I am one of the people who were lucky enough to live in the wonderful city of San Francisco for a year and I think it’s a really great place. It could be a little warmer here and there but other than that, it’s a beautiful location. I feel like wherever you are, you always have an incredible view which is one of the things that I love most about this city. I did a lot of exploring and I want to share some of my favorite must-sees with you.
1. Pier 39
I know, this is a super touristy place to be, but it was the first thing I checked out on my first official day off and instantly fell in love. In general, Fisherman’s Wharf, where the Pier is located, offers a lot of fun things, special shops, good food and there is just always something going on. Definitely have a burger at In&Out. The Pier is a colorful and entertaining place with a lot of things to do. My favorite was the beautiful carousel because I’m obsessed with these. I pretty much take a ride on anyone I find and I really don’t care how old I am. There are photobooths, an arcade, all kinds of special stores, a very pretty aquarium, a Hard Rock Café and more. You’ll find something new behind every corner. Definitely get some of Trish’s Mini Donuts and don’t forget to say hello to the sea lions.
2. Golden Gate Bridge
If there is one thing that people associated with San Francisco it’s the Golden Gate Bridge. It is one of the most famous sights in the whole world and just seeing it will forever give me a special feeling. I remember driving across for the first time and it was really amazing. Definitely do it, either by car, bike or on foot and I’m sure you’ll feel what I mean. And if you’re into bridges, you should also give the Bay Bridge a chance because at night, she definitely wins.
This is one of the absolute must-sees when you’re in the city. It’s famous and it’s cool. You can enjoy a little boat ride, see the bridges, explore the prison cells of famous inmates like Al Capone and learn more about how it was like to be captive in one of the most famous prisons in the world. I loved the audio tour, because I was able to look at everything at a leisury pace and take as much time as I needed, so I really must tell you to go. Also, try booking tickets in advance because they sell out very quickly and I’m sure you don’t want to stand in line for hours, starting pretty much at the break of dawn.
4. Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park is one of the biggest inner city parks in the world and I can tell you that it is beautiful and has a lot to offer. It has museums and I can definitely recommend the Academy of Science, especially if you want to see an albino alligator. It is also a fun spot for kids, with a big playground and a lot of green space. You will find bison’s, a rose garden, beautiful dutch wind mills, a few lakes, a botanical garden with more beautiful flowers and also a lovely Japanese Tea Garden. When the weather is nice, you should definitely rent a pedal boat and go for a ride on Stow Lake. It’s even better if you have someone pedal for you. I definitely loved taking rides on the merry-go-round, which is next to the playground, and if you look hard enough, you can even find some secret fairy doors and leave a little note. You can definitely fill a few days with all the things you can do at the park so go and have some fun.
The Presidio is a really nice area with a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge. There are a few spots that are maybe not majorly popular but great for a little visit. If you are a Star Wars Fan, even if not, you should take a picture in front of the Yoda Fountain, which is located in front of Lucas Films. It’s super cute and I stopped by a couple of times. Furthermore, you can spend an hour or two or three at the Walt Disney Family Museum, which is a must for fans. What many people probably don’t know is that you can also find a little pet cemetery, which is located near Chrissy Field. It’s a little hidden and it took me a while to find it but it’s there and I think it’s a lovely idea to have a place for beloved deceased pets. Another highlight is an event called “Off the Grid” which is a picnic with food trucks etc. and it’s a fun hang out with friends and family. If you’re in the city, make sure to check the schedule. It’s usually on Sunday’s and there is also a Twilight picnic on Thursday’s. In case you’re hungry, I can definitely recommend the truck that sells falafels.
6. Hippie Tree / Sausalito
So this place is actually a little outside of San Francisco but it’s super beautiful and if you have access to a car, you need to go. This is located in Tiburon and it’s definitely an Instagram worthy place. You will find a very big tree with a swing attached to it and you can take awesome pictures with the whole city in the background. Bring a camera and a picnic blanket and enjoy the view. In case you have a little more time, now that you’ve crossed the bridge anyway, plan to make a stop in Sausalito. It’s a little town with a pretty view and make sure to stop at Lappert’s Ice Cream shop. It’s delicious. The chocolate-mint ice cream was my favorite.
