San Francisco is the city of cool, home to a new breed of young innovators and big picture thinkers.
The oldest city on North America’s West Coast, San Fran is also one of North America’s most liberal urban centres.
Much like Wellington, but upsized, San Francisco boasts a large harbour and steep hills similar to those found in the capital. It has a distinctly European compared to other American cities west of Chicago with its compact, pedestrian-friendly nature. It also boasts plenty of amazing spots just on the city’s doorstep, making it an ideal base for a few days at least.
San Francisco offers a tourists smattering of everything –interesting neighbourhoods, a strong culture and arts scene, good shopping and an incredible selection of top notch restaurants and bars.
Things you must see and do
Take the iconic cable car to Powell Street - the main tourist cable car takes in Lombard Street and heads to Fisherman’s Wharf – and check out the seals on Pier 39. In summer head to the cable car early - it gets packed as the day progresses.
Hiring bikes from Fisherman’s Wharf, cycling over the iconic Golden Gate bridge, and through the quaint town of Sausalito to Tiburon is well worth the journey, not only do you cross the iconic bridge, but you can grab a ferry back to Fisherman’s wharf to return your bike.
Alcatraz is well worth a visit - it’s a tourist trap, but a neat one (we've all seen the movies) - allow 3 - 4 hours, and in summer book online well in advance. Check out the murals in the edgy Mission neighbourhood and hang off a street car like the Tanners. For an amazing brunch head to Mama’s on Washington square – you won’t regret it.
Yosemite National Park is not far away, nor is the relaxed beach town of Santa Cruz. If you’re a wine connoisseur or just like to drink the stuff then a trip to nearby Napa Valley is well worthwhile. Consider extending your stay and hiring a car. If you’re heading to Los Angeles, the Pacific Coast Highway is a world class road trip – stretch it out over at least a few days.
Take in a game of baseball – the San Francisco Giants stadium is just minutes from the Bay Bridge in the SOMA district (South of Market Ave), walking distance from the city centre. The regular season lasts from March to November.
For lovers of good coffee there is a selection of pretty neat spots popping up San Fran-wide, Blue Bottle Coffee is the closest that you’ll find to NZ coffee – there is one in the Ferry Building, five minutes’ walk from the ferry to Alcatraz. On Saturday’s there is a farmers market just outside the ferry building, a great brunch and people watching spot.
From the airport take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), it’s fast and cheap and spits you out in the middle of the city.
Maybe it doesn’t have the same acclaim for movies as Los Angeles, but there are stacks of movies that have been filmed in San Fran; from car chases on the hilly city streets, filming on or of the cities iconic bridges, on the cable cars, or over on Alcatraz.
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