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San Francisco

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* [ San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau] and its subset, the
* [ San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau] and its subset, the
* [ Official Visitor Site for San Francisco] lists many specialized events, but is unfortunately both boring and slow.
* [ Official Visitor Site for San Francisco] lists many specialized events, but is unfortunately both boring and slow.
*[ Union Square San Francisco Blog]
*[ Nob Hill San Francisco Blog ]
* [ SFgate by the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper]  provides a more lively summary.
* [ SFgate by the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper]  provides a more lively summary.
* [ Mapwest lists many tours], but most of its webcams are not working.
* [ Mapwest lists many tours], but most of its webcams are not working.
[[WikiPedia:San Francisco, California]]
[[WikiPedia:San Francisco, California]]

Revision as of 23:03, 23 November 2005

San Francisco is a bustling cosmopolitan city in California, the centerpiece of the Bay Area, well-known for its diverse ethnic and political communities, hilly and picturesque terrain, and history of earthquakes.

It is located on the tip of a peninsula by San Francisco Bay and the Pacific coast and has a population of around 750,000. It is 7 miles by 7 miles in size. The best times to visit are September and October because they are mostly fog free. But just in case, dress in layers. Nothing makes locals laugh more than a tourist wearing shorts, sandals and a brand-new parka.

The Golden Gate Bridge


Get in

By plane

There are three airports in the San Francisco Bay Area:

  • San Francisco (SFO, located about 10 miles south of the city),
  • Oakland (OAK, in the East Bay), and
  • San Jose (SJC, in the Silicon Valley, about 1 hour south of San Francisco).

Both Oakland and San Jose are served by discount airlines such as Southwest. All three airports may be reached by inexpensive public transit. San Francisco and Oakland are connected to downtown SF by the BART rapid-transit train. The savings over taxis can be significant. For instance a cab from SFO to the city can easily cost upwards of $40, a cab from Oakland upwards of $60. BART is closer to $5 in both cases.

The downside to BART is that it takes more time. It involves changing vehicles 1-2 times, with all of the attendant hassles. In SFO, unless you come in on International or United Domestic flights, you need to take a frequent airport shuttle train (AirTran) to the BART station itself, whereupon you may have to wait as long as 15 minutes for a train (that's the worst case)- and then once you get off in SF unless you've staying right on top of a BART station you'll need to take a cab or Muni to get to your hotel. In Oakland you need to take an AirBART bus to the BART - this costs $2 and takes a good 10-15 minutes, and they will only accept BART tickets as payment, so you must buy an AirBART ticket in the terminal before you go out to the bus. Once you get to the BART station you have to buy a BART ticket and then figure out which train to get on (not hard but not quite as easy as it should be). Then you'll probably need a cab once in SF. Warning - in going back to Oakland via BART, the exact change thing is even more important, because there aren't a lot of ways to get change in the Oakland BART station. There is a change machine - but do you really want to walk around with $18 in quarters in your pocket?

The San Jose airport is served by a free shuttle to both VTA Light Rail and Caltrain. Passengers arriving in San Jose can use Caltrain to reach San Francisco directly. Caltrain also links with the BART system at the Millbrae intermodal station. Rental cars and discount remote parking at SFO are reached by AirTrain, a free elevated people mover which also provides inter-terminal transfers. San Jose airport is currently undergoing major construction that can sometimes cause significant road traffic delays.

By train

Amtrak serves the Bay Area with long-distance and intercity trains, but none of its trains actually enter San Francisco. Instead passengers must transfer at the Amtrak station at Emeryville in the East Bay to an Amtrak California bus that crosses the Bay Bridge to San Francisco's Amtrak stop at 101 The Embarcadero (near the Ferry Building). Alternatively, riders approaching the Bay Area from the south may transfer to Caltrain at San Jose's Diridon Station for a direct ride to Fourth and Townsend Streets in San Francisco. Amtrak can be contacted on +1-800-872-7245.

Amtrak routes serving the Bay Area are:

  • The California Zephyr runs daily between Chicago and Emeryville with connections to/from the east coast.
  • The Coast Starlight runs daily between Seattle, Portland, Emeryville, and Los Angeles. Travelers from San Diego should take the Pacific Surfliner to Los Angeles and connect with the Coast Starlight. To reach San Francisco, either transfer to Caltrain in San Jose or to the Amtrak bus in Emeryville.
  • The Capitol Corridor runs 12 times daily (9 on weekends and holidays) between Sacramento and Emeryville. Some trains also serve San Jose but Caltrain (see below) is a better bet between San Jose and San Francisco. The most convenient transfer to San Francisco is actually to BART at Richmond's station, north of Emeryville, while the Oakland Coliseum station is another option.
  • The San Joaquins runs 4 times daily between Bakersfield, Stockton and Emeryville.

