Thursday, August 17, 2017

Bright pleats





OUTFIT DETAILS:
Activity: Meeting for worship

Blazer: Ann Taylor (similar - on sale!)
Dress: Banana Republic, thrifted (similar)
Shoes: BCBG "Parade", via ebay (exact style in current colors, similar color)
Bag: thrifted (similar)
Watch: Apple, gift (exact - on sale right now!)
Earrings: Renegade Craft Fair, Chicago (similar)

After a few neutral posts, here's a bright one!  We had a week or more of gray weather here in San Francisco, so it was time to pull out the bright dress.  It's amazing how color can cheer you up!  (It also doesn't hurt when said dress is as comfortable as a nightgown, but looks better...)

Here are some similar options, if you like this look:  
(If you like anything, act fast, as many things are only available in limited sizes now due to the change of season sales, I had to search to find these items!)

Dress:

Jacket:

Bag:

Shoes:


Monday, August 14, 2017

Summer simple






OUTFIT DETAILS:
Activity: Meeting for worship

Top: Merona, thrifted (similar)
Skirt: thrifted (similar)
Shoes: Mossimo, thrifted (similar, similar)
Bag: thrifted (similar)
Necklace: sterling silver collar, thrifted (similar) chunky beaded necklace (I made it) (similar)
Bracelet: gift (similar)
Watch: Apple, gift (exact)
Lip: ColourPop ultra matte lip, Mars (exact)

I was recently looking over some of my old blog posts, and I'm amazed how much less color I'm using lately.  But, somehow it just seems right.  In any case, I've always liked the idea of basic summer items (like a simple crewneck top and eyelet skirt) in neutrals.  It's such a classic look that never looks dated.  Adding the bright lip added just enough interest to this neutral look.

Don't worry, though, I haven't gotten rid of all my bright clothing, it's just waiting for the right day...  Maybe tomorrow!

How do you feel about color these days?  All neutral or all color, or some of each?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

My friend said I should blog this outfit... ;)









OUTFIT DETAILS:

Occasion (worn as shown in first photo): Volunteer ministry work (involving walking, hence the flats and cross-body bag)

Dress: via eBay (similar)
Jacket: Old Navy (similar)
Belt: Gap (similar)
Sandals: Tod's, thrifted (similar)
Flats: Crown Vintage via DSW (similar)
Basket bag: thrifted (similar)
Crossbody bag: Linea Pelle, thrifted (similar)
Watch: Michael Kors via ebay (similar)
Earrings: Ann Taylor (exact in red, similar in black)
Lipstick: NYX soft matte lip cream in Milan (exact)

Some of my California friends have recently discovered that I have a blog via my blog Instagram account (@joannasdesign - I haven't figured out how to link it directly from my blog home page yet...).  I find this slightly embarrassing, because I always feel a little vain taking and posting photos of myself, something I have always avoided in my personal social media accounts - and, being honest, since I'm way older than social media, something I've avoided since well, forever.  I just never took pictures of myself, or at least, very rarely.  I was famous for complaining about people who always had to stand in front of the famous tourist attractions and take a photo.  To me, the photo should be about the attraction, not about me.  My artistic integrity was offended.  (Yes, I was super fun to be around in my late teens). 

I once went on a 3000 mile road trip with 3 other girls across at least 5 states, and I was the main photographer.  We passed through all kinds of picturesque sights, things that none of us had ever seen before, and in some cases, haven't seen again. We took enough pictures that it took $60 each to develop and print each person's set of photos (yes, again, I am older than dinosaurs).  I suppose it was about 6 rolls of film? maybe more? I only remember the amount we paid, not the number of rolls we developed - but guess how many pictures had people in them? Maybe 10.  Out of like 200 prints.  I'm pretty sure my friends were a little miffed that they paid all that money for prints of mostly scenery (not that I forced them too, they wanted them - remember this was back in the day when you couldn't see your photos until they were printed, so they had no idea what pictures I had taken).  But not me.  I was thrilled that I had so many scenic shots, shots not ruined by people standing in front of them.  

More than twenty years later, the pictures from that trip that I enjoy looking at most are primarily those few shots with people in them.  Live and learn, right? (I am also much more fun to be around now, I promise you.)  Although I don't think a world of only selfies is a good one, it's all about the balance.

So a reeeeeally long story later, here's the point.  My friend has discovered my blog, and this morning told me I should blog the outfit I was wearing.  (I love you, Evy!) I had considered it, but since I blogged a similar outfit using this dress in the past (here), I was going to skip it this time.  But, although I don't blog every outfit I wear in life here (mostly because I just don't get a chance to take photos), I do like the idea of being more true to life with OOTD-type photos, versus planned outfits taken only for blog photos, which so many fashion blogs seem to be becoming.  They are still beautiful (far more so than my blog will ever be), but really seem fake to me.  It's also really not useful to me in my daily struggle to get dressed, which was the initial reason I even started reading fashion blogs in the first place.  So, if you like this outfit post, thank my friend Evy.  

