Everything you need to know about visiting San Francisco.
No city in the world is quite like San Francisco. It rose from the ashes of the devastating 1906 Earthquake and Fire to host the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition with the gorgeous Palace of Fine Arts as a symbol of its rebirth. Today, “The City” attracts over 25 million visitors annually while cooling fog keeps temperatures mild.
Start your day by hopping on a cable car and riding it past bustling Union Square with world-class shopping, to the edge of San Francisco Bay. It’s then a short walk to the always-popular Pier 39, favored by tourists and a colony of sea lions. About a mile offshore is Alcatraz, a former federal penitentiary and a perennial hot ticket — be sure to book it in advance. The Exploratorium, a Science, Art and Human Perception Museum, is a few blocks south at Pier 15.
Vertigo, Bullitt, Dirty Harry movies, and TV’s The Streets of San Francisco, have kept The City in the public eye for decades. It’s built on 48 hills, including Russian Hill’s Lombard Street, which features eight exciting hairpin turns. A few blocks east is North Beach, with dozens of outdoor Italian restaurants like Tony’s Pizza Napoletana and Sotto Mare. One neighborhood over is the largest Chinatown in North America for outstanding dim sum, Mandarin and Szechwan cuisine.
San Francisco also houses 36 Michelin Star restaurants, including Atelier Crenn, Benu, and Quince. Trendy new restaurants include Hinoya Curry SF, Jaranita SF Peruvian Rotisserie, and The Tailor’s Son. Tartine Bakery with wood-fired breads and audacious pastries pays homage daily to The City’s sourdough bread legacy.
Another day, visit sprawling Golden Gate Park and a new attraction, the SkyStar Wheel.
The California Academy of Sciences offers an aquarium, planetarium, rainforest, and natural history museum. Ten-minutes by car north is the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, connecting SF to the North Bay. Park and walk the mile-long span for great city and bay views. Or drive across the longer Bay Bridge to reach the East Bay. Sports fans can catch a San Francisco Giants game at Oracle Park or Golden State Warriors at Chase Center.
History: Once a Spanish mission, San Francisco was defined by “The Gold Rush,” which created a population boom from 1,000 to 25,000 by December 1849, and the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, which left 200,000 homeless. The City grew over the decades as a financial, fashion, food, shipping, and tech center. It’s now home to nearly 875,000 people.
Featured Photo: Joonyeop Baek via Unsplash
Where to Stay in San Francisco
What to Do in San Francisco
San Francisco's Annual Events
JANUARY: Celebrating modern art, architecture, technology and design, FOG Design + Art offers dynamic exhibits, custom installations, pop-up galleries, presentations and discussions every year at Fort Mason.
FEBRUARY: The San Francisco Independent Film Festival (SF IndieFest) screens the best of independent films and videos from the Bay Area and beyond.
MARCH: One of San Francisco’s largest annual parades and one of the longest-running parades in the United States, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is celebrated with live music, dance, beverages and traditional Irish cuisine.
APRIL: The Cherry Blossom Festival is one of California’s most prominent celebrations of Asian traditions, spanning two consecutive weekends of performances, crafts, food, martial arts and exhibitions. A colorful parade is held starting at the Civic Center and ending in Japantown.
MAY: The Yerba Buena Gardens Festival encompasses nearly 100 artistic, cultural and community events from May through October in Yerba Buena Gardens. Events include music series, cultural festivals, dance performances, international music concerts, visual art exhibits, theater and spoken word performances.
JUNE: For more than 30 years, SFJAZZ presented the San Francisco Jazz Festival in venues around the Bay Area. But since 2013, when SFJAZZ Center opened, the festival is now concentrated in the Center and and offers more than 30 shows.
JULY: At the Renegade Craft Fair, the best makers of handmade goods from the Bay Area and beyond assemble to sell their wares. Come to get some and immerse yourself in indie-craft culture, including interactive workshops.
AUGUST: Chefs, wine and spirits are celebrated at Eat Drink SF, an interactive urban food and wine festival featuring local talent and regional ingredients in a series of tastings, classes, dinners and events.
SEPTEMBER: The San Francisco Symphony and Esa-Pekka Salonen open the orchestra’s regular season with an Opening Gala Concert.
OCTOBER: Fleet Week features Navy ship tours and exciting — and oftentimes scary — air shows that defy physics.
NOVEMBER: More than a dozen permanent and temporary eco-friendly light art installations transform San Francisco nights into a citywide gallery of light during Illuminate SF.
DECEMBER: SF Ballet — America’s oldest ballet company — presents Tchaikovsky’s beloved family classic, The Nutcracker, every year.
*Things change, so please check in with the organizers of these events for details.