San Francisco may only stretch across 7 miles, but it's packed with an assortment of activities that are sure to please outdoorsy types, foodies and curious wanderers of all ages. It's a great place to enjoy different type of vibe from the rest of the country and dont be shy to pack your little ones and include them in the process of planing your San Francisco adventure. The Golden Gate Bridge is a must-see, while a visit to Alcatraz Island to tour the infamous and now closed federal prison should also be high on your list. Instead of spending all your time around the touristy Fisherman's Wharf, you can discover a more authentic side of San Francisco by strolling through the diverse Mission District or the vibrant Castro. And whether it's climbing to the top of Twin Peaks or sauntering through Golden Gate Park, active types and nature lovers will find plenty to love and do.
#1 GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
The Golden Gate Bridge's vaulting, orange arches amidst the rocky seascape of the San Francisco Bay have made it the West Coast's most enduring symbol and the city's most popular tourist attraction. The bridge's name, "Golden Gate," actually refers to the body of water it spans (the Golden Gate Strait that connects the Pacific Ocean with the San Francisco Bay) along with the brilliant reflection of sun it casts upon the bay's inlet — just west of the bridge. Visitors say this classic landmark is an awe-inspiring sight no matter how you decide to enjoy it. "Whether you want to look at it from afar, ride across it in a car, walk or bike across it — take it in from all of the vantage points," said one TripAdvisor user. The bridge is accessible all day every day by bus, car, bicycle or on foot. If you drive, parking is convenient (but limited) and accessible on both the north and south ends of the bridge. The Northeast Side Parking Lot is free up to four hours, while the Southeast Side Visitor Parking Lot costs about $1 an hour. Souvenir shops and public restrooms also lie on either side of the bridge.
#2 PIER 39
One of San Francisco's premiere attractions, Pier 39 boasts shops, restaurants, and enough activities to keep you busy for hours. Pier 39 is also famous for its colony of sea lions, some of which stay here all year. Great place to bring your kids, pets or just enjoy time with your loved ones. You can find out more about the Pier and it's upcoming activities here: http://www.pier39.com/ !
#3 FISHERMEN'S WHARF
Fisherman's Wharf is so touristy that some travelers might prefer other more authentic San Francisco attractions. This waterfront neighborhood and tourist attraction houses several sea food restaurants (go for the clam chowder) and it is located in walking distance from the Pier 39. Fisherman's Wharf is also where you can catch a ferry to nearby Alcatraz, and the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory isn't too far either. Many travelers recommend visiting Fisherman's Wharf for a few hours and enjoy the sunset.
#4 UNION SQUARE
Situated north of SoMa and south of Chinatown, the Union Square neighborhood is a fun and funky rest stop for travelers and locals alike. And at its epicenter is the eclectic Union Square Park, an open space decorated with palm trees. The park is also home to loads of art installations, like the heart-shaped sculptures created by local artists for the Hearts in San Francisco project. Union Square is also popular spot with Broadway babies thanks to the nearby theater district. Union Square is also a shopaholic's delight: Nearby you'll find high-end stores like Prada and Tiffany & Co., among others. And when you've shopped until you've just about dropped, take a break at the park's Emporio Rulli Café, which features plenty of open-air seating. You can find parking in the garage directly underneath the park as well as throughout the neighborhood, but recent travelers advise against driving altogether. The roads around the Union Square area can be quite congested. Luckily, the BART rail system and the Muni-run buses and cable cars all have stops in the area.
#5 GOLDEN GATE PARK
This beautiful park has a number of different must-see gardens that allow you to enjoy a diverse array of different plant life. The park is perfect for both families and couples as well as pets. If you want to make your day truly unforgettable make sure to prepare a small picnic basket to go and enjoy the morning among the unique plant life and fresh air.
#6 JAPANESE TEA GARDEN
The Japanese Tea Garden is located inside the Golden Gate Park and you can give it a visit while spending your morning strolling around this huge patch of green wonder in the heart of San Francisco. Taking a stroll on a sunny day and seeking out the scores of semi-hidden bridges and Japanese-style buildings provides fun for adults and children alike. Japanese Tea Garden is the largest of its kind in the United States. Featuring plant life from China and Japan, the tea garden was built after the World's Fair in 1894, and has since become one of the most unique and visited attractions in the Bay Area. Entrance costs $8 daily for adults with discounts available for children and seniors; however, if you enter the garden before 10 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, admission is free. Although being the biggest garden of its kind in the US, don't expect to stroll the garden for hours (more like 20 min). Being that the price is high (if you take into account that you wont be alone and will finish with the garden relativity fast), take your time to actually sit at the venue located on the premises and drink some Japanese tea.
#7 GHIRARDELLI CHOCOLATE FACTORY/SQUARE
Ghirardelli Square is a convenient stop for chocolate and ice cream lovers. Ghiradelli Square is at the end of Fisherman's Wharf and looks incredible during the evening so you might as well leave it for last (dont go too late as the shop close around 7pm). The beautiful, historic Ghirardelli Square building is a large, former chocolate factory that has been reduced to little more than a chocolate store and eatery. While there are two other restaurants (Lori's Diner and McCormick & Kuleto's) the rest of the "square" (mall) is largely occupied by trinket stores. Ghiradelli chocolate is great stuff - high quality and delicious -- and widely available in retailers and groceries across America. Check out more about the location here: http://www.ghirardellisq.com/
San Francisco Chinatown is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia as well as the oldest Chinatown in North America. It is one of the top tourist attractions in San Francisco. Set aside couple of hours and enjoy a unique cultural adventure that you will never forget. It's a great place for little bargain shopping as well as trying out some great noodle dishes.