12 things to do in San Francisco – California

California was the first state I visited in United States. I went on a business trip to attend a conference in San Jose and decided to extend few days to visit San Francisco. It is one the best trip I ever had. I traveled alone! When you will read number 11, you will understand why it was a crazy and memorable trip!

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Here are 12 things to do while in San Francisco:

1- Visit Alcatraz Island

When booking my flight to San Francisco, my friend told me to reserve the Alcatraz trip before the flight or the hotel. A limited number of visitors is allowed per day. So start by getting the ticket online from the official website. You won’t regret it!

It takes 10-15 min to arrive to the island by ferry boat. You will get the chance to watch the beautiful San Francisco from outside.

An audio guide is more than enough to know all the story of the abandoned prison where used to be detained big american criminals like Al Capone.

The whole visit needs around 3 hours.

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2- Take the famous picture with Golden Gate bridge

I would recommend that you go there by hop on hop off. It is a bit far from the center of San Francisco. You can go by regular bus as well. There is the Golden Gate Park just next to it.

You can visit Walt Disney Family museum which is not far.

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3- Take a walk at sunset at Fisherman’s wharf and have dinner

You can take the Old Famous Cable Car from Union Square and Reach Fisherman’s Wharf. You have to wait in a long queue to take it. Then take a walk in the area which is very crowded. You can get some souvenirs and have dinner. There are plenty of restaurants to dine in. You can visit Madame Tussauds as well!

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4- Watch the Sea lions at Piers 39 and Eat some amazing sea food

You will find plenty of souvenir shops and restaurants. I ate one of the best seafood meal in my life at Fog Harbor. I tried the Fish Cioppini based on the recommendation of dear friends.

You can as well play the 7D Experience games.

5 – Do some Shopping at Union Square and surroundings and have lunch/dinner at Cheesecake Factory

Go to Macy’s, one of the most famous malls in the United States. You will find brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein at reasonable prices. But remember that it is not an outlet. I have been told about Westfield, O’Farell Street, Market Street, Sutter Street that are not far from Union Square.

If you don’t have time to go to outlets outside San Francisco, you can go to small ones like Ross on market street and Marshalls where I got some good quick deals.

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6- Buy some good Chocolate from Ghirardelli

One of the best shops to get American chocolate… I visited the shop in Piers 39. But you can go to Ghirardelli Square, enjoy some meal and pass by their shop!

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7- Eat Burgers!

You can’t go to the United States and leave without eating burgers! I will recommend 2 restaurants and I am sure that you will find plenty others.

  • The Melt: Best burgers with Cheese!
  • Super Duper

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8- Go Up to Coit Tower and Watch San Francisco from above

I always like to see cities from above. You have to wait in a queue to go up but the view is pretty good.

I was recommended to go to Twin Peaks as well for sunset for a great view of San Francisco!

9- Visit California Academy of Science & Japanese Garden

I went through the hop on hop off. I didn’t go inside because I have been told it is nice but not amazing. It has an aquarium, an indoor rain forest. You need your passport to get in.

I sat in the garden next to it and enjoyed the sun. Then I moved to the Japanese garden which is small relatively but very nice. You must pay a fee entrance.

Through the hop on hop off, you can take a ride inside the park next to it and reach a zoo.

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10- Enjoy the nature of Sausalito

I went through the hop on hop off after visiting the Golden Gate Bridge. I didn’t have time to make a stop. You can spend few hours in Sausalito.

I know friends who went in a boat.

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11- Get your adrenaline high and do some skydiving

Hell Yeah! It is cheaper than Dubai. I paid almost 320$ including photos and video. They are very professional. Check out their website.

You need to book ahead of time. It is 45 min far from San Francisco.

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12- Take the hop on hop off

For all those who do not have much time to visit the city, I recommend Hop On Hop Off because you can see all the city within few hours. I made some stops to see some main attractions:

  • Lombard Street which is the most Crooked Street in the city! 🙂 It looks like a snake and usually it has lots of flowers. I don’t have a good picture as I arrived at noon with a full sunlight.
  • Alamo Square – Painted Ladies / Seven Sisters: San Francisco houses have beautiful and different architectures. The Hop on Hop off guide explained it in details and we were able to see different styles during our rides. The Seven Sisters illustrate a beautiful example.
  • China Town: You can eat at Great Eastern Restaurant in China Town where Obama ordered a take away!

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General Information for your trip:

  • San Francisco has lots of hills for a city. So it can be challenging to walk it if you are tired. 🙂
  • You can always take an Uber POOL (sharing with other people), Lyft if you want to skip the bus.
  • I got a Lyca Sim Card to stay connected!
  • San Francisco can be cold even in sunny days because it is next to the ocean.
  • Why do you find too many homeless in San Francisco?
    • It is said that:
      • “During the big clean-up of New York, Guiliani bought the homeless of the Big Apple a one-way bus ticket to California. A lot of the NYC homeless went to San Francisco.
      • It’s a myth that the rest of the country is bussing people who are homeless to San Francisco as some sort of recompense for having progressive politics.

      • But, it is true that bussing programs exist. Many cities all over the country will buy you a bus ticket if you’re homeless and you have somewhere to stay in another city.

  • Download Muni Mobile Application for bus tickets or get them at Walgreens that is similar to a supermarket and pharmacy where you can buy umbrellas, souvenirs and Power Adapters.
  • Electricity Plugs are not the same as Europe. Don’t forget to get your adapter.
  • A recommendation would be to find a hotel or Airbnb next to Union Square or Fisherman’s Wharf. Avoid Tenderloin region.
  • San Francisco is full of skyscrapers. The tallest building is the one of Salesforce. Transamerica Pyramid is the second one.
  • Marijuana is legal in California.
  • Check Groupon for some nice deals because San Francisco is expensive!
  • San Francisco, being notoriously gay-friendly, is a very popular destination for run-away LGBT youth.
  • You can try special cuisines in California. I would have loved to try the Brazilian one.
  • Mountain View is not far from San Francisco. i wish I had time to visit it because it is the dream of every software developer to go visit Google and Sillicon Valley. Check for tours before going.
  • Other getaways: Monterey, Napa Valley for wine lovers… Better to rent a car if you want to visit them.

San Francisco is very rich. This is what I was able to do during 2.5 days. I will definitely come back to the United States to visit other states! San Francisco will remain dear to my heart.

Cheers to Rima DEGHAILI who shared with me important tips for my trip and for Nathalie MATTA who made it memorable and very easy with her detailed advice.

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