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  • Writer's pictureBranwen Defren

A Day in San Francisco: Exploring the City and Beyond

San Francisco is known for its iconic landmarks and vibrant neighborhoods, offers a plethora of experiences for both locals and visitors alike. Whether you're into historic sites, picturesque views, or delightful cuisine, the city has something for everyone. In this guide, I'll take you on a journey through Fisherman's Wharf, the Palace of Fine Arts, Chrissy Field, the Japanese Tea Garden, and even explore a couple of destinations just outside the city that're definitely worth making the trek out for!

I personally lived outside of San Francisco for about 10 years throughout my childhood, and my mother grew up right in the city. It will always hold a special place in my heart. Some of these places are well known tourist spots (which are still fun!), but some are places my family and I have been able to find and have enjoyed for years.

Fisherman’s Wharf: A Known Tourist Haven with Some Hidden Gems

Fisherman's Wharf may be a bit touristy, but it's a must-visit for its unique attractions. Start your day by exploring Ghirardelli Square, home to the city's oldest building dating back to the 1850s. Witness the art of chocolate-making and enjoy a beautiful beach view of the Golden Gate from the nearby beach.

You also don't miss the Musée Mécanique - it's a treasure trove of vintage machines from the 1900s which includes the laughing lady. This place was actually in the movie Princess Diaries movie (here's a link to the clip that shows some of the other awesome games they have too!) Below you can see the same arm wrestle machine that was in the movie (and sadly, no, we did not win against it).

If you're by the warf in the morning, you'll find a fantastic breakfast spot called Café De Casa - it's a hidden gem with delectable options like Coconut bread (15/10 recommend - it's mouthwateringly good) and awesome smoothie bowls. For a taste of San Francisco's famous sourdough, head to the Boudin Bakery - it's sourdough to this day that I miss. This sourdough is so incredible because it's STILL to this day baked with sourdough starter originally used from the "gold miner" era (aka circa 1850s). The bread also comes in adorable little bears and turtles!

Don't disparage doing one of the "hop on/hop off" bus tours to get a comprehensive tour around the city because you'll learn a lot. (I actually did one in 2021 and honestly learned more about the history of the city than I had in the entire time I'd actually lived there). It's ALSO a great way to explore various neighborhoods and even cross the Golden Gate Bridge. (Just a tip though, sit on the top deck and bring a light jacket to enjoy the breathtaking views comfortably).

Palace of Fine Arts and Chrissy Field: Serenity Amidst Urban Hustle

Take a break from the bustling city and head to the Palace of Fine Arts, accessible via the hop-on-hop-off bus. This architectural marvel provides a peaceful atmosphere, perfect for a leisurely stroll and capturing memorable pictures. Continue your walk to Chrissy Field, a beloved beach offering stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Japanese Tea Garden: Tranquility in the Heart of the City

For a serene escape within the city, visit the Japanese Tea Garden. Accessible by the hop-on-hop-off bus, this garden offers not only tranquility but also beautiful photo opportunities and Japanese treats.

Culinary Delights Around Chestnut, Steiner, and Lombard

Explore the culinary scene around Chestnut, Steiner, and Lombard streets. Navigating these areas can be confusing, so use the provided map screenshot for guidance. Indulge in mouthwatering dishes at Izzy's Steakhouse, savor sushi at Ace Wasabi, or enjoy a gourmet experience at Blue Barn Steiner.

Touristy but Worth It: Lombard Street and Chinatown

While Lombard Street, famously known as the crooked street, may be a tourist magnet, it's worth a brief visit for its unique charm. Additionally, a stroll through Chinatown, the oldest in North America, offers a blend of history and culture.

Outside the City: Sausalito and Muir Woods

For a delightful excursion just outside the city, consider taking a ferry from Fisherman's Wharf to Sausalito. This charming town boasts small-town vibes, unique shops, and excellent dining options. I'd recommend going to The Trident for dinner, and of course, don't forget to treat yourself to some ice cream!

If you have time for a slightly longer trip, Muir Woods is a breathtaking destination with majestic redwood trees. Although getting there without a car requires a bit of planning, the experience is well worth it. If your time is limited, prioritize Sausalito for a satisfying day trip and save Muir Woods for when you can explore more leisurely. (Fun fact, Muir Woods has been used in major films like The Lost World, Jurassic Park, Outbreak, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes!) Find out more about the fascinating history of Muir Woods by checking out the USA's National Park Service's breakdown here.

San Francisco offers a diverse range of attractions, from iconic landmarks to hidden gems. Whether you're exploring the city's neighborhoods or venturing slightly beyond its borders, there's always something new to discover in the City by the Bay.

Much Love 💙


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