With forty neighborhoods making up San Francisco, there’s no doubt that a lot is going on.
Visiting Alcatraz is the Most Popular side trip when visiting San Fran.
As a result, it is frequently sold out. Book as far in advance as possible! There is a lot to do here besides just visiting the infamous federal penitentiary. The island is Part of the Golden Gate National Park and it’s visible from the Fisherman’s Wharf area. You must have a reservation to visit. Tickets are all inclusive with the ferry ride to/from the island.
There is a difference between Cable Cars and Trolley/Street Cars.
San Fran is famous for its cable car system used as a means of getting up and down the steep hillsides connecting to Fisherman’s Wharf down at the Bay, and it’s a fantastic way to get around the city as if you own the place. These cable cars (which you have definitely seen if you’ve ever watched the opening of the Full House TV Series) run on a metal track and are pulled along by an underground cable. The most interesting fact though, is that once the car arrives at the end of the line, they are turned around by hand so that they can go back in the other direction. Once the conductor moves the car into position on a rotating section of track, men manually rotate the piece of track 180 degrees, turning the car around. This is quite the process and these spots tend to draw a bit of a crowd.
The Powell & Hyde Street cable car is insanely popular to ride. I’m convinced that no one from San Fran is actually riding any of these, as the lines to ride look like an attraction at Walt Disney World. Be prepared to patiently wait in line if you plan to ride.
The street cars, unlike the cable cars, run via an overhead cable. Some of the historic street cars (trolleys) come from all over the world and are restored and re-purposed by the city. They are painted and spiffed up to look like they’ve never left their originating city, which makes for a great way to know where the cars are from – for example, cars originating from Milan are orange in color. Typically, the car also has the originating town written on it somewhere. Also, some advice, if you decide to ride a trolley, especially in a city with so many hills, make sure that you know where it is headed.
The redwood trees are astounding.
In Muir Woods National Monument, the redwoods stand at a towering 250 feet tall and are 500-800 years old. If you ever are in Northern California, I definitely recommend paying homage to Mother Nature by taking the quick 30 minute trip NW of the city, across the Golden Gate bridge to see them.
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is a series of protected parks and National Monuments covering over 80 thousand acres.
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is part of the National Park Service, but looks very different from other National Parks. Some of the many landmarks and areas that cover this massive square footage of terrain include Muir Woods, the (iconic) Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Golden Gate Park, Land’s End, and the Presidio – just to name a few!
The slot machine and the fortune cookie were both invented here.
The legend that I heard regarding the fortune cookie, is that a Japanese (not Chinese) immigrant who created the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, made fortune cookies for his supporters with a thank you note inside.
You can whale watch right from the Golden Gate Bridge.
Pick a spot on the 1.7 mile stretch of orange metal and hopefully you can spot a whale if the fog isn’t blocking your view. The bay is absolutely stunning.
The Ottis Redding song, “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”, was written from the houseboats in beautiful Sausalito.
I could sit on the dock of a bay for quite some time in beautiful Sausalito!
So many things to see and do in San Fran, so little time. Cities such as this take multiple trips to feel fully immersed in what’s going on. Not a bad place to feel the need to go back to, right? 🙂