I visited the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area for five days at the beginning of July and after exploring the city and surrounding areas, I was sure to check off as many of the most iconic places and things to see. Here are some of my favourites that you really shouldn’t miss while you’re here:
1. Try and spot the Golden Gate Bridge
Often hidden under a blanket of fog, fondly named Karl, the Golden Gate Bridge is a stunning structure that is best viewed by driving or biking across it, or from one of the many viewpoints on either end. Note that this bridge is a tolled bridge.
2. Snap a photo of the iconic Painted Ladies
Not really as beautiful in person as the photos often make them out to be, the Painted Ladies are the well-known backdrop of the hit TV series ‘Full House’.
3. Drive down the city’s crookedest street
With eight steep turns offering a view of the city as you crawl your way down the hill, Lombard Street is usually packed with tourists but offers a weird, quirky stop right in town.
4. Ride a cable car
One of the things you ‘must do’ in San Fran, I didn’t actually opt to participate, partly due to finding it a bit of a money-grab, partly due to the busyness given it was a long weekend and partly due to the fact that I had technically already ridden a San Fran cable car about thirteen years ago when my parents and I visited. Instead, I nabbed a photo from afar and was satisfied with that!5. Explore Fisherman’s Wharf
If it’s a sunny day, this place will be absolutely packed with people trying to get the most out of their San Fran adventure. I suggest walking as much as possible to see the most that you can – I walked from the Caltrain station on the eastside by the baseball stadium, all the way to 25th avenue past Baker’s Beach on the west side.
6. Battle the crowds at Pier 39
I am not kidding when I say battle. It’s absolutely teeming with families and tourists trying to get their hands on food, roller coasters, amusement attractions, alcatraz tours and the likes. It’s a tourist attraction in itself. I have no photos of the crowds simply because pulling out my camera would have resulted in an elbow to the face.7. Visit Alcatraz
I think going to visit the ex-penitentiary would be super cool, I just didn’t have the time in my day to go this time. Instead, I settled for a zoomed in photo from the pier.
8. Take in the views from the Marin Headlands
Although completely shrouded in fog, the winding coastal roads are a stunning escape from the city.
9. Visit Point Bonita Lighthouse
Perched on the edge of the coast in the Marin Headlands, offering spectacular city and bridge views on a clear day, the lighthouse is only open on weekends during specific hours, so try to plan your visit around those times. Seals can be spotted dotted along the rocks on the coast.10. Explore Stanford University
Home to buildings such as Gates Computer Science and Packard Electrical Engineering, Stanford is a world-class university situated right in the Silicon Valley. I wandered the beautiful campus at sunset.
11. Drive down the California coast on Highway 1
The world-famous Highway 1 is a gorgeous scenic route that hugs the coast of California. Unfortunately, the view is often covered in sea fog, but the drive is stunning nonetheless. Suggested stops include: Half-Moon Bay, Tunitas Creek Beach, Pescadero State Beach, and Natural Bridges State Beach
12. Explore Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
One of many state parks dedicated to the preservation of the gorgeous Redwood giants, take the time to appreciate the history of these stunning trees.13. Visit the seals of the Santa Cruz Wharf
If you peek under the slats of the wharf, you can spot seals napping in the warmth of the Santa Cruz harbor. They sound like barking dogs when they make noise and look fat and lethargic – a perfectly cute combination!
14. Enjoy fast food from an In'N'Out Burger
Apparently a ‘must-do’ in California, In’N’Out offers a tasty menu of burgers and fries, each available slathered in cheese and onions (what they term ‘Animal Style’). While the food was good, I don’t understand the hype, and it most certainly wasn’t life-changing. Ah well. The things we do when social media tells us to, eh?
15. Grab a top level seat on the Caltrain
This straightforward train system brings commuters directly in on one line from San Francisco to San Jose, stopping multiple times in between. I caught the Caltrain in from San Antonio station, an approximately 1h10m ride, and caught it back to Palo Alto at the end of the day. The station is on the east side of San Fran, near the baseball stadium on King’s Road.
16. Appreciate the views of the underrated Bay Bridge
Not to be confused with it’s sister, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge stretches out from the east side of San Francisco across to East Bay and is usually never hidden in the sea fog that so often puts the Golden Gate Bridge out of sight.17. Try and scout the social media HQ locations
We only spotted Box (Redwood City), Facebook (Palo Alto) and Twitter (San Francisco), but it’s a neat experience seeing virtual worlds in tangible form.
18. Visit Fort Mason
An ex-US army post, Fort Mason is situated directly on the waterfront, offering a historical glimpse into the military’s past, as well as beautiful bay views.
19. Take in the beauty of the Presidio and Crissy Field
Both stunning viewpoints for the Golden Gate Bridge, I suggest walking the length of the coastal path and taking the time to enjoy the beaches along the way.
20. Visit the city’s best viewpoint of the Golden Gate Bridge
Fort Point, a short walk up from the Presidio, is hands down the best view of the bridge, especially when Karl the Fog decides to lift a little.
21. Walk the coastal path to the west side’s Baker Beach
Not a beach appropriate for bikinis, this beach offers the most awe-inspiring view of the bridge and harbour, as the waves crash in along a huge stretch of rocks and sand. The beach can be accessed from Fort Point by walking along the coastal path next to the main road, also full of stunning viewpoints.
22. Take in the sights, sounds and smells of the Marina
Note, there are restrooms here, which is a good break on your walk along the coast. However, they are one of the few on the entire walk, and you will likely wait upwards of 20 minutes to use the single stall. At least the view is nice?
23. Cross the Dumbarton and San Mateo bridges
You probably spotted these from the sky, as they are absolutely massive and stretch across the bay from the Silicon Valley to East Bay. They are both tolled, but the views are entirely worth it as you whiz alongside the water.
25. Explore the neighbouring San Jose
An eclectic university town on the southern end of the Silicon Valley, San Jose can easily be reached by Caltrain and is a wonderful place to spend a warm afternoon.
This post originally appeared on janameerman.com.
Published by Jana Meerman