San Francisco — My Favorites

posted by Sharon Odegaard 35 Comments
San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco is one city I will never tire of visiting. It’s a city built on steep hills navigated by iconic clanging cable cars. The wharf offers a variety of seafood and goodies to tempt your appetite. A world landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge, stands guard across the inlet. And world class museums and parks ensure you will never be bored. San Francisco is a day’s drive from my home, so I have been there many times. I plan to go  back this December, when the twinkling lights and holiday decorations add to the magic. Here are my San Francisco favorites. Some are obvious choices and some may surprise you!

The Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge alone merits a visit to San Francisco. It opened in May, 1937 after taking 4 years to build. The roadway deck is held up by metal cables suspended from curving main cables draped over the two red metal pillars that give the bridge its recognizable outline. San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge

You can drive across the bridge, of course, but what’s really fun is to walk or ride a bike across. It’s the second largest suspension bridge in the United States, but it’s less than 3 miles, so you can bike across and either turn around and come back or continue on to the town of Sausilito. San Francisco, Golden Gate BridgeLanes on each side protect walkers and bikers from the traffic.

You can stop to admire the structure of bridge and marvel at the views. San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco, Golden Gate BridgeSan Francisco, Golden Gate BridgeWhen you drive quickly across, you may miss how massive this bridge is. The ladders and catwalks give a perspective of the size of these girders. It’s mind boggling to know that the bridge can sway as much as 28 feet to adapt to wind and weather. The Golden Gate Bridge is a marvel.San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco, Golden Gate BridgeCoit Tower

Coit Tower sits atop Telegraph Hill in San Francisco and can be seen from vantage points all over the city. It’s named for patron Lillie Hitchcock Coit, who left funds when she died in 1929 “for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city I have always loved.” The slender tower resulted, and it still stands, rising more than 200 feet from its base.  San Francisco, Coit Tower

From the base of the tower, the views of San Francisco include the bay and the city. Here’s the famous crooked, curving Lombard Street. San Francisco, Coit Tower And the Golden Gate Bridge!

San Francisco, Coit TowerInside Coit Tower, an elevator whisks you to the top for more panoramic sights. But first, enjoy the frescoes that decorate the entire circular ground floor. For years I passed these by, but on our last visit, we happened onto a tour about the art. The murals on the walls have a fascinating history. A year after Coit Tower was completed, in 1934, a group of artists was funded by the Public Works of Art Project, a forerunner of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Each of the scenes depicts life in California during the Depression. The artists painted an assigned subject in an assigned area. Scenes show different aspects of industry and commerce. The artists worked at the same time, side by side, day after day, until the murals were finished a few months later. The colorful results are historic and worth admiring.San Francisco, Coit Tower

San Francisco, Coit TowerOne reason I love visiting Coit Tower is that we discovered a “secret” stairway leading from the wharf area up to Telegraph Hill. The Filbert stairs wind through the backyards of residents, and the people keep gardens and benches for the enjoyment of all who wander here. It’s quite a climb, but so much fun. San Francisco, Filbert Steps

San Francisco, Filbert StepsSan Francisco, Filbert StepsThe Academy of Sciences Museum

The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is among the largest natural history museums in the U.S. With an aquarium, a rainforest, a swamp, and a planetarium, all under one roof, it’s a great place to spend a day. If you have kids or grandkids who take an interest in science, this is where you’ll want to head. Academy of Sciences, San Francisco


Academy of Sciences, San FranciscoAcademy of Sciences, San FranciscoAcademy of Sciences, San FranciscoThe Academy of Science is laid out in sections. The aquarium circles the bottom level. You wind up a spiral ramp into the rainforest. The swamp exhibit that features an albino crocodile named Claude. Yes, he is really alive. Academy of Sciences, San Francisco

Or you may prefer the colorful displays. Allow plenty of time to explore the facets of this science center. Academy of Sciences, San Francisco

The Cable Cars

What would a visit to San Francisco be without a ride on the noisy, careening cable cars? These are officially a “moving” National Historic Landmark. The cars first clanged their bells on the steep streets of this city in 1873. Andrew Hallidie began to build the cable car lines after he saw an accident that injured and killed horses that had been drawing carts on the rain-slicked hills. Hallidie thought up a better way for public transport. His idea proved to be a great one, as the cars are still running nearly 150 years later.  San Francisco Cable Cars

