Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Vacationing in San Francisco: Travel & Tourism

After spending a few glorious days in San Diego working with the tourism board, I took a short flight to San Francisco in northern California.

I’ve seen the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge in many movies and TV shows but nothing beats experiencing it in person and driving across the bay as the large cables swoop down around you.

I only had two full days to explore so I took the City Tour Bus which stopped at most major attractions and districts. This guided, customized tour gives you the option of hopping on and off wherever you want. It also offers a trip to Sausalito - an upbeat town on the other side of the bridge with picturesque views and waterfront dining. 

What impressed me most about San Francisco was the liveliness and beautiful architecture. There is so much to see and do in each bustling district including vibrant restaurants, bars, waterfront villages, parks, shops, historical sites, museums and the city’s iconic hilly streets adorned with beautiful Victorian homes.  

One of the first things I had to do after stopping at the famous bridge was head to the Painted Ladies - also known as the houses featured in the opening credits of the TV show Full House.

The tour also stops at Golden Gate Park, Little Italy, Ghirardelli Square, Palace of Fine Arts, Civic Center, the Financial District and more!

San Francisco has an eclectic mix of old Edwardian buildings on the outskirts and modern skyscrapers with futuristic designs in the city center. Union Square is a great place to explore and I highly recommend checking out Macy’s department store - the second largest in the world after the one in New York City. At the top of Macy’s you will also find one of my favorite restaurants – The Cheese Cake Factory which has an amazing outdoor patio overlooking the public plaza. 

As the sun sets the streets and palm trees are beautifully lit. I suggest taking the night tour which gives you a different perspective on the city and breathtaking views from the Bay Bridge.

Walking distance from Union Square is Chinatown – one of the oldest in North America with the largest Chinese community outside of Asia. This is a great place to find affordable souvenirs and hand crafted gifts.

There are quite a few piers on the bay but Pier 39 is most famous for its scenic views, sea lion sightings, eateries, shops and entertainment. On a clear day you can also see Alcatraz across the water and it is walking distance to Fisherman’s Wharf – another popular tourist area. Parking  by the pier tends to be limited and costly, especially on weekends so keep that in mind if you plan to drive.

If you head to San Francisco dreaming of warm California weather you should know that it gets pretty darn cold! The warmest months are from July to October when the temperature averages 14˚C or 57˚F.  I visited in late October and still needed a jacket and scarf in the evenings. Sitting atop the double-decker tour bus requires a lot more layers and some tourists even brought earmuffs so be prepared and pack accordingly. The city is also known for its ever shifting fog which can totally block visibility of the Golden Gate Bridge.

San Francisco is also known for the rustic trolleys that zip up and down the steep streets but there are very few left and the fare is $7.00 each time you get on.

If you are only visiting for a short time, booking a tour is a great way to see all the most popular points of interest. I definitely plan to visit again soon! To check out my San Diego Travel Guide click HERE.

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