We’re a family of four living in the center of San Francisco; Oliver is 16 months and our fur baby, Lancelot, is 6 years old. We currently live in Pacific Heights, a quaint neighbourhood lined with historic Victorians, great views of the bay, and many interesting shops and restaurants.
My husband is from Germany, but has lived in the Bay Area since his family relocated for work in the mid 90’s. When his family moved back to Europe, he stayed for college and eventually got into the online retail world. Originally from San Diego, I moved to the Bay Area for college and have been here ever since. Aside from a few jaunts, I always found myself pining for the city and it’s many cultural and culinary offerings. In 2009, I decided to make it my permanent home base when I returned for Grad School. I am a designer by trade, specializing in restaurant and hotel design. I returned to work for a few months post maternity leave, but ultimately decided to take a break when the long hours became a bit too much with a baby that wasn’t sleeping. Right now I’m working on a full renovation of our own abode as my first foray into the world of residential remodeling.
Before we get started, a note about getting around: San Francisco may only be 7×7 miles, but one neighbourhood can seem like a world away especially with traffic. There are many ways to traverse the city from bus, to bart, to taxi. If you’re driving, I recommend using the Pay by phone app to virtually pay for parking meters (No more worrying about how you’ll find $4 in quarters for 20 minutes of parking!). The best way really depends on where you’re located and where you’re going. Just try to avoid crossing town at rush hour!
My husband has morning duty and I have nights. When Oliver wakes up, they go on a neighbourhood walk and often stop at Blue Bottle on Fillmore St. for a locally produced coffee. People in this town are crazy about their coffee. Are you a Blue Bottle, Sightglass, Ritual or Philz fanatic?
On Sunday mornings, we walk to Fort Mason for the weekly farmer’s market. Oliver loves the live music and sampling our market finds. Our favorite stalls are Happy Boy Farms for veggies, The Midwife and the Baker for fresh bread, Llano Seco for grassfed meat, and Roli Roti for rotisserie chicken and bone broth. If all that shopping has made you hungry, grab breakfast at the Green Grocer’s stall and enjoy a view of the Golden Gate. I always forget how lucky we are to have such a bounty of year round fresh food until friends visit and go bananas over our tomatoes and berries.
On weekends, we like to head to The Grove on Fillmore St. for brunch. Their heated sidewalk seating is convenient for strollers and people watching. They make quality lattes, a plethora of great egg dishes and the much satirized but still delicious avocado toast. With multiple locations around the city, you won’t have a hard time sampling their offerings. After brunch, we take a stroll up Fillmore for some great window shopping at Nest and Mudpie before heading to the park.
Most San Franciscans live in apartments, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for backyards. Luckily, we have many parks throughout the city with innovative children’s areas, many of which have been recently renovated. Our favorites are Alta Plaza, Lafayette, Julius Kahn and Mountain Lake Park. We often combine a trip to Julius Kahn with a beautiful forest walk in the Presidio. The easy 2 mile trail head loops around and starts and ends at the playground.
With the exception of September, San Francisco’s weather is unpredictable and often goes from Sunny to down right chilly in minutes if Carl, the fog, rolls in. A warm day in San Francisco is 68F/20C, so it’s crucial to always have layers of clothing with you. In the cooler months, we can’t leave the house without the JJ Cole Bundle me fleece sack for the stroller. It keeps baby warm and won’t fall on the ground. That said, our diaper bag is always stocked with sunscreen, a hat and a Wubbanub pacifier. It may not be hot, but that sun is strong.
My standard issue uniform always includes sensible shoes I wouldn’t mind schlepping a baby up hills in. Speaking of hills, a nimble stroller like the Baby Zen Yoyo is a must but a baby carrier like the Ergo will also come in handy. With so many Uppa Baby Vistas clogging the sidewalk, you could call it the official stroller of San Francisco, but now that Oliver is older, I much prefer the small footprint and easy to carry design of the Yoyo. I think you will too if you’re planning on using public transportation.
At around 13 months, Oliver dropped to one nap per day, so we have a lot more time to explore the city before 12:30 or after 2:30 when he wakes up. We often head to Sprout on Union St. in Cow Hollow for music class. It’s also a great place to stock up on organic baby supplies and gifts. If we’re feeling especially adventurous (remember I said going to the other side of the city can be a trek?), we’ll head to Charlie’s corner in Noe Valley for the best story time possibly ever (think costumes, singing and a snow machine) and pop into Mapamundi for an excellent selection of European kids toys and clothes. We’ll finish up with an authentic croissant and a latte in a bowl at La Boulangerie. We’ve found that most places offer classes at various times so there’s almost always something to do. Winnie.com and Red Tricycle.com are great resources for weekly events.
It has to be really bad weather for San Franciscans to stay inside. Luckily, in California, it doesn’t happen too often. A rainy day is the perfect excuse to explore the many unique museums San Francisco has to offer. My personal favorite, The California Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park, has an indoor rainforest, planetarium and aquarium. Across the way, head to the top of the tower at the De Young Museum for a free 360 degree view of the city. In SOMA, the Children’s Creativity Museum offers a unique, hands on experience for all ages and even has an indoor carousel. SF Moma is right around the corner and, in addition to interesting contemporary art and architecture, they have an excellent selection of unique kids books and toys in their shop that would make the perfect souvenir.
DINNER – EVENING
Early bedtimes mean early dinners. The best part about eating at 5:30? Little to no wait! If we’re craving Italian, we’ll head to Pizzeria Delfina in Pacific Heights. They import their starter and tomatoes directly from the mother country. You can’t go wrong with a margherita pizza and meatballs. You can’t visit California without sampling Mexican food. Our favourite place to try upscale Mexican cuisine (i.e. not a burrito) is Flores on Union St. in Cow Hollow – Oliver loves the carnitas and ceviche. Can you tell he’s a city kid? It’s a rare combo of great design, delicious food and kid friendly atmosphere. On Friday evenings, a food truck event called Off the grid, hits up Fort Mason with live music showcasing San Francisco’s culinary creativity. If your little one is too cranky for an evening out, they also host Presidio picnic on Sunday afternoons.
There you have it folks! It’s been a whirlwind day and it’s just the tip of the iceberg of what San Francisco has to offer!