San Francisco, officially known as the City and County of San Francisco, is the financial and transportation centre of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region of 7.6 million people which also includes San Jose and Oakland.
It is the fourth most populous city in California and the 13th most populous city in the United States, and was founded on June 29, 1776, when colonists from Spain established a fort at the Golden Gate and a mission named for St. Francis of Assisi a few miles away. This is where the city got its name, because it is literally, “Saint Francis” in Spanish.
After having three-quarters of the city destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire, San Francisco was quickly rebuilt, and became the port of embarkation for service members shipping out to the Pacific Theatre during World War II.
Today, San Francisco is one of the top tourist destinations in the world, so much so that tourists are leaving behind their Santa Monica hotels and heading up north for cooler weather and cheaper prices.
Here are our top five suggestions of things to do in San Francisco:
Standing at 210 feet in the Telegraph Hill neighbourhood of San Francisco, the Coit Tower, also known as the Lillian Coit Memorial Tower, is the civic phallus of the city.
It was built in 1933 using Lillie Hitchcock Coit’s bequest to beautify the city of San Francisco. She was a well-known volunteer fire-fighter, and holds historic significance for her contributions to the city.
At her death in 1929, Coit left one-third of her estate to the city for civic beautification, so to honour her, the Coit Tower was proposed in 1931 as an appropriate use of Coit’s gift.
The tower is built on the site of the first west coast telegraph, a semaphore line that was completed in 1849. Coit also commissioned another neighbourhood landmark, a statue of three fire-fighters at the northwest corner of Washington Square Park.
The Coit Tower gives great views of the city, as it is perched atop Telegraph Hill in North Beach. The views aside, you also should visit the murals that were inspired by the social-realism style of the great Diego Rivera.
Although it’s a bit of a steep climb, you can walk up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower, following Lombard Street from North Beach. If you’re feeling less energetic, the #39 MUNI bus goes to Coit Tower, leaving from Pier 39 or Washington Square.
California Palace of the Legion of Honour
The California Palace of the Legion of Honour, which is often abbreviated as the “Legion of Honour”, is a part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The name is used both for the museum’s collection and for the building in which it is housed.
It was the gift of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, wife of the sugar magnate and thoroughbred racehorse owner and breeder, Adolph B. Spreckels.
The museum displays a collection spanning more than 6,000 years of ancient and European art, and houses the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts in a neoclassical building overlooking Lincoln Park and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Among the collection highlights is the St. Francis venerating the Crucifix, St. John the Baptist and The Tribute Money by Peter Paul Rubens.
There is also a statue of El Cid in front of the Legion, which gives you a great backdrop for photos.
The Legion of Honor art museum is located at the edge of the wild and beautiful Lands End area in the northwest corner of the city.
- By Bus:
The 18-46th Avenue bus stops right in front of the museum, the best choice.
Two other buses (1-California and 38-Geary) come within a block or two of the entrance to the park at 34th Ave and Clement St. From those stops, you can walk to the museum (about 20 minutes) or transfer to the 18 bus which gets you right to the front door.
- By Car:
34th Avenue in the Richmond District heads into Lincoln Park at Clement Street, and winds through the park to the museum.
Parking Heaven! The Legion of Honor is one of the few attractions in San Francisco that has plenty of free, convenient parking in their own parking lot.
- Adults : $10
- Seniors 65+ : $6
- College students/youths 13-17 : $6
- 12 and under : Free
The entry fee is for general admission; special exhibitions often have an additional fee, unless you are a member.
- Free first Tuesday of every month.
- Muni ticket: show your Fast Pass or a Muni transfer and get $2 off the entry fee.
- Become a member of the fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Free admission for you and a friend, or get a family membership. Individual memberships start at $99 per year.
- Get a multiple-attraction pass that includes the museum:
Go SF Card (smartdestinations.com)
SF City Pass (www.citypass.com)
Also, with a ticket to the Legion of Honor San Francisco, you can also get free admission to the de Young museum for the same day. And vice-versa. That is, if you have the stamina for two art museums in one day!
The birthplace of America’s counter-culture, the Haight was Ground Zero during the summer of 1967, otherwise known as “The Summer of Love”, which was the rise of a drug culture and rock-and-roll lifestyle.
Hippies and affluent yuppies used to live here, buying up all the colourful Victorian homes throughout Haight-Ashbury and replacing its head shops with high-end boutiques, chic restaurants and hip cafés.
The Summer of Love attracted a wide range of people of various ages drawn by their peers and the allure of joining a cultural utopia. The Haight-Ashbury could not accommodate this rapid influx of people, and the neighbourhood scene quickly deteriorated and overcrowding, homelessness, hunger, drug problems, and crime afflicted the neighbourhood.
