When you think of San Francisco, the iconic images that immediately come to mind include the Golden Gate Bridge, roller coaster hills and cable cars, but the “City by the Bay” has many more highlights for visitors to see and do. From the upscale boutiques and galleries of Union Square to the revitalized waterfront area; from world-class restaurants to a vast diversity of cultural offerings, San Francisco is an outstanding destination for business and vacation travelers.
San Francisco’s famous cable cars are a National Historic Landmark. Three cable car lines traverse the city as the conductors put on a real show. You can board at any stop and buy a ticket from the conductor, but be advised that there is often a wait to board at the end-of-the-line turnarounds.
The hills of San Francisco provide breathtaking views at every turn. Speaking of turns, Lombard Street is said to be the crookedest street in the U.S., with eight switchbacks descending a very steep slope. Coit Tower, perched atop Telegraph Hill has a magical view of the city, and for a prime photo op of the Golden Gate Bridge, go to Marina Boulevard. Travel Maestro tip: For a dramatic panorama of the city, take a taxi across the mile long Golden Gate Bridge and walk the pedestrian sidewalk back across, but be sure to dress warmly, regardless of the weather.
The Embarcadero is a waterfront roadway, great for walking or biking from historic Fisherman’s Wharf, past all of the piers to Market Street and beyond. Pier 39 is one of the most visited attractions in the state where you’ll find dozens of shops and restaurants and scores of resident sea lions to entertain you. You’ll also find an unusual two-story carousel and an acrylic underwater tunnel at the Aquarium by the Bay at Pier 39. At Pier 33, boat tours to the former prison of Alcatraz are a perennial favorite. Travel Maestro tip: Night tours of Alcatraz are so popular that you’ll need to get tickets weeks in advance during the summer months.
The unique neighborhoods of San Francisco exude distinctive lifestyles. Castro District is the heart of San Francisco’s gay community and Haight-Ashbury has been a draw to counterculture since the 1960’s hippie movement. The vibrant Mission district, an historically Hispanic area, boasts the finest collection of outdoor murals in the city. Union Square is the main retail and cultural center of San Francisco, while posh Pacific Heights is a favorite of fashionistas for its designer bargains. South of Market, known as SoMa, has a plethora of activities for visitors, including museums, Yerba Buena Gardens, trendy restaurants and hip bars.
One of the largest Chinese communities outside Asia is found in Chinatown where you can take a cultural journey as you enter through its green and ocher gateway, then wander the narrow streets and alleys packed with herbalists, restaurants and shops. A Travel Maestro tip: Explore on foot as parking is difficult and venture off the main drag for the better restaurants.
Two sprawling parks offer a variety of outside activities and horticulture. A highlight of the Golden Gate Park is the lovely Japanese Tea Garden with winding garden paths, sculptures and a stone tea house. The de Young Museum, a redwood memorial grove, more gardens, paddleboats and even a herd of bison are also in Golden Gate Park. The Presidio includes miles of trails, over 500 historic military buildings and a national cemetery. A free sightseeing bus runs regularly throughout the Presidio.
Driving in San Francisco is a challenge because of the steep streets and very limited parking, so it’s best to get around by walking or use the efficient and inexpensive public transportation. The climate is moderate year round but wearing layers and a windbreaker is always a good idea. Rain is common November through March and you can expect morning fog in the summer, but it usually burns off during the day.
The scenic beauty, combined with the artistic culture and extraordinary restaurants are reason enough to visit, but the city is also the nucleus of the larger Bay Area that has a wealth of sights and attractions. The giant redwoods of Muir Woods, the charming and artsy city of Sausalito, and the collegiate enclaves of Palo Alto (Stanford) and Berkeley (University of California) are all interesting day trips. A bit further away to the north, Sonoma and Napa Valleys are the heart of California’s wine country. To the south on the Monterey Peninsula, the famous 17-mile drive between Monterey and Carmel is considered one of the most scenic in the country.
To plan your business or pleasure trip to the world-class city of San Francisco, contact Covington Travel’s expert travel counselors.