Things to do in San Francisco

San Francisco sightseeing is a hugely rewarding experience and, if you enjoy walking between the sights, a physically demanding one, too. Few cities have hills as steep as this, but mercifully the cable cars are a practical and fun way to travel up and down the rises.

There are a number of world class sights: take a stroll around Golden Gate Park, while enjoying glimpses of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge; then catch a cable car up the steep hills to Chinatown, and the stunning Aquarium, before taking a long lunch at Fisherman's Wharf, one of the city's most popular attraction.

Perhaps the best of sightseeing in San Francisco is simply being in the city and experiencing its welcoming atmosphere while enjoying the charming architecture and splendid natural scenery. If you're planning a very full day of sightseeing, consider the Go San Francisco card, which provides a range of discounts and preferential access to attractions. Prices start from $78 per day.

Golden Gate Bridge photo

Golden Gate Bridge

The rust-coloured towers, graceful suspension and supportive cables of the Golden Gate Bridge make this famous symbol of San Francisco the most photographed bridge in the world, an…

Golden Gate Bridge

The rust-coloured towers, graceful suspension and supportive cables of the Golden Gate Bridge make this famous symbol of San Francisco the most photographed bridge in the world, and visible from almost any high point in the city, although it is often shrouded in rolling fog. Spanning the two-mile (3km) mouth of the bay, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time of its completion in 1937 and was built to withstand winds of more than 100 mph (161km per hour). During high winds it can sway up to 27 feet (8m) in each direction. One of the great engineering accomplishments of the 20th century, the bridge claims to have used enough wire in its construction to stretch around the earth several times. Walking across the bridge, under the towers that loom 65 storeys above the water, is one of the best ways to experience the immensity of the structure and affords beautiful views of the San Francisco skyline, the bay and its islands.

Address Highway 101 North

Website www.goldengatebridge.org

Transport

Golden Gate Transit buses towards Marin County and San Francisco Financial District and Civic Centre as well as Muni buses 28 and 76 stop at the bridge toll plaza.

Opens Access for pedestrians is on the east sidewalk during daylight hours only from sunrise to sunset (April to October 5am-9pm, November to March 5am-6:30pm). The bridge is open 24 hours for motorists.

Admission

$8 toll is collected from cars when driving south towards the city, the toll is reduced when carpooling.

Alcatraz photo

Alcatraz

Out in the middle of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz Island, or 'The Rock', is one of Golden Gate National Recreation Area's most popular destinations. The notorious escape-proof islan…

Alcatraz

Out in the middle of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz Island, or 'The Rock', is one of Golden Gate National Recreation Area's most popular destinations. The notorious escape-proof island with its dreaded maximum-security prison once held the likes of Al 'Scarface' Capone, George 'Machine Gun' Kelly and the 'Birdman of Alcatraz', Robert Stroud. With sheer cliffs surrounded by the icy waters of San Francisco Bay, known for its treacherous tides and currents, it was regarded as the perfect place to detain the country's most-wanted and dangerous criminals who were isolated in dark solitary confinement cells.

Visitors can explore the prison as well as learn about its history: from its discovery as a pelican nesting ground, its location as a military outpost, and the years between 1933 and 1963 as an off-limit federal penitentiary. It was also inhabited by Native Americans before being declared a Recreational Area and protected bird sanctuary. Thousands of tourists flock here each year and take the excellent self-guided audio tours that contain commentary from former guards and prisoners about life on the island and the notorious escape attempts. There is also a slide show and a tour of the island's ecology and bird life led by a park ranger. The view from the island looking across to San Francisco is fantastic as well.

Website www.alcatrazcruises.com

Transport

Official Alcatraz Cruises ferries depart throughout the day from the Embarcadero near the intersection of Bay Street - just a bit south east of Fisherman's Wharf.

Opens Ferries run from 8:45am. The last boat leaves the island at 6:40pm in summer (April to October) and 4:30pm in winter. Evening tours and combined Angel Island-Alcatraz Island tours are also available seasonally.