The best spot in the Haight is Amoeba Music, which is in a former bowling alley and boasts one of the biggest collections of CDs in the world, but do be warned by the panhandlers who occupy the streets there, as they can get a bit rowdy.
- By car :
Fell and Oak Streets, parallel one-way streets running east-west across the northern edge of the district, offer a relatively easy way to get into the district via car from Downtown to the east. A few major north-south streets which pass through Haight are Fillmore Street, Divisadero Street (which merges into Castro Street to the south) and Masonic Avenue. Parking in the area can be very limited, however.
- By public transit :
MUNI operates the 7-Haight-Noriega bus route (plus the 6-Parnassus east of Masonic) running the length of Haight Street, connecting the area to Downtown. Nearby streets parallel to Haight also serve the area, for example the #5 on Fulton and #21 Hayes north of the Haight district. Additionally, a few lines run north-south through the district: 22-Fillmore, 24-Divisadero, 33-Stanyan and 43-Masonic.
The N-Judah Muni Metro line (partially underground) also runs parallel to Haight Street several blocks to the south. An easy way to access the western portion of the Haight district (near Cole Valley) from downtown is to take the N-Judah outbound to Cole Street, then go right. It runs under the hill. The N-Judah continues westward, stopping at University of California, San Francisco before heading into the Sunset neighborhood.
Golden Gate Park
The Golden Gate Park is a large urban park consisting of 1,017 acres of public grounds. It was created in the 1870s, when San Franciscans began to feel the need for a spacious public park similar to Central Park that was taking shape in New York.
So, the Golden Gate Park was carved out of unpromising sand and shore dunes in an unincorporated area west of then-San Francisco’s border. It was conceptualized by field engineer William Hammond Hall, who prepared a survey and topographic map of the park site in 1870.
There are other attractions in the park besides its beautiful landscape such as the Kezar Stadium, Conservatory of Flowers, the AIDS Memorial Grove, the Music Concourse Area, De Young Museum, Academy of Sciences and the Japanese Tea Garden, which is the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States.
With 13 million visitors annually, Golden Gate Park is the third most visited city park in the United States. Marvel and enjoy this huge, scenic place.
- By car :
Cars allow you to come and go as you please, but you will have to deal with the issue of parking. When looking for a place to park your car, the Music Concourse Garage is open on a daily basis from 7:30am to 10pm. During the week, the garage charges $2.50 per hour for parking, while the weekends cost $3 per hour. The entrance to the garage can be found at 10th Avenue and Fulton Street.
- By public transit :
The public bus transportation of San Francisco offers a Golden Gate Park shuttle that provides free service to passengers situated at one of 15 locations scattered about the park. This mode of transportation is available during the weekends and holidays, from 10am to 6pm until the middle of December.
The Japanese Tea Garden has early morning free hours on certain weekdays which is a great deal and comes without the crowds.
The Exploratorium is a museum that has over 475 participatory exhibits, where all of them were made onsite and mixes both science and art, which aims to promote museums as informal education centres.
Founded in 1969 by physicist and educator Frank Oppenheimer, the Exploratorium offers visitors a variety of ways to explore and understand the world around them, which includes exhibits, webcasts, websites and events.
Among the many weird and wonderful things you can experience here is blowing the world’s biggest soap bubble, dissecting a cow’s eye and visiting the tactile dome, a pitch-black maze that you have to navigate by touch.
- Car :
Is not the right solution because of parking.
- Bike :
There are ample public bike racks on site as well as Public Bike Work Stations for a quick fix on the South apron of Pier 15 and in front of Pier 17.
- By public transit :
– Muni’s F Market streetcar stops in front of the Exploratorium at Embarcadero and Green Street.
– Muni’s E Embarcadero streetcar also stops in front of the Exploratorium (please note that it runs from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on weekends only).
– Muni bus lines 2, 6, 14, 21, 31, and metro rail lines J, K, L, M, T, N stop within walking distance. Bus lines 1, 10, 12, 41, and 38 also stop in the vicinity.
– Embarcadero BART, Muni stations, and ferry terminals at the Ferry Building are all a 10- to 15-minute walk away
Today, San Francisco is a popular destination renowned for its steep rolling hills, eclectic mix of Victorian and modern architecture and its famous landmarks which include the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, and Chinatown. Discover this abounding destination from the top of an English Double-Decker bus!
- Today’s hours are 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
- Tonight’s adults-only hours are 6:00–10:00 p.m.
- Summer Hours (June Through August)
Saturday–Thursday: 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Thursday Evening (18+): 6:00–10:00 p.m.
Friday: 10:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m.
You can buy ticket at : Exploratium WebSite