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4 Days in San Francisco

  • San Francisco, CA (map)

Aisha and I spent four days in the counterculture capital of America: San Francisco. It was the first trip to California for both of us, and we went during Pride weekend. San Francisco was beautiful, busy, chilly, scenic, queer, hilly, and straight-up odd.

We followed our self-made itinerary of things to do and see, and yet I’m not sure any tour guide or SF blog could have prepared us for the colorful chaos that is San Francisco Pride.

From the Golden Gate Bridge to man walking a dog by the paw… from City Lights Bookstore to all the naked people… San Francisco was a trippy trip. Here are some highlights.

Cable Cars & Fisherman’s Wharf

After a six hour flight from Boston (on which the woman in front of us was unironically blasting the Backstreet Boys and the stewardess had to ask her to turn it down), we arrived in San Francisco hungry and ready for some walking. So our first stop after the hotel in Union Square (too early to check in) was Sears Fine Food for some tasty breakfast/lunch before catching a cable car on the Powell/Mason line.

It being a Thursday, the cable car wasn’t too packed, and we got right on, riding it all the way to the turnaround, which was cool to see. I didn’t know they turn around the cars manually. Then, because this was our super-touristy day, we walked to Fisherman’s Wharf. Wow’ed at the Pacific Ocean, the boats, Alcatraz. We stopped into the Musee Mecanique which was surprisingly free and fun and we both got fortunes delivered by mechanical fortune-tellers.

Next we went to Pier 39 to see the sea lions. There were… a few? I think the sea lions must be out-of-season because there were many docks on which I think they should’ve been lounging, and yet they were gathered on only a couple of them. The ones that were there were still adorable.

We walked along the Embarcadero until around Pier 31, when we headed inland to walk the Greenwich Steps to Coit Tower. Okay. The cable car to the wharf assured me that San Francisco has steep hills, but damn. I was not physically prepared for these steps. They. just. keep. going. Just when you think you’re done, there’s more steps! Granted, there are some beautiful flowers on the path, if you can wipe the sweat out of your eyes to see them.

Finally at the top, we reached Coit Tower. Some cool views of the water, but mostly we just sat to catch our breath from those steps. Inside the tower, there are pretty murals. We decided not to elevator up to the top, in part because we were exhausted, and also because we didn’t want to wait in line or spend the $9 apiece.

We took a cable car back to Union Square and Hotel Emblem, where we were finally able to check in. This hotel is awesome! A book wall, typewriters when you walk in, ah, they pander right to me! The carpet and walls have poetry on them. I want to live in this hotel.

After some R&R we cashed in our free cocktails at the hotel bar and went to Hops & Hominy for dinner. There was a very awkward date happening beside us, but the food was delicious.

Golden Gate Everything

The time change had me up early. Zing! We got to Golden Gate Bridge in the morning, and we couldn’t have wished for a clearer day. No fog, no crowds. We walked right onto the bridge like it was nothing. It was such a cool experience seeing something IRL that I’ve seen so many times in media and in photographs. Aisha sang the Full House theme song and I was embarrassed but also super happy. We walked a bit past the first pillar and then turned around — it got windy out there!

We walked down to the Warming Hut and Crissy Field before catching a free shuttle bus to the Palace of Fine Arts. This place is cool, but what the heck is going on here? There are ponds, pillars, a random bar and people playing cornhole inside a warehouse. I don’t even know.

We got hungry and so Lyfted to Burma Superstar in Inner Richmond based on a recommendation. I’ve never had Burmese food before, and it was delicious. It’s a small and busy place and we’re lucky we got in when we did. It was tasty. Aisha and I ended up swapping meals — she liked my salad better than her noodles and vice versa.

Next, we went to Golden Gate Park which is an enormous park south of the bridge. We went to the Japanese Tea Garden where we saw a big Buddha statue, bamboo, a pogoda, and a koi fish jump up out of the water. What?! It was… kinda peaceful?

From there we walked to Stow Lake and Strawberry Hill where there’s a man-made waterfall. Along that walk we encountered so many Canada geese, people paddling in the pond, and… the people who were sitting next to us at Burma Superstar! Super-weird coincidence. This giant park and we just happen to run into people from the same restaurant we were at? If it weren’t for the fact that they were a super nice couple (“Heyyy Burma Superstar!!”) I would guess we were being followed.

We waited for a shuttle that turned out to only run on weekends and holidays (what?!) before calling a Lyft back to the hotel. R&R. We to Del Popolo pizza before heading to Jolene’s to kick off our pride weekend. I loved Jolene’s. Loved.

