Truly a wonder city of the United States, San Francisco has always been, and continues to be, a city with so much to see and do! From the bustle of the downtown SOMA district to the vibrant communities of the Castro and Mission districts, to the nearby Angel and Alcatraz Islands, to its many waterfronts and piers, there’s truly something for everyone in the City by the Bay. It’s truly not a place where everything can be taken in through a single day, or even a single week, and natives can always find something new within the city’s many sights, attractions, and people. Of course, there are certainly must-see sights for first time visitors, which can make great memories even for those who have seen them multiple times. We here at eXtraordinary Tour Services are seasoned natives of the San Francisco Bay Area and would like to take the time to share our expertise in what a visitor should ensure to see while visiting San Francisco, whether it’s the first time or the tenth!
GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
One of the most visited San Francisco attractions, the striking vermillion Golden Gate is a clear symbol encapsulating not just SF, but California, and the entire USA (it was even declared one of the wonders of the modern world by the American Society of Civil Engineers). The 4,200-foot suspension bridge took four years to build, finishing production in 1937, and has a sidewalk for anyone to walk across most times of the day. The bridge gives a great view of not only the Pacific Ocean in the west, but of its connections to Marin County’s headlands and the stunning city landscape. Outside of traveling across it, you can also take it in from a variety of viewpoints, including the Golden Gate Overlook, Baker Beach, North Vista Point, and Land’s End Trail.
PALACE OF FINE ARTS
Originally built for the 1916 Panama Pacific Exposition, the Palace of Fine Arts has cemented itself as a long-standing free attraction within the Marina District. Despite needing retrofitting, and nearly being rebuilt in 1965, the building wasn’t without strength, as one of the only structures in its area to survive the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, despite only being designed to stand for a short period of time. Walk along the breathtaking outdoor paths, take in its intricate design, and bask in the great photo opportunities this attraction offers, whether its day or night!
FISHERMAN’S WHARF & PIER 39
The clear most popular and famous district in San Francisco, Fisherman’s Wharf is home to a variety of activities and attractions. Home to some of the area’s best seafood, one can easily sample it through the highly satisfying clam chowder in a bread bowl, or the area’s famous Dungeness Crabs. Aside from that, a wide variety of shops and upscale restaurants offer unique experiences of this coastal region. The Wharf has its charms, but also serves as a vantage point for those looking to embark on activities around SF, such as ferries to Alcatraz, Bay Cruises, the Maritime Museum, and Ghiradelli Square!
Within the wharf you’ll find the one and only Pier 39, which is home to many of the “fun” things for younger guests. Home to the 7D experience, the San Francisco Aquarium, free shows for kids, and a mirror maze, the pier is a clear choice for families in San Francisco. Should one need to take a break from the attractions, the pier has a wide variety of eateries and shops, including a candy shop with saltwater taffy! Just be sure to avoid the Sea Lions if you have food.
GOLDEN GATE PARK
Home to several beautiful gardens, Golden Gate Park is a 1000+ acre park that truly has it all. The California Academy of Sciences, The Conservatory of Flowers, Stow Lake, The de Young Museum of Fine Art, and The Botanical Gardens all call this manmade park their home. Simply stop by the welcome center near the Beach Chalet, and a map will guide you on a rewarding walk around the park.
THE PAINTED LADIES
Famously shown during the opening of “Full House”, San Francisco’s Painted Ladies remains an iconic sight of San Francisco, and one of the most popular spots within the city. Also known as the “Seven Sisters” the six identical Victorian homes in a row are commonly viewed at Alamo Square across the street. You cannot step inside them for a visit, but you can still take in the beauty of them, and the seventh sister from afar, and they are best viewed during sunset golden hour, where a glow is cast over the beautiful set of homes.
Located in the heart of downtown SF, Union Square offers a variety of fun things to do! Filled with galleries and amazing restaurants, its one of the most popular places to stay in the city through its many hotels and location, allowing visitors to easily explore all the city from its central point. It’s closely located to the Theatre District, Chinatown, and SOMA, showcasing museums that will please any history buff. The seasonal attractions of the area warrant multiple visits, as its Union Square Live runs through the summer, and its holiday decorations include an ice-skating rink!
One of the oldest and largest Chinese communities outside of Asia, San Francisco’s Chinatown spreads more than 24 square blocks, bordering Union Square, Nob Hill, and North Beach. It’s central location in the city gives it thousands of visitors each year, exceeding that of even the Golden Gate Bridge, with the greatest number of visitors stopping by Grant Avenue, home of the Dragon Gate. A big factor of Chinatown’s draw comes from its inexpensive shops, where even the thriftiest shoppers can find a good deal. Not to mention, its home to some of the finest Asian cuisine, particularly in its dim sum restaurants, as well as ancient temples and history museums. Whether you have an ethnic connection to the area, or just want to learn more about San Francisco’s Asian Community, there’s something for everyone here!
Home to the San Francisco Giants, Oracle Park is one of the best places to catch a Major League Baseball Game. Alongside of the games, baseball fans of all teams can explore the stadium through a very popular ballpark tour, which will show the luxury suites, clubhouse, and both dugouts, and a chance to see the field from the warning track and visitor’s indoor batting cage. Aside from sports, Oracle Park also hosts a handful of large concerts every year, as well as a SF Opera Simulcast for free. The stadium park sits along the San Francisco Bay, with a breathtaking view of the surrounding area, but the sea breeze keeps the area cool, making it a comfortable destination for afternoons and evenings in the city.
Gifted financially by the estate of local resident Lillie Hitchcock Coit, the often photographed, tall, skinny, cream-colored tower sits high on the hill near North Beach and Fisherman’s wharf. The historic tower features murals from the Public Works of Arts Project on its first level, showcasing life in San Francisco and California in the 1930s. At the top of the tower, one can view the entirety of San Francisco from the 360-degree view from the many windows all around it, making not only the Golden Gate Bridge visible, but cities on the other side of the Bay.
Tucked away in Fisherman Wharf, Ghiradelli Square’s old chocolate factory is now home to their own stores, as well as boutique shops and restaurants. The original factory was built in 1893, which remained the sole location the famous chocolates were made in until the interest in them increased, to which the expanded factory exists just outside of the city limits. These days, visitors can not only sample the chocolate, but enjoy art galleries, wine tasting, and the views of the San Francisco Bay.
And those are our recommendations! Whether the one reading is a first-time visitor, or a native of San Francisco, we hope that this list will either give ideas of where to go or bring back fond memories of previous trips. Those who wish to know more about the city, or want to experience it for themselves, could find a great opportunity through our San Francisco Sightseeing Tours! They can be checked out here: EXTRAORDINARY TOUR SERVICES Reservations (rezdy.com)