What’s the most iconic image of San Francisco? For me, I picture the opening scene from my childhood television staple, Full House, which includes: cable cars that traverse the hilly city, rows of ornate Victorian houses known as the Painted Ladies and of course, the striking red hue of the Golden Gate Bridge. All of these attractions are part of the SF section of my Bucket List, by the way!
As a Welcome to the city, my Vancouverite friend Fred suggested we bike over the Golden Gate bridge and make a full day out it! I had crossed paths with Fred many times in the past several years – we both studied Biochemistry courses in University, and volunteered extensively with the local Young Professionals Business Association in Vancouver (Board of Trade, Company of Young Professionals). We connected again when Lydia, a good friend I made from local clothing swaps, turned out to be his roommate! As I was planning my move to San Francisco, I was grateful to have a “local” guide in Fred, as he had been travelling frequently to SF throughout 2018 in preparation for his own relocation!
Here’s a photo essay to inspire others to plan their own packed day of exploration by bike in the City! This was our 10 hour adventure.
Meeting at the Ferry Building
We agreed to meet at the Ferry Building around 10am since it was along the BART mass-transit system and also centrally located to the Downtown hotels, where Fred was staying.
Map of our Route
There is a large bike rental stand just across from the Ferry Building. They have them all along the Embarcadero, aka the waterfront along San Francisco dotted by Piers. “Pier 39” is the most famous for its Sea Lions!
Average price seems to be $25-$30 for a full day – probably a discount if you book in advance. There are also many of those “on demand” bikes but they are only for 30 min increments.
Typical Foggy Weather
We planned to bike all along the Northern front of the city, towards the Golden Gate bridge, and stopped to take in the views along the way.
A Very Steep Hill!
For the most part, you travel along a pretty safe route with a dedicated bike lane and also, it is relatively flat. But keep in mind, San Francisco IS known for hills, so a few times I thought about getting off my bike and walking!
Starting to See the Iconic Bridge
After reaching our first mini-summit, we were bestowed with these views of the bridge ahead.
Passing an Outdoor Gym in the Marina
I was excited to see the outdoor gym because it reminded me of the outdoor fixtures in Brazil, where local residents simply frolic to the beach to get their workouts in. I saw this phenomenon once again on my recent trip to Tel Aviv where I encouraged my 3 guy friends to do my Bikini Bodybuilding workouts as a fun way to start the day.
I snapped this pic of the facilities to send to them and remind them of our challenging workouts!
Stopping by the Beach
Along the way, there were several bike path detours that brought us closer to the various beaches. We meandered along the wooden bridges and dropped our bikes off along the sand.
The mountain-ocean view combo was strikingly similar to the Vancouver waterfront scenes I loved back home. I knew I was going to love this City if it meant I could come by here more often.
Brunch – To Wait out the Fog, Of Course!
Fred next suggested we wait for the fog to burn off before biking over the bridge, and so we searched for a nearby eatery to wait for some sunshine.
He looked up the Baker Street Bistro nearby which had some great reviews:
The bike rental also came with locks so we stowed our bikes away and sat down to decide what to eat! We shared a single dish which came with some pretty solid macros, complete with multiple protein sources and some greens! I thanked PayPal for this meal since Fred was visiting for work and was using his per diem – the beauty of work travel!
Since I was still so fresh to SF, it was encouraging to hear Fred’s enthusiasm for actively embracing his own personal move to SF. Surprisingly, this was my first time that I was learning how he had intentionally planned his Vancouver exit plan!
And just like that, the Sun is out!
The Palace of Fine Arts
All the rumours are true! SF is fickle and foggy and the weather can transform from one extreme to another just like that!
No photoshop was used in the photo below, I swear.
The Palace of Fine Arts is a relic from the World Expo in 1915!
I would love to come back here for a picnic sometime.
Getting Ready to Cross the Bridge
We biked past the Palace, along the beach, and slowly uphill towards the bridge where these vast unobstructed, ocean views awaited us.
Made it to the Other Side!
The journey along the bridge is surprisingly LONG! There were also people crossing by foot so I imagine that would take a fair amount of time. Riding along the Bay’s edge was beautiful, but also, pretty windy. Be prepared and bring a jacket! As for those who may be fearful of heights, there are many barriers in place so I felt quite safe. Don’t look down if you’re afraid of heights, however, just keep on peddling forward.
