The Monterey Hotel in Historic Downtown Monterey

This room was provided free of charge; all opinions are my own.

The Monterey Hotel is situated right in downtown Monterey, a stone’s throw from Fisherman’s Wharf. It is a beautiful old Victorian building that is actually part of the Monterey Historic Park, and it was a great home base for two days of exploring both Monterey and the Big Sur coastline. Here is all the information on this hotel.

Details

  • Book Here
  • Continental breakfast included
  • Parking offsite or valet for an added charge
  • Location: 407 Calle PrincipalMontereyCalifornia 93940

Getting There

Take Highway 1 to towards Monterey and exit 401A for Aguajito Road. Turn left onto Aguajito and then left on Fremont St. You will continue onto Alvarado St, and the hotel will be on the left. There is no parking lot, so you must valet or park downtown.

The Hotel

When I first saw this hotel while exploring the historic park, I loved the beautiful exterior with its Victorian charm. The inside retains that historic vibe, but with many of the modern amenities you have come to expect from upscale hotels like this.

Since we were gone most of the day exploring the area we elected to valet park each night when we got to the hotel. It is a nice experience as the car was always waiting for us when we needed it.

We booked a king room in the recently redone part of the hotel, and it was a large, spacious room complete with a bed, couch, and fireplace.

The bed was comfortable and spacious while the included couch and fireplace (activated with a light switch) made it a beautiful place to relax with a glass of wine as well.

The bathroom was large and well lit with a nice shower that got hot fast. The included continental breakfast was a great addition to the hotel experience as it had lots of pastries and fresh bagels as well as large bowls of fruit and, of course, coffee.

Once you got your food, you dined in a beautiful historic room right off the hotel lobby.

The hotel proved to be an excellent spot for exploring the Monterey area as you could easily walk to Fisherman’s Wharf for restaurants like LouLou’s Griddle in the Middle and the Old Fisherman’s Grotto.

You could drive to Cannery Row in about 5 minutes as well, which has the aquarium and which is a great place to walk around and explore the city.

The Big Sur coast was only about 25 minutes south, and Carmel is about that distance as well.

All in all, this was a great home base for our two days of exploring and fun hotel to relax at. Check it out if you are in the area and let me know what you think in the comments.

Sweet Maple: Millionaire Bacon in San Francisco

San Francisco is not hurting for good breakfast spots, but one of my favorite in the city is Sweet Maple. This unassuming eatery has what they call Millionaire Bacon and for my money, it is probably worth it. Add to that a full menu of items which includes standouts like a fresh crab benedict and you have the recipe for a fantastic, but pricey, breakfast in the city. Here is all the information.

Details

  • Cost: $15 – $20
  • Hours: 8 AM – 3 PM
  • Location: 2101 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94115

Getting There

Like everything in San Francisco, I would recommend just taking public transportation or an Uber / Lyft. There is street parking around the restaurant but it is pretty hard to come by.

The Restaurant

Sweet Maple takes up the bottom floor of an apartment building and its large with tall ceilings. The line forms to the right of the building and you can expect to wait on the weekends. On the weekdays though it is usually not a long wait so that is when I recommend you go.

The menu here is pretty massive, but you will want to select something with Millionaires Bacon, which is the famous dish here. I usually just get the two eggs, bacon and toast as that is more than enough food for me. My wife is not a meat eater though so she switches it up. Here is what we ordered.

Millionaires Bacon – look up the awards it’s won as this is a well-loved slice of meat. More like pork belly then traditional bacon, with a nice thick quarter inch cut. The slices of bacon are cooked for over 4 hours in the oven with maple syrup and spices. The bacon has the perfect mixture of sweet and spicy and practically melts in your mouth with flavor. I love that they don’t skimp on the spice as you can see the pepper seeds on the bacon and get a good burn when you eat it

Crab Benedict – A healthy portion of crab with perfectly poached egg and a wasabi cream horseradish. It tastes so fresh and there is a ton going on with all the flavors. The dish has a good wasabi taste from the cream but without the normal clear you senses wasabi spice which is good. The asparagus and lemon complete the fresh taste of the dish. It’s a pretty expensive dish at $22 but it was worth the price if you like crab.

I always enjoy my time at Sweet Maple and I would easily come here again just for the bacon. Check it out if you have a free morning in San Francisco and let me know what you think in the comments.

