Disclaimer: I did not get paid or compensated for any product or company mentioned in this blog.
There is something magical about flying somewhere for just one day—a flight out in the morning, and coming home at night. No hotel, no luggage, just a small bag and a day in a different city.
A one-day trip is something I always dreamed about doing. It is slightly impractical, unless you have a company that pays for your commute. If you invest in a plane ticket, I would assume you would want to really soak in your destination. Right?
Enter Southwest—my favorite airline of all time. As they do frequently, they were having a deal. But this one was outrageous—$29 one-way fares to nearby cities. I live near Los Angeles, so I saw $29 fares to San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, Las Vegas, Etc. It would be at least 5 hours for me to drive to these places, and I would probably pay at LEAST that in gas.
This was it! Why not go have an adventure for a day? I booked four round-trip tickets: San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and Sacramento. This was a perfect way to explore my state a little more, and for the challenge of navigating something unfamiliar and see if I could navigate on my own It would be my series of One Day Adventures.
My first One Day Adventure was to San Francisco. I woke up at 5, having set out my clothes the night before—you would think it was Christmas morning. I grabbed everything I would need to work for a day—lap top, notebooks, snacks, etc. I hopped in the car and got on the freeway. Southern California traffic is pretty much the seventh layer of Hell, so it took me almost an hour to make a (normally) 26 minute drive.
First unusual encounter for a day trip: where do I park at the airport for just one day? I didn’t want to risk parking at the nearby Starbucks because I didn’t want to return from my Adventure to a towed-away vehicle. To stay on the safe side, I parked in my normal long-term parking lot with shuttle service. It adds an extra layer of protection for my car, and I can get a shuttle when I land late at night. The shuttle driver, who picked me up right at my car (hello convenience) confirmed that that was a great idea. Thank you Mr. Shuttle Driver.
I arrived at SFO around 9 and I had a few options to get to the city:
Renting a car—This is certainly an option for those who want to take in the sites of San Francisco and to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge. To rent for a day, I was seeing prices around $60. Factor in parking (which is horrendous and expensive), tolls, and gas, you are looking at close to $100 for the day, possibly more. Additionally, if you want to drive downtown San Francisco, you better have some extra grit and determination in your back pocket—hilly San Francisco streets are not for the faint hearted.
Uber—Taking an Uber from the airport to downtown looks like it will cost you between $27—$50, sometimes more if you need a larger vehicle. Keep in mind that is one way. It could cost up to $100 round-trip.
Taxi—I read that Taxi service in the SF area is notorious for being pretty terrible. From the airport to downtown SF, you are looking at about $50—$55, not including tolls and tip.
BART—The cheapest way I saw to get into the city is their public transit system, BART. It is extremely easy to navigate from the terminal and to get a ticket. Hop on the Pittsburg/Bay Point train heading towards the city (there is only one direction from the airport). The platforms are pretty easy to navigate—just keep an eye on the marquees telling you where the train is going and when the next train will arrive.
There are so many cool things to do in San Francisco. I have done the touristy bits before: Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, the trolley rides, Golden Gate Bridge, etc. This time I decided to take a look at the city I haven’t seen before.
I got off the train at Powell Street Station and walked to Union Square, which is decked out for the holidays with a huge Christmas tree and ice rink. Around the square are gorgeous and Historical department stores and hotels, including Barney’s and Macy’s with it’s Christmas window displays.
After getting a chocolate twist from Boudin on Powell Street, I cut through Macy’s, took the escalator to the second floor, and walked out to the square. I sat in Union Square and people-watched while I enjoyed my pastry. It was definitely a side of San Fran I hand’t seen before.
Determined to get some work done, I found Cafe La Taza around the corner. I ordered a black coffee and their El Cubano sandwich with house-made potato chips. This little cafe has extra seating up stairs and I picked a table looking out over the entrance to the cafe.
After being productive for an hour or two, I decided to walk around the city and explore a little. There are so many shops to look around in on Market and Powell. The. City was brimming with so many people excited for the holidays.
At the intersection of Powell and Market Streets, hundreds of people stop to watch the manual cable car turnaround—a classic and famous San Francisco site.
I made my way to China Town and walked up and down some of the hills, looking at the shops with touristy trinkets, as well as some shops with significant statement pieces for the home (pst, Travis, I want this elephant).
I checked the time. 3:30 pm. My flight didn’t leave for another few hours, but I wanted to make my way to the train station in case I got lost or needed to improvise some how. On the train, I checked my flight, originally scheduled to depart at 8:35 pm. It had been delayed three hours and would be landing at 12:30 am. My heart sank—I would have to spend 7 hours in the airport waiting for my flight. It could also turn my one day adventure into an overnight nightmare.
I rushed through the airport after getting off the BART, checking other flights on the way. There looked to be a flight routing through Phoenix leaving at 5:05 pm and arriving at the same time my original flight would have landed. Because Southwest is awesome and amazing and wonderful, they put me on the earlier flight at no extra cost. It was definitely not as planned—it added an additional 3 and a half hours in flight time, but I would be home before midnight, which is much preferred.
On the flight from SFO to Phoenix, I sat next to a college senior and her mom. I am not normally one to have conversation on the flight, but every once in a while you meet a kindred spirit at 36,000 feet. It was one of those conversations where you feel like you have been friends for years, and the two hours evaporated. We talked about life after college, traveling the world, and the 30 countries before 30 goal. I actually wished the flight was longer.
Getting off the second flight that landed in Burbank, I felt like I some how got lucky. My flight was delayed, but I was able to get another one. I had an incredible conversation with a fellow wanderluster which felt like a breath of fresh air. And I made it home to my husband and puppy after an adventurous day in the city.
There are so many things to do in San Francisco, and I have only touched on a brief few in my one day in the city. What would you do with one day in San Francisco? Where would you go?
Until next time, have a wonderful Holiday Season, Wanderlusters!