Why I went here? Mostly to escape the heat in Texas, eat fresh food and soak in the culture. I also went to visit family living nearby, but most importantly, to refresh and relax.
Best time to visit? Anytime, really, but gear towards late spring into early autumn. Winter is San Francisco can be cold with biting winds coming from the north, and summer is when the tourists flock.
Best way to get there? From Dallas, fly from Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) to San Francisco International (SFO). The airport is a bit far from the center itself, but the BART provides easy connection via public transportation. Travel time is anywhere from 40-60 minutes (depending on time of day) and the cost is roughly $8 one way.
What to see/do? The iconic Golden Gate Bridge should be your first stop. It connects the city of San Francisco to Marin County and if you do not have a debilitating fear of heights, the best way to experience it is to bike the length and catch the ferry in Sausalito back to San Francisco. From the bridge, you will get a glance at the infamous prison that is Alcatraz. It is one of the most visited attractions in the city with 1.3 million grazing its alleys annually. This infamous prison was officially closed in 1963 but re-opened as a national recreational area in 1972. The only way to get there is by ferry which leaves exclusively from Pier 33. Tickets start at $28 (admission and ferry included). If you are traveling with children, pay a visit to the California Academy of Science. The newly remodeled building, which was completed in 2008, is one of the largest natural science museums in the world and full of interactive exhibits for tots and adults alike. If art is your fancy, pay a visit to De Young Museum or the Legion of Honor. The former houses mostly collections from the Americas dating from the 17th to the 21st century. The latter houses ancient and European collections up to the Baroque period. The city also has a few must see locations in addition to attractions. First is Coit Tower, the highest point in Telegraph Hill. It was erected in memoriam to Lillian Coit, who upon her death, left a third of her fortune to the city. It can be an arduous climb from the bottom of Telegraph Hill Blvd (use the east side connecting Filbert St) to the park beneath the tower, but the resulting view is one of the best in the city. For those who do not want to partake in the climb, take the #39 bus to transport you to the top. Secondly, a San Francisco trip is not likely to be complete without a ride on its infamous cable cars. One way fare is $6. There are three lines: Powell and Hyde, Powell and Mason, and California. The Powell and Hyde line has a stop on Lombard and the block to the west is what is known to be the most crooked street in the world. Walk down the steps and admire the view of the Victorian homes lining the street and those of cars slowly descending. Lastly, that postcard view with Victorian Homes and the San Francisco skyline can be seen in Alamo Park.
Food and drinks: San Francisco has the largest Chinatown in the United States. Naturally, trying out Chinese cuisine is a must when visiting. The Capital Restaurant or the Hong Kong Clay Pot are a couple of places to go for authentic Chinese cuisine and Good Mong Kok or Eastern Bakery for Hong Kong style dim sum and pastries. Seafood and chowder are also popular eats around town and in the tourist laden Fisherman’s Wharf, head to Codmother Fish and Chips for some fish fry and chowder and you will not be disappointed. San Francisco has also one of the biggest farmer’s markets in the state and the Ferry Building area hosts it three times a week (Tues, Thurs, and Sat). Thursday is where some of the local restaurateurs come out to sell a selection of items from their menu. It is a good place to grab a quick lunch or shop for picnic items to take with you when touring the city.
Where to sleep? My personal preference is the Embarcadero area. The Embarcadero is San Francisco’s business district. If you do not mind a little exercise and would prefer a quieter neighbourhood on weekends, book here. Hotels cater primarily to the business clientele; therefore, rates on weekends are generally lower as well. It is conveniently located near a BART station and within minutes walk to Union Square and the Ferry Building. Le Meridien and the Omni Hotel are my recommendations around this area. The former has great beds and views and has a surprisingly large space for a standard room and the latter is opulent in many ways, but especially with service. Both hotels have room rates ranging from $250-$600 a night.
Daytrips: There are several points of interest that can easily be reached if you want to get away from the city for a day. The most popular being the wine valleys of Napa and Sonoma. The drive north to either county takes approximately an hour. If you decide to go to the wine country, opt for a tour. You will have the opportunity to enjoy yourself more without having to worry about the drive back. Sausalito is also a popular destination. It is a small city of 7,500 residents and has some of the best views of San Francisco across the bay. It also has an interesting cultural history dating back to the 18th century. You can either take a ferry or bike to it via the Golden Gate Bridge. Most visitors bike to Sausalito and ride the ferry back to San Francisco. One way fare cost is $9.75 (as of July 2011).
Why I would go back? San Francisco is my second favourite city in the United States, just a hair behind New York. I love the weather, especially in the summer, and the city’s unique hold on me. This is one of the two places in the world I have been thus far where I feel calmer and more relaxed.* My mind does not go on overdrive (which usually happens; ask my friends), and therefore allowing me some peace and quiet. It is my domestic city to escape in.
AN: The other city is Florence, Italy