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A&A Spend 24 Hours In 'The City' | Travel Review Of San Francisco

End of Week #67

Gualala River Redwood Park, Gualala CA

Miles traveled since last week's post = 0

Total miles traveled to date = 7,955 with trailer

The West is a total apocalyptic feel right now, with wildfires and winter storms, and in some cases you have both! Our safe haven in Gualala has been completely overtaken with the smoke from the wildfires. Last night on our drive back up the coast from The City we ran into the dark, burnt orange and brown sky. This morning there is a small amount of ash falling from the sky and it was pitch black in the woods at 11 AM, aside from the burning orange color if you look up through the treetops. The closest fire to us is still probably close to 100 miles away, but you wouldn't think so if you were to look outside.

Although our plans changed many times in the past several weeks due to the fires, Adam and I were able to slip in a drive down to the Bay on Monday afternoon until last night. We spent about 24 hours total in the city and I think we made it at just the right time as now the City is also overtaken with more smoke from the fires that continue to grow and burn in California.

It was a quick trip, filled with a lot of traffic from the holiday weekend, and with a lot of closures still happening due to covid - but we made the very best of our circumstances and tackled as much of itinerary as we could in such a short time.

A&A Spend 24 Hours In 'The City'

Originally, before the wildfires swept across the state, we planned to stay in the city for 2 nights, camping in the headlands north of the Golden Gate. However with the end of our workamping season looming in on us, and the growing conditions of the fires, we opted to take a 1 night trip instead, and just roll with it.

Where we stayed - We spent the night at a rest stop on the north end of the Golden Gate bridge. It was the perfect place to camp in the van for the night, with views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate, and a large restroom facility. However the night we stayed was Labor Day Monday and it was absolutely overrun with tourists and trouble makers, blasting rap music all hours of the night and trashing and littering the facilities and the parking lot. We managed a few hours of sleep and a few 'hover over the toilet' uses before we got up and got out of there!

Where we parked - While navigating around in the city on foot, we found an outdoor parking lot near Fisherman's Wharf that was only $12 for the day, because we entered before 11 AM. This was by far the cheapest and safest option we found in the area. During other trips to lookout points and beaches we parked in the parking lots available at that destination. While picking up dinner Monday night we just parked on residential streets.

What we ate -

  • Kazoku Sushi - Monday night after exploring some Golden Gate lookout points we found a nice sushi place not too far from the Golden Gate Park. We waited forever for food to go but it was so very worth it as it was the BEST sushi I have had in a very, very long time! Worth every cent. I'm so pleased with the Bay Scallop roll I got - Adam got a Rainbow roll and we shared a California roll because, well - we are in California after all!

  • Noah's NY Bagels - We have been craving breakfast bagel sandwiches for SO long so we decided it was time. I would call this place a Bruegger's Bagel lookalike and I was very pleased to start the morning this way!

  • Wipe Out Bar & Grill - Located on Pier 39, this was one of the only restaurants open for us to venture to. We saw a lot of people outside on the patio having beers and after realizing we couldn't do much else on the itinerary we decided to join them for a beer too. Adam also gave some of their tacos a try.

  • Krispy Kreme Donuts - It's been so long since I have had a real donut and I just couldn't help myself when we walked past this shop on our way back to where we parked the van.

Don't get me wrong, I had a whole list of places I wanted to check out and I was fully prepared to indulge in a clam chowder bread bowl too. But we found a lot of places were not open or did not open until late afternoon/evening, and we also were not fully in the mood to eat a lot of what we saw. If I could go back and eat more I would have all the seafood vendors I could find, the chowder bread bowl, and a baklava frozen yogurt!

Travel Review Of San Francisco

Marin Headlands

When we first arrived to The City we were able to do a small tour through Marin Headlands to stop at a viewpoint overlooking the Bay area. These headlands are a hilly peninsula apart of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. I would have loved to spend more time here exploring, or even camping, as it felt like a perfect nature getaway so close to the feel of the city. There was a really prime viewpoint high up with the bridge that I would have really loved to stop at, but as it was still Labor Day evening when we arrived, the viewpoint was overcrowded with tourists, and there was unfortunately nowhere to park!

