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The Total Guide to Your Trip in San Francisco, California

Ashley Akridge - Freelance Writer

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San Francisco is famous for its iconic landmarks and tourist attractions that lure people from around the world. But there's something to be found in this city sprawling over the hills and along the coast of San Francisco Bay. Planning a trip to San Francisco will give you a memorable visit to Pier 39, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island, but at the same time you will find many other sights. In fact, this guide lists 10 things to do during your stay in SF, 5 day trips and tours within San Francisco, 10 recommended restaurants and 10 hotel ideas to stay during your vacation in SF!

10 Best Things to do in San Francisco

If you're looking for a city that's full of the unexpected, San Francisco will not disappoint. Filled with hidden gems and unique experiences, San Francisco is a place that begs to be explored. Here are 10 of the best things to do in San Francisco, California.


The Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge and Bay area in San Francisco California at sunrise

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most famous bridges in the world, but there's more to it than just that. It's also one of the most beautiful places in a city full of beauty. You get stunning views of the bay and the ocean from here, as well as heart-stopping views of San Francisco itself. With its red color, it's truly unforgettable.

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island and Prison, aerial view from helicopter on a clear sunny day

Alcatraz was once a prison that housed some of America's worst criminals; now it's a tourist attraction! You can take a ferry out to this island and see where people like Al Capone spent their days locked up behind bars. There are also plenty of other activities on the island besides seeing the prison, such as exploring old military barracks and hiking trails through nature preserves nearby.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

This museum is one of the best in the country, and it's right here in San Francisco. It features an ever-changing collection of modern art and paintings by local artists, so even if you've been before to see a specific exhibit, there will always be something new to check out. If you're looking for things to do in SF then this should definitely be at or near the top of your list!

PIER 39

Famous Pier 39 with sea lions, San Francisco, USA

It's hard to imagine anything more iconic than the view from PIER 39. You've got Alcatraz looming out in the distance, the Golden Gate Bridge sprawled up into the sky, and sea lions barking out on the pier. You can also shop and dine at your choice of over 100 vendors. Can't beat it!

Lombard Street

Lombard Street in San Francisco

This steep street is famous for being a road with eight hairpin turns—and also for looking great in pictures. This is one of my favorite places to grab a drink and watch the sunset, because there's nothing like watching the sun go down over this beautiful city.

Muir Woods National Monument

The Muir Woods National Monument, on Mount Tamalpais, in Marin County

Muir Woods National Monument is a national park that is home to a number of unique plant species. They have an extensive trail system which will allow you to explore on foot or by bike. If you're looking for something more challenging then they also offer guided tours through their redwood forest which can take up to four hours per day.

Japanese Tea Garden

Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco

The Japanese Tea Garden is one of the most popular attractions in San Francisco, located in Golden Gate Park. This garden has been around since 1894 and was originally created as part of an exhibition at the California Midwinter International Exposition. It features beautiful landscaping with ponds filled with koi fish and pagodas surrounded by lush foliage. You can also visit their teahouse for some traditional Japanese tea ceremonies if you're feeling adventurous!

The Painted Ladies

Painted Ladies at Alamo Square in San Francisco California USA

The Painted Ladies are an iconic example of Victorian architecture, located on Steiner Street in Alamo Square. The colorful homes look like something straight out of a fairy tale (and have been featured in a variety of movies and TV shows), so it's no wonder that tourists flock to this spot for photo ops. The best time to visit is during the day, when the sun hits the houses at just the right angle and makes them positively glow.

San Francisco Zoo

African Meercat standing watch at the San Francisco Zoo

The San Francisco Zoo is a popular destination for animal lovers and families alike. The zoo features more than 1,000 animals across 100s of different species, with many that are native to the area. The zoo's low-lying concrete paths make it easy for strollers and wheelchairs to navigate and there are plenty of shaded areas to cool off. Visitors can also enjoy seeing animals up close at feeding times—there's nothing quite like watching a tiger chow down on its lunch!

5 Day trips and tours in San Francisco


With so much to see and do in San Francisco, it is often difficult to pick what to visit first. To make things easier, here are five of the best day trips and tours in San Francisco, CA.


Combo Tour: Alcatraz Island and San Francisco Grand City Tour

San Francisco Bay with historic ship and famous prison Alcatraz

This tour includes a trip to one of the most notorious prisons in American history and a tour of the major sights around San Francisco. While on Alcatraz, you'll be able to see where prisoners lived and worked, as well as hearing stories about their daring escape attempts. You'll also visit the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Chinatown, and more.

San Francisco Bay Sunset Catamaran Cruise

Catamaran Escape From Alcatraz

On this romantic sunset cruise in the Bay Area, you'll be able to enjoy stunning views of San Francisco's famous landmarks as the sun goes down. Sip champagne and dine on hors d'oeuvres as you take in sweeping views of famous sites such as Alcatraz Island, Angel Island, Treasure Island, and Oakland Bay Bridge!