By the way, since most of you probably don't live in a place where you need a coat layer in August, I added the additional photos of the dress unlayered, with sandals, as would be appropriate for the season.  I was also thinking that the differences in these outfits show 2 possibilities: 1) how to transition this dress to fall, and 2) how versatile a dress like this can be when traveling.  Change out the flats and cross-body bag after sightseeing all day and you're ready for an evening out!

Out of curiosity, why do you read fashion blogs?  I'd love to hear!

Here are some similar outfit options for you:

Dress:



Bag:


Belt:



Sandals:



Jacket:


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Combining old and new








OUTFIT DETAILS:
Activity: Worn all day for errands, swim lesson dropoff, working at home (in fact, this was taken after all of that, hence the shirt wrinkles... #reallife)

Top: Forever 21 (similar)
Jeans: LOFT, DIY cropped and frayed hem (similar in sizes 1-12, similar in sizes above 12)
Sandals: Dolce Vita, thrifted (similar)
Bag: thrifted (similar)
Earrings: ebay (similar)
Watch: Apple, gift (exact)

This isn't the type of outfit I usually feel is "worthy" of photographing, but then I decided it was a good representation of a real life outfit that was comfortable and versatile, but also one where I tried (at least a little).  You know what I mean, right?  It's so easy to save tops like this for a somewhat special occasion - going to lunch, a summer day in the city, a weekend away - but then cute, on-trend items like this only get worn once or twice before their time in the sun has passed.  

So, I decided to try wearing this top on a "regular" summer weekday, where I had to grocery shop, take my kid to swimming lessons, run errands, do my regular crapload of dishes and cook 3 meals.  My only complaint?  I don't have a strapless bra that I can wear for more than a couple of hours, so having to check and pull my bra straps back under the elastic of the shoulder was annoying, to say the least. But, it wasn't as bad as I expected, and I'm happy to start using the "good china", fashion wise (see this blogger's post on why you should just wear your "nice" clothes daily instead of saving them for a special occasion.  Since most of my clothes, especially tops, cost under $30 (heck, most of them are under $10, since they almost all come from Goodwill), it's silly for me to save them for some opportunity which may never materialize.  Plus, in reality, most of my clothes are purged from my closet, not for wear, but because I've moved on, style-wise.  I hardly ever wear out my clothes- and I'll bet you don't either!  (None of us are 6-year-old boys, who somehow manage to rip every single pair of pants almost instantaneously.)  So why am I guarding these thrifted items as if it'll be the end of the world if they get stained or worn out?  If I don't wear them out, they're just going to get donated in a while anyway.  I still have to remind myself of this regularly, as I get usually get home and instantly change into my "house clothes" so I don't ruin my "good clothes", but I'm trying!

Here are some more options you can try, as you wear the "good stuff":

Top:


Jeans:


Sandals:

Bag:

Earrings:

Friday, August 4, 2017

Trying a kimono robe layer...






OUTFIT DETAILS:
Activity: Meeting for worship

Kimono: Josie by Natori via ebay (similar)
Tank: Nordstrom Rack (similar)
Skirt: thrifted (similar)
Shoes: Merona, thrifted (similar)
Bracelet: gift (similar)
Earrings: similar sterling silver hoops
Bag: Ann Taylor, thrifted (similar)

Hair: On its own cycle of craziness - I tried to rein it in and failed...

Here's my shameful secret: I got this robe to use as a robe.  But, with the long kimono sleeves (which I didn't realize it possessed, based on the limited listing photos), it's pretty impractical, at least for someone like me who drags even small robe sleeves in the gas stovetop flame while making eggs in the morning. Flaming sleeves, regardless how cute, really don't appeal to me, so I thought I might be brave enough to try to wear it as a summer layer.  It seems like the "robe layer" styles being worn now are primary florals, and mostly longer, but this seemed to have potential, since it does have some flowers, and seeing as how at my height, I will probably never wear a long robe length layer.  Shorter length would have to do.

It took a while to get up the nerve.  I had initially seen myself wearing it with jeans and sandals, as a fun, casual going-out outfit, but well, I don't go out that much, and it just sat in the closet.  (Large sleeves aren't really practical playing at the park with a six year old, nor partaking in most other small-child- friendly activities.)  So, one Sunday, I decided to see if I could make it appropriate for a dressier, decidedly non-sexy occasion.  

As I attempted this outfit (which I still haven't yet decided is a pass or fail - it's definitely not my favorite outfit ever), I learned several things.  First, with a layer this bold, everything else has to be really simple.  So I went with really minimalist, simple silver jewelry and a sleek satchel bag.  And kept the skirt and top just basic black and white and more fitted to offset the crazy large robe and sleeves.  I thought of wearing my emerald green skirt, but it was just too much color, at least for that occasion.  I also stayed away from stiletto heels, as possibly adding too much sensuality for the occasion.  I thought these wedges toned that element down (plus they're so much more comfortable than stilettos!).  When you are literally wearing a bedtime item for a dressy, daytime event, you don't want anything else in your outfit to reflect the bedroom.

So there you have it.  My big, bold (ha - only for me!) foray into the fashion world of trying a robe as a top layer.  

