San Francisco is one of the most vibrant cities in the country. It’s a city that is both classic and timeless, and still always surprising. The centerpiece to the Bay Area, San Francisco measures 49 square miles, and is one of the most visited cities in the world.
Discover the easy accessibility of the city, with its wide array of international carriers taking travelers to and from more than 34 international destinations. It’s also an incredibly walkable city, and its public transportation is easy to navigate.
San Francisco is known for its eclectic and diverse neighborhoods, with a colorful art and culture scene, international foods, a waterfront, a thriving financial hub, and high end luxury. Explore the growing culinary scene, with inventive, experimental restaurants and traditional fine dining, as well as dive bars, creative cocktail culture, nightclubs, and more. San Francisco is also perfectly poised for outdoor exploration, with fantastic hiking and biking nearby, watersports, and easy access to California’s renowned wine country.
San Francisco is a compact city, making it one of the easiest places in the country to navigate. On top of that, it is an international airline hub, connecting East to West, so the accessibility via air travel is top notch.
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) offers non-stop flights to more than 45 international cities on 39 international carriers. The Bay Area's largest airport connects non-stop with 83 cities in the U.S. on 13 domestic airlines. SFO is proud to offer upgraded free Wi-Fi with no advertising. For up-to-the-minute departure and arrival information, airport maps and details on shopping, dining, cultural exhibitions, ground transportation and more, visit www.flysfo.com.
The best way to get around San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area is BART, or Bay Area Rapid Transit. The fast, easy, and low-cost public option connects San Francisco to its airports, as well as Oakland. The BART fare from SFO to downtown is $8.95. You can buy roundtrip tickets in advance from SFO to any city served by BART at www.bart.gov.
With water being such a prominent feature in San Francisco, ferry service is a common way to get around. The Golden Gate Ferry connects San Francisco to Sausalito and Larkspur.
The Blue & Gold Fleet is another top ferry and water excursion service on San Francisco Bay. It offers the famous one-hour Bay Cruise Adventure, The Escape from the Rock Cruise around Alcatraz Island, and the ever-popular Rocket Boat, a high-speed ride along San Francisco’s waterfront. It also provides regular ferry service to Sausalito, Tiburon, Angel Island, Vallejo, Alameda/Oakland, Harbor Bay, South San Francisco, and AT&T Park. With a fleet of 19 vessels, travelers can access Blue & Gold from Pier 39.
San Francisco is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own distinct culture and charm. Here’s a snapshot of some of the city’s most exciting and vibrant neighborhoods.
San Francisco’s Chinatown is a bustling city within a city best explored on foot. Soak up all the Chinese culture from herbal medicine shops to tea bars to dim sum restaurants to authentic temples.
The Castro is marked by grand Victorian architecture, sweeping city views, and a thriving LGBT scene. Known as the ‘gay capital of the world,’ The Castro offers village-like amenities, including pedestrian-friendly streets, an array of trendy stores, and outdoor cafes.
Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the most visited neighborhoods in San Francisco. Waterfront marketplaces, fishing boats, basking sea lions, seafood stalls, and sourdough French bread bakeries are the highlights of this iconic neighborhood. The historic F-Line streetcar and two cable cars terminate in the area. Sightseeing boats and boat charters link to Alcatraz, Angel Island, and other points in San Francisco Bay.
The Fillmore neighborhood is heralded for its revitalized music scene, where names like Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie headlined jazz clubs in its glory days. Relive the supper club culture at nearby restaurants serving comfort foods with sophisticated flair.
Japantown is the oldest of only three Japantowns remaining in the U.S. Traditional Japanese and Asian themes adorn the Japan Center, a shopping complex anchored at both ends by the Hotel Buchanan and the AMC Dine-in Kabuki Cinema. Hotel Tomo is designed with J-Pop, anime and manga themes.
San Francisco’s oldest and arguably most famous neighborhood is known for its gorgeous murals, restaurants (notably its taquerias and burrito restaurants), and the historic mission for which it’s named, the Mission Dolores, which was founded in 1776.
Shopaholics will have found heaven in San Francisco’s Union Square. Virtually every fashion label in the world has set up shop in and around Square, a landmark park in the heart of the downtown shopping and hotel district. Granite plazas, a stage, a café and four grand entrance corner plazas bordered by the park's signature palms pay tribute to the Square's distinctive history and offer a forum for civic celebrations.
Sleek nightclubs, fashionable restaurants, and trendy art galleries are what give SoMa (South of Market) its claim to fame. From The Moscone Center to more than a dozen museums, Yerba Buena is the epicenter for culture vultures in San Francisco.
San Francisco is a busy, international city equipped with some truly impressive hotels. Selecting the right hotel can determine what kind of San Francisco experience your clients have. Locals are often asked, “Where’s the best place in San Francisco to stay?” The answer is truly everywhere.
Foodies flocking to San Francisco will want to book a hotel in SoMa. This neighborhood has had an influx of new and innovative eateries, and is also a stone’s throw from the Mission, which is culinary royalty in San Francisco. The health-conscious can’t go wrong with hotels along the Embarcadero, with its numerous running paths, great outdoor spaces, and gorgeous views of the Bay Bridge.
For the classic San Francisco experience, a hotel in Civic Center is for you. You can hear the San Francisco Symphony, take in the Opera or Ballet, or drop into a jazz session at SFJAZZ Center. Meanwhile, shopaholics will be in paradise if they book a hotel in Union Square. You’ll have your pick of the litter in this neighborhood, as some of the city’s best hotels reside here. Union Square is also a prime transportation hub for the city.