If we had more time we would have explored Rodeo Beach, and other hiking trails in this protected geological area. The entire Golden Gate National Recreation Area is over 82,000 acres and full of various wildlife!

The Golden Gate Bridge

This was what I had been waiting for - the magical moment of San Francisco to me has always been painted with views of the iconic bridge. I couldn't wait to see it, drive across it, and walk across it too. We took full advantage of viewing the bridge from every viewpoint we could find and I took my fair share of photos! She was just as large and beautiful in person as I had imagined her to be. A truly remarkable force seen all across the Bay area.

Walking on the Golden Gate was a whole other kind of adventure as you are overtaken by the sheer size, height and sway of the bridge. It can be really loud with cars and rumble strips, and you definitely feel the shake as the vehicles go across, but the views are out of this world from the top.

The Golden Gate bridge was built in 1933 (that's when construction started), is about 750 feet high, and over 8,900 feet long. The bridge stretches across the mile long Golden Gate strait in the Bay of San Francisco. It cost over $35 million to complete this bridge!

Read more interesting facts and statistics about the bridge here.


Land's End (lookout point and trails) - A beautiful recreational area on the Pacific side of the city, with hiking trails and lookout points of the ocean, Marin Headlands, and the bridge. This would have been an area I wish we explored more and really took the time to relax and take in the views.

Baker Beach - A good size location on the west side of the Bay, with beautiful views of the Golden Gate. I'm not sure if it was because we were here at the end of the holiday weekend or if it is like this normally, but there were hundreds of people here - leaving and going, and there was extensive amounts of trash everywhere. We stayed in the van and ate our dinner here but did not go out on the beach.

Marshall Beach - This is supposedly a hidden gem a little north of Baker Beach, less known and closer to the bridge. However at the time we were here we were unable to find a place to park close enough where we could make the hike down to it. We were also fighting the sun setting and did not want to be left in the dark, as due to the holiday weekend there were a lot of shenanigans happening.

Crissy Field Beach - Located on the east side of the Golden Gate, in the Bay, this expansive beach was the biggest we found by far. There was plenty of room to walk, bike, and sprawl out away from other people. It might be a different story on the weekends or over holidays, but we enjoyed the views from this area. You can perfectly see Alcatraz and the bridge and we even saw people swimming and kayaking in the water too!

Fisherman's Wharf + Pier 39

This northern waterfront area is one of the busiest parts of all of San Francisco... normally. With postcard worthy views of the Bay, souvenir shops, and clam chowder to go, it's a popular tourist destination to check out. There is also typically a colony of sea lions that hang out here, but I think without the tourists there to feed them they may have moved onward for the summer. With the state of covid for the past 6 months, this area looked like a dead zone in the midst of some construction and further development.

We were definitely the most excited to explore this regions of The City - looking forward to food and vendors alike. It was a bit disappointing to see the area so closed down and empty while we were there. We thankfully did get to walk through Pier 39 and enjoy a patio beer at one open restaurant. I can see how this area would be lively and full of fun activities in a 'regular' time of life!

Alcatraz Island

The Island of incarceration and the island of freedom! I believe tours are still suspended or very limited at this time, but on a clear day you can see the Island from many viewpoints throughout the city. We first were welcomed by a creepy foggy view of the Island from the Fisherman's Wharf area, and then had a much more clear cut view of it from Crissy Field Beach once the fog lifted.

The island sits a little over a mile offshore, and was once developed with facilities for a lighthouse, a military fortification, a military prison, and a federal prison from 1934 to 1963. In 1969 the Indians of All Tribes occupied Alcatraz for 19 months in the name of freedom for the Native Americans. Today it is not a lot more than a tourist destination and a way to learn about the history of its uses and of the area.

