8 Must-See Attractions To Visit In San Francisco

When you think of California the first things that may come to mind are sun, sand, and warmth. That's what's typically depicted in movies and TV. Even in movies and shows that are shot in San Francisco come across as having warm temperatures and plenty of sun. So I admit I was surprised when I visited San Francisco a few years ago and found that sun and warmth aren't the norms. Even in the middle of summer.

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San Francisco is the most densely settled large city in the state of California and second in the United States after New York City. It also has beautiful rolling hills, cool summers, and lots of fog that rolls in from San Francisco Bay. This is why some of the city's nicknames include "The City by the Bay" and "Fog City."

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In addition to the cool summers and fog, San Francisco is also known for its several tourist attractions. Several of which I visited and enjoyed when I was there. Below is an alphabetical list of my eight must-see attractions when visiting San Francisco.

1. Alcatraz

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Alcatraz was probably one of the most interesting places I visited in San Francisco. Most likely because of the history surrounding it and I love learning historical facts. Alcatraz is one of the more popular paid attractions in San Francisco so I recommend planning for this one in advance.

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On the tour, I got to see several areas of the jail including the shower room, some offices, and several cells. Two cool features of the tour are they played the sound of the jail cells closing and you could go into one of the solitary cells. I opted to not go into the cell, it was too dark for me.

2. Chinatown

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I loved walking through the streets of Chinatown and seeing the sites. Street and building signs are in both Mandarin and English. You also hear both Mandarin and English spoken as you walk down the street. There are several shops to visit where you can get gifts for family and friends.

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As you'd expect there are also lots of Chinese restaurants to chose from if you'd like to eat lunch or dinner there. I ate at one of the restaurants, but I'm not sure how authentic the food was.

3. Dinner Cruise

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This is a great way to get a view of the city and San Francisco Bay. The cruise allowed for some great skyline pics. A few of my highlights from the cruise included seeing the fog rolling in during the beautiful sunset.

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4. Fisherman's Wharf

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This is the place to be. Fisherman's Wharf is a smorgasbord of things to do. There are shops, restaurants, it's where you go to get fishing charters, catch the bay cruises and land-side city tours.

Restaurants at the wharf range from seafood to chain restaurants such as Hard Rock Cafe and Applebees.

Other attractions you can find at Fisherman's Wharf include Madame Tussauds San Francisco, the Aquarium, Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum, and the sea lions.

5. Golden Gate Bridge

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This is a definite must-see. It's probably the most popular landmark and symbol of San Francisco. Some options for seeing the Golden Gate Bridge include walking across it, driving across it, or taking a cruise around the bay.

6. Golden Gate Park

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Golden Gate Park is a hidden gem in San Francisco. It's a three-mile park that has museums and themed gardens. There are botanical gardens, a rose garden, Japanese Tea gardens and several other types of gardens.
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If you want to get active during your visit you can play golf, rollerblade, rent bikes, go horseback riding, and more. Overall Golden Gate Park is a great place to people watch and enjoy the outdoors.

7. Lombard Street

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I just had to visit the most crooked street in America. It was crazy seeing cars slowly driving downhill going around the sharp curves on the one-way street. I walked down the street and made it down before the cars without even trying. That's how slowly you have to drive down the street.

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In addition to being the most crooked street, Lombard Street also has some of San Francisco's most expensive real estate.

8. Muir Woods Redwood Forest

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I just couldn't visit this part of California and not see the majestic redwood trees. Muir Woods is actually outside of the city on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, so you'll need some type of transportation either renting a car or doing a guided tour bus like I did.

When I stepped into the Forest it was so peaceful. Seeing those tall redwood trees was amazing. They are so tall you can't really see the tops just by looking up when your standing.

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Some tips for visiting San Francisco in the summer
  • Pack clothes that can be layered (e.g. jackets, long sleeve shirts, scarves, etc.)
  • Bring comfortable walking shoes
  • Stay walking distance to Union Square
  • Walk around the city instead of driving or taking public transportation
  • Get some pizza in Little Italy
  • Be prepared for the fog to stay around until late morning
  • If you have AAA get your AAA travel guide for San Francisco and ask if you can get a discount at paid attractions


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