Once upon a time for my 26th birthday, I went to California for the first time with one of my greatest friends. We had stalked the Dallas Cowboys football schedule and determined that it would be a great girls’ trip to go to an away game. We decided that attending a Raiders game could be fun and we both had a desire to the see the Bay Area of California. A few weeks later, our tickets were booked! I would be coming in from Dallas and Jessica, Houston.
As fall continued to pass and the Cowboys’ season continued to plummet (edit: I am SICK and ANGRY at the Super Bowl results), we figured that even if we did not attend the game, it would be great to just be in the vicinity of fellow fans and see what the city had to offer. We can make a good time anywhere we go and I was not concerned. I was ready to indulge in all the wine and relax during our long weekend.
I love to visit a city during the holidays. With the exception of April, December would have to be my next favorite month. I love the spirit, the lights, and the decor. While I’m not a Christmas shopping maniac, I love staring at the decorated trees because I never had one while growing up. I was also sincerely looking forward to escaping to California because the weather in Dallas had been kind of funky and I wanted to see some water!
I landed an hour earlier than anticipated and Jessica was not due to arrive for another three hours, and considering I had only slept for about three hours, I booked it to the hotel in an Uber. I had all intentions of taking the BART but I was fatigued and just wanted to sit down. Big Homie was on my side because when I checked into the Hilton Honors line at 10am, imagine my surprise when the front desk clerk told me that there was a room available! People had not even checked out yet I was gearing up to check in. It was not the original room I had picked with my digital key, but at that point, I just needed a nap and was willing to “downgrade”.
As I was riding into the Uber on edge because the drivers were insane, I was surprised at how industrial San Francisco was! I saw on a hill that their nickname was “The Industrial City” but again, I think my Jersey girl bias believes that “real” cities don’t exist out of the northeast. Fooled me. I was also disappointed by how many homeless people I saw as we drove on Mission towards the hotel. Again, I think my eyes were starry eyed about California and that it was all things beautiful, and there was definitely a gritty portion to the city. Ironically enough, even though Oakland is rumored to be rougher than San Francisco, I felt more comfortable there. Maybe it’s because the city had an evidently blacker presence, it was less chaotic, and less expensive!
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Where We Ate
- Palomino: The view of the Oakland Bay Bridge was great but other than that, that’s all they truly offered. We went during happy hour but our food wasn’t mind blowing at all. You definitely are not missing out if you skip this restaurant.
- Brown Sugar Kitchen: A black owned soul food restaurant located in Oakland! I was recently surprised by seeing that the owner recently competed on Top Chef Colorado. The chicken was seasoned to perfection and I did not feel as though I had to have hot sauce. We had to wait quite a bit because we were a group of 6, but I
- Mua: I loved this spot in Oakland! We sat at the bar with the sexy lights and did some great people watching. The music was diverse. 90’s R&B to current hip-hop hits. I was not complaining. It didn’t hurt that the food was hitting with the sizeable portions! I had to stuff my chicken into my purse before heading over to Au Lounge.
- Annie’s Hot Dog & Pretzels: Blame the northerner in me, but I love a good hot dog. I know, some of you are probably rolling your eyes at me because YEAH, I ate some street meat, but it was good and a great portion!
- Le Cheval: I was feeling -pretty- great after the Cowboys defeated the Raiders but we were in dire need of late night eats. It took FOREVER for us to get an Uber, secure the Uber, and get dropped off. Thankfully, after stalking Yelp I found this Asian fusion restaurant. It was delicious, I loved the set up, and it was not too crowded.
- Lemongrass Thai Cuisine: This was the last place I ate at before we went off to the airport. I am admittedly obsessed with Thai food. It was pretty good and I enjoyed my calamari.
