A SAN FRANSISCO CHRISTMAS:

Hellooooo!  I hope that you're reading this in relaxed holiday mode sitting by a fire sipping hot cocoa. Of course if you're on a beach in some exotic local that works too!

We decided to take a road trip to San Fransisco for Christmas. Experiences over stuff is our family motto, especially when we can travel!  We do this trip from LA to SF a lot when we need a metropolitan city fix but we have never gone at Christmas time.  And although I love living in Los Angeles, (28 yrs worth), I have to say my NY roots crave a little chill in the air and a city vibe around the holiday's.

Also, this is a very long post, I usually write travel posts in two parts, but it's almost 2019 and I need to get on with it!  Lol, so get comfy!

I always make THE LIST for trips of what we're going to do and where we are going to eat, especially on short trips.  Not that we can't be spontanious but I find this avoids wasting time and those moments when we're all hungry and cranky and we don't know where to go!  I speak from experience.
This trip I was super obnoxious with THE LIST, because some times we just want to cruise a neighborhood or an attraction that when you google you get directions but no specific address.  So this time I included addresses to pop into the GPS or phone so we wouldn't waste time looking anything up.  I've listed all addresses and links at the bottom of this post.
We've always taken the Pacific Coast Highway, also know as Hwy 1, and if you have ever taken it or seen pictures you know it's gorgeous.  But it also takes longer from LA to San Fran then if you stay on the freeway, about 2 -3  hours longer, not including all those coastal photo op stops.  So in a last minute decision while driving, see we're spontaneous, we decided to stay on the freeway the whole way.  Which turned out to also be gorgeous, who knew!?  Vineyards, farms and an occasional view of the ocean.  Singing to Christmas music all the way.  We ended up in SF by noon!  Much earlier then I had planned.  So what happened? The place I picked for lunch, which I thought we wouldn't get to until around 3, and would be lunch/dinner, we got to for actual in lunch, leaving me missing one dinner destination from THE LIST.  UG!  More on that later.

First stop The Carlton Hotel to check in.  I have been staying at this hotel since my first trip to CA when I was 22.  Back then it was old Victorian.  Now it's eclectic chic.  The location is perfect, about 15 minutes to everything we love in all directions.  It has a great vibe.  And you can park on the street which means no expensive hotel parking, they have it, but you don't need it.  If you stay downtown or at Fisherman's Wharf you end up spending about $32 a day for parking.
We headed out to our first lunch at The Blue Barn. This was a great recommendation from a SF blogger.  We ate at the one on Chestnut street which was very small, but found out there is a second one right around the corner which is bigger and has more tables.  This was a perfect choice for us, warm kale salad with roasted brussel sprouts and winter veggies for us girls and a burger and fries for handsome, because at home he's "deprived of meat and forced to eat healthy".  This neighborhood is known as the Marina District and Cow Hollow.  I encourage you to walk around, it's totally charming.  Oh and the food was amazing!
After lunch we were so close to Lombard street, famous for being the crookedest street in the world, we decided to head over and walk it.  We actually always do this, it's touristy but it's so much fun and it's tradition.  A lot of people drive it, which is fun too, but walking you get to see more great views of the Bay, the houses and all the nooks and crannies.  I'm kind of a peeping Tom when it comes to looking in windows.  I don't want to see the people, just the decor, hehe.  Except for the fact that it started to rain, (evidenced by my fizzy hair), Lombard street never disappoints.  It's also a great place to catch a cable car ride or just snap a picture of one.  Also walk off your lunch.  Always have an umbrella in SF, just don't leave them in the car like we do.
Now we were only about 10 minutes away from the Presidio and Crissy Field, a huge recreation area which puts you almost right under the Golden Gate Bridge and the mansions of Pacific Heights where you'll find the Lyon Street Steps, more climbing, the house that was used for the school in the The Princess Diaries, my daughters all time favorite movie, so we always have to pay homage to it.  Although we planned to do all of these sights on Christmas Day again because they are all outside and wouldn't be 'closed' for the holiday, we now had extra time so we did them twice.  The Golden Gate to me is a photographers dream.  It's different from every angle, and the weather changes every few minutes due to Carl the Fog, (yes it has a name and an instagram account), which makes every picture different.  So it was kind of fun exploring this area in the rain. We did it again the nest day when it was sunny too.
We then headed to Union Square where there was a Christmas walk and a big tree in front of Macy's. We thought we would grab dinner down there but it was crowed and surprisingly there are not many choices of good restaurants.  We had walked a lot and now were reaching the afore mentioned hungry and cranky phase and THE LIST was missing a dinner spot.  We started driving back toward Pacific Heights to a restaurant we had eaten at on previous trip but on the way noticed a really quaint restaurant with twinkly lights, always a good sign those twinkly lights, and decided to try it.  The minute we walked in it was like a big hug.  Something about the atmosphere, it was a combinations of unpretentious quiet elegance.  It was clearly a neighborhood crowd, a little older, most of the men where wearing sports jackets, it was Sunday night, it was perfect.  The food was authentic Italian, the waiter was fantastic and I was with my peeps. Who could ask for anything more.
Christmas Eve day we headed to breakfast early at one of our favorites, Jane on Fillmore.  It was pouring.  Good thing this was our day to go to The Academy of Science Museum in Golden Gate Park.  Did you know gold Gate Park is 82,000 acres!  Me either, I just googled it.  Compare that to Central Park, which I always think of as huge, at only 825 acres.  There is so much to do!  The museum was great and my husband had wanted to go ever since it opened.  It has a four story rain forest, a planetarium, an aquarium and a living roof, just to name a few things we did.  The rain forest was full of butterflies and when you entered they told you to make sure none of them hitch hike their way out on you.  Huh?  I thought it was a joke but when one landed on my daughters coat and wouldn't get off, I realized they were serious.  Really, I had to shoo it away with a leaf!  The aquarium was fascinating and the stars show in the planetarium was so relaxing, and I'd like to say interesting, but we all fell asleep.  Note to self, if I ever have insomnia, find a YouTube video of stars.
After the museum we headed over to the Conservatory of Flowers.  It was closed for the holiday and it was pouring but I needed a picture of me in front of it because I'm obsessed with greenhouses and this one is my all time favorite.  I want to build a mini replica of it.  For real, it's on my list. There you go, another list.  This gorgeous building was the first structure built in Golden Gate Park in 1879!  Our next stop was supposed to be the Japanese Tea Garden but we decided to skip it due to the rain.  So we headed for tacos and this adorable place called The Little Chihuahua.
I had made a reservation at our favorite restaurant in Chinatown for Christmas Eve dinner, Oriental Pearl.  There's a joke that all Chinese restaurants stay open for Christmas so that all the Jews can have a place to eat.  Since I'm Jewish, I get to make that joke :)  I love going into the shops in China Town, but most of the restaurants look a little sketchy, in fact the entrance to the Oriental Pearl leaves a lot to be desired.  But once you're inside it's really nice and has a great reputation.  I don't know why I made our reservation for 5:00, yes that's to early, but I thought every place would be really crowded. We got to the restaurant a little before 5 and it was dark.  OMG did I make it for the wrong day?!  We left and walked around a little more with a back up plan to go to Fisherman's Wharf and swap Chinese for sea food hopping someone would take us on Christmas Eve without a reservation.  But when we went back they had opened and seated us right away. Yes, right away because there was no one else in the restaurant.  Are you familiar with the movie A Christmas Story?  We were that only family in the Chinese restaurant!  Fortunately after about 15 minutes it started to fill up, phew.