Caltrain operates a regional rail service from San Jose to its San Francisco terminal at Fourth and Townsend. The service also runs between San Jose and Gilroy during rush hour. Caltrain is very useful for travel between San Francisco and cities of the Peninsula, Silicon Valley or South Bay. On weekdays Caltrain provides two trains per hour for most of the day but run more during commute hours, including "Baby Bullet" limited services that cruise between San Francisco and San Jose in 57 minutes; on weekends and public holidays trains run hourly, except that after 10PM only one train runs, leaving at midnight. The 4th & Townsend terminal is served by Muni Metro (see 'Get around' below) giving connections to the rest of the city. Fares vary depending on how far you go. Tickets must be purchased before boarding the train from ticket vending machines at all stations or from ticket clerks at staffed stations. Tickets are checked on the trains and anyone found without a ticket is liable to a substantial fine. Caltrain can be contacted on +1-510-817-1717.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) provides a regional frequent rail service connecting much of the East Bay and Contra Costa County with San Francisco and the San Francisco Airport through the Transbay Tube. BART operates five routes, of which four reach San Francisco; there are three or four trains per hour on each route. In the East Bay and outer parts of San Francisco BART runs mostly on elevated track; in downtown San Francisco it runs in a subway under Market Street, and several underground stations provide easy access to downtown areas and simple transfers to Muni Metro, also running in a sub-Market subway. BART also meets Caltrain at Millbrae. Bicycles are allowed on BART except between the Embarcadero and Oakland City Center stations during commute hours. Fares vary depending on distance traveled. You should check the map at your departure station and buy a ticket for at least the correct amount. The minimum amount that a trip will cost is $1.25. You will need to insert your ticket into barriers when entering and exiting the system. If there is still value left on the ticket when you exit, the ticket will be returned to you and you can re-use it, increasing its value as necessary. BART can be contacted on +1-415-989-2278.

Both Caltrain and BART have free programs with schedule information that can be run on a Palm OS device. They are available from their respective websites as a free download.

By bus

Greyhound has frequent intercity service from San Francisco. The station is inside the Transbay Transit Terminal, First and Mission streets.

Several regional bus systems serve San Francisco from the immediate suburbs:

By boat

San Francisco and Alcatraz from a Sausalito ferry

In many ways a boat is the ideal way to approach San Francisco. The city's spectacular site is best appreciated from the water, and from the deck of a boat the bay and its bridges and islands can be viewed as a whole. Cruise ships and private yachts are regular visitors to San Francisco, but the passenger ferries that regularly link other Bay Area cities to San Francisco are probably more practical for most visitors.

Ferries run to San Francisco from Larkspur, Sausalito and Tiburon in Marin County, from Vallejo in Solano County and from Alameda and Oakland in the East Bay. In San Francisco the ferries dock at one or both of Fishermans Wharf and the Ferry Building. For more information:

By car

Be aware that, when driving a car into San Francisco, this place is a major, pre-World War II American city--a dense population, congested vehicular traffic, and a transportation culture dramatically different from most of America. Activities in San Francisco commonly take place on foot or by public transit, so driving will not be easy, and parking will be scarce and expensive. For day trips into the city, consider a park-and-ride at a Peninsula Caltrain station or at an East Bay BART station.

The two main arteries that connect San Francisco with Portland and other cities in the Pacific Northwest, and with Los Angeles and the rest of Southern California to the south, are US 101 and Interstate 5. 101 meanders through the coastal hills of Central and Northern California, while 5 is a bullet-straight line through the San Joaquin Valley. Of the two, I-5 is the faster route, passing through Central Valley farmland and growing suburbs serving the Bay Area, while 101 is more scenic and enjoyable, with "wine countries" and occasional brushes with the seaside.

101 passes directly through San Francisco via city streets and the Golden Gate Bridge, while I-5 traffic connects to the Bay Area

All connections from I-5 except the Gilroy route pass over the beautiful San Francisco Bay Bridge.

Get around

On foot

Walking can be an enticing option to get from one neighborhood to another, so long as you are aware of where you are and keep your street smarts -- Sf is a town of friendly neighborhoods but it is also "big city" - be aware of your surroundings. Streets which often go straight up and down hills may make driving difficult, but make for breathtaking views (as well as good exercise) for the pedestrian. There are many stairway walks scattered throughout the city, at blocks that are too steep for a roadway. You can find maps that include hiking trails, bikeways, and the grade pitch of all streets marked in varying colors by how steep each segment is, that can help you orient to city walks suitable to your ability and temperament.

Highlight walks might include:

  • Broadway, a quite doable walk of several miles beginning at the Bay, going through a risque entertainment area, past Chinatown, over Russian Hill, out to the mansions of Pacific Heights, and ending at the Lyon Steps alongside the Presidio, San Francisco's newest national park.
  • Ocean Beach (Richmond, Sunset),
  • Herb Caen Way (The Embarcadero) along the waterfront from the,
  • the Barbary Coast Trail (through Downtown, Chinatown, and North Beach), and
  • the Greenwich and Filbert Steps on the east side of Telegraph Hill, both strenuous and unforgettably beautiful, with cottages and a flock of wild parrots to enjoy along the way up to the Coit Tower.