I'd love to see if you've tried it!  Leave a photo or blog post link below!

Here are some similar outfit items you can try for summer:



And here are a few interesting options for fall:

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Put a sash on it....








OUTFIT DETAILS:
Blazer: Gap via ebay (similar)
Tee: H&M (similar)
Sash: Refashioned by me using two thrifted men's neckties (one sash option - there isn't anything similar unless you refashion your own...)
Skirt: Merona, thrifted (similar)
Bag: thrifted (similar)
Shoes: Franco Sarto via DSW (similar)
Watch: MVMT (exact in current band color)
Earrings: craft fair in Chicago (similar)

This is a good example of one of my favorite types of outfits - it's not really on trend, but since every component is pretty much a classic item, it can't really ever be called out-of-date either.  So many of my outfits recently have involved a recently purchased thrifted item, and it can be fun having that "new item feeling", it's obviously not sustainable, nor would I want it to be.  This was an example of shopping my own closet, remembering this sash I made several years ago, and figuring out which proportions worked well with it.  If I remember right (I created this outfit several weeks ago, but wasn't able to photograph it, so I took a photo when I happily rewore the outfit last week), it took a couple of blazers to get the look right, and I think I had a belt with this skirt before I remembered the sash.  It's an outfit I would have never gotten to without the last-minute inspiration and substitutions, which is another of my favorite kinds of outfits!  I really admire those individuals who can plan out every detail of their outfit ahead of time, but I tend to be one who finds my most original outfit ideas with an under-the-wire brain fashion flash.

What's your fashion modus operandi? Preplanned greatness or last minute inspiration?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Nineties style






OUTFIT DETAILS:
Activity: Volunteer teaching session, errands

Dress: Gap, thrifted (similar)
Top: H&M (similar)
Earrings: Ann Taylor, 40% clearance price this week in store (exact)
Watch: Apple, gift (exact)
Bag: thrifted (similar)
Shoes: Steve Madden via DSW (similar)

I've been planning this outfit for a while.  As soon as I saw this dress at Goodwill, I knew it was destined to be paired, nineties-style, with a white tee.  (Technically I need a crewneck tee with this dress, rather than a scoopneck, but I worked with what I had- here's a better tee for layering with a slip dress, if you want to try the look - size down for a close fit under the dress.)

Consider this a throwback Thursday post, since I wore this last Thursday - this week I've been needing many more layers, so I'm enjoying the look back myself....

Here are some alternative options if you're feeling the slip dress vibe...:


Friday, June 23, 2017

Summer days





OUTFIT DETAILS:
Activity: Errands, family movie date (Cars 3 for Gavin!)

Top: WhoWhatWear via Target, last year (similarsimilar with short sleeves)
Pants: LOFT, this spring (similar)
Earrings: Ann Taylor, in store this week - on super sale in store! (exact)
Watch: Apple, gift (exact)
Bag: thrifted (similar)
Shoes: thrifted (similar)

For me, summer arrived this week.  Right after Gavin finished school in early June, we left for an East Coast vacation.  It was 94 degrees in New York City, so you'd think that would have started summer for me, and as far as weather goes, it did, but for the relaxed summer feeling, this week marks the beginning.  That lovely feeling of long, sometimes even lazy days.  In reality, summer isn't that much less busy than other seasons, but there's an element of promise that begins anew each morning which I treasure. So this outfit celebrates that summer day feeling.  It fit my mood perfectly, which is one of my favorite things about fashion.  On a more frivolous note, it allowed me to wear my new earrings...

Happy summer to you! 

Here are some more adorable summer accessory shopping options for you:

EARRINGS:

SANDALS:

BAGS:

Friday, June 9, 2017

7 travel tips for visiting San Francisco in the "summer"



I'm sure there are plenty of SF travel posts, but many are written by native residents of the area.  That can be good, except that natives don't know what's confusing about their own city, because it's normal to them!  My family came here 2 years ago from the Midwest, so we are very aware of the unusual things (great and not so good and just quirky) about the area.  Here's some things I wish I had known when we first got here, and some of my favorite spots to visit - it's a great city, enjoy!

HOW TO DRESS (specifically in "summer" months of June-August):

