The Golden Gate Area is sought out for many attractions, not the least of which is the Golden Gate Bridge, the span that connects the city of San Francisco with Marin County. As well, San Francisco itself offers such well-known attractions as Alcatraz Island, Fisherman’s Wharf and the classic cable cars. While there is much in San Francisco to recommend it as a travel destination, the activities and points of interest extend beyond the city’s boundaries. Summer concerts in Sausalito feature blues and jazz music, while nearby Tiburon is the site of an annual film festival that celebrates both national and international work every March. To the south of San Francisco lies Burlingame and San Mateo, each offering a wide choice of amenities and attractions. The annual 10-day San Mateo County Fair is a popular August attraction and has been a source of local entertainment since the mid-1930s.
The list of attractions in San Francisco reads like an all-star vacation checklist: the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Fisherman’s Wharf, the cable cars—and the list goes on. Visitors to San Francisco are never far from one of the many attractions that have put this coastal city on the map. One of the distinctive local attractions is the Haight area of the city. Once synonymous with hippies and the counter-culture, today the corner of Haight and Ashbury Street is a confluence of modern, trendy shops and piercing salons and alternative bookstores. San Francisco is well known for its support of alternative lifestyles, as is evidenced with the annual Bay to Breakers Run, which routinely sees families and frat boys pounding the pavement next to nudists and artists. Film enthusiasts flock to the San Francisco International Film Festival, which occurs in April and features over 200 acclaimed films from around the world.
The San Francisco Bay is a shallow estuary home to Dungeness crab, Pacific halibut and pacific salmon fisheries. Covering between 400 and 1600 sq miles, it is spanned by five bridges and carries four islands including Alcatraz, Yerba Buena Island, Treasure Island, and Angel Island.
Situated on the San Francisco Peninsula overlooking the bay, Burlingame, California, draws visitors with its central location, a plethora of shops, fun museums and numerous other attractions. Although a small city, Burlingame offers easy access to larger nearby cities like San Francisco and Palo Alto and to the rest of the world. Located only minutes from the busy San Francisco International Airport, Burlingame features several hotels with complimentary airport shuttles. Travelers who love to shop will appreciate the city’s eclectic mix of retail outlets ranging from popular chain stores to beloved mom-and-pop shops. Burlingame Avenue and Broadway both offer a diverse selection of shops and delicious restaurants. Visitors looking for attractions on the quirky side will enjoy the Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia, which is a Pez collector’s ultimate fantasy with its vast collection of new and vintage Pez candy dispensers and the World’s Largest Pez Dispensing Machine. The annual Burlingame Pet Parade, which features adorable costumed animals and colorful floats, is also out of the ordinary and fun. Other highlights include lush green urban parks, beautiful leafy neighborhoods with Victorian architecture and captivating sunsets over the San Francisco Bay.
San Mateo boasts a number of attractions and entertainment opportunities that rival neighboring San Francisco, creating a travel destination that puts visitors within reach of the Bay area’s cultural scene while at the same time providing space to relax and enjoy a vacation or family getaway. For the kids, the Coyote Point Museum is a fun destination, and features live animals from the San Francisco and San Joaquin areas. For sports and recreation, the Poplar Creek Golf Course offers a challenging par-70 that will delight golfers, while the Ice Chalet in Bridgepoint Shopping Center provides an ice rink for figure skating, hockey and leisure skating. Several hotels in the area offer affordable accommodation and there are a host of restaurants in town that provide all manner of cuisine for patrons to enjoy. Downtown San Mateo is a tasteful blend of historical buildings and modern shops, creating a comfortable and convenient district for dining and shopping.
Located just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito, California is a vibrant and eclectic community only 10 minutes from downtown San Francisco. Its proximity to San Francisco Bay bestows it with a Mediterranean climate—an influence that is also found in its restaurants and cultural attractions. Sausalito has a rich and varied history, which includes its use as a center for bootlegging during Prohibition and as a shipbuilding center in World War II. The war left industrialized Sausalito with abandoned shipyards, later lending to the creation of large houseboat communities for which it is still famous for. Sausalito is also known as an arts enclave with many galleries and open artists’ studio tours, and the Sausalito Art Festival is arguably the best of its kind in the country. Other attractions include the Bay Model Visitor Center, which provides a bird’s-eye view of the harbor with a 1.5-acre working model of the San Francisco Bay, and the Bay Area Discovery Museum, an interactive kid-friendly facility.
Despite its world-class attractions, restaurants and boutiques, Sausalito retains a waterfront village personality with a relatively small population of friendly locals. Sausalito is most famous for its scenic atmosphere and relaxed pace, both being conducive to long walks on the harbor or sipping a cocktail at a waterfront restaurant and watching the sun go down. But Sausalito is anything but sleepy. Hiking, biking, sailing and kayaking are all popular activities here. And entertainment is found around every corner with festivals and concerts occurring year-round.
