What to Do in San Francisco (in the rain)

What to Do in San Francisco (in the rain)

You can plan your life away, and even try to overplan it, but you cannot plan the weather. Today’s dreary day in Salt Lake City reminded me of my recent trip to San Francisco.

San Francisco is one of my favorite cities to visit and I recently had the opportunity to stay there for a week with my daughter. The only thing on our agenda was dance classes for her. We agreed not to plan much of anything else. We didn’t even plan our plane tickets, opting to fly standby instead and save $500. (Thanks Mom!)

We landed in Oakland late in the evening and took BART into town to find our hotel. We woke up to a Sunny day, and then a rainy week and did anything we wanted.

With no plans you can…

  • Rest when you are weary. We did some afternoon napping.
  • Eat when you are hungry. Some days we had 3 meals, others more or less.
  • Sleep when you are tired. We didn’t have a bed time and rarely set an alarm.
  • Get lost. We walked in the wrong direction several times, but instead of frustration, we enjoyed our unplanned detours.
  • Visit the same place twice. If we had a list of places we had to visit, we never would have eaten at First Crush 2 nights in a row.
  • Disconnect. My phone was my camera and a map and little else.
  • Go slow. We weren’t rushing around, so we got to enjoy our surroundings instead of hurrying from place to place.
  • Learn to use public transportation. We got around with BART, busses and lots of walking. If we had scheduled the trip too tightly, we may have spent more on taxis or a rental car.

When my daughter was dancing, I was working. We spent 2 days in Oakland, 1 day in Berkeley and 4 days in San Francisco.

What to do in San Francisco (or any city) in the rain.

Rain on vacation isn’t ideal, but it isn’t a deal breaker either. We decided to enjoy the city rain or shine, and that is exactly what we did. If your next vacation is rainy, don’t stay inside. The city takes on a whole new look and feel and in the rain and it’s yours to enjoy. I remember a trip to Hershey Park, PA when I was 12 or 13 and in my memory, the whole family is wearing rain gear and all smiles.

In between dance classes this is what we did without planning …


  • TamarindI’ve never spent any time in Oakland and didn’t know what to expect, so it was a lovely surprise to find a beautiful Mexican restaurant in walking distance from our hotel. Our simple meal of Plantanos Fritos & Guacamole con Totopos was amazing.
  • Cock a Doodle Cafe Not the healthiest breakfast, but we couldn’t say no to fried eggs benedict. I had mine with spinach and tomato, topped with a lemon hollandaise sauce, but the best part of breakfast was my daughter’s strawberry lemonade.
  • Chinatown. Oakland has it’s very own Chinatown and walking through early morning was great. Most stores had sidewalks full of  fruits, veggies and other fresh food. This kind of grocery shopping beats the rush at the mega-mart every time.


  • Crepes a Go Go.  A sweet spot on Telegraph Ave. to start the day.
  • Hair Wraps. This man wrapped my daughter’s hair. That is not her in the picture I found, but that’s him. We heard about him long before we left for our trip. He’s got great word of mouth, a simple set up on Telegraph and the low down on Berkeley.
  • UC Berkley. We walked the campus of UC Berkeley and wandered along a little stream until we hit the Farmer’s Market.
  • Farmer’s Market. Thanks to our new hair wrap friend, we found the Berkley Farmer’s Market and the sweetest little baby oranges. They weren’t tangerines or kumquats, maybe mini-mandarins. If I knew what they were and remembered the farm name, I would order them. They were that good.

Union Square

  • First Crush. This tiny restaurant was a block away from our hotel and we could not stay away. I had a little crush on First Crush along with their small plates and Terra d’Oro Zinfandel.
  • E&O Trading. My daughter remembered the edamame here from a previous trip so we escaped the rain one afternoon and shared a bowl.
  • Puccini and Pinetti. Bar hopping wasn’t our scene, but that didn’t stop us from sharing a late night Tiramisu at an Italian restaurant steps from our hotel.

The Mission

I had the best tour guide in The Mission and know that my day there would not have been the same without him.

  • Samovar. I love tea, but I don’t know much about tea. Our server at Samovar explained what to expect and how to enjoy our tea tasting. I passed on the  walnut chèvre-stuffed dates but could not resist the  handmade vegetarian squash dumplings with tangy dressing.
  • Gracias Madras. This restaurant offers a combination of two of my favorite cuisines, Mexican and Vegan. Relaxing with a mid-day glass of spicy red, wonderful company, and not having to ask “is there meat in that?” made this lunch not only delicious, but one to linger over.

What else?

