San Francisco, California is a stunning city. It is also known for being expensive. However, we found plenty of sights to see and fun things to do without breaking the bank.
San Francisco Bridge
The first stop for us was the iconic San Francisco Bay Bridge. Once you’ve been there you will know why they wrote songs about this city. This reddish orange bridge is beautiful especially with the backdrop of all the greenery.
One great view can be seen if you take the last exit (to your right) before you cross the bridge to Sausalito for a nice area to take photographs near the Welcome Center.
The views at Golden Gate View Point on the other side of the bridge is even better.
Address: Old Conzelman Rd, Mill Valley, CA 94941
Named after conservationist, John Muir, Muir Woods National Monument was my absolute favorite spot we visited in northern California. The Muir Woods is like a sanctuary in the city. Huge coastal redwood trees, hundreds of years old and taller than the Sequoias, this is an incredible area to hike. Towering over 200 feet, the trees remind us of how small we really are in the whole scheme of things. Also making them difficult to photograph.
The dirt paths are well kept and even though this place has thousands of visitors you can still find spots that will make you think you are the only one around. Most of these giant trees have been here for the past 600-800 years, pretty impressive when you can take a short 12 mile drive to the urban core of San Francisco.
See Alcatraz Island
I love history and Alcatraz is an interesting piece of history. Located on an island. the view of the city from the island is incredible. Definitely take the audio tour, without it you are just touring an old prison. With the audio tour you are transported back in time to the days when the prison was in use.
We bought tickets online 3 weeks in advance. Tickets sell out quickly and the lines are long if you wait in person you may not get a seat that day.
During the tour you will learn about the construction of the prison. They also talk about the acoustics of the prison and how a prisoner could hear the activities of the city from the prison. They also talk about the people who served time here. You can go inside the cell to imagine what it was like to be stuck here. If you enjoy history, you will find this tour interesting.
The wind on the island was unbelievable. To take the picture of the city view I had to hold on to the railing to not be blown over from the wind and they call Chicago the windy city? Go figure. The view of the city is beautiful from the island, much more impressive in person than it is in photographs.
Ride the Cable Cars
Riding the cable cars is just something you have to do if you come here, since it is synonymous with San Francisco. The lines are long, think Disneyland ride. It was fun and the views of the city were fantastic.
We caught the cable car near Ghiradelli Square. I found the terminology used for transportation confusing. What is generally considered a bus is called a trolley and what I call a trolley is called a cable car.
So if you want to take a ride on an authentic trolley ride that runs on the rails in the streets, this is considered a cable car.
The views from the cable car were lovely. We could even see Alcatraz Island.
Information: 1201 Mason St. at Washington. There are 4 cable car lines
Take a drive or walk down Lombard Street. Lombard Street has eight hairpin turns and is the most crookedest street in the world.
Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco is home to world famous chocolates and boutique shopping. We came for the chocolate and to sit by the water fountains. We walked from Fisherman’s Wharf and enjoyed walking up the steep hill to Ghiradelli’s Square
Information: 900 North Point Street at Larkin near Fisherman’s Wharf
Alamo Square – Painted Ladies
Have a picnic at Alamo Square with the a stunning backdrop. The famous row of Victorian houses often referred to as the “Painted Ladies” offers a quintessential skyline of San Francisco.
Pier 39 is San Francisco’s number one attraction – so expect crowds of people. At the pier there are two levels of shopping and bay view restaurants. You can ride the carousel and of course see the Sea Lions on the pier.
Phone: (415) 705-5500
Address: The Embarcadero at Beach Street
Day Trip to Napa Valley
While in San Francisco we took a day trip to Napa Valley. It ended up being a rainy day, but it was still beautiful to see all of the vineyards and tour some wineries.