How To Plan The Ultimate Surprise Getaway

People are always asking us for ideas on one-or-two day getaways that are relatively local, not too expensive… and FUN! We recently went on a one-day/overnight trip and had a blast.

So we thought we’d share our getaway experiences with you. Feel free to use any of these ideas as a guide to plan a day-or-two away from home or share any of your favorite getaways. It feels wonderful to take a short break and come back feeling energized. Surprise your honey and make it even more fun!

This is an example of what you can do in any city of the world. We live in the San Francisco Bay Area, so there are lots of one-and-two-day possibilities: Carmel/Monterey, Half Moon Bay,Napa Valley/Sonoma Wine Country, San Francisco, North Bay, Sausalito/Tiburon/Muir Woods,South Bay, East Bay Wineries, Peninsula, Gold Country, Mendocino, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite… or hop a plane to L.A., San Diego, Vancouver, Las Vegas – the options are limitless.

So here’s the story… It all started with an upcoming wedding anniversary. I asked Barry (my husband) what he wanted to do to celebrate and he said that he wanted to surprise me (he’s good at that… and I love surprises)!  Apparently, he already had something
planned. All I had to do was pack an overnight bag and he’d take care of all the details. Sounded good to me!

Plan A, B… and C
Barry had everything reserved two weeks in advance. However, four days before our anniversary, when he heard it may rain (highly unusual for June in California), he created a Plan B and a change of reservations. The day before our getaway, when he heard that a “major” storm was expected, he came up with Plan C. And yes, another change of reservations. I asked for hints all week, but his lips were sealed… a surprise is a surprise! He wouldn’t even tell me about Plan A or B 🙂

The Getaway begins…
As we drove up Hwy 101, I was looking for clues along the way. We arrived in San Francisco and headed towards the Golden Gate Bridge. Just as I thought we were going north (to Marin or Wine Country), Barry made a right turn and headed across town. Half the fun of planning a surprise getaway is to keep your honey guessing!

1st stop:
Pier 39 and the Eagle Cafe

As Pier 39 came into view, I was getting excited – I love playing tourist in San Francisco! We parked in the Pier 39 garage and walked across the bridge-way, looking at the crowds below and the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. First stop was coffee at the popular Eagle Cafe (a waterfront landmark cafe and bar since 1928), located upstairs at the front of Pier 39. FYI… it’s also a great place for breakfast and lunch.

2nd stop:
Pier 39’s Sea Lions

After coffee, we walked over to see Pier 39’s famous sea lions – they’re louder than ever! No trip to Pier 39 is complete without visiting the sea lions – they’re one of San Francisco’s top attractions. We enjoyed browsing the shops (there are tons of them). As a “lefty,” I always like stopping by Lefty’s San Francisco (the left-hand store). Barry likes Gadgetronics (I wonder why)! Other favorites include Enlightenment (Asian-themed gifts) and Fairy Tales (magical). We walked to the end of the pier and stood looking out over San Francisco Bay,  Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge- we never get tired of the magnificent bay views!

3rd stop:
Lunch at the Crab House, Pier 39

All that walking worked up an appetite. If you like seafood, particularly crab, the Crab House is the place to come, especially during San Francisco’s crab season. Be sure to get a table overlooking the bay – views are fantastic. Order the tasty Crab Chowder to start, followed by the “Killer Crab” (whole crab roasted in a secret olive oil garlic sauce, with crusty bread for dipping) – it’s to die for! The crab is served on a sizzling hot plate – definitely messy to eat (they supply bibs and plenty of napkins) and not a place to come on a first date, but if you like crab and feel comfortable together, it’s perfect!

So, time to walk off the lunch – Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square are both within easy walking distance from Pier 39 – and the people-watching is priceless. Keep a look-out for San Francisco’s infamous “bushman” (he hides behind a bush on the sidewalk and just as unsuspecting tourists approach, he jumps out, waves the bush about and scares them as they pass by). Hey, a guy’s gotta make a living! Don’t say you weren’t warned:)

4th stop:
Check into Hotel – Union Square area

Barry drove across town and I had no idea where were going next. We circled Union Square – it’s such a fun area of the city because it’s filled with shops, restaurants, theaters, nightclubs, and art galleries. Just as I was hoping we’d be spending the night in San Francisco, we turned into the driveway of the JW Marriott in Union Square. Note: There are a variety of S.F. hotel/motel options to fit any budget.

