We’ve always wanted to visit San Francisco and couldn’t quite fit it in when we visited California in 2015, so when Maddie was 9 months old and my fiancé mentioned a possible work trip to San Fran, we decided that if it went ahead then Maddie and I would come along and we would make a holiday of it seeing as I was on maternity leave (at the time I was still planning to go back to work.) However I wasn’t quite prepared for how last minute it was – he called me from work one Friday morning and asked if I fancied flying out THE VERY NEXT MORNING! I jumped at the chance. After hanging up the phone, the panic set in – I had to get myself, and our 9 month old, packed and ready for a 12 hour flight and a 10 day trip leaving less than 24 hours later. Instead of sensibly packing right away, I headed straight to the hairdressers and had my hair done, then to the salon for a mani/pedi.. priorities, priorities! I got home and packed our bags faster than I’ve ever packed before. I even managed to get everything into the car and sorted all before my fiancé arrived home from work!
The next day we set off, Gatwick bound, bags packed, and super excited. We flew with British Airways into San Francisco Oakland airport which took around 11 hours. Maddie was a dream on the plane – she spent much of the journey sat in a ‘baby seat’ which was basically like a baby bouncer (but without any bounce in it!) positioned where the carrycots go on long-haul flights. She got lots of attention from other passengers, and we had plenty of snacks and toys with us to keep her amused. I was breastfeeding at the time which also kept her happy especially during take-off and landing.
We took a taxi to the hotel and checked in. We stayed at the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins at the top of Nob Hill in the centre of the city. The hotel was gorgeous with incredible views across the city and we had a huge corner suite with a lovely comfy bed and fantastic views. The hotel was really lovely and the service was fantastic, but it is situated at the top of a very steep and long hill!
On the days that my fiancé was at work, I walked all over the city with Maddie in her pushchair, exploring everywhere from Chinatown to Fisherman’s Wharf on foot. San Francisco is very very hilly (even more so than I imagined!) and it was hard work, but really enjoyable. I rarely took cabs because it meant taking Maddie out the buggy, all the bags off the buggy, and then trying to fold it up and flag down a cab with one hand. So we spent most days walking for miles, stopping off at every park and library that we saw en-route. We had such a good time, and Maddie had amazingly long naps meaning I could sit and chill with a coffee and a book. I fell completely in love with the city and I think I’d move there in a heartbeat!
My favourite place that we visited, and I would recommend this for a family with children of any ages, is the California Academy of Sciences situated in the Golden Gate Park. There is an aquarium, planetarium and natural history museum all under one roof, and it is really amazing! There is so much to see and do, Maddie and I had so much fun exploring. She loved seeing all the fishes in the aquarium and the huge animals in the natural history museum. Even the forest-themed play area for under 5’s was fantastic. We didn’t want to leave!
The next must-visit place when in San Fran is the Golden Gate Bridge. We typically picked the foggiest day during our stay to visit the Golden Gate Bridge and so we didn’t have the most fantastic view, but it was worth the trek to the viewing point – we walked for hours through Presidio Park, all the way to the bridge and then back through Crissy Fields before picking up a cab to the hotel to rescue our tired legs. I would recommend making a day trip of this and taking a picnic along and walking through Presidio Park to the viewpoint.
Other places we really enjoyed were Fisherman’s Wharf which is a really buzzy neighbourhood along the waterfront. There are lots of boats, restaurants, shops, museums and things to see. Here you’ll find Aquarium of the Bay which was enjoyable, although I would definitely recommend the aquarium in the Academy of Sciences instead if you only have time to visit one.
From Fisherman’s Wharf you can take the famous cable car all the way over the hills to the other side of the city, Market Street in Union Square. Here you’ll find a Westfields and loads of shops both inside and outside of the mall. There’s a Macy’s and a Saks Fifth Avenue along with loads of other well-known brands. I was slightly wary of going to this area at first, having read some dreadful things online about it feeling run-down and unsafe. Yes, there were lots of homeless people and it definitely could do with some upkeep, but I didn’t feel unsafe walking around on my own with a baby, although I only went during the daytime when it was packed with tourists.
We visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art which is a great gallery, and it had some fantastic exhibitions on whilst we were there. We spent a few hours there as there is lots to see. If you visit then I would recommend taking a baby carrier as we found the lifts incredibly busy and spent a lot of time waiting for a lift with the pushchair (there were around 7 floors so lot’s of floors to explore.)
No visit to America would be complete for us without going out for brunch. Our absolute favourite brunch spot was a little place near to Fisherman’s Wharf called ‘Eight am’. It’s not fancy, but the food is amazing! My favourite was the avocado toast which involved three slices of avocado toast with various toppings (see below!) Make sure to get there early so you’re not waiting too long for a table (by 8am I would say.) We went twice during our stay, which we really don’t do very often as we like to try new places. Another awesome brunch place was ‘Sweet Maple’ where we had incredible omelettes and pancakes. The breakfast in the hotel was also pretty amazing, with waffles and all the usual buffet items.. I think I came back to London a few pounds heavier!
We had some amazing dinners out too. My favourite meal was at Kokkari Estiatorio which serves fine-dining Greek food. The food was amazing, service was excellent, and it was so family friendly even on a busy evening. I’d highly recommend it! If you like steak, head to Bob’s Steak and Chop House in the Omni San Francisco Hotel. We turned up in the evening, with a baby, and on first impressions it doesn’t look like a family friendly place at all – however the staff were fantastic, providing a highchair and being super friendly to Maddie. The food was amazing too!
Maddie had such a great time in San Francisco. There was so much for her to see and do, and we went to so many different parks and libraries – it was so much fun exploring the city together. We took a night flight back home to London and she slept the whole way in a bassinet, amazing! In terms of jet lag, when we arrived in San Fran Maddie was sleeping for hours during the day (two 2.5 hour+ naps per day) and then waking up early at 4/5am on the first couple of mornings, so I started to limit her naps to 1.5/2 hours each and she quickly adjusted to waking at her usual time in the morning (6-7am). When we landed back in London the first three nights were really tough – Maddie was awake for hours on end and nothing I did would get her to sleep! I even tried ‘re-doing’ her bedtime routine one night at around 1am when she was wide awake, but she was having none of it. I remember sitting in our kitchen at 2am feeding her snacks on tap for over an hour just to keep her in one place! I had to put all my energy into staying awake and that was the only way.
San Francisco is a great place to visit with a baby- we spent 10 days there but could easily have stayed for longer. There is so much to do and so many things to see. The weather in July was perfect, it was warm and sunny, but also fairly windy at times so my biggest tip would be to take layers! There were many times that I turned a corner and we were hit with such strong wind that we all had to throw hoodies on, then we’d turn another corner and be sweltering in the sun. So layer up and head out to explore on foot – you won’t be disappointed!
Have you been to San Francisco? What is your favourite thing about the city? Do leave a comment below!