Dottie’s True Blue Cafe: Great Breakfast in San Francisco

When researching breakfast spots in San Francisco, no doubt you will see Dottie’s True Blue Cafe pop up time and time again. Located in a not very nice neighborhood in the Tenderloin area of San Francisco, Dotties True Blue Cafe always has a line, and it is always worth the wait. I have been a couple of times, and I will still wait for the famous whiskey fennel sausage and the grilled cornbread with jalapeño jelly. If you are visiting on a weekday, I highly recommend heading over as the wait won’t be as long, here is all the information.

Details

  • Cost: $15
  • Hours: 7:30 AM – 3 PM, Closed Tuesday and Wednesday
  • Location: 28 6th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Getting There

I would recommend taking public transportation or an Uber / Lyft to get here as there is not too much parking around and it is not a great area to park at. Luckily it is only an 8-10 minute walk from Union Square, so if you are staying at one of the hotels there, then you can easily walk.

The Restaurant

There is pretty much no spot to wait inside, so you will see the line wrap around the outside of the building. Luckily it is bigger than it looks, with a room in the back you can’t see. That being said it is usually a longer wait for parties bigger than two.

On the weekdays it usually takes about 30 minutes to wait, but on the weekends it can be an hour to an hour and a half. You can review a menu while you wait, so you know what to order by the time you sit down.

The Food

Here is what we got:

Blueberry bourbon crumb cake (daily special) – The cake had tons of flavor with a creamy but light whip cream. You get a good bourbon taste with each bite, and it pairs well with the sweet blueberries.

Black bean cakes – Served with two eggs any style and potatoes, these cakes are great with over easy eggs so you can mix the cakes, eggs, pico de gallo, and sour cream. Excellent nonmeat option since it comes with potatoes and cornbread. The cornbread is especially impressive as it has a nice flavor from the grill and the add-on jalapeño jelly takes it to the next level. The jalapeño jelly is homemade and it has an excellent sweet flavor with the taste of peppers but not the kick. I liked it a lot.

Whisky fennel scramble – The whiskey fennel sausage is one of the most popular items here. The sausage is baked in whiskey, which gives it a nice earthy taste that works well with the spinach and mushrooms. Also the eggs are super fluffy as well. Lastly, the side of potatoes has a nice rosemary, thyme spice to them. It’s above average for breakfast potatoes.

Dotties is one of those places I go back to time and time again in San Francisco, like my other favorite place in the city Brenda’s. If you are looking for a good breakfast spot then look no further. Let me know what you think when you go in the comments.

Dottie’s True Blue Cafe: Great Breakfast in San Francisco

When researching breakfast spots in San Francisco, no doubt you will see Dottie’s True Blue Cafe pop up time and time again. Located in a not very nice neighborhood in the Tenderloin area of San Francisco, Dotties True Blue Cafe always has a line, and it is always worth the wait. I have been a couple of times, and I will still wait for the famous whiskey fennel sausage and the grilled cornbread with jalapeño jelly. If you are visiting on a weekday, I highly recommend heading over as the wait won’t be as long, here is all the information.

Details

  • Cost: $15
  • Hours: 7:30 AM – 3 PM, Closed Tuesday and Wednesday
  • Location: 28 6th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Getting There

I would recommend taking public transportation or an Uber / Lyft to get here as there is not too much parking around and it is not a great area to park at. Luckily it is only an 8-10 minute walk from Union Square, so if you are staying at one of the hotels there, then you can easily walk.

The Restaurant

There is pretty much no spot to wait inside, so you will see the line wrap around the outside of the building. Luckily it is bigger than it looks, with a room in the back you can’t see. That being said it is usually a longer wait for parties bigger than two.

On the weekdays it usually takes about 30 minutes to wait, but on the weekends it can be an hour to an hour and a half. You can review a menu while you wait, so you know what to order by the time you sit down.

The Food

Here is what we got:

Blueberry bourbon crumb cake (daily special) – The cake had tons of flavor with a creamy but light whip cream. You get a good bourbon taste with each bite, and it pairs well with the sweet blueberries.

Black bean cakes – Served with two eggs any style and potatoes, these cakes are great with over easy eggs so you can mix the cakes, eggs, pico de gallo, and sour cream. Excellent nonmeat option since it comes with potatoes and cornbread. The cornbread is especially impressive as it has a nice flavor from the grill and the add-on jalapeño jelly takes it to the next level. The jalapeño jelly is homemade and it has an excellent sweet flavor with the taste of peppers but not the kick. I liked it a lot.

Whisky fennel scramble – The whiskey fennel sausage is one of the most popular items here. The sausage is baked in whiskey, which gives it a nice earthy taste that works well with the spinach and mushrooms. Also the eggs are super fluffy as well. Lastly, the side of potatoes has a nice rosemary, thyme spice to them. It’s above average for breakfast potatoes.

