~ West Coast: San Fran!!

Hello hello all you wonderful people, I know, I know I haven’t done a West Coast travel post in a while, my last one being Lake Tahoe (~ West Coast: South Lake Tahoe…).

I’ve just been busy with a lot on my plate lately and hence in general, travel posts have taken a back seat since they are the most time consuming to write… But I promise I am gonna try and get back on track.

So without further ado, today I am talking about a destination that’s on the hubby and my top 10 list of places to visit in US – San Fran!!

San Francisco is the cultural, commercial, and financial center of Northern California. It’s a destination that boasts a weather which makes it suitable to visit year round!!

This post is in no way a comprehensive list, please don’t forget to Google things to see, and plan according to your interest. Also, in this post, I am not going to go into the detail of each and every item on my list, just coz if I did, this post would be a super long one. My apologies in advance if this causes any inconvenience to anyone in anyway!

So with that said, let’s start!

How to get to San Fran:

San Fran is well connected with flights from almost anywhere in the world!! Also drivable from various other happening destinations in California.

Where to Stay:

We stayed at the Holiday Inn, Fisherman’s Wharf and the location was great as it was centrally located and close to everything.

Rental Car:

I would say you don’t need a rental car because San Fran highlights are walkable and for places that aren’t, taxis are easily available and aren’t too pricey.

For Napa Valley, I would suggest you book a tour so you can try ALL the wines at the different wineries and vineyards and not worry about having to drive back. I am providing details of the tour we took below.

Things to see and do:

San Fran highlights:

– Alcatraz & Angel Island

Alcatraz is a must!! The Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary was a maximum high security federal prison on Alcatraz Island, 1.25 miles (2.01 km) off the coast of San Francisco, California, which operated from 1934 to 1963. Some of the criminals that have been placed here include Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud (the “Birdman of Alcatraz”), George “Machine Gun” Kelly among others.

Angel Island is a little bonus if you buy a combined ticket for the 2 islands. Angel Island offers expansive 360° views of the San Francisco skyline, the Marin County Headlands and Mount Tamalpais.

– Tour of the Napa Valley

We took an entire day tour of Napa Valley and I will be sharing details about that in a separate blog post otherwise this is going to become a super long post, so stay tuned.

– Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf is a neighborhood and popular tourist attraction in San Fran. It roughly encompasses the northern waterfront area of San Francisco from Ghirardelli Square on Van Ness Avenue east to Pier 35 on Kearny Street. The F Market streetcar runs through the area, the Powell-Hyde cable car lines runs to Aquatic Park, at the edge of Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Powell-Mason cable car line runs a few blocks away. A must visit for sure!!

– Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge and is one of the most internationally recognized symbols of San Fran. It has been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. It’s a breathtaking sight to see most of this magnificent bridge covered with fog, as it often is!!

– Fort Point

Fort Point is a masonry seacoast fortification located at the southern side of the Golden Gate at the entrance to San Francisco Bay. This fort was completed just before the American Civil War, to defend San Francisco Bay against hostile warships. The fort is now available for touring.

– Union Square

Union Square is a public plaza bordered by Geary, Powell, Post and Stockton Streets in downtown San Fran. “Union Square” also refers to the central shopping, hotel, and theater district that surrounds the plaza for several blocks


– Cable Car System

The San Francisco cable car system is the world’s last manually operated cable car system. An icon of San Francisco, the cable car system forms part of the intermodal urban transport network operated by the San Francisco Municipal Railway. Of the 23 lines established between 1873 and 1890, only three remain (one of which combines parts of two earlier lines): two routes from downtown near Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf, and a third route along California Street. The lines for riding the cable car are super long so be ready to wait a while for the ride of a lifetime!!

– Pier 39

Pier 39 should be a must on your list of your things to do in San Fran, with sea lions, waterfront dining, street performers, live music, shopping and lots more!!

– Lombard Street 

The world famous “most crooked street in the world”. Lombard Street is an east–west street in San Fran, that is famous for a steep, one-block section with eight hairpin turns. If you are not interested in driving it, try to walk by as it is definitely a unique view unlike any other.

– Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square is a landmark public square with shops and restaurants in the Fisherman’s Wharf area of San Fran. The square once featured over 40 specialty shops and restaurants. Some of the original shops and restaurants still occupy the square. Don’t forget to eat at the world famous Ghirardelli Restaurant for all sorts of yumminess! There is a gift shop there as well for you to stock up on yummy sweetness for yourself or your loved ones.

– Church where Marilyn Monroe got married!! 