Admission

Admission to Alcatraz is free, but the charge for the ferry trip is $39.90 (adults) or $39.90 (children). Night tours: $47.30. Other concessions are available. Advance reservations are strongly recommended, especially in peak season.

Fisherman's Wharf photo

Fisherman's Wharf

Some people love the bustle of Fisherman's Wharf, while others make a conscious effort to steer well clear of it. For better or worse it is massively popular, attracting more visit…

Fisherman's Wharf

Some people love the bustle of Fisherman's Wharf, while others make a conscious effort to steer well clear of it. For better or worse it is massively popular, attracting more visitors than any other city sight, with Pier 39 the commercial tourist epicentre. The Wharf was once a fishing port with dozens of boats anchored here. Pier 45 is still used by fishermen in the early morning hours, and fish and seafood can be bought from the Fish Alley Market.

There are shops galore, fast food stands and overpriced bay-view restaurants as well as bars, markets, street performers, and an endless variety of activities for the whole family. It is also the gateway for several top attractions: trips to Alcatraz and other bay cruises leave from here; numerous museums include the Historic Ships Pier; and the USS Pampanito submarine that can be boarded from Pier 45. The entertaining colony of sea lions that reside on the floating docks at Pier 39 are one of the best attractions on the quay. The quirky Musée Mécanique is located nearby Pier 45, and houses the world's largest collection of vintage coin-operated mechanical wonders.

Address The Embarcadero

Website www.fishermanswharf.org

Transport

Bus 15, 30, 32, 42 or 82X goes to the wharf, or the Powell-Mason cable car line to the last stop.

North Beach photo

North Beach

Between Russian and Telegraph Hills, North Beach is San Francisco's 'Little Italy', that has long been the central hub for anyone with alternative inclinations. During the 1950s th…

North Beach

Between Russian and Telegraph Hills, North Beach is San Francisco's 'Little Italy', that has long been the central hub for anyone with alternative inclinations. During the 1950s the pleasure-seeking, non-conformist lifestyle of the Beat Generation and their rebellious literature contributed to the neighbourhood's unconventional character and tourists poured into the district for 'Beatnik Tours'. Two of the Beat-era landmarks are the Vesuvio bar, and the first paperback bookstore in the US and hangout of Beat-era writers, the City Lights Bookstore. The steep stairways on Telegraph Hill lead to one of the city's most distinctive landmarks, Coit Tower, a monument to the volunteer fire fighters of the city providing superb 360-degree views of the city and San Francisco Bay. Inside the round, stone-tower murals of the Great Depression depict different aspects of life in California during the 1930s.

The 'Crookedest Street in the World' winds down the steep eastern side of Russian Hill, the angle so steep that Lombard Street has to zigzag down with eight sharp turns to make any descent possible. The affluent residents inside their mansions with well-tended flowerbeds that flank the street bemoan the frequent traffic jams as thousands of visitors queue at the top and wait their turn to drive slowly down the tight curves, gathering at the bottom for photographic opportunities.

Golden Gate Park photo

Golden Gate Park

Of the many open green spaces in San Francisco, Golden Gate Park is the biggest and the loveliest stretching from The Haight to the Pacific Ocean, featuring gardens, lakes, numerou…

Golden Gate Park

Of the many open green spaces in San Francisco, Golden Gate Park is the biggest and the loveliest stretching from The Haight to the Pacific Ocean, featuring gardens, lakes, numerous sporting facilities and museums. On Sundays the main drive is closed to traffic and becomes the playground for joggers, cyclists, roller-bladers and strollers. The California Academy of Sciences includes the Natural History Museum, aquarium and planetarium. The serenity of the Japanese Tea Garden with its bridges, bonsai and fortune cookies is a favourite with tour groups. Opportunities for games and activities abound, with lawn bowling, disc golf, soccer, football, baseball and tennis all catered for. Although filled with people, the park never seems crowded and there is always a secluded space somewhere on the lawns or in the gardens. For a lively atmosphere, the Beach Chalet Brewery and Restaurant is a popular restaurant in Golden Gate Park. For a spookier site, try and seek out the reputed resident spirit, the Stow Lake Ghost.