Dotties is one of those places I go back to time and time again in San Francisco, like my other favorite place in the city Brenda’s. If you are looking for a good breakfast spot then look no further. Let me know what you think when you go in the comments.

California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park comprises over 1,000 areas of prime real estate right in the heart of San Francisco and is a popular location to hang out at any time the weather is warm. This area also features a lot of great museums as well, with the California Academy of Sciences being one of my favorites. This museum can be pricey if you have a family of four, but it’s an entertaining spot to explore and there are a few days a year that its free if you check the website. Here is all the information.

Details

  • Cost: $30
  • Hours: Most days – 9 AM – 5 PM
  • Location: 55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118

Getting There

Golden Gate Park is on the west side of San Francisco, and you can get there easily via public transit or Uber/Lyft. You can also drive in, and there is usually parking as long as it is not the weekend in the summer. There is parking in the Music Concourse Parking Area as well.

The Museum

The California Academy of Sciences is one large rectangular building with a few floors and a couple of main attractions.

Rainforest Dome

By far the most popular is the rainforest dome, and it’s easy to see why.

The dome features a circular pathway that you walk and that gives you access to many different types of plant and animal life.

As you near the top you will be able to look down through the rainforest and see the giant fish swimming below you.

Also, near the top is where all of the butterflies are. They usually fly all around you, and if you’re lucky, they might even land on you.

This is an entertaining area to spend some time and just watch the butterflies doing their thing. When you are done, you can hop in the elevator and take it all the way down to the aquarium level below the main floor.

Aquarium

This level houses some pretty impressive aquatic exhibits, with lots of different types of fish and other sea life.

There is even a large glass tunnel that you can walk through and that allows you to look up at the massive sharks and turtles going by. Inside there are more aquariums to see before heading back up to the main floor.

Swamp

From the staircase, you can see the museum famous albino alligator who usually is just sitting on the rock in the middle of the exhibit. I had never seen one before, so it was a pretty unique experience.

Planetarium

The other main exhibit is a planetarium which displays the universe in a 75-foot dome.

Depending on when you visit there will be other exhibits on display as well. Some of these are the earthquakes exhibit and the colors of life exhibit.

Be sure to stop in and see the penguins before leaving; you can even watch them on the webcam here.

During the Christmas season, the museum also has an ice rink that kids can partake in as well as an exhibit on arctic animals.

Lastly, there is a snowman theater that talks about snowflakes, and if you are lucky, it might snow on you while you are there as well.

As you can see, this is a pretty impressive museum to explore in San Francisco. My wife and I enjoyed our time here, and I plan to go back again the future to see more of the things I missed.

Walt Disney Family Museum In San Francisco’s Presidio

Situated right in the middle of San Francisco’s historic Presidio, the Walt Disney Family Museum spotlights the legacy of Walt Disney and the company that he created. Since it opened in 2009, the museum has been drawing Disney and history fans for almost a decade, and I finally got a chance to check it out in late 2017. While I didn’t have as long as I would have liked here (you need a half day to read it all and watch the videos), I still enjoyed learning more about the famous Walt Disney. Here is all the information.

Details

  • Cost: $20 – $25
  • Hours: 10 AM – 6 PM, closed Tuesdays
  • Location: 104 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94129

Getting There

The museum’s located in the Presidio, and it is easiest to get there via public transit or Lyft / Uber. If you are driving, there is often parking along the street outside of the museum though.

The Museum

The Walt Disney Family Museum is two main floors full of information on Walt Disney and the Disney Company.

It starts with his parents and his birth and takes you through all the way to his death (the last room). Along the way, there are many different interactive exhibits. Here are a few.

The first exhibit to spotlight is the area that talks about how he got into drawing and some of his early cartoons.

Moving on, there is an exhibit about one of the first famous Disney movies, Steamboat Willie.

In the next room, it starts to talk about the animation companies he created and how the first Disney movie, Snow White, was predicted to be a colossal flop. There are even quotes on the walls stating, “who would want to watch an hour and a half cartoon.”

Of course, the movie went on to be a hit and one of the top ten films of 1938 in the New York Times.

The exhibits continue with lots of videos and audio about the movies and the process to create them. There is even an actual two-story camera they used to create the animation.

In the last room is my favorite exhibit, a full replica of Disneyland.

Installed right in the middle of the room, the replica is situated so you can walk all around it and see it from different heights. It’s especially fun if you grew up visiting Disneyland since you know the spots by heart.

During the holidays, there is also a “Home for the Holiday’s” exhibit that features a replica of Walt Disney’s home and a miniature train set that goes around the outside. It is a fun, quick stop before leaving the museum.