By public transit

San Francisco's Municipal Railway or Muni runs a network of local transport that covers most areas of touristic interest well. Components of the Muni are:

Streetcar at foot of Market
Cablecar at Powell & Market
  • Muni Metro is a modern light rail system. It serves the CalTrain terminus at 4th and King, runs north along the waterfront Embarcadero to the ferry building at the foot of Market Street, then goes underground under Market Street (in the same subway as BART) before surfacing and serving various locations in west and south San Francisco. You may board at any door provided you already have a ticket or pass. In the the underground section and at major surface stops you should purchase tickets from the ticket vending machine before boarding; if the stop does not have such a machine and you do not have a ticket, you must board through the front door and buy one from the driver.
  • Streetcar Line F uses historic streetcars, some from other US cities and painted in the colors of those cities that once operated cars of that type, and others from the Italian city of Milan. The line runs from Fishermans Wharf south along the waterfront Embarcadero to the ferry building at the foot of Market Street, then up Market Street on the surface to the Castro district. Board through the front door and buy tickets from the driver.
  • The world-famous Cable Cars run on three lines in the steep streets between Market Street and Fisherman's Wharf. These cars are a fun ride, especially if you get to stand on the running board, if a bit impractical for everyday use. The cable car is such an attraction that, especially on weekends, it takes longer to wait in line to ride up Powell St than it does to walk the short but sloping distance. Board through any door or just grab a pole on the running boards; tickets are are checked and sold by the conductor.
  • Buses serve the rest of town, with the steepest routes using electric trolleybuses. Board through the front door and buy tickets from the driver.

90 minutes of travel on the Muni system except the Cable Cars costs $1.50 (since September 1st '05); be sure to get and keep a transfer ticket when you pay for your first ride; you may be asked to show your transfer ticket (or pass) by fare inspectors at any time. Cable Cars are $5.00 per one-way, single-vehicle ride, no transfers issued or accepted. Before 7 AM and after 5 PM Seniors are $1.00. San Franciscans who actually use the cable cars for commuting to work can buy MUNI passes at a reduced cost.

An all day Muni Passport good on all Muni vehicles, including Cable Cars costs $9.00. Other passports and passes are available for longer periods. The passports come in the form of scratch cards; be sure to scratch off the appropriate dates before using. Muni also sells an excellent map of the San Francisco transport system, including services provided by other operators. Passports and maps can be bought from the information booths at San Francisco airport, the Cable Car ticket booth at Market and Powell, the Convention & Visitors Bureau also at Market and Powell and many other locations.

Muni can be contacted by calling +1-415-673-6864.

BART has eight stations in San Francisco, making it a nice way to get between well-trafficked parts of the city, especially downtown and the Mission. BART gets you also across the Bay to Berkeley or Oakland and to the airport. For more information on BART, see the 'Get in' section above.

CalTrain has four stops within San Francisco. Other than the 4th and Kings terminal, these are at 22nd St., Paul Ave., and Tunnel Ave, none of which are particularly attractive for visitors. For more information on CalTrain, see the 'Get in' section above.

By bike

Bicycles can be convenient in San Francisco, if you have strong legs. San Francisco is fairly small -- about 7 miles square -- and it's fairly quick to get from one end to the other. But much of the terrain is hilly and hard to pedal up. Do not be misled by maps depicting the city's strict, regular street grid, as even the straightest of San Francisco's streets might include steep hills or even staircases instead of a roadway.

Downtown, SoMa, and the Sunset and Richmond districts are relatively flat. There are a number of bike paths and bike routes on city streets; the San Francisco Bike Coalition keeps a lot of information about them.

By taxi

Taxis in San Francisco are, for a large city, surprisingly inefficient and expensive. Except for taxi stations at or near downtown business hotels, or cruising just a few major arteries, taxis can be hard to find and hail -- and calling for a cab can mean a 30-45 minute wait, if the cab shows up at all. Now, if you're anywhere near Union Square and are holding shopping bags, just by standing on the curb and hailing passing cabs will usually get you one quite quickly.

By car

Having a car can make it easy to get to parts of the city poorly served by Muni or other public transportation, as well as other parts of the Bay Area. However, perpetually-clogged traffic and a confusing system of one-way streets can make driving in downtown extremely frustrating. In addition, a significant percent of the city's revenue is made through parking tickets; parking laws are convoluted, enforcement is arbitrary, and devilishly stacked against the driver. San Francisco does not have a through limited-access freeway like its larger neighbor to the South. Cross-town traffic uses the main CA-1 along 19th Avenue and US-101 along Lombard and Van Ness. Most of the city's internal freeways were damaged by the 1989 earthquake and consequently torn down, so driving in San Francisco is a surface-street affair.

