Sometimes your friends aren’t available to take a trip with you and sometimes you just want to roll out by yourself! Traveling solo can be rewarding and can offer the opportunity to unplug from your daily life and reconnect with who you are at heart. I caught up with a friend to get the deets on her bad-ass solo trip to San Francisco. If your thinking about visiting, read on. She did San Fran like a boss, all by herself!
Name: Julia Harris
How often do you travel?
I try to take a big trip once a year or every other year and cram in weekend trips nearby.
What made you choose San Francisco?
Well I was heading to California anyway to visit with a friend in Mendocino and had to fly into SF. So I decided to stay and make the most of it since there’s so much to do there.
How long was your trip?
What did you spend the most money on while there?
Aside from my hotel and parking in the city, I spent the most money on a tour to Yosemite National Park.
Can you break down your trip for us?
Landed in San Fran, grabbed my rental car and headed to my hotel.
Where’d you stay?
The Alise on Geary Street in Union Square. Luckily, there was a small parking garage right next door that only charged $30/night versus the hotel’s $50.
I couldn’t have been happier with the hotel itself. It’s super cute and newly renovated with a touch of nostalgia. The bed and bedding were amazing. From the plush bath robes and slippers to an umbrella (which if you can’t part with can be purchased); all the little touches make you feel at home.
Golden Gate Bridge
Started out with delicious gluten free waffles for breakfast while I planned my route for the day with a map provided by the hotel. Afterwards I packed a lunch, signed out a bicycle and put the Golden Gate Bridge into Google Maps.
I took a slight detour to see Lombard Street & Gardens (the crooked street). It’s a huge tourist spot, lots of people there taking pictures and a line of cars waiting to drive down it. A few blocks later I came into view of the ocean and the bridge so I stopped at a bench near the water to take in the view of it all and have my lunch.
3 miles to go, I pressed on. The hills in SF are no joke! A few times I had to get off my bike and walk up the hills. Got to the Golden Gate Bridge and was stoked to ride across it. It’s 1.7 miles one way and it’s amazing! The bridge was packed with tourists but was easily manageable as I rang my little bike bell to warn people I was coming up on them or to move outta my way! I stopped at each span to take more pictures and to look down over the edge!
Golden Gate Park
I looked up the Golden Gate Park to see how far away that was from the Bridge and Google told me it was another 30 mins. I was already tired and knew I still had a 30 min ride back to my hotel but I said eff it, I’m only here once why not! Sure enough as soon as I got on my way I had to push my bike up a giant hill! But the view made it worthwhile. There was so much to see in this park; a bison pen (That’s right, this park has a pen with bison in it!), two dutch windmills, soccer fields, baseball fields, lakes, ponds, a museum, a polo stadium, the Academy of the Sciences and the beach is right across the street!
I was getting tired and wanted to see one more thing in the park before I made my way back to the hotel and that was the Japanese Tea Garden. The Japanese Tea Garden cost $8 to enter and it is worth it. It’s beautiful and serene and of course I had a cup of tea because I mean, it is a tea garden!
I wanted to stay longer but it was starting to get dark and I didn’t have a light for my bike so I headed back to the hotel and was so glad to make it back there and get off the bike! My legs were tired!!
The girl at the hotel bar gave me a restaurant recommendation in Union Square that was just a 13 minute walk (she timed it herself lol). Off I went to Delarosa’s. The walk was enjoyable with the shopping district/Union Square lit up with Christmas lights & decorations. Dinner was delicious and I’m glad I went with the recommendation. I went back to the hotel to get to bed since I had an early day coming up.
Yosemite National Park
I had booked a tour to Yosemite National Park with Extranomical Tours a week or so before so this day was planned. They picked me up at 6:20a about a block and half away from my hotel. It was about a 4hr drive there and we stopped halfway at a market for a break. The drive itself wasn’t bad, and our tour guide, Vlad, was awesome. I can’t put into words the vast beauty of Yosemite. Pictures don’t do it justice.
