The 21 Top Ways To Enjoy San Francisco

Twins in a diner in San Francisco, California Olatz eta Leire
You won't be the first to leave your heart in San Francisco and you certainly won't be the last. That's especially true if you try these 21 experiences—they introduce you to the unique zeitgeist of this amusingly eccentric, cultured, fascinating city.
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The Golden Gate Bridge. Rasmus Zwickson/Flickr
Don your windbreaker and walking shoes and prepare for a wind-blasted, exhilarating journey across San Francisco's most famous landmark. It's simply one of those things that you have to do at least once in your life.
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A young man wanders under lanterns in San Francisco's Chinatown Andrés Nieto Porras/Flickr
Chinatown is a trip. I've been visiting since I was a kid, and decades later it still never fails to entertain. Head straight for the food markets, where a cornucopia of critters sits in boxes waiting for the wok. (Is that an armadillo?)
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A young map sips coffee and works on his laptop at Caffee Trieste in San Francisco Christoph Michel/Flickr
One of the most pleasurable smells of San Francisco is the aroma of roasted coffee beans wafting down Columbus Avenue in the early morning. Start the day with a cup of Viennese at Caffe Trieste (pictured) followed by a walk down to the bay.
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A boat zooms in front of Alcatraz Island. Alejandro Forero Cuervo/Flickr
Even if you loathe tourist attractions, you'll love Alcatraz. Just looking at the Rock from across the bay is enough to give you the willies. Even if you don't have time to explore the old prison, the boat ride across is worth the price—but book ahead, because it's a popular excursion.
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Tourists on a cable car in San Francisco David Ohmer/San Francisco
Skip the boring California line and take the Powell-Hyde cable car down to Fisherman's Wharf—the ride is worth the wait. When you reach the top of Nob Hill, grab the rail in one hand and hold the camera with the other. The view of the bay will make you a believer.
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The Giants get ready to start a game in AT&T Stadium in San Francisco Mike D/Flickr
If it's baseball season, then you must spend an afternoon or evening watching the National League Giants play at one of the finest ballparks in America. You can buy bleacher seats the day of the game. Even if the season's over, you can still take a tour of the stadium.
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A singer at the Glide Church in San Francisco Christopher Michel/Flickr
The high-spirited singers and hand-clapping worshippers at Glide turn churchgoing into a spiritual party that leaves you feeling elated, hopeful, and at one with mankind.
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A hiker on the Coastal Trail in San Francisco.
Walk the forested coastal trail from the Cliff House to the Golden Gate Bridge, and you'll see why locals put up with living on a foggy fault line. Start at the parking lot above the Cliff House and head north. Dress warmly.
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A young boy blows a massive bubble at the Explorotorium Peretz Partensky/Flickr
Described by Scientific American magazine as the best science museum in the world (I agree), this hands-on destination holds more than 650 interactive exhibits that enthrall both kids and adults.
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A leg sculpture protrudes from a windo in the Haight, San Francisco Rick/Flickr
Although the power of the flower has wilted, the Haight is still, more or less, the Haight: a sort of resting home for aging hippies, dazed Deadheads, skate punks, and sadly, young panhandlers. Think of it as visitng a people zoo with shopping and bars (don't neglect the Lower Haight's bar scene).
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Organic tomatoes at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Liza/Flickr
We San Franciscans take our farmers markets' seriously. Arrive hungry at the Ferry Building (the Embarcadero at Market Street) on Saturday, Sunday, and Thursday and join the locals (and local chefs) as they shop for America's finest produce—and try the free samples.
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A street party on Castro Street in San Francisco. Torbak Hopper/Flickr
The most populated and festive street in the city isn't just for gays and lesbians. There are some great shops and cafes, but it's the abundance of postive energy that makes the trip here a must.
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The Golden Gate Promenade at sunrise. David Ohmer/Flickr
Something about walking along the promenade feels just right. The combination of beach, bay, boats, Golden Gate views, and cool breezes is good for the soul.
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Patrons chow down at the Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco. soupstance/flickr
Dining doesn't get more old school (or delish) than this seafood institution, which has been serving up fresh fish since 1912.
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The MArtin Luther King, Jr. fountain at the Yerba Buena Garden in San Francisco Allan Ferguson/Flickr
Since the SFMOMA (Museum of Modern Art) opened across the street in 1995, this area has been the best place to go for a quick but potent dose of culture.
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Three men climb the Filbert Street steps in San Francisco. James Cridland
San Francisco is a city of stairs, and the creme de la creme is the Filbert Street Steps, a 377-step descent that wends its way through flower gardens and some of the city's oldest and most varied housing. It's a beautiful walk down and great exercise going up.
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The de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.
It's a pleasure just to look at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. Then catch a blockbuster exhibit or two inside.
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San Francisco at night Jose Carlos Cortizo Perez/Flickr
Some of the best ways to view the city are from top-floor lounges in the high-end hotels, such as the Sir Francis Drake, the Grand Hyatt San Francisco, and the Mark Hopkins Continental (pictured is the view from there). Drinks aren't cheap, but the vistas are priceless.
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A Dungeness crab stand at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar/Flickr
You'll find better Dungeness crab elsewhere, but eating it straight from the seafood vendors' boiling pots at the corner of Jefferson and Taylor streets is the quintessential San Francisco experience.
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Skaters in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. ScupperSSF/Flickr
C'mon! When was the last time you've been skating? And if you've never tried skating before, there's no better place to learn than on the wide, flat main street through Goden Gate Park, which is closed to vehicles on weekends.
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A table full of dim sum at Yank Sing restaurant in San Francisco kennejima/flickr
At Yank Sing, you'll be wowed by the variety of dumplings and mysterious dishes that are carted past you. Just point at what looks good and dig in.
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