The Saints Peter and Paul Church is an absolutely gorgeous church and should be on your list to visit. We actually stumbled upon this church! The hubby is a church lover and spotted this church when we were touring Lombard street and we ended up walking to this church only to find out it’s where Marilyn Monroe had gotten married!!

– Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District of San Fran, is a monumental structure originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in order to exhibit works of art presented there.

One of only a few surviving structures from the Exposition, it is still situated on its original site. It was rebuilt in 1965, and renovation of the lagoon, walkways, and a seismic retrofit were completed in early 2009. In addition to hosting art exhibitions, it remains a popular attraction for tourists and locals and is a favorite location for weddings and wedding party photographs.

AND for all you Bollywood lovers, like me, this is where the famous song “Sajda” from My Name is Khan was filmed!!! Actually, this entire movie and many other Bollywood movies are all filmed around San Fran!!

– Twin Peaks

The Twin Peaks are two prominent hills with an elevation of about 925 feet located near the geographic center of San Fran and provide breathtaking views of the city spread below.

– 7 Sisters

Also called Painted Ladies is an American architecture, actually Victorian and Edwardian houses and buildings painted in three or more colors that embellish or enhance their architectural details. Super expensive and pretty, they make for a great photo backdrop.

Other items on the list:

– Coit Tower

– San Fran Ferry building

– Aquarium of the Bay

– Muir Woods

– Various Museums

– Chinatown

– Google Headoffice

Food options:

San Fran has enough to offer to appeal to everyone’s taste and hence not an issue even for the folks with the most restricted diets!

Now for the photo dump:

So as you can see there’s a lot to see and do in San Fran and in my opinion to be able to see and do all the highlights, you would need atleast 5 days.

Hope you enjoyed today’s post and as promised earlier, watch this space for more exciting destinations coming your way!! Have a great weekend ahead 😀

Until next time… Ciao!

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~ West Coast: South Lake Tahoe…

** Long Post Alert**

Wait, scratch that… Instead let me say…

** Super Duper Long Post Alert**

The crystal-clear surface of Lake Tahoe sits 6,225 feet above sea level, and the fun, well what do I say?! It only gets bigger from here. A year-round destination, the area is especially popular during ski seasons when it becomes a winter wonderland boarding the highest concentration of ski resorts in North America.

So needless to say, this is where we headed for our 5th anniversary celebrations, Thanksgiving of 2016! And I got to check off “Go someplace snowy”off my Fall/Winter bucket list – win win in my books!!

Our trip was for 5 days and I would say that is enough to do justice to all that Tahoe has to offer.

How to get there:

Reno International Airport serves as the closest airport to Tahoe with the drive to North Lake Tahoe being only 45 minutes and South Lake Tahoe being about 1 hour 15 mins. The drive is through mountains and the picturesque views will leave you wanting more!

I would suggest you arrive during the morning hours so your drive is not stressful. Steep drops and night time tend to peak my anxiety levels, much to the hubby’s annoyance! LOL!!

Rental Car:

Renting a car from the Reno Airport is the best option as it gives you mobility around the Lake Tahoe area. If visiting in the winter, definitely rent a 4 wheel drive, preferably an SUV, coz you’ll need it with all the snow around!!

Where to Stay:

While there are many hotels around South Lake Tahoe as well as good casino hotels across the state line, we preferred to stay at the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel.

We wanted to say in a hotel true to Lake Tahoe vibes and not a popular chain that you find numerous of across the country. This choice was also based on its location! It’s known for its proximity to nature’s playground. Just outside its front door, the gondola awaits to whisk you skyward to snowy peaks and breathtaking views of the Lake. After a fun day out, we returned to the lodge for a nightcap and also swam in the heated indoor pool before retiring to bed a couple of nights. The Heavenly village and the Lake itself is a short walk away and the casinos are just across the state line!

If you are visiting in the summer, The Landing Lake Tahoe Resort and Spa is a cute option as is right infront of the South Beach, on Stateline Avenue, about a 10 minute walk from the casinos and a 15 minute walk from the Heavely Village.

Things to do:

As I always suggest, google things to do, so you can decide what tickles your fancy, but here’s my list, in no particular order:

Stops on the way:

– Mount Rose

On our way from Reno to South Lake Tahoe, we stopped at the Mount Rose summit and did snow sledding.

– Incline Village

This is in North Lake Tahoe, we visited the Diamond Peak for some more sledding and snow fun. After that, we had lunch at the cafe in Hyatt and checked out the Ski beach in North Lake Tahoe.

– The drive from North Lake Tahoe to South Lake Tahoe, is by the lake and provides serene views of the lake! Drive during the day so you are able to enjoy the views.

