Cliffs and Cable Cars

By Kate Riley November 15, 2010

What a weekend!  I haven’t seen such amazing weather on a visit to the City by the Bay in a long time.  79 degrees and perfect!   Short sleeves and no sweater in San Fran?  Rare indeed!  What a great time we had playing tour guide for the in-laws.  Here is the gorgeous view from atop Fort Scott, looking towards the Marin headlands.

golden gate bridge


On a beautiful day in San Francisco, it’s fun to take a driving tour past famous stops like the Palace of Fine Arts or Coit Tower.   Personally, I love to drive the neighborhoods and admire all the painted Victorians!

gray san francisco victorian


green san francisco victorian


seafoam san francisco victorian

  yellow san francisco house

white san francisco home

Gorgeous, aren’t they?

My kids have never been on a cable car, so we hopped on one just to catch a few glimpses of the more famous stops.

  cable car


Here’s the famous Grace Cathedral:

grace cathedral cable car


For lunch, we dined at one of my favorite places to eat in the state ~ the Cliff House!  Perched on a bluff next to Ocean Beach overlooking the mighty Pacific, the Cliff House is always a treat for the San Francisco local or traveler.  Often you’ll see seals frolicking in the surf, and if you’re lucky, a blue whale!

The Cliff House has an amazing history dating back to 1863.  It burned down twice, then went through a series of remodels over time, including some funky facades in the fifties and seventies.  It was finally restored in 2004 to its original white glory, and is always worth a visit.

cliff house 1937 circa 1937

We only go about once a year because the Cliff House is pricey, but on a clear day, and especially when the in-laws are treating, we indulge.  If you’re in the mood for crab, and it’s crab season, and you’re in San Francisco, this is one place to splurge.

Downstairs is the swankier Sutro’s ~ I love this amazing blue glass tile!

blue tile bar cliff house


For lunch, we ate at the more informal Bistro upstairs, filled with boisterous conversation and fantastic lunch fare.  All over the walls, you’ll find all kinds of nostalgia.  How cute are these sweethearts, unaware I’m snapping pics!

cliff house


I love these vintage prints you’ll find on some of the walls.  I believe they’re printed on wood slats, wouldn’t they be perfect in any room where you want a beach vibe?

vintage style prints

I always get a spicy Bloody Mary and the dungeness crab cocktail.  bloody mary and crab cocktail

Other family members couldn’t resist other popular crab dishes.  Poached eggs with crab?  Yep.  Crab Louis?   Yes, please.  Crab, crab, and more decadent crab !!

crab poached eggs and crab louis

There is one universal truth in my world: there is no such thing as too much crab. 

The food is superb at the Cliff House, but the real appeal, and the reason we take two hours for lunch, is the stunning view.

ocean beach view


I highly recommend the Cliff House on your next visit to San Francisco!

Want to see some other sights?   Here’s a few other tours of San Francisco.  The Palace of Fine Arts and Ghirardelli Square; the Ferry Building Marketplace; Christmas in SF and a tour through Chinatown; and Fisherman’s Wharf and Fleet Week.

Coming up next, a charming little dresser revamp in the perfect shade of blue gray!




  1. Wow! I had several friends visiting SF yesterday – I guess I missed out ;) Thanks for sharing. I love reading about local destinations!

  2. If I wasn’t a die-hard New Yorker, I’d totally pack it in and move to San Francisco. I went to the Cliff House on vacation when I was about 12, and didn’t even realize it until I just saw your pictures! Thanks for conjuring up a lovely childhood memory for me!

  3. If I wasn’t a die-hard New Yorker, I’d totally pack it in and move to San Francisco. I went to the Cliff House on vacation when I was about 12, and didn’t even realize it until I just saw your pictures! Thanks for conjuring up a lovely childhood memory for me!

  4. I have never been to California but your pictures and post were so interesting I almost felt like I had been! Thanks so much for a lovely read!! Hugs, Judi

  5. The Victorian homes always remind me of the intro to “Full House”! We’ll be there for Christmas this year, with an almost 6-mo old (well, staying with relatives in the East Bay area, but close enough). Do you have any recs for things to do with such a wee one? I was thinking the science academy, and maybe a drive to Monterrey to the aquarium.

  6. Wow. The architecture and size of those homes are truly unique to SF. Amazing to look at and (I’ll bet) an arm and a leg to upkeep! I had no idea Cliff House was so lovely. Thanks for the recommendation!

  7. I’m a tad envious! I love San Francisco and I’m so glad your weather was wonderful!!
    I’ve never eaten at the Cliff House but will have to try it the next time I get to go to the city by the bay!!
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  8. Beautiful photos. We travelled the coast of California last year. We loved San Francisco…however I remember sweaters and sweatshirts were a must in June. Lucky you.

