21 tips for Aussies travelling to San Francisco

If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to not only to wear some flowers in your hair (the song’s in your head now too, isn’t it? 😉) but follow these handy tips.

1. Get the name right. Us Aussies love to shorten, well, everything, but you won’t catch locals calling their town ‘San Fran’. Stick with SF or just good ol’ San Francisco.

2. Check your timing. Don’t do what I did and accidentally visit during the busiest conference week of the year #fail. This is true of any travel destination, but in a thriving business hub like San Francisco, corporate events can bump up the already exxy hotel prices to eye-watering levels.

3. Get up early and run or ride a bike over the Golden Gate Bridge. Watching the sunrise here is pretty magical and it pays to beat the crowds.

4. Yes, you do need to go to Alcatraz and you should book ahead. Even if this sort of sightseeing isn’t usually your thing, I’m willing to bet you’ll end up loving a visit to Alcatraz. It’s an iconic slice of history and the ferry ride alone is worth it the trip.

5. Have the best sandwich of your life at Molinari Delicatessen. Located in the Italian district, this little deli is legendary and the sandwiches are epic. Order from the old-school blackboard – my pick is the Luciano Special – then walk to the nearby park and be happy with your life choices.

6. Get your fancy pants on at a Michelin Hat restaurant. The SF food scene is up there with New York City and if you can afford a splurge meal during your US trip, this is the place to do it. My pick is Quince – it’s refined without being stuffy and the little touches are beyond special. My husband and I get to enjoy one of our courses at a special table for two INSIDE THE KITCHEN, visit the impressive wine cellar, select some treats from a sweets trolley (separate to the dessert course, mind you) AND a cheese trolley, and take away a hot chocolate to sip on the way home. Wow-factor doesn’t quite sum it up.

7. Ride the cable car. You know you want to. And while you’re being a tourist, visit the Full House houses too.

8. Laugh until your cheeks hurt at Beach Blanket Babylon. This was a great tip from my husband’s boss who used to live in SF (thanks, Toby!). The world’s longest-running musical revue is a hilarious trip down pop culture lane featuring everyone from Oprah to Prince Harry, from Donald Trump to Lady Gaga.

9. Get your sourdough on. SF is famous for this glorious bread and there’s no better place to sample it than Tartine Manufactory.

10. Visit Fisherman’s Wharf. Yes, this is the most touristy part of town but embrace it (briefly, you are a tourist after all 😉) and devour some delicious chowder in a sourdough bowl. Heaven on a cool SF day.

11. Check out the Ferry Building Marketplace. Near the Wharf, but slightly less touristy and with better food options, the Ferry Building Marketplace is a must-visit. Stroll through the historic building and deliberate over the many delicious treats. If you’re after a proper sit-down restaurant meal, it’s hard to beat The Slanted Door. Hot tip though, their take-away outlet, Out the Door, is excellent value for money.

12. Get your steps up. Much like NYC, I love exploring SF by foot, but the hills here take ‘steep’ to a whole new level. You have been warned! On the plus side, you’ll discover a whole lot of street art.

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Loving the street art in San Francisco✌️

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13. Tip right. As a simple guide, always tip service workers. At a restaurant, tip 15% to 20% of the total bill. At your hotel, tip $2 to $5 to the hotel doorman who hails your cab, $1 to $2 per bag to your hotel porter, and $2 per day to the maid who cleans your room. On the street, tip your taxi driver 15% to 25% of the fare, and in a bar, tip $1 to $2 per drink to your bartender.

14. See a movie. Okay, this might sound like a strange thing to spend time on when you only have a few days in a city, but hear me out. The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in the Mission District takes movies seriously. Case in point, if you’re caught using your mobile phone, they’ll kick you out! I kind of love that. It’s old-school, quirky, and they deliver food and drinks to you. What’s not to love?

15. Get your Mexican food cravings sorted with the best burritos of your life in the Mission District. The Alamo cinema is there too, so hit up both for a double-win.

16. Go to a baseball or basketball game. This is a city that loves its sport. One Tuesday evening during our visit, 40,000 people descend on the AT&T Stadium to watch the Giants play. The atmosphere is awesome and, yep, they really do kiss cam! The Golden State Warriors basketball crowd is equally enthusiastic. The B-ball entertainment – which includes a DJ! – adds to the fun even if you’re not a sports fan.

17. Make friends with Wholefoods. Not just a San Francisco thing but the novelty of everything this health-focused US grocery chain has to offer will make returning to Coles and Woolies back in Oz slightly depressing. Enjoy it while you can!

18. Take a daytrip or side-trip to the Napa Valley. When one of the world’s best wine regions is a 2.5hr dive away, you know what you need to do.

19. Sort out your laundry. Surprisingly, this was one of the most popular tips in the New York version of this article, and I stand by it in San Francisco too. Laundromats are super cheap here. SF is the last stop of our three-week trip and returning to Sydney with my washing already done is a little life win.

20. Stock up on Ghiradelli Chocolates. This SF staple makes for an awesome, easy-to-transport gift for friends/family/colleagues. The salted caramel is a winner in my books and keep an eye out for seasonal treats (like pumpkin spice) too.

21. Keep right. You will eventually get used to this. Probably the day before you leave 😉

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