Mission Dolores & Dyke March

Hearing that the Dyke March was an all-day affair, we decided we had some time to kill in the morning. So we walked through Chinatown to City Lights Bookstore where I got a book and wondered why all the famous writers from SF are men? Kerouac, Ginsberg, sure. But where are the SF lady writers?

We walked down to Civic Center Plaza on a whim, passing by the Transamerica Pyramid on the way. You can walk around San Fran pretty quickly if you can put up with the hills. We got to the San Francisco Pride Festival just as it was opening at 12pm, and I’m glad we went when we did (more on that tomorrow).

It’s only a $1-$5 donation to get into the festival, and suddenly we were in a mix of food trucks, techno music, pride vendors, and…. penis! 12pm is far too early to be seeing dicks, my friend, and yet we were seeing dicks! Flaccid dicks. Erect dicks. More dicks than I’ve seen in my life in 20 minutes. Oh wow. Aisha and I gathered ourselves on the plaza lawn. We had to get to the Dyke March, pronto.

So we called a Lyft. Too bad we exited the Pride Festival as fast as we could straight into the Tenderloin, where it’s apparently very hard to call a Lyft! The one that picked us up had a child in the backseat and wouldn’t let us in the car. Oh my. Try 2, we got one. To the Mission!

On the quest for lunch, we went to Taqueria Cancun. Best burrito ever. I was in a sour mood from the penises and the Lyft debacle and still… this burrito took me to another realm. I got the vegetarian burrito and it was amazing. I so wished that I could finish it, but I could not. Too big.

Full of burrito, we walked to Mission Dolores Park for dyke-fun, stopping by the Women’s Building on the way to see the murals.

Mission Dolores Park was crazy busy and beautiful. We took a seat up on the hill with a fabulous view. People were drinking everything openly, and we realized that public alcohol consumption must be allowed in the park? We tried looking up the laws but there were too many people, cell reception was poor. People walked around selling booze and marijuana and just about anything. The folks in front of us started snorting coke. Wow, welcome to SF!

At 5pm we decided to go find the Dyke March itself. We turned around, walking up the remainder of the hill only to discover twice as many people! Due to the hills, we hadn’t realized just how big Mission Dolores Park was, nor how many people had been surrounded us this whole time. Oh. My. God. Life moment. I literally gasped and gasped again.

Still, we joined the March and ended up in crowded chaos. When the march jammed, we skipped onto the sidewalk. The sunset was crazy bright, but we did get to see the Pink Triangle. We finally broke off near the Castro for water, food, and bathroom at Super Duper Burgers. The burgers were quite good and we got to people-watch from the windows. We watched a man walk his dog like a child. No leash, by the paw.

We walked into the Castro, where chaos further ensued. The rainbow walk was a blur. Police were everywhere. The 7-Eleven was outrageously litty. All bars were at capacity. We left promptly. R&R and Hotel Bar, yasss please!

Pride Parade & Museum of Ice Cream

Despite a crazier-than-anticipated Saturday, we got up early for the San Francisco Pride Parade. Yay! We got a good spot, right in front on Market Street. The parade got going and then… it stopped. For an hour.

Pro-tip: If you’re going to counter-protest a Pride Parade, have clearly marked signs or messaging about why exactly you’re protesting. We knew there were people laying in the streets, but we had no idea why. Police? Corporations? Tell us! Have signs! I’m still not sure what it was about.

Anyway, once the parade got going, it was amazing. It was cool to see a parade led by gay organizations and not politicians or police for once. There were many tech companies there.

Apple. What is happening at Apple? Facebook had a lot of people, and Amazon too. Netflix… so cool seeing the Tales of the City cast… but Apple. So many people! Is your whole company gay?

After the parade, we needed some R&R at the hotel before heading to the Pride Festival at Civic Center Plazaaaa yeahhh just kidding! We walked down into Market Street and into what I can only describe as total chaos. Police fighting with pride-goers. A woman pooping on the street. Public inebriation far and wide. The line of people waiting to get into the plaza went on and on forever. Nope. Nope. We got lunch at Cafe Mason diner. Delicious sandwich, though I hardly remember it, my brain was way over-capacity.

After recovering from all that we’d witnessed, we decided to go the Museum of Ice Cream. What a strange, fun place! Unlike any “museum” I’ve been to before, MOIC is an experience of desserts and themed rooms guided by peppy people dressed in pink jumpsuits. Rideable cookies… a sprinkle pool… unicorns… just, wow.

After the MOIC, we were so full of ice cream, but didn’t want to turn in just yet. So we popped by the Golden Gate Tap Room where we played some skeeball and reflected on our weird and wonderful time in the Golden Gate City.