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San Francisco is such a fun city! It’s hard not to love the European architecture, the steep bridges, the food, and of course the Golden Gate Bridge. There are plenty of things to do in San Francisco and my goal in this blog is to help you find the BEST ones!
Let’s Start with Some Tips:
- Don’t drive from one place to the other. Parking in the city is EXPENSIVE. If you have parking in your hotel, keep the car there and use public transportation. Use cable cars (another attraction in San Francisco), rent bikes, walk, or use other public transportation. It’s way cheaper and will allow you to fully experience the city.
- There are plenty of thefts in San Francisco. You’ll see warning signs all over, informing people not to leave anything in their cars. This is another benefit for not traveling in your car if you can. If not, don’t leave anything valuable in the car.
1. Walk or Ride on the Golden Gate Bridge-
The Golden Gate Bridge is the most iconic symbol of San Francisco. In fact, it’s the most photographed bridge in the world!! While crossing the bridge by driving costs money, walking or riding is completely free. The bridge is 1.7 miles, and most people walk, take a few photos, and return. Another option is renting bikes and riding from San Francisco to Sausalito, a nice city across the bridge. You can eat there, enjoy the art galleries, or buy souvenirs.
Places to Eat in Sausalito-
- Capita Tequileria- Great Mexican restaurant, they have awesome tacos!
- Napa Valley Burger- If you like burgers this is a great place to stop.
Golden Gate Bridge Viewpoints-
- Fort Point National Historic Site- beneath the towering Golden Gate Bridge.
- Battery East Vista- above Fort Point National Historic Site. Amazing place to see the Golden Gate Bridge
- Golden Gate Bridge View Vista Point- This way my favorite viewpoint. It’s located northeast of the Golden Gate Bridge and offers a unique, panoramic view of the bridge.
Things you Can do in the Golden Gate Bridge-
- Explore the visitor center
- Ride along the trails
2. Explore the Union Square
Union Square is the United States’ third-largest shopping area. During the weekends there are art exhibitions. As an artist, I find it amazing that the artists are there with their art and the city supports their local artists. If you love art, walk around the exhibitions and chat with the artists!
Things to do-
- Shopping- Macy’s Union Square is the biggest department store located west of New York City, it has 7 floors!!
- Explore the Chinatown– the Chinatown is a walk distance from Union Square, and as I mentioned, it’s one of the best things to do in San Francisco!
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art- if you love art, this is a great attraction.
3. Visit Ghirardelli Square-
Love chocolate? This is the best place for ice cream sundaes! This is such a beautiful place and even though it’s touristic, it has great vibes.
Some history- you might recognize the name ‘Ghirardelli’. The Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory opened its second store in San Francisco in 1849 (the first one opened in Stockton, California in 1849). It is the oldest chocolate producer in the U.S.
Today, it’s no longer a chocolate factory but there are a few Ghirardelli stores there where you can get their famous ice cream sundaes or chocolate. There are a few shops and restaurants.
4. Eat Seafood in Fisherman’s Wharf
You can find the BEST seafood Fisherman’s Wharf! Everything is fresh and taste so good.
Chowder Hut- It’s the restaurant in the middle (right behind the Fisherman’s Wharf sign) has a great chowder. The other places have awesome seafood, and you can find anything from calamari, Fish & Chip, and crab sandwiches.
- Pier 39 is nearby. You can do both of them one after the other.
- Check out Madame Tussauds Wax Museum or Ripley’s Believe It Or Not
- Explore the shops
5. Visit the Oldest Chinatown
Established in 1848, San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in North America! It’s also the second-largest Chinatown outside of Asia!
Walk around the streets, explore the different shops and food, and enjoy the culture. When I visited, they still celebrated the Lunar New Year (Year of the Tiger) and we saw some street art, performances, and celebrations.
Pro tip- if you’re looking for souvenirs, they’re cheaper in Chinatown than the piers or Fisherman’s Wharf!
6. Drive Down Lombard Street
Known as the “Crookedest Street in San Francisco”. This is a cool and unique experience! It’s a zig-zag road with eight sharp turns. During the summer there’s a huge line of cars waiting to go down. If you don’t want to wait in line, you might want to walk down the stairs or come early in the morning. If you’re taking the cable car, the Hyde Street cable car has a stop at the top of the street.
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7. Explore Pier 39
Pier 39 is one of the most popular things to do in San Francisco for tourists. If you’ll ask the locals, they might tell you Pier 39 is just for tourists and doesn’t represent the “real” San Francisco. While visiting there, I can understand what they’re talking about, but it doesn’t mean Pier 39 doesn’t worth visiting. It’s such a fun place, there are plenty of people, shops, food, the famous sea lions, and great views on Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge!
Here are Things you Can do in Pier 39:
- See the sea lions- pay attention, the sea lions are not locals and not always there.
- Watch the spectacular views of Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge, and Bay Bridge.
- The Aquarium of the Bay- opens 11:00 am to 6:00 pm daily.
- Whale Watching Tours- the tours leave from Pier 39. The Grey whales are there during Dec-May while the Humpback whales are there from May to Nov.
- Mirror Maze
- The Carousel
8. Take a Ride in the Country’s Only Rolling National Historic Landmark-
San Francisco’s cable cars are the only rolling National Historic Landmarks in the United States!
One ride cost $8 (they don’t give transfers; you pay every time you get on!)
Pro Tip- the main stop has an insane line. If you don’t want to wait, download the app- MuniMobile, pay there/ with cash on board, and join at the second stop. It’s literally a block from the main station!
Pro Tip- They take cash on board except for the cable car turnarounds (Powell & Market, Hyde & Beach, or Bay & Taylor). At those stops, you have to purchase tickets in the ticket booth.
- Take a Tour to Alcatraz-
Alcatraz is another one of San Francisco’s most iconic attractions. They’re usually 2-3 hours and cost between $30-50 per person. Here’s a website that offers tours.
- Visit the Palace of Fine Arts
- Go to art exhibitions- right now (Feb 2022), you can see the Van Gogh exhibit and Frida Kahlo’s immersive art exhibition.
- Visit Muir Woods National Monument and see the Redwoods.