If you’re planning a trip to the West Coast, you absolutely have to visit San Francisco. If you’re lucky enough to be in town for a convention or a cruise you'll find a winning combination of great food, shopping, and culture. Don’t just hit up the big tourist destinations, either. Historical neighborhoods like the Mission District, Sunset District, and the Castro are full of charming cafes, boutiques, Spanish Revival buildings, and San Francisco’s “Painted Ladies,” dainty Victorian houses painted in bright colors. Once you get enough exercise, hop on San Francisco’s famous cable cars and head for one of these amazing activities.
Shopping in Union Square or Haight-Ashbury
San Francisco has world-class shopping in Union Square with tons of premier flagship stores and beauty salons, art galleries, and off-Broadway theaters. Book a play or a style in the salon! Union Square is eclectic and ritzy, just like San Francisco. But you should also head over to Haight-Ashbury, the main street for boutiques and independent shops in San Francisco that really represent San Francisco’s true hippie and retro styles. Just don’t let the fog and clouds fool you and slap on some sunscreen – the UV is very high, and a lot of tourists end up looking like lobsters.
Bike Golden Gate Park
Rent a bicycle (there are several bike shops adjacent to the park) and head into Golden Gate Park. There are lots of paths that wind their way through the fantastic landscape. Visit the lakes and waterfalls, the Botanical Garden, Japanese Tea Garden, and a paddock with a herd of wild bison! Renting a bike will let you see everything you want with time to spare if you want to head inside the de Yong Museum or Asian Art Museum, both located in the center of the park. On your way out, if you have a car, be sure to check out Ocean Beach on the western end of the park and drive up the Great Highway to Cliff House for great eats and spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.
See the Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is probably the most recognizable feature in San Francisco. The bridge gets blown up or destroyed in movies all the time, but for now it’s still standing. The best way to see the bridge is from the Presidio, a park on the southern end of the bridge. Hike up the hills or walk down to Fort Point for bike lanes and some Pacific spray – you can even bike from Golden Gate Park! Also, you can walk across the whole bridge if you’d like, but dress warmly. The bridge is usually foggy and cold! Just be sure to snap a few pictures to make it worth your while.
Check Out Chinatown
San Francisco’s famous Chinatown is the oldest and largest outside of Asia, located on Grant and Stockton Streets. Chinese signs, lanterns, and tiled balconies cover the narrow buildings and create the feeling of an exotic foreign country. You’ll find lots of unique shopping and souvenirs, as well as great cuisine. Don’t forget to see the famous Dragon Gate on Grant Avenue and Bush Street.