This past summer, my family took an adults only vacation to the beautiful San Francisco, California. Although we only spent four quick days in San Fran, I’d have to say it was one of my favorite vacations I’ve taken. I can’t claim to have fully researched the city like I should have upon my arrival. But I wish I had known a few tips and tricks to make my trip that much more enjoyable.
Here is what you need to know about San Francisco:
1. The Weather
San Francisco may be located in sunny California but it definitely doesn’t share the same type of warm weather as the rest of the state. San Francisco is not only directly on the west coast but it also has the bay itself. This causes wind and fog to occur especially in the summer time which leads to temperatures that average about 60 degrees.
2. Travel Around the City
San Francisco is a 7 by 7 mile city which makes everything seem fairly close together. There are a few options that can help you get around the city:
You could rent a car: Renting a car is a great option for someone who is used to different road signs, driving conditions and parking procedures. My family doesn’t usually rent a car when traveling so this wasn’t really an option for us. There were some very obvious differences in the laws and driving regulations that us Midwesterners would not have done well with. For instance; their stop lights were at the corner of the streets, the roads were VERY hilly and it was easy to get a ticket for not parking correctly.
You could ride a tour bus: We rode the City Sightseeing tour bus for majority of our trip and there definitely was some pros and cons to it. We really liked that the tour bus made many different stops to pretty much every tourist location you could think of and it even had a stop a few blocks away from our hotel. One of my favorite parts about using a tour bus as transportation is getting to hear the history of the city, and some of the tour guides did a fantastic job entertaining us bus passengers. I didn’t like that this specific tour bus company only had a few buses running at a time, and were only suppose to come every 30 minutes to an hour which rarely happened on time. It felt like we were always rushing through our activities so that we wouldn’t be stuck in one location too long waiting for our next bus, not to mention we weren’t always guaranteed a seat on the bus once it arrived.
You can Uber: We used Uber every once in awhile. The problem was, we had a group of seven which was too big for one regular Uber vehicle. Because San Fran is only 7 by 7 miles, you typically won’t pay more than $12-$15 (with tip) for your trip. Plus, the city is packed full with Uber drivers so you will never need to wait long for your pickup.
My Favorite Sightseeing Locations:
If you are in San Fran you have to plan ahead and get your tickets to go to Alcatraz. I say plan ahead because apparently tickets can sell out months ahead of time during the busy season. You get to take a boat over to the island where you are free to explore on your own. There is a boat that comes to pick people up to take them off the island every 30 minutes so you can stay on the island as long or as little as you want. My family mostly got to experience the audio tour, where you are given headphones that walk you through the history of the prison in both the perspective of workers and inmates. I’m not a huge history lover but I still really enjoyed learning about the history of Alcatraz. Not to mention, Alcatraz has one of the best views of San Francisco.
2. Pier 39
There are many piers lining the bay of San Francisco, but Pier 39 is the pier with all the entertainment. It has restaurants and little shops to 7D entertainment and water massage stores. It can be really crowded but there is something interesting for anyone at Pier 39 and it is definitely somewhere you need to visit while in San Francisco.
3. Lombard Street
When in San Francisco, you need to take the hike up the steep hills to see Lombard Street. There isn’t much you can do once you reach the hairpin turns that is Lombard street but it is iconic to San Fran and perfect place for a photo op!
4. Painted Ladies in Alamo Square
If you didn’t know, the painted ladies are the beautiful houses that are iconic to San Francisco and the most picturesque of them all are located in Alamo Square. Alamo Square was probably one of my favorite spots in all of San Francisco. It not only has the beautiful painted ladies in the foreground but you can look out and see the rest of the city in the background. There is a large field of grass for people to sit and enjoy the views. I wish my family had brought a picnic and sat and enjoyed Alamo Square longer than we did. A little disclaimer: none of the iconic painted ladies are the original ‘Full House’ house. They are within walking distance from one another but you’d have to do a little internet searching for the actual Full House address.
5. Golden Gate Bridge
You cannot go to San Francisco and not see the Golden Gate Bridge. The whole time we were there, the bridge was always pretty foggy so be prepared to only see a portion of the bridge at a time. There are many different locations around the bridge to take pictures, I ended up bringing a tripod to take our family pictures but there are always other tourist around who would happily take your picture in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. You can actually walk or ride bikes on the Golden Gate Bridge. I recommend not riding a bike during the busy season because there is just too many people for you to try to navigate around. But a few my family members walked some of the bridge and it was definitely worth the view!