Travel Guide of San Francisco

Travel Guide of San Francisco

I sure have learned a lot about San Francisco while going to school here and with that I’ve been able to find my way around and know what places are the best to see and to eat at. Driving in the city can be a hassle and parking is a nightmare. If there’s one thing you should do, if you plan on going to San Francisco, it is to download Uber or Lyft. Use this travel guide to help you find your way from place to place across the city.

 

Fisherman's Wharf and Waterfront

Photo Credit : Camille Wilson

Photo Credit : Camille Wilson

The Fisherman's Wharf is one of the most frequently visited places in San Francisco by tourists due to the beautiful views of the San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Things to Do:

  • Pier 39, here you’ll find everything from food to souvenir shops. Take a stop to watch the sea lions or enjoy some time in the arcade.
  • Visit Alcatraz; be sure to get tickets about a week in advanced because they tend to sell out quickly. Alcatraz is a place full of rich history, you’ll have a different outlook on the movie “The Rock” that’s for sure.
  • Madame Tussauds Wax Figure Museum, some of these wax figures are too real and kind of creepy if I’m being honest.
  • Hyde Street Cable Car, these trolleys easily take second place to the Golden Gate Bridge as being the San Francisco icon. But nevertheless it’s a fun ride and a cool way to see more of the city.
  • San Francisco Ferry Building, take a short ride across the bay to Sausalito and spend the day there in the cute little bay town.

Things to See:

  • The Bay Bridge
  • The Golden Gate Bridge
  • The San Francisco Bay
  • Many street performers!

Places to Eat:

  • Boudin Factory, if there is anything to order here it would be the bread bowls. They are simply AMAZING. Take your pick of either clam chowder or chili; either option won’t let you down.
  • Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
  • Hard Rock Cafe
  • In-N-Out Burger, if you came to San Francisco to get In-N-Out I can’t blame you but be prepared for a long wait. This is the only In-N-Out in the entire city.

 

North Beach (Little Italy)

North Beach can be referred to as the little Italy of San Francisco, with the large number of Italian restaurants and bakeries. North Beach has a vibrant night-life with a large number of bars and pubs in the area. You can also see the beautiful Coit Tower from many points in the area.

Things to Do:

  • Visit Coit Tower, if you’re driving in the city it may be a challenge to find parking here as the space is limited, be sure to keep some change with you for the parking meter too. Also if you are traveling by foot, the trek up to the tower is long, hilly and has many stairs. The best way would to get an Uber or Lyft up to the top; it’ll save you the stress of finding parking and save you time and energy hiking up to the top.
  • Washington Square Park and Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral, the best thing to do is to grab gelato from one of the many places that sell it in the area and then sit in the park and enjoy it. Also if coming in the fall on certain evenings there will be movies in the park shown on a huge blow up screen!
  • Lombard Street, the most crooked street in the world.

Things to See:

  • Coit Tower
  • Transamerica Pyramid
  • Lombard Street
  • City Lights Bookstore, best to go in the evening and take a picture of the twinkling flying books outside the store.

Places to Eat:

While there are hundreds of places to eat at in North Beach here are my two favorites!

  • The Stinking Rose, I've been here a number of times and have never been disappointed. Do keep in mind that all the dishes are made with garlic.
  • Mona Lisa, the complementary bread and bruschetta are the best! My favorite dish would have to be the pesto spaghetti; they also have close to a million options so it's tough when ordering!

Places for Sweets:

  • Gelateria Naia
  • Gelato Classico Italian
  • Alimento
  • Liguria bakery

The majority of these bakeries will sell cannolis and if you haven't had one before you MUST get one!

 

Financial District, Downtown & Union Square

In these areas of San Francisco you'll find many high rise corporate offices, but you'll also find a lot of really great shopping! During the holiday season, Union Square is lit up with lights and a HUGE Christmas tree is the backdrop for an ice rink; it makes the perfect backdrop for a pic for the Gram. These areas of San Francisco are also home to a large number of hotels.

Things to Do:

  • SHOPPING, there are hundreds of retail stores in Union Square along with the West Field mall. FYI there is an all-women’s 6 floor Macy's that overlooks Union Square and at the top there is a Cheesecake Factory so after you’re done shopping you can grab something good to eat.
  • Ice Skating (Holiday Season)
  • Powell Street cable car, along with the other cable car lines in the city, this one is also really busy so be prepared to wait before you get on a trolley.
  • Go to a concert or show! The Warfield is a beautiful venue. If you happen to be in town and there’s a concert you want to see, DO IT.

