This most recent trip, I spent 4 days in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve been to San Francisco multiple times, for work and for vacation, so this trip I wanted to seek out things to do that were either free or unique which I haven’t done before in the city. Here is my list of things to check out on your next trip to San Francisco:
- Buy a San Francisco CityPASS – you can purchase this at www.citypass.com or if you have a Costco membership, you can purchase through Costco for a discount. The CityPASS allows visitors to the city a 7-day cable car/Muni transit bus passport, admission to the California Academy of Sciences, a cruise with Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure, admission to the Exploratorium or de Young Museum, and admission to Aquarium of the Bay or Monterey Bay Aquarium. I visited the Aquarium of the Bay, which offers visitors a chance to explore and touch some of the local and Pacific Ocean inhabitants of the sea.
- Search for the Hearts in San Francisco – in 2004 the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation created heart statues and had local artists paint them for display and then auction to fundraise. Search for the hearts throughout San Francisco, where they are displayed in private companies and public spaces. The most recognizable and popular hearts are located in Union Square however several attractions around the city also have their own painted hearts. For more information on the Hearts in SF project, visit: http://sfghf.org/events/hearts-in-sf/.
- Ride the California line cable car from Powell Street down to the water and experience a steep downhill ride that makes you feel like you’re on a coaster. For a bigger thrill, stand on the side of the cable car and hold on tight! Thanks to San Francisco Travel, I had the chance to try the San Francisco CityPASS and take advantage of riding the cable cars unlimited within the days I was in the city.
- Photo op at The Palace of Fine Arts – built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Expo, this structure was built to exhibit works of art. This European artistic structure is now a popular attraction for photos by tourists and locals.
- Photo op and views from the 16th Ave Tiled Steps – on Moraga Street between 15th and 16th Avenue in the Inner Sunset district, surrounded by residential houses, 163 steps lead up to a view point of the city. Since 2005, these 163 steps have been tiled into a beautiful mosaic of animals, birds, and fishes. These steps are great for a photo op both at the bottom and at the top of the steps.
- Watch the sea lions at Pier 39 – On a nice sunny day, the sea lions are sunbathing at Pier 39 on the dock. Hundreds of sea lions gather to sleep, eat and play on the docks daily. The number of sea lions vary each day. They can be loud and smelly, however they are also quite fun to watch as they fight and play with each other. Tip: Download a discount booklet from the Pier 39 website www.pier39.com and print coupon for up to 2 hours free parking in the Pier 39 Parking Garage. You can also take the cable car or F tram to Pier 39.
- Ride the Carousel at Pier 39 – While at Pier 39 to watch the sea lions, head to the middle of the Pier in between the rows of stores, to ride the large Italian-made 2 story Carousel consisting of 1800 LED lights and 32 animals. Adults of all ages can ride the Carousel – $3 a ride, 2 for $5.
- Order from In-N-Out Burger’s not so secret menu – Online if you search for In-N-Out Burger’s secret menu, you will find dozens of sites that list out what you can order that’s not on their regular menu. My favourite is the well-done fries – their regular fries double fried for extra crispness. You can also order the well-done fries with cheese (they melt cheese onto it) or animal style (melted cheese, special house sauce, and grilled onions). The popular double-double animal-style burger is a double-double burger with pickles, extra special house sauce, grilled onions, and mustard fried to each patty. There’s also a protein burger, which is any burger ordered without a bun and wrapped in lettuce. There are several In-N-Out Burger’s in and around San Francisco. The easiest one to find is in Fisherman’s Wharf.
- Jog, bike or walk along the Great Highway – The Great Highway stretches 3.5 miles from Golden Gate Park down to Ocean Beach. On a nice sunny day, locals will be seen jogging or biking along, heading down to Ocean Beach for a day of sunbathing, paragliding, or surfing. Be careful when it’s a windy day – the sand blows heavily onto the roads and causes road closures. Come here for the beautiful ocean views just steps or short drive from the city.
- Get lost in Golden Gate Park – Golden Gate Park is large enough that you will get lost in it whether driving or walking. However, this park has so many exciting attractions and things to see that you could spend a whole day in the park and not be bored. While headed to the park for the de Young Museum and California Academy of Sciences (they are across from each other, inside the park, and part of the CityPASS admissions), we came across the Japanese Tea Garden located at the entrance before the Museum. Our walk also came across the San Francisco Botanical Garden located nearby. Tight for time, we didn’t have a chance to visit the mentioned attractions however have put it on our list for our next visit. Tip: On Monday, Wednesday and Friday before 10AM, the Japanese Tea Garden offers free admission (regular admission $6).
Thanks to San Francisco Travel for the travel recommendations and the CityPASS provided. San Francisco is a city where I can keep going to for short 4-5 day trips and still not run out of things to see and places to eat. San Francisco Travel encourages everyone to follow @onlyinSF on Twitter to find out the latest events, attractions and things to only in San Francisco.
Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are my own. Although San Francisco Travel provided complimentary travel passes such as the CityPASS, I was not compensated in any way for this article.