This post will help you plan a short but very enjoyable and relaxing first-time trip to San Francisco and the nearby Lake Tahoe in California. I made this trip in the peak of the spring season and lets just say that all the snow lovers will love to visit Lake Tahoe this time of the year. So sit back and enjoy the beautiful pictures on this post while it provides you some useful information about these spectacular destinations.
Dates: 23rd March through 27th March 2017. One day in San Francisco and Two days in Lake Tahoe.
SITE-SEEING IN SAN FRANCISCO:
1) We only had one day to spend in the city and the first thing we did was to visit the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge is said to be frequently covered with fog and therefore the preferred time is to visit between 8 and 10am. It was a raining day for us and we were still able to view the bridge and walk on it for a bit. The start of the bridge has a gift shop and a café for you to enjoy some shopping, snacks and drinks. You can take a few pictures from this area and begin walking on the bridge. Additionally, if you have more time, when you get back to the start of the bridge, you can follow signs for Crissy Field and walk along the trail to the Marine Drive. Crissy Field offers additional views of the bridge, the Alcatraz island and the Palace of Fine Arts.
2) We then headed back to Union Square and took the Cable car from Powell and Market Street to Fisherman’s Wharf. The ride passes through Nob Hill, Chinatown and Lombard Street, giving a picturesque ride of the city. We stopped at Lombard Street on our way back, which is a zig-zag street with a view of the city.
3) We walked upto pier 39 of the Fisherman’s Wharf .The Wharf provides wealth of knowledge of the historic era while offering a variety of things to do from trying out seafood to watching sea lions at Pier-39, a view of the Alcatraz island, art galleries, city tours, Memorials, cruises, fishing, wine an beer tasting and more. A popular attraction at the Wharf is visiting the Alcatraz island by taking the ferry from Pier 33. The small island was developed with facilities for a lighthouse, a military fortification, a military prison (1868), and a federal prison from 1934 until 1963. The ferry ride and the tour of the island is about 2.5 hours and costs 37 bucks and must be booked well in advance.
4) We then headed back to Union Square for some art shopping. It is a public plaza referring to central shopping, hotels and theatre districts in downtown San Francisco.
OTHER ATTRACTIONS IN THE CITY:
Twin Peaks: Suppose to offer the best view of San Francisco.
TRANSPORTATION IN SAN FRANCISCO: San Francisco offers a variety of options ranging from cabs, uber/lyft, rental cars, the bart, cable cars, street cars, buses and Muni Metro. Here are some of the links with details. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g60713-c131893/San-Francisco:California:Muni.From.Union.Sq.To.Various.Sights.html https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-best-ways-to-get-from-Union-Square-to-Golden-Gate-Bridge . http://gocalifornia.about.com/od/casfmenu/a/sfgetaround.htm
I would not advice renting a car if you are going to be in the city as traffic and parking can be an issue. We used Lyft for the one-day we were in the city as it turned out to be economical if you are sharing it with friends. We did experience the cable car from Market and Powell Street to Fisherman’s Wharf. The city also offers additional means of transportation that would be a lot more thrilling. These include bike riding as well as renting a Scoot. The scoot only costs 3 bucks and gives you an experience that is not common in other cities. We didn’t have enough time for it but would definitely use it in the next visit.
FOOD IN SAN FRANCISCO:
1) As an Indian, I had to try some indian food on my trip. But of course, san Francisco has a lot of authentic indian restaurants offering a variety of Indian Cuisines including North Indian, South Indian and Fast Food Chaat Places. For those of you interested, I am listing some of the Indian restaurants I have visited or heard to be really good and authentic.
- Dosa. As the name suggests, known for its dosas (savory Indian Crepes)
- Amber Indian Restaurant. Offers north Indian cuisine.
- Chaat Corner at Union Square.
- Udipi Palace. Known for its dinner plates as well as variety of south indian dishes.
We chose to go to Udipi Palace and were thrilled to satisfy our hunger with a South Indian Dinner Thaali, Puri Bhaaji as well as some Mango Lassi and Mango Juice. Would definitely recommend this place for a quick lunch or dinner with authentic food and an Indian Ambience.
2) We had some early morning breakfast at Honey Honey Café and Crepery which was 10 mins walk from the hotel and offers a variety of breakfast items including savory and dessert crepes, eggs and omletes, sandwiches and burgers, soups, salads and sides. The food is pretty good and portion sizes are huge. Surprisingly I observed this trend at all restaurants throughout my trip. Another good option for Breakfast at Union Square is Café La Taza which we didn’t get to try.
3) Buena Vista Café: A MUST visit place to try delicious Irish Coffee. Its a bar that served on of the first Irish coffees in Americas in 1952 and its really really good! This is coming from a person who is not a big fan of alcoholic drinks. Food is good too and has a very extensive menu.