All Downhill From Here?
Once you make it to the other side, it is worthwhile to pause for a break and soak in some views.
As I scouted the path ahead, I was looking forward to cruising downhill for a bit!
We Saw Lots of People Walking Their Bikes Up….
I decided then and there I was going to try to bike back up this steep hill!
Not right away, but sometime, within ONE year.
(Note: Save this post to see if I’ve done it!)
I am all about fitness challenges and goals so I want to make this happen! See: My Bucket List.
Then it was Time for Lunch!
We liked this spot because it had an indoor/outdoor patio and we could enjoy the sunny skies over a gluten-free meal!
Copita Tequileria Y Comida
Sausalito is a city in Marin County, California, across the Golden Gate Strait from San Francisco.
And it is remarkably charming! It reminds me of the Horseshoe Bay or Whiterock towns, for those familiar with Vancouver. Both are only a short day trip from the City and you have the similarly cute waterfront restaurants and artisan shops.
Be Prepared for a VERY LONG Ferry Wait
After lunch, we walked around the alleyways and into a few boutique jewelry shops before making our way to the Ferry back to the city. Some people chose to bike back up the hill and over the bridge, but most will wait it out for the Ferry.
I will warn anyone reading this now, if you are aiming to stick to a schedule, use CAUTION during the weekend. Many others, tourists and locals alike, have the same intention of taking the ferry, so you end up waiting upwards of 2 hours for a spot!
Thankfully Fred and I had a lot to catch up on and talk about.
Which leads to my next piece of sage advice – make sure to plan this trip with someone you can spend a whole day with 🙂
I keep wanting to call this famous prison Azkaban! All those years of Harry Potter have clearly made their way into my subconscious.
Anyways, this was my first close up of the once notorious home of gangster and mob boss Al Capone. I am both amazed at the stories of escaped prisoners and how they broke out (who else knows the papier–mâché story?), and dumbfounded that this was such a high security prison – the water doesn’t look that treacherous and the distance doesn’t seem that far from shore.
Fred told me he went on the Alcatraz “After Hours” tour in the dark and that it was very creepy! Something about seeing scratch marks in the wall coupled with damp stillness created an eerie environment! He recommended the experience, nonetheless.
I’m not a horror fan at all, so if and when I do the tour, it will 100% be in broad daylight!
Link to the Night Tour: https://www.alcatraztickets.com/offer/18343/Alcatraz-Night-Tour
*note – Tours sell out 2 weeks in advance. Book early!
Back at the Ferry Building!
The Ferry dropped us off a little ways west of the original Ferry Building start point, so we only had a short ride back to our original location to return the bikes.
From there, since it was a nice sunny day, we chose to walk all the way to a lively neighborhood (there are many of these mini city-centres) known as Hayes Valley.
Hayes Valley – a Very Cute Neighbourhood
Several friends told me I would really like Hayes Valley, so it was a perfect opportunity to briefly check this spot out!
Salt & Straw Ice Cream!
I could smell how good this ice cream shop was from way down the street!
Since we biked all day, I felt perfectly fine starting with a dessert course before dinner. And because Fred had been such a wonderful host, providing such a generous welcome to the city, I insisted on treating us both to double-scoops of ice cream!
We sampled a few flavours and both were in awe of the “cheese” flavoured ice cream and chose that.
Salt & Straw has various locations around the city, and is one of the highest rated places with their unique monthly flavours! My understanding is that Bi-rite, Humphrey Slocombe and Smitten are some of the other standout ice cream shops. I’ll get to those one day.
Salt & Straw Hayes Valley
My Treat! Cheers!
After having our appetizer of ice cream, we put our names on the wait list of a local Italian restaurant, and shared a couple of dishes.
Thanks Fred – What a PERFECT day and WELCOME to the city!
I’ve made a long list of other fun activities in San Francisco, California and the broader US that I am planning to explore.
My Bucket List has historically consisted of exotic adventures and destinations like ancient cities in Israel or Temple Ruins in Cambodia. Well, I absolutely want to seize my opportunity here in SF and take fun day trips and weekend trips.
Let me know what’s on your list – I would love to hear your suggestions and tips!