San Francisco, CA Destination Guide
HomeAway staffer J.R. Link counts down his 10 favorite moments from his trip to San Fran:
If you’re looking for a weekend getaway or a scenic excursion, San Francisco, California is one of my favorites. It has everything you’re looking for while on vacation: relaxation, adventurous activities, new restaurants and some of the best weather in the country! This is the Top 10 list for San Francisco!
10. Ghirardelli Square
While it lies within the heavily-saturated tourist area beyond Pier 39, Ghirardelli Square is a San Francisco icon. There are quite a few great restaurants within the campus that was built around the original Ghirardelli factory, but the trick is to visit the Ghirardelli store during sampling! They hand out free chocolate squares seasonally, so if you’re there in the fall, expect Pumpkin Spice!
9. Pier 39 Sea Lions
After a massive earthquake in 1989, hundreds of sea lions started seeking sanctuary on the docks of Pier 39, eventually claiming that area as their permanent home. If you have the patience to wade through the touristy crowds roaming the Pier, this is an absolute must! Get your camera ready, but hold your breath!
8. Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Building
When you’re booking your trip to San Francisco, make sure you’ll be in town for a few hours on Saturday morning, when locals sent up tents and stands to sell produce, flowers and local trinkets. You can also explore the stands on the water front, facing the bay bridge, as they cook migas, seafood and gluten-free baked goods during the Farmers’ Market on Saturdays!
7. The Embarcadero
If you’re visiting the city for more than a few days, you should invest in a MUNI pass, so that you can traverse the hill-ridden city on trolley cars and railed cable cars! Hop on at Market Street, close to Pier One, and ride to Ghirardelli Square so that you can walk back and explore the city’s waterfront by foot!
6. Explore the Financial District
Some of the west coast’s most interesting architecture lies within a few square blocks, including the Transamerica building. When you’re strolling this area of town, keep an eye out for several major corporate headquarters, as well as fascinating architectural genius. Majority of the buildings in this area are constructed with the specific intent to withstand earthquake extremes.
5. The Bay Bridge light show
A temporary art installation created in early 2013, the Bay Bridge light show is something you have to see while in town throughout 2013! The show changes on an hourly basis, with 25,000 LED lights strung about the bridge to create designs and movement!
There is no way to go to San Francisco and not take the boat out to this eerie, yet fascinating island. What was once one of the world’s most famous prisons, Alcatraz is now a collection of run-down buildings and fanciful escape stories. The audio tour is one of the most comprehensive of any I’ve done in the past, and the entire process is very well executed. A helpful hint – be sure to get your tickets well in advance of your trip to San Francisco. The Alcatraz tour is one of the busiest and most heavily booked in the city.
3. Bay Cruise
The Gold and Blue fleet ferry cruise that starts in San Francisco Bay and takes you around Alcatraz and underneath the Golden Gate bridge is one of my favorites from my visit. You get a full history of San Francisco while on the boat, and if you go mid-day, the weather is perfect on the bay and the views of the Golden Gate bridge are incredible. It would be an added bonus if it’s a clear day, as the fog won’t block the view of the massive structure as your sail underneath and around it!
2. Crissy Field
The best place for a relaxing afternoon on the bay is by far Crissy Field. Pack a backpack with some water, a Frisbee and a light lunch and head out to Crissy Field to hang out with the locals and take in the seasonality of San Francisco! In the spring, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the 72 foot catamarans as the America’s Cup teams practice!
1. SF to Sausalito Bike Ride
The one thing you absolutely MUST do before leaving San Francisco is also one of my favorite things to in the world. A bike ride from San Francisco to Sausalito is a great adventure, especially if you forego the ferry return and bike back after lunch! Seeing as though it is San Francisco and the city gets busy on the weekends, I recommend going early morning on a Sunday to rent your bike from one of many bike rentals along the water in San Francisco. Let them know you won’t be needing the ferry ticket, and plan to bike home…this will save you a significant amount of time and stress in the long run! (Waiting for the ferry can take hours). When you cruise along the water and make the trek up the final hill to the entrance of the Golden Gate Bridge, absorb everything going on around you! Stop a few times during the crossing to peer out into the Pacific and see the iconic “Golden Gate” of California! Once you get into Sausalito, enjoy lunch while you peruse the small town and then prepare for round 2 as you head back to San Francisco! This is probably a 6 hour event, but it is one of the greatest things you will do. Ever.