San Francisco’s allure is more than picturesque views and gastronomic pleasures. Its unique neighborhoods and culture distinguish it from any other city in the world — so much diversity for a city of only 47.9 square miles!
Begin Day 1 in the Castro district, the heart and soul of the city’s thriving gay community. From there, visit the famous Painted Ladies of Alamo Square. Next is the birthplace of hippie culture and the nexus of 1967’s summer of love, the Haight Ashbury district. After all that excitement, relax and enjoy the variety and tranquility of Golden Gate Park, including the Presidio. Finish the day with a Pacific sunset viewed from the Golden Gate Bridge.
Day 2 starts at Fisherman’s Wharf, with its great eateries, novelty shops, and activities for everyone. You’ll then take a cable car to explore the Russian Hill and Telegraph Hill neighborhoods, where you’ll squeeze in a visit to Coit Tower. Then it’s on to nearby Nob Hill and finally Chinatown for an authentic Chinese dinner and eclectic shopping.
- The Castro Theatre
- Mission Dolores Park
- F line Historic Streetcar Begins and Ends Here
- Tartine French Bakery
- Bi-Rite Creamery – great ice cream!
- Pink Triangle Park
- Seward Mini Park with steep concrete slide (adults welcome, bring your own cardboard to slide on)
The Castro District is the heart and soul of San Francisco’s gay culture. The predominantly gay and lesbian neighborhood offers hours of shopping, a multitude of restaurants, a vibrant nightlife, and a variety of historic landmarks. The neighborhood is home to stylish clothing stores, the Human Rights Campaign store, adult content shops, cafes, and restaurants. During the day, the streets bustle with activity and at night, Castro’s numerous bars are packed and lively.
- Painted Ladies (Victorian Houses)
- Alamo Square Park
Pose for pictures against the backdrop of the San Francisco skyline and the Painted Ladies! Featured in the opening credits of the TV series Full House, the Painted Ladies are five beautiful Victorian homes facing Alamo Square. The square offers .5 square miles of lusciously open space with a dual-level playground for kids. Check out the Shoe Garden, where castoff ski boots and high heels have been repurposed as art. Enjoy a picnic, tennis, a nap, or a hike along the walking trail!
- Alternative, hippie, punk and goth clothing, shoes, and accessories
- Amoeba Records
Eclectic and funky, the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco unapologetically marches to the beat of its own drum. Hippies, bohemians, tourists, and locals come to the district for a taste of something a little different from the mainstream stores and music of downtown San Francisco. The Haight’s quirky combination of Eastern-religion inspired boutiques, smoke shops, and vintage clothing stores illustrated how the past still influences the Haight of today. Even now, dreadlocked hair, hippie-style clothing, and communal living lifestyles are a visible aspect of the Haight’s contemporary counterculture.
Golden Gate Park
- Hiking, biking, boating, and skating
- Gorgeous 360-degree view of San Francisco from de Young Observation Tower
- San Francisco Botanical Gardens
- Segway Tours
- Lindy in the Park – Free swing dance lesson and social swing dancing on Sundays
Golden Gate Park’s 1,017 acres make it bigger than New York’s Central Park! Watch bison cavort, rent a pedal boat on Stow Lake, or take a Segway Tour while learning about the park’s history. Where else can you see carnivorous plants, centuries-old artwork, and year-round concerts? Although today’s park is lush and covered by trees, grass, and exotic plants, the land was originally acres of sand dunes sparsely populated with native grasses and shrubs. These “outer lands” as they were called, were inhospitable and according to many, uninhabitable.
- Hiking, biking, and exploring
- Walt Disney Family Museum
- Letterman Digital Arts Center(see the Yoda Fountain!)
- Crissy Field
The Presidio offers something for every member of the family! Hike one of The Presidio’s dozen major trails, wade in the ocean at Baker Beach, jump on trampolines at the House of Air, or visit the Walt Disney Family Museum. Presidio hiking trails lead throughout the entire park, from the high tree-covered hills to the Lobos Creek dune habitat. These trails offer breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay, Pacific Ocean, the cityscape, and more. Visit Immigrant Point Overlook for panoramic views of the ocean and Inspiration Point to see the Presidio, Palace of Fine Arts, Alcatraz, and the Bay.
