15 tips for traveling in San Francisco, California

10 06 2013

San Francisco is one of my very favorite places! With a population a little over 800,000 it’s no Los Angeles or New York City, but it has the feel of a big city and all of the amenities you’d expect of one.

San Fran

  1. Take the BART to and from San Francisco International Airport. It’s easy and relatively cheap ($8.25). It’s a great way to get across the bay to Oakland and Berkeley if your travels take you that direction. Within the city, the buses, trolleys, and street cars will get you where you want to go – or you can consider walking…
  2. Take good walking shoes and stretch your calves before you set out each day; this ‘city by the bay’ has some serious hills! You can walk most everywhere though, so take advantage of the city’s temperate weather and get walkin’!
  3. The location of where you stay isn’t a big deal, so find a hotel that fits your style – even if it’s not right downtown. I’ve stayed in three different areas over the years and because the city is a.)walkable and b.)crisscrossed with public transportation I’ve never felt my exploration of the city was restricted based on where I was staying.
  4. Visit Chinatown. It’s the oldest Chinatown in the United States, dating back over 100 years. Get a little lost, you’ll find the best places to eat by wandering the streets of Chinatown!
  5. Few cities in the US have a Japantown so take a couple of hours to explore San Francisco’s! Be sure to see the Peace Pagoda, it’s very Japanese. There’s even a Diaso shop (Japanese dollar store – but so much more) in the nearby market!  For an authentic and delectable bowl of ramen be sure to stop in at Tan Po Po.  If authentic handcrafted Japanese noodles are what you crave then check out Mifune, specializing in traditional ramen, udon and soba noodles, handcrafted each and every day.
  6. Speaking of Ramen, stop in for a quick lunch at Ramen Underground if you are in the Financial District. it doesn’t have much of a sign, I found it purely based on GPS coordinates and the crowd. Yes, you’ll have to wait in line with all of the area office people for one of the ten or so seats in the place. It’s a bit like a Japanese ramen-ya that way. In fact, it’s like a good Japanese ramen-ya in another way – the prices are low, the quality of the food is very high. I still dream about this place!
  7. Wander in Golden Gate Park, it’s amazing. And while you’re there check out the California Academy of Sciences. With their new LEED platinum building designed by Renzo Piano, the Academy is a must see! You can visit an aquarium, a rain forest canopy, a planetarium, a world-class research facility, and view natural history and current science exhibitions all under one roof. And you can visit their living roof too. From the roof you can gaze across to the de Young Museum, designed by Herzog and deMeuron, another stunning building. Check out what their temporary exhibition is as it might be worth a visit.
  8. Go down to the bay. It can be at Pier 39 if you want the authentic tourist experience, but there are plenty of other piers too.
  9. While you’re down at the water, stroll down to Pier 15 and check out the new home of the Exploratorium. This place is great for kids and adults who want to rekindle the wonder they experienced in their childhood!
  10. For goodness sake, eat dungeness crab at least once! Chances are high it was caught that morning.
  11. Go see Lombard Street. It’s just like you’ve seen in movies. You don’t have to walk down it, but do watch a few cars try to navigate their way down!
  12. Go see the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s hyped for all the right reasons. And while you’re there, wander around the Presidio – a former barracks turned park.
  13. Visit the SoMa (South of Market) area. It’s hip and cultural.You’ll find cute boutiques, art galleries, great restaurants, and nightlife. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is located here, and while it just recently closed for expansion and renovation (re-opening in 2016) that’s no reason not to visit SoMa. This area is also home to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Contemporary Jewish Museum, both of which organize extraordinary contemporary art exhibitions.
  14. Visit the Mission District. It’s colorful. It’s fun. You’ll be glad you did. This area is known for its many murals and trendy restaurants so make sure your camera is ready and your stomach is empty.
  15. You will be surprised by the number of homeless people. I was. They are everywhere. Know that there is a wonderful support system for them, including access to healthcare, shelters, and health. ramen underground(Menu at Ramen Underground)
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