I am living proof that hanging on to first impressions isn’t always the best idea. When I first travelled to San Francisco in 2012 as part of a Contiki tour it didn’t do much for me. I have strong memories of drinking too much, seeing lots of homeless people, and staying in a supposedly haunted hotel. For a tour company with a slogan of NO Regrets, I certainly had a lot. I felt like I had completely missed the point of San Francisco.
Fast forward 4 years and I can honestly say that San Francisco is worth it’s weight in gold!!! Our short 3 day stopover on our way home from the Wintery East Coast was a dream. Having distant family living in San Fran made all the difference. They were amazing hosts, giving us city tours, taking us out for dinner and chauffeuring us around the whole time. So here is my list of Touristy must do’s in San Francisco
Hire a bike and ride over the Golden Gate Bridge
How could I go past this one?! We had a great (albeit tiring) day casually riding from the wharf all the way over the bridge and down to Sausalito. The majority is flat, however there is one particular hill that was exceptionally hard so you definitely need some kind of fitness level to be able to conquer this one. What made this late morning ride so nice is that there is more to see than just the Golden Gate Bridge. There are some beautiful parks and beaches along the way, and the town of Sausalito at the end is full of little shops and eateries. Best part is that once you make it all the way there you’re able to catch a ferry back with your bike! Note to self- wear something a little more #activewear and a little less #iliveinjeans
Go for a walk around Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf
I absolutely love just walking around and exploring shops. Not like going to a shopping centre (although I could do that all day too) I mean like little knick knack shops. We grabbed an ice cream and spent a few hours wandering around from Pier 39 all the way down to Ghirardelli Square where the cable cars go from. There is a Ghirardelli Chocolate shop with great ice cream Sundaes. And for all those Princess Diaries movie buffs out there, remember when Mia takes the Queen to the arcade place and she has a go at the arm wrestle machine? You can also drop by there!! It’s called called Musee Mecanique. Also don’t forget to check out the infamous seals. I’ve never seen so many in my life.
Drop by LucasFilm and Palace of Fine Arts Theatre
I know what you’re thinking ‘what on earth is LucasFilm?’ Well let me tell you about a little movie called Star Wars. George Lucas’ offices are in San Francisco. I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, but I can appreciate a masterpiece.. besides, it’s pretty cool that I can say that I’ve been there. You’re not able to wander the halls, but you can quietly go in and look at the foyer where they have displays.
Once you’re done there you can follow the path down the the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre which is a beautiful Greco-Roman Palace set around a gorgeous lake (and fancy pants houses that I will never in a million years be able to afford)
This island has the most amazing history. Even if you’re not a history buff it’s still worth going for the view looking back at the city. I would definitely recommend going in the morning because it takes a few hours and you don’t want to rush. You need to book the ferry over (and I would definitely do this in advance especially in peak tourist season). You can then can catch whatever ferry back that you like. There are different tours available but we did the most popular self guided walking tour. It’s really easy to follow and super informative.
And finally, a visit to the Pink Ladies and Lombard Street
A visit to San Francisco wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t drop by the Pink Ladies (more recently known as the houses from Full House) They’re actually really beautiful houses so are worth even just a quick drive by. Similarly with Lombard Street. We found the most crooked street in the world to be covered in other tourists taking pictures. I found it more amusing to watch the cars going through the 8 hairpin turns and checking for intense concentration faces on the drivers.
I hope you enjoyed my list of touristy things to do in San Francisco. We had an amazing few days and even though we were driven around a lot, the majority of the items on this list can be visited through a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus.
What are some of the things I should do next time when I go back to San Francisco? We all know there’s going to be a next time (hopefully sooner rather than later)