Return to California

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge, © Can Stock Photo / upthebanner

San Francisco is located in central coastal California on San Francisco Bay.  It is best known for the Golden Gate Bridge and the traditional cable cars operating on its steep hillsides.  The city was founded in 1776 and the area has an urban population of more than 7 million.  The Ohlone were inhabiting the bay area when the Spanish arrived in 1769.  San Francisco experienced a population boom during the California Gold Rush of 1849 when the city became the arrival point for speculators from all over the world.  The 1906 San Francisco earthquake is among the worst natural disasters in US history.  The quake and the ensuing fires destroyed most of the city.  During the 1960s the Haight-Ashbury area was a well known destination for hippies.  Today San Francisco is a very liberal city and LGBT flags are displayed prominently in support of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender, especially along Castro Street.


The best time to visit San Francisco for good weather is the summer.  Its weather is a cool Mediterranean climate.  Highs in the summer are around 68F (20C) and lows are 55F (13C) with very little rainfall.  Winters highs are around 60F (16C) with a rainy season from November to March.  The rainy season starts in October and lasts past April, with average rainfall of about 4 inches / month during this period.  The catch phrase "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco" is often attributed to Mark Twain, but he never actually said it.



The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) makes access between San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and downtown a breeze.

Things to see and do in San Francisco:

  • Fisherman's Wharf - including nearby Pier 39,  the Alcatraz Ferry, the Martime National Historic Park, the Aquarium of the Bay, the Embarcadero waterfront street and the sea lions.  The earlier you arrive the fewer tourists there are to compete with for space.  The seafood doesn't get rave reivews here.

  • Ride a cable car - nothing beats the experience of hopping on and hanging out the side.  It's a chance for old timers to remember the days when cars didn't have seat belts and you moved about unrestricted.  Catch the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) from San Francisco International Airport and get off at the Powell Street Station, where you can connect with a cable car to Fisherman's Wharf.  Union Square and the theater district are a couple blocks from the Powell Street Station, for those who would rather shop instead.

  • Golden Gate Bridge - the Presidio at the south end of the bridge and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area at the north end with views back to the bridge and the city.

  • Lombard Street - drive or walk down Russian Hill on this twisting, turning one-way street.

  • the Transamerica Pyramid - the most photographed building in the city.

  • Alcatraz - Catch a ferry from Pier 33 to the island known as "the Rock", where Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly were incarcerated.  Today the penitentiary is closed and the site is a tourist attraction. 

  • The Painted Ladies - Victorian housing with a city view backdrop.  Easily viewed from Alamo Square Park.

  • Chinatown - the largest of its kind. 

  • North Beach - for Italian food, the Saints Peter & Paul Church and the Coit Tower with its murals and its city views.  Then descend all 400 steps of the Stairs of Telegraph Hill and watch for wild parrots on the way down.

  • Visit the famous hills of San Francisco - the mansions of Nob Hill, the older downtown area on Russian Hill, the wealthy district of Pacific Heights, the Stairs of Telegraph Hill, the city views from Twin Peaks and the cross on top of Mount Davidson.

San Francisco cable car

© Can Stock Photo / mato020

Things to see and do near San Francisco:

  • Take a day trip to the Muir Woods for its Redwoods

  • Visit Sausilito, Monterey & the coast at Carmel.

  • Tour the wine country of Sonoma & the Napa Valley.

  • Take a 50 mile circle tour of the bridges - Golden Gate, Richmond - San Rafael Bridge and the Bay Bridge.  Add on the lengthy San Mateo bridge at the south end of the bay for even more miles.

  • Take a multi-day trip to Yosemite.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco Tours:

Hotels in San Francisco:

Three Star Accommodation Recommendations:

Four Star Accommodation Recommendations:

Five Star Accommodation Recommendations:

San Francisco International Airport - (SFO) - includes list of hotels with a shuttle.

View San Francisco map

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