Travel

TOP 15 THINGS TO DO IN SAN FRANCISCO

June 10, 2015
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I recently visited San Francisco for the first time this past weekend, and I was blown away!

San Francisco, in northern California, is a city on the tip of a peninsula surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. It’s known for its hilly landscape, year-round fog, iconic Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, and colorful Victorian houses. The Financial District’s Transamerica Pyramid is its most distinctive skyscraper. In the bay sits Alcatraz Island, site of the notorious former prison.

San Francisco has a ton of different neighborhoods, landmarks, history, cafes, trails, and more! You will never get bored in this part of Northern California.

This city has many different hikes that can likely suit any person. The views that can be seen on these trails will blow you away. Stay tuned for a post dedicated solely to San Francisco hiking trails – all within city limits!

One drawback: people think of California as a very warm place to live.  Many forget that California basically takes up most of the west coast, so there will be variants in temperature as you travel up the coast.  I saw many people on the plane wearing shorts and sundresses, which I found quite funny. Always check the weather of your destination. San Francisco is very foggy and cool in the summer. Light jackets are a must during the day, and scarves & boots should be worn at night as the temperature drops.

I had a difficult time limiting this list to 15 things.  Once you visit San Francisco, you will fall in love, just like I did!

[1] THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
The Golden Gate Bridge is the most popular landmark in San Francisco.  It spans the channel between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.  You can walk, drive, or bike across this 1.7 mile bridge. There are tourist-parking areas on either end of the bridge for you to park your car or walk around.
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[2] ALAMO SQUARE
Alamo Square is a hilltop park and residential neighborhood located in the neighborhood of Western Addition. It is one of the most photographed locations in San Francisco. Alamo Square’s famous “postcard row” at Hayes and Steiner Streets is indeed a sight to behold. A row of Victorian houses facing the park on Steiner Street, known as the “Painted Ladies,” have been shown in a number of movies, television shows, and commercials, such as the 1978 horror film The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the romantic comedy The Five-Year Engagement, and the opening sequence of the American sitcom Full House.






[3] LOMBARD STREET
Lombard Street is an east–west street in San Francisco that is famous for a steep, one-block section with eight hairpin turns. Lombard street runs through multiple neighborhoods such as Cow Hollow and Presidio, however, its most notable portion is in the neighborhood of Russian Hill.
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[4] HIKE: TWIN PEAKS
At 922 feet in elevation, Twin Peaks is second only to Mt. Davidson in height, offers spectacular views of the Bay Area, and is a world-famous tourist attraction. Total distance: about 0.5mi.
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[5] HAIGHT-ASHBURY
This neighborhood was the birthplace of the summer of 1967 aka The Summer of Love. As children grew up and moved out to the suburbs, the hippies gradually took over the neighborhood. Now, affluent young professionals have move into the Haight. You can still see many fragments of flower power and tie-dye sprinkled throughout the town, especially through the main drag of Haight Street.
 
 
 
[6] GOLDEN GATE PARK
This park is nothing like any park you have seen before – it houses a Conservatory of Flowers, herds of bison at Bison Paddock, a carousel, playgrounds, dog parks, polo grounds, San Francisco Botanical garden, Japanese Tea Garden, Hippie Hill, and the California Academy of Sciences which has an aquarium, rainforest, and a planetarium.
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[7] HIKE: CALIFORNIA COASTAL TRAILS
California Coastal Trails is a series of trails that are 1200 miles total.  The portion that runs through San Francisco takes hikers from Cliff House near the Sutro Baths, and all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. It passes many landmarks including Baker Beach, the beautiful Seacliff area, Marshall Beach, and Batteries to Bluffs Trail. 9 miles total.
 
 
 
 
[8] FOOD: SUSHIRRITO
Two of my favorite worlds collide – burritos and sushi. Multi-cultural flavors are put into every sushi burrito along with fresh ingredients and fish that is responsibly sourced. You can find locations in SOMA, Union Square, Market Street, and in the TransAmerica building.
 
 
 
[9] TOUR: DOUBLE DECKER TOUR BUS
This is a touristy event that is a must-do! Drive past some of the top landmarks of San Francisco as you are given historical facts about the city via a tour guide.  You can get off at any stop you like, walk around the neighborhood, and hop back on another tour bus, as long as you are at one of the designated stops.  I highly recommend BigBus tours –  it features 20 different stops, and your ticket is good for 24 hours.  Many people do not realize that the landmarks of San Francisco are spread out.  Public transportation, although cheap and convenient, can require ample time and multiple buses to get to the your destination.
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[10] ALCATRAZ
Alcatraz, an infamous prison, is located on Alcatraz island, 1.5 miles from the city. You can go there via a cruise from Pier 33. From the 1934 until 1963, Alcatraz was America’s premier maximum-security prison, and it was also the final stop for some of the nation’s worst prisoners.
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[11] RIDE A CABLE CAR
The San Francisco cable car system is the world’s last manually operated cable car system. An icon of San Francisco, the cable car system forms part of the San Francisco Municipal Railway. Keep in mind, this is not to be confused with a trolley, which is a type of street car – also a mode of transportation in San Francisco.
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[12] HIKE: COIT TOWER
Coit Tower, also known as the Lillian Coit Memorial Tower, is a 210-foot tower in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. Its observation deck, reached by elevator, provides 360-degree views of the city and bay. The murals inside the tower’s base were painted in 1934 by a group of artists employed by the Public Works of Art Project, and depict life in California during the Depression. Be prepared to climb 378 stairs to Coit Tower and 397 back down via the Filbert Street Steps.
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[13] MORAGA MOSAIC STEPS
These steps are located on 16th Avenue in the Sunset Neighborhood of San Francisco. This staircase was designed by local artists and took two years to decorate.
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[14] FERRY BUILDING
The Ferry Building was a product of revitalization from the 1989 Earthquake. It sits at the foot of Market Street, and people definitely come here for the food. There is also a popular farmer’s market on Tuesday and Saturday until 2 p.m.
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[15] FISHERMAN’S WHARF
Although this area is filled with way too many people and quintessential tourist shops, it is still a place you should visit at least once.  This is the hub for specialty stores/shops such as Maddam Tussaud’s Wax Museum, Pier 39’s Musical Stairs, arcades, a carousel, a chance to see sea lions perched on Pier 39, tons of restaurants, Ghirardelli Square, and much more!
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