This week’s challenge from Liberated Traveler is San Francisco, the place where the hills meet the bay. It is also where we spent our honeymoon! Even with all our travels, we still hold the Bay City as one of the greatest cities in the world. A week in this lovely place still did not approach enough time to fully explore half of our list to do! There is simply too much culture, history, and site seeing to pack into that short amount of time. We cannot wait to go back again one day, but in the meantime, we hope you enjoy our list of 10 things to see and do while in San Francisco!
1. See the Golden Gate Bridge!
San Francisco’s most iconic landmark is stunningly beautiful and should not be missed. It goes without saying that the Golden Gate Bridge should be at the top of your to-see list, lest you want people to question whether or not you visited the city by the bay. There are beautiful parks on both sides of the bridge that will give you grand views of this monumental structure. San Francisco has reliable fog that rolls in midday during the summer months, so plan to visit early or late to see the bridge in its entirety.
2. North Beach
North Beach is an area that holds special significance for literary types. Once ground zero of the Beat Generation, you can visit iconic locations such as City Lights Books (located fittingly on Jack Kerouac Alley) where Beat poets famously read poetry and published their unpublishable material. City Lights was infamous for publishing Ginsberg’s “Howl” and serving as a forum for free speech and the exchange of ideas. This neighborhood is quite beautiful with an understated charm that should be explored vigorously.
3. Palace of Fine Arts
This ruinous beauty hosted the Panama-Pacific Exhibition and will wow you with its architecture. The art exhibits inside are world class, and the grounds have been designed to stun and amaze visitors with its recreation of a Greek city in ruins. The landscaping, as well as the carved details on the buildings are well worth the visit. While in the area, a short venture to the Presidio fortress and park nearby will be worth your time.
4. Fisherman’s Wharf
One of America’s most visited tourist attractions, Fisherman’s Wharf is as iconic as the bridge. This area has countless eateries, kitsch shops, and a wonderful aquarium to fill your time. The area surrounding Fisherman’s Wharf includes Ghirardelli Square and great waterfront parks. This whole area is beautiful and filled with great food. Segway tours, Bush Man, and countless other attractions should make this an easy choice. Take the cable car to get here and make it a day.
5. Haight Ashbury
The ground-zero for counter-culture activity in the 60s and 70s, Haight-Ashbury still defines San Fran’s cultural past. The parks are still filled with hippies and the shops reflect the ownership of Woodstock-goers. Don’t be surprised if you are offered illicit drugs by strangers and shown uncanny kindness by Californians.
One of the most densely populated areas of the United States, San Francisco’s Chinatown is a microcosm of Chinese culture and life. Widely regarded as the birthplace of Chinese-American cuisine, it is without question that you should see Chinatown for its restaurants as well as its many other attractions.
7. Angel Island
Known as the Ellis Island of the west coast, Angel Island was the entry point for Asian immigrants from 1910 – 1940. Many immigrants were held here for years due to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, waiting for entry to America. Now, it is designated as a National Historical Landmark and is a short ferry ride away from Fisherman’s Wharf. The island is now a park with beautiful walking paths and historical sites. It offers some pretty amazing views of the San Francisco skyline as well as Sausalito and Tiburon!
8. Coit Tower
Sitting atop Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower is a wonderfully unique tribute to the city’s volunteer firefighters by a wealthy heiress, Lillie Hitchcock Coit. She wished to “add to the beauty of her city” after her death and the tower, in turn, has become a landmark that is an emblem of the city of San Francisco. Inside the tower are 26 murals, the most famous of which was painted by Deigo Rivera (the husband of the famous Frida Kahlo). You can buy a ticket to ride the elevator to the top of the tower, which offers sweeping views of the city, bay, and bridge.
9. See the bay!
Seeing the bay by boat, you can easily pay a fat stack of singles, but why cut into any more of your spending money when you can seek out the Emerald Lady? $10 will get you on board a majestic 1960s beaut. Depending on the weather, they can take you all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge on a 30 minute boat ride.The captains are very friendly and informative and gave us one of the best guide experiences we’ve ever had on a vacation. You can find them on Pier 39 on the docks amidst the restaurants and tourist attractions.
10. The best way to see San Francisco? Walk the city’s beautiful streets!
The best way to see and experience this city is to take to the streets. This city is known for its hills and its diverse neighborhoods, so why not combine the two with a walking tour of the city? Chose the areas you want to visit, and be sure to wear some comfortable walking shoes. There is no better way to see the charms of all the side streets and the character of the residential architecture!