7 Best Things to Do in San Francisco
Cailin is a Canadian who has been traveling all her life. In the past few years her love of travel and her work in film and TV have allowed her to combine her two loves and become a Travel Blogger and Vlogger.
Cailin recently visited San Francisco. Here are her seven things to do while visiting San Francisco. Enter Cailin.
I have now been and returned from San Francisco and I had such a great time, it is definitely a city that I would visit again. I did a lot of things in my five full days spent there and based on that (with all of my own opinions), I have made this list for you and any other person interested in visiting this lovely Bay Area city.
1. Take a bus tour
While in San Francisco I stayed at the San Francisco USA hostel located only four blocks from Union Square where I would start my trip off with a hop on, hop off bus tour. Various bus tours depart from Union Square, it actually seemed like every bus tour in the city stopped there, right in front of Macy’s. As you know San Francisco has A LOT OF HILLS so I thought a bus tour would be the smartest way to get a brief overview of the city but it would also take me to places that I might not otherwise get to see or might not of ever found out about.
It was a surprisingly cold day but Anna and I braved the cold city on the open top of the double decker bus but were sadly disappointed when we crossed the Golden Gate bridge and all we saw was fog. Fog, fog, fog. San Francisco is known for its fog. Where I am from, I am used to lots of fog, but this was insane, even though we were on the bridge we literally could not see it.
TIP: Since many tour bus companies stop at Union Square we were actually able to bargain and get a cheaper price for our tour as they were competing with each other. If that doesn’t work, ask if they have any Groupon deals.
The largest Chinatown outside of Asia, San Francisco’s Chinatown is a great place for some cheap souvenirs and great food among many other things. A couple of girls in our hostel also told us about a fortune cookie factory that we could visit on the corner of Washington Street and Ross (a little back alleyway). It was cool to see how they made the fortune cookies and, of course, we bought some and they were yummy. Following that we stumbled upon a tiny Chinese restaurant where you literally have to walk through the kitchen to get to the tables, but the food was great and it was really cheap.
TIP: Try to explore off of the main street Grant Avenue to see it a bit more outside of the tourist areas.
I actually didn’t know that much about Alcatraz before I visited. I knew it was an old jail on an island famous for its inmates and people trying to escape it. But then I also learned that although it has a 104-year-old history, it was actually only a federal prison for 29 years and over those 29 years it had four different wardens. Previous to that it was a military jail and fortification, and in between was actually occupied for over a year by American Indians. I could go on… it was very cool to see and the National Park Service has been doing a great job to preserve it. Only one tour company operates to the Island and included in your entrance fee is your ferry ride to and from, and a free audio guide, which was narrated by former inmates and prison guards and was very easy to use.
TIP: Book your Alcatraz tour at least two or three days ahead of time as tours sell out quickly, especially during the summer.
San Francisco has more than 4,500 restaurants in its seven square mile area. 4,500!!!!!!!!!!! Eat, eat, eat and eat. Unfortunately I didn’t get to go to the Slanted Door restaurant that many people suggested I go to and I didn’t get to go to Ozumo which was apparently one of the best sushi restaurants in town. I did however get to go to the Eat Real Fest which was just across the bay in Oakland and it was amazing!! There were 60-plus food vendors and food trucks all together in one small area with no food item more than $5. On top of that there were various beer trailers set up with different types of beer for the tasting. I was in food heaven and quickly in a food coma.
Two restaurants that I did make it to and I would recommend was Don Pisto’s, a Mexican restaurant on Union Street that had raving Foursquare reviews and Foreign Cinema in the Mission District where they project a foreign film on a wall for you to watch while you eat your meal from a California/Mediterranean-inspired menu.
Aside from the Golden Gate Bridge the cable car is not only an iconic image of San Francisco but also of those Rice-A-Roni commercials. What ever happened to those? “Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat!“…Sorry I got side tracked into the 1990s there…
The cable cars in San Francisco cost $8 for a one-way trip. There are only three lines with the most popular being the one that operates between Powell and Hyde street. Line ups form all day long at the starting points on either end of the line, so be prepared to wait if you want to ride one. If you just want to ride it to say you hung off of the side of one, walk a few stops up from the starting point and hop on when it comes by and you are almost sure to grab a spot on one of the side runners.
TIP: Lots of tips. 1) If on a runner make sure your bag is not hanging off of the car and is instead hanging towards the inside as they come close to many things including other passing trolleys. 2) If you are waiting in a long line check to make sure all of the side runners are taken up on the cars that are leaving. Sometimes the people in front of you in line don’t want those spots so the cable car leaves with room still available. I asked the guy and hopped on skipping the line and saving myself probably 30 minutes. 3) Don’t block the doorway - some of the cable car operators get a little cranky about this.
The idea of this sounded awesome, but when the day came and we were actually on our way to go do it I was a bit weary… I detest exercise, am slightly out of shape and hadn’t been on a bike in years. But my lovely fit Aussie friend was encouraging and thought it would be fun.
Most bike rentals in the city cost $9 an hour with you never having to pay more than $36. We actually scored a sweet coupon from our hostel and only had to pay $18 #Winning! We picked up our bikes from Fisherman’s Wharf, biked along the bike path in Crissy Field along the bay, and then crossed the bridge and rode down into the small town of Sausalito before taking the ferry back to Fisherman's Wharf.
It was amazing, the views were incredible, there was an ominous fog underneath the bridge, it was a warm sunny day, there were people everywhere, the wind blowing through my hair as I coasted down the far side of the bridge brought back childhood memories and the ferry ride back was a great way to end the day. I highly recommend it and will leave out the fact that you have to bike up (I walked) a couple hills and the big bruise I got on my leg along with Sausalito being way too crowded oh and my butt hurt from the bike seat the whole time. But that's enough about that… just do it!
TIP: Although a reasonable price, try to find a sweet coupon like we did. Maybe even go by the USA Hostel on Post street and see if they have any?
In Canada we don’t have too many major league or national sports teams (when compared to the U.S.) so as soon as I knew I was headed to San Francisco I started searching to see if there was a game I could go to. San Francisco has the 49ers which are an NFL team and the Giants for MLB. Nearby in Oakland you can go to an Athletics MLB game and if neither of those sports are in season or have a home game than I am sure the San Jose Sharks NHL team in nearby San Jose will have something to entertain you.
While there I went to a Giants game with my cool new Giants hat (purchased in Chinatown) and had a great time. I wouldn’t call myself a big sports fan but it is definitely an experience you should have once in your life.
TIP: Buy tickets in advance if you can as they might be cheaper or if at a hostel check it see if they have any tickets. My hostel bought group tickets ahead of time so I managed to get a ticket to the Giants game for $12 when I might of otherwise paid $25. 2) Drink beer before you go. Beer at the Giants game at Oracle Park was more than $9! There are a few restaurants near by, go there for a few drinks ahead of time if that's your thing.
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Photo by Louis Raphael