LA Weekends: San Francisco and beyond

LA Weekends: San Francisco and beyond

Hello and welcome to LA Weekends, a travel series for the adventurous twentysomething. If you have a limited budget and want to make the most of your precious few vacation days, then this series is for you. Let’s explore!

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For those of us who moved to Los Angeles from somewhere far away,

a question we commonly hear is: “How often do you get up to San Francisco?” We’re embarrassed to answer, um, almost never, until we realize the drive actually takes seven hours. That’s like asking someone from Memphis how often they go to New Orleans. It turns out California is a pretty big state!

But San Francisco is one of the great cities in the world—situated in a beautiful part of the country, rich with American history, populated with friendly and forward-thinking people. So all we really needed was a good excuse to visit, and we found one with the three-day Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, which takes place every August in Golden Gate Park. We Craigslisted some tickets and made plans for a fun-filled four-day weekend with a minimal budget.

Leaving straight from work on Thursday evening, we held onto daylight for the most scenic part of the drive. The sun was just setting as we passed through the intersection of mountain ranges known as the Transverse Ranges—the Sierra Madres to the west, the San Gabriels to the east. After that, it was miles upon miles of farmland. Enjoy that. The smell, I mean.

That night we stayed with friends in nearby Pacifica, CA in order to rest up for day one.
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[one_fourth][/one_fourth][three_fourth_last]As the big music festivals go, Outside Lands might be the best-kept secret, despite having some of the best lineups. The inaugural festival featured the likes of Radiohead, Tom Petty, The Black Keys, Bon Iver and Wilco. This year’s lineup was a little lighter on the heavyweights, but all the more solid in the flyweight class. Making our personalized schedule, with the help the official festival smartphone app, we faced such heart-wrenching decisions as: The Walkmen, Tennis or Beck? Passion Pit, Norah Jones, or The Kills?

And as the weekend went on, decisions became harder and harder as our legs became less and less willing to make the hike to a stage on the other end of the enormous park. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of opportunities to sit, unless you’re willing to sacrifice your view of the stage. There are a few well-positioned hills on certain stages, but spots fill up fast, and your spot will certainly disappear if you go to check out another stage.

We were able to find standing spots close to the stage, though, with few exceptions. We couldn’t get anywhere near Alabama Shakes, for example, but we did manage to be near-front for most of our favorites. It was an exercise in prioritizing. And standing. And occasionally bladder control.

A word of warning to our fellow Restless Weekenders: bring a jacket. We woke up each day to 80-degrees of California sunshine, only to arrive at a Golden Gate Park shrouded in fog—the sun barely peeked through the clouds for the duration of the festival. Though the days were quite warm, the temperature plummeted as soon as the sun went down. Wear shorts with caution! (Apparently the name “Outside Lands” was given to this part of the city back when it was considered unsuitable for, you know, living.)[/three_fourth_last]

[one_fourth][/one_fourth][three_fourth_last]The concerts began each day at noon, which meant we had plenty of time for a few morning adventures. We started one morning with a visit to San Francisco’s famous Mission District, home to some of the coolest (and oldest) buildings in the city. The Crepe House turned out to be a great spot for reasonably priced strawberry Nutella crepes and a great sun-bathed atmosphere.

But the main attraction for us pseudohipsters was a stop at “San Francisco’s Only Independent Pirate Supply Store,” 826 Valencia, which funds a non-profit writing center in the store’s backroom. The space itself is as much an attraction as the wares you can purchase, which include eye patches, hook hands, and beard extensions—all of which are acceptable festival fashion accessories.[/three_fourth_last]

[one_fourth][/one_fourth][three_fourth_last]After the day’s festivities wrapped around 10pm, we decided to check out some of San Francisco’s late-night attractions. Amoeba Records is right next to the park, and even though we have one in LA, we still felt it was worth checking out here. Yup, still awesome. Then we were ready for some real fun—to the book store! Specifically the City Lights Book Store, which is a designated historic landmark. The store’s founder and its manager were famously arrested in 1957 for publishing and selling copies of Howl and Other Poems, a seminal work of Beat Literature. If you didn’t read it in college, what better place to pick up a copy.

