At 7 miles across, San Francisco isn’t a large city. In the space that it does have, though, it is jam-packed with monuments, parks and entertainment in greater concentration than practically anywhere else. If you’re in the city, here are ideas for 10 great things to do.
1. Use the cable car system to look around the city
San Francisco has three cable car lines along its sloping streets. While the system started out more than a century ago as a commuter transit system, it is mostly used by tourists today. The city’s cable cars are tram-like cars that are pulled along by cables under the street. They don’t run on streetcar technology. San Francisco has separate streetcar lines that run on the Embarcadero and on Market Street. Any one of these lines can give you a romantic ride around the city.
2. Take a day trip to Alcatraz, the island prison
Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay was originally built with a lighthouse, a military prison, a federal prison and a military garrison. It is the federal prison that it was most famous for, holding some of the most feared criminals in history – Al Capone and The Bird Man, among others. Since the prison closed down more than 40 years ago, its legacy has been kept alive by the movies – The Rock and Escape from Alcatraz, among others. A million visitors come in each year for a feel for what was once the most notorious prison in the world.
3. Get in touch with gay America
San Francisco is the heart of the gay movement in America. In this city of America’s most liberal attitudes, you can learn a lot about every variation possible seen in modern sexuality and sexual orientation. Everywhere you look in San Francisco, you’ll find drag performances, gay performances, transvestite shows and other interesting insights into alternative cultures.
4. Experience a genuine speakeasy
During the Prohibition of the early 20s, illegal speakeasies were where people went for a surreptitious drink. Some of these establishments needed to resort to spy movie tactics to get customers in without getting caught. Coffee Dan’s, for instance, had a slide that customers used to access the underground bar area. The slide at Coffee Dan’s is still in use. Visiting one of these establishments can put you in touch with the colorful history of the city.
5. Visit the Twin Peaks
After Mount Davidson, the Twin Peaks at 920 feet offer the best views of the city. They are easy to go up, too. You can either take a cab or hike up. You’ll get to see local wildlife and enjoy walks and picnics.
6. For indoor activity, try the Exploratorium
On a rainy day, the Exploratorium is a great option for some indoor entertainment. Designed to be a great learning laboratory, it’s a great place to question the world around you and to find some answers. The 600 scientific exhibits on display entertain, explain and educate.
7. South of Market Street
Also called the SoMa, the South of Market neighborhood has seen some serious redevelopment over the past decade. Today, it has a huge assortment of restaurants, clubs and shopping centers. If you love antiques, the Grand Central Station Antiques center is a great destination to try. Alice Street Community Gardens can be good to relax in when you’re tired.
8. Musée Mecanique
San Francisco is a town that believes in staying in touch with its past. You can always find little reminders at every turn. The Musée Mecanique in the Fisherman’s Wharf District, for instance, is an amusement arcade of the kind you would have found a century ago – it’s a penny arcade with hundreds of coin-operated machines. Children are always fascinated by this museum.
9. Golden Gate Bridge and Park
The gigantic structures of the Golden Gate Bridge are always an impressive sight. It’s accessible to cars, cycles and walkers any time of the day. Once you’re done with the Golden Gate Bridge, the Golden Gate Park offers 1,000 acres of landscaped gardens, picnic areas, water bodies and museums.
10. The Muir Woods National Monument
If you always wanted to see a giant redwood tree up close, the Muir Woods National Monument is where you need to go. With its gigantic 350-foot redwood trees towering above you, this park helps you appreciate the grandeur of nature.
It’s easy to find a great deal of fun stuff to do around San Francisco’s neighborhoods. Once you get started, though, you won’t need a list for long – you’ll just love the idea of exploring the city, wherever your thoughts take you. What are your favorite things to do in San Francisco?