4) Thai Idea Restaurant: This is an all-vegetarian thai restaurant and offers a very different menu from what I had ever seen at Thai restaurants. It offers conventional thai dishes to indo-thai fusion and its all vegetarian with imitation meat. It’s a small restaurant with an eclectic ambience and presentation.
5) MKT Restaurant and Bar: This is a fine dine restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel in Union Square. The restaurant while being pricey has a good ambience for a lengthy and relaxing Friday night dinner. The food as is on the menu was very good, be it vegetarian or meat dishes. It had one of the best vegetarian gnocci I had ever eaten. However, some of us customized our meals and were not entirely happy.
GETTING THERE: There are four main ways to get to lake tahoe from San Francisco: 1) by Car; 2) By Bus; 3) By Train and 4) by Plane. Check out this link for more details. We rented a car for two days as we like to drive while enjoying the pretty Californian Scenery and is cost effective if you are travelling in a group. Lake Tahoe is about 4 hours from San Francisco if you travel at the right time of the day. Early mornings are advisable to avoid traffic or else you could be stuck for hours. We drove on a Mid-Saturday morning and reached in 4 hours. However, coming back on a Sunday was trickier. The crowd typically leaves Sunday evening by 5 so I would recommend you leave either at least an hour before or wait until 730 or 8pm.
SITE-SEEING IN LAKE TAHOE:
- Lake Tahoe is divided into South, North and the West. It lays on the border of California and Nevada, most of it being in California. South Tahoe is the most touristic with ski-resorts, lots of hotels and restaurants, night-life and casinos. North and Westside are quieter, calmer and peaceful. The place is packed during the ski-season and summer. We went during end of March, which I thought is optimum as the ski-season is slowing down yet there is plenty of snow for you to enjoy, most roads are open and the crowd not so overwhelming.
- Weather in lake tahoe in March can be unpredictable. It was snowing and raining for the whole week before we got there. However, we got extremely lucky to enjoy the mountains covered in at least 6 feet of snow on a bright and sunny day as well as experience a cloudy day with some snow flurries the next day.
- We booked the Lake Tahoe Beach and Ski Club Resort in South Lake Tahoe about 5 mins away from the Heavenly Village. However, due to ongoing construction they put us into the Aston Lakeland Resort next door. Both Resorts are similar to each other, very reasonably priced and offer one and two bedroom suites as well as townhouses with full kitchens. The resorts also have private beach access to the lake. Check out some of the pictures below of our room at the Ashton resort to get an idea.
- As stated above, South Lake Tahoe is the most happening and the Heavenly Village with its Ski Resort is the most popular of it all. Make sure to take the Gondola Ride up the peak of the mountain and you will experience the most spectacular views of the landscape and the lake around the entire Tahoe area. The ride is expensive but totally worth it.
- Hanging out at the Casinos is always an option at the south side, if you like to gamble.
- The drive around the lake is very scenic and highly recommended. Its is 71 miles loop (although in the winter time a short part at the Emerald Bay State Park is closed) and will allow you to visit all parts of the lake in about 2-4 hours depending on the number of stops you make. The most popular places to begin the drive are in South Lake Tahoe, at the junction of US Highway 50 and US 89, or in Tahoe City, at the junction of US 89 and NV 28. You will drive through several pull-off points on the way including towns, overlooks, museums and parks.
- We had our very first ski lesson at Homewood Ski Resort on the west side of the lake and it was a blast. If you are a beginner and wish to ski for fun, I would recommend this place as we were able to take a 2.5 hr beginner’s lesson for 60 bucks including all the rentals (ski, poles, shoes and beginners slope life ticket). Besides, you can keep the rentals until the end of the day to continue skiing yourself after.
- If we had more time, hiking is another activity we would have like to do in the given weather. Recommended hiking trails are given in the link below. Among the popular trails are Skyline Trail, Eagle Falls Trail, Cascade Falls Trail and Fallen Leaf Lake trail.
- Starting June , lake tahoe opens up for a lot of summertime activities are available to further explore this scenic and picturesque destination. One of the must see places in the summer is the Emerald Bay State Park and you can get to it via car or by a scenic cruise through the lake.
FOOD IN LAKE TAHOE:
- Blue Dog Gourmet Pizza: Its a nice laid back and casual pizzeria, if you don’t want something overcrowded and noisy. The most popular pizza place in South Lake Tahoe is the Base Camp Pizza at the Heavenly Village where we couldn’t get a table. On a Saturday night, the wait was an hour to hour and half and was jam-packed with people. Personally it was a little cramped for me but my guess is the food is not to be missed.
- Thai Kitchen: We had lunch at this thai restaurant located in West Tahoe in Tahoe City. The choice of this place was based on good reviews, proximity to our ski resort and vegetarian options. Small place but good food.