Travelers that need to be near the airport have their options of neighborhoods, as well. For those who need a quick break between flights, the neighborhoods in the south of the city have a variety of options for three- and four-star hotels with airport shuttle services. For those who need to stay outside of San Francisco but are planning several trips into the city, Millbrae is the place to be, with convenient access to San Francisco by BART or Caltrain.
Arts and Culture
From the experimental to the traditional, explore all the wonderful art and cultural events and exhibitions, many of them curated by SFArts.org. The vibrant art scene of San Francisco has something great for everyone.
Civic Center is home to San Francisco’s professional opera, symphony, and ballet. The neighborhood is easily accessible by Muni and BART. Explore City Hall Tours, the SF Arts Commission Gallery, the Asian Art Museum, the SFJAZZ Center, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and so much more, all within this one culture-packed neighborhood.
With more than 1,000 acres to explore, Golden Gate Park begins where Haight-Ashbury ends and continues to Ocean Beach. Explore museums and landmarks, trails, lakes, windmills and gardens. Several of the city’s most visited attractions are within steps of one another. Sites include the Japanese Tea Garden, the de Young Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, Conservatory of Flowers, and the Sharon Art Studio.
Explore the Fillmore, Japantown, and the Western Addition, a cultural crossroads of the city. A lively entertainment district, the Fillmore is frequented by jazz, blues, and rock-and-roll legends. Also a desirable shopping destination, designer and one-of-a-kind boutiques line Fillmore Street for blocks north of Geary Boulevard.
The Mission is an expansive neighborhood featuring a culturally diverse range of San Francisco’s art scene. Explore murals, galleries, cafes, bookstores, and boutiques with eclectic wares. Tour Mission Dolores, one of the 21 missions on California’s Historic Mission Trail. Union Square and the Tenderloin, a gritty neighborhood filled with hidden gems, are chock full of theaters, having more than any other neighborhood.
SoMa is filled with museums, galleries, and renowned architecture. Be sure to visit the gift stores in each of the museums. They feature affordable jewelry and gifts made by many Bay Area artists.
Culinary / Nightlife
Travelers to San Francisco should expect to do away with their diet, as the city is one of the best spots in the world for epicurean travel. For first-timers to San Francisco, here are seven iconic eats (and drinks) that mustn’t be missed.
Anchor Steam Beer
Founded in 1896, this was America’s first craft brewery. Today, visitors can tour the brewery and enjoy tastings of San Francisco’s mother beverage.
Irish coffee from Buena Vista Cafe
Owners of Buena Vista Cafe played with the iconic recipe to concoct the perfect combo of hot coffee, Irish whiskey, and whipped cream. Today, the cafe serves up to 2,000 of these hot bevies per day.
Sourdough Bread from Boudin Sourdough
The Boudin factory is an absolute must-visit in San Francisco, where travelers can try the Original San Francisco Sourdough. The longest continually operating business in the city, the flagship factory on Fisherman’s Wharf serves bread bowls full of chowder.
Mission Burrito in the Mission
The Mission-style burrito hails from none other than San Francisco’s Mission District. Known for its sheer size, the burrito includes extra rice, sour cream, guacamole, and salsa.
Secret Breakfast from Humphry Slocombe
A popular ice cream parlor, Humphry Slocombe is known for its unusual flavors like Candy Cap-mushroom and peanut butter curry. There is also the Secret Breakfast Ice Cream, which combines bourbon and cornflakes.
Seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf
Fisherman’s Wharf is a paradise for seafood lovers, especially those who love cioppino seafood stew or Dungeness crab. Oysters are also a big seller along the wharf. Most restaurants still source their fish and crab from the boats of local fishermen.
Dim Sum in Chinatown
San Francisco’s Chinatown is one of the most famous in the world, so a visit to San Francisco without stopping in for dim sum would be a mistake. Typically a breakfast meal, dim sum is a selection of pastries, steamed dumplings, and vegetable dishes.
Martini in North Beach
The Occidental Hotel’s claim to fame is the invention of the martini; but as the hotel was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, go with the second best option in North Beach with its lively bar scene.
Chocolate at Ghirardelli Square
Top it all off with something sweet for dessert. Visit the iconic factory to view the original manufacturing equipment and, of course, to taste the hot fudge sundaes and squares of milk chocolate.
When it comes to nightlife, there are different neighborhoods for different vibes. If the evening should call for craft cocktails whipped up by master mixologist, look no further than Union Square. Visit Hawthorn for a menu of cocktails and signature favorites. Travelers can also visit Pacific Cocktail Haven for an unusual twist on classic cocktails, or Benjamin Cooper for its cocktails and oysters. The Mission is a home run for dive bars, with favorites being The 500 or Bender’s Bar and Grill. These bars are known for their cheap beer, pool tables, and unpretentious atmosphere.
For clubbing it has to be SoMa, like DNA Lounge with a mix of DJ beats and live bands, or Cat’s Club, which has two dance floors and a go-go cage. Oasis is a great cabaret nightclub, while Mezzanine opens weeknights for hot yoga with music.
I have been to California three times but never made it up to San Fancisco and with so much to do in one small city, you will find that just one trip to San Francisco will never be enough. I can't wait to visit and I hope that this article inspire you to go too! When you are ready to go, Call me or email me to get your adventure started!
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