Griffon can't be beat. Again, amazing location, decent price, nice, clean rooms, and friendly staff.
The Slanted Door: We've come to the Slanted Door nearly every time we've been to San Francisco. This Vietnamese restaurant has it all: amazing food, beautiful views of the ocean... what more could you ask for?
Pizzeria Delfina: Hands down my favorite pizza. Plus, they have fantastic meatballs, chicken, appetizers, and.... (drumroll, please) gelato.
Nopalito: We've eaten at tons of Mexican places in our lives, but Nopalito would have to be one of our favorites. Nuevo Mexican food mixed with a great environment makes this an irresistible choice for kids and adults alike.
Roam: My brother's favorite burger - which, believe me, is saying a lot. In the vein of ShakeShack, Roam has tantalizingly good burgers and salads. A perfect choice for families, especially considering the casual, fun environment of the restaurant.
Smitten Ice Cream: Many have said Smitten has the best ice cream in San Francisco. In my opinion, that's pretty hard to argue with. Famous for their corn ice cream topped with raspberry jam, Smitten has every type of ice cream you could ever imagine - and just a little bit more. Don't be intimidated by the unusual flavors, though; Smitten is an incredible choice for families.
House of Nanking: Santa Barbara is not exactly known for its Asian cuisine, so we always jump at the opportunity to eat good Chinese food. And trust me - House of Nanking has it.
Lers Ros Thai: Some of our all-time favorite Thai. A fantastic place for families, since the Thai food isn't too flavorful or spicy where it might intimidate kids. All the same, Lers Ros Thai has delicious Thai food that makes my mouth water just thinking about it.
The Grove: We eat here for breakfast often, since the Grove has amazing food and has a casual environment perfect for families. Plus, it's super dog-friendly, which is great for Tuesday, our new puppy.
Jane: Another great breakfast option. For parents, they have incredible coffee (some of my mom's favorite), and for everyone else, their pastries can't be beat.
Lolinda: At first, I didn't quite know what to think of Lolinda. I had never heard of Argentinian Fusion food, so I was eager to try it. And boy, am I glad I did. Lolinda has some of the most amazing food, although it may be a little challenging for younger children.
Our Favorite: Personally, I could live off of Pizzeria Delfina for the rest of my life, it's so good. In fact, it's a little difficult to eat any but Pizzeria Delfina.
Coit Tower: You've probably heard (or read) us talk about this lovely walk endlessly. But trust me - it's warranted. The fun, exciting climb up to Coit Tower is a must-do for families and wanna-be adventurers. The views at the top are breathtaking, and the scenery is astonishing.
Walk the city: This is what we spend most of our time doing in San Francisco. The quaint buildings (see above pictures), the fun hikes up the hills, the charming trolleys ocassionally zipping by... It doesn't get much better than that. This is a great way to see the city, much better than doing any tours. Exploring aimlessly is especially fun, because you end up discovering places you never would have expected to find (such as the walk up to Coit Tower).
Trolleys: Kids will love this short, exhilirating ride through the city. A must-do for families, due to the fun ride, the beautiful views, and the fact that it's another fantastic way to view the city.
Lombard Street: This famous street is well-worth the hike up its stairs. The views from the top are breathtaking, and the walk up is fun and exciting, especially for kids. A word of advice - don't attempt to drive down the street. We've tried this, and we ended up wasting too much of our day on it, due to the insane traffic. Walking is much better, especially since the neighborhood Lombard is in is lovely and offers amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.
The Golden Gate Bridge: Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge is much recommended for families. It offers beautiful views of both the Bridge, the Harbor, and the San Francisco city, as well as being an overall fun activity. Like Lombard, driving across the Bridge doesn't make nearly as much sense, being that the traffic is so crazy.
The Ferry Building: This is more under the "Food" category than anything else, but my family and I really enjoy walking around the Ferry Building and browsing the shops and restaurants. Plus, it's located right on the edge of the San Francisco Bay and is a great starting place to take a taxi to before walking around Embarcadero Street.
Grace Cathedral: More for the astounding architecture than anything else. We're Jewish, but we still enjoy gawking at this beautiful Cathedral and walking around inside. It's not a destination place per se, but we still make sure to take a quick walk inside while in the area.
Telegraph Hill: Ever heard of the Parrots of Telegraph Hill? Yup - you can actually hear and see them. Our family took a huge delight in getting to watch these vibrant birds zip about over our heads. Young kids will enjoy this tropical-looking walk, as will older kids and adults alike.