1. Layers.  It's usually cool in the morning and evening, or when a fog or wind blows in.  Always carry a packable large scarf to drape around your neck and/or shoulders.  I would also recommend carrying a very thin merino wool layer - I prefer a cardigan - that you can stuff in your bag when it warms up.  Normally a cotton cardigan works for most places in the summer, but not in San Francisco.  Let me be clear, you will only need that wool layer in the city, not once you leave "West Bay" (the San Francisco peninsula part of the Bay Area) -  when you travel to Berkeley and Oakland ("East Bay"), Napa, Sonoma, Sacramento, LA, you will not need that layer.  In Marin County ("North Bay), once you cross the Golden Gate bridge the weather usually immediately clears and warms, but near the bridge it's not as warm as up toward Napa and Sonoma.  So, I highly recommend that light wool sweater (or a hoody would do) as an extra layer (like under your denim jacket and over your top) to survive SF in the "summer".  Or, you can pay for an overpriced sweatshirt down on Fisherman's Wharf, like I did during my first visit.  If you actually want a SF sweater, great, buy one here, otherwise bring one or there's a good chance you'll have to buy whatever is available wherever you happen to be shivering.  (Or, if you don't have a store near where you live, visit the Uniqlo store at Union Square or Stonestown Mall and buy one of their packable light coats or other well-designed layers you can wear back home, too. They sell them all year round because we need them all year round - smart merchandising plan, right?).  You may hit a gorgeous, sunny 70 degree day (which all the San Franciscans will think is really hot) during your trip, but even so, it will be cool in the morning and evening, and it's doubtful you'll get much of that weather during June-August (the warmest, sunniest days in SF tend to come in September and October).  However, there are often windows of warm, sunny weather within the day, depending where you are in the city, so having a short-sleeve base layer on means you're ready for whatever highs or lows the day brings.  Being prepared means you can enjoy the cool refreshing fog, or the warm sunny air, whichever (or both) you may encounter.

2. Comfortable shoes.  You will probably be walking quite a bit, probably up some hills.  Women here wear cute but practical shoes, for the most part.  Since sneakers are fashionable, just save yourself some drama and wear them with a cute dress (and your layers!).  Or this is the perfect spot to actually wear those cute shorts and ankle booties outfits you saw on Instagram without sweating your feet off (though your legs will be cold at times...)  You can wear sandals, but you might be chilly at times, especially in the morning and evening....

3. Not shorts.  Pants or a maxi skirt are good options for wearing all day - through the cool morning, warm afternoon, and cool evening.  Shorts are not your best choice unless you hit a really warm spell, or you're really warm-blooded.  Or add a warm top layer (like a long breezy open sweater) and some boots to your shorts.

4. Bring a tote bag (or foldable bags).  You pay 25 cents for every store bag in the Bay Area, and 10 cents for even a plastic bag to carry your takeout food.  I prefer to just use my reusable folding bag, or stash smaller things in my tote.  Up to you.  However, check out the fun Daiso Japan store at 570 Market (just past Montgomery St, very close to your Uniqlo stop at Union Square) to find lots of fun reusable bag options you can buy and use later (almost everything in the store is only $1.50), as well as other fun gift items.  Everything is from Japan, so it's not items you'll find at your local dollar store, and some things are so cute!  I love their little makeup bags and travel bottle sets, plus they have adorable little fabric gift bags to wrap your gifts (my favorite looked like a little pink fish for my niece).  It's a fun store to check out, and a great place for kids to spend a little of their trip money and be able to get a few things, not just one.  

5. GETTING AROUND:

If you want the cable car experience, you can pick up cable cars at Market and Drumm streets near the Ferry Building, and there isn't usually a line.  The cable car stop at Hyde and Beach streets (near Pier 41) always has a line.  There's also a stop right above Powell Street BART Station, at Powell and Market streets.  That one also often has a line, too, though.  Be aware, it's $7 each trip, it's not your usual Muni $2.50 bus or streetcar fare.

While we're at it, do you know the difference between BART and Muni?  You should, at least if you plan to take any public transportation while you visit the area.  BART is a mostly underground train system that runs in the whole region (it stands for Bay Area Regional Transportation)- it goes to many stops in the Bay area - from the San Francisco airport down in South SF, under the Bay to Oakland and to many other East and West Bay destinations.  Muni is the San Francisco city transportation, mostly buses and streetcars, but includes some cable cars.  If you're in a downtown BART station that has entrances to both BART and Muni, make sure you know which you're taking and follow the signage.  Muni has letters as streetcar route names and is usually on the middle level of the station, BART lists their trains by the last stop name and is on the lower level.  Signage for BART is blue, Muni signage is red.  Employees from each system are completely separate - the little station offices are well marked "BART ONLY" or "MUNI ONLY", so don't torture the poor Muni employees if you're riding BART, or vice versa.  When you're buying your train ticket at the automated machines along the station entrance walls, pay attention to the blue BART machines or red Muni machines.  The payment cards are different, unless you get a Clipper card, which works for both BART and Muni (only available to buy in person at certain BART station and other locations, probably not worth it if you're only in SF for a short visit. although Muni rides are only $2.25 instead of $2.50 with a clipper card vs. a limited use ticket or cash fare).

Which one will you want?  If you're going from the airport to any downtown destination, or from downtown to the "Mission District" (around the 16th and Mission station) you'll want BART, it's the fastest and best for that (although a hair pricier, usually at least $3 a ride, depending on how far you go, while Muni is only $2.50 a ride - $2.75 after 7/1/17).  But, if you look at at the BART system map, you'll see that the train stops are mostly in the east of the city.  Perfect to get to Chinatown, Embarcadero, Ferry Building, Union Square, Market Street.  But if you want to get to areas more West of the city - Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, Presidio, Pier 41, Fisherman's Wharf, you'll want to use Muni.  Or, be ready to walk, a long way, from the nearest BART station to your destination.  Transfers on Muni are free for up to a half-hour after you punch your card on one bus, or for several hours if you get the paper transfer slip.  The fun renovated classic trolleys are part of the Muni system, too, and cost the same as a regular MUNI ticket.  The transfers for the trolleys and buses are interchangeable, you shouldn't need to pay again if you take a bus and a trolley if you're within the time on your transfer slip (more on the trolleys in the Fisherman's Wharf section below).