Today the city offers three lines of cable cars. You can ride the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde lines from the Union Square area down to Fisherman’s Wharf. The third line, California, runs the other direction (east-west) across the Powell lines. It also ends up at the wharf. Cable cars share the streets with autos, which can get interesting. San Francisco, Cable Cars

You can buy a ticket once you board ($7 a ride) or buy a pass for the number of days you’ll be visiting. I love to hop on and off these cars, so a pass made that easy. You’ll find me standing on the running board hanging onto a pole, but you can sit inside if you prefer. San Francisco cable car

Be sure to take a cable car at night to see San Francisco shine. There’s Coit Tower all lit up, with the Bay Bridge as a backdrop.San Francisco Cable Cars Coit Tower

The Cable Car Museum

San Francisco Cable CarsThat leads us to another favorite place of mine, and I think many visitors miss this one. Not only is this a museum, but you can see the huge cables that are running under the streets.  If you ride the cars, you’ll see how they operate. The cable running under the street never stops. It goes constantly at nine miles an hour. The gripman uses the pincher contraption to hook onto the cable and go.  Once the pinchers are disengaged, the car slows. Brakes help bring the cars to a stop.San Francisco Cable Cars

Once you get the idea of how the cars run, you’ll be astounded as you watch the cables. The screech is deafening but worth it. There is an inspector to make sure cables run as they should — a job I would not want to do.San Francisco Cable CarsSan Francisco Cable CarsSan Francisco Cable Cars

Fisherman’s Wharf

Fishermans Wharf San FranciscoYes, this is a touristy area of San Francisco, but there are a couple of reasons you’ll want to go anyway. Here you can look out over the bay and marina. Ghirardelli Square Fishermans Wharf San FranciscoTime your visit for sunset and it’s especially lovely.

And right near the wharf you’ll find Ghirardelli Square. This is the home of the first Ghirardelli Chocolate factory. Ghirardelli Square Fishermans Wharf San Francisco

You can observe the chocolate-making process from start to finish.

Ghirardelli Square Fishermans Wharf San FranciscoGhirardelli Square Fishermans Wharf San FranciscoAnd of course a chocolate sundae is a fine treat to finish off your day.

Ghirardelli Square Fishermans Wharf San FranciscoGhirardelli Square Fishermans Wharf San FranciscoSo there are some of my favorites in San Francisco. How about you? Have you been to San Francisco? What did you enjoy most?

PIN IT FOR LATER! San Francisco Favorites - Exploringrworld



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Lily at

Good to know about Filbert stairs! I have family in the Bay so I’ve been visiting for the last 15 years. Have you been to Land’s End? I also recently stopped by Twin Peaks for the first time too, it’s not much of a hike but I like the steps.

Tamar Strauss-Benjamin at

On my to see list!!

Villroses hage at

Love the iconic city and bridge! Went there back in 1979 🙂

Su-sieee! Mac at

Your photos are a love note to San Francisco, Sharon. I’m glad to say that I lived in San Francisco for 23 years, right after college, now a long time ago. Hard to believe. It was so exciting to live in and explore the City.

Marie-OR at

All the best of what is in essence a beautiful city. Sadly there are hidden issues here, as in so many cities these days, like Portland, but I have always loved the iconic images of San Francisco and would love to see them again! Your post was wonderful, and brought out all that amazing good!

Eileen Wise at

Hello, wonderful tour and photos of San Francisco. It is a gorgeous city, So much to see and do there. I have been there a few times and really enjoyed our visit. Happy Monday, enjoy your day and new week ahead!

Lady Fi at

Wonderful shots! So much to see and do.

Photo Cache at

Being a “local” there’s a handful in your list that I haven’t been to 🙂

Great coverage of the city that I love.

Fun60 at

I visited last year and would share your opinions on the top places to visit.


Wonderful shots, thanks for sharing

Johanna Bradley at

It’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit. 🙂 🙂

Sami at

Great post Sharon, hopefully I’ll visit this beautiful city one day.
Loved those murals, so, so pretty 🙂 Thanks for contributing.