Trolley's + Cable Cars

Another iconic part of touring San Francisco - and something I had not known to be closed while I was doing my planning and research. We had wanted to take a few trolley routes through the city to get a better look at what there was to offer, however all we found were many signs stating these activities were still closed due to covid. Instead, we took our chance in walking about 2 miles through an area to get a view of Lombard Street and Chinatown. Oh boy, the hills in San Francisco are no joke you guys! It is quite the leg workout without the help of the trolley.

We still saw cable car buses in operation that could have been an option to tour the city, however we decided it was an unnecessary thing for our trip.

Lombard Street

One of the most crooked street in America (or so they say)... with 8 hairpins turns in a one block section. A very narrow and crooked street lies on the hills in a completely residential area. We did not drive the van through here, and to be honest I'm not sure if it would have fit, but instead we walked it on foot and marveled at it's design, with shrubs and bushes all throughout the twists and turns.


We found where all the people were at in San Francisco! They were all in Chinatown - and not just any Chinatown, but one of the oldest and most established in the US. No joke, the city was an absolutely quiet place until we reached this area by foot. It was filled with fruit, vegetable, seafood, meat, and snack vendors lined up on both sides of the street. Buses were dropping people off and everyone was scrambling over the street vendors. Within a few city blocks it fully looked and felt as though we walked out of America an stepped into a different country - everything was written and spoken in Chinese and the way the buildings were structured even changed. We immediately felt overloaded by people and activity and started making our way back to the Wharf within minutes of being here. If we were here experiencing it with friends we may have made more of it and tried some dishes even, but at the time we were just on high sensory overload!

Golden Gate Park

A beautiful oasis located on the southwest end of the city, it is the perfect place to walk, hike and bike in nature and escape the city feel. Golden Gate Park is a large urban park of over 1,000 acres, offering loads of recreation, botanical gardens, other outdoor activities, places to eat, segway tours and more. We unfortunately did not take the time to explore the inner workings of the park but we drove by it and saw it was full of life and excitement.

Twin Peaks

I'm starting to regret the decision not to make the hike up to the top to get the view of the city, as the fog cleared out by the afternoon yesterday and we had plenty of time on our agenda. But I'm not going to lie, we were both quite tired and beat from the entire trip and I'm just not sure we would have had enough gas in us to power our way up.

The Twin Peaks are a pair of 922-foot summits in a remote residential neighborhood - an area of modern homes on steep lots with winding streets. The trassy 64-acre hilltop is a popular hike and attraction for tourists that offers 360 degree views of the Bay area.

Victorian Houses

'The Painted Ladies' - These houses are Victorian and Edwardian houses and buildings that have been repainted, around the 1960's, in three or more colors that embellish or enhance their architectural details. We got to drive by this area and I took a quick on the fly photo!

The 'Full House' House - I mean we just had to drive by this one! Google reports it was for sale in February of this year (or last year) for a whopping 5.5 million! Got my drive by photo, but I can't help but wonder what the heck it looks like on the inside, and was the inside of the house used for filming at all or just the outside?

Until next time...

There is so much more out there that we did not get a chance to explore because we either didn't have the time for it or because it was closed due to covid. While we were there we really didn't even touch actual downtown, with the Ferry Building, Coit Tower or even Union Square. We also did not make it to the tiled steps or some of the Golden Gate viewpoints that were still shut down. Further south in San Francisco there is also Ocean Beach and a Labyrinth to access from Land's End. We could have easily have spent a handful of days here trying to explore it all - but I am grateful we had the opportunity to take the trip down at all and get a taste of what The City is all about.

By far that is the most time A&A have spent in a large city this entire year so by the end of our 24 hours we were more than ready to retreat back to our camping spot in the Redwoods. It's just too bad Gualala is now covered in smoke and ash from the California fires. #PrayForCalifornia.


Challenges of mobile living - 480 day marker! Next week already brings another challenges post and I'm sure it'll be a bit different than the previous one as we are now gearing up to leave our 'summer home' in less than 2 weeks. Plus, there are extensive wildfires raging all across California and the west. Stay tuned for next week to hear more about the challenges we are facing this far into our journey.

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