San Francisco Bay Air Tour

Aerial view of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay, USA

The San Francisco Bay Air Tour will take you along the coast and over Alcatraz Island. From there, you can see some of the most famous sights in San Francisco, including Treasure Island and Fisherman's Wharf. This tour also allows you to see breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge. The tour lasts about 45 minutes and will leave you with memories for years to come!

San Francisco Chinatown Food Tour

San Francisco Chinatown

If you thought you knew what good Chinese food was before this tour, prepare to be blown away. This two-hour Chinatown food tour will take you through some of the best restaurants in the neighborhood for an authentic sampling of Chinese cuisine. It's a great way to immerse yourself in San Francisco's culture, plus there are tons of photo ops along the way!

San Francisco Grand City Tour

Fisherman's Wharf Sign San Francisco Cable Car

If you're looking for a perfect overview of all that San Francisco has to offer, look no further than this Grand City Tour. You'll see iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, and Lombard Street while riding on a vintage cable car and getting insider information from your guide. It's a must-see for first-time visitors!

10 Restaurants to try in San Francisco

 linguine with clams served with a glass of wine

San Francisco, California is well-known for its restaurants. There are a number of bars and cafes in the city. Here are 10 of the best places to drop by when visiting San Francisco.


Brenda's French Soul Food


Brenda's French Soul Food is the place to go for a taste of New Orleans in San Francisco. It's got a funky, casual vibe and the kind of food you'd expect from a restaurant whose name includes "soul food." The beignets and king cake are not-to-be-missed, but everything on the menu is excellent.


Brenda's French Soul Food is a great place for brunch or dinner, where you can enjoy some classic New Orleans fare—including Po' Boy sandwiches filled with fried catfish, shrimp, oysters, or crab cakes—in an environment that reminds you of the Big Easy.

Fog Harbor Fish House


If you're looking for great seafood in San Francisco, you won't have to look very far. The city is home to some of the best seafood-serving restaurants in the country. Fog Harbor Fish House is one such place. It's located right on the harbor and has a wide variety of sustainably caught fish, as well as great dishes featuring different kinds of shellfish and other marine life.


One dish that's renowned for its deliciousness is their clam chowder. This dish is inspired by traditional chowders, but Fog Harbor gets local clams and sources fresh ingredients from farmers' markets in order to make it all the more tasty. If you're in town, it's definitely recommended that you try it out.

Nopa


Nopa is a great restaurant for an early evening meal with friends. Its large menu, which is divided into small plates, main courses, and sides, offers something for everyone. Vegetarians will be thrilled by the sheer number of options available to them—there are usually at least five vegetarian dishes featured on the menu. The atmosphere is relaxed and stylish—the restaurant's recent renovation has given it a more modern feel while still maintaining its focus on the community. If you have time to spare afterward, walk around San Francisco's charming Haight Ashbury neighborhood!

Beretta


One of the best restaurants to try on your visit to San Francisco is Beretta. This Italian restaurant has a great outdoor dining area, and it serves delicious food from its kitchen. If you only go to one restaurant during your trip, this should be the one.


Beretta is located in the Mission District—an area of San Francisco that has recently become popular with millennials and hipsters due to its vibrant culture, variety of bars and cafes, and proximity to downtown. The menu offers plenty of options for every meal as well as brunch-style items on weekends. You can't go wrong with anything on the menu here!

Hog Island Oyster Co.


Hog Island Oyster Co. is an excellent place to try oysters and other seafood in San Francisco. It's located inside the Ferry Building, and features a number of different oysters from different regions on its menu. The restaurant offers raw oysters as well as grilled oysters, and also has delicious clam chowder, crab sandwiches, and a variety of salads for those not so keen on oysters.


The restaurant's atmosphere is elegant but relaxed at the same time—the perfect atmosphere for a casual lunch or dinner with friends or family. Hog Island Oyster Co. has an excellent selection of wines that pair well with all the dishes they offer! Enjoy them by the glass or by the bottle with your meal.

Scoma's Restaurant


If you're looking for a classic seafood restaurant, this is it. Scoma's Restaurant is right on the water and features outdoor seating with amazing views of the bay. The restaurant is casual and family-friendly, but don't be fooled: the food is exceptional. The menu has lots of options, but seafood is where this place really shines. It's a little pricey compared to some other restaurants in San Francisco, but if you want quality seafood at any price point, this should be your first choice.

Waterbar Restaurant


Located on the Embarcadero, Water Bar Restaurant is a perfect place to stop by if you're looking for a bite of the sea. From their catch-of-the-day feature to the huge variety of oysters they offer, this restaurant is sure to satisfy any seafood lover. The view of the Bay Bridge will add to your dining experience and give you beautiful pictures for your Instagram feed. Be sure to make reservations at this popular location if you want an oceanic meal with a spectacular view!

Absinthe Brasserie & Bar


San Francisco is a food lover's paradise! It's full of all kinds of cuisines and restaurants, but this restaurant with an especially French flare is one you can't miss!


