SAN FRANCISCO what to see and how much it costs

San Francisco

San Francisco can be intimidating and we’ve all heard how cool it is for years so you don’t want to miss a thing. Chad Cavanaugh a San Diego based artist wrote this step by step for me from his recent trip to San Francisco with his lovely wife making it so easy and took the stress out of everything.

San Francisco a step by step guide

We had never been on a holiday together. When we got married, we had a 5 year old daughter that was part of the wedding. I’ve been raising her since she was 2 years old, to give you an idea of how my wife and I have always been a family from day one. So when we decided we were going to finally travel somewhere, just the two of us, we decided on San Francisco . It was perfect, it was for our 5th anniversary which happened to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. It held extra special meaning as my great grandfather worked on the construction of the bridge.

San Francisco Transport system

When we arrived in San Francisco we immediately found our way to the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) which was about $8 per rider. We took the BART to the Powell St Station.  This is worth noting as the Visitor Information center is located here, it also has a lovely little coffee trolley outside of it called the “Cable Car Coffee” cart.  San Francisco

Once inside the visitors center we purchased two City Passes. The two passes cost $120 or so and it includes unlimited trolley, cable car and bus rides. HINT: Don’t get a rent a car. With the city pass you can get all over the city easily and not have to worry about parking, negotiating the odd streets or the added expense of gas. The pass also includes a bay tour by boat (you go under the bridge and around Alcatraz, Aquarium passes, SF MOMA passes, and a couple other museum passes-all accessible via the bus, cable car etc. So we realized that these passes paid for themselves after two days of being there. It was awesome. Also, this was the first time we were kid free so we were going nuts going around this beautiful city.

We took a bus to about a couple blocks from our motel, which was in the Cow Hollow area, close to Golden Gate park, the Presidio (where Lucas Arts does a lot of work, and has an awesome Yoda statue that you see here to the right. As a massive Star Wars fan, this was a real treat to find. Also, Cow Hollow is a short bus ride from the Fisherman’s Wharf area. The Wharf is home to so many great restaurants and Ghirardelli Square. Also located there is the Boudin Bakery, the Aquarium, the pier that departs to Alcatraz Island and other boat tours. From our hotel in Cow Hollow, we were able to walk to this area within a half hour and minimal hills. The walk skirts around the steep hills and it also has breath taking views of the Golden Gate bridge, Alcatraz Island and the city skyline itself.
San Francisco 2

San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf

You can’t go down to the Fisherman’s Wharf without visiting the Ghirardelli Chocolate factory. We went three times. You can walk in and get a sample and then have a seat at one of the three stores they have in Ghirardelli Square. The main store has the original chocolate making machine, out in the open to go see and take pictures with. It really is a Willy Wonka experience.

San Francisco things to see.

From the Square, you can walk a couple of blocks and be at the world famous Buena Vista Pub, home of the Irish Cremes. Right across the street from there is the turn around for the Powell & Hyde cable car. You have to get on this ride. It’s historic!    You watch the operator turn the cable car around by hand and these guys are walking compendiums of the cable cars history. Great personalities and really add to your experience.   From this location, you go straight up Hyde street, which, we tried on foot and we nearly needed to crawl up it on all fours, it’s that steep! Also, there are hop on points for the cable car along the routes but they have a capacity and the capacity usually gets reached at the turn around point. So I suggest hopping on at the turn around point. As you go up Hyde St on the cable car, you come upon Lombard St. If you haven’t heard of Lombard Street, you most certainly have probably seen it in either movies, commercials, tv shows, video games, post cards etc. It is the world famous “Crooked Street”, paved of red bricks and lined with beautiful shrubbery and homes. San Francisco

From the top of Lombard and Hyde you can see the Coit Tower in the distance along with the bay bridge. We walked down Lombard and saw a lot of people driving their cars down it. Another fun touristy thing to do. We preferred to walk it and take it all in.  We took the cable car all the way to Chinatown. Chinatown is awesome! All the open air markets, all the incredible architecture and lots and lots of authentic places to eat!

We couldn’t go to Chinatown without trying some dim-sum. I never really had it before but I really liked it. There were a couple surprises, but overall we loved it. Now, walking San Francisco requires comfortable shoes and some cardio. Lots of hills.   But it’s the best way to see everything around you. There are so many things to see and take in that if you’re in a car you’re going to miss so much of it.

San Francisco There are so many distinctly different neighborhoods you’ll experience while walking around, taking the bus. And each neighborhood has tones of personality and a really old feel to it. By that I mean that it doesn’t feel like something that was recently built and designed for a Disneyland attraction. They’re old, time worn and absolutely beautiful.     Some cool plaques outside of bookstores denote the authors that once frequented the area . One of the many gems you won’t see if you’re not on foot, experiencing this wonderful city properly.San Francisco

One of the biggest attractions in San Francisco is the old penitentiary, Alcatraz Island. Home to such famous criminals as the Birdman, Whitey Bulger and Al Capone. It’s an incredible attraction that comes with an audio tour so you can hear about the history of this prison while walking through it. Here is a tip for you if you’re planning on visiting Alcatraz Island while in San Francisco: Book the tour three months in advance and get the earliest tour possible. It can get crowded as the day goes on. Also, once they drop you off on the Island, you’re on there for as long as you like (until the last ferry leaves for the day) so it can get overpopulated as the day goes on. There is also a night time tour, rumored to be haunted, that we didn’t go on but plan on going on it next time.

San Francisco San Francisco was an incredible place to visit. Our stay was memorable and we had tons of fun. We ended our trip by walking across the Golden Gate bridge (over and back) the day after our 5th anniversary, which coincided with the 75th anniversary of the bridge.  One cool feature, is at the base of the bridge on the South side is Ft. Point. At the far East point is a fence. On that fence is a sign with two hands painted on it. If you watch runners you’ll see them run up to the fence and touch their hands on this sign. san franciscoThe story behind it is called “Hopper’s Hope”, a group of workers that work on the bridge that help prevent suicides on the bridge. You can Google it and get the full story. It’s 3.4 miles there and back. Here’s a photo of us on the North end of the bridge, before we headed back to the South side and completed the walk.   Enjoy your time in San Francisco!

Next stop San Diego 🙂

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About Sandra

Just a girl from Ireland who wants to live everywhere. Not a planner, a winger when it comes to travel. I don't even like people who plan too much. Without spontaneity there is no depth. A jack of all trades. A great friend, loyal and passionate and I expect the same in return. Always ready for the next adventure at a moments notice.
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