Junieper2 at

Have been 3 times in last 4 years, and we still haven’t visited these points in San Fran! But we did visit the business district and eat genuine Greek food, and baklava, my fave dessert! In Holland are plenty of cable cars, so that’s not on my list. My wish for next time is a clear sky, so my images come out well! Thank you for your great post of San Fran for All Seasons! Have a good one:)

Cristina - Memories of the Pacific at

San Francisco stole my heart! I moved to the Bay Area in 2009 to work as an au-pair for a year and SF became my favorite city in the world, it will always hold a special place in my heart. The only place I haven’t visited is Coit tower, I never knew it had those beautiful painting inside.

Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid at

Coit Tower is one of my favourites too and on my last visit I went to the cable car museum which was really interesting. My favourite thing to do is to visit Alcatraz – that place is absolutely fascinating!

California Globetrotter at

I never thought about going up the Coit Tower! For those views over Lombard Street, I’d definitely go now!! Mentally noted for next time!! #FeetDoTravel

Angie (FeetDoTravel) at

I think Coit Tower would be one of my favourites, mainly because of the murals around here, and I love the story of how they all painted it together. We looked into going to San Fran when we are in Cali, so knew about a few of these places, but it’s great to get an insider’s perspective. Great post, pinned. #feetdotravel

Ericka @ A Quiet Girl's Musings... at

This is like an Encyclopedia Britannica of San Francisco things to do and see! Lovely photos, too! Fun and informative post!


Jenn | By Land and Sea at

Beautiful photos! Your post took me back to so many wonderful places in San Francisco. It is such a wonderful city and there’s so many great places to visit!!

Kimberly at

I’ve only ever seen the airport in San Fransisco, but I remember landing, seeing the Bay area, and thinking it was so beautiful. It is definitely on my list! I love the view of Lombard street from Coit Tower. So cool! Thanks for sharing! #TheWeeklyPostcard

Shona at

That ride over the Golden Gate to Sausalito has to be my most favourite thing to do in San Francisco although I’ve never been up Coit Tower. In fact, I didn’t know you could. I’d take those stairs too. These are perfect landmarks and adventures to get a good perspective of the whole city. Love your shot of Lombard street, perfect vantage point.

Lisa | Handmade in Israel at

The public art looks wonderful. I would love to climb that secret stairway! What was Coit Tower built for? Is it simply decorative?

Anna at

I´m never tired of traveling to San Francisco either, love the city sooooo much! I had no idea about the Coit Tower though: the views and frescoes are stunning! The Academy of Sciences Museum is also included to my travel bucket list from now on! Pinned for the future trips

beatravelling at

This is a US city I have not visited yet, but am eager to. Thinking it will suit me well, and by the looks of it, I might be very spot on 🙂 #wanderfulwednesday

Tanja/The Red Phone Box travels at

love your photos! I’d really like to visit SF #TheWeeklyPostcard

Urska | sliva at

Have never been to San Francisco, but heard from the first hand that, this is a must-visit city and you’re post proves that for sure! Love the cable cars and the Golden Gate Bridge photos.

Esther at

I simply love your photos. It’s been way too long since I was in SF and I immensely enjoyed myself!

Charlotte at

One of my absolute favorite cities too, just such a great atmosphere and lots of thigs to do. Great post and nice pictures. Tweeted

Mandy Power at

San Francisco is such a lovely place. We loved our trip there too. Plus, you have to take the time to visit wine country 🙂

Carol at

Beautiful photos Sharon – San Francisco is one of my favorite places

Anisa at

I love San Francisco too. I haven’t been to the Cable Car museum so I will have to check that out. I love Alcatraz, Chinatown, Golden Gate Park, and the MOMA. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

Emese at

I always considered San Francisco just another touristy city, but after reading your post, I want to go visit it. I’m sure it would be worth it. I’d love to climb the “secret stairway”; it seems like you can always find enough out-of-the-way places to not feel like a tourist. Thanks for sharing. #TheWeeklyPostcard, #FeetDoTravel

Jill at

It’s been way too long since I’ve visited San Francisco. I was there a few years ago but solely to visit a friend after a road trip around Northern California. Looks like it’s time to go again!

Jessi (Two Feet, One World) at

San Fran is very high on my list of places to see when I finally make it to the US! I would love to hop on and off the cable cars, and cycle out to see the Golden Gate bridge! #WanderfulWednesday


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