5th stop:
San Francisco Art Galleries

The Union Square area is a FUN place to walk and people-watch. Many fine local art galleries are dotted along Geary St, just off Union Square. During our visit, the San Francisco Art Exchange had a special Beatles exhibition called “The Beatles Hidden
Gallery” featuring 38 never-before-seen large black-and-white prints… plus a pic or two of
Dylan and Jagger! The exhibit was held in collaboration with “The Beatles Story” Museum in Liverpool. If you like pop culture, it’s a fun gallery to check out – they’re the leading gallery for original rock art and photography. Stop by and say hi to Art Dealer, Cheryl Kelly. Admission is free.

6th stop:
Wine and Relax at Hotel

Next stop… back to our hotel – time to relax before dinner. We changed into the hotel’s plush white robes, opened a bottle of wine and toasted to our anniversary (bring a bottle
from home if you don’t want to spend a fortune ordering room service; also, don’t forget the corkscrew). Whatever you do, just have FUN!

Note: This hotel offers free transportation via town car to anywhere in SF within a 2-mile radius (on a first-come first-served basis), so if you don’t feel like walking, driving or taking a taxi, this is a good option, especially if it’s raining.

7th stop:
Biscuits & Blues (one of the Top Blues Clubs in the U.S.)

If you like Blues music and Soul Food, you’re gonna love this place – it’s no surprise that Biscuits & Blues is the No. 1 Blues Nightclub in the SF Bay Area! It’s conveniently located about a block from Union Square (and just minutes from our hotel). Biscuits and Blues has two levels – we went to the nightclub (downstairs in the basement). Dark with little votive candles on the tables, the room has the look and feel of a blues club in Memphis. We actually forgot that we were in San Francisco!

As far as the menu, we opted to try a few dishes. The Southern Sampler gives you a taste of Corn & Shrimp Fritters, Yam Fries (crispy and tasty), and Mac & Cheese Croquettes (OMG!) The Fried Green Tomatoes (Breaded Green Tomatoes over Tomato Coulis, Goat Cheese and Basil) are soooooooooo good! And the Southern Fried Chicken (served with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Creamy Vegetable Slaw) is out of this world. I could never understand all the fuss when people raved over fried chicken… until I tasted Biscuits & Blues Southern Fried Chicken!

The nightclub is a great place to see your favorite blues artists and hear blues music while sipping California wine (or good beer). The night of our visit, we saw the 8pm show (there’s another one at 10pm), featuring Sonny Rhodes and his band – they were terrific! We could have listened to them all night.

8th stop:
Back to the Hotel

It’s wonderful to just roll back to your hotel after a night on the town and not worry about drinking and driving home. Be sure to ask for a late check-out so you can sleep in.

9th stop:
Morning Coffee & Snacks… in Bed

If you don’t want to have coffee or breakfast at the hotel, there are plenty of local coffee shops (including Starbucks) and restaurants in the Union Square area. We opted to sleep in (a real treat), then Barry went out and brought back coffee and snacks from a local cafe. We sat in bed enjoying our coffee and treats, listening to music, reading the San Francisco Chronicle on our iPad, and relaxing all morning. It was a perfect way to end our getaway before heading back to reality!

Enjoy the Moment
Barry did a great job of keeping everything we did a surprise so I was totally “in the moment” – all day and night! So, whether you surprise your honey or share what you want to do together – San Francisco makes a fantastic “1-day and overnight getaway.” Not bad for Plan C!

Plan A & Plan B
You wouldn’t believe how many people asked us about Plan A and Plan B… well that’s another blog post for another time:)

Tell us about some of your favorite Overnight Getaways

Top 20+ Fun Things To Do in the SF Bay Area

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