I was worried about taking a 14-year-old Girl on a 3 day trip to San Francisco. But, to my surprise, she was all in and even better, enthusiastic about everything we did. I was especially excited that she truly loved the Victorian Home Walking Tour that we took on our first day in town. Our guide, Jay, took us through Pacific Heights and Cow Hollow walking us through neighborhoods that big tour buses are not allowed to go. We learned all about the different styles of Victorian houses like Queen Anne, Italianate, and Stick-Style. He explained how to distinguish between Victorian and Edwardian buildings.
He also explained how it was popular in the 1920’s to “smear” Victorian homes with stucco giving it a smooth contemporary look, which made all of us on the tour sad every time we saw one. To smear or not to smear? I say, don’t smear!
Fun Fact: Did you know that people in the Victorian era “updated their status” by building it onto their homes? To learn how to decode San Francisco’s secret Victorian symbols, click here.
Most of the changes to the original Victorian era city homes and buildings were from the 1906 fires that burned for 3 days started from the 7.9 magnitude earthquake. About 80% of San Francisco was destroyed and created major alterations to the city. For example, the now famous commercial area called Union Square on Powell Street was once a residential area lined with Victorian homes prior to the fire. In order to stop the fires from spreading, the city made a decision to create a fire break along Van Ness Avenue resulting in the intentional burning of hundreds of beautiful Victorian mansions.
Our guide took us back in time as he showed us a building that used to be a horse stable and a mansion next door with gates high enough for tall carriages to drive through. It’s these details and vivid descriptions that Jay explained along our 2.5 hour tour that made this so special. My daughter and I did all of the touristy things people do in San Francisco, but I have to say, this tour was our favorite part of the entire trip for both of us!
Some other highlights from our trip include the Palace of Fine Arts and the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park.
My daughter and I have taken a girl’s trip almost every year since she was 7 years old and have visited Santa Barbara, San Diego, Catalina Island and multiple trips to Disneyland. But this trip was different from all the others. It was a “grown-up” trip, where we took a plane and navigated a city alone that is crowded and full of interesting people, smells and a lot of hills. We bonded as she held my hand for security while we walked the busy streets and huffed and puffed up and down the hills. I was a proud mama as I watched her bravely run to catch a cable car in the middle of the street and take photos of places she saw the beauty in. This was a trip where we both matured a bit in our mother daughter bond and extended out of our comfort zones. Best part is, we did it together!
**For a list of classic movies featuring San Francisco as the backdrop for the location, please visit this cool site. My list of personal favorite movies about the city by the bay are Vertigo, 1958, Mrs. Doubtfire, 1993, and Princess Diaries, 2001. **