Finding your way around

Cross streets: As San Francisco streets are numbered (100 per block) from the beginning of the street, It is best when asking directions to ask for a cross street or neighborhood name. For instance, if you are at the intersection of Haight Street and Clayton Street, and you ask the driver of the 33 Stanyan bus "Does this bus go to Market Street?" it will get you a yes, but the bus won't get you downtown, it will get you south from that intersection to Market and 18th in the Castro district.

Numbered streets and avenues: San Francisco has both numbered streets, in the Mission, the Castro, Noe Valley, and SoMa, and numbered avenues in the Sunset and the Richmond. Mixing numbered streets and avenues when asking directions may leave you miles from your destination. This can be confusing, as San Franciscans will not say "Street" or "Avenue" unless it is required to avoid ambiguity. Thus, "I live on Fifth Avenue" but "I live near Fifth and Geary." Street signs generally don't have "Street" or "Avenue" either; they just say "GEARY" or "MASONIC".


  • The Painted Ladies. Historic terrace houses in heritage condition across Steiner Street from Alamo Square.
  • Lombard Street. The (nearly) twistiest street in America, between Hyde & Leavenworth (a similar street is located along Vermont Street, next to McKinley Square in the Potrero district).
  • 22nd St. Between Vicksburg and Church and Filbert St. between Leavenworth and Hyde - At a 31.5% grade, these streets share the honor of steepest streets in San Francisco.
  • Alcatraz. Decommissioned island prison in the bay. Take a tour and listen to an audio tape in English, Japanese, Chinese or other languages. The most interesting aspect of the tour is that you can go into the prison and see what it is like to be imprisoned. It might be more interesting if you've watched the movie "Escape from Alcatraz" and seen what happened in Alcatraz when it was operating as a prison. National Park Service webpage. Tickets for the Ferry to Alcatraz are available at Blue And Gold Fleet webpage. Book Alcatraz Ferry Tickets combined with many other popular sightseeing tours and activities. webpage
  • Angel Island. Island in the bay that housed Asian immigration (exclusion) camp, becoming the "Ellis Island of the West". Ferry over and rent a bicycle or walk around this beautiful island that is now a park.
  • Golden Gate Park. The biggest park in the city, with windmills, bison, museums, and a carousel hidden among its charms. Muni bus #5 goes along its northern boundary.
  • Coit Tower. Built in 1933 on top of Telegraph Hill, a former signaling point for sailing ships, Coit Tower [1] is dedicated to the San Francisco firefighters. Its shape is reminiscent of a fire nozzle. At 250' high, it is a healthy hike from the Embarcadero (steps at Greenwich and Montgomery) or from North Beach. Muni bus #39 goes from Fisherman's Wharf to the top.
  • Twin Peaks, Twin Peaks Boulevard (north of Portola Drive, just east of O'Shaughnessy). The small parking area at the northern tip of Twin Peaks Boulevard (875' above sea level) has the best view of San Francisco and the Bay Area that you can get within the city limits. Not many services, and the tour buses can get backed up here during the day, but it's a great place to really appreciate the City from above. Temperatures up there can be quite a bit lower than in the rest of the city, so bring a jacket. Muni bus #37, a scenic ride from the Haight-Ashbury or Castro and Market streets, gets you close, so you only have to climb about 120' up.
  • Treasure Island. A human-made island half-way between San Francisco and Oakland connected to Yerba Buena Island which the Bay Bridge passes through (The widest tunnel in the world). Excellent views of San Francisco & Oakland skylines can be had from driving around this recently deactivated Navy station. Accessible by Muni bus line 108.
  • Mission District. Containing one of the oldest structures in the City - the Mission Dolores Church - as well as superb City views from Dolores Park, the Mission is an offbeat tourist destination where Hispanic families mingle with Hipster night-owls, artists, lesbians and just about every one else in this eclectic neighborhood.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge from Marin County with San Francisco in background

Highway 101 N (from Park-Presidio or Lombard Street entrance), [2], +1 415-921-5858 ([email protected]). Open 24 hours, occasionally closed Sunday morning for events. $5 (toll driving south into San Francisco; free on foot or bike)

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most famous bridges in the United States, and has been called one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. The bridge spans the Golden Gate, a strait between San Francisco and Marin County to the north, and is one of the major road routes into and out of the city.

Vehicular traffic in both directions share a single deck; yellow pylons are used to allot lanes to one direction or the other depending on traffic conditions. Observation areas and parking lots are provided on both the north and south sides of the bridge; the best way to enjoy the bridge is to park and walk across, not least because you don't have to pay a toll. Note that winds are high and it can be cold and foggy; dress appropriately. Bikes can also be difficult to navigate in the high winds and narrow pathway.

The masterwork of architect Joseph B. Strauss, whose statue graces the southern observation deck, the bridge took seven years to build, and was completed on May 27, 1937. Not actually golden in color -- a common misconception -- the bridge is painted a deep red-orange. Erroneous legend has it that the bridge is continuously painted, with crews starting at one end and, on getting to the other end, turning around and starting over again. In fact, the bridge is only painted once every few years, with some touchup done continuously.

