North America,  Travel

5 Things to Do When Visiting the San Francisco Area

While choosing things to do in San Francisco, it can get overwhelming for a weekend trip. Here are 5 things you can do this weekend that will have you smiling from ear to ear. Cause that’s what we all want in a weekend, right? A break from work and fun with friends/family. 

With all the things to choose from in this wonderful city, you can easily plan a trip in the style you want. Obviously, you will need more than one weekend to explore this city. If you’re planning a quick weekend trip with friends, you can have a lot of fun here in a short amount of time.

Now, this list of activities is geared so you can play tourist, enjoy fantastic food & drink and immerse yourself in an entertaining art experience. So let’s get this weekend started! Here’s a list of 5 things to do in the San Francisco area for a great weekend in the bay area with friends:

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Play Tourist and Visit the Golden Gate Bridge

 I know, it’s the most touristy thing to do, but if you didn’t post a photo of or near the Golden Gate Bridge, did you even go to San Francisco?

This beautiful landmark is a must-stop for anyone who has never seen the structure up close and in person. Plus, there are many walks around the area for all activity levels, including riding bikes! 

One of the simpler activities would be renting a bike and going for a bike ride across the bridge. This will take about half a day, so plan accordingly and only do this if all your friends exercise (seriously!). Also, it can be really cold, especially when the wind comes in from the ocean, so pack a jacket. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! 

However, if you don’t want to ride bikes, you can always walk around. When starting at the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center, follow Coastal Trail for a great photo opportunity of the bridge before arriving at Baker Beach. While it is an easy 1.6-mile walk, several tourists had to turn around. This is because it was so cold from the wind (they were shivering). Yup, in May!

In any case, stop at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area for an excellent way to start your weekend. Plus, you’ll get some blood flowing before happy hour begins. 

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San Francisco's Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar

Start Your Evening With Epic Dinner & Drinks at the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar

Naturally, you must start happy hour here, have a meal, and treat yourself to one of their famous drinks (bonus points if it starts raining!). Make reservations in advance or be prepared to wait hours for a table at this super-popular location (it may be closed for a private event).

Admittedly, this themed area of the Fairmont San Francisco is super touristy and not a culturally accurate representation of Tonga. When looking at this place as “a bar for American’s to escape corporate life,” the bar itself is a fun place to go with the crew for a night out in the Bay Area. This bar has a pool inside and is fully equipped with thunder and lightning (order the right drink). Don’t swim in the pool, it is used for bands to perform! And if Anthony Bourdain calls this place “…the greatest place in the history of the world,” you better listen and get over here!

As for food, there are gluten-free and vegan options but the menu is mostly Asian food for Americans. I didn’t see any Laulau or authentic Tongan food items (like Taro) on the menu. The closest thing would be their Kalua Pork Tacos and even THAT is Hawaiian, NOT Tongan. I hope this changes in the future. You should definitely stop at the Tonga Room to eat even if you don’t drink, the experience itself is fantastic! 

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San Francisco Museum of Ice Cream Exterior
Cup of chocolate ice cream from San Francisco's Museum of Ice Cream

Embrace Your Love of Sweets at the Museum of Ice Cream 

Besides historical and funky attractions, San Francisco has a great art scene that works for tourists. For those of you who love immersive art, you have to visit the Museum of Ice Cream! It’s not just for ice cream lovers, but if you want to take a break and have some fun, this place is a must. I’m serious. 

While it is not a true museum (you can talk and touch the things inside), it does give some insight into ice cream. The self-guided experience is super fun and has all the colors! Basically, you walk around different themed rooms and explore the quirks of each section. They have ticket times for admittance so get your ticket in advance. Otherwise, you may have to wait a while when you arrive. 

On my visit, there were a lot of ice cream samples and other candies to eat. So just know that if you stop here before dinner, you might be too full to eat when you leave. The best section is Marye’s Diner because you get to eat ice cream. But people absolutely love the sprinkle pool. Give yourself about an hour and a half to explore, shop the gift store, and indulge in more sweet treats. 

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Napa Valley

Treat Yourself to Amazing Wine in Napa

Next, you’ll have to enjoy the beauty and deliciousness of fermented grapes in Napa. You have to travel to Napa and taste wine for celebrations such as your 30th birthday or anniversary on the Napa Valley Wine Train. It is one of the easiest ways to tour Napa without thinking about where to go next.

You don’t have to stay in Napa, but your trip will be easier if you do. If you stay in town, you will spend less time in a bus/ferry and have more time to drink wine on the patio and be on vacation. You can stay in San Francisco and take the Napa Valley Wine Train’s shuttle to Napa. This is all booked through NVWT so you don’t need to think about it. Call them and talk it through so you make the shuttle back to San Francisco.

The full-day winery tour is a great way to try new wineries. This itinerary stops at 3 different wineries and includes tastings at each stop plus meals on the train. They even cater to gluten-free and other allergies with advance notice. You have the same guide throughout the day, who helps the group stay on time for each stop. You don’t want to be that person who makes the entire group late. This experience was a lot of fun, worth the price, and creates a classy birthday weekend. 

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Vegan Sushi Roll from Shizen
Sweet Tofu Nigiri

Experience a Michelin Meal at Shizen, a Vegan Sushi Bar in San Francisco

Finally, you have to treat yourself to some marvelous food out here. There is so much amazing sushi in the Bay Area. This is why you should try this exceptional twist on seafood. Everything on the menu is plant-based and gives regular sushi a run for its money. So take your friends who hate fish to vegan sushi and blow their taste buds out of the water.

In addition to delicious plant-based food, there is a separate gluten-free menu. If you like tofu, I highly recommend the sweet tofu nigiri. That was the best tofu I’ve ever had the pleasure to enjoy and I cannot wait to go back. The sushi rolls were fantastic as well. I basically had to check myself or I would have drooled all over the table. So good.

Like most restaurants in San Francisco, make reservations ahead of time. If you fail to do so, be prepared to be put on the wait-list at 5 p.m. and not get a table until 8 p.m. (yeah, it’s that popular). That sweet tofu nigiri is totally worth the wait.

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Napa Valley Wine Train Interior
Things to do in San Francisco Tiki Bar

A weekend in the San Francisco area can be made all your own. Visiting the Golden Gate bridge is a must for any National Park buffs. Pack a jacket as the breeze from the bay can get chilly (especially when traveling from a warmer summer location). You’ll thank me when you’re actually able to walk around the Golden Gate Bridge instead of turning away because you’re too cold.

Dinner and drinks are an experience in itself in the Bay Area, so take time to find a location for your personality. Themed bars can be a fun place to get drinks, and you can’t go wrong with Michelin restaurants. Pro Tip: If you get carsick, pack some Dramamine for the hilly roads in San Francisco or be prepared to get woozy. 

Finally, you have to make a stop in Napa to taste the amazing wine created there while enjoying the fantastic fields in the background. Even if you don’t want to spend the night in Napa, a day on the Napa Valley Wine Train is a must for any birthday or celebratory weekend. Cheers! 

Let me know how you celebrated in the San Francisco area in the comments below.

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