Districts & Neighbourhoods of San Francisco
Japantown San Francisco
Japantown also knows as “Nihonmachi” is located along Buchanan Street and Post Street. Japan Center is bordered by Webster Street, Geary Boulevard, Van Ness Avenue and Lombard Street. The area features shops selling unique items from the Orient, restaurants, art galleries and a movie theatre complex. Address: Buchanan St and Post Street | San Francisco, CA | 94115
One of San Francisco’s most popular attractions. Dining, shopping, and entertainment. Address: Beach St. & The Embarcadero | San Francisco, CA | 94119
North Beach Neighborhood
Located midway between Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf, the North Beach district of San Francisco is a diverse neighborhood filled with Italian restaurants, cafés and ice cream parlors. This area is also a hot-spot for major night clubs and has a thriving nightlife.
Chinatown San Francisco
With its array of shops offering souvenirs and gifts, delicious pastries, and noodles, this is a great place to start a walking tour or meet friends for lunch. A natural destination for tourist, Chinatown provides a variety of cultural events.
This San Francisco neighborhood features trendy fashion boutiques, SoHo-style funky art galleries, high-end interior-decorating shops, restaurants and hip nightspots.
The Haight Area is reminiscent of the 1960s hippy culture that was so rampant in San Francisco. An eclectic blend of visitors and tourists are comfortable roaming the streets of the Haight, where nightclubs, cafes, movie theaters, restaurants and shops are found.
Bordering the Embarcadero from the south, King St. from the north and Third St. from the east, South Beach is an up-and-coming neighborhood consisting of mixed-use buildings. At&T; Park, home of Giants baseball, college football and countless concerts is found in the south end of the district.
This affluent neighborhood features views of the Bay, upscale boutiques and restaurants, a boat dock, impressive houses and the Palace of Fine Arts. The Marina District also hosts the fourth of July fireworks every year.
Bisected by Van Ness Avenue, the Civic Center is home to the city’s stunning Public Library and City Hall, the massive Asian Art Museum and the world-renowned War Memorial Opera House.
Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco
This is one of San Francisco’s most popular destinations. The area possesses an amazing waterfront, great seafood, sights and unique shopping. Nearby attractions include the Maritime Museum, Alcatraz, Coit Tower and the San Francisco Cable Car lines. Enjoy great views of the San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge. Address: Fisherman’s Wharf | San Francisco, CA
Nob Hill is a prestigious community in San Francisco, located adjacent to the intersection of California and Powell Streets. This district is littered with up-scale hotels, exclusive clubs, large mansions and fantastic views.
The Financial District is San Francisco’s central business neighborhood. Marked by the bundle of high-rise towers, this area occupies some of the city’ tallest buildings including the Bank of America and Transamerica Pyramid. The largest concentration of corporate headquarters, law firms, banks and other financial institutes also dwell in this district.
Commonly known as Mission, this ethnically diverse neighborhood is home to a collection of trendy stores, colorful restaurants and specialty shops. May is a spirited month in Mission with the arrival of Cinco de Mayo and Carnaval celebrations.
Sights & Attractions
Built on its own island, Alcatraz operated as a Federal Prison from 1934-1963. The renowned penitentiary housed some of America’s most notorious criminals including Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly and of course the “Birdman of Alcatraz.” This place is an essential element of any trip to San Francisco and will be very memorable. Departures to the island leave from Pier 41 at Fishermans Wharf. Tickets are limited so reserve as early as possible.
Golden Gate Bridge
Built in 1937 at a cost of $35 million, this bridge is more than a mile and a half long, and was built to connect San Francisco with Marin County. The Golden Gate has become a symbol of San Francisco and of the whole nation. There is a $5 toll for using the bridge. Address: US Hwy 101 | San Francisco, CA | 94901-5381
San Francisco Bay Bridge
This toll bridge is one of the busiest bridges in the United States, spanning the San Francisco Bay and connecting the San Francisco peninsula with Northwestern Alameda County. The Bay Bridge opened in 1936 carrying a total of ten lanes. The bridge is restricted to highway traffic only and does not allow pedestrians, cyclists and other non-freeway vehicles.
Address: Interstate 80 | San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Cable Car Barn & Powerhouse
San Francisco is known for its use of classic cable cars, having used this mode of transportation since the late 1800s. Today these classic cable cars are still in use and are a major tourist attraction in San Francisco. Come and discover the history behind the cable car. On exhibit is three antique cable cars, a Sutter street dummy and trailer, and the first cable car. Also, view the cable winding machinery, and watch the cars as they enter and leave the building. Open April 1st – September 30th, 10am-6pm, October 1st – March 31st 10am-5pm. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Address: 1201 Mason St. | San Francisco, CA | 94108