Alamo Square

At Steiner and Hayes, it has the famous Painted Ladies row of Victorian houses on its east side, but many other pretty Victorians throughout its surroundings. The Hayes street Muni bus #21 goes along its south side. If you enjoy walking and don't mind modest grades you can get there by walking west from Hayes Valley or north from the Lower Haight.

Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf is both a tourist trap and a place to see amazing street entertainers, eat excellent seafood, watch sea lions, and go to the Marine Museums and exhibits. Working Fishinboats still come into the small harbor at Jones and Jefferson, the endpoint of the Muni Historic F-streetcar. There are also small day and party boats available. The fresh breeze from the bay can provide a bracing setting.

Civic Center

The Civic Center has impressive buildings and the Asian Museum, but the main reason for going there are its music and theater venues. Hayes Valley, with shops selling wares from all countries and many restaurants adjoins the Civic Center at the south west.

Moscone Center

The Yerba Buena Gardens, above the Moscone Center, at Mission and Third streets provide a nice urban oasis. There is a carousel, a museum, and play places for kids, movie houses, various exhibit spaces, and the Museum of Modern Art across the street. A big garage at Mission between Fifth and Fourth streets makes it quite accessible for drivers. The Moscone Center itself houses major exhibits and conventions. Half of all Muni lines come with a few blocks of the area.

China Town

The original China Town, centered around Grant street from Bush to Columbus is also part tourist trap, part an exhibit of local life. Good eating places remain, and the side streets especially have stores one wouldn't find in a mall. many local Chinese prefer to eat and shop in the new China Town, in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, on Clement Street between 2nd and 12th Avenues. The Muni #1 (California) and #2 (Clement, does not run at night) buses get people from one China Town to the other.

Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park defines the extreme Western edge of San Francisco. It provides great views of the Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate Bridge from the Ocean side, and the Pacific Ocean itself. At the extreme western end the well known Cliff House provides both semi-casual and a more formal eating and drinking place. The #18 muni bus goes from the center of the park via the Cliff House to Golden Gate Park, while the very frequent #38 Geary buses terminate in between. Drivers will want to take the El-Camino-del-Mar through the small Seacliff area on the north west side to view some fancy mansions between Lincoln Park and the Presidio.


