Things to do in San Francisco are abundant and amazing. This beautiful, historic city has many hills, views of ocean and bay, incredible architecture, and an incredible food scene. See Part 1 , Part 3, and Part 4 of this series!
The Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District was one of 11 palaces built for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. I think the fair would have been a wonderful thing to see. Have you read West from Home, the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane’s time at the exposition? The Palace of Fine Arts has been renovated several times to preserve it. It served as the Exploratorium science museum for over 40 years. It’s a lovely, scenic spot. https://www.nps.gov/prsf/planyourvisit/palace-of-fine-arts.htm
Fisherman’s Wharf area is on the north side of town facing the Bay. Famous for the Italian fishermen and seafood spots, this working wharf area is also full of tourist attractions. I like to think of Nick and Nora Charles going down there to eat Italian seafood in After the Thin Man. You can get here on the Powell-Hyde cable car. It’s fun to watch the cable cars turn around, but be prepared for lots of crowds if you are traveling back towards Union Square this way.
Ghiradelli Square is the former chocolate factory and now has restaurants and shops. The Cannery at Del Monte Square and Pier 39 are other shopping areas. Some of the older restaurants include Alioto’s, Sabella & LaTorre, and No. 9 Fishermen’s Grotto. The Aquarium of the Bay is on Pier 39 and the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park has 6 ships to visit.
The Buena Vista Café is on the corner of Hyde and Beach at the end of the Powell-Hyde cable car line. This bar is full of atmosphere and it’s been a saloon since 1916. The story goes that the Irish Coffee drink was invented here in 1952. It’s touristy and incredibly crowded if a cruise ship is in port. However, I really enjoyed my visit there. Be prepared to share a table with other folks, that’s part of the fun. The Irish coffee is unlike any I’ve ever had. It is served in a goblet and the cream on top is more frothed than whipped, a little like an excellent cappuccino. The whiskey is Tullamore Dew. It would be easy to sit there all afternoon, watching the Bay, sipping Irish coffee, and snacking on fabulous sourdough bread and the café’s great breakfast items, nachos, or burgers.
The Tadich Grill is the oldest restaurant in California. Three Croatians started business as a Coffee Stand in 1849. The restaurant on California Street has lots of dark wood, mirrors, and white tablecloths. I love that you can order a whole poached artichoke as an appetizer. The menu features fresh seafood. It’s fun to try local specialties such as sand dabs, Dungeness crabs, and cioppino. Seafood and meats are grilled on mesquite charcoal. We liked it so much we went twice! Tadich Grill does not take reservations and there is no bar to wait at. You can be seated at the long counter, at tables in the front, or old-fashioned booths with doors if you have a larger party. http://www.tadichgrill.com/history.php
San Francisco’s Chinatown is oldest and largest in the US. The famous gate into Chinatown is at Grant and Bush. Have you ever seen Flower Drum Song? I love the parade through Chinatown. Old St. Mary’s cathedral was built in 1854 and is at California and Grant. The district has lots of shops, restaurants, and cultural sites. Dim sum and Peking duck are available all the time and you can find Thai, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese food too. http://www.sanfranciscochinatown.com/
Next time I go, I would love to visit the Exploratorium in its new location on the Embarcadero.
More on San Francisco in Part 1 and Part 3.
Map things to do in San Francisco
- Panama-Pacific International Exposition from The Virtual Museum of San Francisco
- Pier 39
- The Exploratorium interactive science museum
- West From Home by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Flower Drum Song (1961) from IMDb
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