It’s impossible to think of San Francisco without thinking of the Golden Gate Bridge. While it’s probably the most photographed spot in the city, there are many other iconic stops along the way in San Francisco. Whether you are on a road trip with your best friends, trying to find a small office space for work or are simply a tourist for a few weeks, San Francisco has so much to offer anyone and everyone. Keep your camera handy as here are 10 reasons I think tourists love to tour San Francisco. These are in no particular order and while you may know some, others you may not, but all should make you want to pack your bags and fly straight to San Francisco. While you’re in California, have you ever considered a West Coast road trip? Grab a car and let the wind blow through your hair as you experience life, even temporarily, as a Californian.
Golden Gate Bridge
Did you know that the Golden Gate Bridge was never planned out to be the current signature color of “international orange”? The bridge was painted with primer to protect it from the elements. As a result, the consulting architect liked this color versus traditional bridge colors like black or grey.
TSG Tip: Luckily neither the Navy nor the Army Air Corps won their color choices which would have been black and yellow stripes or red and white stripes, respectively. Why? To make the bridge more noticeable by air.
I always dreamed of walking down the twisty, windy Lombard Street. This one block section of Lombard Street on Russian Hill has eight hairpin turns that aren’t for the faint of heart or new drivers. By installing the turns on this steep hill, it forced drivers to reduce their speed to a slow 5 mph, thereby reducing accidents.
Lombard Street, San Francisco, CA 94133
I mentioned in a previous post about stopping at Grace Cathedral and it’s worth another mention. Whether you visit for one of the two labyrinths, the stained glass windows, or the mosaics by Jan Henryk De Rosen, anyone fond of churches and cathedrals will fall in love with Grace Cathedral.
1100 California St, San Francisco, CA 94108
Palace of Fine Arts
Did you know that the Palace of Fine Arts was never intended to be a permanent structure in San Francisco? It was one of ten palaces built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition and while many of the others were demolished, it was so well loved and received that a Palace Preservation League was founded to save it. Built out of temporary materials like plaster, the building was demolished in 1964 and reconstructed out of more permanent materials. This destination is perfect for both tourists and residents looking for a place to relax in the wide open spaces near the water.
Palace of Fine Arts
3301 Lyon St, San Francisco, CA 94123
Did you know that San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in North America as well as home to the largest Chinese community outside of Asia? Covering 24 blocks, the main streets in Chinatown are Stockton Street and Grant Avenue.Did you know that the first ever fortune cookie was created in San Francisco? But it wasn't in Chinatown. Click To Tweet
TSG Tip: Did you know that the first ever fortune cookie was created in San Francisco? But it wasn’t in Chinatown. Rather, it was said to be created in Golden Gate Park’s Japanese Tea Garden. Originally said to be “fortune tea cakes” reflecting their Japanese origins, they were associated with Chinese-Americans around World War II.
TSG Tip 2: You can watch fortune cookies cooked fresh and created into their famous shapes right in front of you at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory in Chinatown. While there’s a fee to take photos, don’t let that dissuade you from entering and then buying one of many different kinds of cookies like chocolate, almond, or traditional.
Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory
56 Ross Alley, San Francisco, CA 94108
Whatever happened to predictability.
The milkman, the paperboy, evening tv?
How did I get to living here?
Somebody tell me please!
Did I get you in the “Full House” mood? I hope so and if I did then you probably recognize the images above from the opening credits of the TV show. This row of houses located opposite Alamo Square Park in San Francisco is referred to as the “painted ladies” because some of these modest homes built after the 1906 earthquake and were painted a dull gray after World War I and World War II. Only later in 1963 the houses were painted in their now familiar bright colors. This transformation movement turned houses into “painted ladies.”
*Fair warning*: Since busloads of tourists stop here, do NOT expect a great picture unencumbered by stragglers staring at the houses across the street.
Steiner St, San Francisco, CA 94117
San Francisco Cable Car Museum
Are you a total geek like me and sometimes just want to dive head first into history? Then you’ll enjoy a stop at the San Francisco Cable Car Museum where you can discover historical facts about cable cars and more. View old cars once in use dating back to their first run in 1873 and see the cable car power house, which still drives the cables and allows those famous San Francisco cable cars to run across the city. Once powered by steam, today they run off the energy created from four very loud and powerful 510 horsepower engines.
San Francisco Cable Car Museum
1201 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108
Ghirardelli SquareGo for the chocolate, shopping, and the views, but really -- go for the chocolate.Click To Tweet
Chocolate lovers out there, I have found Ghirardelli Square and there is chocolate in the air and it smells oh so good. Located near Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square was once the headquarters of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. When it sold in the 1960’s, a San Francisco resident bought the land and created a restaurant and retail complex that still stands today. In 1982 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Maybe you’ll say you went for the chocolate, shopping, and the views. But really — go for the chocolate.
900 North Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109
Located a mere 1 1/4 miles offshore from San Francisco, Alcatraz Island today stands as a National Historic Landmark, but served many years as a prison.
Whether viewed from the water as in the first picture or walking over to Fisherman’s Wharf as you see here, this island is rich in history and stories from its inhabitants. Most noteworthy were people like Al Capone or Boston’s infamous Whitey Bulger who served time at Alcatraz from 1959-1962 . While on the run for 16 years, did you know that Bulger visited Alcatraz as a tourist? He even brazenly had a souvenir photo taken? On a prior visit I made my way onto the island and through the prison where you can easily spend an entire day on a tour, checking out the collections, or enjoying the view.Did you know that while on the run for 16 years, Bulger visited Alcatraz as a tourist and even brazenly had a souvenir photo taken?Click To Tweet
If you visit the prison, make time to go through the gardens, which are lovingly cared for by volunteers alongside the National Park Service.
37.8267° N, 122.4233° W
San Francisco, CA 94122
In conclusion, since we opened with a bridge so it only seems fitting to close with a bridge. This is the Bay Bridge, also known as the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, which first opened in 1936. Containing one of the longest spans in the United States, this bridge connects San Francisco to Oakland. It measures 23,556′ feet in length and carries over 240,000 vehicles per day. If you’re walking along Fisherman’s Wharf and end up near Embarcardero and the Ferry Building, you can’t miss it. It’s definitely worth a stop to taken in the view and a picture.
With so much to see and do, why haven’t you made your plans to tour San Francisco yet?
Did you know that this post is a GPS enabled article on the GPSmyCity app? Click here to read more about it or here for the app article itself. Don’t forget to check the rest of the Travel Shop Girl website for more tips and tricks on various destinations around the globe.