The 21 Top Ways To Enjoy San Francisco
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.
Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge
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.
Stroll Through Chinatown
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?)
Start Your Day with North Beach Coffee
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.
Do time on the rock.
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.
Catch an Early Morning Cable Car
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.
Watch the San Francisco Giants Play at AT&T Park
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.
Spend a Soul-Stirring Sunday Morning at Glide Church
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.
Hike the Coastal Trail
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.
Explore the Exporatorium
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.
Hang in the Haight
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).
Graze at the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market
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.
Cruise the Castro
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.
Meander Along the Marina's Golden Gate Promenade
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.
Dine at the Swan Oyster Depot
Dining doesn't get more old school (or delish) than this seafood institution, which has been serving up fresh fish since 1912.
Hang Around Yerba Buena Gardens
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.
Climb the Filbert Street Steps
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.
Spend a Day at the de Young
It's a pleasure just to look at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. Then catch a blockbuster exhibit or two inside.
Sip a Cocktail in the Clouds
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.
Feast on Dungeness Crab at Fisherman's Wharf
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.
Skate Through Golden Gate Park on a Weekend
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.
Do Dim Sum
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.