24 Hours in San Francisco

I’m starting to really love layover trips. Normally, I’m such a control freak and over-achiever that I tend to plan my trips down to the minute so that they are as “optimal” as possible. With short trips, the pressure is off to make sure I see all the tourist attractions AND hip local spots. There is no way I can fit everything into 24 hours, so I’m much more content to go with the flow.

With that being said, I still like to plan, and my cousin Jasmine is my perfect counterpart. She has perfected the art of layover travelling. She relies on a mix of local recommendations, discovering her own gems, and visiting the “must-see” destinations. And that’s how my 24 hours in San Fran ended up including:

  • A Trader Joe’s and Cost Plus World Market Christmas shopping haul
  • Brunch at the Hollywood Cafe
  • Renting bikes and riding along the coast and across the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Watching a magic show and making a pearl necklace at Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Clam chowder from a bread bowl at Boudin’s and animal style fries from In n Out 
  • Watching the sea lions at Pier 39

We took off on a Thursday afternoon from Toronto, and landed Thursday night in San Fran. We made sure to go to sleep right away so we could overcome and jet lag, and also get an early start for our layover. We got up at 7:30 to make sure we were out the door by the time Trader Joe’s opened so that we could get a little shopping in before brunch 😊

This might seem silly to some, travelling all the way to a new city just to visit a grocery store, but Jasmine and I LOVE grocery stores. We visit grocery stores and markets in cities all over the world (once memorably spending more than two hours in a grocery store in Paris – that cheese aisle, though!!). Trader Joe’s is SO. GOOD. My American friends, don’t take it for granted! Notable items that I picked up and loved:

  • Cold-pressed Fuji Apple Spiced Cider
  • Blueberry Acai face scrub
  • Truffle butter
  • Chocolate peppermint almond beverage
  • Speculoos cookie butter
  • Taste test of caramels
  • Corn pudding

The closest thing I can compare Trader Joe’s to in Canada, is perhaps Whole Foods, or PC’s Black Label products.

After TJ’s we visited Cost Plus World Market, which I can only describe as a more whimsical Winners/Home Sense. It was the perfect store for Christmas shopping, and I picked up a few unique gifts that certainly couldn’t be found in Toronto!

Post-shopping we visited the Hollywood Café for brunch. We were nice and early and beat the long line out the door! I loved my croissant breakfast sandwich, and the friendly service.

After loading up on carbs we went back to our hotel to rent bikes and ride along the coast, stopping every so often to take pictures before making it to the Golden Gate bridge. I loved people watching and was so impressed by how many runners and walkers were out on the beach, playing with their dogs. It was a balmy 15 degrees at the beginning of December when we visited 😊 Ah, how wonderful would it be to live in a place where you could be outdoors all year long (saying this, of course, on a freezing cold January morning in Toronto)! I have heard the alleged Mark Twain quote “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco”, but I think I’d be ok with a cool summer if the winter was warm.

The whole sunny ride across the Golden Gate Bridge and back to our hotel took about 3 hours, and I loved every minute of it. I had never visited San Fran before and seeing glimpses of the bridge for the first time, poking out amongst the hills we pedaled along was so magical. 

We were pretty tired after our ride, but pushed on to visit Fisherman’s Wharf and refuel with bread bowls filled with clam chowder from Boudin’s. You may scoff at us and call this a tourist trap, but I thoroughly enjoyed the crowded, Christmassy buzz around the Wharf and the gimmicky novelty of my bread bowl 😊

We visited the Pearl Factory afterwards, and I picked out an oyster to make a pearl pendant for my mom. Half of the fun is picking out the oyster, because you don’t know what kind of pearl will be inside. The oyster I picked contained an iridescent blue pearl – unique and beautiful just like my mom! 

We walked around the Wharf some more and managed to catch a magic show performed by Lynx Kim. This guy is INCREDIBLE! I had never seen a sword swallowing act in real life before and almost passed out. Aaauughhh!

We finished our walk at Pier 39 to watch the sea lions. They are cute, cuddly, like naps and are irritable, and reminded me so much of Azim 😊 I loved watching them bask in the sun, bark at one another for no conceivable reason, roll over and flop onto one another on the crowded pier. I probably could have stayed and watched them for longer, but the sun was starting to set and our layover was ending.

Jasmine surprised me on the way back to the hotel with animal style fries at In n Out. I had never been to an In n Out before, so this was truly one of the highlights of the day. French fries are my FAVOURITE food, and I think the animal style fries were as close to a religious experience as I’ll ever have. I was in heaven!

We arrived back to the hotel as the evening set in and had time for a quick nap before making it back to the airport for our red-eye flight back to Toronto. Where should we go for our next layover? London? Vancouver? I can’t wait!

Thank you so much for reading xox

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  • Whew! My head is spinning just hearing all you did!
    Lucky me. I got the best pearl in the whole ride world. Love it.
    I too can’t wait for your next layover.
    I live through your wonderful experience. No air sickness.😃