Forget the twelve days of Christmas. December is all about the twelve days of San Fran as far as I’m concerned. Yep, the trip to San Francisco is now within sight. It’s less than five weeks away (not that I’m counting down or anything).
I’ve planned a mega twelve day itinerary. It’s not for the faint hearted, so whether you just use one or two of the recommendations or the whole lot, I hope these pointers and links will be helpful. If you’re after some SF inspiration you’ll find it in this post. Even if you’re not going to this city anytime soon and you just want to see what I’ll be getting up to, here is The Ultimate San Fran Plan (Eeeeeeeeeeeee!):
December sees the start of the Christmas holidays begin. Both Union Square and the Embarcadero Centre (popular areas in the city) have outdoor ice-skating rinks. You can book a session online for less than $15. I’ve booked an evening session, so that I can wrap up warm and skate underneath the stars.
The California Academy of Sciences is celebrating Christmas with the help of Yukon and Willow, two real life reindeers. Visitors are able to watch clever animations to see how their antlers grow and to even use a gadget to replicate their vision. If that’s not enough, there’ll also be a snow flurry every two hours. Educational and fun, what more could you want?!
More? Okay, what about watching the production of A Christmas Carol at the American Conservatory Theatre, or ELF The Musical at SHN Curran Theatre. Both are surely set to bring that festive spirit to life and they’re the perfect excuse to visit two incredible buildings. The shows are only on for a limited period, so book ahead to avoid disappointment.
The evening of 12 December (5.30pm – 8pm) sees the boats at pier 39 start their magical Christmas parade. It’s the biggest boat and light show in the bay, so cameras should be ready for some pretty shots.
Alternative Nights Out
However, San Fran offers so much more. Don’t get me wrong – I’ll be visiting those sorts, but there’s more to enjoy. There are loads of music venues offering gigs and concerts of every genre. I’ve booked tickets to see Opeth & In Flames at The Warfield. It’s a beautiful building (my pull) and it’s his kinda music on that night (performers regularly change).
Evening fun also includes a visit to the famous island prison of Alcatraz. It’s a short ferry ride from the bay. Yep, they offer a night tour to make it all the more scary. I’m terrified already thinking about it.
And talking of tours, kooky San Fran has it all. Spend one evening on the Fire Engine Tour. Don a fireman’s jacket to keep off the chill (and I guess for awesome photos) and enjoy the view from a vintage truck. The tour takes in all the main sights and the holiday tour let’s you enjoy the twinkly Christmas lights.
KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities is a show by Cirque du Soleil. It’s in San Fran for a limited time, opening on 14 November 2014. It’s said that after the show you will leave wondering: “Is it real, or just a figment of my imagination?” I’ve snapped up tickets (midrange for about £50 each) for my birthday night. If you want to go, definitely book in advance online (see link) as the tickets are red hot.
As I do on nearly all of my trips, I’ll be hotel hopping. It’s a great way to experience different areas and services in a city. My top finds include budget, but nice (Cova Hotel), stylish and central (Hotel Diva), budget and European (Edwardian Hotel), stylish and classy (Hotel Palomar), modern and good views of the Bay (Hyatt Regency), and contemporary boutique (Clift). I’ll be sharing reviews and room tours when I’m back, but if you’re looking to book something before then I’d 100% you book as far ahead as possible to get the best rate. The prices have been steadily increasing since I started looking over eight months ago.
Of course with so many amazing places nearby (Vegas, LA, Big Sur…) it would be criminal not to go on a little road trip. I’ll be taking a few days to explore Yosemite National Park. It’s roughly a four hour drive from SF and I’ll be it doing in the most amazing vehicle. Ever. Escape Campervans have some insanely cool wheels and their rates are ridiculously affordable. Whether you choose to sleep in your van or just use it to drive, you’ll definitely have a unique experience as each one is covered in its own custom artwork. I can’t wait to share my adventure with you in a #traveltrailer vlog when I’m back.
Yosemite National Park has some gorgeous, traditional lodges for overnight accommodation. I’ve opted for the affordable Yosemite Lodge at the Falls. As you can probably guess, it’s right near the famous falls and is an ideal base for exploring different treks. Half Dome (a famous sight in the park) is close and with talks of an ice skating rink right there, it’ll be perfect. There are loads of other winter activities going on such as snow tubing, skiing…(all rounded up into this post), but I guess it depends what the snowfall is like as December is just the start.
Ah, food. San Francisco is famed for its amazing eateries, from fancy restaurants to organic serving cafes, and outdoor dining to Man V Food subs, it has it all. It’s claimed there are 3,489 places to eat, which is more per capita than any other major city in the United States. If you want to try just a schmidgen of what’s on offer then you’ll need to take your stretchy pants, book in advance (where possible) and plan to eat out for breakfast (or brunch), lunch and dinner. FYI, in particular, I’ve found that popular brunch places book out months in advance.
The following look great for both meat eaters and vegetarians (i.e. lots more than one dish for veggies) :
Dinner: The Cheesecake Factory, Colibri (claim to serve the best guacamole), Old Ship Saloon (tuna tacos highly recommended), Boudin Bistro (hyped as serving the best clam chowder), La Taqueria, Greens (great views of the waterfront).
In addition to all of that, no trip to SF would be complete without a ride on the cable cars, numerous visits to the Golden Gate Bridge, a visit to China Town to see the home of the fortune cookie (and possibly a tour), a visit to the Golden Gate Park (including the Japanese Tea Garden), a visit to the farmers market at Ferry Plaza (on a Saturday)…
…an Anchor Brewery tour (with tastings, of course), a walk to Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower for good views, a stroll along pier 39 to see the noisy sea-lions, a walk around Ashbury Heights, snapping the ‘Postcard Row Houses’…
…a drive down the famous wiggly road (Lombard Street), a walk down Clarion Alley to see the Mission Murals, a film tour (including Mrs Doubtfire’s house), a cycle with Blazing Saddles including a pit stop at Sausalito (the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge).
And, I think that will just about do for twelve days, don’t you?
What do you think of my Ultimate San Fran Plan? Which bits have you done or would you like to see? Have I missed anything? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below. X