Planning YOUR Trip to San Francisco
The city is rather geographically small only being 49 square miles however, with rows of houses built into the side of steep hills and towering buildings bumping shoulders with one another there is plenty to see.
Before entering the city make a game plan of what you want to see and at what times, this will save you from aimlessly wandering around and getting lost in this labyrinth of a city.
This is a short list of what we thought were the worthwhile "Must See’s" while in San Francisco.
Fisherman’s Wharf/PIER 39
Start your morning off in one of the city’s most popular attractions. Fisherman’s Wharf is home to the iconic PIER 39, which has become the resting spot of a colony of sea lions. Be prepared for the smell! [TIP] Get there early in the morning to avoid the massive afternoon crowds that swarm the railings over looking the floating docks. Parking is a headache and can be very expensive closest to the piers, if possible try and find a parking meter a block or two away.
While at the pier you can stroll over to Madame Tussauds or Ripley’s Believe It or Not. If you are running on a tight budget there are plenty of entertaining street performers and shows that provide a variety of entertainment along the piers.
Being coined “The Paris of the West” a trip to San Francisco wouldn’t be complete without a shopping trip to the city’s crown jewel of shopping districts. The square is surrounded on all sides by major department stores (2nd largest Nordstrom in the U.S.) and a variety of boutique stores. Don’t feel like spending money? Hang out in the middle of the square listening to smooth jazz.
San Francisco hosts the oldest Chinatown in the country and consequently boasts a rich history. The town sprawls over 24 blocks but most of the action and bustle of Chinatown can be found along Grant Avenue. Don’t bother driving through this section the traffic is crazy and road laws don’t seem to apply. Get out on foot and REALLY experience Chinatown, take in the smells, textures, vibrant colors, and even the foreign language. Above all don’t forget to taste Chinatown! Grab some famous “Dim Sum”.
Hop on a Cable Car
The best way to take in the exhilarating hills and views of the city is by hanging outside of one of its famous cable cars. At only $7 dollars for a ticket the adventure is well worth it and makes for a memorable occasion. [TIP] Get to the ticket booths early or go during the week, the lines can be EXTREMELY long on weekends and holidays.
Commonly known as the “ROCK”, this famous prison housed some of the countries most notorious criminals. Hop on a ferry from Pier 33 to explore the fascinating prison riddled in history and mystery of those who never escaped. [TIP] Book an advanced reservation way in advance, rarely are there tickets available at the Kiosk.
If you’re needing to sit down for a minute and if you like chocolate, and who doesn't, you need to stop by Ghirardelli Square. Within the square there is a plethora of treats you can nibble on or fill your belly with rich hot chocolate or root beer floats. This location is NOT a MUST-SEE, however it is a good resting place to recharge.
Financial District/Painted Ladies
Before leaving the city stroll through the Financial District to see a variety of stunning modern architecture rise around you. If you want to take it back a few centuries visit the beautiful "Painted Ladies", these Victorian/Edwardian era homes painted in three or more colors are a MUST SEE if you are into architecture. The most famous of course are the ones displayed in the popular TV show "Full House" however multiple homes of this style can be found near Steiner St.
Feeling claustrophobic after spending a day surrounded by sky scrapping buildings? Get out of the city and see what the coastline has to offer. Tucked away in the northwestern corner of San Francisco there is a point where hillsides of wildflowers and cypress trees line windy trails leading down to old ruins. An afternoon walk through the Sutro bath ruins, sea caves, and rocky beach do not disappoint.
Golden Gate Bridge
No trip to the Bay City would be complete without having visited one of the Seven Wonders of the modern world. The massive burnt orange giant spans 1.7 miles over the channel and will leave you awe struck at the ingenuity of mankind.
North end of Bakers Beach
You can bike, walk, or drive across. If it’s not cold out and you aren’t afraid of heights try biking or walking across, the views are incredible and will add to the experience, walking and biking are allowed during daylight hours. If you drive across beware that there is a toll for heading south bound into San Francisco. The toll is a pay-by-plate method.
Bakers Beach South End
Getting the best Instagram pictures:
Morning: Under the bridge from Fort Pointe
Afternoon: From Bakers Beach (beware that the north side of the beach is a nude beach)
Evening: To get the classic skyline lit up in the background head over to Marin headlands north of the bridge; then take the Alexander Avenue turnoff and follow Golden Gate National Recreation Area signs leading under Hwy. 101 south toward San Francisco; take first turn up to headlands.
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- Mid August to November is the best time to visit. It is a sweet spot for hotel prices and as strange as it sounds you are more likely to find better weather during this period with average temperatures in the low 70's.
-Bring a jacket, incase the fog rolls in.
-If you enter San Francisco via the Oakland Bay Bridge be prepared to pay CASH for the toll, they do not accept cards and there is a fine if you don't pay cash.
-To avoid a ticket if you park on a hillside in San Francisco you MUST turn your wheels into the curb so that your car will not roll into the street if the braking system were to fail.
-Set a timer on your phone to avoid expired parking meters
-Park in well lit and highly trafficked areas