Oh, one last hint about using BART.  It's not like some big cities, where you can just buy one Metro card, load it up with some money and put it through once for each person, then again for the next person.  Each individual has to have their own card.  This is because the fare is determined by how far you go, it's not a set fare for all rides.  So be sure you punch in and out each time you enter and leave BART, even if the gate is broken or something, because if you don't punch out, you'll end up getting charged more than your actual trip was, and you might not be able to use your card again until you talk to a station agent.  (All of this is our free advice to you, based on our actual dumb adventures in stupidity when we first got to SF.)

6. BATHROOM TIPS:

There are no public bathrooms here.  Even the supposedly public ones in very busy public areas usually need a code.  It's ridiculous.  Okay, to be fair there are a few little free standing, self-cleaning single stall bathroom buildings around (at Market and Powell, up by Twin Peaks, and some other popular locations), but there is often a line, and it takes time between each person to run through the cleaning process, so the line takes longer than an average bathroom line.  Don't wait until you're dying to pee...  Plus sometimes people take a really long time in those.  Some Starbucks are busy enough that you can dash in to use a bathroom without a purchase, but there is usually a bathroom code you'll need to open the door, and many Starbucks locations on Market St don't even have bathrooms.  There are no bathrooms in any downtown BART stations.  I know.  It sucks.  Just be ready to buy something to use a bathroom, and don't wait until you (or your kids) are desperate, because it may not be fast to get to a bathroom.  And always ask for the bathroom code when you're making your purchase so you'll be ready when you get to the bathroom.  (I know some secret spots where you can usually get in without a code or a purchase, so if you're headed to SF, feel free to email me at joannasdesign@gmail.com and I'll send you some tips.)  

7. DON'T MISS SIGHTS:

Obviously this is up for debate, and people have different opinions.  These are the things I make sure to show my guests - bonus, most of them are free.  They're not in order of importance, but loosely grouped by location, kind of running in a circle from Golden Gate bridge east into the city, then west to Ocean Beach and back toward the bridge.


Golden Gate bridge

Golden Gate Bridge.  You can't miss this, right?  The parking situation here actually isn't horrible, there is a parking ramp on the San Francisco side of the bridge that only charges something like $7 for a whole day, so if you are driving, you could stop here without major hassles. You can get also great photos from across the bay in Marin County where there is a tourist area with free parking (which sometimes fills up, but parking opens up regularly as people come and go).  You can also rent bikes down on the Wharf and ride to the bridge. It could be pleasant on a nice day, but there are always lots of pedestrians, and usually only one side of the bridge is open for bikes/walkers (at least on weekdays, I'm not sure about weekends), so it can get really congested.  There are also trails along the water near the bridge, though.  We plan to bike down there sometime.  And the Presidio is right around here - a pretty area without a ton of traffic.  On a nice day, biking in the Presidio could be a lot of fun.  There is a Walt Disney Museum there, also, and it is near the Palace of Fine Arts and the Marina district.  Right in the heart of the Presidio is Lucas Films headquarters (at 1 Letterman Drive, if you want directions), where there is a pretty campus with various Star Wars themed statues for photo ops.  There's a quite nice Starbucks in this office campus (you can walk around in the outside areas), and behind that Starbucks toward the Palace of Fine Arts is a gorgeous garden where you could sit and enjoy your hot or cool drinks.  From there it's a very quick walk over the to Palace of Fine Arts - you should be able to see the rooftop from there to see how to get there, or use Google Maps for the walking path.
The view from the Marin County side of the Bridge
Palace of Fine Arts






(Fisherman's Wharf/Pier 41). Many people like this area, and if you like touristy shopping areas and overpriced medium quality food, feel free to go.  I personally don't like this area and only take guests if they really want to go.  If you do go, it's fun to take the F-Market trolley from the Embarcadero BART station or from the Ferry Building.  They are cool vintage trolley cars that run just between the Wharf and the Castro (where there is actually good, regular priced food to eat, and very San Francisco sights to see).  Don't plan on parking nearby unless you like paying lots of money.  A great place to get well-priced food is to hit the McCormick and Kuleto's restaurant happy hour between 3-6 pm in the Ghiradelli Square building.  (There's also a Ghiradelli chocolate shop there, too, obviously...  Some swear by their chocolate sundaes.)  Otherwise there is a Chipotle along Jefferson Street, right near the Maritime Museum.  (Obviously this section reflects my bias.  I don't like the restaurants along here.  They may have been here a long time, but in my experience they now cater only to tourists and aren't very good for the price since they aren't really trying for repeat business.  I'd prefer to eat in the Mission District - more on that later.)  This is the area to go for boat tours.  The best one actually stops on Alcatraz Island, most of them just go around it.  Make sure to make reservations (alcatrazcruises.com)- maybe even before the trip, as that particular trip fills up fast.  If you just want to ride a boat around the bay, there are plenty of options available at any time.  This is also where you can rent bikes or little go-cart like cars that give audio tours as you drive them.
The view from Alcatraz

