San Francisco is a must-see on many people’s travel bucket list. I was fortunate enough to visit the hilly city in the summer of 2014.
What To Do in San Fran
I spent three nights in San Francisco and was able to see as much of the city as humanly possible. My family and I are big on getting the most out of our travel experiences, so we always make sure to schedule an organized tour and learn the history of a place we are visiting.
This brings me to the first must do: take a bus tour of San Francisco. We booked ours through City Sightseeing. By selecting their 2-day pass option, we were able to take advantage of the Downtown Tour, the San Francisco Night Tour, and the Sausalito tour. The tours are hop-on hop-off, so if you do not like your tour guide (which happened to us once, because he was hard to understand) you are welcome to hop-off and wait for the next bus. Additionally, if you see something you want to explore more in depth, you are also able to hop off and hop on the next bus when you are done exploring. I believe busses come around every 10-15 minutes.
The downtown tour will take you to see some of San Francisco’s most famous landmarks, however the busses are not allowed to stop near the famous Painted Ladies. Your tour guide is also not allowed to talk over the intercom at this point in the tour. The residents of Alamo Square (the neighborhood) have complained and gotten the city to issue an ordinance forbidding these behaviors… So if you are interested in visiting the ladies and taking in a picnic in the park (like in the Full House opening sequence) then I recommend making a separate hike up to this area.
In addition to riding a bus around San Francisco, riding a cable car up its hilly streets is also a must. Some lines are busier than others… I recommend the California Street over the Powell Street.
A walk (not drive!) up Lombard Street is also highly recommended. Hiking up the high hill to the world’s most crooked street, you will be able to get some crazy cool pictures. Do not drive down Lombard Street, the traffic will keep you there for nearly a full day.
While on our hop-on-hop off tour, we got off the bus in Sausalito and explored the marina there a bit as well. We also had some delicious ice cream at Lappert’s. As a lover of, the not very popular, rum & raisin, any time someone offers it, I’m overjoyed. I highly highly highly recommend Lappert’s. And while the line may seem intimidating, it flies by super quick.
We also hopped off the tour in Chinatown and did some exploring. As mentioned in my image, don’t stay on Grant Avenue, explore the alleys as well! Also, be mindful, if you are looking for good knock offs, they can be found. I unfortunately had a less than pleasant situation when I was trapped in a basement for fifteen minutes. While browsing knockoffs, a couple was looking at an item near the secret “dungeon” the store kept knock offs in. The store owner didn’t want them to see us come out of the basement, so we were held there until the couple left. This is normal, but can be scary if you do not like small spaces.
My dad and I also took one morning to bike the Golden Gate Bridge. We rented bikes by our hotel in Fisherman’s Wharf (which is where I recommend staying!) and biked all the way through Marina, past The Palace of Fine Arts, across the bridge, and back. I had never gone such a far distance on bike, but I was truly so excited to get to experience such a unique path. Unfortunately, my mom and brother missed out on the experience.
Things I Wish I Had Done and Seen:
- Gone to Alcatraz- we didn’t book tickets ahead of time and did not have the time on our trip to do it.
- Taken a walking tour- you already know I am a fan of foot tours, so I just wish I had known about them prior to visiting San Fran
- Gone to Napa or Sonoma- I was not yet 21, but would have loved to visit the vineyards and experienced wine tastings
- Experienced San Francisco nightlife- when you travel with your parents and 9 year old brother, sometimes you miss out on the nightlife side of things… I’ll definitely be back soon to experience this one.
What to Eat in San Francisco:
- Crab & all types of seafood – at Fisherman’s Wharf or Pier 39
- Chocolate- Ghirardelli Square would be the ideal place for this, with their factory, store, and cafe all located here
- Mexican food– in the Mission district. There are hundreds of delicious taqueria’s with yummy Mexican food spread out through the area
- EVERYTHING- San Fran is a totally foodie-friendly city, hop on Instagram and take a look at all the delicious places tagged #sanfraneats