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San Francisco Don'ts

Find out what not to do during a trip to San Francisco.


Reams have been written about San Francisco. Most travel pieces particularize about things to do in this ebullient city — i.e., ride a cable car, walk across the Pacific on the Golden Gate Bridge, sip jasmine tea in the Japanese Tea Garden, take a bay cruise, etc.

Here, for a change, are some San Francisco don’ts.

  • Don’t pack a tropical wardrobe; the mercury hovers around 60 degrees even in summer.
  • Don’t park on a hill or even a slope without cramping your wheels to the curb, setting the hand brake and putting the car in parking gear. It’s the law.
  • Don’t wear a bathing suit to North Beach; it’s the cafe-studded Italian quarter.
  • Don’t stand directly behind a cable car gripman; you’ll get the wind knocked out of you when he jerks back on the brake lever.
  • Don’t plan to diet, this place is the weight-watchers’ Waterloo.
  • Don’t send for an ambulance if you hear a chorus of moans, groans, grunts and wails, it’s the foghorns.
  • Don’t do a double take if someone urges you to visit Nihonmachi (translation: Japantown).
  • Don’t take the outside elevator to the top of the Fairmont Hotel if you suffer from acrophobia; there’s an inside lift to The Crown. (Acrophobics enroute to the top of the Westin St. Francis are advised to close their eyes.)
  • Don’t carry a milk pail to Cow Hollow; the old dairy district west of Van Ness Avenue has become a popular shopping sector.
  • Don’t call cable cars trolleys; they’re powered by the moving steel cable you hear humming in the slot beneath your feet.
  • Don’t pop for an imported vintage; you’re in the capital of the California wine country.
  • Don’t wear an aloha shirt to the opening of the opera season; it’s a gala in the grand tradition.
  • Don’t plan to go swimming in San Francisco Bay unless you’re a member in good standing of the Polar Bear Club.
  • Don’t forge past a street sign saying “Grade” or “Hill” unless you’ve had your brakes checked recently; it means STEEP as in 31.5 percent of grade.
  • Don’t board a public conveyance without exact fare; the drivers don’t make change.
  • Don’t dine at an authentic Japanese restaurant if you have a hole in your sock.
  • Don’t look for a statue of George in Washington Square; Ben Franklin presides over the town’s Italian piazza.
  • Don’t park on streets with “Tow Away Zone” signs during restricted hours (in most cases, between 7 and 9 a.m. and 4 and 6 p.m., except on weekends).
  • Don’t refer to “The Mark” as “The Hopkins.”
  • Don’t go near Chinatown during the Chinese New Year season (between mid-January and late-February) if you have delicate eardrums.
  • Don’t pronounce Ghirardelli was a soft G; the Square’s named for a chocolate manufacturer whose old-time trademark was a pedagogical parrot prompting: “Say GEAR’-ar-delly.”
  • Don’t be caught without an umbrella; the coastal mists are capricious.
  • Don’t color the bridge over the Golden Gate gold; it’s International Orange.
  • Don’t spell Nob (for nabob) Hill with a K.
  • Don’t, as a recent English visitor did, mistake the white “steeple” that dominates the downtown skyline for a church; the 853-foot-high pyramid is the Transamerica Corporation’s headquarters.
  • Don’t tell a San Franciscan your favorite city is Los Angeles.
  • Don’t call it Grant St. - It’s Grant Ave.
  • It’s ’”the city by the bay” not “the city on the bay”
  • Above all, don’t call it “Frisco” or “San Fran.”