I’ve lived out in San Francisco for almost three years now. Three years in January to be exact! Which is crazy to me. I guess time flies when you’re having fun! But it’s true. I always tell people that moving out to San Francisco has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I’ve fallen in love with the city by the Bay.
(And I finally understand what Journey was talking about!)
If you’re planning a trip out to San Francisco soon, I have a few (less touristy) places that I think you should visit. They’re places that I keep going back to time and time again. And I feel as though they really give you a sense of this beautiful city.
9 Places To Check Out In San Francisco
Palace of Fine Arts
If you want to find yourself in a fairytale, head to the Palace of Fine Arts. You’ll find a gorgeous arched monument that was built in 1915. It was constructed around a lagoon that reflects the rotunda when you catch it at the right angle.
There’s green space around the lagoon, so it’s a great spot to bring a picnic on a sunny afternoon. Make sure to stroll along with walkway around the lagoon as well. It will take you right into the rotunda, which is in itself a beautiful architectural sight.
When I need to get out on a lazy afternoon, my favorite thing to do is walk down to Fort Point, all the way from my apartment. Which ends up being about an hour or so walk. You don’t have to do that, but you should certainly drive out to the West Bluff Picnic Area (out by Crissy Field). Then take the pathway out to Fort Point.
The views of the Golden Gate Bridge are amazing. And once you get out to the fort, you’ll be right under the bridge, which is kind of cool.
You can go into the fort (free of charge). So if you like history, definitely take some time to check out all the different areas of the fort. If history is not so much your thing, then head straight up to the top level. You’ll get panoramic views of the bay, and you might get lucky enough to watch a ship make its way into the bay from the sea. Watching it slowing cruise under the bridge is always kind of fun. It makes you wonder where in the world it’s coming from.
If you’re looking for a hike near the city, Land’s End is your place. Start at Sutro Bath, which is quite a site in itself. You can go down the steps and enjoy the ruins of what used to be a bathhouse. Built in 1896, it had seven saltwater swimming pools. Yes, seven!
Once you’re done exploring, take the Sutro Baths Upper Trail to the Lands End Trail. Then, ultimately, to the Coastal Trail. This easy hike will take you along the coast, with beautiful views and overlooks to stop and enjoy. Go as far as you like. Technically, you could make it all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. If you’re up for it!
On your way back to your car, stop in at Cliff House for a drink and great views of Ocean Beach. And of the ocean, of course.
Another place is that fun to explore (or really just drive through) is the Presidio. Once a military fort, it’s now mostly used as a park.
There are all kinds of hiking trails here, covered by a canopy of pine, cypress and eucalyptus trees. However, my favorite part of the Presidio is exploring the old batteries. They’re situated throughout the park.
This park is near my apartment and I absolutely adore it. I’ll go hear on warm afternoons to read a book, write or just sit and enjoy the weather.
People living in the neighbor bring their dogs here. So that’s another perk of the park if you’re a dog lover like myself. I even got to bring Milo, my friend’s dog, here one weekend while I was dogsitting him. He loved it, of course.
The other thing I love about this park: It has two beautiful water fountains. A large fountain in the center of the park, and a smaller one off to the side. The large fountain is a copy of Rome’s Fontana della Tartarughe (Fountain of the Turtles). Which makes a lot of sense now!
Apparently, I like batteries, because this is another one of my favorites places to visit. But not so much for exploring the battery as having an AMAZING view of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco.
Located just on the other side of the bridge, it might be easier to drive up there (there’s a parking lot). But I hear that it’s also kind of fun to bike across the bridge. You’ll have to bike up a steep hill to get up to Battery Spencer, but the view is worth it.
You’ll definitely want to go check out the charming little seaside town of Sausalito. To get there, you could drive you or bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. Which I hear is rather fun. But my favorite way of transportation is by ferry. You can great views of the bay, the city, and Alcatraz island.
So what can you do? You can shop, grab a bite to eat (try Sausalito Taco Shop) or get a drink (try Barrel House Tavern). You can grab an ice cream cone at Lappert’s Ice Cream on a hot day. Or just walk around. I mean, it does have a pretty nice view of San Francisco.
Walking the Embarcadaro on a warm day is one of the best things. You can enjoy sculpture gardens and a great view of the Bay Bridge. You stop at one of its many pop-up bars for a drink, or you can enjoy yummy food in the Ferry Building.
On Sunday’s there is a Farmer’s Market. So if you’re looking for fresh fruits, vegetables, or flowers, it’s the place to go.
Okay, so this is not a real option for you. I’m mentioning it, though, because I feel like I’ve been super fortunate. I have a beautiful view right from my apartment’s rooftop. Seriously, I go up there quite often. Sometimes to enjoy the sun on a warm day. But mostly to take photos of the amazing sunsets we get out here in San Francisco.
If you’re looking for something similar, the neighborhood of Nob Hill is the place to go. You could try Top of the Mark. Their cocktails are expensive, but it has amazing panoramic views of the city and the bay.
And if you’re into the touristy stuff (sometimes you gotta, right?), you should:
- Eat clam chowder eat Fisherman’s Wharf
- Take the ferry to Alcatraz Island
- Hop on one of the city trolleys (or one of the city tour buses)
- Go shopping in Union Square
- Spend the afternoon in Dolores Park
Let’s go places,
Have you been to San Francisco? What are some of your favorite places? Share with me in the comments section below.
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