Places to Eat:

  • Tad's Steakhouse (I actually haven't had the steak, but their burgers and grilled cheese are super good!)
  • The Starlight Room (this is actually a bar, but I couldn't forget about it. The views from this rooftop bar are amazing! You can actually see the bar in the evening from the glowing red light at the top of building, it's hard to miss!

 

The Mission District and Castro

Photo Credit : Camille Wilson

Photo Credit : Camille Wilson

One of the things I love about the Mission is the heavy Latino influence the community has and you can see that it's present through all the places to eat, what images are in the numerous murals and down to the street names. Here you can find the best Mexican food in all of San Francisco and some amazing street art from talented artists.

Things to Do:

  • Dolores Park, go here on a sunny day to get the full experience and see all that the park has to offer. You can get views of the city from the top of the hill, people watch all the interesting people that are here and walk across the street to grab some Smitten Ice Cream (the lavender flavor is AMAZING).
  • Clarion Alley, if you're looking for some Instagram worthy spots other than the Golden Gate Bridge, Clarion Alley along with all the other areas with murals around the Mission is the place to go.
  • Visit the Mission Dolores, this is actually the oldest structure in all of San Francisco, it'd also rich with history as this was the first spot that the Spanish settled in San Francisco.

Things to See:

  • Rainbow cross walk! It's at the intersection of 18th Street and Castro Street if you have trouble finding it.

Places to Eat:

  • Taqueria El Farolito, wonderful tasting Mexican food and at a great price, especially with how expensive San Francisco can be.
  • Pica Pica, best Venezuelan food ever! The grilled plantains and any of the arepas are mouth-watering!

 

The Panhandle & Golden Gate Park

One thing I love about Golden Gate Park (GGP) is that it’s so big and there is so much of it to explore. There's literally everything all in one space from museums to a golf course and then at the end a beach!

Things to Do:

  • Visit the Conservatory of Flowers, I love going here just to sit in the main front lawn and enjoy the flowers all around, it's SO pretty.
  • Visit the California Academy of Sciences
  • Visit the DeYoung Art Museum, there is a really cool view from the top level!
  • Bike the Park! There are a few spots that allow you to rent bikes at a decent rate and ride around the park.
  • Go to Ocean Beach, on a really sunny day this is the place to be, but keep in mind the water is pretty cold.

Things to See:

  • The Buffalo in the park, you'll find them in their pen most of the time but they do come out and roam their enclosure to graze.
  • Dutch Windmills, there's two on either side of the park and they are both on the side of the park that has the ocean!
  • Hippy Hill, I'm sure you can guess why this hill has this name.

 

Haight - Ashbury and Cole Valley

This area is one of my favorites in the entire city! The Haight is filled with so much character from the murals to every little store that has its own personality. You'll find a number of thrift shops and consignment stores with all sorts of cool finds and a number of hipster places to eat at.

Things to Do:

  • Shopping! There are a bunch of cool thrift shops and even a number of really cool little boutiques with some really cute stuff. If you are looking for a costume be sure to go to Piedmont.
  • Visit Twin Peaks, this is easily the best view in all of San Francisco. You can see both the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge, and all of down town!
  • Walk around look at houses, Cole Valley has some of the nicest and most beautiful Victorian houses that you will find in San Francisco. Walk around and take some pictures.

Places to Eat:

  • Crepes on Cole, whether you want savory or sweet crepes; they got them and even some killer omelets. Crepes on Cole is one of my favorite breakfast places.
  • Zazie, there may be a long wait so keep that in mind!
  • The Ice Cream Bar! This is a great place to go if you are looking for a place with really good desserts!

 

The Presidio

Photo Credit : Camille Wilson

Photo Credit : Camille Wilson

Like Golden Gate Park there are so many places to visit and explore in the Presidio. The Presidio easily the best place to go running in the entire city. There are amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the ocean almost where ever you go. On top of the views the Presidio is also filled with a bunch of rich history. It actually used to be a Spanish Army settlement way back when and when the United States took it over it was an Army base.

Things to Do:

  • Visit the Golden Gate Bridge; I'm sure this is already at the top of your list if you are going to San Francisco.
  • Go to the Walt Disney Family Museum, being a big Disney fan it's really fun to see all the Disney Memorabilia here and read about the history of Walt.
  • Visit the Lucas Films Campus, and see the Yoda Fountain.

 

Other Spots to Visit and Explore

  • Fillmore Street Shopping area
  • Marina District Shopping area
  • Japantown
  • China Town
  • The Painted Ladies (Full House houses)
  • 16th Street Moraga Mosaic Steps
  • Billy Goat Hill (amazing views!)

Be sure to let me know where your favorite place or places are in San Francisco if you have been there and please give a visit my blog at Living as Elise.

 

 

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