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Top 10 Attractions in San Francisco

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Looking for things to do in San Francisco? These quintessential SF sites should be at the top of any traveler's list.

1. Golden Gate Park

Courtesy Convervatory of Flowers

Golden Gate Park is a 1,017-acre sanctuary stretching from the Haight to the Pacific Ocean. It houses a multitude of attractions, from museums to botanical gardens and recreation facilities. Designed by noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead (of New York’s Central Park fame), Golden Gate park’s meadows, lakes and gardens offer something for everyone, including golf, tennis, walking and bike paths, and the spectacular de Young Museum and Academy of Sciences.

Location: The park stretches from Stanyan Street to the Pacific Ocean and from Lincoln Way to Fulton Street.

2. Alcatraz

Courtesy SF CVB

Nicknamed “the rock,” Alcatraz served as a federal maximum security prison from 1934 to 1963 and was home to such notorious prisoners as Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly and Robert Stroud, aka the “Birdman of Alcatraz.” The Angling brothers made their famous escape in 1962. Today Alcatraz is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and offers an excellent audio tour as well as daily ranger-led programs.

Location: Ferries depart daily from Hornblower Pier at the foot of Bay Street.

3. Golden Gate Bridge

Even veteran San Franciscans are still wowed by the site of the Golden Gate Bridge and the majestic scenery around it. An enduring symbol of California and San Francisco, the suspension bridge that links San Francisco to the Marin Headlands is probably the most photographed in the world. Often shrouded in fog, the 1.7-mile-long art deco gem is a sight to behold.

Location: Fort Point off Lincoln Blvd. at Long Ave and Marine Drive.

4. Twin Peaks

Largely undeveloped, the Twin Peaks are two hills with an elevation of about 922 feet situated at the center of the city and offering sweeping views of downtown and beyond. They form the second highest point in San Francisco, after Mount Davidson. A drive to Twin Peaks to take in the view is a must for any visitor to San Francisco. The summit, preserved parkland, is home to many natural resources and wildlife.

Location: Twin Peaks Boulevard Off Clayton Street

5. Chinatown

Courtesy SF CVB
Chinatown is the largest Chinese community on the West Coast. Full of sights and smells to feed the senses, this area is chockablock with fish vendors, herb shops, acupuncture clinics, tea houses, and Buddhist temples. You’ll also find great dim sum restaurants and places to buy authentic souvenirs. Grant Street caters to the tourist trade, with mostly souvenir shops; Stockton Street bustles with food markets and local family-owned businesses.

Location: Enter Chinatown Gate at Grant and Bush Streets

6. Ferry Building Marketplace

Courtesy CUESA

The Ferry Building and Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market is the ideal place to find delicious food, take in lovely views of the bay, people-watch, and shop. The Ferry Building itself was erected in 1896 as a beacon for the port; it was gloriously restored in 2003 to become a market hall selling the Bay Area's best food. Restaurants serve lunch and dinner overlooking the bay; on Saturdays the outdoor plaza becomes a bustling farmers' market, with nearby growers offering the freshest provisions. Whet your appetite with our photos of the Ferry Building Market.

Location: Embarcadero and Market Streets

 

 

7. Palace of Fine Arts

Courtesy SF CVB

Designed by Bernard Maybeck for the 1915 for the panama-pacific exposition, the majestic Palace of Fine Arts resembles a classical roman structure. The building was completely restored in 1969 and today houses the Exploratorium, a science museum for children and adults; as well as a 100-seat theater presenting a range of concerts and performances. Perched on a lagoon within a small park, it is a popular site for wedding photo shoots.

Location: 3601 Lyon Street (between Bay and Jefferson Streets)in the Marina

8. Cable Cars

Courtesy SFCVB

There is no better way to experience the hills and views of San Francisco than aboard one of the city’s famous open-air cable cars. To get the most bang for your buck (a ride costs $5), hop a Powell-Hyde car at Powell and Market Streets and head towards Fisherman’s Wharf—you’ll see the sparkling bay and Alcatraz in the distance.

Location: The best views are from the Powell-Hyde cars; board at Market and Powell Streets.

9. Coit Tower

Courtesy SF CVB
This stunning Art Deco tower was erected in 1934 and was where the first West Coast telegraph sent messages notifying the arrival of ships. The park at the tower’s base affords spectacular views of the city; inside, Diego Rivera-inspired murals tell the history of San Francisco.

Location: Telegraph Hill Blvd. at Greenwich Street or Lombard Street. Hours: Open daily 10-6

10. Fisherman’s Wharf

Courtesy Fishermanswharf.org

Once the center of the city’s commercial fishing industry, Fisherman’s Wharf has become, to put it succinctly, a tourist trap. Most travelers insist on seeing Fisherman’s Wharf, though truth be told, locals never come here. Much of the area consists of t-shirt shops and themed restaurants serving passable food. If you do come, check out the barking sea lions basking in the sun on pier 39 and ogle the historic ships at Hyde Street Pier, site of the San Francisco National Maritime Park.

Location: Taylor Street and the Embarcadero

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