Are you Going to San Francisco?

A group of friends and I experienced all of the sights and sounds of San Francisco during a week-long visit last summer.


Are you Going to San Francisco?

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by lilangel on March 31, 2007

During our week-long adventure in San Francisco, my friends and I visited many attractions including Lombard Street, Alcatraz, Golden Gate State Park, Fisherman's Wharf, and Coit Tower. We also experienced surrounding areas such as Sausalito, Muir Woods, and Yosemite National Park.

Because of its diversity and history, San Francisco is a wonderful place to visit. During the same trip we were able to see everything from the beautiful natural formations of Yosemite to one of the most famous chocolate factories in the United States. These variations made each day of our trip new and interesting.

As we journeyed around the area, my friends and I never ceased to be amazed by the beauty of the scenery that surrounded us. San Francisco is by far one of the prettiest cities I have ever visited. As we traveled from site to site, we kept our eyes peeled for views of the bay, the downtown skyline, Coit Tower, and Lombard Street that frequently appeared as we topped the famous hills of the area.${QuickSuggestions} I visited San Francisco in late July and found that a jacket, camera, and map were three things not to be caught without at any point in time. On my first day in the city, I arrived at the hotel and found that the weather was relatively warm. I decided not to bother with the hassel of carrying my jacket around. However, I found that within three hours of leaving the hotel I was returning to my room for both my jacket and a sweatshirt. The fog and wind associated with the bay created highly unpredictable weather patterns. I would suggest that travelers avoid the urge to leave the jacket behind even if it seems to be nice outside. By noon you might be sorry.

Also, because of the picturesque nature of the area, any traveler found without his/her camera will be very disappointed. During my week in San Francisco I took well over 300 pictures. It seemed I was always discovering some new "postcard" perfect shot to take. You never know when the fog will clear for that perfect shot of the Golden Gate or when you will find yourself in a park at the top of a hill with the perfect shot of the skyline.

Finally, it seems obvious that a map is needed when traveling in an unfamiliar area, however, I did forget mine one day. I found that the MUNI map was particularly helpful because of its inclusion of public transit information. On the day when I forgot my map at home I ended up relying on the kindness of the locals to direct me. At the end of the day, I accidentally walked several blocks in the wrong direction when a bus stop was located only two blocks in the opposite direction. ${BestWay} San Francisco is a large, metropolitan area with an excellent public transit system. This along with taxi services made getting around the area without the use of a rental car relatively easy.

Although many of our travel books indicated that walking would be a viable form of transportation, I found this to only be true while exploring within certain areas. Since San Francisco is noted for its hills, it came as no surprise that walking up (and sometimes down) these hills was at times challenging. Some areas such as Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, Golden Gate State Park, and Haight Ashbury are relatively flat and were easily navigated on foot. I would recommend using public transit or taxis to go between such areas and then walking around to explore within them.

In addition to being easy to use, the MUNI public transit system was also cost effective. Although my friends and I had planned to purchase a week-long pass to use during our trip, we were pleasantly surprised by our lack of need for this pass. During our trip the city sponsored two or three "Save the Air" days in which all public transit (including cable cars) was free to encourage the public's use of these services. We did not always know ahead of time that the trips would be free, however, so you may want to contact MUNI prior to your visit to ask if they have any of these days planned.

Another thing to remember when navigating San Francisco is that in addition to being a "can't miss" experience the cable cars can actually serve as a legitimate form of transportation. Lines can be long as the day goes on, so I would suggest riding the cars early (be sure to look toward the bay for a wonderful view) to go to planned destinations. The line originating at Ghiardelli Square takes you to the top of Russian Hill and Lombard Street while another line takes you to within three blocks of Chinatown. Although the cable cars can be cramped and slow, tourists who desire to ride them anyway can use them for a double purpose of transportation as well.

Lombard Street

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by lilangel on April 3, 2007

Located on Russian Hill, Lombard Street is well known as the "Crookedest Street in the World". The truth of this statement is sometimes questioned around the San Francisco area, but what is not questioned is that it is an experience not to be missed during your visit to the area. As the story goes (at least according to our tour guide), the hill was so steep that the safest (and quickest) way down it was to build a series of "hairpin" turns coming down this section.

