San Francisco holidays are an excellent mix of touristy landmarks and unique experiences for those who know where to look. If you miss the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll simply never get over it, so make your first stop Fort Point for that profile-perfect photo op. If you don’t mind a short drive and a little exercise, head to Battery Spencer on the Marin County side of the Bay—the hike and the views will both take your breath away.
Accommodation in Fisherman’s Wharf will get any traveller’s “seal” of approval thanks to the friendly pinnipeds at the end of Pier 39. Wave a flipper in greeting, then unleash the kraken (or just your imagination) at the Aquarium of the Bay, where you can see sharks and giant octopodes (yes, that’s the old plural for octopus). All that fresh sea air making you hungry? Scarf down the best food in San Francisco—and the world, if you ask the locals—at any of the local seafood restaurants.
Flights to San Francisco arrive at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), south of the city. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) plus the Caltrain system make it easy to get to San Francisco hotels. If BART doesn’t run to your destination, you’ll need to learn one more word: Muni. The bus and light rail system can get you anywhere you need to go, and besides, the historic cable cars are just plain fun.
If you’re not into walking the ups and downs of “Shaky Town”, one of our car hire deals will get you over the hills and on to adventure. Parking can be tricky, but if you’re headed beyond city limits, hiring a car is your gateway to fun. Plus, then you can “wine” down with a day trip 80km north to Sonoma to sample America’s most storied grapevines.
Lucky you: We’re coming up on one of the city’s best seasons. Autumn brings warmer temps and refreshing breezes, making it an especially popular time to visit. Your trip will really be “on fleet” if you book accommodation in San Francisco in early October for Fleet Week, a naval celebration including a Parade of Ships and an air show.
Couldn’t quite get it together in time for Outside Lands music fest in August? You’ve still got plenty of chances to get your indie on. The “smaller” (and we put that in quotes because it is still a two-day, jam-packed schedule) Treasure Island Music Festival is in mid-October. In February, you can get those feet moving at the Noise Pop Indie Music Fest, which has featured legends like Caribou and Ladytron.
Dancing isn’t the only way to stay warm in winter. In January, the SF Sketchfest Comedy Festival will have you generating plenty of heat—from laughing, of course! If all of these things are still too mainstream for you, first of all, you’ll fit right in here. Second of all, you’ll probably want to book hotels in San Francisco during the Autumn Moon Festival in September or the Chinese New Year. The oldest Chinatown in North America definitely knows how to party.
You’ll find locals hitting the beach year-round, so you might as well join them. Go fly a kite at Ocean Beach, rent a bike and pedal the esplanade along the shore or get in the water. The surf’s always up at SF’s longest stretch of sand, so throw on a wetsuit and shred some gnar with the locals. As the wise (and singularly named) Bodhi of Point Break knows, “They only live to get radical”.
You definitely don’t want to skip Golden Gate Park—it’s one of the city’s most popular attractions for good reason. With so many things to do, it can be hard to know where to start. We recommend pulling items from a hat, or perhaps flipping a coin.
The short list includes paddle boating on the reservoir, finding your Zen in the Japanese Tea Garden, befriending buffalo in the Bison Paddock, getting your head in the clouds at Skyspace and channelling your inner San Franciscan with a game of disc golf. Whew! Get going! You’ve got stuff to see!
All right, traveller, if you only have one day in San Francisco, don’t leave it up to a coin flip. Obvs, the Golden Gate Bridge is a must. You can hit the beach and get your future profile pic at the same time with a visit to Baker Beach.
Another two-for-one: Get your seal selfies at the famous Fisherman’s Wharf, then board a bay cruise to get your fill of Alcatraz, too. The Escape From the Rock Cruise gives you relaxing skyline views and not-so-relaxing tales of terrifying criminals and escape attempts at the notorious prison. You can almost hear Al Capone playing the banjo in the prison band—true story.
Next, zig-zag your way over to the zig-zaggiest street of them all: Lombard Street. The walk to the top is so worth it, and winding your way down is nothing but fun. You’ll definitely work up an appetite, so continue south to Chinatown and chow down. There’s nothing dull about your dim sum options, and this is also a great place to grab some unique souvenirs, from incense to herbal medicines to fish heads (hey, we said unique).
Already got your suitcase out? Well, pack it up with flannel, Birkenstocks and the latest indie albums. A real San Francisco treat is in store for you. Wotif will serve up the best selection of places to stay in San Francisco. Book today for a hella good deal!
Hotels in San Francisco start at NZ$109 per night. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.