The name Absinthe Brasserie comes from the fact that it serves absinthe, a green alcoholic drink that was made popular in France. This French-inspired restaurant is extremely casual and affordable—not to mention delicious! For breakfast and lunch, Absinthe makes pastries and crepes. The dinner menu changes every month, but things like duck confit (meat preserved in its own fat) are very common. You should try their steak frites (fries)!

Zazie


Zazie is a French bistro located in Cole Valley. People come here for the fresh, delicious food and to experience the eclectic, homey atmosphere. Zazie is best known for their breakfast and brunch food; while they're open pretty much all day, their sweet treats and omelets will make you feel like it's your lucky day. Their eggs benedict is to die for—the hollandaise sauce melts in your mouth—and if you can save room for dessert, their bread pudding has been said to be fantastic.

House of Prime Rib


If you ask any food critic to name a classic San Francisco restaurant, the House of Prime Rib is likely to be at the top of the list. The restaurant's specialty is beef that has been slow-roasted and smothered in cream sauce. It can be ordered in several different cuts, including standing rib roast and sirloin, but the prime rib served "in the English tradition" is a particular favorite among locals.


It's not only the meat that makes this establishment a must-try: sides like Yorkshire pudding, mashed potatoes with gravy and horseradish cream, and creamed spinach are all served family style with any meal. Be sure you come hungry!

5 Hotel ideas for staying in San Francisco

San Francisco Eddy Street panorama daytime Springtime

If you're looking for a place to stay in San Francisco, choose from these five hotels costing $87-$161/night. They're all close to the best attractions.


Hilton San Francisco Financial District


Hilton San Francisco Financial District, as the name suggests, is located in the heart of downtown's financial district. The hotel has amenities that include valet parking, a restaurant and bar, a gym and even an indoor pool! Guest rooms all come with flat-screen TVs, large windows to enjoy the view (the view will be amazing), and mini-fridges. If you are looking for something nice but don't want to spend too much money this hotel is perfect for you!

Alpha Inn & Suites


Alpha Inn & Suites is one of the cheapest hotels to stay at in San Francisco, California. The rooms are furnished with a desk, a chair, a king-size bed or two queen-size beds and have free Wi-Fi and cable TV. A free breakfast is included in the price of your stay. The hotel also has an outdoor swimming pool for guests to enjoy.


If you are looking for cheap accommodations in San Francisco, then Alpha Inn & Suites is the place for you. Even though it's not directly in downtown San Francisco, it's still within close proximity to all of the attractions that make San Francisco such a great city. In addition to being surrounded by many great places to eat and shop, there are some beautiful parks nearby as well as great museums like the Cartoon Art Museum and Musee Mecanique where you can play vintage arcade games!

Hotel Fusion


This hotel offers a plethora of amenities, including free breakfast, complimentary wifi and free parking. Hotel Fusion is conveniently located at the heart of popular Union Square, where you're sure to find plenty of dining, shopping and nightlife options. Whether your visit is for business or pleasure, this hotel is ideal for travelers looking to stay in the center of it all.


Those taking advantage of Hotel Fusion's location will enjoy its proximity to nearby cable car lines, which will whisk you away to other parts of San Francisco and along the city's famed hillsides. The hotel's on-site gym and spa with sauna will appeal to those who want an active vacation or simply wish to relax while on their trip.

Staypineapple


This boutique hotel is located in the heart of the Union Square shopping district. The Union Square area has an upscale, urban feel, with lots of shopping and restaurants. Staying here will put you within walking distance of nearly every attraction in San Francisco including Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf. This hotel offers free Wi-Fi, continental breakfast and a 24-hour fitness center.

There is also a restaurant on site called House Kitchen & Bar where you can enjoy local cuisine for dinner or brunch on weekends. Rooms feature comfortable beds with pillow-top mattresses, Keurig coffee makers and mini-refrigerators. Each room also features a workstation and most rooms have city views that overlook Union Square.


If this sounds like somewhere you'd like to stay then book at least a month in advance to get the best deals.

The Marker San Francisco


The Marker is a great choice for those who want to stay in the heart of San Francisco. This luxe four-star hotel offers a ton of amenities, including complimentary Wi-Fi and an onsite spa. The rooms are sophisticated and contemporary, with floor-to-ceiling windows that offer stunning views of the city skyline. The hotel also has a stunning rooftop bar that serves cocktails and small bites like steak tartare and beef sliders.


The Marker has a lot to offer its guests, but if you're after a more upscale experience, consider one of their suites instead. These rooms feature marble bathrooms with soaking tubs, wet bars with refrigerators, living areas with sofas and tables, and private terraces. Average rates start at $161-$200 per night.

Final Thoughts

Bay Bridge and San Francisco skyline at sunset

The beauty of San Francisco is that it has so much to offer sightseers. Whether you're looking for local food or a place to view the monuments of the city, there are plenty of options to choose from. The key, as always, is to have a solid understanding of what you want out of your trip beforehand. We hope our guide will help you make the best decisions for your time in San Francisco. It's the kind of place that can easily take up an entire vacation—so be sure not to leave without seeing everything you intended!

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