San Francisco is a bustling and exciting forward-thinking city on the Californian coast, about half-way up the state. San Francisco sits at the tip of the world-famous Silicon Valley, a hub of social media and technological prowess. It's one of my favourite cities to explore, and here's how I recommend spending a week in San Fran and the Bay Area.
How to Get to San Francisco
Flights fly direct from numerous major cities across North America and internationally. We flew with Air Canada from YVR in just under two hours, arriving in the morning so we could hit the ground running. Always get the window seat so you can take in the acclaimed views of the Bay Area as you arrive!
How to Get Around San Francisco and the Bay Area
Within San Francisco, the best way to get around is on foot. If you're heading across town, the vintage streetcar fleet lines are my preferred choice or you can catch a bus. Make sure to wave down the number you need or else they'll drive right past! An adult ticket including a transfer costs $2.25 in exact cash. The buses run very along the grid-like streets and the maps at each station are clear and easy to follow.
If you're wanting to explore the surrounding area, such as heading down the coast to the famous Big Sur area along Highway 1, you'll need to rent a car. We rented a car from Avis at SFO which can be reached via the AirTrain, a free airport train taking you between terminals.
What to See in San Francisco
1. GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
Often hidden under a blanket of fog fondly known as Karl, the Golden Gate Bridge is quite possibly the most famous icon of San Francisco, and is a stunning structure best viewed by driving or biking across it, or from one of the many viewpoints on either end.
2. FORT MASON
An ex-US army post, Fort Mason is situated directly on the waterfront, offering a historical glimpse into the military's past, as well as beautiful bay views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
3. THE PRESIDIO
The Presidio stretches along the coast on the way to the Golden Gate Bridge and is a fantastic bike ride. Watch for when the Golden Gate Bridge pops into view!
Spend time wandering the gorgeous Embarcadero, the city's northern road. It winds its way along the coastline, and provides for a beautiful walk in the sunshine.
5. THE BAY BRIDGE
Not to be confused with its sister the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge stretches out from the east side of San Francisco across to East Bay and is usually never hidden in the sea fog that so often puts the Golden Gate Bridge out of sight.
6. THE PAINTED LADIES
Find the Painted Ladies, the well-known backdrop of the hit TV series 'Full House'.
7. LOMBARD STREET
With eight steep turns offering a view of the city as you crawl your way down the hill, Lombard Street, the 'crookedest street in the world,' is usually packed with tourists but offers a weird, quirky stop right in town.
8. CABLE CAR
Hop on a cable car to whiz around the city! Tickets can be bought at the main station near Fisherman's Wharf.
9. CITY HALL
Visit the magnificent City Hall in the centre of the city.
10. GRANDVIEW PARK
At 16th Avenue, a set of ceramic steps guide you up to a most stunning park with a 360 view of all of San Francisco. At the top is Grandview Park from where you can spot the little boxes that make up the perfect little streets of San Francisco.
11. HYDE STREET PIER
Wander along the waterfront at Hyde Street Pier, taking the time to visit the shipbuilders at the shipyard.
12. FISHERMAN'S WHARF
If it's a sunny day, Fisherman's Wharf will be absolutely packed with people. There's loads of boardwalk attractions, food, games and souvenir shops to be found here.
13. PIER 39
Find the sea lions of Pier 39 having a snooze in the sunshine!
Explore the incredible ex-prison of Alcatraz, situated on an island just off the coast.
15. BAKER'S BEACH
Baker's Beach offers the most awe-inspiring view of the bridge and harbour, as the waves crash in along a huge stretch of rocks and sand. The beach can be accessed from Fort Point by walking along the coastal path next to the main road, also full of stunning viewpoints.
16. LAND'S END
Whether or not Land's End is actually the edge of the world will remain a mystery. The beauty of this area, and the surrounding ruins of the Sutro Baths and the iconic big trees of Point Lobos, however, are obvious.
Grab a bite to eat in trendy Sausalito across the Golden Gate Bridge, before taking the ferry back to the San Fran piers.
18. MARIN HEADLANDS
The winding coastal roads of the Marin Headlands are a stunning escape from the city. Perched on the edge of the coast in the Marin Headlands offering spectacular city and bridge views on a clear day is the Point Bonita Lighthouse.
Where to Eat in San Francisco
For fresh, healthy and delicious dining, visit Tender Greens for their kale salad. For the best scrumptiously delicious acai bowls, head to Nekter Juice Bar.
And of course, did you really go to California if you didn't go to In'N'Out?
What to See in the Bay Area
Home to buildings such as Gates Computer Science and Hewlett Packard Electrical Engineering, Stanford is a world-class university situated right in the Silicon Valley. My parents and I wandered the beautiful campus at sunset. While you're at Stanford, visit their on campus Mausoleum and the Cactus Garden.
2. HIGHWAY 1
The world-famous Highway 1 is a gorgeous scenic route that hugs the coast of California. The drive down to Big Sur is one of my all-time favourite drives including Carmel-By-The-Sea, Bixby Bridge and of course the waterfall at McWay Cove. Read my perfect itinerary for 10 stops on Highway 1 here!
3. SAN JOSE
An eclectic university town on the southern end of the Silicon Valley, San Jose can easily be reached by Caltrain and is a wonderful place to spend a warm afternoon.
4. DISH TRAIL
For stunning views out over Stanford, Palo Alto, and pretty much the entire Bay Area on a clear day, visit the iconic Dish Trail that towers over the city.
5. REDWOOD CITY
Explore the quaint Redwood City, featuring a gorgeous little old movie theatre.
6. ROSICRUCIAN EGYPTIAN MUSEUM, PALO ALTO
Explore the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in Palo Alto for a taste of culture and a magical land.