Never been to San Francisco but wanting to experience the highlights?
I’ve been in your shoes before, but fortunately San Francisco has been a frequent destination for me. I have combined my own sightseeing experiences with those of other first-time visitors and compiled a list of the top destinations for San Francisco newbies.
Fisherman’s Wharf is always a good starting place. Home of fishing boats and sea lions, Fisherman’s Wharf is chock-full of excellent seafood restaurants. Pier 39, Cannery Square shopping chic, the San Francisco Maritime National Park, Ghiradelli (yes, as in chocolate) Square, and the Wax Museum. Don’t worry if you are on a budget, from day to day, season by season, you will also find local artists, entertainers, and interesting side shows to entertain you. There is also an amazing view!
Of course, you must also see the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco’s world-famous landmark. With many photo op locations at both ends of the bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge remains a world-class wonder. From Golden Gate Bridge, you can drive or take the bus to the Golden Gate Park, a beautiful 1,100 acre destination that includes the Japanese Tea Gardens and gorgeous architecturally-landscaped grounds.
Another must see on your San Francisco sightseeing itinerary should be Chinatown. As you stroll through Chinatown, you will find yourself in one of the largest Chinese neighborhoods outside of China. Shops and restaurants abound, with colorful sights and delicious smells making this a delightful destination.
After Chinatown, you can drive over to Alamo Square to see the beautiful Victorian homes known as the Painted Ladies. Alamo Square is also known as Postcard Square, because so many San Francisco postcards are made from pictures of the Painted Ladies. From here, you can head over to Lombard Street, billed as the crookedest street in the world, to see this beautifully landscaped residential street in a series of extreme s-curves following the steep hill seemingly straight up.
A trip by ferry across the bay to the infamous Alcatraz Island should also be on your list of places to experience. Embarking from Alcatraz Landing, you can take a three-hour round trip tour of the internationally known former prison which housed some of the most publicized villainous characters. The self-guided audio tours of the prison facilities utilize sound-effects and engaging narration to make you feel like you are back in time when the prison was actually housing inmates.
With many more interesting sights to see in San Francisco, you may find yourself wanting to return. Flights to San Francisco come and go 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so you will have no trouble booking your trip.
If you want to see all the sights in one trip though, you can book a sightseeing tour day trip with one of the many San Francisco tour companies, which provide a variety of combinations suiting just about anyone. Just get online and search “San Francisco sightseeing tours” and you will find an abundance of offerings for day trips to the San Francisco area, Sausalito, Alcatraz, and the Napa Valley Wine Country.
Happy San Francisco sightseeing!
Photo Credit: Billy Gast