San Francisco Attractions
Alcatraz Island and Prison
Board the ferry to Alcatraz Island at Fisherman's Wharf and enjoy spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline on the way to this must-see San Francisco attraction -- once home to notorious prisoners like Al Capone. Alcatraz Tour tickets can be purchased at the ticket booth at Pier 41, San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf.
San Francisco's most popular and locally beloved nude beach is nestled in the western shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. Aside from being the birth place of Burning Man, the great qualities of Baker Beach are its size, close shore breaks, tide pools, steep bluffs, and climbable rocks, and a totally nude north end that rubs friendly elbows with a decidedly family-style south side, complete with barbeque grills and picnic tables. While this stretch of the Pacific makes for rough swimming, it bodes well for panoramic sun bathing and excellent shore fishing.
The Powell-Hyde line begins at Powell and Market streets, terminating at Victorian Park near the Maritime Museum and Aquatic Park; the Powell-Mason line also begins at Powell and Market, but ends at Bay and Taylor near Fisherman's Wharf; the California Street line runs from California and Market streets to Van Ness Avenue.
Enter at "Dragon's Gate" at Grant Avenue and Bush Street.
San Francisco's bustling Chinatown is a tightly-packed warren of Chinese restaurants, shops, temples and street vendors. Great for gifts, and fireworks on Chinese New Year.
The third Cliff House, which was built in 1909, after its two predecessors burned, is considerably more modest than the eight-story French chateau built by Adolph Sutro in 1896. This newest one, built in 1909 by Sutro's daughter, is operated by the National Park Service as a restaurant and boast commanding views of the Pacific Ocean and Ocean Beach.
The wild local heiress Lillie Hitchcock donated the money for her posthumous tribute the San Francisco fire department, the 180-foot tall Coit Tower which overlooks an impressive 360 degree panorama view of the Embarcadero, Pier 39, the Golden Gate Bridge, Mt. Sutro, and the Financial District all in one dizzying sweep. Work up an appetite for North Beach's Italian flair by trekking your way up Telegraph Hill to peruse the view and the Diego Rivera style frescoes housed inside the Tower.
Founded in 1969 by noted physicist and educator Dr. Frank Oppenheimer, the Exploratorium houses a playful array of over 650 hands-on science, art, and human perception exhibits. From salt volcanos and bubble bombs to fault lines and frogs, the line up tests imaginations young and old. Just the building itself, a palatial domed structure left from the San Francisco Pan Pacific Exhibition of 1916, is worth a visit.
Popular with tourists and sea lions, Fisherman's Wharf is full of shops, silly museums and family fun. Still a working wharf, its vendors sell thousands of tons of fish and shellfish. Take an early morning walk down "Fish Alley" to see fisherman at work. Later, the Wharf is boardwalk-style family entertainment with decidedly tourist attractions such as Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum, the Red & White Fleet, a the Wax Museum. For maritime-lovers and WWII buffs, the San Francisco Maritime Musuem is at the foot of Polk St. and massive USS Pampanito is docked right at Pier 45
Shopping and waterfront dining at fine restaurants and shops in historic San Francisco Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory near San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf. The building was saved from destruction in one of the U.S.'s first examples of adaptive reuse.Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival takes place in early September.
Golden Gate Park
Larger than Central Park, the 1,000-acre Golden Gate Park;s treasure trove of attractions includes Stybing Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, a biodiversity hub where 6,000 plant species, including a towering display of California redwoods, thrive; the ethereal Japanese Tea Garden; a children's playground; the Asian Art Museum; MH de Young Memorial Museum; and the California Academy of Sciences, with its aquarium, Morrison Planetarium and laserium. Even more, the open tennis courts, horse stables, baseball diamonds, polo grounds, croquet and lawn-bowling greens, an archery field, a golf course and a fly-fishing pool draw an outdoorsy crowd year-round. For a full experience, follow the green panhandle between Fell and Oak streets straight into the park.
The gothic landmark of the west coast, the ornate beauty of Grace Cathedral is home to hidden gardens, curling dragon statues, and a redwood pulpit that has seen the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the Dalai Lama. The Grace hosts glorious concerts year round and its Columbarium is the only sacred landmark in San Francisco where freshly cremated remains may be laid to rest.
The heart of San Francisco's predominantly Latino neighborhood is 24th Street, a colorful collection of authentic restaurants, taquerias, Mexican bakeries, produce markets, specialty shops and murals. Mission Dolores at 16th and Dolores streets is the oldest structure in San Francisco (many of San Francisco's Spanish pioneers are buried on the site). Two blocks away on Dolores and 18th St., the palm tree studded Dolores Park still has a Spanish flavor.
A lone Corinthian column surrounded by newly installed palm trees marks SF's mecca for shopaholics. Ringed by Macy's, Saks, Neiman Marcus, Nike Town and Levi's stores along with colorful flower stands and street performers. Surrounding streets feature superstores like Virgin Megastore, FAO Schwarz, Gump's and Britex Fabrics along with boutiques for Coach, Bulgari, Cartier, Thomas Pink, Louis Vuitton, MaxMara, Emporio Armani, Diesel, Prada, Celine, Escada, Gucci, Guess, Hermes, Agnes B., Betsey Johnson and Wilkes Bashford.
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Fumihiko Maki's daring architecture is home to eclectic exhibitions, performances and films. The lawn of Yerba Buena Gardens above is great for frisbee throwing. The nearby Sony Metreon, which opened in 1999 has become a major South of Market destination with 350,000 square feet of shopping, restaurants, movie theaters, interactive arcades and attractions.