Our Favorite: Walking the city has always been one of our favorite parts of our San Francisco trips. Goggling at the architecture, exploring the city by foot... what could be better?
(Note: We did not include Alcatraz on this list since we have never journeyed to Alcatraz ourselves, suprising as that may be. We've looked into it, and we've decided that, for our family, it doesn't make sense to waste a day on Alcatraz. All the same, don't let this discourage you from going if you believe it's important to you.)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: This museum just opened a few months ago, so we were especially eager to go visit it. And boy, am I glad we did. This Modern Art museum was incredible; not just the artwork, but the architecture of the museum itself. Highly recommended, but be warned that some of the art is a little heavy.
de Young: Another museum with an astonishing exterior (see above pictures, the Ed Ruscha sign one and the one above that). Aside from that, this museum has beautiful artwork with different exhibits every time we've been there - whether it be on Georgia O'Keefe or Ed Ruscha. As an added bonus, this museum is directly across the street from the California Academy of Science, so you can easily hit both in one day.
California Academy of Science: One of the best museums for kids I've ever been to. This museum is teeming with all kinds of interesting things, from an enclosed rainforest habitat to a green roof you can visit. A perfect museum for younger kids, but older children will enjoy this fun museum, too.
Exploratorium: Filled to the brim with things to spark a child's imagination, the Exploratorium is perfect for families. All four of us loved the interactive exhibits and had a really fun time, while we still learned a ton, too.
Our Favorite: The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art really can't be beat. It even could compare to some famous museums in New York City, which is saying a lot.
Pacific Heights: This charming neighborhood is the perfect place to take a walk. Teeming with great restaurants, quaint buildings, and shops, Pacific Heights is a wonderful place for families.
Japan Town: There's not a ton to do in Japan Town, but if you want Japanese food or to experience a taste of Japanese culture, there's no better place to be. We loved browsing the bustling marketplaces and getting a quick glimpse into Japanese culture.
China Town: Vibrant, colorful, busy, hectic China Town is super fun to walk through. The smells wafting from the amazing Chinese restaurants, the lovely buildings and architecture - plus, the overall excitement of this chaotic neighborhood - makes this a must-do neighborhood for people who are new to San Francisco.
North Beach: ... or Little Italy, as my family calls it. This is a nice, quiet place to explore San Francisco, with old, charming buildings and fairly flat land - an added bonus for families with young children looking to take an easier walk around the city.
Nob Hill: This is where we spend much of our time in San Francisco, traversing the steep hills to snatch a view of San Francisco Bay. There's tons of stunning architecture and small parks, making this neighborhood super family (and dog) friendly.
Hayes Valley: We don't often walk around Hayes Valley, but when we do, we have a great time. Hayes Valley is probably the most family-friendly of any of these places, maybe besides Pacific Heights, due to the many parks and flatter ground. Plus, some of our favorite restaurants (and Smitten Ice Cream) are located in this area.
The Embarcadero: We love walking from the Ferry Building up the Embarcadero to Coit Tower. This easy walk offers beautiful views of the Bay and goes right along a ton of mouth-wateringly good restaurants.
Ghirradelli Square/Fishermen's Wharf: We don't go here often since it's extremely touristy, but that far from makes it not worthwhile. Families will enjoy walking through this crowded area and browsing the shops, bakeries, and more. You can also rent bikes and bike along the less crowded bits of Fishermen's Wharf.
Union Square: This area is super fun to walk through during the Holidays. In the vein of New York City during Winter Vacation, Union Square offers ice skating, hot chocolate, and more irresistible holiday treats.
Our Favorite: I always say that if I had to move to San Francisco, I would live in Pacific Heights. The unbeatably good food, the charming buildings, and the cute shops... what's not to love?
A little bit about us...
We're a family of four (a daughter, a son, and their mother and father.... oh, and a six-month old Standard Poodle puppy). But we all share one thing in common: our love of travel and adventure!
Hotel of the Month
Solage Calistoga: the image of perfection. We stayed here recently on our trip to Napa Valley and couldn't have been more amazed at this stunning resort. The rooms, each one an individual cottage, were immaculate and private. The property itself contained multiple pools and other amenities, all of which were designed beautifully. One of our favorite parts had to be the Michelin-star restaurant, which served some of the best food we'd ever eaten. Solage Calistoga was the perfect fit for our family (and dog!), and we are eager to stay there again.