Even though it is a little pricey, I enjoyed my time at the Walt Disney Family Museum. It’s a great way to learn more about Walt and the iconic company. Be sure to check it out next time you are in the city and let me know what you think in the comments.

Walt Disney Family Museum In San Francisco’s Presidio

Situated right in the middle of San Francisco’s historic Presidio, the Walt Disney Family Museum spotlights the legacy of Walt Disney and the company that he created. Since it opened in 2009, the museum has been drawing Disney and history fans for almost a decade, and I finally got a chance to check it out in late 2017. While I didn’t have as long as I would have liked here (you need a half day to read it all and watch the videos), I still enjoyed learning more about the famous Walt Disney. Here is all the information.

Details

  • Cost: $20 – $25
  • Hours: 10 AM – 6 PM, closed Tuesdays
  • Location: 104 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94129

Getting There

The museum’s located in the Presidio, and it is easiest to get there via public transit or Lyft / Uber. If you are driving, there is often parking along the street outside of the museum though.

The Museum

The Walt Disney Family Museum is two main floors full of information on Walt Disney and the Disney Company.

It starts with his parents and his birth and takes you through all the way to his death (the last room). Along the way, there are many different interactive exhibits. Here are a few.

The first exhibit to spotlight is the area that talks about how he got into drawing and some of his early cartoons.

Moving on, there is an exhibit about one of the first famous Disney movies, Steamboat Willie.

In the next room, it starts to talk about the animation companies he created and how the first Disney movie, Snow White, was predicted to be a colossal flop. There are even quotes on the walls stating, “who would want to watch an hour and a half cartoon.”

Of course, the movie went on to be a hit and one of the top ten films of 1938 in the New York Times.

The exhibits continue with lots of videos and audio about the movies and the process to create them. There is even an actual two-story camera they used to create the animation.

In the last room is my favorite exhibit, a full replica of Disneyland.

Installed right in the middle of the room, the replica is situated so you can walk all around it and see it from different heights. It’s especially fun if you grew up visiting Disneyland since you know the spots by heart.

During the holidays, there is also a “Home for the Holiday’s” exhibit that features a replica of Walt Disney’s home and a miniature train set that goes around the outside. It is a fun, quick stop before leaving the museum.

Even though it is a little pricey, I enjoyed my time at the Walt Disney Family Museum. It’s a great way to learn more about Walt and the iconic company. Be sure to check it out next time you are in the city and let me know what you think in the comments.

Musee Mécanique – Mechanical Quarter Machines in Fishermans Wharf

Fishermans Wharf is a great spot to hang out and explore while visiting San Francisco. I can often be found in the Boudin or walking the streets looking for the best cioppino, but on a recent trip I stumbled into the Musee Mécanique, and my future trips to the area will never be the same. Musee Mécanique is a collection of over 50 old quarter machines that do everything from making a fake chicken dance to letting you shoot a little gun at targets. These historic devices are a ton of fun to see, and most of them only cost a quarter so the whole family can have a good time for cheap here. Read on for all the information.

Details

  • Machine range from a quarter to a dollar.
  • Hours: 10 AM – 8 PM
  • Location: San Francisco Pier 41, San Francisco, CA 94133

Getting There

In San Francisco, I always recommend public transportation. You can even ride the cable cars down to the Fisherman’s Wharf area if you want. If you do drive, there is a large parking lot right across the street next to the Boudin, but it can be expensive.

The Museum

Upon entering the large building, you will see arcade machines lining both walls.

I recommend heading to the change machine first and turning your dollars into a few handfuls of quarters.

From there you will just want to explore and try out a bunch of the machines. There is everything from a puppet guillotine performance to a mechanical horse and a genie that tells you your future.

I can’t stress how many of these awesome machines they have here.

The one that seems to be one of the most popular is laughing Sal, which has a sign that says “One of San Francisco’s most nostalgic landmarks, originally located at Playland at the Beach from 1940 to 1972… it has made us smile and/or terrified children for over fifty years.” I have to admit I was creeped out by this massive animatronic woman laughing at me, but it was still fun to see.

As you can no doubt tell, I loved exploring this spot. If you grew up with these machines, I am sure you will be excited to see them again, but for the younger kids in the audience, grab some quarters and see what these fun devices have in store for you.

Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco

Every year, from the end of November to the middle of December, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair descends on the Cow Palace Exhibition Hall, south of San Francisco. This event is a ton of fun for the whole family as the hall transforms into mid-1800s London, complete with shops, bars, entertainment, and performers. It’s something you want to experience yourself at least once, here is all the information.

