Day 1 - 1 Apr 2019
Content: While in Seattle, we stayed at the centrally located and impossibly stylish Kimpton Palladian Hotel. Think elegant Frasier Crane portraits and Bill Murray printed cushions. Rooms begin at £115 per night, excluding breakfast.
Content: Dishing up freshly caught seafood (including incredibly tasty clam chowder) since 1938, dinner here is a cosy and no-frills affair. Despite our circadian rhythms expecting breakfast, we opted to try a selection of the chowders – something I would highly recommend.
Day 2 - 2 Apr 2019
Content: A Seattle institution, Biscuit Bitch came highly recommended as a breakfast venue. With the tagline ‘Trailer Park to Table’, this wildly popular chain offers hearty Southern inspired biscuits (somewhere between a scone and fried bread), drizzled in everything from traditional sausage gravy to maple peanut butter.
Content: Our walk from Belltown towards the Olympic Park traced the seafront; a sunny and jogger-filled walkway with mountains to our left and the city’s famous skyline to our right. The Olympic Sculpture Park (part of the Seattle Art Museum) is spread across 9 green acres and is the city’s largest green space. With beautiful views back across the city – and with the iconic Space Needle looming overhead – visit here to get a sense of Seattle’s affinity with the great outdoors and the water surrounding it.
Content: A 15 minute walk (uphill) from the Olympic Sculpture Park lies Seattle’s tourism heart: the Seattle Centre. Built in 1962 for Seattle’s World Fair, the Centre contains some of the city’s key sights, including the Space Needle, the Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Centre, the Pacific Science Centre and the Museum of Modern Pop Culture (MOPOP). Aside from these attractions, the wider grounds or ‘campus’ are beautifully curated and presented, offering outdoor artwork and quiet spots to enjoy a cup of coffee.
Content: Indeed, it’s rare for the mountain to be fully visible from Seattle, due to regular cloud coverage. However, on this particular day – a bright and clear morning – it was almost possible to see the mountain’s snow glisten; the clarity that superb. Recently, the cruel folks at the Space Needle have installed a rotating glass floor – The Loupe – offering up views of the Seattle Centre below. Not for the faint hearted, here we found tourists lying belly down, watching as small throngs of tourists drifted by below them.
Content: Located next to the Space Needle, the museum offers a seamless blend of indoor gallery space and outdoor gardens, including its centerpiece – the light-filled Glasshouse. Inspired by Paris’ Sainte-Chapelle and London’s Crystal Palace, I found Chihuly’s Glasshouse difficult to leave. Indeed, many visitors had already made themselves at home on the floor; gazing upwards at the 100-foot glass sculpture suspended from the ceiling. A delicately beautiful, calm and unique space, I would make a visit to the Chihuly Garden a priority when driving Seattle to San Francisco.
Content: Although we didn’t have quite enough time to visit this Museum, it was a place I was keen to experience. Including interactive ‘Sound Labs’ where you can try your hand at turntables and drums, MoPop also offers topical exhibitions on the likes of Hendrix, Pearl Jam and Minecraft. The Guitar Gallery also looks like a brilliant place to wander.
Content: Do make sure you stop by Beecher’s Handmade Cheese for lunch – sampling its (mind-blowingly) good Mac’n’Cheese. The Three Girls Bakery is also well worth a visit. Open since 1912, this popular – albeit tiny – bakery serves some of the city’s best ‘Bear Claws’ (similar to a Danish Pastry).
Content: Spend at least a few hours exploring Pike Place Market (including watching its famous ‘fish throwing’ between vendors), before experiencing a very different side to Seattle: the highly photogenic Seattle Public Library. Designed by Dutch architect, Rem Koolhaus, and completed in 2004, the Library – complete with neon green escalators – is a vision of glass, light and futuristic touches. Make sure you head to the top floor for incredible views over the atrium and across downtown Seattle.
Content: As an evening chill settled over Seattle, we headed to the much lauded The Nest bar for sunset drinks. Located above the Thompson Seattle (a hotel), The Nest offers sublime views across Elliott Bay and the neighbouring Olympic Mountain Range (alongside Mt Rainer). At sunset, this small bar quickly becomes crowded, so make sure you arrive early to grab a chair and watch as Pike Place’s neon signs start to glow and departing ferries disappear into the sunset.
Day 3 - 3 Apr 2019
Content: Our time in Seattle had been fantastic and if we had more time, we’d have stayed an extra night. Avoid the early morning traffic and depart Seattle just after 9am, heading towards the i5. Delivering you seamlessly to Portland in just over three hours, this is perhaps the easiest section of road when driving Seattle to San Francisco.
