Last week I had the opportunity to spend some time in beautiful San Francisco en route to a business trip in San Jose, California. Though my time there was limited, I made the most of it! There are so many things to see and do in SF, and I was lucky to have traveled here before in high school with my family. We saw many of the popular sights including Haight-Ashbury, Lombard Street, Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco Trolley, and day trips to Muir Woods, Big Sur, Sausalito, and Napa Valley.
While all the sights I listed above are very much worth visiting, I wanted to explore new parts of the city I hadn’t seen before on this trip. My friend who lives here met up with me to show me around – and she was a spectacular guide! Here are my alternative recommendations for what to see in San Francisco.
Land’s End Trail
This was a highlight of the day! On the edge of the city lies a beautiful, coastal trail called Land’s End. It was about a two mile hike with sweeping views of the rocky coastline, the Golden Gate Bridge, and even shipwrecks from decades ago. The trail ended at a place called the Sutro Baths, which used to be a public, saltwater swimming pool, though it is not operational today. I highly recommend this beautiful hike and would advise you to set aside about 3-4 hours to complete it.
Made famous by the television show, Full House, this beautiful row of homes across from Alamo Square is referred to as “The Painted Ladies” or “Postcard Row.” The houses were built between 1892 and 1896 by Matthew Kavanaugh. It would be a nice idea to pack a picnic and eat in the park across the street – there were lots of people relaxing in the park amidst this picturesque backdrop.
Cross the Golden Gate Bridge
When you have an opportunity (you should because there is a lot to see across the bridge) you should make it a point to cross the most famous landmark in the city. Though this isn’t an alternative tip, I had to include it!
Palace of Fine Arts
I had never heard about the Palace of Fine Arts before, but I am so glad my friend, Carolyn, brought me here. Built in 1915, this structure was originally designated for showcasing works of art. Now, it is mostly a tourist/photography destination. I loved walking around the beautiful park and seeing the swans basking in the sun. Located in the Marina Bay district, it’s an easy walk from popular parts of the city.
Marina Bay District
If you decide to hang around Marina Bay District, located on the city’s north shores, you can’t miss out on this beautiful view! I enjoyed taking in the peaceful waterfront and watching dogs play by the water, sailboats sail by, and paragliders flying around.
Another highlight of the day was taking a winding drive up to an area of the city called “Twin Peaks.” This amazing, (but chilly) place is a perfect spot to enjoy the sun setting over the entire city of San Francisco. It was the perfect cap to a beautiful day of exploration!
Here’s a visual map of some of the sights I listed above to give you an idea of the city’s layout.
As I previously mentioned, there are so many unique things to see outside of San Francisco. Here are all the day trips I’ve personally taken and recommend to visit during your stay in San Francisco.
- Sausalito – coastal town located just across the bridge from San Francisco
- Alcatraz – A famous federal prison open from 1934 until 1963 located in San Francisco Bay
- Napa Valley – Wine region located 1.5 hours north of San Francisco
- Big Sur – Rugged and beautiful stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway a few hours south of San Francisco
- Muir Woods – Famous redwood forest located 30 minutes north of San Francisco
Have you been to San Francisco? What are your favorite parts of the city?
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