San Francisco is a great place for a short visit. My sister and I visited for 3 days en route to Hawaii (another review will cover that part of our holiday). The iconic Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39 (with it’s numerous Californian Sea Lions who have taken up residence there) and the sinister Alcatraz sited just off shore did not disappoint. The weather, however, did! In June we expected the weather in California to be hot. We had no cold weather clothes with us so for 3 days we wore an odd assortment of layered clothes trying to keep warm. It seems this is quite usual for San Francisco. A sort of smoggy mist hangs over the city. One day we took the ‘Big Bus’ (great value ticket, more of that later) over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito . It was nearly 90 degrees there! We spent the day in the trendy bars and restaurants and checking out the boutique shops (whilst stripping off numerous t shirts and scarves so that we could finally feel the sun!). From there we could see San Francisco with it’s misty cloud hanging over it. It must be very frustrating for everyone as the mist can lift suddenly (as it did on our last day) and then you will be sweltering in your numerous layers of clothes! The weather didn’t stop us enjoying ourselves though. Our Big Bus ticket was amazing value at $88. It allowed us 2 days on the hop on/hop off buses, a night tour, an Alcatraz tour, 3 free walking tours, free entry to Madame Tussauds and entry to a 7D ride on Pier 39 (we thought that would not be our type of thing at all but we went, shot lots of zombies and laughed more than we had for ages!)
An hours free bike hire was also included but we didn’t take advantage of that.
Alcatraz is amazing. It gets booked months in advance and we had not thought to pre-book but our hotel receptionist, the very helpful Miguel, managed to get us these combined tickets which included Alcatraz. Once there you are given an audio guide which you can do at your own pace. It recounts stories of the prisoners, their guards and also the guards families who also had to live on the Island.
Haight Ashbury is also a great place to visit, especially if you were involved in the hippy movement back in the 70’s. It still has a bohemian feel to it and if you want to revive the flares and fringed waistcoat look then this is where you can shop!
Pier 39 is not only worth visiting for the numerous sea lions but has restaurants, shops and bars and is popular with tourists. Clam chowder served in huge hollowed out bread rolls is a popular dish here but sea food of any kind is plentiful as well.
A slightly different eatery is The Stinking Rose on Columbus Avenue. Garlic with everything! Even the ice cream!
There is also China Town, Japan Town and the Italian area where you will find numerous restaurants.
We stayed at The Cova Hotel on Ellis Street. Great hotel, the rooms were comfortable and the staff went out of their way to be helpful. Unfortunately the area it is in has a lot of homeless people but we never felt threatened and the hotel do run a free shuttle service to and from the centre of town.
Another way to get around is the cable cars. Tickets can be bought on board but if you are going to use them a lot you can buy multi use tickets from grocery stores which are much cheaper.
So if you are visiting California do give San Francisco a visit. Just remember to pack your warm weather clothes as well!