Talk to anyone that has gotten married, or is about to, and they will tell you that wedding planning comes with it's own level of stress. But during that time comes one of the best highlights - planning the honeymoon!
For this travel junkie, it was no different. Nights were spent over a bottle of wine exploring our options across the globe. Did we want to go somewhere we hadn't been before? Tropical with swim suits or bundled up by a fire? Somewhere we could be active, or somewhere with an incredible spa? Did we want to go to one place and stay a while, or travel and experience multiple places?
After adding in a few important factors (budget, vacation time, diet etc) we decided on three things:
We did not want a lot of "travel time" to get to our destination
Since it was late October, we wanted to spend time cuddled by a fire with a view and a bottle of wine
We wanted to go somewhere new and explore multiple locations
So where could we go that would encompass everything on our wish list? California!!
With little travel time(6 hour flight coast to coast plus a 3 hour time difference in our favor) multiple locations we had never been to, cooler weather, beautiful views and some of the best wine around, we were set… #luxelistapproved
San Francisco, Napa Valley and Big Sur, California for 10 days was on the itinerary. In the first part of our 3 part series, we will explore how to Honeymoon in San Francisco.
Lets start out with where to stay. In a city the size of San Francisco, it can get incredibly overwhelming, so I've broken it down into three of my favorite #luxelistapproved hotels.
First up is The Fairmont. The Fairmont is a classic hotel situated atop Nob Hill and centrally located within the city. Often called the "White House of the West", The Fairmont has a rich history of hosting dignitaries, royalty and posh events for over 100 years. Once you step into the lobby, the grandeur of The Fairmont surrounds you. Within The Fairmont you will find two restaurants, Laurel Court and The Tonga Room. All of the guest rooms at The Fairmont have been recently renovated and host some of the most comfortable beds around! Their suites are genuinely some of the best in all of San Francisco with views of both the City and Bay - and they have the most incredible penthouse I've ever seen!
Photos Courtesy The Fairmont, San Francisco
The second hotel I love is the Lowes Regency. The Lowes Regency occupies the top 11 floors of a 48-story skyscraper showcasing some of the best views in all of San Francisco. With 155 elegant rooms, all with Italian marble bathrooms, decorated in the soft colors of sea and sky, Lowes Regency has created a contemporary but sophisticated retreat in the middle of bustling San Francisco. Lowes Regency also has a Forbes Five-Star awarded, 8,000 square-foot spa and fitness center that exudes an elevated level of luxury. My favorite part of their spa is the special couple's suite and the uber relaxing tea lounge!
Photos Courtesy Lowes Regency, San Francisco
The last hotel that I fell in love with is the Ritz Carlton, Half Moon Bay. This hotel is located a little over 30 minutes from the city, so while it won't provide you with the hustle and bustle of city life, it provides the perfect retreat! Perched on a cliff with expansive ocean views, a golf course, outstanding restaurants and fire pits galore - it is truly a gem. When staying at the Ritz Half Moon Bay you must get a room with a fire pit ocean view! Grab a bottle of wine from their well stocked wine bar, order a s'mores kit and cozy up to a fire on your terrace while taking in the sights and sounds of the ocean - pure bliss!
Photos Courtesy The Ritz Carlton, Half Moon Bay
Now that you know where to stay, here were our top 5 experiences:
First things first, if you've never done it before, you must go see Alcatraz. The self-guided audio tour Is one of the best I've ever come across. Even with the large crowds, they do an excellent job of weaving all the guests in and out of each others paths, allowing you to fully see and experience all that Alcatraz has to offer. On the audio tour they even have guest commentators from both ex-prison guards AND a few prisoners themselves. Stepping into one of the isolation cells while one of the ex-prisoner describes his experience in solitary is one of the most chilling experiences I've had. As if that isn't enough, the views surrounding the island are some of the best of the entire Bay area. My biggest piece of advice - if you plan to visit Alcatraz - book your tickets FAR in advance. I'd say at least a minimum of 4 weeks out to ensure you get the day and time slot you prefer. If you're trying to go over a Holiday or want to take the evening tour (next time we go we are for sure trying that!!) I would recommend booking it no less than 6 weeks in advance.