Day 3 - 3 Apr 2019
Content: After a little bit of research, we decided to book an incredible little space in the Boise neighbourhood – located in the northeast of the city. Located between the highly desirable, hipster and vibrant neighbourhoods of Mississippi Avenue and the Alberta Arts District, this was a fantastic place to base ourselves; giving us a taste of ‘authentic’ Portland living.
Content: A 5 minute walk from our apartment was the foodie haven of Williams Ave. Get your first taste (quite literally) of Portland’s infamous Food Truck culture here and wile away the hours in its many independent coffee shops. Be sure to stop by the delicious MF Tasty Food Truck to sample Southwestern and Mexican inspired dishes.
Content: A 20 minute walk from our Air BnB, the Alberta Arts District is a (seemingly never ending) street filled with independent cafes, food trucks, restaurants and stores – including a ‘Tiny Massage Cart‘ and the beautifully petit garden centre, Thrive. Here, you’ll also find the famous ‘Salt and Straw‘ ice-cream parlour, and an assortment of local breweries.
Content: Found on Mississipi Avenue, just a 10 minute walk from our apartment, this wood fired pizza restaurant was recommended by our Air BnB host – and did not disappoint.
Day 4 - 4 Apr 2019
Content: Our first full day in Portland began with an early visit to what is said to be one of Portland’s best breakfast spots – Gravy. Located on Mississippi Avenue, this humble cafe attracts queues of waiting diners during weekend hours, so be sure to arrive when doors open at 7.30am.
Content: The walk from Portland’s northerly neighbourhoods into the city centre took around 50 minutes, taking us past Portland’s historic industrial port and over its many bridges.
Content: One reason we had wanted to walk into downtown Portland was to ensure that we secured a (token) sighting of the city’s famous White Stag sign. For the best views, walk to Burnside Bridge and head towards the downtown area.
Content: One incredibly beautiful spot is the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall (also known locally as ‘The Schnitz’). Whilst many of the theatres on Portland’s Broadway have long been replaced, this sumptuous Concert Hall – with its Italian Rococo Revival inspired architecture – remains a vestige to a more glamorous time in Portland’s history.
Content: With some of Portland’s history explored, it’s time to engage in the city’s favourite past time: eating. Whilst many might suggest you visit Portland’s sugary institution – Vooodoo Doughnut – I’d instead suggest you make the short walk to Blue Star Donuts (which I would suggest is better). With flavours ranging from passion fruit to CPD oil infused, ensure you visit here for freshly made, warm-t0-the-touch doughnuts and a cup of filter coffee.
Content: Said to be the most ‘beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan’, this hilltop sanctuary of quiet temples, winding streams and tea houses, has been providing a place for peace and contemplation since 1961. Covering 5.5 acres and 5 exquisitely designed gardens, this romantic spot is well worth the $16.95 entry fee (if booked ahead).
Content: After hours of walking, we caught an Uber back to our Air BnB and headed back to the nearby Mississipi Avenue for dinner. Here we visited the wildly popular Little Big Burger; gorging on truffle fries and freshly cooked cheese burgers. Of all the places we ate at when driving Seattle to San Francisco, this was easily one of my favourite spots.
Day 5 - 5 Apr 2019
Content: Leave Portland and navigate your way to Highway 101 – the West Coast’s picturesque coastal highway. Over the course of your drive, you’ll no doubt pass through several of these seafaring towns – small communities selling Salt Water Taffy and offering Orca spotting boat trips. Florence is perhaps little different.
Day 5 - 5 Apr 2019
Content: Make the most of your time in Florence and explore the Dunes by foot. For those after a little more adrenaline, book onto one of the many Dune Buggy rides and tours on offer in the area.
Content: Said to be the largest sea cave in America, visitors are invited to take a glass elevator down into the cave, where Sea Lions and their pups regularly reside. Entry costs $18 for adults.
Content: For dinner, we headed into the centre of Florence and towards its historic waterfront. Here, we enjoyed a lovely dinner at The Waterfront Depot; one of the town’s most popular restaurants. With beautiful views across the water and an unexpectedly hipster exterior, our evening here was a pleasant surprise.
Content: Whilst in Florence, we decided to book another Air BnB, this time staying in an Airstream close to the beach. Fairly cheap, atmospheric and hosted by a lovely family, the Airstream boasted a bathroom, hot water and the cosiest of beds.
Day 6 - 6 Apr 2019
Content: Day 6 marks the longest day of your drive from Seattle to San Francisco, requiring 6 hours at the wheel. However, thanks to Highway 101 and the scenic route we followed, the drive was far from tedious or painful, and even included a quick stop for lunch in pretty Crescent City.
