San Francisco Travel Guide

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Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden

Marco

A San Francisco vacation should rank pretty high on everyone's top ten list of places to visit in the U.S. -- if not the world. Sure, on the surface San Francisco has all the cliché tourist icons that we know: the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Chinatown, to name but a few. But keep in mind that San Francisco itself is fairly small geographically -- covering roughly 50 square miles, so it is one of the best cities in the world to enjoy on foot. Chances are, just outside your San Francisco hotel, you will find yourself at or near at least a handful of major San Francisco activities or attractions.

"The City," as it is called by locals, is the home of the San Francisco Giants (MLB), the San Francisco 49ers (NFL), and the Golden State Warriors (NBA). If you are planning to take a San Francisco trip during the summer months, AT&T Park is a great family-friendly place to catch a Giants baseball game during this festive time of the year. Sit in the upper deck to see the Bay and some of the real obvious tourist areas of SF, which are seldom visited by residents except to bring friends and relatives.


There's plenty of delightful San Francisco restaurants and lots of shopping geared toward tourists. Of course, no San Francisco trip would be complete without a visit to Fisherman’s Wharf, where you can get the famous Dungeness crab or stay at gorgeous San Francisco hotel. You can eat crab all year round in San Francisco, but they’re best when they're in season, which runs from September/October to about April. And while it’s really more of a Los Angeles tradition, the only In ‘N Out Burger joint in San Francisco is in the Fisherman’s Wharf area so if you haven’t had one, get it there!

The Pier area (Pier 40 and further south at the Ferry Building) is where the ferries arrive from around the rest of the Bay Area. The mile between the Ferry Building and Pier 39 is an uncluttered waterfront view of underneath the Bay Bridge and the East Bay. Pier 39 itself is a popular landmark, as it has been transformed into a two-story outdoor shopping area, complete with sporting goods stores, a magic shop, and a number of San Francisco restaurants, and eateries.

San Francisco is less a single city than it is an amalgamation of many neighborhoods. The major neighborhoods where you can find plenty of unique San Francisco activities include: North Beach, Castro, Mission, the Haight, Hayes Valley, Bernal Heights, Noe Valley, and South of Market. Not all of the neighborhoods are tourist destinations, but all of them contain good shopping and cute little bistros and cafes.

San Francisco is home to a sizable gay population. The main gay neighborhood is the Castro. The Castro is a neighborhood unlike any other and it's a fun one to visit, offering many fine San Francisco restaurants and cool San Francisco hotels.

The Mission district is also popular. Although it's become more gentrified, you can expect some wonderful burritos from places like el Farolito, Taqueria Cancun, and plenty of wonderful tapas places.

Fisherman’s Wharf is filled with some of the top San Francisco activities and attractions. In addition to excellent San Francisco restaurants, cafes, and bars the Wharf is also a haven for street performers, and it's filled with cable cars, souvenir shops and some of the coolest, most unique museums you'll ever see. Also, the sea lions at Pier 39 alone are worth the trip. At no cost at all you could watch hundreds of them laze about on the docks barking and preening as tourists stand nearby, taking photos and just enjoying the scene.

The Wharf is such a relaxing place to stroll around, eat, and take in the sights and it is also an excellent base considering the close proximity to the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the Ferry Building, North Beach, the Cannery and more! 

Top Ten Things to do in San Francisco

Alcatraz Island - Sure, Alcatraz Island is considered a very touristy thing to do, but let's not forget that this island prison has a history that's as chilling as a walk through the chow hall or standing in one of the tiny prison cells during your tour. The ride over to Alcatraz Island is also an attraction in itself. Alcatraz cruises leave from Pier 33 on Fisherman's Wharf. www.nps.gov/alcatraz

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) - The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art opened in 1935. It is home to works by Ansel Adams, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Paul Klee, and more. The museum, already an elaborate space, will be adding a 14,400-square-foot Rooftop Garden early 2009. 151 Third Street, San Francisco CA, 94103, ph: 415-357-4000, www.sfmoma.org.

