San Francisco Attractions
Things to See & Do
Myriad attractions await you in
The City. Here are a few of the most outstanding places
and activities available in and around San Francisco. For
more, including beaches, hiking, and siteseeing outside
the city, go to the Outdoors page.
Visit Golden Gate Park
More than a thousand acres of lawn, trees,
gardens and museums, this is one of the world's great
urban parks, on a par with Central Park, Kew Gardens in
London and Vancouver's Stanley Park. What used to be
barren scrub land and sand dunes has been developed into
a lush oasis containing arboreta, botanical gardens and
rhododendron groves. Strybing Arboretum and Botanical
Garden alone contains more than 6,000 plant species. The
park's biological features also include the Conservatory
of Flowers, the Japanese Tea Garden, and a small herd of
bison which grazes near J.F. Kennedy Drive. Free guided
walking tours of the park are provided on weekends, May
Good news for visitors, five of the park's cultural
attractions now have a single admission ticket, giving a
30 percent savings over regular prices. The Culture Pass
will let you in to the Asian Art Museum, California
Academy of Sciences, the Conservatory of Flowers, the new
de Young Museum, and the Japanese Tea Garden. The park
lies between Fulton and Lincoln streets and can be
accessed via 19th Ave. (Hwy. 1), which runs through the
The island, first called Isla de los Alcatraces (Isle
of the Pelicans), was a refuge for migrating wildlife
before "The Rock" was developed as a fortification in
1858 and subsequently as a military prison and federal
penitentiary. On March 21, 1963 the last of the prisoners
left the island, and the jail was closed. The island is
now part of the federal Golden Gate parks system and is
operated by the National Park Service. Aside from the
ferry fee, access to the island is free. The tour takes
about two hours. Red & White Fleet boats leave at
45-minute intervals from Pier 41 on the Embarcadero.
Cruises begin daily at 9:30 am (415-546-2896).
Riding Cable Cars
The three cable car lines (declared a national
historic landmark) climb almost perpendicular hills, tear
around sharp corners -- at 9.5 miles per hour, a constant
speed for the underground cable which pulls the cars --
and bob like a roller coaster down the hills to the bay.
Some riders hang from the outside rails; others seek
greater security inside.
The beloved cable car system was invented by British
engineer Andrew Hallidie and put into operation in 1873.
The cable car staff will tell you when to "hang on tight"
for a curve, and will tell you a lot more as they provide
their spiels on passing city attractions. Fares are $2,
$1 for seniors from 9 pm to midnight and 6 to 7 am. The
system runs from 6:30 am to 12:30 am.
The California Street line begins at the foot of
Market Street, runs through Chinatown and over Nob Hill,
ending at Van Ness Avenue. The Powell&endash;Hyde line
follows a wandering route from Powell & Market
streets, over Nob and Russian hills to Victorian Square
next to Aquatic Park. The Powell-Mason line also
terminates at Powell & Market and climbs up Nob Hill
and then descends to Bay Street near Fisherman's Wharf.
Go to a Zoo
The San Francisco Zoo, Sloat Boulevard at 47th
Avenue, is a major zoo with many animal exhibits.
Highlights include the Lion House, with feedings at 2
p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; Meercat and prairie dog exhibits,
The Lipman Family Lemur Forest; and a Latin American
exhibit -- "Puente al Sur" -- featuring a tapir and giant
anteaters. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For
information, call 415-753-7080.
The Oakland Zoo, in Knowland Park, 9777 Golf
Links Road, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. More
than 380 species of aninals are on exhibit, including
African elephant and lion habitats, and rainforest
islands. For information, call 510-632-9525.
The big attraction for contemporary art lovers
is the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art at
151 Third Street, fondly dubbed SFMOMA.
This striking building houses a permanent
collection of more than 4,000 paintings, drawings and
sculptures&emdash;all from the 20th century, focusing on
abstract expressionism and several other major schools.
The museum's photography collection exceeds 8,000
photographs, the works of such renowned picture takers as
Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. The
futuristic building is located two blocks south of Market
Street in the area known as Yerba Buena Gardens,
near the city's convention center with theaters,
additional arts facilities and park areas making this
formerly blighted downtown area one of the most appealing
and promising parts of the city.
Still the most imposing museum in San Francisco is the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in
Lincoln Park, an exact replica of the Parisian palace of
the same name. It has recently been renovated with
seismic retrofitting. The shining white structure holds
paintings, sculpture, tapestries, prints and drawings
from Europe, including one of the great collections of
Rodin works. Special exhibitions are regularly featured.
San Francisco is probably America's best city for
walking. Two areas of town provide wonderful strolling. A
walking tour of North Beach could start on the
Italian community's main drag, Columbus Avenue, walking
up the hill from Pacific Avenue toward the Coit Tower.
The sellers and Publishers Bookstore is at 261 Columbus.
Cafe Greco is one of North Beach's most popular
restaurants. Turning onto Union Street and walking
up-hill, turn onto Montgomery Street and climb Telegraph
Hill to Coit Tower.
Another great walk leads through Chinatown,
starting at the Chinatown Arch (on Grant near Bush). The
eight blocks of Grant Street lead through the middle of
this commercial area. A walk down California Street takes
you to St. Mary's Square. Turning onto Sacramento and
Commercial streets will lead you to other highlights. One
of the oldest Buddhist temples in the city is the Kong
Chow Temple, on the fourth floor at 855 Stockton Street.
Take a Ferry Cruise
One of the finest ways to spend a half day or even a
full day's excursion is to take the ferry which sails
between the ferry building on Embarcadero and the Marin
side of San Francisco Bay. Our favorite ferry destination
is Sausalito, a "Mediterranean" town just north of the
Golden Gate Bridge. This little community has developed a
collection of cafes, espresso bars and shops. However,
the main attraction is the constantly-changing view of
San Francisco from the ferry's decks.
San Francisco Guide:
Home | The
City | Hotels | Restaurants
Things to See &
Do | Outdoors
Home | HotelGuide | Car
Rentals | Airline
Destinations | Getaway