Address The Golden Gate park spans over 1,000 acres and can be found along the Great Highway, Lincoln Way, Fulton Street and Stanyon Street in San Francisco.

Website www.golden-gate-park.com

Transport

Free shuttles are available to sites around the park from 9am-6pm on weekends and holidays.

Opens The Academy of Sciences is open Monday to Saturday 9:30am-5pm, and Sundays 11am-5pm. Japanese Tea Garden is open daily 9am-6pm from March to end October, and from November to end February from 9am to 4:45pm.

Admission

Park entrance is free. November to February adult tickets are $35.95 and from $25.95 to $30.95 for a child, with concessions available. Peak prices may apply during summer and holiday periods.

Cable Cars photo

Cable Cars

One of San Francisco's most endearing attractions is its network of 130-year-old cable cars, the only mobile National Historic Landmark in the country, and the world's only survivi…

Cable Cars

One of San Francisco's most endearing attractions is its network of 130-year-old cable cars, the only mobile National Historic Landmark in the country, and the world's only surviving system of cable cars. Many cities adopted the system, but all have since been replaced by more practical means of transport. The perpetuation of these clanking museum pieces was due to determination by the city's residents and today they remain at the heart of the city's character. It is an experience to ride up and down the steep gradients of the hills, hanging on while the brass bell clangs, the conductor jingles his coins and the familiar clanking of the cables pulls the car at a constant 9.5 miles (15km) per hour.

Many people have difficulty believing that these six-tonne cars can work without engines and the San Francisco Cable Car Museum affords visitors a closer look at the cable-winding machinery, and the 'home base' where cars are reeled in and out on 11 miles (17km) of steel cable. The museum also houses some interesting sights, including the first cable car (1873) and scale models of different types of cable cars that were once in use in the city. The idea of the cable car system was conceived by engineer Andrew Hallidie. After watching the uphill struggle of laden horse-drawn carts, he was determined to find a kinder and more efficient means of transportation, which he produced four years later.

Address 1201 Mason Street (Cable Car Barn and Powerhouse)

Website www.sfcablecar.com

Opens Daily from 10am-5pm (until 6pm from April to October).

Admission

$7 per ride, each way. Day passports for the cable cars, buses and streetcars are also available. Entrance to the museum is free.


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Wine Country photo

Wine Country

The Napa and Sonoma Valleys are at the heart of the Californian wine country, producing wines that are praised by connoisseurs worldwide, from a perfect climate of sunny days and c…

Wine Country

The Napa and Sonoma Valleys are at the heart of the Californian wine country, producing wines that are praised by connoisseurs worldwide, from a perfect climate of sunny days and cool nights. The area is a forerunner in the latest grape-growing techniques and wine making, and many individual growers, instead of selling their grapes to the larger wineries, are producing their own excellent boutique wines. The Napa Valley is the more commercial of the two, with more wineries, spas and tourist traffic, and a better selection of restaurants and hotels.

The valley also caters for classic wine country activities such as hot air ballooning or biking through the vineyards; the world-renowned wineries also offer informative tours, which provide the ultimate wine-country experience. Sonoma Valley is less pretentious and more beautiful in a rustic way, with smaller family-run cellars and fewer visitors. Although the Napa Valley is the USA's best-known wine region, Sonoma boasts more awards than their snobbish neighbour, producing intensely complex reds. The Napa Valley is a relatively compact region with more than 200 wineries offering tours and tasting. Most of the large wineries with their orderly rows of vineyards are situated along the main thoroughfare that stretches from San Francisco Bay to Calistoga in the north. But there is more to the valley than wine tasting.

The small resort town of Calistoga is famous for its mineral springs and mud baths, as well as the Old Faithful Geyser that shoots boiling water and steam 60 feet (18m) into the air every 40 minutes. Nearby is a Petrified Forest with redwoods, seashells and marine life that were turned to stone after volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount St Helena covered the area.

