San Francisco, I love you!

I am officially in love with San Francisco. It has quickly become my favorite non-European city and my favorite getaway in California. I’ve been going to the City for the last 11 years, but since we started staying there with our kids, we’ve grown to love it that much more. As we left this time, we repeated our promise to spend a longer amount of time there…a week at minimum…and suggested returning for Spring Break.

Just before Christmas, I began my winter vacation from work with a 3-day stay in San Francisco (about 90 minutes from our house). We met my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and two nieces, who were visiting from Brazil and had been traveling in Southern California. Most of our time was spent outdoors doing things that the kids would enjoy–I’ll soon post on that separately–and we were fortunate to have mild, sunny weather the entire time, as you can see in these San Francisco photos:

San Francisco in Photos

After many foggy visits, incredible weather for experiencing the bridge!

San Francisco in Photos

Presidio National Park from the Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco in Photos

A noisy and windy walk but so worth it

One of the things that makes our travels to San Francisco so nice is the rhythm we find there. We rent a home, take our dogs, and plan plenty of outdoor activities that the kids (and sometimes the dogs) can enjoy without giving us kid-activity burnout. For that reason, we choose to stay near Golden Gate Park and Presidio National Park. Every time we leave, I feel more at home there, and my list of things to do next time keeps growing.

This time with my handy Michelin Guide to California, I discovered more kid-friendly places in Golden Gate Park and beyond, including the Redwood Grove in the Botanical Garden:

San Francisco in Photos

The Redwood Grove in the Botanical Garden, Golden Gate Park

San Francisco in Photos

The Bay Lights, an LED art installation on the Bay Bridge by Leo Villareal, on display through 2015

San Francisco in Photos

Union Square lit up for Christmas

San Francisco in Photos

Japanese maples still showing fall colors in December at the Japanese Tea Garden

San Francisco in Photos

View toward the Golden Gate from the top of the de Young Museum

San Francisco in Photos

Alcatraz, the Bay Bridge, and San Francisco from the ferry

San Francisco in Photos

The Golden Gate from the ferry

San Francisco in Photos

The Ferry Building at night

San Francisco in Photos

My favorite stop inside the Ferry Building

See more ideas for visiting San Francisco here.

Have you been to San Francisco? What were some of your favorite experiences there?

This post was a compensated post as part of partnership with Michelin Guides.


  • what GORGEOUS photos! and it seems perfect for an extended family – something to do for everyone!
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    • Jenna says:

      Thanks, Jessie, and yes, it’s the perfect place for families because there’s something for everyone.

  • Pal Ujvarosi says:

    I love New York and always will. Same with Boston, especially since I used to live there. But there’s no doubt that San Francisco will always be my number one American city. I haven’t been there for soon a decade now (California is far from Europe, unfortunately – as I’m sure you also think sometimes, but in the reversed direction …), so no wonder that your post makes me pretty nostalgic.

    I remember when we were younger we always played the game where you had to choose the only three places you would spend the rest of your life in and no other, SF was always one of my picks (I still think it’s a good game by the way, really makes you think through which are the places you like the most).

    • Jenna says:

      Really? That’s quite a statement since NYC and Boston are also wonderful cities. SF is unique, and I think that’s why it inspires wonder in so many people. I would love to live there, too, but that is completely impossible since it’s so expensive (which is OK if you can live in a room or two, but not as a family). So I stay content being close by.
      And yes, I completely understand your feeling about being so far away from CA. I wish Europe were closer. It makes me sad just thinking about it.

  • Renuka says:

    I really loved your pictures! San Francisco is gorgeous indeed!
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  • Katie says:

    I just went to San Francisco for the first time as an adult over Thanksgiving. I stayed with some friends, so I ended up doing all the things they usually do — which consisted of a lot of walking around Golden Gate Park and eating at really incredible places. I loved it! It’s such a wonderful city. I wish I could visit it more often. Luckily it’s not too far away from my home in Salt Lake. Gorgeous photos, too!
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    • Jenna says:

      True, California is an easy flight from SLC. And yes, the food in San Francisco is incredible.

  • Cassie says:

    Great photos, Jenna! We’ll have to meet up next time you’re in town… yay, for spring break! 🙂
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    • Jenna says:

      Definitely! It’s hard for me to have social time when I travel with my kids, but if not on the next trip, let’s plan to meet when I can come sometime by myself 🙂

  • Alexandra says:

    Gorgeous photos Jenna, what blue skies! The bridge figures rather heavily in your photos – is this a choice because it is perhaps the only truly iconic symbol of the city or could you just not resist snapping it at every hour of the day?
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    • Jenna says:

      I hadn’t even noticed that (there are 2 bridges here, the GG and Bay Bridge), I guess because it seemed like they were always visible. The city is so small, and we spent a lot of time around the water.

  • Stephanie says:

    I have only been to San Francisco once, but my best friend and I have fond memories of that trip. We loved walking and hiking through the various parks. I especially loved some of the art deco architecture and the 1930s murals in a building the name of which escapes me now.

    Our favourite experience was probably going on several free (voluntary donation) tours offered by the public library. The guides were volunteers who are evidently history buffs and passionate about their city. I particularly enjoyed one such tour that we took of the Mission district. There was also a very interesting tour of green spaces on top of and within urban office towers. The guides also carried with them binders of historical material and vintage photos. If only every city offered such a program!

  • Allison says:

    Great photos! I have some fun San Francisco memories from my childhood, and look forward to returning to the city with my children.

  • Oh, Jenna, I love San Fran so much too. The culture, the community, the food, all of it! Such a beautiful city.
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  • Beautiful pics! Makes me want to return to San Fran sometime soon!
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  • Katie says:

    The Cowgirl Creamery is also my favorite stop in the Ferry Building!
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  • I had a business trip to LA and flew into SFO, I could only spent few hours in the city, so SFO is stil on the list. Maybe next year 🙂
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  • Kieu says:

    Love “the city” – I use to work in SF. It’s our weekend playground and no weekend is ever alike. We live in San Jose which is just south a drive. Glad you liked SF!! 😉

    • Jenna says:

      Lucky you. I am happy that I am just 1.5 hours away and can get there fairly often, but actually being able to spend weekends there often would be wonderful!

  • I have been dying to travel here but haven’t made it yet. Looks like you had a wonderful time.
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    • Jenna says:

      You would love it! I know you two love the outdoors, and San Francisco has such a mix of city and nature.

  • It is obvious that San Francisco is a charming place. Normal that you felt in love with it!

  • falana says:

    The pictures that say “Alcatraz, the Bay Bridge, and San Francisco from the ferry” what ferry are you referring to?

    We’re going to San Fran for 5 days next week and your site is helping me plan our trip. I can’t wait!
    I did book the airbnb house you recommended too!

    • Jenna says:

      It’s the ferry from SF to Sausalito. You can catch it at the Ferry Bldg (and also get some great snacks/lunch/dinner there). The ferry trip is a little expensive, but I thought it was worth it. The kids enjoyed it.

    • Jenna says:

      And I’m so glad these posts have been helpful and that you booked one of the Airbnb rentals I recommended! I hope you have a great trip!

  • Penny Sadler says:

    I loved San Francisco too. Great photos. Cowgirl Creamery is also a favorite. Have you been to their store in Pt. Reyes? Da bomb.
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    • Jenna says:

      I’ve been to the one in Pt. Reyes but didn’t have time to linger. I love their cheeses–fortunately, my local grocery store sells them!

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