- Choice of accommodations
- Hotel taxes
Frequently Asked Questions
Who should go?
See the majestic Golden Gate Bridge and the sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf.
History and Architecture Buffs
View Alcatraz, the Maritime Museum, and historic Victorian homes.
Scenic Drive Lovers
The wine producing valleys of Napa and Sonoma are just a day trip away, as is the Pacific Highway drive down to Monterey/Carmel. Taking the 49-mile scenic drive will take you to most of the city’s most beloved sights.
What's the climate like?
San Francisco is pleasant any time of year. The cool Pacific breezes keep the temperatures manageable during the prime summer tourist season. Autumn is one of the best times to visit, with clear days and little fog.
How do I get around town?
Transfers are not included with vacation packages to San Francisco; however, SuperShuttle transfers and private sedan and limousine transfers are available for purchase.
Buses go to just about every corner of the city and even across the bridges to Oakland and Marin. Fares are inexpensive and schedules are usually shown at bus stops. Exact change is required. If staying for a few days and planning on using the busses and cable cars a lot, get a Muni pass, sold as one-, three-, or seven-day passes.
Taxis can be hailed on the street or called for. Though not as prevalent as they are in cities like New York, taxis are still a good way to get around if you don’t want to take the bus.
One of the most recognizable symbols of the city is the charming cable car. Three lines crisscross the downtown area and Fisherman’s Wharf. The most scenic route is the Powell-Hyde line, which travels from the corner of Powell and Market, over Nob Hill and Russian Hill, and ends at the waterfront. Grab the bar and stand on the step for an unparalleled ride, view, and total enjoyment.
The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) runs from San Francisco, across the East Bay, to Oakland, Richmond, Concord, and Freemont via a high-speed rail. Trains run every 15-20 minutes. The line now extends all the way to the San Francisco airport. It’s a fabulous, low-cost, and easy way to get into the city, especially the Union Square area.
The Metro consists of below ground and above ground railcars. There are six lines — F, J, K, L, M, and N — running throughout the city, connecting with BART lines, and branching off to most sections of the city. The fare is the same as for the bus. Line F runs from Castro down to Fisherman’s Wharf on rejuvenated 1930s streetcars and offers another convenient way to get downtown.
Ferries run between the city and both Sausalito and Larkspur.
You really don’t need a car within the city of San Francisco, since the transportation options are numerous. Parking is also difficult; parking space is scarce and when you can find it, it’s often very expensive. However, renting a car for a day to cross the Golden Gate Bridge to explore Sausalito and on up to Muir Woods, or renting for a couple of days to go up to the Wine Country, is marvelous.
One of the best ways to see the city is on foot. Stop to look in the shops, marvel at the architecture, notice the flower boxes, and build up an appetite for another great meal. Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes since there are numerous hills, stairs, and cobblestones to maneuver.
What kind of dining options are available?
The dining options in San Francisco are endless and just as good as the list is long. Top-rated restaurants are in just about every section of the city, so you’ll never have to go far to enjoy a delicious meal. New restaurants are opening all the time, so ask the concierge for any recent openings that they would recommend. It’s also advisable to make reservations. Enjoy!
This place has it all — great food, an extensive and well-chosen wine list, and a foosball table! Southern Italian specialties score every time. Marina.
Simple restaurant with a communal table running down the center and café table with stools along one wall. Serves up an extensive list of tapas, intensely flavored and none more than $15. North Beach.
A tiny, tiny spot in the Commodore hotel where chef Leary, formerly of Rubicon, is cooking his heart out and serving up unbelievably creative cuisine with market-fresh ingredients and a daily-changing menu. Sutter Street.
- La Cumbre
A great, no-frills taqueria. Devour the grilled chicken, black bean, salsa, and sour cream combo. Mission.
One of the most comfortable settings in the city that welcomes both blue jeans and black tie to enjoy its array of offerings from citrus-glazed salmon to hamburgers. Jackson Square.
One of the city’s top dining destinations, but not because it fancy, but rather that it’s a jewel. The couple who runs the place both came from Chez Panisse. Enjoy super-seasonal Italian and French cooking. Pacific Heights.
- Slanted Door
Viewed as the best Vietnamese restaurant in the U.S. by some. The food and signature drinks are incredible and make sure to try the specialty, "shaking beef." Reservations advised. Embarcadero.
- Swan Oyster Depot
Landmark seafood shop that opened in 1912. The seafood is served cold, except the clam chowder, so dig in and enjoy the freshest oysters and crab legs in the city. Polk Street.
- Town Hall
Comforting regional foods, including gumbo from New Orleans, roasts form the heartland, and a fabulous and robust cioppino from San Franciso. South of Market (SOMA).