Where We Stayed
Because I am a Hilton Honors member, I try to stay loyal to the chain if I don’t find a cheap enough deal on HotelTonight. I ended up booking Parc 55 San Francisco - a Hilton Hotel, which was right by Union Square and close enough to a lot of attractions. I would give it 3.5 stars. It wasn’t the most beautiful or modern of hotels but it served its purpose and I appreciated that I was able to check in early. Just for that, I wouldn’t mind recommending them.
Where We Played
- Embarcadero Farmers Market: After an… interesting Uber ride with a woman talking about her boyfriend in jail, we checked out the Farmers Market by the Bay Bridge. I enjoyed eating some delicious oysters although I put WAY too much horseradish on one to the point that I could not eat it. I also had a greedy moment and definitely visited a cheese stand so that I could purchase some for the weekend. Judge, NOT.
- Union Square: This was where the tourists were and if you are a shopping addict, this is NOT the place for you to visit. You will have no chill and that’s guaranteed. Between Christmas deals and the vast options, I am shocked that I only made a purchase at Nordstrom Rack.
- Au Lounge: I’m not sure if they have specialty evenings, but we came during what appeared to be African night. I say that to say, I am not the most versed in the songs and had no problem sitting to the side enjoying a drink and the music. I also had on some new heels and appreciated the fact that there were two seats available at just the right moment.
- Pier 39: It reminded me being at the food court area of Six Flags. Even still, my heart was happy to see boats, water, and the seals! My aunt had told me about them but I had no clue that they would be so plentiful!
- Golden Gate Bridge: Early during our last day of exploring we ended up visiting the bridge first. I know it’s an iconic landmark, but to be honest, I thought the Bay Bridge was prettier. However, I was pretty grateful that we did not have to endure a foggy morning as that is a common theme for the Bay.
- VOM FASS Oils Vinegars Spirits: While randomly strolling through Ghiradelli Square on an attempt to find another winery, we ended up checking out this lovely spot. We did a flight tasting of red wines and I was quite impressed with was selected for us.
- San Francisco Botanical Garden: This was my last stop before heading off to the airport. If you have been following along, you know that I always try to visit in a visit to a botanical garden. I didn’t get to visit the garden in Denver so I was not going to miss out on seeing it in a warmer area. It was definitely a pretty sight and I enjoyed the assortment of fish with the Asian garden portion.
Highlight of the Trip
If you think I was not going to be in the stadium to watch my Cowboys play after going through a turbulent flight to get there, you do not know me very well! I had to remain coy about some things but I ended up surprising Jessica with a folded piece of paper with the words “We’re Going!!” on a Cowboys star. It was a great Christmas gift for her (and myself). We went to brunch earlier in the day before heading to the game, but seeing the amount of Cowboys fans at the stadium was electrifying. It truly looked black, white, and blue! The Raiders fans were great (unlike another team I know…) and it was silly banter. It was the second to last home game for them and it was a close game! The magical moment came when the Cowboys obtained victory and I was able to experience it with one of my best girls. Memories were made that I will NEVER forget. I would not trade that experience for anything. Sunday Night Football was a wonderful treat!
What I DIdn’t Get To Do
It was SO hard to keep the reason why we could not go to Napa Valley a secret. I had convinced Jessica that our schedule on Sunday was too packed to go and that it would be another expense that would not have a lot of return on investment. Now, I would not have traded being at that Cowboys game for anything, but as Sunday was our only 100% free day, we lost that time. We made up for it by indulging in wine in San Francisco, but I would love to back and experience the real thing, especially Brown Estate, a black-owned vineyard in Napa Valley.
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I also didn’t get to venture through the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I had all intentions of exploring but after being startled that the museum cost $25 and I did not have ample time to visit, I decided that it was better for me to just walk around Union Square before gearing up for the game. I didn’t want to shell out that money and rush. I’d rather enjoy the moment and I visit enough modern art museums that I was not too disappointed.
As always, when I think about the final question for “would I return” I am DEFINITELY a yes for Oakland. I would probably do a combination of Oakland and Napa Valley moreso than San Francisco. Have you ever been to the Bay Area? How was your experience? Let's chat!