Things to do in San Francisco, CA

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San Francisco is a city of color. The streets are lined with buildings and houses painted all sorts of pigments; pastel pinks, yellows, blues, greens. It isn’t tacky, it’s enchanting. There are flowers growing on every other building, purples and hot pinks scaling the pastel walls. The people here aren’t one color either (a symptom of small cities like Springfield) they are black, caramel, ivory, tan, all sorts. There is a grey fog that engulfs the coast often, but when it floats away it reveals a red bridge, lush trees and aqua waters.

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We spent the majority of our time in the Mission District, known for its Latino roots. We ate delicious Mexican and Cuban food; meandered through unique shops that hosted things like organic foods, vintage jewelry, small batch chocolate, flower bouquets, botany books, dried butterflies, odds and ends; and soaked in the energy of so many people in one place.

Shops we visited:

Paxton Gate


Landmarks we walked:

Pier 39

Golden Gate Bridge

Lombard Street

Sutro Baths

Treasure Island

China Beach

We did typical tourist things as well: drove down Lombard Street and walked Pier 39. These things we did because it seemed a requirement of visiting the city for the first time, but really, I’d rather wander and explore the places the locals inhabit.

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We explored the sandy parts of San Francisco as well: China Beach and the Sutro Baths. We climbed on cliffs and massive rocks that sat on the edge of the waves, begging to be perched upon. We watched pups play in the cold, salty ocean; digging holes and catching tennis balls.

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The energy of the city was tangible, and the way the ocean mingled with the greasiness of the city was addicting. I had never been in a massive city that hosted hilly roads and such an earthy environment alongside the bustle of millions of people. San Francisco is unlike any other city I have been. I left hoping that we would someday be back, and hopefully for longer.

Why Travel is Important

There is so much to remember; so much to hold close, treasure and retell. The trip we took filled us to the brim with stories: of deep red desert sands, of bitterly cold glacier lakes, of the darkest night skies drowning in stars, of breezy cities and of many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I think of our future children, how they will ask with curious minds (just as I did when I was young), “Mom, Dad, will you tell me a story?” And how Parker and I will reply with stories of adventure and laughter and love.


In the days following our arrival home from the trip we were frequently asked, “How was it?” For any other trip I’ve taken in my life the answer would be easy. I would know what to say in an instant and could give a synopsis of the trip in five minutes or less. But this was different. At this question we would pause, as a galaxy of stories and memories flooded through us as quickly as water flows down Yosemite Falls. I’d answer with a softened tone and eyes that wander, searching for the right words, but all I could muster was “Amazing.” And that wouldn’t nearly say enough.

So, in an effort to accurately share this month-long trip Parker and I took out west and to write down all the memories while they are still fresh, I will be posting travel journals here on the blog over the next few months. Each journal will be about one specific place from our trip (for example, Grand Teton National Park or San Francisco, CA) and will share our favorite memories from that place, the hikes we went on there, what we ate, where we stayed the night, price breakdowns, etc.


My hope is that these details will inspire you to plan a trip like this (or any trip at all) of your own. I believe that every person needs to experience the beauty and ruggedness that travel, adventure and road trips offer us. These have built my character, strengthened my patience, expanded my worldview and rejuvenated my creativity. I walk away from this trip inspired; excited to get back to my art desk and begin creating with fresh ideas and new perspectives. I know it can do the same for you too.