Day 6 - 6 Apr 2019
Content: Mid-way through our journey we stopped in Crescent City for a tasty lunch at the Lonely Planet rated Chart Room. A busy, bright and friendly seafood diner, here we enjoyed fish tacos and crab sandwiches; listening as we went to the raucous taking place outside thanks to the resident Sea Lions.
Content: The Avenue of the Giants, perhaps deceivingly, is in fact a considerably long road – filled with various campsites, trails and areas to stop for a picnic. As it was a little late in the day, we didn’t walk any trails (although I would highly recommend that you do) and instead simply drove the Avenue; stopping frequently for photographs. Filled with a hazy filtered light, the sound of woodpeckers and the scent of warm earth, the Avenue of the Giants was surreally beautiful; a place that if we had more time we would have loved to explore more.
Day 6 - 6 Apr 2019
Content: Deep in the heart of Humboldt County sits the tiny town of Miranda: the place where we would be staying for the night. Again, we booked an Air BnB for this particular visit, staying in the most incredible family home with views across the mighty Redwoods and the county’s Eel River (it even included a secluded sauna). We made our own dinner on this particular night after a visit to the lovely (and organic) Miranda Market (a fairly big food store).
Day 7 - 7 Apr 2019
Content: The final leg of your drive from Seattle to San Francisco is here – a mere 4 hour drive remaining. Once again, simply head for the 101 (south) and watch as the forests fall away, replaced instead by large expanses of rolling vineyards and historic ranches. Welcome to California.
Day 7 - 7 Apr 2019
Content: Whilst driving Seattle to San Francisco, I was conscious that we would be arriving in the city from its northern end; the iconic Golden Gate Bridge leading us across the water. Consequently, I was a little preoccupied with where we might get the best views of the Bridge from, with many suggesting a quick diversion to the small town of Sausalito. Eventually, and as we learnt, for the best views, simply turn off the 101 (just before you cross the Golden Gate Bridge) and head for the Vista Point in Sausalito. Here you’ll be treated to some truly beautiful vistas of the soaring red bridge.
Content: Situated in the heart of downtown San Francisco – just a stone’s throw from Union Square – this Asian inspired hotel boasts not only incredible views (particularly for those staying in the Imperial Club Rooms) and a sublime Japanese inspired restaurant, Anzu – but even has its own canine ambassador: Buster.
Content: As it was only a short walk from our hotel, we decided to begin our adventures in one of these distinct districts: San Francisco’s historic Chinatown. The oldest Chinatown in the US, this iconic neighbourhood can be accessed via the town’s legendary Dragon’s Gate – as featured in the 1980s classic: ‘Big Trouble in Little China’. Home to over 100,000 people and endless stalls selling sizzling salted squid, San Francisco’s Chinatown is frenetic, crowded and intoxicating. Whilst it’s difficult to tear your eyes away from the crowds, be sure to look upwards; ornamental buildings are towering above you.
Content: As one of San Francisco’s most famous streets, Lombard Street regularly tops lists dedicated to what to see in San Francisco. The road itself, a topographical marvel, is said to be the world’s most crooked street – featuring eight hair-pin turns. It’s here that tourists gather to watch the city’s cars attempt to navigate the steeply angled turns, all whilst surrounded by flowers and lilac bushes. While you’ll only need 10 minutes here, it’s still worth a visit – even if it’s just to marvel at resident driver’s clutch control.
Content: No visit to the US would be complete without a visit to In-N-Out Burger – a national institution. Although San Francisco has several of these restaurants, we decided to walk from Lombard Street to the Fisherman’s Wharf for ours. Be prepared to queue and make sure you order from the ‘Secret Menu’ – requesting ‘Animal Fries’.
Content: One of San Francisco’s most iconic areas, Fisherman’s Wharf and its surrounding piers is a place that tourists – ourselves included – flock to, enjoying views of bathing sea lions and the lurking island of Alcatraz. Although typically touristy in parts, with large areas dedicated to magnet shops and San Francisco memorabilia, it’s difficult not to get swept up in the seaside atmosphere. Visit here and try your hand at kiosk games before joining the crowds at Pier 39 to watch the resident sea lions play and (more likely) squabble.
Day 8 - 8 Apr 2019
Content: A San Francisco institution, we were lucky enough to have a Boudin Bakery across the road from our hotel. Head here for traditional San Francisco sourdough sandwiches and delectable French Toast.
Content: Haight -Ashbury was one area of San Francisco that I was very keen to visit, not least because of its historic roots in the 1960s Summer of Love and its famously hippie inspired sub-culture. The home of psychedelic shops, marijuana vendors and stores selling everything from incense to crystals, this area of San Francisco remains an alternative neighbourhood; attracting the city’s punks, hipsters and yogis.
