Be prepared to get a serious leg workout when in San Francisco. The rolling, way-too-steep hills are insanely ridiculous but you’ll be glad you decided to walk most places instead of using public transport all the time. Roamingkangaroo is back to take a look around the great Bay Area city that, despite being decimated by the devastating 1906 Earthquake, has gone about rebuilding and shaping itself with aplomb.
Situated in Northern California, San Francisco is home to around 850,000 people in what is the second most dense city in the USA behind New York. Naturally, tourists and travellers alike are drawn to this unique city for a taste of the air up here. There is so much to see and do here that I’ll now give you a rundown on some cool things to do around town.
San Fran is served by two major airports, San Francisco International (SFO) and Oakland International Airport (OAK). The BART (Bay Area Regional Transport) train service also services both so whichever airport you fly into getting downtown is a cinch. Tickets cost a few bucks and try to allow an hour for the journey in.
San Francisco is very easy to get around and the first option to do this should be the classic Cable Cars. They traverse the incredibly steep hills of the city with relative ease which is good but beware, these are hugely popular with the tourists with large lines forming at many of the stops so it’s a good idea to check the timetable or just be prepared to wait. The cars run fron Union Square down to Fisherman’s Wharf and also along California Street – the financial district.
When you get to Fisherman’s Wharf you won’t be short on things to do. The pick of the lot has to be Pier 39 which is a big precinct of shops, arcades, pubs and restaurants. It is a good place to while away some time while taking in the San Fran sun and as you can see in the photo below it was quite busy on the Saturday afternoon I was there.
From Pier 39 you get a great view across the Bay to Alcatraz and, in the distance, the Golden Gate Bridge. Alcatraz is located in the San Francisco Bay, around 1.5 miles from the mainland and was a Federal Penitentiary that ran from 1935-1963. Now an accessible museum, Alcatraz is an absolute must here, but you need to plan ahead as tours fill up very quickly and availability can be limited. I found this out the hard way. I recommend booking a few weeks in advance by going to the official website for bookings:
Depending on the time of year you will have some sporting options here. San Francisco has teams in the Major League Baseball (Giants) and the NFL (49ers) and if Basketball is your thing you could pop over to Oakland where the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors do their stuff. Ticketmaster is quite a reliable source for tickets.
Next up is the Golden Gate Bridge. Situated at the northern tip of the Peninsula it links San Francisco to the Marin County and spans the best part of a mile (1.6km). It is the symbol of the city and since opening in 1937 must be one of the most photographed bridges in the world. It is free to visit, there are designated paths on either side for walking, cycling or even running. The views are simply breathtaking, looking back to the city of San Francisco or looking down below to the Bay and realising just how much of a long way down it really is – 230 metres to be precise! I took a local bus to the bridge from my digs near Union Square which cost a few bucks and took around 40 minutes.
You must also go and see Chinatown. Set a few blocks away from the Fisherman’s Wharf it is the oldest Chinatown in America and also the largest Chinese community outside of Asia. What’s amazing about Chinatown is that it attracts more visitors per year than the Golden Gate Bridge. One of the main reference points is Grant Avenue and a major focal point in Chinatown is Portsmouth Square. It’s one of a few open spaces in Chinatown and sits above an underground car park. Portsmouth Square bustles with activity such as Tai Chi and games of Chess.
So there you have it. Just a few options on what to do if you visit San Francisco. I only just scratched the surface as I had just two days here but with more time you can really delve deep into this cool city. An ideal visit here would encompass 4-5 days but just making it here would be an achievement in itself.