Thursday, July 29, 2010


The Painted Ladies with the San Francisco skyline behind them

Before we even left for our trip, I ordered the “Visitors Planning Guide,” and while the guide was free, I did have to pay for shipping to have it sent to me, and it was well worth the price. There was a lot of information in the guide and some very nice maps, also.

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.)

Mission District Mural

Mission District Mural

Mission District : The Mission District is full of fabulous murals. With help from the Visitor’s Center, we found a bus route to take us there, then spent part of the afternoon wandering around and looking at the murals.


Chinatown : the oldest Chinatown and one of the largest Chinese communities in North America, it's a fun shopping and dining area.

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park : The park stretches for three miles and is larger than Central Park in New York City. It has more than 1 million trees, nine lakes, gardens, two major museums and a herd of bison. Yes, bison, although they weren’t as interesting to look at as I thought they would be.

The De Young Fine Art Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, the Conservatory of Flowers and the Japanese Tea Garden are all located in the park, although we didn’t stop at any of them.

Scott enjoying the view at one of the Presidio Overlooks

The Presidio : This former military base is now an area with expansive parks and hilltop homes. Because we were on a tandem bike, we entered at Arguello Blvd., turned on Washington and then on Lincoln, stopping at 4 scenic overlooks. It was mostly downhill here. There are great views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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.

The view of San Francisco from the Coit Tower


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.

Someone driving a GoCar down Lombard Street.

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.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, great tips! Thanks for sharing. This really makes me want to take a trip to SF :)