From great gastronomy to a vibrant bar scene and some of the most spectacular urban landscapes, the reasons to visit San Francisco far outweighs those to avoid it. Here are six reasons to be cheerful and visit San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area.
1) The Culinary Scene
San Francisco’s culinary scene is committed to excellence, and has now been awarded more three-Michelin starred restaurants than New York. With the huge production of fruits, vegetables, seafood and livestock in surrounding areas in California, chefs are able to create fresh authentic meals that are enjoyed by both locals and tourists. Home to an array of restaurants representing the cultural diversity of the city with food from all around the world, San Francisco serves up burritos at La Taqueria in the hip Latino Mission District, dumplings at Yank Sing in Chinatown, the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, Clam Chowder at the Boundin Bakery (served in their famous sourdough bread) or pastries at the popular Tartine Bakery.
If you are a movie buff then why not visit some of the places where many the most famous San Francisco movies were filmed?
2) Active Exploring
With the location of San Francisco at the tip of a peninsular surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, it’s no doubt that the views would be spectacular. Many locations around the city offer hiking opportunities with spectacular views. The Presidio is a former military post, and is now a national park site and recreational paradise featuring breath-taking views, beautiful trails and architectural treasures. Visit the Presidio for a hike, a walking tour, a picnic or visit the Walt Disney Family Museum for an interesting Disney exhibit. For a 360-degree view of San Francisco, take the Twin Peaks hiking trail (duration: 45 minutes to an hour), the second highest peaks in the city. Of course, no trip to the Bay area is complete until you have visited the Golden Gate Bridge, the 1.7 mile suspension bridge connecting San Francisco Bay and the Marin headlands and offering views of the city skyline. Blazing Saddles offer a cycling route along the bridge and down to the seaside towns of Sausalito and Tiburon, with a return by ferry.
3) The Diverse Neighbourhoods
San Francisco is among the most diverse places in the US, an eclectic city filled with people from every background possessing a rich history, thriving culture and amazing diversity. Visit the local neighbourhoods to experience the diverse culture for yourself.
Popular neighbourhoods include:
- Chinatown – the largest Chinatown outside of Asia offering many traditional eateries, bakeries, souvenir shops, cocktail lounges and ornate landmarks.
- North Beach – one of the most tourist friendly neighbourhoods filled with attractions, dining and shopping. Initially home to fishing wharves and boat docks, the area drew in Italian American immigrants and is now known as Little Italy. Restaurants, cafes and ice cream shops still act as a reminder of Italian towns. Top attractions here including Washington Square Park, Lombard Street, Coit Tower and City Lights Bookstore.
- Mission District – in the middle of the city’s Latino neighbourhood is 24th street, with a colourful collection of restaurants, bars and bakeries with a distinctly Mexican feel to them.
- Fillmore Street – a hip shopping district, where you can find many boutique one-of-a-kind shops, as well as more popular shops such as Ralph Lauren and Rag & Bone. The street has many outdoor cafes and restaurants, to sit and take in the cultural area.
- Fisherman’s Wharf – popular with tourists and sea lions, full of shops, museums and family fun. Still a working wharf selling thousands of tons of fish and shellfish.
- The Castro District – one of the first LGBT neighbourhoods in the US, the Castro District welcomes you with bright rainbow colours fluttering from lampposts and laid across the ground as pedestrian crossings.
- Haight-Ashbury – The Summer of Love in 1967 saw the hippies of the Haight-Ashbury district converging to create the epicentre of the counterculture movement, with 100,000 people flocking to the Haight. The area was the centre of 60s psychedelia and still retains its hippie counterculture credentials, with Victorian houses, bookshops, and funky clothing shops.
San Francisco’s SoMa district is one of the most rapidly changing and happening parts of the city. Read Things to Do in San Francisco SoMa District.