Exploratorium.  Pier 15 not far from the Ferry Building.  A pretty cool museum for adults and kids.  Hard to explain, but basically science and engineering based, with lots of touchable exhibits.  Not something I've ever seen anywhere else. ($30 adults, $25 seniors and teens, $20 kids, 3 and under free)

Ferry Building. Beautiful spot for photos of the Bay, and you can pick up a ferry,  which will drop you right at a fun little shopping/restaurant area in Oakland called Jack London Square.  There is also a daily Farmer's Market outside the Ferry Building and lots of artisanal "foodie" food shops and restaurants inside.  Blue Bottle Coffee is a SF classic.  Big burgers and sandwiches at a reasonable price can be found at Gott's Roadside (great to feed a family or teens, plus it looked like they had good beer options? I'm not a good one to ask about that, but I remember noticing the options.).  Acme Bread is really good (my SF native friends love it), and you can buy just a bun if you just want a little snack, or a whole loaf of delicious SF sourdough.  Cowgirl Creamery cheese would combine well with that delicious Acme bread.  The Wine Merchant has a good selection - we were able to find a wine from our anniversary dinner in Petaluma for sale there (County Line chardonnay, if you want to try it). You could get a little sweet treat  at either Dandelion Chocolate (they usually have samples!) outside in front of the building or I adore the chocolates at Recchiuci Confections, which is inside the building.  There's also ice cream, honey, pork parts (not kidding, I forget what the store is called), oysters, tea and lots of other items for sale. None of it is cheap, but it's all good.  It's the perfect spot to buy a gift for the foodie person (or yourself) in your life.  Come hungry and find all kinds of treats.

Embarcadero area.  There are some interesting little street vendors along here with interesting handcrafted jewelry (some from old sterling silverware), hats, cloaks, independent tee shirt designers.  We often buy things there when we're downtown.  One of Mike's favorite men's shops (to mostly look, but sometimes splurge) is called Wingtip, right down by Embarcadero at 550 Montgomery.  There's also a nice playground right across from the Ferry Building and near the Hyatt hotel, if your kids need a play break.
Chinatown

Chinatown.  You can get here from Embarcadero by walking down Market and turning west on Clay (to the right as you point away from the Ferry Building) and walking up to Grant Street, or you can get here from the Montgomery BART station (Walk west on Grant from Market St).  This is one of my favorite areas of the city to take tourists (at least those who don't live in a city with a Chinatown already).  It's the perfect place to get SF tourist merchandise, and usually has the best prices for those kinds of things.  Don't be afraid to ask for a discount if you buy multiple items at the same store, especially if you're paying cash.  We usually walk along Grant Street from the Dragon Gate at Grant and Bush up toward Broadway. My favorite store here is The Wok Shop at 718 Grant St.  Even if you're not in the market for a wok, hearing Randy elaborate about all the different types of woks is an entertainment in itself.  And their products are legit.  I love my wok!  The Chinatown Kite Shop is right across the street, and while I'm sure you can find better deals online, it's pretty fun to see so many kites in one store. And you might want a kite to fly on Ocean Beach later in the day.... (More on that later)  We also love the shops at Asian Renaissance (on the corner of Grant and Sacramento) and another one further along Grant (possibly Peking Bazaar?  I'll have to confirm next time I'm in the area) for nicer items like silk robes, scarves or slippers - even adorable matching travel cases for jewelry and other accessories. 

North Beach If you keep walking on Grant Avenue through Chinatown toward Broadway, you'll notice, especially once you turn left at the  odd intersection of Grant/Broadway and Columbus, things start to get more Italian. Gelato, pizza, pasta, expresso.  This is the San Francisco equivalent of the "Little Italy" of other cities.  Take your pick of pizza places.  Multiple friends of ours from SF swear by Golden Boy Pizza at 542 Green Street (we haven't gotten a chance to try it yet), and we liked our pizza from Tony's takeout place on Stockton (there's a sit-down restaurant across the street).  It's a great walk down Columbus to see this area of the city, and you'll pass by a famous and pretty church (Saints Peter and Paul) where Joe Dimaggio and Marilyn Monroe got married, with Washington Square park (right at Columbus and Union) nearby with a green space where you can relax and kids can run.  I believe there are public bathrooms in that park, as well!!  Across the street from the park, on Filbert and Columbus, is Victoria Pastry, with some killer desserts.  Get some to go and eat it in the park.  I love their tiramisu, Mike loves a delicious chocolate cake concoction they make. I always get some of their delicious coffee with my dessert.  On the opposite side of the park from the bakery is Goorin Brothers, a longstanding San Francisco hat maker.  We like to go try on hats and enjoy the serious hipsterness of some of the staff members.

