Vibrant, compelling, and full of life, San Francisco is one of the most popular destinations on the West Coast of America.
This fascinating city is home to a number of attractions and must-see sites – from the quaint charm of Pier 39, to the hustle and bustle of Chinatown, and the rich history of Alcatraz Island. The magic of San Francisco is that there’s something for every kind of tourist. Although it’s a major city, San Francisco is only 49 square miles – meaning that you can pack a remarkable amount of activities into a short space of time.
So whether your ideal city break involves roaming the streets, breathing in the salt air, or visiting as many public gardens and beaches as possible, San Francisco will never disappoint.
Here are our top tips on how to make the most from your trip to this stunning and inspiring city.
Perhaps the most iconic site in San Francisco, Pier 39 is an unforgettable medley of friendly locals, delectable treats, and the odd Californian sea lion – depending on the time of year. It is the perfect location for couples and families alike, offering the opportunity to learn more about the city’s unique wildlife and keen outdoor pursuits.
Some of the top attractions at Pier 39 include:
Aquarium of the Bay
Sea Lion Centre
Wine Tasting on the Bay
Players Sports Grill & Arcade
Please remember that the majority of sea lions at Pier 39 are only seasonal. Some stay all year round, but a large number will migrate to the Channel Islands during the hotter summer months. If you want to guarantee a good view of these adorable creatures, then consider visiting San Francisco in winter.
Golden Gate Park
A stunning attraction in San Francisco, the Golden Gate Park has a phenomenal range of sites to see and experience. From the Japanese Tea Garden, to the Botanics, and California Academy of Sciences – there is something for everyone at this popular attraction.
You can easily access Golden Gate Park by public transport, or private car, and you won’t be stuck for activities. If the weather is beautiful, expect to see locals lounging in the sun and families wandering around the botanics.
This is the perfect site for tourists who want to enjoy San Francisco at a slower pace. You can easily reach Golden Gate Park by cable car too.
Alcatraz Island is home to the first purpose-built fort on the US West Coast. Famous as a prison for dangerous criminals between 1934 -1963, the prison measures some 22 acres and was even a Civil War fortress during the 19th century. Some of its most notorious convicts include Al Capone, George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly, and James ‘Whitey’ Bulger.
Today, the site is a popular tourist attraction – with a number of guided tours available throughout the day, depending on the time of year. You can catch a boat from Pier 33 between 8.45am and 3.50pm between March and November. However, during the winter months, the schedule will change.
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, then Alcatraz Prison also offers night tours – known for being extra creepy. Don’t forget to bring a warm jacket!
If all that sightseeing has worked up your appetite, then Chinatown should be your first stop off. Chinatown is also home to the oldest street in San Francisco, Grant Avenue – but it is perhaps better known for its selection of incredible and varied food.
Filled with world renowned restaurants, glorious shops, and fascinating curiosities that will delight your senses – Chinatown is beloved by locals and travellers alike. Try the phenomenal Delicious Dim Sum restaurant – famous for its chive dumplings and fresh shumai.
Or if you’d prefer some exquisite seafood, like Clam Chowder and Crab Cioppino, then don’t miss out on Sotto Mare Oysteria. This site fantastic restaurant is renowned throughout the city – a favourite amongst foodies.
Located close to Chinatown, North Beach is one of the most culturally rich sites in San Francisco. Famous for its Italian heritage, jazz bars, and late-night gelato delights – a trip to this fantastic city isn’t complete without an excursion to North Beach.
Only a mile long, there is plenty to do in those areas of town. Historically, the North Beach was a favourite haunt of the Beats movement – with authors like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg a regular visitor. But there is also a number of excellent restaurants dotted along this famous stretch, serving a delicious array of Italian, Japanese, and French cuisine.
If you’re in the mood for some nightlife, however, then look no further. North Beach offers a dizzying array of exclusive bars and clubs – the majority of which are coveted by locals and elite tourists alike.
Making the most of San Francisco
For a relatively small city, San Francisco is exceptionally varied and engaging.
With a fantastic selection of activities to suit every kind of traveller, the main appeal of this city is that tourists can go at their own pace. You can spend hours wandering and taking in the sites – exploring the local shops – or just relax in San Francisco’s beautiful gardens and public parks.
Relaxed and always welcoming, San Francisco is the ultimate West Coast city break for travellers who like to do things differently.
To get the most from your trip, you should consider planning ahead and working out exactly how much recreational time you have. There’s plenty to do in San Francisco – and it would be a shame to miss out on anything this city has to offer.
This blog was written by Rachel Jensen on behalf of <a href=“http://www.simplexitytravel.com/”>Simplexity Travel Management</a>, a premium travel management company.