Details

  • Tickets – $30 for adults
  • Hours – 10 AM – 7 PM
  • Only on the weekends  (Nov 18 – Dec 17)
  • Location – 2600 Geneva Ave, Daly City, CA 94014

Getting There

There is a large parking lot for Cow Palace Exhibition Hall, so if you drive a car that is what most people use. It does cost $10 though. You can also take the BART which runs to a stop relatively close and which they shuttle from to the event.

The Fair

Before going, I thought this was going to be a pretty cheesy experience, but from the moment I walked into “London” I had a blast walking the streets, trying new food and just exploring.

It was bustling with life when we were there, including visitors like ourselves, actors dressed to play different parts, and people who wore the Victorian attire on their own to engage with the event.

We got there right when it opened, which was nice as it let us have some time to explore without all the crowds, at about an hour after they opened it was pretty busy.

The event is broken down into two broad areas with shops, restaurants, and performances, then a docks section that separates the two and that has musicians singing old sailor songs. Here are a few of the things we did here.

Play Carnival Games

They have fun carnival games to play such as darts and the one we played, which was a contraption that allowed you to launch a ragdoll towards chimneys. I got one in the chimney and won a prize, which turned out to be a snowman finger puppet. It was fun.

Drink Buttered Rum

All of the bars seem to sell the famous buttered rum, and since I hadn’t drank it before I decided to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised, both my wife and I enjoyed the drink and are already thinking about making our own.

Check out a Performance

While you walk the streets, you will see musicians, singers, and plays being performed all around you.

We went to a few of them, but my favorite was the musicians playing music in one of the bars we passed by.

Walk the Streets

The best thing to do though is just to walk the streets, stick your head in some of the shops and interact with the people.

Let yourself relax and just fall into the fun of it all; it really is a great way to spend a half day, especially during the Christmas season. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

Westin St. Francis in San Francisco’s Union Square

Disclosure: This stay was provided free of charge, all opinions are my own.

The Westin St. Francis is a historic hotel in the heart of San Francisco’s Union Square that has the fun historic charm with all of the modern amenities you have come to expect from luxury hotels. I got a chance to spend two days there while exploring the city and looking for fun Christmas activities and I loved the great location right in the middle of the city and the fact that so many of San Francisco’s most popular attractions were located nearby. Here is all the information so you can check it out as well.

Details

  • Hotel website
  • Location: 335 Powell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Getting There

If you are flying into SFO for a long weekend, then I would recommend not renting a car and just taking the BART from the airport. The hotel is located about 7 minutes walk from the Powell St BART station which makes getting there convenient. If you drive, you can park at the hotel but it is an extra $60 per day I believe. Plus it is hard to drive in San Francisco, and parking is pretty much always expensive, so public transit / Uber is a great option.

The Hotel

The Westin St Francis was built in the early 1900’s and has a storied history in San Francisco. I was shocked to learn that one of my favorite photographers, Ansel Adams, even photographed the restaurant for them in the mid-1900’s.

The hotel has been expanded since then, and there is a second tower that sits behind the original building and houses 32 floors of rooms.

We visited during December, during which the hotel has two beautiful sugar castles which are a sight to behold.

The lobby is always packed with people coming in to see them, and I enjoyed being able to walk by them on the way in/out of the hotel during my stay as they are truely majestic.

There was a Sweet Shoppe open in the lobby during the weekends in December as well. It had cookies, macaroons and other treats for sale.

The lobby also holds The Clock Bar, which is the modern hotel bar that has all sorts of fun, movie-inspired drinks. We got a late drink here one night (I recommend the “Dirty Harry”) and the tuna poke appetizer, both were excellent and the bar had a relaxed atmosphere, even during the busy Christmas rush.

The Rooms

We stayed in the Deluxe King City View room in the new tower. It was on the 22nd floor, and one the best things about this hotel was the elevator which is glass and looks out over the city as you go up.

Our room was spacious with a large king bed, a desk, two chairs and a small table.

It also had a great view of the city since we were at a high vantage point.

The bathroom was also nice with a granite shower/bath and ample counter space near the sink.

The hotel had tons of amenities including providing workout clothing to use while at the hotel if you didn’t bring your own. They also allowed you to connect to your Netflix account in the room which made for a nice relaxing night after exploring. Honestly, I loved my time at the Westin St Francis in San Francisco. I have already recommended it to multiple people due to its historic charm and its great location in the city. Check it out, especially during the holidays, and let me know what you think in the comments. You can also find more spots to explore in San Francisco here.