Our first stop was at Inspiration Point with a jaw dropping view of El Capitain and Bridalveil Fall. The tour guide stops at all the great photo-op views and gives you time to get off the bus and get pictures. Next we made our way to Bridalveil Fall and made the short 0.3 mi hike to the bottom of the falls, which was on the side of the valley that didn’t get sun so it was below 30 degrees and when I got to the bottom it was iced over from the mist.
We made our way back to the Lodge. We were dropped off and given 2 hrs free time. I packed a lunch again and set off towards the Yosemite Falls eating my PB&J sandwiches. I took the Lower Falls Trail which was a short walk on a paved path to the bottom of the Lower Fall of Yosemite Falls and continued on to the Lower Valley Loop Trail (I researched this prior to arriving) and was in my glory walking through nature. Honestly, my neck started to hurt from looking up at nature’s glory. Walking through the redwoods, with giant granite cliffs and boulders, is amazing. I came out of the trail to another jaw dropping view of deer grazing in the meadow. Deer that you could walk right up next to!
We headed back to San Francisco and the tour guide made one last stop for us to view San Francisco from across the bay to see it all lit up at night, which was beautiful.
Johnny Foley’s Irish Pub
I was dropped off at 7 pm around where the tour bus picked me up. I walked a few blocks and stopped into Johnny Foley’s Irish Pub for dinner. WOW, the food there was beyond delicious! I had steak and mashed potatoes and they know what they’re doing!
Talking to the people next to me I found out there was downstairs piano bar that was free on Thursday nights. So I headed downstairs to check it out. It was actually dueling pianos; so 2 pianists on 2 separate pianos playing/singing together back and forth. You can make song suggestions and they do the rest! It was a great time… had a lot of laughs and everyone was singing along.
I had planned in my head to hike in Muir Woods and check out Fisherman’s Wharf. Woke up and it was raining and over breakfast I started looking into the museums in the area but decided I’d take my chances hiking in the rain. Muir Woods is literally right over the Golden Gate Bridge and was just a 10 min drive from my hotel. I was hoping the rain would deter people from visiting and when I arrived there it wasn’t packed.
I paid the $10 entrance fee and started to make my way through the redwoods. I went with the 2.2 mile loop in mind since it looked to be the easiest trail and I didn’t want to do anything crazy since it was raining. It wasn’t pouring, just a drizzle and honestly it was relaxing walking through the woods listening to the rain falling from these giant trees.
After my hike I visited the gift shop and then decided to head back to SF.
The rest of the day consisted of lunch in Little Italy, Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square (They have cute little shops there), a visit to Pier 39 which is exactly like the boardwalk at the Jersey Shore with all the stores and restaurants right on the water and souvenirs galore!
Took my time waking up, grabbed my last breakfast of gluten free waffles at the bistro downstairs and began packing my bags. I checked out at noon and had the front desk hold my bags while I went to lunch. The bartender the night before recommended Pearl’s burger joint right around the block for the best burger in SF so I headed that way only to find it was closed for the Christmas Holiday so I walked to Johnny Foley’s Irish Pub to see if their burger was as good as their steaks were and damned if it wasn’t! Mimosa’s and a delicious burger and fries completed my San Francisco vacation.
What was your favorite part of the trip? It’s hard to pick one thing as my favorite part because as you can tell I made the most of every day. I think Yosemite National Park is up there although I have to say biking all around San Francisco and over the Golden Gate Bridge was so much fun!!
Any tips for other people wanting to visit San Fran solo? Do your research and have an idea of what you want to accomplish while you’re there.
Honestly, if you can get a shuttle from the airport to your hotel you really don’t need a car in the city, depending on where you’re staying and what you plan to do (I didn’t use my car until Friday). There are cable cars, buses (huge plus if you stay at The Alise because they have bicycles and you’re right in Union Square) and other forms of public transportation that would save you money on parking.
Definitely go explore and have your phone charged for Google Maps. Also, don’t be scared to talk to the bartenders, waitresses, and receptionists for recommendations on places to go or eat!
Thanks for sharing your journey with us Julia! San Francisco seems like the perfect place to take a solo trip and I’m always down for a new adventure.