  • Take one of the many San Francisco harbor tours and admire the views from the bay or visit historic Tiburon.
  • Ride a San Francisco Cable Car, or the F-train, an electric street car running from Fishermen's wharf along the Embarcadero, down Market street, up to The Castro.
  • Critical Mass. On the last Friday of each month, bicyclists (in San Francisco, and about 200 like-minded cities world-wide.) gather at the north end of Market Street on the Embarcadero and ride en masse to some destination, militantly demonstrating their right to occupy the roads. If you are driving in SF on a Critical Mass day, you will want to listen for radio traffic reports, but if you are stopped by the mass the best thing to do is maintain a good sense of humor and remember that it will all pass in about 5 minutes. Tempers can and do flare...
  • Guided Segway Tours - San Francisco or Sausalito . New three hour guided tours on a Segway. Departures daily. See the San Francisco Waterfront, Marina Green, Fort Mason and more. Includes 35-45 minutes of training and 2 - 2 1/2 hours of sightseeing. Small group make this ideal for individuals and families. Reservations required. Tours are now offered in Sausalito.
  • Music City. San Francisco's New Musical Hub[3]
  • San Francisco Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. [4]
  • Go to a concert, a play, a Jazz or a folk-song performance. There are performances most days to choose from, as by the San Francisco Opera [5], the San Francisco Symphony [6], in Herbst Theater (where the U.N. charter was signed) [7], in the Old First Church [8], and for musicals the Orpheum or the Golden Gate Theater [9], all located in or near the Civic Center. The museum of the Legion of Honor [10], located in Lincoln Park overlooking the the Golden Gate (North end of 34th Ave.), has organ concerts which can be heard in many of its galleries, Saturdays and Sundays at 4:00 pm, as well as music performances in its Florence Gould Theater, as by the the San Francisco Lyric Opera. Plays are performed at the Geary (by the American Conservatory Theater []), Curran, and the Marines Memorial theatres [11]; those are nearer to Union Square, and at the three small New Conservatory theaters in the Civic Center. See the Unauthorized Rolling Stones, a San Francisco Institution play [12], or local musical genius Rudy Colombini [13] play in one of the local clubs. San Francisco also has many Jazz Clubs, best found by browsing the web, as [14]. Contemporary bands are featured at The Fillmore auditorium [15] and less frequently at the large Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in the Civic Center. There is an annual blues festival in late September, at various locations [16]. Many, but certainly not all, and no free events are listed by the City Box Office [17]. There are at least two great free bluegrass music festivals each year - during February [18] on the Marina and late September or October [19] in Golden Gate Park.
  • Golden Gate Park. Walking or bicycling in Golden Gate Park gets you out of the busy street scenes. There are often fun events as well [20]. It is not as large as New York's Central Park, but definitely the West Coast largest, so unless you rent a bike [21], you'll want to plan which area you want to visit, especially along the East (Stanyan street) to West (the Ocean) axis. During the summer to October a free shuttle bus circulates. On Sundays only bicycles are allowed on most park roads. The number 5 bus runs along its North boundary, and the N streetcar two blocks south of its South boundary. The Conservatory of Flowers is at 2nd Avenue (4 small blocks West of Stanyan). To the South, are tennis Courts, a children's playground and its Carousel, and playing fields for Frisbee. At 8th Avenue is the Shakespeare Garden with roses and other flowers mentioned in his plays. The de Young Museum, the Aquarium and Planetarium of the California Academy of Sciences, and the Music Concourse at 10th Avenue are currently being completely rebuilt. West of the de Young it is the Japanse Tea Garden at 12th Avenue, and South (at 9th Avenue) is the Strybing Arboretum. Boating on Stow Lake is at 18th Avenue. The Marx and Speedway meadows for picnicking and music festivals are near 30th. Ave. Horse riding, around the Polo field is available at 34th Avenue (currently - 2005 - closed to the public), model boating is at 35th Ave., fly-casting at 36th Avenue, and a Petanque bowling field is at 38th Ave. At 38th Avenue is also the Bison Meadow, where buffaloes roam. Golf and Archery is played at 47th Avenue. Finally, beyond 48th Avenue are the Dutch windmills that were used for Park irrigation in the past and the Beach Chalet for lunch, drinks, or dinner overlooking the Pacific Ocean and admiring brave surfers.
  • Hide in a Museum. When the morning is a foggy, you may want to visit a museum. Golden Gate Park has the most famous museum, the M.H. de Young Museum, rebuilt and reopened in 2005. Its Asian collection is now permanently housed in the Asian Art Museum, located in the Civic Center. The Legion of Honor Museum is in Lincoln Park, at the Western end of El Camino del Mar Avenue, in the North-west corner of the outer Richmond district. The 18 bus route, always near the Pacific Coast, ends there as well. The new Museum of Modern Art is located downtown near the Moscone Center, across market from Union Square at Mission and Third Streets, on the Muni #30 bus and many other routes.
  • For old and young kids the free Marine History Museum, by the Municipal pier at the North end of van Ness Avenue and Columbus street, just west of Fishermen's wharf, is a fun place. Walking to the end of the Municipal Pier gets you close to Alcatraz, and you can see both the Golden Gate and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridges. You can go on board of several historical ships, including the 1886 Balclutha clipper ship, a walking-beam ferry, a steam tug, and a coastal schooner, at the Hyde-street Pier [22] nearby. Over a hundred smaller vessels are also exhibited there [23]. Once a year a trip up to the Sacramento river delta is organized. At pier 45, to the east of Fishermen's wharf, the World War II submarine USS Pampanito can be visted. The Exploratorium [24] will keep you busy for an entire day with their Science and Perception exhibits. The Exploratorium is located in what was the Palace of Fine Arts for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition[25] at Lyon and Bay streets, near the terminus of the #30 Muni bus from Fishermen's wharf (Columbus and Northpoint). In the Presidio, a few blocks the north and west, you can visit the gardens of the new Lucas Film studios.


San Francisco is a sensual, epicurean city with a vast array of restaurants. If money is no object, you can have an unparalleled dining experience at Masa or Boulevard. But less budget-busting restaurants exist for every type of cuisine. Vegetarians and vegans will find SF a paradise. Sushi is a local obsession, and though you can find a sushi bar on almost every street corner, the Richmond district has more than its fair share of excellent sushi chefs. San Francisco also has the largest Chinatown in North America, with many exceptional restaurants serving dim sum and other Chinese delicacies; this localized Chinese cuisine has its feet in Hong Kong and America, and is different from what many visitors are accustomed to. Fisherman's Wharf serves fresh seafood, especially clam chowder and crabs cooked to order. North Beach is the place to go for Italian food, and the Mission for Mexican restaurants (and Latin American cuisine of all sorts).

You should also visit Ghirardelli Square to pick up some of their world-famous chocolate. Just a visit to the shop gets you a free piece!

  • Rainbow Grocery, 1745 Folsom (near 16th and Mission BART station), [26]. A wide variety of organic groceries, herbs and spices at low prices.
  • All You Knead, 1466 Haight St (between Masonic & Ashbury), [27]. Good casual place for American food; serves a big breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Vegetarian friendly.
  • First Crush, Cyril Magnin at Ellis, [28]. Trendy wine-themed restaurant for splurging on a date. Good filet mignon, but for $26.
  • Foreign Cinema, (on Mission near 21st), [29]. A French-inspired upscale restaurant in the Mission district it features independent and foreign films projected in an outdoor atrium.
  • House of Nanking, 919 Kearny St (in Chinatown). An excellent low-brow sit-down Chinese restaurant. Let the waiter order for you.
  • Buena Vista Cafe, (at the north end of the Cable Car line). Famous for its Irish coffee.
  • Pancho Villa, (near 16th and Mission BART station). A great burrito place in the heart of the mission.
  • Tu Lan, 6th & Market Streets. Greasy spoon serving cheap, yummy Vietnamese food. Look for Julia Child on the menu's front page.
  • Sam Wo, 813 Washington St. A century-old Chinatown institution - a true hole in the wall with cheap eats, cramped seating and gruff service staff - Sam Wo is the quintessential Chinatown dining experience and should not be missed.

