As the leading financial hub of the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California, a trip to San Francisco will not disappoint. Nicknamed “The City by the Bay,” “Fog City,” “San Fran,” “Frisco,” and “The Paris of the West,” San Francisco encompasses a land area of approximately 50 miles. This city is the second most densely populated city in the United States. The area is known for its cool summers, cable cars, fog, steep hills, and therefore, is a popular destination among tourists. Additionally, San Francisco is the headquarters of world-renowned companies such as: Gap, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Yelp, Pinterest, Twitter, Uber, Mozilla, and Craigslist.
Top Attractions in San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge
No trip to San Francisco is complete without viewing the infamous Golden Gate Bridge. The vaulting, orange arches cannot go unnoticed. “Golden Gate” refers to the body of water that it spans. The Golden Gate Straight connects the Pacific Ocean with the San Francisco Bay. This historical landmark is accessible daily by bus, car, bicycle, or by foot. If driving, the parking lot is free to up to four hours on the Northeast Side. The Southeast Side Visitor Parking Lot costs $1 per hour. Souvenir shops are available as well. Do not miss this amazing West Coast landmark!
Historical buffs and people of all ages will thoroughly enjoy their experience at Alcatraz. This now museum was once a former penitentiary. It lies on a small, rocky island in the heart of San Francisco Bay. Visitors can learn the history of Alcatraz including viewing how the prisoners lived and tried many times to escape. Admission to Alcatraz is free. However, in order to get to the island, a ferry ticket must be purchased. Ticket prices are $30 per adult. The majority of visitors agree that the experience is worth the price. Tickets do include a scenic boat trip to the island, a guided tour from a knowledgeable park ranger, and an audio guide. Tours begin at 8:45AM and return throughout the day until approximately 6:40. Be advised that evening tours book up extremely fast. Book at least one month in advance before visiting.
Golden Gate Park
Trails, picnic areas, lakes, museums, and monuments are all found on this 1,000 acre park area. The Japanese Tea Garden and carousel are two highlights that cannot be missed. Additionally, several festivals and concerts are held on the property throughout the year. Another beautiful sight on the grounds is the Conservatory of Flowers. Here, visitors can view 2,000 species of plants. All animal lovers must visit the Steinhart Aquarium located in the park’s mid-eastern section. Strawberry Hill is another awesome attraction on the grounds that is popular among hikers, cyclists, and people who wish to relax and meditate. Golden Gate Park is simply a wonderful way to spend a sunny, San Francisco afternoon.
Twin Peaks is a free recreation, sightseeing, and hiking hotspot for tourists. Whether walking up the hills, or hitching a cab ride to the second highest point in the city, travelers always remark on this unforgettable view of the city. The towers rise 922 feet from the ground allowing visitors to experience a breathtaking view. Twin Peaks is open daily from sunrise to sunset, so be sure to spend some time hiking the trails. The towers are literally on top of the world!
This area is an eccentric neighborhood stop for tourists. The center of Union Square consists of an open space decorated with palm trees. Various artwork such as heart-shaped sculptures created by local artists always appeal to each tourist’s eye. Additionally, Union Square is perfect for all shoppers. High-end stores like Prada and Tiffany & Co. are on the grounds. When the appetite kicks in, check out the Emporio Rulli Café. Locals warn tourists not to drive to Union Square as the area is often congested. The BART rail system, cable cars, and Muni-run buses are the best ways to reach this popular destination.
Tourists looking to explore all of San Francisco must head out to Fisherman’s Wharf. Yes, it is flocked with tourists, but that is because there are so many popular attractions. Check out the PIER 39 shopping center, Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum, and several delicious restaurants and cafes. Fisherman’s Wharf is where tourists can catch a ferry to Alcatraz. The ambiance is contagious with views of old ships, sea air, and mouth-watering seafood.
Ferry Building Marketplace
Head on out to the Ferry Building Marketplace, located on Market Street, for some exotic foods such as: Artisan cheeses, mouthwatering gourmet treats, oysters, Parisian-style cafes, chocolate, jams, and farmer’s market stands. The quality of the products is out of this world. Several public bus lines and the Embarcadero BART/ Muni Station all transport passengers to the marketplace. It is open daily from 10AM to 6PM. Be sure to double-check the hours before traveling to the marketplace as some restaurants and stores may have varying hours.
Pick the time right!
Tourists visit San Francisco from March to November
An ideal time to visit San Francisco lies between the months of September to November. These fall seasoned months offer warm temperatures and minimal crowds. March, April, and May are also good choices, but it will feel a bit breezier and the air will have a bite about it. Many people flock to San Francisco during the summer months. Crowds and prices rise, but the sun, sand, and surf make it all worthwhile.
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is located 13 miles south of the heart of downtown San Francisco, California. SFO serves as the largest airport in the Bay Area. It is United Airlines’ fifth largest hub, and also serves as Virgin America’s prime base of operations. Additionally, it houses the Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum on the property. The airport has four terminals: 1, 2, 3, and international, as well as seven concourses, A through G. Ground transportation is available on sight. Travelers can take AirTrain to any of the four terminals, the two international terminal garages, the BART station (rail link), and the airport’s Rental Car Center. Be advised that the San Francisco Municipal Railway does not provide service to the aiport. SamTrans, however, does. It offers five lines: 140, 292, 397, 398, and KX, connecting SFO with Downtown San Francisco, the Peninsula, and Palo Alto.
Although San Francisco seems huge to its visitors, it really is a small city in size. Most of the tourist attractions are conveniently located. Travelers can go from Union Square through Chinatown and North Beach to Fisherman’s Wharf all within 1.5 miles. That being said, renting a car is not a must if spending the majority of the stay in the greater Downtown San Francisco area. There is plenty to do, and several ways to see everything that awaits each and every tourist.
If planning to use public transportation, buses, the infamous cable cars, and trollies are all readily available throughout the city. Consider purchasing a Muni Passport, which will grant passengers access to these public transportation services for a discounted price. Passes are available for 1, 3, and 7 days. Quite honestly, walking is the best way to really see the city. Although some areas are a bit hilly, the waterfront is perfectly flat. Combine walking with a cable car ride and ditch the car rental.