After dinner we headed to the Wharf to Ghiradelli Square because you just cannot be in SF and not have a hot fudge sundae at Ghiradelli, you cannot!  I had the child size mini sundae since I had basically eaten my weight in fudge at work last week.  It was my fond farewell to holiday sugar.  I'm back on the straight and narrow in the poison free zone.
And just like that it was Christmas morning.  The sun was shining.  I already knew from calling last week that every yummy breakfast place we knew of was going to be closed.  So I went to the front desk at the hotel and found out that Lori's Diner, right down the street, which we've probably passed a hundred times and never been to, was open.  It's the cutest 50's dinner, there was even an old car inside, an Edsel!
Then we were off to enjoy Crissy field and the bridge again in the sunshine, climb the Lyon Street steps, which has beautiful views of the Bay and the Bridge and then we headed over to Telegraph Hill, the home of Coit Tower, and 1,000 steps. Seriously 1,000. 500 up, 500 down.  I still can't walk right but it's so worth it.  The steps go though the Telegraph Hill neighborhood, people actually live on the hill, and it's very expensive. There is also a colony of wild parrots, gardens, bee boxes and lots and lots of charm.  Walk up the Greenwich Steps and walk down the Telegraph steps.
Then we went over to Alamo Square to visit the painted ladies, this is a great park and the houses and park were the ones used in the opening of the show Full House way back when.  Then we headed to the gorgeous Fairmont Hotel to see the life size Ginger Bread House.  Last time we came on a girls trip we had tea here in the Laurel Court, very similar to tea at the Plaza in NYC.  The Ginger Bread House is two stories high and is made of 6,000 homemade gingerbread blocks, 1,650 pounds of candy and 3,000 pounds of royal icing.  And we even found some child size bite marks on one of the door frames lol.  There's also a train that runs through it.  It's really the cutest holiday display I've ever seen. 
And in between all of our destinations was room for spontaneous stops and lots of pictures.
We had decided on a late lunch for our Christmas feast and after finding out that our two favorite restaurants in North Beach, the Little Italy of SF, had closed I made a reservation at The Stinking Rose.  We've never been and it was the only restaurant serving their regular menu and not a special Christmas menu which gave us much more variety.  Turned out to be an amazing choice, keep in mind that you have to love garlic, because that's their theme. And it's everything!  It was crowded but they honored their reservations and took us right to our table.  The restaurant has two sides, larger parties on one side which was more of a pub vibe and the side we got to sit on, since we are a tiny family of three, had booths and each booth had it's own back and white stripe curtain and a chandelier!  Oh hello, did you see me coming?  We had a great time and then it was time to settle in for our 6 hour ride home.  Totally worth it!
You can find past posts and recommendations for San Fransisco here,  here and here.  Photos of the coast drive here.

Wishing you all Peace, Harmony, Laughter, Love, Health, Wealth and Prosperity for a Fabulous 2019!!!