Travel, Teach, Live in the USA and Canada
San Francisco consistently tops lists of favorite places to visit. It is unique in its combination of dramatic scenery, romantic atmosphere and haughty Northern California culture. Mark Twain was quoted as saying, "the coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco." Stores make a fortune selling jackets to tourists unaware that the cool breezes off the Pacific can chill them to the bone. This is just one of the ways San Francisco surprises the unsuspecting. Follow these steps to visit San Francisco.
Prepare yourself for an expensive stay. San Francisco is one of the costliest cities in the world. Everything costs more, from lodging to food to transportation. That being said, there is no other place like it on Earth.
Take mass transit or walk whenever possible. Nearly 800,000 people are crowded into the tip of a peninsula with hills jutting into the sky. Navigating the "City by the Bay" on foot is an adventure well worth the effort. Besides, it will cost you a fortune to park your car ,assuming you can even find a place to put it. The one exception is if you own a hybrid vehicle. There are several parking lots around San Francisco that offer deep discounts or even free parking to hybrid vehicles. Some Northern Californians really are that committed to saving the environment.
Take BART, or Bay Area Rapid Transit. The San Francisco subway system is quick, convenient and clean. You can ride BART from San Francisco International Airport into the city and other regions of the Bay Area. Important stops are Powell Street at the end of the cable car line and Embarcadero near the ferry terminal. Both are a short walk from Union Square, the main shopping area of San Francisco.
Jump on a cable car. It is the single most important thing for most tourists to do when visiting San Francisco. There are three cable car lines. From Powell Street near the BART station you can catch Powell-Mason line over Nob Hill to Fisherman's Wharf. This is where you can catch a ferry to Alcatraz. You can also get on the Powell-Hyde line that goes over Nob Hill and Russian Hill to Aquatic Park near Ghiradelli Square. There you can get a hot fudge sunday at the Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory. The California Street line runs perpendicular to the other two from the Financial District through Chinatown to Van Ness Avenue. Buy a ticket from a machine before boarding. You can jump off a cable car at a stop along the line but that isn't a good idea. It is hard to get back on a full cable car and most of the tourist sights are at the ends of the lines. Just enjoy the ride from end to end.
Eat like the locals do. San Francisco is renowned for its food. If you like sourdough bread, you will be in paradise. Boudin Bakery has a bread factory that lets you watch sourdough bread being made and sample it fresh out of the oven. Eating fresh clam chowder out of a sourdough bread bowl is a tradition in San Francisco. Seafood of every variety is available in this port city. The docks are seething with fish and crab vendors selling directly from ocean to diner. If you like Chinese food, there is no place outside of China with more authentic dishes. Wander through the streets of Chinatown and gaze into restaurant windows as you contemplate the aromas wafting from inside. Sit down for some Dim Sum and sample a variety of delights from carts pushed around the restaurant. Don't worry if you can't communicate with the staff. Just point and eat.
Drive your car only to places you can't get to on mass transit. A drive across the Golden Gate Bridge is a "must-do" experience. Be sure it isn't foggy when you do it or you won't see the bridge at all. Head over to Sausalido and walk around the affluent hideaway. Driving down Lombard Street is another "must-do" adventure. It is billed as the "crookedest street in the world." Also be sure to drive up to Coit Tower for a breathtaking view of San Francisco and out to the Cliff House to see the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.