Continued from San Francisco – I : Solo Travel for Introverts …
Fisherman’s Wharf & Pier 39
Fisherman’s Wharf is the iconic seafront of San Francisco. There are multiple piers stretching out to the sea with eclectic mix of restaurants, carnivals, museums and markets adorning them. It was created from the rubble of buildings destroyed by the earthquake in 1906.
I really love just walking around this spot and checking out cool new places. I have found lots of tiny museums like an old video game arcade museum as museum of seal furs which you can touch. Sometimes, many piers host farmers markets where I enjoy steamed buns or lobster rolls.
Food – Bubba Gump Shrimp. Inspired by Forest Gump, has variety of fried and stewed seafood at mid-range prices. Try the Crab and Shrimp Boil.
Chocolates – Ghirardelli Square. From a historic Italian-American Chocolate-Maker. Watch chocolate being made in person, and try the hot chocolate. They also give out free samples.
My favorite part of this place, though, are the sea-lions. There are often hundreds of them, filling the air with a loud cacophony of ‘honk, honk, honk’ sounds. These sea-lions are wild. A few decades ago, when human beings here gave food to a few seals, and they told their friends all over the pacific ocean, and since then, word got around sea-lion communities. Today, sometimes thousands of seals descend upon here for their yearly holidays with free food and photoshoots from human beings.
Historic Chinatown of San Francisco
Chinatowns are common in western cities today and this one in San Francisco is the oldest. It was founded by immigrant communities who came here during the California Gold Rush during 1800s. As in other places they braved prejudices like the Chinese Exclusion Act and still prospered. And today, it is the most densely populated neighborhood in the US west of Manhattan, and remains a globally recognizable place from movies like A Pursuit of Happiness and Big Trouble in Little China.
I generally start from the Southern end, at the Pine St entrance and walk along Grant Ave, with the Dragon Gate marking the entry. This is the main artery and filled with various souvenir shops & tea-houses conducting tea-tasting. Paper lanterns adorn the streets to create a unique atmosphere and I love to stroll along this street and its alleyways.
My favorite one is Ross Alley where you can watch the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory’s process of hand-making fortune cookies – which they have been doing since 1960s. I also loved walking along Stockton St. This is the more authentic & understated cousin of Grant Ave, filled with fresh produce, butcher shops, mahjong parlors and barer-shops.
I would also recommend checking out the Statue of Democracy Goddess in Portsmouth Square which honors pro-democracy movements and victims of human-rights violations under the homeland’s regime.
Food – Hunan House, mid-level budget and has an extensive menu. Try the ‘Hot & Numbing Spicy Pot’.
Tea & Dumplings – Hang Ah Tearoom, oldest in the US. I recommend the combination platter of dumplings.
Bakery – Eastern Bakery, started in 1920s – Try the egg-tarts and moon-cakes.
Alameda Hangars & Breweries
The Alameda Island, to the east of San Francisco, is a hidden gem not many tourists know about. The town has many museums to honor its military history including the USS Hornet Museum, located inside the WW-2 aircraft carrier.
But in modern times, there has been a huge spirit and drinks revolution, and many older military barracks, hangars and docks are converted into breweries, wineries and distilleries. Many of them are open-air with an amazing view of the ships in the bay and San Francisco’s skyline in the distance.
Beer – Faction Brewing – Large selection of local craft beers with an open-air tasting field with a view of the city.
Wine – Building 43 winery, great wines with old-time-y pin-up girl & other WW-2 era decor.
Spirit – Hangar 1 vodka – Excellent vodka cocktails housed inside an aircraft hangar. Less crowded alternative to the more well-known St George’s Spirits.
Hour Trip from SF – Point Reyes & Tomales Bay
Point Reyes, just to the North of San Francisco has dramatic landscapes from redwood trees, to cliffs overlooking the sea, to beaches, floral meadows, and charming cheese-making towns. The Point Reyes Lighthouse has one of the best views in the area.
My favorite part of the region is Tomales Bay, which has a line-up of various oyster shacks along the coast that use freshly harvested oysters in the region. I had a great time, having oysters, wine and looking into the sunset view of the waters.
Cheese – Cowgirl Creamery Cheese Shop – Try out the local Humboldt style cheeses.
Oysters – The Marshall Store is a quieter & less crowded alternative to the more famous Hog Island Oyster Co. At the Marshall Store, I would recommend the BBQ or smoked oysters.
Have you visited these places before?
Stay tuned for more places including the Latin Mission District & Napa Wine County!