heineken and illuminate art project / sfgirlbybay

one of the things i miss most about living in san francisco, are the bridges and the way they make the city truly unique — connecting san francisco to the ‘mainland’, i can attest that driving across them never gets old. the bay bridge has been refurbished and with that industrious restoration, it’s been reborn. it’s also being re-lit — with the bay lights that beautifully span the bridge and twinkle at night in the bay waters below. Heineken is partnering with ILLUMINATE, a california arts nonprofit, to bring artist leo villareal’s the bay lights installation back to the bay area — forever. the bay lights, a collection of interactive LED lights on the bay bridge, was first installed in 2013 and went dark in march 2015 for refurbishment. but on jan. 30, 2016, the bay lights will be re-illuminated permanently and gifted to the state of california and its citizens.

the bay lights art installation / sfgirlbybay

as one of the partners, Heineken has very kindly invited me to share a look at the bay bridge, and some of my favorite spots in its direct vicinity to ‘open the city’ to you. san francisco is a treasure trove of old and new, and beauty abounds where it meets in the middle. the embarcadero and the bay bridge are part of that cultural renaissance, and today we’re giving you an insider’s view of that city by the bay. we’re also giving you a chance to win your very own bay bridge light! think of it much like the “buy a star” program, but in this case, you can win a light on the bridge and name it after yourself, a friend or family member. as part of Heineken’s “Shine It Forward” campaign we’re giving away 3 pairs of lights, so you can gift a bay light to a loved one as well, commemorated by an official certificate that illustrates which light is theirs.

to enter to win your very own bay lights, simply:

• tell us below in the comments who you’d name your commerative lights after.

• please comment by wednesday, january 27th, 12pm PST.

• as always, be sure to leave a way to reach you via twitter, facebook, email or your website.

• sorry, this giveaway is for U.S. residents only. all winners must be 21 or older.

• we’ll announce a winner selected by random number generator on my twitter account the week of february 1st, so be sure and follow along.

san francisco landscape / sfgirlbybay

the Open Your City platform is Heineken’s way of encouraging you to experience the most of your urban surroundings through one-of-a-kind adventures, a spirit of exploration and expanding horizons. in that spirit, i’m taking on what i think would be an ideal day trip around the city by the bay. first off, let’s start at north beach’s infamous coit tower at the top of Telegraph Hill, erected in 1933 and named for Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a wealthy eccentric and patron of the city’s firefighters. the 360 degree views from atop the tower are spectacular, especially looking east towards the bay bridge. once you’ve taken it all in wander south to the filbert steps and walk down the lush pathway and wooden staircase and if you’re lucky, you might see wild green parrots as they’re known to inhabit the area. you’ll find yourself at Pier 23, a cute waterfront cafe along the embarcadero — the most historic heart of the bay.

filbert street steps in san francisco / sfgirlbybay

san francisco's filbert steps / sfgirlbybay

from pier 23, i suggest hopping on one of the vintage trolley cars that run along the embarcadero. they’re charming, and utterly colorful — each one is uniquely different and imported from around the world including australia, portugal and milan. they’ll also give you one of the most scenic rides in town (other than maybe a cable car!). take the trolley to san francisco’s historic ferry building and prepare to indulge in a cornucopia of gourmet eating!

vintage trolley car in san francisco / sfgirlbybay

trolley cars in san francisco / sfgirlbybay

san francisco ferry building / sfgirlbybay

san francisco’s ferry building was restored in 2003, and now houses tons of scrumptious cafes, gourmet food markets and a weekly farmer’s market. some of my favorite spots to dine there are the slanted door, hog island oyster company, and tacos at mijita. you may need a walk after all those snacks, so i suggest heading out onto pier 14 for stunning views of both the bay bridge, and the city skyline.

food market inside san francisco's ferry building / sfgirlbybay

farmers market food inside ferry building / sfgirlbybay

Pier 14 in san francisco / sfgirlbybay

Pier 14 overlooking the bay bridge / sfgirlbybay

embarcadero stroll / sfgirlbybay

from pier 14 walk a little further along the embarcadero towards red’s java house, around since the 1930’s — and if you’re still hungry you can get a burger and beer for under $10! if you keep walking southeast you’ll run into one of city’s pride and joys — the home of the san francisco giants, at&t park.

Red's Java House in san francisco / sfgirlbybay

houseboats in mission creek marina / sfgirlbybay

from the ballpark, you’ve got a few more options — one of the last remaining ‘creeks’ within the city is mission creek marina and home to a few dozen moss-covered houseboats and a lovely stretch of park for an afternoon stroll. another option, if it’s the first sunday of the month, is to head back to the ferry building and hop on a ferry boat bound for alameda. the alameda flea market is not to be missed if you’re a vintage junkie like me. and while you’re perusing 100’s of vintage stalls, you’re also privy to some of the best views of the bay bridge, and the city beyond. enjoy the trip!

alameda flea market finds / sfgirlbybay

refurbished bike with basket filled with heineken and farmer's market finds / sfgirlbybay

• all photography by leslie santarina for sfgirlbybay.

This is a sponsored post in partnership with Heineken and all words and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that help keep sfgirlbybay going with fresh content every day.