Up-and-Coming Neighbourhoods you must visit:
Each of San Francisco’s neighbourhoods have their own culture and charm to offer, shaped by industrialisation and redevelopment. Steer away from the crowds and visit some of the city’s lesser known up-and-coming destinations including Dogpatch, Hayes Valley, or SoMa (South of Market) for an equally unique experience.
- Dogpatch: With a history of factories, warehouses and shipyards, Dogpatch has since experienced rapid transformation and the old industrial buildings have become home to art studios and hip shared spaces. This dockside neighbourhood has become a gastronomically enticing destination where foodies have flocked to its farm-to-fork restaurant scene. Dogpatch continues to grow, with vacant buildings transforming to coffee shops, workshops and restaurants.
- Hayes Valley: a fashionable revitalised neighbourhood in the centre of the city. The main commercial area offers pop-up restaurants, creative boutiques and independent bookshops, in addition to dessert shops, chill bars and a community garden.
- SoMa – (South of Market) is one of San Francisco’s most rapidly changing neighbourhoods as its old industrial areas get redeveloped and its old residential areas revitalised. The first modern art museum on the West Coast, SFMOMA is located here and has recently expanded 45,000 square feet of art-filled free public spaces.
For the sports enthusiasts, visit AT&T Park for the baseball season between April and October, and see San Francisco’s Major League baseball team the Giants. Even when the Giants aren’t in town, AT&T Park offer a behind-the-scenes tour where you can still experience the breath-taking Bay view. AT&T Park is located centrally and can be accessed easily by public transport.
If basketball is more your sport, cheer on the 2017 NBA Finals Champions, the Golden State Warriors based in Oakland known previously as the San Francisco Warriors in 1961. The Chase Center currently under construction, will welcome the Golden State Warriors back to San Francisco to their new home that is set to open before the 2019-20 NBA season. Basketball season occurs between October-April. For the American football fans, watch the San Francisco 49ers play, the city’s very first professional major-league sports team playing their first game in 1947 and joining the NFL in 1950. The team moved in 2014 to play at the Levi Stadium in the Bay area.
The Bay area is home to several other sports teams including the San Jose Sharks hockey team who play at the San Jose’s SAP Center right in the heart of Silicon Valley, or the San Jose Earthquakes major league soccer team who play at the San Jose’s Avaya Stadium.
Rather than visit San Francisco why not pop in on Pittsburgh? Read Things To Do In Pittsburgh Before You Die for some inspiration.
5) Themed Bars
With the location of San Francisco in one of the largest wine production regions of the world, tasting the local liquids is a must. Visit some of the alternative bars throughout the city, offering a mix of themed experiences including tiki-themed lounges serving the Mai Tai cocktail, a quintessential tiki drink that was said to have been created at Trader Vic’s in Oakland in San Francisco’s East Bay.
Smuggler’s Cove brings guests into a pirate wonderland, decorated with long ship beams, rum barrels, anchors and an indoor waterfall. With a serious reputation for great cocktails, it has one of the largest rum selections in the US. Additionally, the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar located at the iconic Fairmont Hotel is a tiki-themed lounge offering a theatrical atmosphere including live entertainment, dancing around the ‘lagoon’ which was the former hotel pool, and special-effects thunder and lightning. For a literary themed cocktail experience visit Novelta in downtown San Francisco, offering literary hero’s inspired cocktails in a both classic and contemporary setting.
6) Beyond San Francisco
Escape to California’s famous wine country on a day tour out of the city, America’s premier viticultural region that has earned its reputation among the world’s best. Taste regional varietals at different wineries in Napa Valley and Sonoma County, including Napa Valley’s renowned Cabernet Sauvignon, or Sonoma’s most widely grown Chardonnay. Take a further drive towards California’s capital, Sacramento for a trip back in history to California’s Gold Rush days, with underground tours, horse drawn carriages and 28 museums covering everything from medical history, to art and the railroad. Visit Sacramento downtown’s up and coming hip R Street, with alternative stores, coffee shops and restaurants.
For more information about when to visit San Francisco
Mark Bibby Jackson
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