Another very touristy to-do is Ghirardelli Square. We found that Fisherman's Wharf was too "kitschy" for us, however we enjoyed Ghirardelli Square enough to stop back by a second time. The number one reason for going to Ghirardelli Square is most definitely - the chocolate. We dove right in for a cup of hot cocoa and a sea salt/caramel/fudge sundae - SO good! Also in Ghirardelli square are a few boutiques that are perfect for walking off that Sundae! My three favorites were Elizabeth W, Lola of North Beach and Jackson & Polk.
Not within Ghirardelli Square but only about a block away is The Buena Vista Café … The Buena Vista was originally a boarding house that turned into a Saloon in 1916. Fisherman and handlers would run in for a quick whiskey between boats, and in 1952 the Buena Vista introduced it's now famous Irish Coffee. Right when you walk in you are met with the wait staff hustling around and orders being yelled out from every part of the bar. The tables are communal but if you can catch a seat at the bar, do it! Watching the bartenders make up to 10 Irish Coffees at a time is an impressive sight! (Be sure to try one too!)
The complete opposite of The Buena Vista was Bourbon & Branch. With no street signage, and a passcode needed to enter, the only way you are finding Bourbon & Branch is if you've been there before, or you made reservations well ahead of time. Their menu was categorized into such a way that you progress through the pages with each drink, all without ruining your palate. While my husband loved his bourbon drinks… their selection of cocktails including tequila, vodka, and champagne, among others, were top notch. Going with the speakeasy vibes, Bourbon & Branch has a few rules including talking in hushed tones, no pictures and no cell phones allowed - giving you the freedom to enjoy your company unplugged. After enjoying a few drinks in the main area, we asked our server to take us through "the bookcase", into the back bar. In this back portion of the bar, there are no reserved seats and you order your drinks from the bar. The bartender was incredibly knowledgeable and after asking for our "likes", he surprised us with two of the most delicious drinks we had our entire trip! Surrounded by the darkened rooms decked in mahogany and deep reds, the lively music playing and the service - Bourbon & Branch was one of our favorite places in San Francisco making it #luxelistapproved.
An unexpected highlight while wandering around San Francisco, was the Ferry Building and Marketplace in the Embarcadero District. If you're there during the right time, there's even a Farmer's Market outside. Inside the Marketplace you will find all kinds of merchants ranging from butchers to books to a merchant solely dedicated to mushrooms! There are also restaurants and bars attached to the Ferry Marketplace ranging from DELICA, a Japanese Delicatessen, to Hog Island Oyster Company to MIJITA, a Cocina Mexicana with a Bay Area flavor. During our trip we could not get enough of Mariposa Baking Company - a 100% Gluten Free bakery with the freshest ((and best!)) baked bread, cookies, cakes and croissants! Among other favorites were:
Biscuit Bender - offering a variety from sweet (peanut butter chocolate chip) to savory (bacon maple and corn jalapeno!). All of their biscuits are handmade with buttermilk… yum!
Far West Fungi - a one-stop destination for mushrooms. Because who doesn't love looking at the craziest (and tastiest) mushrooms you've ever seen!
Hard Water - this was outside of the Ferry Marketplace, but was a short walk and SO worth it! With a very unique vibe, and an amazing menu... it was the cap to a perfect day of browsing the Ferry Building Marketplace!
All in all, San Francisco is such a unique city that no matter how many times you go, you will always run into something new! It is one of our favorite #luxelistapproved destinations, and will now hold a more special piece of my heart!
Stay tuned for part 2, where we head to Sausalito, Muir Woods and Napa Valley!
As always, if you are interested in booking a honeymoon, destination wedding or getaway to San Francisco, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org