I am fortunate enough to live in the San Francisco Bay Area and was recently asked by a friend to put together a list for someone who was traveling to the Bay for the first time. I thought I would share my favorites:
- Cruise on the bay to Alcatraz – Alcatraz was a working prison which now holds tours and has quite a bit of history. To get there, you have to take the ferry, so you get a mini cruise out of it anyways
- Golden Gate Bridge– obviously! you can rent a bike and ride across it, or drive across and take the Point Reyes scenic drive
- Catch a Giants game at AT&T Park – GO GIANTS!
- North Beach/Coit Tower/Lombard St – this is the Little Italy of SF (my favorite neighborhood) with fantastic food, Washington square park is gorgeous, lots of little unique shops, you can walk up to Coit Tower which has amazing views of the city and bay (including landmarks such as the Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard St, the Financial Building and Alcatraz!) and it’s walking distance to Lombard St “the crookedest street in the world”, as well as right next to Chinatown – literally, you cross the street and are in Chinatown!
- SFMoMA, Academy of Sciences, De Young Museum etc- if art is your thing, we have some great museums! and the first Tuesday of every month is free entry day! I recently saw the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the DeYoung which was stunning!
- Golden Gate Park/Haight St. – Haight street is where the hippie movement started with Jerry Garcia in the 70s TONS of thrift stores, great restaurants and boutiques and it’s pretty close to Golden Gate Park, which is huge, beautiful, and there’s plenty to do such as bocce ball, the Japanese Tea Garden, and the De Young Museum
- (Almost) Any type of cuisine you could possibly be craving or drooling to try can be found in the Bay Area. There are also many fusion restaurants, vegan/vegitarian, great and unique bars and amazing street food (the food truck movement is big here!) as well as many farmer’s markets – so if food and/or drinks are your thing, you’re in the right place!
- Painted Ladies – famous row of victorian houses with an awesome park across the street as well as great views behind the homes.
- Festivals – There are almost always festivals to go to, such as Lovefest, Peruvian Culture, Gay Pride Parade, How Weird, Gilroy Garlic Festival, Art & Wine festivals etc Do a Google search and see if you can catch one!
- Walks/Runs – there are also many athletic events such as Bay to Breakers, AIDS Walk, Breast Cancer Walk etc.
- Pacific Heights – these homes will make you ooh and ahh! They are mansions, and not only by SF standards. This neighborhood boasts some great views as well
Outside of SF
- Sausalito – if you have the time, I definitely recommend getting to sausalito. you can take a ferry from SF. it is a beautiful harbor town with great views of the bay, art galleries etc
- Muir Woods – gorgeous redwoods! these trees only grow in California, Oregon and parts of China great hiking here!
- Santa Cruz/Capitola – definitely more touristy with the Boardwalk, but worth it with sunnier weather and Natural Bridges Beach is awesome to hang out. Capitola has a nice downtown area to walk around
- Half Moon Bay – more low key than Santa Cruz, there are some great restaurants over here (Barbara’s Fish Trap and Cameron’s Pub are my faves) Bring layers though, it tends to be foggy
- If you are into wine tasting, we have a lot of good wineries in the Morgan Hill/Gilroy Area (Clos LaChance, Solis) and Santa Cruz Mountains (Savannah Chanelle, my fave) Burrell School, Byington etc) & of course, Napa/Sonoma aren’t too far away
- Facebook (Palo Alto)
- Stanford – the campus is really pretty and is where the Hanna House is located, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces if you enjoy architecture
- NASA Ames Exploration Center – if you’re a science geek! =P
- hiking/mountain biking – there are tons of areas where you can hike and/or mountain bike (there are also places to rent mtn bikes)
- Shoreline Lake Park – rent paddleboats, canoes, kayaks, go windsurfing etc
- Alum Rock Park and/or Kelly Park have great trails and views
- San Jose Museum of Modern Art
- Egyptian Museum
- Heritage Rose Garden
- J Lohr Winery – just outside downtown!
- HP Pavillion – Catch a Sharks Hockey game
- Museums – Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, Tech Museum, SJ Museum of Art, Children’s Discovery Museum
- Los Gatos Creek Trail
- San Jose Giants Game
- Raging Waters – huge water park!
Modes of Transportation:
Caltrain – train service from San Francisco to San Jose, and limited service to Gilroy
BART – train service from the east bay Fremont, north to Richmond, across the bay between Oakland and SF and from SF down to Millbrae with service to San Francisco International Airport
Muni (SF) – Provides bus, streetcar, and metro service in the city of San Francisco
City Buses – our bus system is relatively good, we have many buses that go to pretty much any location you could need. The linked website will tell you ALL the modes of transportation you can take based on your start and end points – very useful!
Zipcars – you can rent cars by the hour or the day
Couchsurfing – Get in touch with the local couchsurfing community. Often, people post asking for rides and offering rides