Where should I go shopping?
All the major department stores can be found here, mainly around Union Square, the city’s main shopping area. Here you’ll find Gump’s, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as many of the major fashion designer shops.
Other shopping areas include Chinatown for tourist souvenirs plus Chinese herbs, art, and jewelry; Union Street, between Fillmore Street and Van Ness Avenue, caters to an upper-middle-class crowd and is a great place to stroll and window shop; and Chestnut Street, just north of Union Street, caters to a younger market. Another area to try, farther out, is in Noe Valley, along 24th Street. For some of the best shopping in the city, head to Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights from Jackson to Sutter. Hayes Valley is home to stylish clothing boutiques, furniture stores, and art galleries, and is the perfect place for window-shopping — nearly every business is homegrown and unique (residents campaigned to prevent the arrival of Starbucks).
Outlet stores include hometown Esprit in Potrero Hill; Jeremy’s in South of Market (SOMA); Loehmann’s at Union Square; and Nordstrom Rack in SOMA.
A large and varied farmer’s market is held at the newly renovated Ferry Building on Fridays and Saturdays and features upscale food including organic herbs and unique baked goods.
When are the local events?
There always seems to be some sort of festival happening within the city. To get the latest on all the happenings, pick up a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle or the San Francisco Examiner. Both papers have a huge Sunday edition that includes an excellent preview of the following week’s events. Other good sources of current events are the free San Francisco Bay Guardian, Key, and San Francisco Guide.
Cherry Blossom Festival
Mid to late April. Arts and crafts and food stalls all throughout Japantown.
Cinco de Mayo Celebration
Sunday before May 5. A strong Latino community celebrates with bands, dancers, food, and parade in the Mission district.
Sunday of Memorial weekend. The Mission District’s largest annual event and one of the city’s favorites, attracting more than half a million spectators along the parade route.
Union Street Art Festival
First weekend in June. A celebration of art with more than 350 artists, food, music, and entertainment along Union Street, between Fillmore and Gough.
Fillmore Street Jazz Festival
First weekend in June. Live jazz, gourmet food, and arts and crafts along the upscale stretch of Fillmore Street.
San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Parade and Celebration
Last weekend in June. More than a million people show up to celebrate and support. The parade is on Sunday at 10:30am, traveling west along Market Street from Beale Street to Eighth Street.
A la Carte, A la Park
Labor Day weekend. More than 40 of the town’s most popular restaurants, 20 microbreweries, and 20 wineries offer up samples of their wares during this food festival in Golden Gate Park.
San Francisco Blues Festival
Late September. The largest outdoor blues festival on the West Coast with local and national bands playing throughout the three-day festival. Held on the grounds of Fort Mason.
Castro Street Fair
First Sunday in October. A celebration of life in San Francisco’s most famous gay neighborhood.
San Francisco Jazz Festival
Late October or early November. Two weeks of nightly entertainment and dozens of performers at jazz venues throughout the city.
What are my golf and recreation options?
San Francisco has some of the most beautiful municipal golf courses of any major metropolitan area. While the courses are challenging enough, the hard part is to keep your eye on the ball when the views from each tee seem to get more breathtakingly beautiful at each hole. You can reserve tee times, up to seven days in advance, at any of the city’s six, affordable public courses by calling 415-750-4653.
Fishing is quite popular in San Francisco. Salmon and halibut can be found outside the bay and striped bass and giant sturgeon can be found within. Salmon season is from March through October. From shore, locals can be found fishing at the Municipal Pier, Fisherman’s Wharf, Baker Beach, and Aquatic Park. Lake Merced is good for trout fishing. Licenses, permits, and bait are available.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Download tours on your iPod from the museum’s web site. Plus, you can save $2 off admission to the museum if you show you’ve downloaded one of its podcasts.
The de Young museum, re-opened in 2005, was rebuilt from the bottom up by famed architects Herzog & de Meuron, and features a nine-story spiraling tower with an observation room at the top. From here there are sweeping 360-degree views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, and the city. Entrance to the museum is $10, but the tower is free.
This popular attraction recently underwent its first major renovation since opening to the public in 1973. Improvements include digital audio tours, access to new areas, and exhibits of never-before-seen photos.
The Ferry Plaza market, with its outstanding variety of organic fruits and vegetables is one of the best farmers markets in the country and also offers breads, chocolates, and other prepared foods to take away or eat on the spot.
Good to Know:
|San Francisco International Airport
|July – October
|November – March
|San Francisco is in the Pacific Time Zone, two hours behind Central Time
|None needed for U.S. residents
|Tip 15-20% at restaurants and to taxi drivers.
|Casual, but highly fashionable.