Last week, I had the opportunity to spend a day in San Francisco. While I've visited this city before in short increments, I had never taken much time to research all there is to do there. If you ever have the chance, I recommend you spend at least one day getting to know this city. If done right, you'll experience and understand the charm, beauty and buzz that makes this place so memorable.
I've put together a "beginner's guide" for a day in the city of San Francisco.
A Day in San Francisco: A FEST Travel Guide
1. Union Square - Begin your journey near Union Square. While Union Square isn't much of a sight in and of itself, it's the epicenter of San Francisco's shopping district and it's a nice central location to start your day. Nearby parking structures offer all-day parking for a flat rate of $10 or, you can park in the Union Square Parking Garage which charges a daily maximum of $34.
2. Chinatown - Dragon Gate (the entrance to Chinatown at Grant Ave. & Bush St.) is about two blocks from Union Square so get your blood pumping and take in the city with a quick walk by heading North on Grant Ave until you hit Dragon Gate. Chinatown is such a beautiful place in my opinion. The further you walk down Grant, the more you feel like you're in another country. Step into any eatery that smells good and grab some Bao or Dim Sum.
3. Trolley Ride - Once you've filled up on Dim Sum, head back toward Union Square to the corner of Powell St. & O'Farrell St. Find the cable car stop on the Southeast corner and hop on the next trolley that comes by. (HINT: Catching the cable car at this location could save you boatloads of time. Two blocks down is the official "start" of the cable car line and way too many people wait in line for way too long to begin their journey. By catching the car two blocks up, you could save yourself up to an hour.) Trolley fare is $6 for a one-way ticket, $12 for round-trip, or $14 for all-day access.
4. Lombard Street - Here you have a choice. You can take the "easy" way and board the "Powell-Mason" car, but you'll miss the fun of walking down the craziness that is Lombard St. Or you can board the "Powell-Hyde" car and you can experience the joy of watching cars make their way down one of the steepest hills that ever existed in a major Metropolis.
5. Coit Tower - Continue your journey West on Lombard Street until you hit Powell, then head South until you reach Washington Square. From here, you will see Telegraph Hill and signs directing you to Coit Tower. Coit Tower offers amazing views of both the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate bridge. It's not to be missed.
6. Pier 39 - After gazing at the amazing San Francisco views, come back down to sea level and make your way to the famous and fun (albeit very touristy) Pier 39. My favorite part about Pier 39 is definitely the sea lions. On the "Golden Gate" side of the pier, there is a big colony of sea lions who gather on the docks and spend their time "arguing" over their territory. It's noisy and funny and wonderful. At this point, you'll probably be hungry so grab some clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, an inexpensive yet classic San Francisco meal, at Boudin Sourdough Bakery & Cafe.
7. Ghirardelli Square - Once you've fueled up on clams, continue your walk down the "Embarcadero" until you hit Ghirardelli Square. This is where your day will end with a bit of magic when you top it off with the most amazing hot fudge sundae at the original Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop.
8. Trolley Ride Home - Ghirardelli Square also marks the start of the cable car line back to Union Square. Catch the trolley back to where you started and soak in the magic of the city. (If you're feeling extra crazy, hop off the cable car at Washington Street and make your way over to Bob's Donut & Pastry Shop to top the night off with a donut the size of your face. (Literally.) Or you can save it for the next morning.
All photos c/o FEST