Gary Danko -- This upscale Modern and Classic cuisine restaurant is a must during your visit to San Francisco -- if you can get in. The waits for a table are long on any given night of the week, but well worth the wait. Gary Danko has been at the top of the San Francisco dining scene for seven years and for six years in a row it has received a Five Star rating from Mobil Travel Guide. The restaurant has a tasting menu and a regular menu as well as a wine list that reads like a novel. Gary Danko's wine cellar contains more than 1,200 selections from 15 countries and "vintages spanning three centuries." 800 North Point at Hyde Street, 415-749-2060, reservations with a credit card guarantee. www.garydanko.com

Golden Gate Bridge - More than 10 million people visit the breathtaking Golden Gate Bridge each year. It is considered one of the world's most beautiful bridges and it is a definite must on every visitors list. You can walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, bike, or drive -- it's up to you. Skateboards, rollerblades, and roller skates are not permitted in bridge sidewalks. www.goldengatebridge.org

Coit Tower - If you want to get a good workout and enjoy excellent views of San Francisco, then Coit Tower is a must. You can walk up Telegraph Hill in North Beach to Coit Tower, then take the elevator up to the observation deck to enjoy the views. But before you huff onto the elevator, check out the 19 Depression-era murals in the lobby. It's free to explore the lobby and vista points, but it costs $3.75 to ride the elevator up to the observation deck -- which sits at around 210 feet high. If you don't feel like walking to Coit Tower, take the #39 MUNI. 1 Telegraph Hill Boulevard, San Francisco CA, 94133, Ph: 415-362-0808. Hours: 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.

Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 - It doesn't matter if some people consider Fisherman's Wharf a tourist trap, it's still a great place to visit during your San Francisco vacation to enjoy excellent seafood restaurants with stunning Bay views, more than 110 stores, festivals, and lots of live entertainment. Major highlights include: Aquarium of the Bay, sea lions, Turbo Ride, City Kayak, the San Francisco Carousel, and Bay cruise adventures by the Blue & Gold Fleet. www.pier39.com

North Beach - Located between two of San Francisco's busiest areas -- Fisherman's Wharf and Chinatown, is North Beach -- San Francisco's Little Italy. The area is home to excellent restaurants, clubs, and cafes, and well as churches, parks, festivals and many beautiful San Francisco hotels. Walking tours are available by Food Writer GraceAnn Walden, 415-302-5898, gaw@sbcglobal.net. Chamber of Commerce, San Francisco CA, 94133, Ph: 415-989-2220, www.sfnorthbeach.org.

Golden Gate Park - At 1,013 acres, Golden Gate Park is San Francisco's largest park and it's bigger than New York's Central Park. There are so many things to do and see in Golden Gate Park, you could spend weeks trying to experience it all. The park is home to more than 1 million trees, a lily pond, several fly casting pools, and nine lakes. The Strybing Arboretum and Botanical Garden is located here as well as the Conservatory of Flowers and the 9-hole Golden Gate Park Golf Course (415-751-8989). The par 27 course is 1,357 yards long and it is considered one of the best golf courses in a beautiful urban setting. http://www.parks.sfgov.org/site/recpark_index.asp

Chinatown - San Francisco's Chinatown is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia -- although some argue that New York's Chinatown is the largest. San Francisco's Chinatown is filled with historic sites and buildings and monuments as well as delightful Chinese restaurants, souvenir shops, herbal medicine shops, and interesting little San Francisco hotels. E-mail: info@sanfranciscochinatown.com, www.sanfranciscochinatown.com.

Cable Car Museum - The cable car museum is home to a collection of historic cable cars, mechanical displays, and images dedicated to the preservation of cable car history. There is also a nifty little gift shop onsite. Open from 9 am to 5 pm, the Cable Car Museum is located in the Washington-Mason powerhouse and carbarn on Nob Hill. 1201 Mason Street, San Francisco CA 94108, 415-474-1887, www.cablecarmuseum.org.


 

Part or or all of this text stems from the original article at: Mark Hazleton

Contributors

June 11, 2006 change by bdevil38

February 22, 2007 change by rfujitani

August 17, 2007 change by markhazleton

January 29, 2008 change by stevegar

June 06, 2008 change by mcburton

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