  9. I too love the Cliff House, it is a special place. BUT, if its out of budget (or you want the view twice) there is an awesome retro diner in the same parking lot. Its straight out of the 70’s and has cheap diner food, but its perched on the same cliff as The Cliff House, right over the Roman Bath ruins. Its a experience all on its own!

  10. makes me appreciate my city all the more! the weather was incredible this weekend– darn law school kept me inside though, sigh. at least i could watch the sailboats cruise around alcatraz from our hill. Cliff House is our tradition for mom’s bday in April and grandma’s bday in October- it’s the best for the view!

  11. It really was a glorious weekend. I spent some time walking through Golden Gate park. I’ve never been to the Cliff House, but your pictures definitely make me want to go!

  12. Oh Kate, I was in SF this weekend as well and I still can’t get over the perfect weather. I’m considering ditching work early and going back today! :)

  13. Oh I love SF! The hubs and I went for this first time this summer. We were there in August and one day it was in the high 90s…people literally didnt know what to do because it was so “hot”. For us it was a nice break from the 100+ and 100% humidity summer days of Baltimore but I guess temps for SF like that are unheard of!!

  14. Wow! Great shots! I was so excited to see this post – I read a mystery last year that took place at the Cliff House at the turn of the last century – so cool to see it!

  15. Gorgeous photos!! What a pretty day. I love taking tours *with* you. ;) How nerdy is this…seeing the SF houses always makes me think of Full House. ;) Now I am dreaming of seafood. And maybe a Bloody Mary.

    Wanted to let you know that I’m hosting a Thanksgiving linky thing this week b/c I (FINALLY!) get to host Thanksgiving dinner this year. Was wondering if you had any Thanksgiving related posts you might like to link up. No need to link back or anything like that, since I’m doing this for purely selfish reasons…I need some ideas! ;) Any recipes, tips, tricks, tablescapes, etc. are welcome! Hope your day is going well, girlie!

  16. Ah! How I miss my city! When my parents told me how nice it was over the weekend I was so jealous! I also love the homes there…I could drive around for hours admiring (: Glad you had fun! I’ll have to try that restaurant soon!

  17. San Fran has to be one of my favorite places in the world. Slightly jealous that you were there, but SO happy you enjoyed it!! :p And I LOVE The Cliff… excellent, excellent restaurant.

  18. I was loving the weather in the East Bay yesterday and even today!! I have lived in the Bay Area my whole life and have never been to the Cliff House. I will have to keep it in mind next time we have a reason to celebrate.

  19. Glad you had great weather. I visited San Fran, checked with the weather forecast and packed for the usual cool temps (as predicted) What did we get? Historical heat wave – 100+ degree weather! Made for quite the memorable trip, esp since our hotel didn’t have air conditioning!!

  20. I adore those victorian homes, they are just gorgeous, and the view from cliff house,is worth all the crab gorging!
    Thanks for sharing, hopefully we will get there one day!

  21. I miss Northern California. Can’t wait to visit SF next month – I’m going to gorge on dungeness crab – yum!

  22. Beautiful photos, Kate, and that crab looks divine! I was in SF yesterday and the weather is absolutely stunning. Most unusual for the middle of November. Last week I was bundled in sweaters and this week t-shirts, skirts and sandals. Sounds like a wonderful outing with your in-laws.

  23. Agreed, it was an unexpectedly stunning weekend here in northern CA! You certainly caught the city at its best in these pics. (I hope those “sweethearts” aren’t married to other people – you just outed them if so!
    Struggling to be Stylish is now The English Organizer. Please visit me at

  24. Hi Kate-
    What a lovely weekend. Sounds perfect. I lived in San Fran in the 80’s the year that the cable car system was not running. Never got to ride on one, maybe someday :)

  25. This takes me waayy back- yes, I have been to the Cliff House- at least 15 years ago- beautiful views.San Francisco is one of my favourite cities.Looks you had a great day!

  26. Hi Kate,I’ve never been to San Francisco and at my age probably never will but I sure enjoyed your pictures….especially of the old painted ladies (those great old victorian houses). Maybe it’s because I can relate to them. LOL. Thanks so much for sharing with us. The internet definitely makes this world a smaller place. Have a blessed Thanksgiving!!

  27. been following your blog for a while now but a first time commenter! love the photos of SF. I live in the south bay and I actually used to babysit for a family that lived in that green house you took pictures of… not sure if they’re still there but what a small world huh?! Loved all of the photos and couldn’t agree more about the cliff house :) I <3 SF

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