The street is basically a one-block residential area descending Russian Hill in which the one-way street has been created with a series of seven "hair-pin" turns. In addition to the turns, the neighbors on this block have beautifully manicured flowers that bloom and are visible from multiple vantage points around the city. In your excitement to descend the hill, don't forget to look out at the city and the surrounding bay from the top. The view is breathtaking.

The best way to experience this attraction is actually to handle it twice. First, I would suggest taking the cable car line that originates at Ghiardelli Square to the top of the hill. This is a beautiful experience in and of itself and it can drop you directly at the top of Lombard Street. You can then look around at the top of the hill before meandering your way down the steps to the bottom. Be sure to take pictures all the way. Once at the bottom there will likely be a crowd of tourists taking pictures and posing. Be careful not to step out in front of traffic while taking your "perfect" shot, however. The road at the bottom is relatively well traveled by both onlookers and locals. It is tempting to stand in the middle of the road to take your pictures, but it is definitely not advised.

After walking down the steps and taking all the pictures you desire, I would suggest hailing a taxi and having them drive you down the hill. This way you can actually experience what it is like to go down the hill in a vehicle. It will also give you your transportation to the next stop on your agenda. Also, and perhaps most importantly, it will keep you from having to walk back up the steps (as I did). The steep incline is not something most tourists are eager to tackle!
Lombard Street
Between Leavenworth and Hyde Streets on Russian Hill
San Francisco, California

Painted Ladies and Alamo Square

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by lilangel on April 3, 2007

One of the many recognizable features of San Francisco is the often mentioned Victorian style houses remaining in the city. Although many of these homes have been destroyed by Earthquakes and fires through the years, some do still remain. One such particularly picturesque row of Victorians has come to be known as the "Painted Ladies".

The "Painted Ladies" are comprised by a row of six well preserved Victorian houses located on Steiner Street across from Alamo Square park. These homes are often seen on postcards for the city and have been featured on television shows such as "Full House" and commercials for companies including Verizon.

In addition to the view of the houses themselves, the view of the city from Alamo Square is breathtaking. The park itself is located at the top of the hill. Standing at the top of the hill on a clear day, one can see from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Transamerica building. Also, be sure to walk over to Fulton Street (bordering the park to the North) to see a shot of City Hall straight down the hill.

One thing to know is, while most tourists refer to this row of houses as the "Painted Ladies", few locals were familiar with the term. When asked how to get to the "Painted Ladies" or to the "famous Victorians", many were unable to offer assistance. Because of this, it is particularly important that you know where you are going when looking for these houses.

One way to get there would be to ask a local or find your way by map to the Alamo Square park. If you get to this point, the "Painted Ladies" will be located on the street bordering the park to the East (toward the Transamerica Building). Several bus lines including the 5, 21, 22, and 24 offer service near the park. Because it is located in the same general area as Haight Ashbury and Golden Gate State Park, we visited it on the same day, taking the 5 from the park all the way to Steiner Street. This also put us in the park around sunset which was a nice way to view the sights.

Finally, upon exiting the park, head South or Southwest. I decided to "stroll" down the street toward the Northeast thinking I would just walk toward my hotel until I found a main road on which to catch a taxi. This turned out to not be a great idea. The areas surrounding the park to the Northeast are not the most desirable areas and very few taxis frequented the roads. I ended up walking somewhere around 20 blocks through these areas before I finally managed to find an available cab. As it turns out I was less than two blocks from main roads and bus stops if I had only traveled in the opposite direction (back toward Haight Street).
Painted Ladies/Alamo Square Park
710–720 Steiner Street
San Francisco, California

Crossing the Golden Gate

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by lilangel on April 3, 2007

Thoughts of San Francisco conjure up many images, but perhaps none come as quickly as that of the Golden Gate Bridge. There are many ways to visit the bridge, and it can be viewed from multiple locations around SF. However, the only true way to experience San Francisco's most famous landmark is on foot.

