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.
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) 🙂
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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 🙂
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! 🙁
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.