Before working for OpenVPN, I had only ever visited California once as a young kid. Now that I work for a company headquartered there, I get more opportunities to visit. Since HQ is right near San Francisco, my coworkers and I always try to extend our work trips to allow for some quality time as tourists.
I’ll be the first to admit that when I’m traveling and exploring new places, I fully embrace being a tourist, and I try to do a lot of touristy things. I want experiences that are just…different than I can get at home. So I don’t care much for finding the hole in the wall, local spots. I want to do the things I’ve read about in books or seen on postcards. They might be overrated sometimes, but I’m okay with that.
Best Times To Visit:
- I am typically in San Francisco in the late fall, like the October or November timeframe, and I’ve found the weather to be really ideal then. Warm enough to be wandering around the city in short sleeves, but not so warm that you get unnecessarily sticky or sweaty throughout the day.
- I also visited once over the spring and that was pretty nice too. Everything smelled crisp and clean and there were loads of flowers in bloom. As a sucker for flowers, that was a pretty nice time to visit.
- The Ritz Carleton San Francisco. The Ritz certainly isn’t the most economical solution, but since Dave and I get 7 free nights a year to any Marriott-Bonvoy property (including Ritz) it’s a no brainer for us to stay there and get the most value for our free credits. If you’re active duty, you can get a specific credit card and get all those free nights too, so then when you’re in San Francisco you can experience one of the best hotels the city has to offer.
- The Westin St. Francis on Union Square. The Westin is a much more affordable options, and is actually super nice and in a great location. It’s clean, modern, comfortable, and central to just about everything, which means walking the city becomes a lot more doable.
- The Stinking Rose. The Stinking Rose is a garlic restaurant — meaning garlic is a major player in every single dish they serve. As a huge garlic fan (and fortunately my travel buddy Dasha is too) this place is at the top of the list. It might not be the best for your breath, but who can resist a meal featuring delicious garlic in every bite?
- Ozumo. Ozumo is a really nice and cozy Japanese restaurant with a phenomenal sushi and sake menu. My boss took us there on our first work trip, and the food is really top notch. I’m not a big sushi roll fan, but I do love sashimi, and the sashimi at Ozumo was unbeatable. I got hamachi and hirame (my go to’s) and they were definitely the best pieces I have ever had.
- Taylor Street Coffee Shop. This little hole in the wall space is my favorite spot to go for Billionaires Bacon. Billionaires Bacon is basically a really thick, hefty cut of bacon seasoned with sugar and cayenne and all sorts of other seasonings. Taylor Street does it really well, and for a fraction of the price.
- Viewing the Golden Gate Bridge from the Presidio. I know the Golden Gate Bridge is super touristy — but if you’re going to be a tourist, why not do touristy things? I love seeing sights that I’ve previously only ever seen in movies or on postcards, and I think it’s really fun to see sights like famous landmarks and pieces of architecture. Every time I got to San Francisco I check out the bridge from multiple places (to ensure the perfect Instagram shot, of course) and the Presidio is the best spot I’ve found so far.
- Visiting the Palace of Fine Arts. This spot was just so beautiful, I felt like I had been transported into a fantasy novel set in the ancient era. It was so peaceful and beautiful there, I spent hours just lost in my own imagination as I explored the grounds.
- Climb to the top of Lombard Street. My coworker and I decided to do the hike up — and it was a bit more strenuous than we expected. I don’t think it’s something we’d do again (especially because, you know, we could just Uber) but I’m glad we climbed it that one time. Our calves were on fire, but the views were pretty great.