San Francisco is a beautiful coastal city at the center of California. It was incorporated as a city in 1850, and named for St. Francis of Assisi. The city is well known for its hilly streets, its foggy weather, and its trolleys. There are lots of fun things to do in San Francisco, whether you are traveling with friends or family.
10. Wine Country Tours
The areas surrounding this city in the hills have numerous vineyards, many of which offer wine tasting. Visitors can drive themselves to various wineries, or take advantage of several available scenic wine country tours and let someone else be the designated driver. Visit the wineries of Sonoma and Napa Valley, and hike nearby Muir Woods, if you like. Wine country tours are available for short trips or up to 48 hours, for an afternoon with friends or a romantic weekend. Drinks are included with some packages. Tickets can be purchased online.
9. California Academy of Sciences
The California Academy of Sciences, at 55 Music Concourse Drive, is a cool place to spend the day for kids or adults. This center has a planetarium, an aquarium, and a natural history museum. Visitors can take a tour of the facilities in the day, or adults can take a special night tour complete with cocktails. Special nighttime events for kids include a sleepover with the animals, or a Halloween bash with a haunted house and a focus on night creatures. Events change regularly. The academy has a number of regular exhibitions as well. The academy is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Tickets can be purchased online. Occasionally, the center offers free admission on Sundays.
The Exploratorium at Pier 15 is a science museum with lots of hands on exhibits and educational programs. Some features include the Tinkering Studio, which allows guests to get creative and invent things with ordinary household items, the Tactile Dome, which takes visitors on a tour through total darkness, the Kanbar Forum, which shows films, Fisher Bay Observatory Gallery, which allows guests to view the geography, ecology, and history of the region, to name a few. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays, and stays open late on Thursdays. It is sometimes open other hours for special events. Tickets can be purchased online, and children under three get in free.
Notorious federal prison Alcatraz was in operation from 1933 to 1963. It was briefly a military prison before that, in 1868. Located on an island 1.5 miles from shore in San Francisco Bay, the former prison is now managed by the National Park Service. The 22 acre island is the site of the former prison, some old military fortifications, and the West Coast’s oldest operational lighthouse. 1,500,000 visitors tour the island each year. Tours can be booked for just the ferry ride or as multi-day package tours. Some tours take visitors to the prison, while some others get people close to the island and provide informative accounts.
The area known as the Upper Haight was a mecca of hippie culture in the 1960s. Today, the region is a fun area to explore on foot. Enjoy shopping in eclectic stores, browsing art galleries, or sipping wine at an outdoor café. The Victorian architecture is still there, and traces of the counter-culture scene remain. The area is a popular shopping destination, with trendy clothing boutiques, piercing shops and tattoo parlors, lots of eateries, and plenty of art. It is one of the more affordable areas to visit in the city.
5. Bus Tours
Bus tours, trolley tours, double-decker bus tours, and even boat tours are very popular with guests to the city. In addition to wine country tours and tours to Alcatraz, businesses in the city offer dozens of tours to choose from, lasting from an hour or two to a few days. You can rent a limo to get around, or take advantage of tour packages to view famous landmarks, hear stories about the city’s history, or ride to outlying attractions. Prices vary with so many types of tours to choose from.
4. Union Square
Union Square is the city’s most popular neighborhood. It has upscale retail shopping, restaurants and cafes, night clubs, theaters, hotels, art galleries, and lots of events. Browse the shops by day, catch some special exhibitions at a number of art galleries, and enjoy fine dining. Nightlife possibilities include clubs featuring a wide variety of music styles, stand-up comedy, live theater, fashion shows, and bookstore events. In the winter months, visitors can enjoy an ice rink which opens in November and runs into January, and the Winter Walk, with different events daily through the Christmas season, including a tree lighting event.
This coastal city is home to one of the oldest and largest Chinatowns in the United States. It is one of the most popular places to visit in San Francisco. The area was a port of entry for Asian immigrants in the nineteenth century, and it is still heavily populated by Chinese-Americans retaining a lot of the language and culture of China. The Autumn Moon Festival is free to attend and held every year in September. The Chinese New Year Parade is spectacular. The area is lively and colorful, with plenty of shopping and dining. This is one of the more affordable areas of the city.
2. Golden Gate Park
The Golden Gate Park is 1000 acres of land right at the water’s edge of the city. It is a very popular park, and it houses a number of area attractions, such as the Japanese Tea Garden, the Strybing Arboretum, the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, the de Young Museum, the AIDS Memorial Grove, the Music Concourse, and the Academy of Sciences. The park also has lakes, windmills, a model boat facility, and a stadium called the Polo Fields. Polo Fields was the location of the Human Be-In, the event that triggered the Summer of Love in 1967. Today, the park is a popular place for joggers, cyclists, rollerbladers, and others to get out and enjoy nature.
1. Fisherman’s Wharf
For just the cost of the bus fare to get there, you can enjoy the northern waterfront area of the city, known as Fisherman’s Wharf, all day. In addition to the fishing fleet, the area is home to a number of popular attractions, including Pier 39, the Cannery Shopping Center, Ghirardelli Square, some museums, and the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. A colony of sea lions took over the docks next to Pier 39 and were allowed to stay, to the enjoyment of visitors. Tourists can view the World War II sub the USS Pampanito at the docks, and look out at the Marin Headlands when they’re not in the shops or dining on Dungeness crab.
These are some of the best tourist attractions in San Francisco, whether you have a little time or several days to fill. With so many museums, art galleries, shopping areas, dining establishments, and nightlife, the city has lots of urban appeal. People who enjoy the outdoors and nature can enjoy the parks, boat tours, beaches, and recreation the area has to offer, as well.