On this trip to San Francisco, you’ll play the roles of both tourist and local. See all the classic sights, but from a new perspective. You’ll visit the wharf, but you’ll explore some of its overlooked sights.
And instead of just snapping photos of the Golden Gate Bridge, why not ride across it on a bike? You’ll also view San Francisco through the eyes of a local as you immerse yourself in its quirky neighborhoods, enjoy its diverse food and nightlife scenes, and take in its green spaces and the surrounding natural wonders. Unwind at the end of each travel day with visits to the city’s very best beer bars. Your second visit to this dynamic city will reward you with even more surprises than your first!
Classic San Francisco
Check into the W San Francisco and introduce yourself to San Francisco with a day’s worth of classic experiences. Start with a cable-car ride on the scenic Hyde Line, which you can catch on Hyde Street, four blocks west of your hotel. This adult amusement park ride takes you past the crooked lanes of Lombard Street, and drops you off right at Fisherman’s Wharf.
While you may have already explored the wharf on previous trips, there are a few offbeat attractions here that you may not have visited. Start at the Musee Mecanique on Pier 43, a hidden gem that houses a collection of antique arcade machines that you can actually play!
Have lunch at one of the sidewalk stands on Jefferson Street serving Dungeness crab, a Pacific Northwest delicacy. Even if you’ve done it before, visiting the sea lions on Pier 39 is an activity that never gets old. And if you’ve never seen Alcatraz, now is the time to tour the infamous island prison.
Dinner is in the North Beach neighborhood, famous for being the hub of the 1960’s Beatnik movement. Here, you can sample the best cioppino in town, courtesy of Sotto Mare. This fish stew is an Italian-American dish that is local to the area.
After dinner, make sure to stop at the neighborhood’s landmark bookshop, City Lights. This independent bookstore once nurtured the ideas of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac and still carries on the tradition of celebrating radical thought and counter culture.
If you can’t get enough of the area’s Beat vibe, stop by the Vesuvio Cafe, a historic watering hole that has always catered to the City Lights crowd. Eclectic charm is thick at this bar, but not campy. Take a seat, and you might end up enjoying a beer where Kerouac or Neal Cassady once did. Or, head back in the direction of your hotel, and get your nightcap at Mikkeller Bar. This American outpost of a popular Denmark brewhouse, has 42 beers on tap, including local and European brews. There’s also a secret downstairs bar devoted entirely to sour beers
Where the Locals Go
Today you’ll explore an eclectic group of neighborhoods that give San Francisco its local flavor and character.
Start in Nob Hill, one of San Francisco’s ritziest and most iconic neighborhoods. An area where vintage barber shops and classic cocktail lounges stand beside upscale boutiques and trendy nightclubs, it will charm you with its seamless marriage of old and new.
Wander the main drags of California and Mason Streets, and daydream about life in the neighborhood’s old Victorian mansions as street cars clang by you. Take a walk through the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel, one of only two buildings in the neighborhood that survived the earthquake of 1906, and peek inside the elegant Grace Cathedral.
Continue on to the largest Chinatown outside of Asia. Densely populated and hectic, this neighborhood still maintains a strong ethnic identity. Take a detour off of the main strip, and spend a little time exploring this neighborhood’s hidden charms. One side street, Ross Alley, is San Francisco’s oldest alleyway and has a sordid prostitution and gambling past. Today it’s decorated with colorful murals and filled with delicious Chinese pastry shops.
Next, taxi out to The Mission district, and refuel with a sandwich at Ike’s Place or a super burrito from El Farolito. But if you’re craving lunchtime drinks try Tacolicious, which dishes up tasty tacos and creative cocktails.
Spend some time exploring this trendy neighborhood. Dolores Park offers unparalleled people watching, and Balmy Alley is decorated end-to-end with vibrant wall murals. Grab dessert at the delicious Tartine Bakery, which occupies a spot on nearly every “best bakeries in the country” list.
At Alamo Square Park, you can get the classic view of the famous “Painted Lady” Victorian homes. Nearby is Nopa, a splurge-worthy Mediterranean restaurant that is open late. If you want to keep the party going after dinner, taxi over to the bars in the Russian Hill neighborhood. You’ll love La Trappe Cafe. This Belgian bistro and Trappist lounge boasts what is arguably the best beer list in the entire city.
San Francisco – On Wheels!
Spend a day taking in San Francisco’s parks and wildlife by bike! You’ll be able to cover a lot of ground if you explore the city’s green spaces on wheels. Before picking up your rental from Avenue Cyclery, check out Devil’s Teeth Baking Company in the Sunset District south of the park. Their breakfast sandwiches on house-made biscuits are to-die-for!
Next, spend some time exploring the massive Golden Gate Park, which is filled with gardens and museums. Highlights include the Japanese Tea Garden and the Conservatory of Flowers. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can exit the park on 25th Avenue, ride north, and link up with the access point to Baker Beach. This scenic spot offers an amazing view up at Golden Gate Bridge from the shoreline.
Once you’ve seen the bridge from below, get up close and personal with this iconic structure by riding across it. Head there by way of the trail that runs along Lincoln Boulevard, and you’ll eventually link up with the bridge access ramp.
Once you’ve crossed the bay, take in the views and then spend some time exploring Sausalito. This picturesque, artsy town is filled with galleries, boutiques, and great places to eat. One of the most fun spots is Bar Bocce where you can play bocce on a patio with a view.
Back in the city, drop your bikes off before dinner in The Mission. A great option for beer-lovers is the Monk’s Kettle. Not only do they have a list of 200 rotating brews, but they also specialize in food-beer pairings.