San Francisco is one of the most iconic cities in America, and it offers willing explorers an amazing variety of unique places to see and things to do. This city is densely packed and filled with an eclectic mix of people, architecture and subcultures. Established as a fort by the Spanish in 1776, San Francisco expanded greatly during the California Gold Rush in 1848. After suffering through a massive earthquake in 1906, San Francisco quickly rebuilt and become one of the major American cities by mid century, and was the epicenter for the Summer of Love and civil rights activism in the 60's and 70's. Today, the city is a popular tourist destination, rich in history, modernity and bustling with activity. If traveling to this area and wanting to experience the full range of the city in 24 hours, here are a few suggestions. Also be sure to shop around for different flight, hotel, and SFO airport parking deals before visiting the city; there are many great travel deals to be had.
Breakfast at Mama's on Washington Square
If looking to explore the city, it is important to prepare with a good, hearty breakfast. Mama's on Washington Square (1701 Stockton St.) is the perfect breakfast place for this occasion. Be sure to wake up bright and early to stay ahead of the lunch-time rush, but Mama's deliciously prepared omelets and hotcakes, quick service and generous portions will be well worth it and will start the day on the right foot.
Daytime Exploring on San Francisco Cable Cars
One of the best ways to start off a daytime exploration is to board the historic Cable Cars. Considered a "moving landmark" of San Francisco, the Cable Car system consists of three lines that take people all around the city. Take the California Street line to go from the Financial District and through Chinatown. The Cable Cars stop at any of the major districts to roam through the many shops and attractions. Get on the Cable Cars anywhere there's a brown-and-white stop sign.
The Exploratorium on Lyon Street
While exploring, make sure to visit the Exploratorium on 3601 Lyon Street. It is one of the most fun and unique science and art museums in the country, with its emphasis on interactive, hands-on exhibits, like its pitch-black Tactile Dome.
Ferry Ride from Fisherman's Wharf to Sausalito
While it's still light outside, go to the Fisherman's Wharf and board a Red-and-White Ferry to Sausalito. This is a very calming, relaxed ferry ride with spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay. Once in Sausalito, grab a coffee or a smoothie at any of the quaint outdoor cafes overlooking the city.
The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park
By now it should be the later part of the afternoon: perfect time for tea. Head over to Golden Gate Pak and visit the Japanese Tea Garden. This landmark was built in 1894 and has been carefully cared for since then by the family of Makoto Hagiwara, a renowned Japanese gardener. Enjoy the contemplative and beautiful architecture and plants.
Watching the Sunset at Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks is a popular and iconic San Francisco destination for a good reason. It has one of the best views of the city available. The downtown skyline, the two bridges and the bay are all visible. By climbing one of the hills, one can get a full 360-degree view of the city. When sunset time comes around, hail a cab and head over to this spot. Bring a jacket and enjoy.
Nighttime Ghost Hunting at the Queen Anne Hotel
What better nighttime activity is there than ghost hunting? San Francisco Ghost Hunt has been giving visitors tours of the city's most renowned haunting spots. The hunts start at the Queen Anne Hotel on 1590 Sutter Street at 7:00 p.m.
Salsa Night at CafÃ© Cocomo
After a long exploration-filled day, it's time to head to the club and unwind with some dancing and drinks. But instead of heading to the usual nightspot, why not make it a Salsa night? San Francisco is home to one of the country's top 3 Salsa clubs: CafÃ© Cocomo on 650 Indiana St. But despite its renown, the crowd at Cocomo is always friendly and unpretentious. Whether a beginner or an experienced Salsa dancer, one can be sure to have a great time, and there is always some kind of drink special to be had.
San Francisco's All-night Diners
After seeing the sights, doing the shopping, eating lunch at the cafÃ©s, watching the sunset, hunting for ghosts, dancing and drinking the night away morning has now come. There is no better way to end a trip to San Fran than to grab some friends and head over to one of San Francisco's all-night diners. One of the better late night joints is Video CafÃ© on 5700 Geary Blvd. It compliments Thai dishes and traditional late-night fare with classic film dÃ©cor. Their espresso floats are a must have.