If you keep walking down Columbus and turn right on Greenwich St, you'll see signs for Coit Tower, at the top of Telegraph Hill, with some gorgeous sights from the base and the tower.  It's free to enter the base, but to go to the top is $8 for adults, $5 for senior and youth, $2 for age 5-11 and free 4 and under.  Whether you go to the top or not, it's worth a walk to the base of the tower for the views of the city and the bay.  Here are some scenes from the top on a beautiful September day:


Coit tower
Views from Coit Tower


Views from Coit
Views from Coit

One final note on North Beach, if you are traveling by car, you can (eventually) find free parking in this neighborhood.  If you come from Golden Gate bridge, I recommend you park in North Beach and then walk down Grant to Chinatown.  If you want to get to Embarcadero from North Beach, just walk down Clay St toward Market Street .  It's also a fun walk from Telegraph Hill down Montgomery Street in some pedestrian only paths.  You'll end up right at the Montgomery Street BART station.  Just don't walk back up the same way, it's steep!


SFMOMA
If you're feeling adventurous from North Beach, especially if you decide to skip Coit Tower, you can continue walking northwest down Columbus Street and hang a left on Lombard.  A few blocks will take you to the "crookedest street" section.  I wouldn't bother to do it by car, personally, as the traffic is always crazy, but you're welcome to do it.  It's quite a steep walk, though.  Or you can stand at the bottom and take a photo of the crooked craziness.  You'll still have walked up quite a hill on Lombard to that point, though. (Trust me, we did it.  There were times we felt like we were scaling sheer vertical drops like mountains just to continue moving up the hill.)

SF Moma.  Continuing into the downtown area, near the Powell Street BART station, on 3rd St, is a great modern art museum.  It was closed all during 2015 for renovation, and reopened in 2016.  It was worth the wait.  If you like modern art museums, give it a try.  And if your kids need a play break, on the other side of 3rd St is the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, which has some large open green space and outdoor seating.  One block over, on 4th and Howard is the Children's Creativity Center, a well-reviewed children's museum (we haven't gotten there yet, so I can't make a personal recommendation).

Inside the SFMOMA

"Mission District".    This is a classic neighborhood in SF, with lots of restaurants, some great coffee shops, and a few cute shops.  You can take BART to 16th St/Mission stop and take 16th Street over to Valencia Street.  Some of my favorite restaurants are Pica Pica Arepa at 401 Valencia, a gluten-free Columbian Restaurant, Four Barrel Brewing coffee shop (just a block up Valencia, at 375 Valencia), but there are lots of good ones to choose from.  I have lists of restaurants around here my friends recommend, I just haven't had time to try all of them!
The view from Dolores Mission Park

Dolores Mission Park is also in this neighborhood, and not only is a gorgeous park (and a great playground for kids) with great views of downtown, situated right next to the oldest Mission building in SF, but it is the best place to people watch, especially on a beautiful day.  The first day we went, we had the most stereotypical "summer of love" San Francisco experience, where young free spirits danced and waved ribbons and rings in the air while a nearby bluegrass band played in the grass.   Bi-rite Creamery is nearby at 3692 18th Street, and is considered a SF classic.  The ice cream is pretty good, but expect to wait in line, especially on a nice day.

People watching at Delores Mission Park is always fun

Neighborhoods.  There are so many interesting neighborhoods with little shopping areas.  Our favorite is called Hayes Valley, where 2 blocks or so along Hayes Street between Laguna St and Gough St have cool boutiques (of varying price points), coffee shops and restaurants.  We love the Marine Layer store at 498 Hayes, which is a brand you should check out online if you can't get there in person (free shipping and returns!).  Softest tee shirts ever by a company started in SF and made in CA.  Mike has had several of them for over a year on non-stop rotation and still going strong. We each just added more to our collection.  My husband also really likes the upscale Emile LaFaurie for Sean men's clothing store, at least for browsing if not so much buying. Not far away, another fun neighborhood called Fillmore District has shopping and eating centered more or less on Geary, Fillmore and Webster Streets.  Perfect to hit up various happy hour food and drink specials.  We are just getting to know and like Inner Sunset (sometimes called the Avenues by longtime SF residents), which further west and is smack dab in the middle of the Presidio and Golden Gate Park (which is NOT the same as the Golden Gate bridge, more on that later).  Try Pascuale's Pizzeria at 700 Irving Street (if you google it, make sure you choose the right location).  I broke from my wheat-free rule for their pizza, and while my body was sorry, my taste buds were not.  Great bread, too (oh I went full out wheat that night).  There are also lots of other tasty restaurants along Irving.  Korean restaurant Hahn's Hibachi is pretty good, and across the street at 524 Irving Street is Loving Hut, a vegan restaurant that my non-vegan friend says has her favorite salad of all time (there is another location in the Westfield mall on Powell and Market streets).  We drive to this neighborhood, we usually park in Golden Gate Park and walk up 7th Avenue to Irving.  It's not far and parking is free and usually available in the park.


