I Left my Heart in San Francisco and San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) are just a couple of songs about the city. It’s one of our favourite cities on the west coast, the Golden Gate Bridge stands proudly across the bay connecting the Golden Gate National Recreation Area/Sausalito with San Francisco.
Here is a list of our top ten things to do in the city.
1) A trip to the once notorious Alcatraz prison which housed some of the most infamous criminals in history such as Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly and Robert Stroud (The Birdman of Alcatraz) is a must. If you can, book your tickets in advance for the first boat of the day in order to avoid the crowds and experience the cell house with relative peace and quiet. You will want to allow at least 3-4 hours to take the cell house audio tour and to walk around the grounds. You also get great views back across to the city and of course the Golden Gate Bridge.
2) Bike the Bridge, if you have enough time take the full day to do this. We picked up our bikes from Blazing Saddles near Union Square and biked all along the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf, through Aquatic Park, Fort Mason, the Marina and the Presidio. We stopped for a coffee at the base of the bridge and enjoyed a fantastic view of the bridge and the ocean. We biked across the bridge stopping to take pictures and taking time to appreciate our surroundings. We arrived in the small charming town of Sausalito, parked our bikes (our butts were sore) and picked up a sandwich and sat watchin’ the ships roll in, then I watch em roll away again yeah, I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay (as Otis Redding sang). We caught the ferry back and had a glass of wine on board watching the sunset over the bay, a perfect day.
3) Rent a little Yellow ‘Go Car’ and do your own city tour, the car has a GPS guide that talks to you with over 200 points of interest loaded into it. You can decided which points of the city you want to visit, you can even drive down Lombard Street, the car can go where buses and cars can’t go and you can even park the car and take a break.
4) A San Francisco tradition, you must ride a cable car and stand on the footplate as you go up and down the crazy hills in this city. We took the car from the Powell & Hyde turnaround point all the way to Union Square, try to do this early in the morning as the lines are long later in the day and you can wait up to 40 minutes.
5) Go and have a picnic on Baker Beach, you can sip your wine while watching the waves hitting the shore and you have a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Just be aware that the northern part of the beach is considered a nudist beach!
6) Take a drive up to Twin Peaks for an unobstructed and panoramic view across the city.
7) Spend an afternoon walking around the North Beach neighbourhood, head to Coit Tower to watch the sunset over the bridge, then go for dinner at one of the many restaurants in the area.
8) Pier 39 is very touristy but you have to spend an hour here, check out some of the shops, grab a coffee and watch the Sealions sunbathing and sitting on each other to find the best spot in the sun, very funny to watch them.
9) Haight-Ashbury is known for the hippie culture back in the day, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead lived here. It still has several vintage shops which are all worth a visit.
10) If you are a movie buff, a movie tour is the way to go as so many movies have been filmed in the city from Dirty Harry, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Rock, Bullitt and many many more.
Enjoy San Francisco, make the most of your time in this great city, take time to just sit and people watch.