Mary Ann Issac
10 Best things to do in San Francisco
Think of a place where ‘cool’ describes the lifestyle; where people cycle to work, where electric buses are the norm, where everyone waits for the light to turn green, where ‘organic, farm fresh’ are not buzzwords, but just habit- think of San Francisco.
Think of a place that oozes old world charm; where the sounds of cable cars rattling along cobbled streets are as common as the Victorian architecture blending in with modernity- think of San Francisco.
Think of a place where the perfect blue sky almost mirrors the blue of the ocean dancing beneath the orange vermillion of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge –think of San Francisco.
Think of a place that has embraced the people, food, and cultures of the world, and accepted them as their own-think of San Francisco.
Think of a place where people drive up the steepest hill just to come down the picturesque, yet most crooked street in the world, -think of San Francisco.
1. Drive down the most crooked street in the world at Lombard Street
When it’s just not your day and you’re feeling blue, but you still have a day to sightsee, a walk down the 8 hairpin bends of Lombard street photographing the charming Victorian houses and beautiful hedges with colourful hydrangeas, will give you your fill of whimsy for the day.
2. See Victorian Architecture at its finest at the Painted Ladies
Head to the Painted Ladies on Alamo Square for a picture postcard photograph against the pastel hues of the most popular Victorian homes in the city. Alamo Square Park is a perfect mini picnic spot with views of the beautiful Painted Ladies as you enjoy your snacks on the lush green hill.
3. Eat your way through China Town
When you are in the mood for some authentic Asian cuisine, but you don’t want to wander too far away from the view of the bay, head to the oldest China town in North America, which is also the largest Chinese enclave outside of Asia!
As you enter through Dragon’s gate, the entrance to China Town on Bush street, you forget that you are in the heart of San Francisco- the architecture has changed from modern/ Victorian to Asian inspired facades, and the faint music you hear is almost stereotypical of the street you are walking down. The scintillating aromas of wok fried garlic with soy and pork, stir fried beef, deep fried chicken, and roasted duck excite your senses, but confuse you all the same- what do I eat today!
The ubiquitous Mandarin I hear suddenly doesn’t seem like a barrier for me to understand the story of the once hopeful artist, whose murals on the walls we admire today, the story of the once hopeful musician, for whom the wrinkles on his skin and the grey in his hair have only made him a more passionate street performer, the story of the once hopeful chef, stretching and folding dragon beard candy in the shop window to lure intrigued tourists inside.
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4. Cycle down the Golden Gate Bridge
Iconic is the orange vermillion of the ‘most photographed bridge in the world’. Rent a bicycle or simply walk across the magnificent bridge whilst enjoying the breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay. Keep your eyes peeled as you walk along the Golden Gate Bridge, as it is a popular spot for jumpers. Numbers for the suicide helpline and bridge patrolmen can be seen if you keep a lookout for them. For some, the walk can be an other-worldly experience as there have been many claims of having seen and heard ghosts of previous jumpers urging them to take that leap into the depths of the turquoise beauty down below.
5. Relax at Crissy Field & Beach
My favourite spot in San Francisco- Crissy field & its gorgeous beach! If all you want to do is relax and enjoy the beautiful California coast, make yourself a picnic, and come here. The stunning beach lures you in with its glimmering turquoise waters, and as the cool water splashes you with its frothy goodness, look up, and there, in all its glory is the majestic Golden Gate Bridge. The beach and park are both very popular with tourists and locals alike; which means you are in great company if you are picnicking alone. (Like I did) Make some new friends playing frisbee, or ask a stranger to take your picture. You never know where a hello could take you! ☺
I had my Herschel backpack with me, which was light & functional. It served me well all through my 5 weeks in the US. I've been getting questions about it, so I'm linking it here.
6. People watch at Union Square
Union Square is the central shopping, hotel, and theatre district in Downtown San Francisco. The square is a great place to watch local artists working on their latest piece, or you can bring your own easel and canvas and be inspired by all the talent around you. The San Francisco Hop on Hop Off Buses start from here, and will take you all around town. You can buy your tickets on the day from Union Square, or book them online.
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7. Shop at Ghirardelli Square
In the 1800's, it was the headquarters and factory of Ghirardelli chocolates. Now, it is a vibrant retail destination of eclectic retail shops and restaurants. It has also earned a place in the National Historic Register, assuring its conservation for future generations to enjoy.
8. Ride the iconic Cable Cars
These manually operated cable cars are now an icon of San Francisco, having been in operation since the 1800's. They are now a must try for tourists visiting the city. The cable cars run on the popular tourist routes, so you can opt for a cable car ride instead of the Hop on Hop Off buses to get to China Town, Lombard Street, Ghirardelli Square, The Painted Ladies, and many more.
9. Picnic at the Presidio
There is a lot to do in the Presidio area, but my favourites are:
-The Presidio Picnic every Sunday from March to October from 11am-4pm at the Main Parade Ground, where the whole city comes together to celebrate with great food from a lineup of great food trucks. Check the schedule on https://www.presidio.gov/events/presidio-picnic to plan your trip according to the different cultural performances and other activities for that week.
-This view of the Golden Gate Bridge! My picnic lunch with the stunning bridge and cool breeze for company was all I needed for the perfect day in San Francisco. There is a cafe here to get yourself some sandwiches and Ghirardelli hot chocolate!
10. Shop at one of USA's best Farmer's Markets at the Ferry Building
The iconic Ferry Building at the Embarcadero is a must visit when in San Francisco, for the building boasts of a 245 ft Clock Tower with four dials, which can be seen from afar. Inside the Ferry building, there are a host of restaurants serving up gourmet local cuisine, which you can enjoy with the view of the San Francisco Bay, and the Bay Bridge. It also plays host to a highly acclaimed Farmer's Market that serves up fresh farm produce, artisan food, and other products, every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
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