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First Time in San Francisco

By Edited Feb 19, 2014 0 2

Panoramic View of San Francisco

View over San Francisco
Credit: Terrie Plowman

Tourist attractions around San Francisco


San Francisco is well-known for being shrouded in fog, whilst a short distance away the temperature might be much higher and the sun could be shining brightly.

The fog in this region is known as advection fog, which is caused by the land heating up more quickly than the Pacific Ocean. The icy ocean waters meet the warmer air and the famous fog results. Travellers taking connecting flights must beware that flights can often be delayed and connections missed. So try not to connect flights on the same day!

The fog will not dampen your enthusiasm but a sunny day will be a bonus, especially if you travel to the top of the city to have a panoramic view of all the famous sights below you.

Open Top Sightseeing

The hop on-hop off red bus is the perfect way to see a large area of the city in a short space of time. A guide accompanies the tour and gives a commentary throughout the journey. They are also a useful source of information for any extra questions you may have. Its worth taking the complete tour to begin with and then decide where you'd like to get off the bus as you travel the circuit the second time. You can hop on and off as often as you like until your ticket expires. 

There are three alternative routes as well as a night route so consult the free map before you make your decision. The red route takes you along Fisherman's Wharf where the ferry for the famous Alcatraz awaits. This route covers the shopping centre and the museums and theatres.

The purple route will include the Golden Gate Bridge.

The green route will overlap some of the red route and cover shopping and restaurants.

Lombard Street

The City's 'crookedest' street is not suitable for the red bus. It has eight hairpin turns and a 40 degree slope.  On either side of the crooked road are homes and gardens. It is a very popular tourist feature.

Alternative transport

As well as the hop on-hop off red bus tours,there are the distinctive Go Cars that have their own GPS system. Of course, the cable car and the street cars are familiar sights  still functioning up and down the steep hills of San Francisco. Bicycles can be hired and this is an easy way to get around but the hills are quite a challenge. There are several boat trips that will give you spectacular views of the Golden Gate and Alcatraz. Finally, and the cheapest way, of course, is to wear comfortable footwear, apply sun screen, put on a hat and walk everywhere!

Castro District

This historic section of Upper Market Street is marked with rainbow flags to depict the area is recognized as the centre of San Francisco's gay and lesbian community. Castro Street is full of shops and restaurants. The Castro Theatre is a popular movie centre that screens old classic and art films.

Golden Gate Bridge

This is the most photographed bridge in the world. With its distinctive colour, known as International Orange and its graceful cables it should be on every tourist's list. There are viewing points and parking areas at the north-east and south-east ends of the bridge. Cyclists and pedestrians are allowed but check restrictions.

Napa Valley Vineyards. 

California's wine country is about one hour's drive from San Francisco and has over 50,000 acres of vineyards. There are so many wineries to explore you can trawl the internet for detailed information about specific locations. From large, world-famous to small, family owned wineries, there will be ample choice to suit your pocket and your palate.

17-Mile Drive, Pebble Beach

Follow the 17-Mile Drive markers on the roadway and you will drive through forest and along the coastal road. Your end point may be Pebble Beach and its magnificent golf course, where the U.S.Open Golf Championship was held in 2010, or you may call in at Carmel, of Clint Eastwood fame, to experience a stroll down the street packed with fellow tourists in this fashionable  and desirable area.


If you wish to visit Alcatraz, the island Federal Penitentiary, from which escape was unlikely, then book a ticket for the sailing from Pier 33 for the Alcatraz Ferry.  It is a sombre but very interesting experience with dramatic accompanying tapes, relaying you through the life of an in-mate. Step out into the fresh air and be relieved you are free to catch the ferry back to the mainland.




Computer Guided Go Car

Go Car GPS Guided Tour
Credit: Terrie Plowman


Nov 21, 2011 10:28am
The 17-mile drive in Pebble Beach is beautiful, and is one of my favorite places!
Nov 21, 2011 10:34am
I have a super photo of my husband and me standing on the 18th Tee at Pebble Beach. Unfortunately, it was the week before the Open so the only players allowed were a few early -arrival pros. The whole area is so picturesque. I love it.
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