One of the windmills at Golden Gate Park


Bison at GG Park
That leads us to Golden Gate Park.  I'll be honest, I had no idea this existed when I moved to SF.  I knew about Golden Gate bridge, obviously, I'm not a complete moron, but I guess when I heard about the park I just assumed that it was near the bridge.  It is not.  It predates the bridge by like 50 years, and is larger than Central Park in New York.  I had no idea.  Now it's one of my favorite areas of the city.  There is a population of bison, a polo field, an art museum (the de Young, a small but worthwhile art museum - worth admission just to see the view from the tower), the California Academy of Sciences, a truly awesome natural history museum/aquarium/planetarium, the Conservatory of Flowers, Japanese Tea Garden, and Botanical Garden, lakes, windmills (that were actually used to pump water for the park up until the 1930s), a carousel, golf course, a beach chalet (my friends say the restaurant there is good).  There are lots of concerts during the summer, and there are lots of areas to bike and tons of different playgrounds spread throughout the park.  At least take a drive through the park if you are traveling by car.  It's worth it.


The view from DeYoung Museum Tower


Another place we can't get enough of is Ocean Beach.  It stretches along for miles, and any part is nice.  There are several parking areas if you're traveling by car.  There's a section right near Golden Gate Park, or a section further south near the San Francisco zoo (not worth a visit, in my opinion, too many other good things to do in SF to miss for a pretty ho-hum zoo).  The section near GG park has the advantage of also being close to Cliff House, a historic coastal building (I haven't been there, but it does make a nice photo op from the beach), and the hiking trails near Point Lobos, which has fabulous views of the Golden Gate bridge.  There is a free parking area near the trailhead area at Point Lobos, although the lot does sometimes get full, it's usually a quick turnover and you'll find something if you stalk a pedestrian who is returning to his or her car...  Also off this trailhead is a little trail that leads down to the water where an old bathhouse stood for many years.  You can see the old Sutros Baths building foundation near the water.  I found it kind of interesting to Google old pictures of the building, but then I'm a history nerd.
Ocean Beach

Site of old Sutro Baths at Point Lobos

Legion of Honor Museum arch
Not far from Point Lobos, in another part of the area called "Lands' End" is the Legion of Honor museum and memorial.  It's a very nice museum in its own right, with often very interesting traveling exhibits, but also has walking paths that connect with the paths from Point Lobos and go along the coast and have a great view of Golden Gate bridge.  Very pretty.  There is usually free parking available near the Legion of Honor, or somewhere along the El Camino del Mar road.  Don't try to take public transportation here if you have another option, there's only one bus route that comes here, and it takes much longer than driving.


The view from the paths near Legion of Honor Museum
Our final, most outlying don't-miss location is Twin Peaks.  Not just the name of a recently revived TV show, but an actual physical location in San Francisco.  A hill with, you guessed it, two peaks.  It has a great view of the city, both in the daytime and at night.  Ideally, come a half hour before sunset to get the daytime and after dark view.  There is a little bathroom building available, but there may been lines at busy times, so don't be desperate (spoken from experience with a needing-to-pee 5 year old boy).  There is free parking here, but expect to wait for a parking space, especially on a weekend night.  On some holiday weekend nights, I think they even ban cars and only allow buses, but I don't know it that's always the case.  Just check if you're planning to visit on a holiday weekend night. Also know it gets FREEZING up here at night.  Mike and I had the brilliant idea of bringing our Victoria Pastry desserts up here and eating them outside while we watched the sun set over the city on night in June, but I was too cold and had to retreat to the car.  He braved it out, I guess since he made the plan and wanted to complete it.  My point is, you can basically never have enough clothing on here in the evening.  I've never not been chilly, even when I try to dress warm.  So suck it up and enjoy the view, it is worth it.  There are also some hiking trails from the parking area where you can get even higher than the parking area viewing area, leave time for that during daylight if you're interested.  We haven't tried it, but I'd like to sometime.  Not far from Twin Peaks by car is West Portal Avenue, a short little street off Portola Drive with lots of delicious restaurants and some cute vintage and antique shops.  There is metered parking on the street itself, it's hard to find free parking in the neighborhood around, but you might encounter it if you're willing to search.  There's a MUNI stop called West Portal Station right at one end of the street.  We love Bursa at 60 West Portal for mediterranean food and El Toreador next door has great Latin food and so many things for kids to look at as they eat. Papenhausen Hardware store along this side of the block is super fun, with much more than just hardware.  I love looking around there! The Goodwill boutique (priced accordingly) is also on this block.  One block down, is a restaurant I've always wanted to try: Goat Hill Pizza (170 West Portal), it looks delicious, and where else can you get sourdough pizza crust!  Ambassador Toys on this block has pretty cute kids toys (at boutique prices, but some good gift ideas), but my favorite stores on this block are Curiosities (207 West Portal, in a little building with a side entrance that could be easy to miss) and West Portal Antiques (254 W Portal), both great spots for unique vintage items, at varying prices. 


Daytime view from Twin Peaks


So that's my big, fat tourist recommendation post.  Let me know if you have questions, want secret bathroom locations downtown, or if this helped you at all!!  
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