Sunday, November 24, 2013

San Francisco Guide for First Time Visitors

If you only had a few days and you want to explore the city of San Francisco, here are some places definitely worth checking out. Like our Seattle guide, these are just some of the places we think you should see, but the city is huge and full of other wonderful areas, waiting to be discovered. 

1. Golden Gate Bridge - Iconic landmark, and a must see. If you are lucky and you go on a clear day, as SF can get enveloped by fog, you will get to see this from afar. However, most of the time, you will probably have to go closer to truly see its beauty. I would definitely suggest driving through it! As far as where to go to see it and possibly take photos, I would go to Crissy Field in the Presidio.
2. Alcatraz - This infamous prison is located in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. You have to take a 15 minute ferry ride to get to it, and it's truly something else. This place is full of history, and there's a lot to learn. Being in this place is an experience for sure. It's a bit eerie in my opinion, but it's fascinating, informative, and always interesting. We enjoyed doing the audio tour - you get your own headset and you can do the tour in your own pace. 
There are also night tours available, though the space is quite limited. It's a different experience as they open other places that are normally restricted during the day. 
Dress warm even on a seemingly hot day in the city. It can get windy and cold up there! It is an island after all and you are surrounded by the beautiful bay. 
3. Palace of Fine Arts - This is one of my favorite spots in the city. It's such a beautiful site, and it will transport you to another time and place. Even though it is located in the middle of a bustling area, it's peaceful and quiet once you walk around this area. You'll be surrounded by gorgeous classical architecture, and you'll be amazed at the level of detail in the sculptures and buildings here. It's also surrounded by a pond, where ducks and swans like to hang out. Take a leisurely walk, and enjoy the scenery and landscape around you.

4. Legion of Honor - If you like art, check this museum out. It's the best one in the city in my opinion. It has a great collection of European art, and it's located on a scenic hilltop. Here, you will find a lot of Rodin's sculptures, and many Impressionist pieces. I am no expert on art and art history, but I appreciate it, and this place makes me want to learn more.

5. Golden Gate Park - If you are in San Francisco, you need to go here. This huge park is a great treasure in the city. It has 1,017 acres of public grounds, and is full of unique sites and areas. Here, you will find the Conservatory of Flowers, Academy of Sciences, Japanese Tea Garden, Shakespeare Garden, and so much more. Many people go here to have picnics, or for the museums. A lot of people also just go here for a nice walk and a run. 

6. Crissy Field - This is my favorite place to be. It is the most beautiful place to have a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge, and it's a scenic place to have picnics, go for a run, bike rides, or play with your pets. It's a dog friendly beach, with a lot of space to roam around. If you want a reason to appreciate San Francisco, visit this place. It reminds me every time why I love it so much. Be reminded that it can get chilly here as well, so bring a lot of layers, even in the summer time. 

7. Union Square - This is the central shopping area. The stores here range from Forever 21 to Chanel. They have Sephora, a Macy's, Urban Outfitters, North Face, and even a Westfield Mall. There's a lot of restaurants as well. There's also an area in the middle where you can sit down and relax for a bit. Be warned that driving here can get pretty bad. There's some parking garages, but I highly recommend taking the Bart if you can.
7. Pier 39 - Yes, it's a tourist trap. And yes, it's very crowded. But it's worth visiting! It's full of shops and restaurants for everyone to enjoy, but what I like about this place are the sea lions sunbathing. They're always there, and they're hard to miss as they're pretty loud.
Pier 39 is not for everyone, but I think it can be entertaining. It probably won't be a must-visit stop every time, but if it's your first visit here and  you've never been, why not check it out? 

8. Musee Mecanique - I am putting this here because Mike and I went on our second date here, and it was a lot of fun. This place has a huge collection of mechanical games and toys dating back to the 1800s or so. There's old arcade games, fortune tellers, and so many others I have never seen before. It's near Pier 39, so pay a quick visit (an hour or less) if you are around the area. Make sure to bring quarters!

9. Twin Peaks - On a great day this place affords a beautiful view looking down on the city. On a foggy day, you will only be able to see several feet. Definitely worth the drive up on a great day. We even went up on a foggy day in the hopes it would clear up. Sadly, it did not.

Other notable places you might want to go to: 
- Ike's - This is a pretty popular sandwich place. So good! (order Menage a Trois)
- Bi-Rite Creamery is also pretty awesome. Their ice cream are homemade, and they have so many unique flavors. I personally love their Salted Caramel. They also have options for lactose intolerant! 
- The Exploratorium - I haven't been here in so long, but if you have kids, it's a fun interactive place! 
- Academy of Sciences - Again, I haven't been here in a while, but I remember it being a fun and educational place to visit. If you like nightlife, they also have one here on Thursday nights. The whole area turns into a club/bar scene, but you can still see the animals. It's a crazy idea, but it works.

That's pretty much it! Have you been to San Francisco? What are some of your places here? If you live around the area, what are some spots you recommend? This city is huge, and is so diverse that there's so much to see and do. I hope this list sort of helps you with your ideas when you visit! 


  1. I'd love to visit San Francisco! That bridge is jaw dropping!

    1. Thank you. I live here and everytime I see it, it still is jaw dropping to me.

  2. I would LOVE to go to san fran....or anywhere in that general area, haha! I think I would absolutely love it there. I would have a hard time not brining every single camera I owned, though! lol.