Golden Gate Bridge
- Walking, driving or biking across the bridge
- Breathtaking views
- Crissy Field
- Watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean from the Bridge
Whether the sun is shining or fog is streaming through the bridge’s awe-inspiring arches, the Golden Gate Bridge is a must-see. The stunning San Francisco Bay panorama is best viewed from the pedestrian side of the bridge. On a clear day, you can see Coit Tower, the Transamerica Pyramid, the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Angel Island, and Sausalito.
- The Dungeon San Francisco
- Sour Dough Bread from the Original Bakery
- Street Performers
- Segway Tours
- Irish Coffee at The Buena Vista Cafe
- Alcatraz Island
Fisherman’s Wharf is a bustling hub of activity from morning until after dark. Eat freshly caught Dungeness crab, find San Francisco memorabilia, or take a tour of the surrounding area on a Segway. Fisherman’s Wharf offers hours of entertainment, especially if you know where to look. The famous Fisherman’s Wharf sign, with the crab emblazoned on a ship’s steering wheel, is one of the most photographed locations in the city. At night, check out live music at Castagnola’s, take a sunset cruise, or visit a comedy club.
- Crookedest Street (Lombard Street)
- hop on a cable car
- Mini French quarter
Drive down Lombard Street’s eight world-famous hairpin turns and enjoy breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay! Lombard Street is often called the “crookedest street” in the world, but in reality, it is not even the most crooked street in San Francisco! Despite this, thousands of people drive or walk down Lombard Street every year. Its famous cobblestone switchbacks, bordered by hydrangeas and Victorian houses, remain a favorite destination for visitors from around the world. The crooked portion of Lombard Street is located between Hyde and Leavenworth Street, with Hyde being the top of the hill and Leavenworth being the bottom. For the best picture of Lombard Street, take a picture from the intersection of Leavenworth and Lombard Street. In recent years, a mini French Quarter has sprouted around Polk and Green Streets, where you can enjoy a charming bistro, a traditional boulangerie, a French antique shop, and several French-inspired boutiques.
Telegraph Hill / Coit Tower
- Coit Tower
- Parrots of Telegraph Hill
- Filbert Steps
Coit Tower is located on Telegraph Hill in Pioneer Park. If you are feeling adventurous or want some exercise along with your view, take the Filbert Steps from Sansome Street up to Coit Tower. The stairs are steep and pass through a series of sculpted gardens as well as past incredibly beautiful homes. The stairs end near the base of Coit Tower in Pioneer Park. The steps on Greenwich Street are on the backside of Telegraph Hill, closest to the water. These steps afford beautiful views of the city from a perspective few will see on their visit to San Francisco. The steps are well-maintained, and benches sit in nooks to the side for people to pause and take in the view.
- Cable Car Museum-FREE admission
- Hop on a cable car
- James C. Flood Mansion
As a historic neighborhood, Nob Hill is located at one of San Francisco’s 44 hills. There are many sights to take in here, including the free Cable Car Museum, which holds antique cable cars and displays the mechanisms and cabling for the cars in use today. Don’t miss Grace Cathedral’s gothic architecture, stained glass, and meditative labyrinths. Take your pick from among the varied restaurants in this neighborhood, and be sure to see the James C. Flood Mansion, the first brownstone building west of the Mississippi. The Powell Street cable car heading away from the bay will get you here from Telegraph Hill.
- Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory at 56 Ross Alley in Chinatown
- Portsmouth Square Plaza at Washinton and Kearny Streets
- Dragon’s Gate on Bush Street at Grant Avenue
Drawing more visitors annually than the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown offers fascinating novelty items, inexpensive and authentic Chinese food, and a variety of cultural attractions that reflect the city’s Chinese community and heritage. Get your Buddha figurines, Chinese medicine balls, boxes of fake chirping crickets, and noise poppers here!
Head south to Grant Avenue and Bush Street to see the spectacular Dragon’s Gate of Chinatown, a jade-colored three-tiered roof with two dragons facing each other. This marks the entrance and exit to the eight blocks of Chinatown.
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