Website www.winecountry.com


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Yosemite National Park photo

Yosemite National Park

One of the country's premier national parks, Yosemite receives millions of visitors each year with more than four million people visiting the Yosemite Valley alone. It is home to t…

Yosemite National Park

One of the country's premier national parks, Yosemite receives millions of visitors each year with more than four million people visiting the Yosemite Valley alone. It is home to the biggest piece of exposed granite in the world, some of the highest waterfalls, and giant redwoods that are among the tallest and oldest trees on earth. The Yosemite Valley was formed by glacial action that carved away the softer rock creating the almost-vertical 3,000ft (914m) granite cliffs that line the seven-mile (11km) long valley floor.

The towering cliffs are streaked with waterfalls and the valley floor is covered in meadows, rivers and forests that are the habitat of black bears, deer and coyotes. It is one of the world's most dramatic geological sights with granite monoliths like the 3,600ft (1,097m) piece known as El Capitan, and the sheerest cliff in North America, the Half Dome. Climbers on the granite faces are almost invisible to the naked eye and at night pinpricks of light halfway up indicate where they have tied themselves in for the night, ready for the next day's climbing.

The most spectacular views of the valley are from Glacier Point, the top of a sheer cliff perched high above the valley, with magnificent vistas of Half Dome and the mountains of the High Sierra in the distance. There are numerous trails in the valley and many lead to several of the incredible waterfalls that are at their most dramatic after the spring snowmelt, including the 2,425ft (739m) Yosemite Falls and the Vernal Falls that drenches hikers in rainbow-coloured spray. A loop trail takes walkers to the hundreds of towering redwoods in Mariposa Grove, one over 2,700 years old.

Although the park is big enough to absorb the crowds, 95 percent of the tourist activity is concentrated within the valley, and outdoor enthusiasts need only walk a little further along the trails to find all the solitude and wilderness they desire. Above the valley are the large open fields of Tuolumne Meadows that offer fantastic scenery, uncrowded camping and a haven for hikers with hundreds of miles of trails. Yosemite Village is the largest developed region in the Yosemite Valley and holds the main visitor's centre, restaurants and shops as well as nearby hotel accommodation.

Website www.nps.gov/yose

Transport

Shuttle buses are available between all areas of the park. There are bus services into the park from Merced, Mariposa and nearby communities, and from the Fresno-Yosemite Airport 90 miles (145km) from the south entrance.

Opens The park is open all year round, 24-hours, but some roads may be closed from October to June due to snow, such as the Tioga, Glacier Point and Mariposa Grove Roads. Chains may be required on the other roads during winter. The Yosemite Village Visitor Center is open daily 8am-6pm (June to September) and until 5pm in winter.

Admission

$30 per vehicle or $15 per individual, valid for seven days.

Sausalito photo

Sausalito

Located at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito is a half hour ferry ride from Fisherman's Wharf. The panoramic view of San Francisco Bay is spectacular, and Sausalit…

Sausalito

Located at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito is a half hour ferry ride from Fisherman's Wharf. The panoramic view of San Francisco Bay is spectacular, and Sausalito's sunny, inviting outdoor cafés and small shops overlooking the city are simply charming. One of the chief attractions in Sausolito is the docks where wealthy San Francisco residents dock their yachts. Tourists can hire bikes from Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf and ride to Sausalito across the Golden Gate Bridge, have lunch and return on the ferry.

Website www.sausalito.com

Exploratorium photo

Exploratorium

Named San Francisco's best museum, the Exploratorium is a fun, quirky museum of science, art and human perception that features some 650 'please touch' exhibits. Located inside the…

Exploratorium

Named San Francisco's best museum, the Exploratorium is a fun, quirky museum of science, art and human perception that features some 650 'please touch' exhibits. Located inside the Palace of Fine Arts, many of its exhibits are created by visual and performing artists as well as scientists and educators. Exhibits such as the off-site Wave Organ, a unique sonic exhibit that is located on a nearby piece of land jutting out in the San Francisco Bay, can be found nowhere else in the world. It is one of San Francisco's most popular museums, drawing over 500,000 people each year, with attractions such as its three-dimensional pitch-black Tactile Dome inspiring many visitors to approach challenges in a very different way. The Exploratorium frequently has fun, interactive Thursday night events for adults.

