San Francisco

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San Francisco is a harbour city. It is built on a peninsula and it is surrounded by water. Like New York there are other cities such as Berkeley and Oakland, in the one conurbation called the Bay Area. The defining characteristic of San Francisco is hills.

San Francisco Map, from Mapquest


  • Muir Woods and Sausalito are across the Golden Gate Bridge. Muir Woods consists of redwoods. They are not as big as some around Yosemite, but they are still amazing trees. Sausalito is a bohemian village tucked under the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is possible to get tours that cover the Woods, Sausalito and a ferry ride back across the Bay.
  • Mt Tamalpais Also across the Golden Gate. This is where mountain baking was invented, but there are many other outdoor activities.
  • Fishermans Wharf & the Waterfront Fishermans Wharf is a former working wharf turned into a tourist trap. It has lots of restaurants, clothes, souvenir and other touristy shops, as well as a reasonable aquarium and some very noisy sea lions. There are other attractions strung out along the waterfront including a maritime museum, the departure point for Alcatraz tours and several galleries and restaurants.
  • The Exploratorium is a science museum in the Presidio, a big park near the Golden Gate Bridge. It is dedicated to hands on science education.
  • Cable Cars run from Fishermans Wharf up to Union Square by 3 routes. The quintessential San Francisco experience. They run until midnight. If the line at the Market/Powell St terminus is too long walk up the hill to the next stop. No line, and they will squeeze you on somehow. $5 a ride, with all day passes and multi-ride deals available.
  • Golden Gate Bridge is big and pink. Catch a Muni 28 or 29 trolley bus to the southern end.
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    Golden Gate Bridge
  • Harbour Cruise There are several cruise companies operating from the Fisherman's Wharf area. Most will take you out to the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz.
  • Alcatraz Birds. Escapes. Tours. In peak season (including Christmas/New Year) tours book out several days in advance. It is worth getting online to make advance bookings. Night tours are more atmospheric but you see less of the island. Reservations
  • Fog is the essence of San Francisco.
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Yosemite Valley, from the tunnel exit
  • Yosemite National Park is a bit more than a day trip from San Francisco, but is well worth a couple of nights. I have seen tour companies that advertise a one day bus tour from San Francisco to Yosemite and back, but it would be a looooong day. The view as you come through the tunnel into the Yosemite Valley is gobsmacking. Yosemite NP Official Site
  • Monterey is not far away. A world class aquarium, clam chowder on the pier, seals and sea otters in the bay and Cannery Row, a tourist trap that would make Steinbeck spin.
  • Big Sur and Points South The coast road down to Los Angeles is spectacular. Well worth a couple of days' drive.
  • Bike Hire There are several places to hire pushbikes around San Francisco. One company that operates from Fishermans Wharf (and other places) arranges one way bike hire across the Golden Gate Bridge. At least one tour company does tours on Segways.
  • Wineries The Napa Valley is close by to the north, across the Golden Gate Bridge. Easily doable as a day trip.
  • California Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park. Aquarium with underwater tubes, rainforest dome, awesome digital planetarium and a few other random museumy things. No to mention the albino alligator. Well worth a couple of hours. In holiday times there can be a long line to get in. It sometimes sells out (for a museum???) Museum Web Site
  • De Young Museum Also in Golden Gate Park, opposite the Academy of Science. A great collection of American and modern art.
  • Open Top Buses There are several companies that do "hop on, hop off" tours of San Francisco with open top double deckers. A great way to get a feel for what is there and access to the major tourist sites.

Shopping for Snow Gear

REI, an outdoor gear co-op at 840 Brannan St, San Francisco, CA 94103, Tel: (415) 934-1938 has a large range of winter equipment. There are other branches of REI in the Bay area.

Shopping for Other Stuff

There is a major shopping district near Union Square. It contains major department stores such as Macys and Nordstrom as well as a lot of smaller shops including Tiffanys and Saks. The big shopping centre in the area is the Westfield Centre. The cable cars from Fisherman's Wharf terminate here.

There are also a lot of tourist type shops around Fisherman's Wharf.

Places to Stay

San Francisco has many areas in which to stay. If you are interested in shopping find a hotel near Union Square. Fishermans Wharf is a bayside tourist area. All major hotel chains (and a few you haven't heard of) have properties in San Francisco and there is accommodation to suit every budget.

Getting Around

As well as cable cars San Francisco has the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and the Muni (which probably stands for something). The BART is a train and the Muni are trolley buses and trams. The Muni operates within San Francisco, and the BART connects with other Bay Area cities and the airport. The services all link up well. An adult Muni ticket costs $1.50 and is good for 90 minutes on Muni transport (not the BART or Cable Cars). Ask for a transfer ticket. A concession ticket is $0.50. There is a BART station at the airport. If you can sort out the interchanges it is a great and cheap way to get around and will get you to most of the tourist sites for not much money. The drivers are very helpful.