Upon arriving in San Francisco, we participated in a tour that drove across the bridge and viewed it from Vista Point. I've always heard about the infamous fog of San Francisco, but I never imagined what it was actually like. On the day of our tour the city was so foggy that we could barely see the top of the bridge even when we were standing on it. The most exciting part of this experience was hearing the fog horns on the bridge sound. The tour guide told us a few interesting facts about the bridge and gave us 10 to 15 minutes to look around. Everyone in my group was left feeling like they had yet to truly experience the Golden Gate.

After this inadequate journey to the bridge we decided that we would return and walk the 1.7 miles across the bridge on a clearer day. After a few days, our opportunity finally presented itself. To avoid doubling our walking distance by traveling on foot both directions, we caught a taxi to Vista Point and walked toward the city.

There is a toll involved with crossing the bridge and this cost is added to cab fare, making the charge a little more than what would typically be the case. However, it was only two to three dollars and did not deter us from choosing this transportation option.

After arriving at Vista Point, we started across the bridge. The walkway is well paved and easy to navigate. It is separated from traffic, but we did have to watch out for bicyclists and joggers.

As we walked, we were able to experience the famous red pillars and architectural designs up close and personally. We were also able to take numerous photos from all angles and marveled at multiple suicide hot line phones on the bridge to address the needs of people in distress. In addition to examining the intricacies of the bridge, we were able to see gorgeous views of the city and bay.

As we reached the end of the bridge, the walkway wound toward a gift shop. In the shop we found several interesting items of Golden Gate memorabilia. Next to the shop was a small park that included a statue of the bridge's architect and a floral recreation of the bridge. I also obtained my favorite picture of the bridge from this vantage point. Had we not walked the bridge, we would have missed all of these details.

The park is a little isolated, so you should bring a number for a cab in case you find no other options for traveling back into the city. Wear comfortable shoes and keep your camera focused!
Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco Bay
San Francisco, California

Yosemite in a Day By Motorcoach

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by lilangel on April 6, 2007

The highlight of my trip by far was our tour of Yosemite National Park. When we first booked the tour I was a little concerned about the length of the tour (14 hrs) and the amount of money it cost ($125). However, shortly after entering the park, all concerns melted away.

The morning began early with the Gray Line bus picking us up outside our hotel. We then traveled across the Bay Bridge, through Oakland, and then across the Central Valley to reach Yosemite. We stopped for Breakfast at a small, family owned store before continuing on toward the park. As we drove we also encountered wind generators (something a native Floridian seldom sees) and the California Aqueduct. Although the driver was a little "corny" at times, he was well informed and did have some interesting tidbits to add to the drive.

We arrived in the park around 11:30. Our first stop was the overlook featured in one of my pictures. This gave us an introduction to the rock formations and we were immediately in awe. After pausing to take pictures and pose, we reboarded the bus and headed to a visitor center near the base of Yosemite Falls.

At the visitor center we divided up and were given ~3 hrs to explore the area. My friends and I grabbed lunch at the nearby cafeteria. Burgers, pizza, salads, etc. were available for less than $10 and the food was reasonably tasty.

After lunch, we explored Yosemite Falls and the stream nearby. We were also free to take trams to other locations. We opted against this because of the limited time frame, but others on the tour used them with no problem.

Once we regrouped, we stopped briefly at 2 or 3 more locations for photographs and then headed out of the park. The trip back across the Central Valley was a little uncomfortable in late July. The temperatures were extremely hot and the A/C on the bus was no match. We paused briefly for a bite to eat on the way home and then headed back to SF. We arrived back at the hotel around 9pm that night.

The day was definitely long. The tour was pricey and our time in the park was limited. However, I would not trade that day for anything in the world. Yosemite is by far one of the most beautiful areas I've ever seen. Standing in the Valley is like standing in the middle of a 360 degree post card. Pictures and words do not do the park justice. One must truly experience it for his/herself.

More information is available on the tour at www.grayline.com or by phone at (415) 434-8687. If traveling on the tour, remember to bring plenty of film/memory space for your camera and a little spending money for food and souvenirs. Also try to dress in layers so that you can add or remove articles according to fluctuating temperatures. Finally, bring something to do to avoid boredom on the drive.
Yosemite National Park
Sierra Nevada
Yosemite National Park, California, 95389
(209) 372-0200

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