Address Pier 15 (Embarcadero at Green St)

Website www.exploratorium.edu

Transport

The Exploratorium has convenient access to public transportation, accessible by Muni’s F Market streetcar stop and Muni bus lines 2, 6, 14, 21, 31, and metro rail lines J, K, L, M, T, N stop within walking distance, amongst other options.

Opens Open Tuesday to Sunday 10am-5pm. Closed Mondays, except Martin Luther King Day, President's Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Admission

$30 adult, $20 children, other concessions available.

Aquarium of the Bay photo

Aquarium of the Bay

The Aquarium of the Bay features 300 feet (91m) of crystal clear acrylic tunnels through which over 20,000 aquatic animals can be viewed. The aquarium offers visitors the opportuni…

Aquarium of the Bay

The Aquarium of the Bay features 300 feet (91m) of crystal clear acrylic tunnels through which over 20,000 aquatic animals can be viewed. The aquarium offers visitors the opportunity to come face-to-face with the Bay's largest predator, the seven-gill shark, as well as touch leopard sharks, skates, rays and sea stars. The Aquarium hosts nearly 600,000 visitors every year and provides free classes and tours to the Bay Area school children annually, making it a wonderful San Francisco attraction for families.

Address Pier 39, the Embarcadero and Beach Street.

Website www.aquariumofthebay.com

Opens Open daily 9am-8pm in summer, reduced hours in other seasons.

Admission

Adults $29.25, Children $19.25 Concessions available.

Alamo Square photo

Alamo Square

Anyone who has ever seen an episode of the 90s sitcom 'Full House' will know what Alamo Square looks like. It is a residential neighbourhood and park in San Francisco, frequented b…

Alamo Square

Anyone who has ever seen an episode of the 90s sitcom 'Full House' will know what Alamo Square looks like. It is a residential neighbourhood and park in San Francisco, frequented by tourists, neighbours and dog-owners. The park features a playground as well as a tennis court. A row of Victorian houses overlooks the park, known as the 'painted ladies' and this view is often shown in the foreground of panoramic pictures of the city. On a clear day, the Transamerica Pyramid building and the tops of the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge can be seen from the park's centre. Alamo Square is a great place to get out of the car and have a picnic after a bit of sightseeing in San Francisco.

Transport

Alamo Square is served by several Muni Bus lines including the 5, 21, 22, and 24.

Chinatown photo

Chinatown

A dragon-draped archway at the intersection of Bush and Grant streets marks the entrance to Chinatown in San Francisco, the oldest Chinatown in the United States and the largest Ch…

Chinatown

A dragon-draped archway at the intersection of Bush and Grant streets marks the entrance to Chinatown in San Francisco, the oldest Chinatown in the United States and the largest Chinatown outside of Asia. Chinatown draws more tourists than the Golden Gate Bridge with its streets teeming with fish and vegetable stalls, herbal shops, temples and eateries. There are some fantastic Chinese and dim sum restaurants such as Hunan Home's and R&G; while the shopping is nearly unlimited as lucky cats wave from every doorway. Museums include the Chinese Historical Society of America and Chinese Culture Center, making Chinatown an absolute must-see.

Address Intersection of Bush and Grant Streets

Lombard Street photo

Lombard Street

Known as the 'Crookedest Street in the world', Lombard Street features eight sharp hairpin turns. The road was designed in 1922 in order to reduce the 72 degree slope of the hill a…

Lombard Street

Known as the 'Crookedest Street in the world', Lombard Street features eight sharp hairpin turns. The road was designed in 1922 in order to reduce the 72 degree slope of the hill and make it more usable for cars as well as pedestrians. The speed limit is a mere 5mph (8km/h) on the crooked section, which is about a quarter of a mile (400m) long. The crooked section of the street is reserved for one-way traffic travelling downhill and is paved with red bricks. Tourists are known to literally queue to drive down this famous road, making it a definite must-see when visiting San Francisco.