Look also in the Districts section for more local recommendations.


For you travelers who like the grit and gritty of the city, go to zeitgeist. It is a great place to split a pitcher of beer with some friends, on a hot summer day. There is lots outside seating and the even better there is a shade tree to give you some relief from the sun, ohh wait were talking about San Francisco. The tatooed bar tenders are friendly enough and will have information about staying in one of the rooms above the bar, if you have drank too much or if you believe in love at first site. This place is cool, go there. They have great beers on tap. Everyone is friendly, even though the place looks like the home of Satan's Helper's. After the in-house food stops being served, you may see the Tamale lady. Feeling buzzed and looking for late night Grub? get a Tamale.

If you like football(Soccer) and all things English, you should stop into the lower haight's Mad Dog In the Fog. Located at Haight and Fillmore, the pub quiz and bar food are good. Swill some pints and stay in the dark. Good for a entire days worth of drinking. It's also central to other "dive" bars on Haight.



  • Central YMCA, [30], located in Civic Center. Dorm $23.50 per person, also private rooms and weekly rates.
  • Taylor Hotel San Francisco, [31]. Budget hotel accommodation at cheap rates for hostel travelers near Union Square. Private Rooms from $36.99.
  • Villa Soma, [32]. Offers fully furnished rooms at a daily or weekly basis. located in the South of Market district of San Francisco. Free Local Calls! DSL Lines! In Room Color Satellite TV with VCR! $20 per day.
  • Hostelling International, (3 locations) 2 Downtown, 1 in Fisherman's Wharf (Fort Mason Park), [33]. Clean, cheap ($23 dorms), safe, fun.
  • The Green Tortoise Hostel, 494 Broadway (in the North Beach area), [34]. Dorms from $22.
  • Elements Hostel, [35]. Awesome new hostel in the artsy Mission District. See the real San Francisco from $25 (dorms) or $29pp (twin-share)


Decide if you want to be in walking distance of your destinations, or are up to driving and parking. If you have a specific destination in mind, look also in the Districts sections.

  • Comfort Inn by the Bay, 2775 Van Ness Ave, (415) 928-5000, [36]. Located on route US 101 (Van Ness at Lombard), on local bus lines with easy access to all the tourist spots in the city of San Francisco, California. Some rooms have a great view.
  • Crowne Plaza - Union Square, 480 Sutter St., (415) 398-8900, [37]. Within walking distance of all downtown San Francisco's major attractions. The perfect destination for the visitor to SF.
  • Embassy Suites - Airport, 150 Anza Blvd., (650) 342-4600, [38]. On San Francisco Bay and two miles from San Francisco Airport. Close to great shopping and dining, and just 16 miles from downtown San Francisco.
  • Embassy Suites - Airport South, 250 Gateway Blvd, (650) 589-3400, [39]. Just 1.5 miles from San Francisco Airport and just nine miles from downtown, directly along Highways 101 and 280.
  • Holiday Inn - Fisherman's Wharf, 1300 Columbus Ave., (415) 771-9000, [40]. Among the bars, cafes, and the vast number of specialty shops in Fisherman's Wharf.
  • Holiday Inn Select - Downtown, 750 Kearny St., (415) 433-6600, [41]. A stroll from the Bay Bridge - this hotel is specifically designed for the traveler doing business in San Francisco.
  • The Mosser Hotel, [42], single room from $ 69.00 pp/pn.
  • Queen Anne Hotel, 1590 Sutter Street, (415) 441-2828, [43]. The Queen Anne provides a real San Francisco experience, being an 1890 Vistorian Hotel between Pacific Heights and the Civic Center, and near Japan Town. Some rooms have fireplaces, and afternoon tea is served daily.
  • Union Square Hotel, [44]. The Cartwright Hotel is in the most convenient location in San Francisco on Union Square near Chinatown, the trolley and the Financial District. Euro-style service, free wine tastings in the evenings and park and stay specials make this place a great bargain without sacrificing quality or style.
  • Washington Square Inn, 1660 Stockton St, (800) 388-0220, [45]. Idealy situated in the heart of San Francisco it is close to Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, Coit Tower, China Town, Union Square, and North Beach. Indulge yourself in the great views and beautiful accommodations.


