The key to traveling, especially in a city like San Francisco, is to know the ins and outs of the place. Here are several strategies for making the most of any visit, short or long.
Get a Good Hotel
Getting a good hotel in San Francisco can be tricky. Most people want to stay at hotels along the Van Ness and Lombard Street areas, but they’re neither cheap nor ideal. They’re noisy and make getting anywhere inconvenient.
The best places for tourists are Union Square or the Fisherman’s Wharf area. If you want a deal on lodging in these areas, check for hotel coupons before booking.
Use the San Francisco Vacation Planner
Use the San Francisco Vacation Planner to find your way around. You’ll also learn the best and worst times to see various attractions and understand how much you should be spending on activities. For example, if you’re traveling on a dime, you might be surprised to know that there are plenty of free activities in the city.
Some of the things you can see for free include top attractions like Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Golden Gate Park. There are also low-cost options like the San Francisco CityPASS, which is a seven-day Muni pass that you can use for everything from cable cars to trolleys to other public transportation.
Know the Weather
Tourists are surprised by just how cold San Francisco can get. If you’re visiting in the summer, the temperature can get down into the mid-50s at night. Even during the day, you might get cold when it’s sunny out or when you’re riding a cable car.
Bring a sweater or a windbreaker that you can take off during the day, and generally try to dress in layers. Ladies should consider wearing leggings with skirts or packing a comfy pair of jeans, even for summer travel.
Don’t just go to Fisherman’s Wharf and stare at the boats. Take pictures, and then walk toward the water where you can see what the wharf is really like. Go to Chinatown and walk down some of the side streets, or wander through the alleyways during the day.
Use Public Transportation or Walk
San Francisco isn’t that big. A lot of tourists don’t realize that when they first arrive, though, so they rush off and rent a vehicle.
In reality, you can explore most places on foot, by public transportation, or with a bike. If you’re an out-of-towner, it’s usually best to use public transportation or walk. Walking is free, and the buses are cheap.
Make Reservations for Alcatraz
Everyone who visits San Francisco wants to see the famous prison, but it’s surprisingly busy. Make reservations at least two weeks out, as tours fill up fast. It’s best to reserve your spot online or through your hotel’s concierge.
There are some unscrupulous tours that say they’ll take you to Alcatraz, but they only go past the attraction. Make sure your tour actually includes the prison itself.
Eat at the Right Locations
The food in this city is incredible, but you’ll never know it if you stick to the usual fast food joints. Sure, you can settle for Fisherman’s Wharf or the Stinking Rose. But why not get adventurous?
Try Hoffman’s Grill, Swan Oyster Depot, and Ike’s Place. Each one of these spots is distinct and has plenty of charm. Hoffman’s is a sort of half-country food joint that has been described as “hot and stuffy,” which is perfect for chilly San Francisco nights. Swan Oyster Depot is one of the best oyster bars in the United States, and Ike’s Place is a smallish sandwich shop.
San Francisco is a fantastic city that offers a lot of vacation deals to those who plan ahead. Travelers have a blast here, and it’s one of the most visited cities in California. Check it out, and enjoy your time discovering all the things San Francisco has to offer.