San Francisco is an amazing Californian city to explore and enjoy. Not just fog and unpredictable weather, the city has an array of experiences and things that every visitor should experience while on a road-trip across the west coast. Take a look at some of the top things to see, do and eat while you are there and truly immerse yourself within one of the most vibrant cities in the United States.San Francisco Things To See

1.) Make a Date with a Sea Lion

Just as visitors flock to Pier 39 in Fisherman’s Wharf, so do the sea lions! Last century, this cuddly bunch arrived and set up home right on the wharf. Take a journey to see them and learn more about sea lions from the specialists of Nature By The Bay. Just remember not to get too close – no joke, they have really smelly breathe (which I smelt from about 25 metres away) 🙂

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2.) Eat a Delicious Chocolate Fudge Sundae

No visit to this west coast city would be complete without a chocolate or salted caramel sundae by Ghirardelli. Pilled high with just baked brownies, home-made ice cream and lashings of cream, Ghirardelli make some of the best desserts on the whole west coast. Yum!

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3.) Head To Prison

Learn about the history, the infamous escape, “Bird Man” and many of America’s notorious criminals that were housed on the prison island, Alcatraz. Take a short boat ride from the bay and explore the small island. For added atmosphere, head here on one of the cities night tours – an eerie experience.

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4.)  Ride the City on the Side of a Cable Car

Make sure you take a ride on the world’s last manually operated cable car system. Well over 100 years old, the cable car lines that remain have become an institution and even a ‘right of passage’ for visitors to the city. Grab yourself a ticket, hop on and ride the city in style.

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5.) To Go Down Lombard Street

Lombard Street is the most iconic streets in the city. With it’s steep gradient and eight hairpin turns, this street has become a photographers dream (and a drivers nightmare) 🙂 Take a walk down the street and enjoy the city vista.

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6.) To Take a Walk in Muir Woods

Part of the National Park network in the US, Muir Woods that is a mere twelve miles from the city itself and one of only a few select places where you can still spot the crazily tall Redwood trees. Rising around 120 metres, these trees are truly ridiculously high and sight that’s worth seeing.

7.) Embrace your Inner Hippie Walk Down Haight Street

 By exploring Haight Street, the beating heart of California’s hippie culture in the 60’s and 70’s. In so many ways this street reminded me of Camden Town in London, with a diverse set of people, experiences and foods to try as you walk along.

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8.) To Have a Glass of Wine in Napa Valley

The great wines of Napa Valley are meant to be sipped from a glass, not from the bottle with a straw, this is one of the many things I learned from my trip to Napa Valley! 🙂 Okay, not quite true, but… Napa Valley has some of the most delicious wines and award winning vine yards where you can learn all about the process and original taste of west coast wine.

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 9.) Get Some Gong Bao Chicken in China Town

Grab a bite to eat in the largest China Town in all the US. As with Ellis Island on the east coast, Angel Island (close to San Francisco) acted as a migratory point for people travelling from the Asia region in the 19th and 20th century. After the gold-rush dried up, many people made San Francisco their home and created one of the best China Town’s. For a delicious meal, try some Gong Bao Chicken. Yummy!

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10.) Listen to a Drum Circle on Hippie Hill

Head to Hippie Hill on a busy weekend and listen to the lovely music of a drum circle. Expect heavy crowds on festival days

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11.) Eat Sour Dough & Clam Chowder 

Hands down, one of my favourite meals to ever eat in San Francisco. Grab a sour dough bowl from one of the many food stalls and independent cafe’s across the city and enjoy. Made fresh every day, clam chowder is a hearty and delicious lunch.

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12.)  Walk The Golden Gate Bridge

Spend a few hours walking the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge. Interesting fact, they government never actually stop painting the bridge – by the time they finish, they have to start all over again – now that’s a big job! My top tip is to plan this on the same day as heading to Muir Woods, which are only nine miles from the bridge.

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13.) Watch the Sunset at Baker Beach

Head to one of San Francisco’s most famous beaches, based on the peninsular of the city, this is a perfect place to sit, walk and watch the sunset. I didn’t realise (when I visited) that the northern part of the beach is considered a nudist section – maybe not Instagram safe for a selfie, but a really awesome beach with a really beautiful sunset 🙂

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14.) Musée Mécanique 

No visit to the city would be complete without a little down time at Musée Mécanique. This retro arcade offers its visitors a throw back to early 20th century games that where popular during that time. My favourite is the Kiss-O-Meter, which in hindsight would either lift your ego (as a good kisser) or give you a cold-sore! 🙁

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15.) Soak Up The Culture in Castro 

Head to San Francisco’s most famous LGBT district for some amazing places to eat and drink. Once a working class neighbourhood in the fight for gay and lesbian rights, this street has now become one of San Francisco’s coolest districts. It’s a great place to find some really fun bars and an even better place to grab a bite to eat.