  • The Mark Hopkins, Number One Nob Hill, 999 California Street, (Nob Hill), (877) 660-8550, [46]. Considered one of the finest San Francisco hotels, the InterContinental Mark Hopkins features 380 rooms, most with magnificent views of the City and Bay. Poised at the crest of Nob Hill and at the crossing of 3 cable car lines, this historic landmark is within walking distance to Union Square, Chinatown and a short ride to Fisherman's Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Omni San Francisco Hotel, 500 California Street at Montgomery, (888) 444-OMNI (6664), [47]. The Omni San Francisco Hotel provides luxury accommodations in the heart of downtown San Francisco. Located on the cable car line at the base of Nob Hill, the hotel is only a short walk to Union Square, the San Francisco neighborhood that has become a mecca for high end shopping and art galleries.
  • Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason Street (Union Square), (415) 394-1111, [48]. Located close to Union Square. It features Japanese style rooms and amenities. Hotel dining includes restaurant ANZU [49]. ANZU serves fresh sushi and excellent steak. Also located inside the hotel is the Baxter Chang Patri Fine Art Gallery [50].
  • Nob Hill Hotel, 835 Nyde Street (Nob Hill), (415) 662-4455, [51]. The Historic Nob Hill Hotel is located in Nob Hill close to the Financial District and Union Square. It features restored marble floors, alabaster chandeliers, stained glass panels, grand statuary and an extensive collection of period paintings and antiques.
  • Pan Pacific, 500 Post Street (Union Square), (415) 771-8600, [52]. Located in upscale Union Square within walking distance to most of San Francisco’s famous destinations. This AAA four diamond holel has 338 rooms.
  • Fitzgerald Hotel Union Square, 620 Post Street (Union Square), (800) 334-6835, [53]. Located in Union Square close to Russian Hills, Nob Hill and the Financial District. Established in 1910 and completely restored, it has hosted many colorful and famous visitors including musicians, actors and writers.
  • The Palace Hotel, 2 New Montgomery Street, (415) 512-1111, [54]. Located in the Financial District, one block from Market Street. Established in 1875, The Palace has 552 guest rooms. In 1945, the official banquet honoring the opening session of the United Nations was held in The Garden Court at The Palace.


Stay safe

As with many other major cities in the world, San Francisco also has a share of problems. The distinct areas that one should be cautious in are around the southeast section of the city, such as Bayview-Hunters Point, and the SoMa (South of Market downtown) and the Tenderloin districts at night (north-east of the Civic Center).

San Francisco attracts a large homeless population due to the moderate weather and generally tolerant city government and populace. Plus, an incredibly high cost of living here also adds to the numbers of homeless people. Generally, if begged, just politely say that you do not have any change and they'll leave you alone. Many of the homeless are friendly and very articulate, and are happy to at least have you acknowledge their presence, but be aware that it's not just a coincidence that some of the homeless people have some serious mental health & substance abuse issues, so keep your guard up.



Smokers beware: as in the rest of California, smoking is illegal in bars, restaurants, and other public places. Bay Area people can be particularly vocal about your personal habits. Be aware of nonsmoking areas, and try to be courteous about smoking in other places. They will probably not bother you about standing and smoking outside a restaurant or bar. However, smoking is not dead in San Francisco —there are a small number of bars that take advantage of loopholes in the law, and cater to the short-of-breath. The Zeitgeist (a motorcycle-themed dive bar) on Valencia in the Mission District is one of the better known. The Eagle (a gay biker/leather-themed bar) and the Lone Star (a gay bear-themed bar) both feature large outdoor smoking patios.

Get out

For laid-back, involved-with-your-fellow-travelers kind of travel (cooking is shared, the sleeper busload camps ensemble), check out the Green Tortoise. GT runs buses up to Seattle and down to Baja California; to Black Rock City, Yosemite National Park, a National Parks loop including the Tetons, Yellowstone and more, and a coast-to-coast run to New York.

Bikes can be rented from around the northern waterfront (Pier 41/Fisherman's Wharf/Aquarium Park area) or near Golden Gate Park for trips to Marin County via the Golden Gate Bridge. Golden Gate Transit also serves the North Bay from San Francisco, and has bike racks on most buses.

Nearby destinations suitable for daytrips include:

  • Berkeley. Possibly the West Coast's best college town (at least on par with Santa Cruz and the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles). Also a hub of liberal political activism for the past several decades.
  • Napa Valley. The main wine growing region in the United States, a trip to the many wineries makes for a fun day, while those wanting a longer adventure can relax in any one of the many spas, bed and breakfasts, or other lodging options.
  • Muir Woods. A 560 acre forest of old-growth redwood trees located in Mill Valley, Muir Woods is a pleasant respite from the city.
  • Point Reyes National Seashore. Located north of San Francisco along highway one, Point Reyes is a beautiful seashore that is particularly nice to visit when gray whales are migrating along the coast, usually best in mid-January and then from March through May.
  • Santa Cruz. Located on the coast north of Monterey, this funky town is home to surfers, a lively college campus, and a popular boardwalk.

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