Address Between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets, San Francisco

Website www.sftodo.com/lomabardcrookedstreet.html

Ripley's Believe it or Not! Museum photo

Ripley's Believe it or Not! Museum

Visitors at the Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Museum can be mystified and thrilled at the rare, the bizarre and the totally unexplained in the many interactive and state-of-the-art e…

Ripley's Believe it or Not! Museum

Visitors at the Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Museum can be mystified and thrilled at the rare, the bizarre and the totally unexplained in the many interactive and state-of-the-art exhibitions throughout the museum. The Marvelous Mirror Maze and the Impossible Laser Race are also worth the time. This is a must for families travelling with kids in San Francisco.

Address 175 Jefferson Street, San Francisco, CA 94133

Website www.ripleys.com/sanfrancisco

Opens Sunday to Thursday 10am-9pm; Friday and Saturday 10am-10pm.

Admission

$25 (adults); $19.84 (children).


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Oakland Zoo photo

Oakland Zoo

Boasting a menagerie of over 300 wonderful animals, the Oakland Zoo is a must for animal lovers and children. Highlights include a children's park, picnic area, wildlife theatre, c…

Oakland Zoo

Boasting a menagerie of over 300 wonderful animals, the Oakland Zoo is a must for animal lovers and children. Highlights include a children's park, picnic area, wildlife theatre, carousel and a miniature railway. The children's zoo allows kids the opportunity to get close to the animals and even pet them. There's also a small rides area, and a cafe and souvenir shop.

Address 9777 Golf Links Road, Oakland

Website www.oaklandzoo.org

Opens Open daily 10am-4pm.

Admission

$24 (adults); $20 (children). Children under 2 are free.

Randall Museum photo

Randall Museum

The Randall Museum, also known as the Science and Nature Museum, provides plenty of enjoyable and exciting learning opportunities and experiences for children of all ages. The muse…

Randall Museum

The Randall Museum, also known as the Science and Nature Museum, provides plenty of enjoyable and exciting learning opportunities and experiences for children of all ages. The museum also features animals, such as birds, mice and snakes and children can even get to handle these critters as part of the educational experience. Workshops and programmes are also available to children and adults.

Address 199 Museum Way , San Francisco, CA 94114

Website www.randallmuseum.org

Opens Open Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5pm. Closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Admission

Free

Children's Fairyland photo

Children's Fairyland

This ten-acre entertainment park on the shores of Lake Merritt features carousel rides, puppet shows, friendly animals and displays of story-book sets from well-loved characters li…

Children's Fairyland

This ten-acre entertainment park on the shores of Lake Merritt features carousel rides, puppet shows, friendly animals and displays of story-book sets from well-loved characters like Johnny Appleseed, Peter Rabbit and Alice in Wonderland. Children of all ages will love a trip to Children's Fairyland where they can let their imaginations run wild.

Address 699 Bellevue Avenue, Oakland

Website www.fairyland.org

Opens Winter: Friday to Sunday 10am-4pm; Spring and fall: Wednesday to Sunday 10am-4pm; Summer: Monday to Friday 10am-4pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm.

Admission

$12, babies under 12 months free

Ghirardelli Square photo

Ghirardelli Square

Just as you'll find gold at the end of the rainbow, there is surely chocolate at the end of the cable car line in San Francisco. Ghirardelli Square, located on Fisherman's Wharf, i…

Ghirardelli Square

Just as you'll find gold at the end of the rainbow, there is surely chocolate at the end of the cable car line in San Francisco. Ghirardelli Square, located on Fisherman's Wharf, is occupied by shops, restaurants, art galleries, and of course the famous Ghirardelli Chocolate Company.

Address 900 North Point Street

Website www.ghirardellisq.com

Opens Sunday to Thursday 10am-6pm. Friday and Saturday 10am-9pm.

Admission

Parking: first hour $6, each additional hour $8.

Coit Tower photo

Coit Tower

This 210 foot tall (64m) tower in North Beach is the best vantage point in San Francisco, and a great way for new arrivals to get their bearings. The art deco tower is the centrepi…

Coit Tower

This 210 foot tall (64m) tower in North Beach is the best vantage point in San Francisco, and a great way for new arrivals to get their bearings. The art deco tower is the centrepiece of Pioneer Park, and was a bequest of Lillie Hitchcock Coit with the intention of adding beauty to the city she has always loved. Visitors should come early as the 360 degree views and wonderful photo opportunities make this a must-visit site and it gets crowded during peak times. The hill is accessed via Lombard Street, itself a very popular attraction.