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  • My boyfriend and I went to San Francisco earlier this year, during the summer.
    We walked the Golden Gate Bridge barefoot, after walking TO the bridge from Haight.
    Haight > Golden Gate park > mountainous path to Immigrant Point Lookout > Golden Gate Bridge > back across > short bus ride > walk an hour to get back to the hotel.
    One thing NO ONE ever seems to mention is that you NEED to preplan for how you’re getting back once you cross the bridge. You can walk back across or keep walking into Sausalito to catch a ferry, but it’s a shorter walk to just walk back across the bridge. No busses, taxis, cabs, etc available. After walking for 7-8 hours, that’s crucial information.

    Also, despite trying multiple times over the course of a week, we saw ONE sea lion at the wharf, sleeping. Oh well, lol. The people watching made up for it.

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Hey Jessica – WOW, your time in SF sounds epic, you must have loved every second… well, except that walk back from Golden Gate Bridge haha! (You’re so right about that, never even considered that point either). 🙂

      Only one seal! Wow! I remember seeing at least 50 all laying on the platforms. You were robbed! Lol Then again, there’s always a next time!

      Lloyd x

  • Gorgeous photos!

    Abbie E.

    • HandLuggageOnly

      So glad you like Abbie 🙂

  • This post is so informative and all the activities look so fun and exciting! I’ll make sure to put San Francisco as my travel bucket list, great pictures by the way!

    Nabila / Young At Heart

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Yay! So glad you like it Nabila – thanks for such a lovely comment.

      Lloyd x

  • Erik Westby

    And don’t forget to go online BEFORE you leave home to book your reservations in advance for the trip to Alcatraz. You have about a 0% chance of buying a ticket the day of your visit. But it’s definitely worth the trip. Enjoy!

    Also, drive or hike to the top of Twin Peaks for a great (and free) view of the city. Visit Fort Funston beach and watch the hang gliders launching off the cliff, while dog walkers enjoy the beach 100 feet below. Rent a row boat at Stowe Lake in Golden Gate Park. Visit Green Apple Books and other fun shops on Clement Street in the Richmond District. And Valencia St. in the Mission District is a great destination for both the shops and the world class restaurants.

    (from a local who likes to play tourist every once in a while)

    • HandLuggageOnly

      You’re so right Erik – good call on the tickets to Alcatraz… it can be almost impossible to just jump on the boats at peak times of the year.

      I so wish I had rented a bout too! Thank so much for sharing these amazing tips Erik – I’m literally using these on our next trip to the city!

      Have a great New Year,

      Lloyd 🙂

  • San Fran was the first stop for me on my long-term travel trip. I had such an amazing time – it was the perfect start to a huge adventure!

    • HandLuggageOnly

      I can only imagine! So glad you enjoyed the city too, its perfect isnt it!

      Lloyd x

  • Blondes & Bagels

    As a San Franciscan myself, I’m super excited you’ve given readers a taste of tourism and also a taste of things locals love to do! A visit to Musee Mechanique is a total must see. I took my parents there when they visited and they LOVED it. And for anyone who does decide to peruse Haight St, make sure to stop at Cafe Cole on Haight & Cole in the a.m. for a delicious bagel.

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Cafe Cole sounds amazing! Had no idea about this place – definitely on my list of places to visit next time we’re in SF. Thanks so much for sharing!

      Have a great New Year!

      Lloyd & Yaya x

  • Zara

    We recently visited San Francisco for 4 days. I have to say, we did almost all of the above suggestions and didn’t fall in love with the place! It’s a nice city but wouldn’t bother returning. Maybe we missed something, I just didn’t feel the magic unfortunately!

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Oh no! It’s so great that you saw so many of the sites. Was it the atmosphere? The vibe? The city itself that you didn’t enjoy? Thanks so much for giving a different perspective too Zara.

      Have a great 2016!

      Lloyd x

      • Zara

        I’m not sure really. We spent time in NYC about a month before SF and were blown away by the big apple. Maybe I felt like SF just didn’t compare, although I know I shouldnt make comparisons because they are two completely different cities. Just think it missed a buzz that I expected it to have. Seeing the bridge was amazing though!

        • HandLuggageOnly

          I can see totally what you mean. The Big Apple is such a bustling global city and I can imagine that going there first would definitely change your perception. Heck, my perceptions of places change so much due to the previous city visited. Totally agree with your point.

          The golden Gate is so huge.. you don’t really imagine how vast it is until seen!

          Lloyd 🙂 x

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