Content: A 15 minute walk from Haight-Ashbury awaits San Francisco’s most famous residents: its blushing ‘Painted Ladies’. Located opposite Alamo Square – with sweeping views of downtown San Francisco – the Ladies are a collection of Victorian and Edwardian (style) homes, each painted a different dusky shade. Having appeared in over 70 films, television shows and adverts, this small selection of San Francisco’s real estate is the city’s most famous.
Content: We ended up in Golden Gate Park purely by accident; thanks to tired limbs and the quest for a bench. One of San Francisco’s largest green areas, covering some 1,000 acres, Golden Gate Park sits high above the city as an oasis of lily ponds, rose gardens and hidden pavilions.
Content: Walking through its quiet trails, we arrived unexpectedly at a beautiful Victorian glasshouse; its white exterior dazzling in the midday sun. Resident in the city since 1878, this peaceful spot, filled with exotic plants and ornamental foliage, is one of the city’s most popular attractions – its much beloved Conservatory of Flowers. Costing $11 to enter (during peak hours), the Conservatory was a haven of calm when we entered at midday on that Wednesday morning. Boasting 5 different rooms (or galleries), each is filled with mist-shrouded tropical plants, ornamental lily ponds and archways shrouded in purple orchids and dark green ferns. It is a beautiful place to visit and one we were happy to have stumbled across.
Content: From the lofty heights of Golden Gate Park, we headed downhill to one of San Francisco’s most colourful neighbourhoods: Castro. A vision of rainbow-painted walkways and flying flags, Castro has long been the city’s LGBTQ heartland. Filled with businesses flaunting wicked double-entendre names, decorated theatres and fabulous thrift stores, you could dedicate an entire afternoon to exploring this technicolour community.
Content: We enjoyed a brilliant lunch here at the tongue-in-cheek Sausage Factory, before sampling mug fulls of coffee at Castro Coffee. After browsing the area’s fantastic stores, we ended the day with a much-needed lie down in Mission Dolores Park; just a short walk from Castro.
Content: Having completed what felt to be a marathon-esque distance, we decided to save ourselves yet more legwork and eat at our hotel’s Asian-inspired restaurant, Anzu. Opting for the set menu, the meal was truly one of the best we had during our entire road trip driving Seattle to San Francisco. As such, it comes highly recommended.
Day 9 - 9 Apr 2019
Content: It’s here, in an unassuming bloc passage – Balmy Alley – that you’ll find San Francisco’s most concentrated collection of murals; each tackling issues ranging from gentrification to Human Rights. From Balmy Alley, walk to Clarion Alley, where you’ll find another explosion of highly politicised murals, before finishing your journey at the Women’s Building. This exceptional building is entirely covered by one beautiful mural – MaestraPeace – completed by seven female artists. It’s an awe-inspiring tribute to women, their bodies and their power.
Content: From The Mission, find your way to Market Street and follow it all the way to the waterfront. Here you’ll discover San Francisco’s historic warehouse district and its two stadiums: the Chase Center (basketball) and the city’s beloved Oracle Park (baseball). Home to San Francisco’s baseball team, The Giants, Oracle Park is worth at least walking by, if only to gawp at its giant Cocoa Cola bottle and baseball statues. For anyone hoping to see a little more, there are also tours available, beginning at $22 per adult.
Content: Located just around the corner from our hotel, it was difficult to resist the lure of the sugary pink Ice Cream Museum. With hosts dressed in glitter and sprinkles, and the smell of candy floss floating down the street, we spent quite some time craning our necks to see inside. Costing $38 per person, entry was certainly not cheap, but with promises of unlimited ice-cream and (dare I say it) plenty of ‘instagrammable’ exhibitions, I found it difficult to resist.
Content: From the peaky ridges of Washington, to the warmth of California, our road trip – driving Seattle to San Francisco – was finally coming to a close. As such, and now thoroughly depressed, I could think of only one way to see out the final hours of our adventure: via an evening tour of Alcatraz Island. As synonymous with San Francisco as its hills or cable cars, Alcatraz has long peered longingly across the tempestuous strait towards the city. However, it wasn’t until 1934 that it received global recognition, when it opened as one of the country’s most notorious prisons. Harbouring inmates such as Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly, the prison has spawned its own myths and legend; a fascinating place that – since its closure – has remained open to the public. Whilst tours of the Island run throughout the day, I’d highly recommend booking an evening tour. Arriving on the island just as the shadows begin to lengthen, the prison’s dark corners and cells seem to come alive once darkness falls, making the whole experience all the more atmospheric. It was a haunting, but unforgettable, way to end what had been a truly incredible adventure.