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Destinations United States California San Francisco Travel Tips

San Francisco Travel Tips

San Francisco is home to cable cars, the pastel painted ladies, and of course, the Golden Gate Bridge, but those aren’t the only features that make the city by the bay a must-visit California destination. If what you know about San Francisco comes mostly from TV and movies, prepare to be surprised. I put together this San Francisco travel guide to showcase a different side of Fog City.

You should absolutely add walking over the Golden Gate Bridge to your itinerary — and ride a cable car, too — but keep in mind that San Francisco is just as beloved for its historic theaters, the sea lions at PIER 39, Alcatraz Island, hiking trails, and more. There are a lot of things to do in San Francisco, so keep reading.

Tip: I recommend flying Alaska Airlines, my preferred choice when flying with kids (or without) to San Francisco (versus Southwest) from San Diego. The aircraft is a former Virgin American plane, which is much nicer and you can have an assigned seat.

San Francisco Hotel Tips

There are more than a few luxury hotels in San Francisco — including many boutique spots that will make you forget you’re in a major metro area. What kind of vibe are you looking for? There are historic hotels overlooking the Bay as well as chic modern hotels in the middle of downtown. Want to be near the top San Francisco attractions? Look at hotels on Market Street. Want to be pampered? Try Nob Hill.

If you’re looking for specific recommendations, I’m partial to Four Seasons (they’re putting a second hotel where the Loews is, too). It’s centrally-located, the service is top-notch, the in-room dining is incredible, and the views are amazing.

When you’re ready to book a San Francisco hotel, I have access to exclusive VIP amenities as an Independent Affiliate of Cadence® Travel. If you book through me, you’ll enjoy extras like complimentary breakfasts, spa credits, room upgrades, and more.

Tips for San Francisco Travel with Kids

My favorite San Francisco travel tips to share are family-oriented. There’s much to enjoy in San Francisco with kids, and vacationing with the whole family doesn’t have to cost a lot. You can explore Golden Gate Park’s thousand acres, check out the cool playgrounds at the Presidio, and the San Francisco beaches (more on those later) are perfect for constructing epic sand castles. The best part is that it’s dead simple to get around the city. You can easily get to most of the family-friendly attractions via public transportation.

One of the standout attractions for all ages is the 100-acre San Francisco Zoo, which is open year-round and is home to more than 2,000 animals. You can grab discount San Francisco Zoo tickets and wander, or check out the zoo’s changing calendar of special events, zookeeper talks, and guided tours —  and make sure to stop by the beautiful vintage carousel.

Activity Tips While Traveling in San Francisco

The one thing that’s hard to do in San Francisco? Be bored! You can’t put together a San Francisco travel guide without mentioning the many museums (we love the Exploratorium and the De Young Museum of Art +Legion of Honor), parks, hiking trails, tours, Chinatown, and the more esoteric things to do, like visiting Magowan’s Mirror Maze or taking a look at the South American parrots living in the trees around Telegraph Hill.

Don’t miss PIER 39, a bustling waterfront marketplace full of music, food, shopping, sea lions, and more. It’s also where you’ll find the Aquarium of the Bay® and the gorgeous San Francisco Carousel.

Given all that, going to the beach might not be the first destination that comes to mind, but the fact is that San Francisco beaches are wonderful. The water is brisk year-round, but the wide warm stretches of sand are some of the best places to people watch, picnic, and get some vitamin D.

Do you want to see as much of San Francisco as possible in the shortest amount of time? Then definitely check out one of the city’s many bus, bike, boat, and walking tours that will take you around San Francisco’s historic neighborhoods, over the Golden Gate Bridge, or to Angel Island and Alcatraz Island.

One of my favorite San Francisco travel tips is about saving money. I recommend investing in the Go San Francisco pass. It’s a multi-attraction pass that gets you combined admission into the city’s top attractions, tours, and museums for less.

Dining Tips for Eating in San Francisco

Food in San Francisco isn’t limited to the famous Mission-style burrito. While this city is getting more high tech by the year, it’s also a hub of back to the land farm-to-table produce; hyper local, small-batch, and artisanal everything; and eco inspired treats like low-waste or no-waste cocktails. So what are the must-eat treats? I recommend sampling beer from one of the many craft breweries, sipping an Irish coffee (which, surprisingly, was popularized in San Francisco), nibbling on something chocolate at Ghirardelli Square, having the excellent dim sum in Chinatown, and of course, eating the freshest seafood you’ll ever have at Fisherman’s Wharf.