– On our way back from South Lake Tahoe to Reno Airport, we stopped at Carson City, Virginia City and Reno. I’ll be talking about this destinations in another post, so stay tuned for that.

South Lake Tahoe:

– Heavenly Village

This is the main highlight of South Lake Tahoe and rightly so. There is something here for everyone!!

The Heavenly Donuts and Heavens Little Cafe are a must stop for some donuts and hot chocolate!! I’ll be talking about food options below.

A quick stop at the Urban Trailhead will help you understand a lot more of Lake Tahoe and it’s unique features.

Here’s a link for more information on the area:

http://www.theshopsatheavenly.com/directory.php

– Heavenly Gondola / Observation Deck and Heavenly Mountain

An absolute must!!! You have to do this!!! The Gondola ride up to the mountain is fun and the views of the lake are spectacular. On the way up, get off at the 1st stop which is the observation deck and provides picturesque views of the lake all around!! Get back on the Gondola and continue up to the peaks for some fun in the snow.

– Art galleries

There are many art galleries around Heavenly Village that we stopped at to check out the local artists. I don’t remember particular names (blogger fail!) but when you walk around you’ll spot plenty to choose from!!

– Sunset at the beach

Around Lake Tahoe there are many beaches that have been made especially to be enjoyed in the summer time, but these do provide nice sunset views as well as star gazing opportunities, so don’t give it a miss even if you are going in the winter time.

– Skiing / Snow Boarding

Among many other winter activities you can do in South Lake Tahoe (like Snowmobiling etc.) definitely ski and snow board as the slopes here are plenty and provide beautiful views of the lake all the way from up top! If you are skiing down closer to the time of sunset – the views cannot be expressed in words, you will have to experience them on your own to understand what I mean.

– MS Dixie Sunset and Dinner Cruise

This was supposed to be a nice dinner cruise, that takes you to the Emerald Bay and provides stunning views – BUT – do not take this in the winter time as the cruise ship leaves dock at 5:30-6pm well after the sun has sent and there is nothing to view coz it gets dark very quickly after sunset, especially in the winter.

I believe this cruise would have totally worth every penny had we boarded and left an hour and half earlier or else if taken in the summer time so as to be able to see and enjoy the view.

– Casinos!!!

Since a part of South Lake Tahoe is in Nevada, there are ample of casinos available for you to gamble away!

– Adventure Mountain Lake Tahoe/ Sierra at Tahoe / Carson Pass Sno-Park

A good stop to enjoy a variety of snow activities.

– Hope Valley

A good spot for wildlife viewing.

– Emerald Bay State Park

Emerald Bay State Park is a state park centered on Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay and its features include Eagle Falls and Vikingsholm, a 38-room mansion that is considered one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the United States. This is an absolute must stop.


Food Options:

There is plenty of options available just around the Heavenly Village and a couple of good options are also available at 15-20 mins drive from Heavenly Village. You have the usual suspects like Subway, Pizza Hut, Dominoes, McDonalds as well as Applebee’s etc. but for a more local taste I am listing some options below.

Restaurants we absolutely loved:

– Base Camp Pizza Co.

This is in the heart of Heavenly Village and the area is such a good one, with live music and Gondola views, absolutely lovely ambiance.

Everything, I repeat everything on their menu was finger licking good!! We ate there 2 times in a row and even did a to-go once! Sorry, not sorry 😉

– Artemis Lakefront Cafe

Breathtaking views of the lake and a fun area to roam around along with yummiest gyros I have ever had in the US (and coming from someone who grew up in the Middle East, this means a lot!!)

Indian options:

– Nikki’s Chat (this place was bad, don’t go! Bad food and horrible service! Wish we had tried the other one instead)

– Curry & Grill

Other options:

– The Heavenly Donughts

– Heavens Little Cafe

– California Burger Co.

– Sugar Pine Bakery

– Ernie’s Coffee Shop

– Lake Tahoe Pizza

– Key’s Cafe

– Edgewood Restaurant

– The Cork & more

– Alpina Coffee

– Zephyr Cove Restaurant

– Big Daddy’s Burger

– Fire Break Kitchen & Bar

– Margarita’s Mexican

– Getaway Cafe

– Jalisco Grill

– Scusa Italian

All in all Lake Tahoe should definitely be on your must visit list, preferably in the winter time as I personally feel that in the summer time, it would be just like any other lake, prettier for sure, but the snow-covered peaks adds to the beauty of this area. In my opinion that is!

Have you been to Lake Tahoe already?! I’d love to hear what all you enjoyed and what was your favorite?! And if you haven’t, then I hope this post of my will help you plan a trip to paradise!!

Happy Monday and have a great week ahead!