We walked through North Beach and past the Italian cafes and bakeries. We walked through Chinatown and found our way to the Golden Gate Cookie Factory for some fresh, hot fortune cookies. We walked up (way up) to Coit Tower, getting lost on the way. Views from the tower of the rainy city were beautiful. On the way down, we walked through the Telegraph Hill neighborhood. The staircase we found led us through backyards and gardens lush with blooming flowers.

We took the bus to Haight-Ashbury and checked out albums at Amoeba, browsed through shops and walked the neighborhood. We didn’t eat at Magnolia Pub, but I highly recommend it.

On the waterfront we visited the sea lions at Pier 39, shared a delicious lemongrass tofu and vegetable stir fry at Out the Door in the Ferry Building and thought about a ferry ride to Alcatraz. Every evening, our bellies were full, legs were tired and spirits were high.

We saved money by flying standby, taking public transportation and sharing meals. We had a chance to visit lots of great restaurants, but rarely had a full meal at any of them. Instead we shared an appetizer and dessert or an entrée. In all 7 days, we only made 2 tiny mistakes:

  1. Booking a hotel that seemed too cheap for it’s location. Sometimes you really do get what you pay for … and we did.
  2. Visiting the MOMA on a Wednesday. They are closed Wednesdays.

With all that we did and saw, my most memorable part of the trip was sharing a small umbrella with my daughter. After a few days of walking in the rain, and hanging our drenched clothing to dry each night, we finally bought one. We chose a bubble umbrella so we wouldn’t worry about running into people, but trying to walk in sync under the little dome and stay dry was hilarious. We were bumping into each other and laughing so hard. I’m not sure the umbrella kept us dry, but it did make things more interesting.

Have you ever vacationed in the rain?




  1. says

    Just wanted to let you know that I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award because I enjoy your blog, especially your mini missions! Thanks.

  2. says

    Several years back, my wife and I visited Bath (South West England) for the weekend. The night I proposed to her, we ran back to the guest house in almost torrential rain. We had so much fun!

    However, it was very late, the one pair of Jeans and jacket we each wore were drenched, and there was nowhere to dry them.

    So we had to call the manager in the middle of the night to ask about how we could dry our clothes in time for the next morning. He wasn’t very happy to be woken up for this reason, but we’ll never forget that experience. The power of rain when away from home!

  3. says

    San Fran is such a fun place to wander around! I love traveling without much of a plan. Last year in Barcelona my boyfriend and I ate lots of tapas, wandered the streets and drank lots of wine. Our only plan was a cooking class complete with a market tour. We saw a few of the sites from the outside, but didn’t stress ourselves out with a long list of places we “had” to see. What a difference from previous vacations where we jump from one museum or attraction to another. Who cares if you see something famous if your not that interested anyway?

  4. Bre says

    Oh, San Francisco is truly one of my favorite places in the country, maybe the world. My best friend lives there, and I visit as often as I can (but not as often as I’d like). These beautiful pictures make me miss it! Lovely post.

  5. says

    I loved this post! And love this city–just today I sent my family off there on a passport mission with lots of advice about where to go, things to do, and food to try. I was there in March, and went from snow in the NW to sunny skies in SF. One of my highlights was the fortune cookie factory–I actually went there twice to get “golden coin” cookies. Exploring by foot and by bus is the best.

  6. says

    My mother used to take me and my sister to a cabin on Lake Michigan every summer for a week of swimming and sunburns. We looked forward to it all year. One year it rained all week, so we stayed inside and played Scrabble. That week stands out in my memory better than the others!

  7. says

    Hi, I’m a new reader that’s loving all your older posts. My house is a mess and I’m ready to simplify (I just moved). Anyway, I nominated you for the Liebster Award. Here’s the link: http://veggievinyasa.com/2012/04/22/liebster-love/
    And please, please don’t be offended if you have way more readers. I’m not tech savvy and have no idea how to tell. Looking forward to reading more posts from you.
    Sincerely, Angela

  8. Anthony says

    A wonderful and inspirational story – love it, especially for the lack of planning – something which I can learn from.

    Just reading your post has taught me the valuable lesson that life is short and we need to enjoy it with much fun and laughter, even when the going is not so amicable! Thanks for the post!

  9. says

    Some really good stuff here. I’ve been putting together a list of cool stuff to do myself. But man, once you throw rain into the equation your options are limited. So thanks for the suggestions!

  10. says

    Great tips, I’m never that worried about rain on urban trips because there are so may things to do indoors in cities, so this is a great reminder of that. I live right outside of San Francisco, but you have some great recommendations for restaurants I haven’t visited. I do love Samovar, Coit Tower and the Ferry Building.