Top 10 Things to do in San Francisco
1. Ghirardelli Square – the best chocolate in the U.S.!
The square is located across form the famous Pier 39. It hosts unique shops, restaurants, and of course Ghirardelli Chocolates. On a summer day, or any day, stop in for an old-fashioned ice-cream sundae smothered with warm gooey chocolate sauce. You can also peruse the chocolatier’s store and try free samples. Enjoy it, you are on vacation! Walking the hilly streets of San Francisco will burn off the extra calories anyway. 🙂
2. California Academy of Sciences – a great place to learn and have fun
OK, we are geeky science teachers, we know. However, the C.A.S. is an amazing place! There are all sorts of cool science stuff to play with and experience. It is a combination planetarium, aquarium, natural history museum, indoor rainforest, and science exhibition all rolled into one. The building itself is an architectural marvel. It is a complete eco-friendly sustainable design with a living roof. Whether you intend to or not, you will learn something.
3. Pier 39 – we never get tired of looking at the sea lions
“The Pier” is a collection of unique shops, restaurants, and displays built on the water. On any given day in the summer, especially weekends, it will be packed with people from all over the world. Aside from shopping and eating, you can people watch. There will also be an odd collection of street performers amusing the crowds with a variety of talents (after which they will pass around their hats). For free, and sometimes a better performance, you can watch dozens of sea lions and seals sun-bathing on the docks. Their antics always amuse everyone.
4. Muir Woods – giant redwoods just outside the city
If you venture across the Golden Gate Bridge to the north, then you will find a spectacular display of nature. Juxtaposed from the big city of San Francisco is John Muir Woods. This small national park is home to an old growth forest of Giant Redwoods. These amazing trees rise almost 400 feet from the forest floor. That is about 40 stories high! They tower over all the other trees. Muir Woods’ Cathedral Grove hosted the first United Nations conference May 19, 1945. Present were delegates from 48 nations to establish a lasting peace following the Second World War.
The trail to Cathedral Grove is paved and flat. It follows a small bubbling stream most of the way. There are other trails off the main one for people who want a longer hike, or want to get away from the crowds to really enjoy nature at its finest. I highly recommend going in the morning and on a weekday because the crowds can spoil the experience. Parking is also very limited, but the park service operates a shuttle bus from more distant parking areas.
5. China Town – the largest Chinese center outside Asia
China Town in San Francisco is quite a cultural experience.
6. Golden Gate Park – a slice of nature inside the city
This beautiful 1,017 acre city park (20% larger than New York’s Central Park) is home to numerous attractions, not the least of which is an oasis of nature in a dense urban area. It is a rectangle .5 miles wide and 3 miles long ending in the pacific ocean. It is a wonderful place for a pick-nick, a walk, or visiting the sites. The sites include the world famous Japanese Tea Garden, the Academy of Sciences, the Botanical Gardens, the Bison Paddock (yes, live bison), and the Beach Chalet. You can even rent a boat to paddle on Stow Lake.
7. Alcatraz Island – not just if you like haunted creepy old prisons
Alcatraz has long been a favorite tourist attraction since it was open to the public in 1972. It is more than just an old prison. The island is home to a wide variety of bird,sea mammal, and plant life. It is also home to the oldest working light house on the west coast of the United States, old military fortifications, and a wildlife refuge. Even if you are not interested in the prison, the island offers an afternoon of adventure, plus the best views of San Francisco.
8. San Francisco Zoo – another awesome animal place
We love zoos if you have not noticed! Each city we visit, we make a point to visit their zoo if they have one. San Francisco’s zoo is especially nice. It is over 100 acres housing 250 species of animals, including tigers, gorillas, giraffes, grizzly bears, and rhinoceros.
9. Golden Gate Bridge – you can drive, bike, or walk across
Not for the faint of heart, walking across the famous span is an experience you will remember. Feeling the bridge bounce with the weight of passing cars and sway with the wind was enough to give me a queasy feeling.
10. Cable Cars – you need to ride one at least once