We’ve been to San Francisco a couple of times now, and my friend got in touch the other day to ask for some advice on where to go and what to do there. I realised I had a huge list from my experience and sent her the longest email. After sending it I thought it would actually make a good blog post for anyone thinking of visiting. I hope you enjoy!
1.Take a Trip to Alcatraz
An absolute must! You need to book in advance as it gets booked up. If you are up for an early morning, book the first ferry of the day. It’s very early, but you will be the first to arrive and it won’t be packed with other people! I have very eerie photos without anyone else in them…
2. Cycle Over The Golden Gate Bridge
Hire bikes and cycle over the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s really cool! Plus when you get to Sausalito on the other side you can get a ferry back with your bike. The village there is really pretty too and a great stop for an ice cream.
3. Ride The Historic Cable Cars and Street Cars
The cable cars and street cars are very iconic to San Fran. You should definitely ride on both. They are part of the regular public transport system, so if you are planning on getting around that way buy a travel pass as it includes these too. Otherwise it is $7 each way for a ride on the cable car. The cable cars take you up and over the hill to get from downtown to Fisherman’s Wharf. You can sit inside, outside, or hang off the side, so random but fun.
The street cars were my favourite though. They look very retro and are very photogenic. They go all the way along Market down to the Ferry Building, then along the bay up to Fisherman’s Wharf. The queues for the cable cars might be HUGE in the day. If you’re not bothered about doing it in the day, they do run until really late at night so get a night one and you can jump on without waiting!
4. Visit Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39
It’s the most touristy area of town, but definitely worth a wander. Try the clam chowder, which is served in a sourdough bread bowl and is delicious. You can spot the seals that hang out near the pier, or visit Musée Mécanique – a warehouse filled with antique arcade machines that you can still play on.
5. Go On A Boat Trip Around Alcatraz and Under The Golden Gate Bridge
Down at Fishermans Wharf there are loads of boat trips that take you around Alcatraz and under the Golden Gate. If you want to do a trip look for the guy with the old fishing boat. He only takes 6 people at a time, and you sit outside under blankets if it’s chilly. It’s just one guy and his old fishing boat. When you see the other boats packed with about 50 tourists you will know you made the right decision! It’s only about a dollar more than the others. We paid $15 each and were on the boat nearly 2 hours. We also saw dolphins on our trip!
6. Drive Down Lombard Street
This is the famous curvy street. If you have a car, drive down it. If not, then the cable cars stop at the top so jump off to have a look and a photo stop.
7. Go Mural Spotting in the Mission District
This was something we did on our second visit to San Fran, but definitely worth it if you are in town for a longer than 2 days. The area is famous for it’s vibrant murals, depicting social, cultural and political statements. Balmy Alley is a good place to start, but they are all over, you can’t miss them. While in the area, stop for tacos or a ‘mission burrito’- you’ll find the best taquerias here.
8. Play Mini Golf Around San Francisco Landmarks
This is a great one if the weather isn’t on your side. Also in Mission, Urban Putt is a fairly new indoor miniature golf with a difference. The course is a portrayal of the city, with shaking buildings (the 1906 San Francisco earthquake), cable cars, the Painted Ladies and so much more. I’ve never seen a miniature golf course like it and it’s great fun!
9. Explore Chinatown
San Francisco has the largest Chinatown outside Asia, so this is the place to come if you fancy Chinese food. I can highly recommend the Oriental Pearl – the best Chinese I’ve had in the USA. The Peking Duck is divine!
10. Drink Cocktails in a Speakeasy Bar
San Francisco has loads of hidden prohibition style bars. Some more secret than others, with combinations of passwords to get you through to different rooms. You often have to book and there can be quite a waiting list. Some of the easier ones to access include: Local Edition and Tradition. Local Edition is on Market, look out for a door with an old fashioned clock and go underground to experience this 1950s style cocktail lounge with a vintage newspaper theme.
Tradition is in Tenderloin, reserve a table if you want a private booth, or you can walk in to the bar area. They have the most extensive cocktail menu, which is essentially 8 bars in one, from Speakeasy to Tiki. They make their own Yorkshire Gold tea infused gin. As a Yorkshire girl and a gin lover, this immediately put this place high on my favourite places!
Have I missed anything? What are your recommendations for San Francisco? You can read about our New Years trip to San Francisco here.