Address 1 Telegraph Hill Blvd (at Greenwich St)

Transport

Muni’s 39 Coit bus travels between Coit Tower and Fisherman’s Wharf.

Opens Daily 10am-5pm

Admission

$8 for adults and between $2 and $5 for children. Concessions available.

Haight Ashbury photo

Haight Ashbury

Legend has it that the 1960s hippy movement and resulting American counter-culture kicked off in the Haight Ashbury area. That was more than 50 years ago, but the bohemian atmosphe…

Haight Ashbury

Legend has it that the 1960s hippy movement and resulting American counter-culture kicked off in the Haight Ashbury area. That was more than 50 years ago, but the bohemian atmosphere of this area prevails, with plenty of shops selling vintage clothing, hemp based accessories, vinyl records and tie-dye shirts, alongside imaginative boutique shops. There are lots of bars and live music venues, particularly along famous Fillmore Street, and charming boutique hotels. The area is famous also for its 'painted lady' Victorian houses. The Haight, as it's commonly known, borders Golden Gate Park and is a great starting point from which to explore this natural treasure.

Union Square photo

Union Square

This central plaza is the modern face of San Francisco, surrounded by Macy's, Saks, Bloomingdale's, and the Levis flagship store, plus iconic hotels and quaint historical buildings…

Union Square

This central plaza is the modern face of San Francisco, surrounded by Macy's, Saks, Bloomingdale's, and the Levis flagship store, plus iconic hotels and quaint historical buildings. Along the west side, up the steep incline of Powell street, the famous cable cars run down to Fisherman's Wharf, while on the other side, Grant avenue leads directly into the heart of Chinatown. The Square is a natural meeting place and a popular departure point for walking and bus tours. You can also find the discount ticket booth here, and enjoy the café pavilion with outdoor seating. Note the gorgeous statue of Victory atop the central plinth. Each holiday season a giant Christmas tree is erected in Union Square, giving the area a festive atmosphere.

Website www.visitunionsquaresf.com

Transport

Muni buses, Muni metro, cable cars and BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) all run to Union Square.

San Francisco MOMA photo

San Francisco MOMA

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is one of the country's premier modern art centres, featuring important works of Diego Rivera, Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Clyfford St…

San Francisco MOMA

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is one of the country's premier modern art centres, featuring important works of Diego Rivera, Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, Henry Matisse, Paul Klee, Jeff Koons and iconic photography from Ansel Adams. With the recent donation of the 1,100-piece Fisher Collection, SFMOMA now ranks alongside the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate Modern in London as essential pilgrimage sites for lovers of 20th century art. The museum café and art shop are destinations in their own right, while the SFMOMA's iconic building, constructed in 1995, is a work of art in itself. Grab a free audio tour headset on the way in - the excellent commentary will greatly enhance your appreciation of the works.

Address 151 Third Street (between Mission and Howard)

Website www.sfmoma.org

Opens Friday to Tuesday 10 am-5 pm, Thursday 10 am-9 pm, closed Wednesday.

Admission

Adults $25, students $19, teens and children under 18 are free.

Asian Art Museum of San Francisco photo

Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

San Francisco has close ties with Asia, a legacy reflected in its sizeable Chinese and Japanese communities. The Asian Art Museum collection was funded and developed to honour this…

Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

San Francisco has close ties with Asia, a legacy reflected in its sizeable Chinese and Japanese communities. The Asian Art Museum collection was funded and developed to honour this heritage. Housed in the magnificent former San Francisco city library building, this is the largest museum in the western world dedicated to Asian art, with over 17,000 Asian art treasures drawn from 6,000 years of history. The museum is well known for its exceptional special exhibitions, with visiting collections representing art from all over Asia.

Address 200 Larkin Street

Website www.asianart.org

Opens Tuesday to Sunday 10am-5pm, closes 9pm Thursdays. Closed Mondays.

Admission

Adults: $15, children under 12 are free. Concessions available.

