Planning your first vacation to San Francisco? Good job.
This corner of Northern California is regarded as a cultural and commercial gem.
A city that’s got a little bit of everything – style, beauty, history, and culture.
Famed for its iconic Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco offers plenty of bucket list sights and sounds that you must tick off your list when visiting here for the first time.
Here are Things to See and Do for First-Time Visitors to San Francisco.
#1 See the Golden Gate Bridge with your own eyes
The majestic Golden Gate Bridge, with its vivid orange color, is an architectural masterpiece.
Spanning 1.7 miles and standing 746 feet in the air, it’s imposing without being garish. Ever wondered why orange was selected as the color for the bridge’s structure?
Architect Irving Morrow thought it would provide contrast for the ships passing beneath the bridge – and sure enough, he was right.
#2 Hop aboard a cable car
There is no more authentic mode of transport around San Francisco than its cable cars.
Due to the city’s geography, there are many steep hills and streets to negotiate and the cable cars provide welcome relief for your feet.
Some of the cable cars afford spectacular panoramic scenery across the city, particularly the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde cable lines, which give you a glimpse of Alcatraz Island – more on that shortly.
#3 Catch a 49ers game
Travelers fanatical about the sport will be interested to know that San Fran is home to no less than six major league sports teams.
The 49ers are the most iconic sporting franchise to come out of San Francisco. They were the first major league sports team to be founded here back in 1946 and enjoyed a rich vein of success in the 1980s and 90s, winning five Super Bowl championships.
The franchise has been rather less prolific since. Although their 2019 NFC conference championship has raised expectancy levels for 2020, with the 49ers rated third in the Super Bowl futures markets to win the Lombardi Trophy in February 2021.
#4 Experience the city’s hippie movement in Haight-Ashbury
Many people know of San Francisco because of its laid-back, free, and eclectic communities in the 1960s and early 70s.
In fact, San Fran was considered the hub of the hippie movement back then. There are still districts of the city that pay homage to this era today, notably the Haight-Ashbury area.
It’s a region that will stir the senses, with impressive architecture, fashion, music, and much more besides.
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#5 Sample the biggest Chinatown outside the Far East
Are you a fanatical foodie? If so, the chances are you’ll enjoy indulging in San Francisco’s Chinatown district.
The city’s Chinatown is the biggest Chinese community outside of Asia and the oldest in the US.
A stroll through Chinatown really does feel like you are exploring Chinese culture, with spookily authentic architecture, street markets, and street food vendors ready and waiting to provide you with fresh, tasty morsels to fuel your exploration.
#6 Sail across to Alcatraz Island
The story of Alcatraz, an ex-penitentiary, is one of San Francisco’s most fascinating.
The island has become a genuine landmark, with tourists flocking to the prison to learn more about some of its most dangerous inmates, most notably “Scarface” himself Al Capone.
Capone would serve four-and-a-half years in Alcatraz. Try to take a tour of Alcatraz Island while you are here.
You can get an audio tour narrated by former inmates and prison wardens or pre-book a guided tour.
#7 Devour some fresh seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf
San Francisco also has a proud, rich heritage with fishing. Fisherman’s Wharf is home to the city’s most picturesque and tranquil waterfront.
If you are someone that avoids processed foods at all costs, scale the wooden walkways, and step inside the Wharf’s popular seafood restaurants, serving up the catch of the day fresh on your plate.
Whether it’s oysters, razor clams, lobster, Bay shrimp cocktails, or crab, you are sure to have those taste buds tempted. Don’t forget, there is also a colony of sea lions located nearby too.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to peeling back the layers of San Francisco.
However, if you are only here a short time, the seven sights and sounds listed above should give you a flavor for life here.