San Francisco is my favourite city in the world. It was the first city I had ever visited internationally and it was where the travel bug bit me for real. I was very concerned about visiting it again, afraid that the spell would be broken and I would realise that my wonderful memories of the place were tinted by rose coloured glasses. I shouldn’t have worried, even after another visit, San Francisco is still number 1 on my list. Here are a few tips and must see places for my favourite city in the world.
1. Get a City Pass! From $145AUD/Adult, this booklet gives you unlimited 7 day access to the Cable cars and Muni Buses, entry into the California Academy of Sciences, A cruise around the bay with Blue & Gold Fleet, entry into EITHER Aquarium by the bay OR Monterey Bay Aquarium and EITHER the Exploratorium OR the de Young Museum. It also includes all sorts of discounts and offers for other attractions. It is well worth it, when 1 cable car ride costs about $7AUD ($5USD) the transport cost for 7 days alone can be more than the pass!
2. See the Golden Gate Bridge from a different view. With a city pass you can take a cruise around the bay, but how about a sunset catamaran cruise under the bridge with wine? Or a bike ride around the well maintained bike paths of the bay? You can even ride across the bridge if you wish. The bridge itself is a stunning, practical monument that can be seen from a lot of the city, you can’t miss it!
3. Visit Alcatraz. This famous high security prison on its own island in the bay is now a very popular tourist attraction. I recommend the audio tour, which gives fascinating insights into the history of the island and the people who worked and were incarcerated there. The ferry to the island has multiple trips every day from Fishermans Wharf, but I would recommend pre booking as spots sell out. Don’t forget a coat as even if it is a warm day in the city, it can be very cool in the bay.
4. Expand your mind. A visit to one or more of the wonderful museums is one of my favourite things to do. The California Academy of Sciences is stunning, set within the Golden Gate Park. The park is an attraction in itself, encompassing other museums and the botanical gardens. The museum itself even has live animals such as fish, lizards and even penguins! Another place worth a visit, especially if you are travelling with kids, is the Exploratorium. This is an interactive science museum, with lots of hands on experiments and displays. Lots of fun, no matter your age!
5. Fisherman’s Wharf. This is the main tourist center of San Francisco. It is a bustling area full of wonderful seafood stalls and restaurants with offerings such as clam chowder, crab and lobster! As well as the seafood there is a multitude of themed and franchise restaurants as well as a multitude of tourist attractions such as the Aquarium, the Cable Car turn station, tourist shopping and the Ghirardelli chocolate shop and café. As much as this sounds like a typical tourist trap area, I guarantee you will not be able to resist this colourful area!
6. Explore. Take a day to get lost, go walking or ride the public transport. There is so much to see and do! Go find the beautiful Painted Ladies (the street which Full House was based in), take a walk through the LGBT proud suburb of Castro, hike up a few tough hills, go shopping in Union Square, eat dinner in the Italian district or maybe try and find the first ever fortune cookie factory in China Town (hint: it is in a small alley)
So, when you are looking at visiting the west coast USA, stop into San Francisco for a couplel of days, maybe more, and take in the sights and history of this colourful, hilly city by the bay.