Finally it was time to start drinking, and we decided to start somewhere historic. So after getting kicked out of the bookstore, we headed to The Buena Vista in the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood. On a cold night like this, a hot Irish coffee seemed just the thing. This spot along the water, with cable cars rolling past, is where the Irish coffee first made its debut in the United States back in 1952. There is, apparently, a complex recipe that goes into the “perfect” Irish coffee, and the cause for this persnicketiness became apparent when we tasted the drinks: delicious.

The next morning we decided to check out one last historic location—the world’s most scenic Taco Bell, in Pacifica. OK, maybe that’s not a recognized fact, but see for yourself. We stopped in for the new breakfast menu and could not believe the location or the view. (The food, however, was very much believable.)[/three_fourth_last]

[one_fourth][/one_fourth][three_fourth_last]Finally it was time for us to leave San Francisco, but we couldn’t resist taking the long way out of town, the one that took us across the Golden Gate Bridge. (Suggested soundtrack for awe: “Modern Inventions,” by The Submarines.) A turnoff on the northeast side of the bridge provided some spectacular views of the bay, but since we demand the best, we had to also check out the Alexander Ave. exit and follow it to Battery Spencer, a former military outpost that overlooks the bridge from atop a cliff. The spot was bombarded by cold wind and fog, but when a gust came to clear the sky, the view was spectacular.[/three_fourth_last]

[one_fourth][/one_fourth][three_fourth_last]Since this particular route back to Los Angeles also took us by the campus of UC Berkeley, we thought, hey, why not? We checked out the famous Campanile, a 307-ft bell tower (sadly missing the fact that it has an Observation Deck!) and walked through the school library. Then we headed up to Euclid Ave. to grab some Indian wraps from the Urbann Turbann before getting back on the road.

[one_fourth][/one_fourth][three_fourth_last]To finish the trip strong, we saved the best for last. Yosemite National Park is a couple hours off the highway, but it is the best couple of hours you will ever spend. Truly this is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Yosemite is an enormous park filled with giant sequoias, sweeping valleys, towering cliffs, and spectacular waterfalls. You could spend weeks exploring the park, and you’ll want to. But if you only have the afternoon, drive to Yosemite Valley. There along one stretch of road, you’ll find sights such as El Capitan, the Half Dome, and Bridalveil Falls. Pictures hardly do the scene justice. Even in person, the scope of the scene is unfathomable until you realize that small child standing on top is actually a fully grown tree.

The road itself is a stunning feat, and at times on the return journey, you will need to wait your turn for use of the one-lane road through the mountains. If the thought makes you claustrophobic, don’t worry—you’re only a few hours away from the 16-lane paradise that is the 101 into Los Angeles, with one of the most amazing weekends of your life soundly in the rear-view mirror.[/three_fourth_last]

[one_fourth]THE CREPE HOUSE
1132 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 285-2423[/one_fourth]
[one_fourth]826 VALENCIA
826 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 642-5905
[one_fourth]BUENA VISTA CAFE
2765 Hyde Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 474-5044[/one_fourth]
[one_fourth_last]CITY LIGHTS BOOKSTORE
261 Columbus Avenue at Broadway
San Francisco, CA
(415) 362-8193[/one_fourth_last]
[one_fourth]AMOEBA MUSIC
1855 Haight St
San Francisco, CA
(415) 831-1200[/one_fourth]
[one_fourth](SCENIC) TACO BELL
5200 Coast Highway
Pacifica, CA
(650) 355-4210
[one_fourth]URBANN TURBANN
1870 Euclid Avenue
Berkeley, CA
(510) 704-0109[/one_fourth]
Northside Dr
Yosemite National Park, CA
(209) 372-0200[/one_fourth_last]

Some of my favorite things are beef jerky, bacon, Benedict Cumberbatch, pistachios (aka the nut of the gods), my husband's face, and coffee.