If you’re going to San Francisco you’re gonna meet some gentle people there but it wouldn’t be advisable to wear flowers in your hair. You’d just look a bit strange.
Bad Mamas & Papas jokes aside, the City by the Bay is a traveller’s dream. Packed with iconic landmarks and attractions, yet compact enough to get around by foot, it’s easy to fill four days in San Francisco, as I found out in the run-up to Christmas 2011.
So, without further ado, here’s a list of five fun things to see and do in San Francisco…
The Golden Gate Bridge
As far as attractions go, San Francisco is particularly well endowed, with the Golden Gate Bridge arguably the most iconic and most impressive.
One of the most beautiful bridges in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge spans 2.7 glorious kilometres (1.7 miles). Photogenic even on a bad day – or under a heavy San Francisco fog – there’s little wonder that it’s one of Frisco’s most visited landmarks.
Featured in a pile of films and television shows (the opening credits to Full House and the finale to Rise of the Planet of the Apes spring immediately to mind), the bridge is just as impressive in real life.
It was also a lot of fun for this amateur cameraman to photograph, trying out all the new-fangled features on my digital camera…
Apparently San Francisco’s cable cars are the last manually operated cable cars in the world. Either way, they’re as iconic to San Francisco as the Golden Gate Bridge and a brilliant way to see the city.
More of a moving landmark than an effective means of transportation, the cable car system operates along three different routes. Two of the three start from the same place at Powell and Market streets and end up somewhere near Fisherman’s Wharf – another must-see attraction.
Of course no trip to San Francisco would be complete without a visit to The Rock, the former home of some of America’s most notorious criminals – including Al “Scarface” Capone.
For a movie buff and a fan of such cinematic masterpieces as Escape from Alcatraz and, erm, The Rock, visiting the legendary former penitentiary fulfilled one of my boyhood dreams.
To walk those grim halls at Alcatraz and actually enter one of the tiny, dank cells was a surreal experience made even better by the brilliant audio commentary featuring the recollections of former guards and inmates alike.
Make sure you book a tour a couple of days before you go, however, as tickets can sell out several days in advance.
The views: Coit Tower and Alamo Square
Well-known for its hilly terrain, San Francisco boasts some excellent vantage points from which to admire coastal views of San Francisco Bay as well as the city’s handsome architecture.
Most notably, the views from Coit Tower and Alamo Square are simply delightful. The former, a monument honouring San Francisco fire fighters atop one of the city’s 44 hills, boasts brilliant views of the city and the bay; the latter, a residential neighbourhood and park, provides a view of the “Painted Ladies”, a row of fine-looking Victorian homes with the city as their backdrop.
Well-known for its liberal community as well as its cultural diversity (San Francisco has the largest Chinatown in North America), the city boasts a ridiculous amount of restaurants, fast food outlets and, best of all, American diners.
Americans may not appreciate the novelty, but I certainly did. Only my second ever trip to the US, following a visit to New York for Thanksgiving 2009, I made up for lost time. Chilli dogs, cheese fries, sliders, choc chip pancakes, malts and root beer were among the numerous quintessential US delicacies I enjoyed in San Fran’s many diners.
So there you have it. After four days and much sightseeing, I departed San Francisco with a full stomach and a heavy heart, hungry to explore the States further.
It’s fair to say that I left my heart in San Francisco.
You might also enjoy reading about my plans for a honeymoon US road-trip!