7. Marin Headlands
If you cross the bridge, you’ll find the Marin Headlands immediately to your left. Again, if you have a car please include it into your plans because you’ll have the best views of the bridge. It’s a wonderful location for gorgeous pictures, no matter if it’s foggy or not. It is very easy to find the best locations. In case you want to drive further through the Headlands, I have to tell you that driving down that road, right along the coast, is a strange feeling, cause it goes downhill a lot and the road is very narrow, but it’s definitely worth it. The Headlands are also a popular place for hiking, not that I ever moved my butt, but if you’re into it, that’s the place to be. You can also find a lighthouse, which is free and a cute visit, so definitely take a ride across the bridge.
8. Cable Car
If you visit San Francisco and don’t take a ride on a Cable Car, something is clearly wrong with you. It’s just an activity that you have to do because it’s a lot of fun and one of the things that make this city so popular. I know they are super crowded but if you don’t have to get on at the start or finish point, just hop on at the next stop because those are usually a little less crowded. To make it really fun, don’t sit down, just hop on to the footboard. If you’re lucky, you don’t even have to pay for that. Depends on how nice the driver is. In case you want to learn more about this popular institution, you can also check out the Cable Car museum, which is not huge but free and they have a nice gift shop.
9. Union Square
Another busy place to be is Union Square, especially if you want to do a little shopping. Surrounding the square, you will find a lot of shops and the Westfield Center, a huge mall, isn’t very far, as well as restaurants, movie theatres and more. I have to admit that San Francisco isn’t really my favorite city when it comes to shopping, but if you need something, you will find it around Union Square. During winter time, you’ll see an ice rink in the middle of the square, which is super fun and you won’t freeze like you would in most other cities during this time of year. Furthermore, if you want to have a good view, have some dinner at the cheesecake factory and choose a table on the outside terrace.
If you don’t have anywhere in particular to go, just wander the streets and enjoy the beautiful architecture. Man, how I love all those amazing Victorian houses in any color you can imagine. If I could choose, I would definitely live in a pink one, but in most other cities in the world, this would look pretty weird. If you love architecture like me, also visit Alamo Square and enjoy the view of the Painted Ladies. They are really pretty but you’ll definitely find more wonderful houses to look at, all over the place. Also wallart, flowers and if you pay close attention, you’ll even see a hummingbird.
11. Twin Peaks
Once again, this is a place with an amazing view and this time, it’s one overlooking the whole city. I don’t know what more to say about it. Just take the car up there and enjoy the moment, hang out, have a nice chat, take some pictures and fall in love with the city, all over again.
12. Ocean Beach
Sure, there are more beaches in San Francisco but this one is my favorite. The sunsets are absolutely gorgeous and just reaching it is amazing. I remember driving toward it for the first time and I didn’t know what was sky and what was water. The view took my breath away and even though I’ve seen more beaches in my life, I think it’s the hills of this city that make driving toward places so much more interesting. It is also a fun place for bonfires and s’mores, so go and hang if you have some time. Or, you can also enjoy the view from Land’s End and watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.
13. More, more and more
I could really just go on and on with things you can do in San Francisco. This is what I love most about cities, you never get bored. So in case the 12 things mentioned above weren’t enough, I can also recommend a few more. Check out the beautiful Palace of Fine Arts, explore all the different districts in the city like the hippie inspired Haight-Ashbury or the colorful Castro. You could also spend some time at the zoo, visit Coit Tower, have some fun at the Exploratorium, take some funny pictures at Madame Tussauds or do whatever else you can find. And just a tip, if you want to cruise down Lombard Street, do it at night. You will have to worry a lot less about running over some tourists that are busy taking their pictures and still experience the fun. San Francisco is a great city and you will never run out of ideas, but in case you do need even more, ask me anything you want and I will try to help you.