San Francisco Travel Tips: 11 Things to Know Before You Go

Things YOU need to know before YOU go to San Francisco in California. San Francisco is the 4th most populated city in California and has a population of 800,000 people. San Francisco is known for year round fog, the golden gate bridge, cable cars, Victorian Houses, sweeping bay views, and of course Alcatraz. One of America’s most unique & distinctive cities.

2 – Weather

I refer to San Francisco as the foggy city.
Mark Twain’s famous quote: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”
The weather varies by hour, and by neighborhood. It could be 70 degrees and Sunny in one spot, and 50 degrees with pea-soup fog in the other.
September and October are the warmest and sunniest months.
Wear layers you can easily remove.

3 – Food:
Clam Chowder & Sourdough Bread
Seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf
Little Italy
Koi Palace by San Francisco Airport
Ferry Building for lot’s of local food.
Cowgirl creamery has good cheese.
Ghirardelli for chocolate and ice cream

4 – Hotels:
SF can be quite expensive
Weekends are often cheaper
I like Union Square. Most central, you can take the BART here. Cable car, street cars.
2nd choice: Embarcadero
I dont like fishermans wharf.. too touristy.
Definitely stay within the city.. dont be crossing the bay.

5 – Getting In:
3 Major Airports: SFO, OAK, SJC

SFO is 15 miles South of the city.
A strip of TARMAC surrounded by water.
The main airport, the major airlines all fly here.
Prone to weather delays (FOG)
Taxi or uber will cost about $60 and take between 25-60mins.
BART: $10 to Union Square and 35 mins. BART makes 4 stops in Downtown SF.

Oakland is 25 miles from SF, across the bay. Less foggy, so less delays. Good if you are visiting Napa. Lots of Southwest flights.

San Jose
60 miles south of SF. Good if you are visiting Santa Cruz, Monterey, or Carmel. You can do a one way rental car and return to SFO.

6 – Getting Around:
Cable Car: San Francisco classic from 1873. It’s amazing they still run these.

Best place to ride… on the outside! Want to stop… just yell out you want to stop!

7 – POPOS:
What’s a Popo? Privately owned public open spaces.
They come in the form of urban gardens, plazas, but the best ones are on rooftops.

Neither obvious nor clearly marked, POPOS are all over downtown San Francisco—and everyone is welcome

8 – Chinatown:
SF has the largest Chinatown outside of Asia. It’s also the oldest in North America. It is around one mile long by one and a half miles wide. Covers 24 square blocks. More than 100,000 people live in Chinatown. It’s the most densely populated neighborhood in the city and in fact the most densely population neighborhood in the US west of Manhattan.

It really is a city within the city. Chinatown has it’s own customs, languages, places of worship, social clubs, and identity.

Lots of great Dim sum joints, bakeries, tea shops, and this is where the American fortune cookie was invented.

More visitors come to Chinatown than the Golden Gate Bridge.

Portsmouth Square bustles with activity such as T’ai Chi and old men playing Chinese chess.

9 – Fisherman’s Wharf:
Probably the most touristy part of San Francisco, particularly because it’s next to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Alcatraz Tours leave from here. Book in advance. More about that in a bit.
Visit Boudin, Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory, and In-N-Out Burger.
They invested the Irish Coffee in the 1950’s at Buena Vista Cafe here.
And of course the Sea Lions
My favorite place is the arcade

10 – Alcatraz:
Probably the most famous prison in the US.
home to some of America’s most notorious criminals, Operated here from 1934 to 1963.

11 – Day Trips
Santa Cruz
Monterey / Carmel

3 nights in SF, 2 nights in Napa, 2 nights in Monterey/Santa Cruz, and maybe add a night or 2 in Silicon Valley if you are a tech nerd.

You might enjoy watching more of my travel videos from the San Francisco Bay Area in this playlist:

Santa Cruz Travel Guide:
Napa Travel Guide:


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