After wining and dining in Napa Valley for the weekend it was time to explore San Francisco. What a great city! San Fran is home to a little bit of everything for every kind of person from interesting museums to beautiful parks, huge landmarks and yummy food to indulge in, we could have spent a lot longer here. There is also a lot to do and we felt a bit overwhelmed at first so if you’re in the same boat here are our top Highlights and 10 things to do in San Francisco to help you out:
Free San Francisco Walking Tour with Wild SF Walking Tours.
Wild SF’s free San Francisco walking tours are not your average sightseeing tours: each walking tour is an alternative, off-the-beaten path experience. We did the Castro/Mission District tour with Wes and his ukulele which including the Castro’s gay rights movement and civil rights history, Latino and artistic cultures of the Mission district as well as sing songs, games and discussions. There is also a Chinatown/North Beach tour, which we didn’t manage but heard it was very good. He was super interesting and fun and I felt like I knew SF a lot better after having attended the tour. www.wildsftours.com
Stroll around Pier 39/Fisherman’s wharf:
From amazing views and sea lions to clam chowder bread bowls and California wines, your visit to San Francisco starts at PIER 39. Kick off your visit by exploring two levels of dining, entertainment, shopping and attractions, all surrounded by unbeatable views of the city and the bay. The only thing is its VERY touristy but hey you’re a tourist right?
Indulge in local specialties at the Ferry building
A transit hub turned gourmet emporium, where foodies go for local, seasonal and sustainable produce as well as slurp oysters, sip wine, lick local homemade tasting ice creams and indulge in San Francisco’s best-known farmers’ market on Saturdays from 8 am to 2 pm PT (08:00 to 14:00), and on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 am – 2 pm PT (10:00 – 14:00), year-round. We went and grabbed a pulled pork sandwich lunch from one of stalls (4505 artisan meats), it was mouth-watering!
On the other side of the Ferry Building you also get great views of San Francisco Bay Bridge:
Stroll in one of San Francisco’s many Parks:
Golden Gate Park:
Head for some green space in one of the largest urban parks in the world, Golden Gate Park is three miles on the western edge of San Francisco. There’s not a single “Keep Off the Grass” sign and its 1,017 acres are a tonic for mind and body. Two major museums, splendid gardens and facilities for more than 20 sports confirm that this is a playground in every sense of the word. We went to the concert Hardly Strictly Bluegrass at Golden Gate Park too.
Mission Dolores Park:
A beautiful park overlooking San Francisco. The park itself is almost 14 acres with pretty palm trees and ice-cream cafes to keep you happy.
See the cities oldest building – Mission Dolores:
This beautiful whitewashed adobe Mision San Francisco de Asis was founded in 1776 and built with Native Ohlone and Miwok labour.
See The Colourful Murals:
There are so many amazing murals in San Francisco. I went to see the ones in Mission District celebrating the contributions of women around the world, which are well worth a visit. If you do the walking tour above in point 1, this will be included.
Cycle Over Golden Gate Bridge:
Once called “the bridge that couldn’t be built,” today it is one the seven wonders of the modern world. This magnificent bridge, perhaps San Francisco’s most famous landmark, opened in 1937 after a four-year struggle against relentless winds, fog, rock and treacherous tides. Spanning 1.7 miles from San Francisco to the Marin headlands, the bridge’s sidewalks are open during the day to pedestrians including wheelchair users and bicyclists.
We cycled from the Ferry building all the way along fisherman’s wharf, past the harbour, along the beach and over the bridge to Battery Spencer and back. Phew. It was a long 16 miles but so worth it. You get to see beautiful views of Golden Gate Bridge the whole way there as well as Alcatraz and various other forts and parks. Well worth the effort.
Alcatraz was the site of the first lighthouse in the Western United States but became a federal penitentiary from 1934-1963, housing famous convicts such as Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. Now, this once infamous prison island is a National Park. This is a must do in my opinion. A visit to the Alcatraz Island includes a tour of the cell house where you can see where the prisoners lived as well as other buildings and viewpoints and you get to hear all about the famous Escape From Alcatraz! Click here to read more about our trip to Alcatraz. When even got to see an ex-Convict.
Ride a Iconic Cable Car
Iconic, fun and uniquely San Francisco, the cable cars are often called San Francisco’s moving landmark. A cable car ride can be a bit of a thrill as they clatter up and down the hills, bells ringing. You’ll some interesting neighbourhoods and sights along your route so try and get an outside seat or its likely you’ll see someone else’s backside the whole way.
10. Hit The Beach:
Well phew after a week traipsing all over SF you’ll probably need a break like we did. There are a couple beaches to go to, the best one being Baker Beach which we didn’t go to. We liked Crissy fields beach for the beautiful views of Golden Gate Bridge.
And here is a bonus thing to do:
11. Visit the colourful Castro District
This is a great district to visit in SF to learn all about San Francisco’s flourishing Gay Pride. This suburb has a lot of interesting shop windows, rainbow zebra crossings and brightly coloured flags. You will visit this area on the Wild SF walking tour if you do it.
There are many more things to do in San Francisco but hopefully I have provided a variety of things to get you started.
Where to stay:
We stayed in a 6-person dorm in Pacific trade winds hostel. Its probably the cleanest hostel we’ve been ever so it gets high marks for that plus the staff and location are great and everyone was really friendly and social.
Bars and Restaurants:
- City View China Town – for delicious dim sum.
- Specs museum café – for a character filled evening with the locals
- Pacific Brewery – yummy pizzas, delicious wine and any brew you fancy
- Cheesecake factory, Roof top of Macys – for high rise views over union square
- In-N-Out Burger – best burgers ever
- Farmers Market/Ferry Building – delicious home grown gourmet produce