The double-decker, hop-on, hop-off tours are always a good bet, and they also give you an overview of the city so you can decide what you want to spend more time at. They also offer other packages, so it’s worth a look before you go. (There are some other companies that offer double-decker, hop-on, hop-off.)
The Golden Gate Bridge in the fog
Golden Gate Bridge : We biked across the 1.7 mile bridge. It was pretty windy but the views were spectacular, even with the fog. On a side note for graphic designers, the paint color on the bridge is PMS 173.
Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world.
At Lombard Street looking east, the Coit Tower is in the upper right.
Coit Tower : Since I like to go up towers and look at the views, this might be my favorite place in San Francisco.
Getting Around : If we hadn’t needed our rental car to drive to Pigeon Point and Yosemite before we got to San Francisco, we would have waited to get it when we left. It’s not easy getting around the city by car, and the parking is expensive and sometimes tricky on the hills. As it was, we had to pay for it to sit for the four days we were in San Francisco.
MUNI: There are many different modes of public transportation. The first four listed are operated by the MUNI (San Francisco Municipal Railway) system. There’s a lot of info, so you might want to do some research before your trip, so you don’t spend time figuring this out.
Turning the cable car around so it can head the other direction.
The cable cars run on a cable under the street and have one north/south route and one east/west route. There can sometimes be a long wait to get on the cable car, and the cost is $5 per ride.
The historic street cars run on rails and also have a trolley pole connected to an overhead wire.
Street cars have rubber tires and don’t run on a rail, but still have a trolley pole connected to an overhead wire.
The buses have rubber tires, don’t run on a rail and don’t have a trolley pole connected to an overhead wire.
The best bet is the MUNI passport. We got a 3-day pass for $20 that offered us unlimited rides on the historic street cars, street cars, buses and most importantly, the cable cars. We bought ours at the Visitor’s Center.
BART : The Bay Area Rapid Transit is more like a subway/elevated train. These go to areas outside of the city such as Berkley or the San Francisco airport.
There are also taxis and ferries.
Scott with the tandem bike
We rented a tandem bike (no way I could have kept up on my own bike) at Union Square then biked, uphill, to Golden Gate Park. Then we biked through the park, over to the Presido, then across the Golden Gate Bridge, which was exhilarating but also a little bit scary. We coasted down to Sausalito then took the ferry back to San Francisco and returned the bike.
If you’re not as adventurous as we are (OK, as Scott is), you can rent a bike at Fisherman’s Wharf, bike to and across the Golden Gate Bridge, coast down to Sausalito and then take a ferry back, and it’s about 8 miles mostly flat or downhill.
There are several companies that offer bike rental and have “Bike Across the Bridge” options.
Go Cars : We didn’t do this, but it looked like a lot of fun. Rent a little “car” which uses GPS to navigate and also to narrate your tour.
Weather : Sure, everyone told us to wear layers and expect it to be cold in San Francisco, even in July. I even packed long johns, although I didn't really expect to wear them. Only I did. And I also bought a fleece jacket. On the 4th of July. So trust me, it can get pretty chilly in San Francisco, and other places that are along the coast in both northern California and also Oregon. I got a lot of use out of that fleece jacket!
To see more photos of San Francisco, go here: San Francisco photos on Flickr
Want to sleep and eat? Here's my post on lodging and dining in San Francisco.