Muir Woods photo

Muir Woods

The closest remaining stand of Redwoods to San Francisco, Muir Woods National Monument is a great half-day excursion from the city to pay homage to these soaring giants of the fore…

Muir Woods

The closest remaining stand of Redwoods to San Francisco, Muir Woods National Monument is a great half-day excursion from the city to pay homage to these soaring giants of the forest. It's incredible to think that each tree grew from a seed no larger than that of a tomato's. Redwoods can grow to over 380 feet (115m), although Muir Woods' tallest tree is 258 feet (79m). The park itself is a haven for wildlife and there are numerous longer hikes departing from the shorter ring path that most visitors amble around.

Address Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, CA 94941-2696

Website www.nps.gov/muwo/index.htm

Opens Open every day 8am to sunset.

Admission

$10 adults, children under 15 free.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom photo

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Located in Vallejo, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is an animal theme park that offers wildlife experiences with a range of creatures. Visitors can feed dolphins, sea lions, seals or …

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Located in Vallejo, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is an animal theme park that offers wildlife experiences with a range of creatures. Visitors can feed dolphins, sea lions, seals or giraffes, or watch trained dolphins and elephants perform in shows. The park's animals include tigers, killer whales, camels, alligators, otters, flamingos, penguins, snapping turtles, sharks and more.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom also has dozens of rides ranging from the thrilling Medusa rollercoaster to the kid-friendly Seaport Carousel. Kids will enjoy meeting their favourite Looney Toons characters like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, while thrill-seeking teenagers will enjoy the more intense rides.

Address 1001 Fairgrounds Dr. SW Vallejo, CA 94589

Website www.sixflags.com/discoveryKingdom

Opens Opening hours vary by season, check the website for specific dates.

Admission

$65.99 adults, $45.99 children under 48 inches tall. Online discounts are available on the website.

Winchester Mystery House photo

Winchester Mystery House

One of the most bizarre attractions in northern California, the Winchester Mystery House was the residence of Sarah Winchester, widow of the inventor of the famous rifle. The house…

Winchester Mystery House

One of the most bizarre attractions in northern California, the Winchester Mystery House was the residence of Sarah Winchester, widow of the inventor of the famous rifle. The house was continuously under construction for nearly 40 years, and it is popularly believed to be haunted by the spirits of people killed by Winchester rifles, who drove her to keep adding and remodeling the mansion.

Whether or not it is haunted, the house is a strange and rambling collection of roughly 160 rooms, including 40 bedrooms, two ballrooms, 47 fireplaces and several secret passageways. Seemingly innocent doors and stairways lead nowhere, and there are superstitious touches including a preoccupation with the number 13, and recurring spiderweb motifs.

Tours of the Winchester Mystery House take roughly 1 hour and are offered daily. Special flashlight tours are offered every Halloween and on Friday the 13th. Children are not allowed on 'Behind the Scenes' and Grand Tours for safety reasons.

Address 525 South Winchester Boulevard, San Jose, CA 95128

Website www.winchestermysteryhouse.com

Opens Opening time is 9am year round, while closing time depends on the season and day of week. Check website for details.

Admission

Mansion tours start at $39 for adults, and $20 for children under 12.

Redwood National and State Park photo

Redwood National and State Park

Redwood National and State Park is home to the world-famous redwood trees that tower up to 379 feet (115m) in the air. Home to 45 percent of the remaining old-growth redwood forest…

Redwood National and State Park

Redwood National and State Park is home to the world-famous redwood trees that tower up to 379 feet (115m) in the air. Home to 45 percent of the remaining old-growth redwood forests in the world, the park is the best place to see the magnificent trees. Aside from the redwoods, the park has nearly 40 miles (64km) of wild coastline, as well as prairies and oak woodlands. The park has over 200 miles (322km) of hiking trails, and offers outdoor activities like horseback riding, kayaking, camping, mountain biking and bird watching.

Website www.nps.gov/redw

Opens Redwood National and State Parks is always open, while the visitors centre and campground's hours vary by season. Check the website or contact the visitors centre for specific dates.

Admission

Free

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