San Francisco Travel
- Main Airport – San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
- Language – English
- Population – 850,000
- Currency – U.S. Dollar (USD)
San Francisco is home to a variety of diverse cultures which inspire everyone that visits. Its rich history includes the California Gold Rush of 1849, in which Americans from all over the country rushed to the rivers of San Francisco and panned for the rumored gold. Because of this movement, the population of San Francisco grew rapidly in the early 1900’s. In the 1960s, the counterculture movement became popular as Californians readily embraced Civil Rights and military intervention in the Vietnam War. Today San Francisco is a beautiful, very open city sometimes known as the “gem of the West Coast.”
In general, we recommend packing layers, as the weather is generally warm but can definitely get cool and you’ll be reaching for a warm layer to throw on. Also, comfortable walking shoes are a must. Remember to pack a comfortable pair of shoes or sneakers to tackle San Francisco’s hilly terrain.
Getting to the City from the Airport
If you’re without a ride from SFO airport to downtown, here are your options to making your way to the city:
- BART Rapid Rail – 30-35 minutes, $9
- Taxi – Approximately 30 minutes (14 miles), $40 – $50
- SamTrans – Bus service (travelers prefer BART for its speed and fewer luggage restrictions)
Originally a military post and a prison, Alcatraz is now open to the public as a tourist attraction. Situated in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, it housed many of America’s worst criminals including Al Capone and Robert “Birdman of Alcatraz” Stroud when it operated from 1934 to 1963. Because its operating costs were too high, Alcatraz shut down in 1963. However, Native Americans occupied the island in 1969 for almost 2 years in order to protest their civil rights. It’s rich history and unique surroundings definitely make it worth the visit!
Looking out from Alcatraz
To get to the island: take a ferry (official: Alcatraz Cruises, departs off Pier 33). Basic Fee (includes tour of the island): Day Tour: $33 for adults and juniors, $20.50 for children; Night Tour: $40 for adults (18-21), $39 for juniors (12-17), $24 for children (5-11).
Tip: Be sure to buy your Alcatraz tickets well in advance of your visit. These tickets sell out early, sometimes weeks before the tour
The Golden Gate Bridge
Built in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge is so large that once it is finished being painted, they must restart. The iconic red suspension bridge was the largest suspension bridge built at the time.
Builders Joseph Strauss and Michael M. Shaughnessy came up with the idea of building the bridge because of the rapidly growing population in San Francisco in the early 1930’s. The bridge is now not only a famous landmark but also a symbol of the West Coast.
Fisherman’s Wharf is one of San Francisco’s most popular seaside attractions. Offering delicious seafood, small shops, and beautiful sights, the wharf was built on top of the ruins from the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. Fishermen transformed the land into prosperous docks that still exist today and give the area its personality.
Transportation to Fisherman’s Wharf:
- BART: get off at Embarcadero Station, then take F-line Muni to Fisherman’s Wharf
- Cable Cars: two lines end at Fisherman’s Wharf: they start at Market Street and Powell Street
- Muni: take F-line buses to the end
- Bus: Lines 19, 30, 47 and 49 all begin on Market Street and lead straight to the wharf
Sea lions: Head to Pier 39 to visit the Sea Lion Center and catch a glimpse of the boisterous sea lions!
A crowd gathering to see the sea lions
The SF Chinatown is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia. Capture the culture of China in these few blocks filled with vendors, shops, temples, banks, traditional Chinese buildings. There is also an abundance of restaurants in Chinatown, many of which serve traditional delicious Chinese specialties.
Chinatown, San Francisco
Beautiful mosaic steps that run up the steps located at 16th and Moraga. It was a successful neighborhood project that began in 2003 and was supported by Golden Gate Heights Neighborhood Association. The result:
Walt Disney Family Museum
Near Park Presidio, this homely museum features the famous Walt Disney’s background story, his many drawings (as an artist!) and cartoons, his animations, and his achievements. At different times in the year, different exhibits can be found in the museum (ex: Salvador Dali x Walt Disney exhibit was held in fall-winter 2015). The museum gives the bay area a taste of Disney, as the closest Disneyland is in LA.
This historic theater was built in 1926 and is an official San Francisco Historical Landmark. Throughout the year, different musicals and motion pictures are shown in the theater, including famous Broadway shows Phantom of the Opera and Wicked.
San Francisco Food Scene
San Francisco is an extremely diverse city, and a result, there are not many specific local cuisines but instead a variety of different specialties from around the world.
Local Foods to Try
- Clam Chowder
- Places to try
- Boudin Bakery & Café
- Crab Station
- Hog Island Oyster Co.
- Places to try
- Local Beer
- Places to try
- Anchor Brewing Company
- Black Hammer Brewing
- City Beer Store
- Places to try
- Fresh and Local Seafood
- Restaurants on piers/wharfs
- Waterfront Restaurant
- Woodhouse Fish Co.
For those interested in shopping, recommendations include:
- Union Square (high-end shops)
- 333 Post Street
- San Francisco Shopping Center (Westfield)
- 865 Market Street
- Crocker Galleria (high-end shops)
- 50 Post Street
- San Francisco Ferry Building (small shops selling food and souvenirs)
- San Francisco Ferry Building, 1 Sausalito