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We all heard of Fisherman's Wharf and Acatraz. But there are many other places in the city to explore. The city is extremely accessbile with a MUNI pass; you can go virtually anywhere.
Don't spend more than a couple hours here, it's an obvious tourist trap. If anything, go to get a souvenir shot glass, picture of Acatraz Island, and a picture of the seals that congregate to the west of Pier 39.
This is not your cookie-cutter hotel. A fantastic balance of Edwardian old-world elegance meets modern-day conveniences. Dramatic architecture, antique furnishings, unique artwork and pleasant staff make this stay in San Francisco truly memorable!
Currently rated Tripadvisor's #1 restaurant in San Francisco, and for good reason! Fantastic wine list, Mediterranean-themed cuisine and professional staff. Ride the Hyde-Powell cable car to get here! The perfect neighborhood bistro in the Russian Hill district, not far from Fisherman's Wharf.
Take the 39 bus in North Beach to get to the top of Telegraph Hill. From the Tower, you have sweeping views of the Bay, Golden Gate Bridge, the curvy part of Lombard St, Oakland Bay Bridge and downtown! It's a full 360 degree experience. Feel even more accomplished by walking (and panting) up the hill.
This massive jewelry store is in the Fisherman's Wharf area, a few doors down from the Rainforest Cafe. The selection is large, and while a lot of it is tacky, you can bring home some really cute and attractive pieces for less than $20. Take a hand tray as soon as you enter; this is to prevent potential thieves. If there are a lot of people in the store, the employees may watch you closely, but you'll understand when you see the large inventory. There are many sparkly pieces to catch the eye and drag you into the store.
If you don't have a car and don't want to take the bus, it's really not that expensive to take a taxi to get a good picture in front of the bridge! We took a taxi from Union Sq, and it was only about $20 to and from downtown. It was right before we had to leave for the airport, so we had our luggage and everything, it was just the easiest thing to do. There is a viewing area just off the east side of the bridge, city-side, so you don't have to pay the $5 toll (but you will have to pay if you completely cross the bridge to get pictures of the bridge with the city backdrop).
This is the little Italy of San Francisco, look around for restauarants because there are many excellent ones!
This is a gorgeous garden in Golden Gate Park on the west side of San Francisco. Pagodas, cherry blossoms and waterfalls give a calming and serene atmosphere. Admission charge is $4, but on certain mornings of the week it is free. It's easy to spend an hour here, taking in the beautiful landscaping plus there is a hut that serves tea and other goodies.
If you like Renaissance art, paintings and sculpture the Museum of the Legion of Honor is a wonderful half-day adventure. Free docent tours are offered, check the website for more information. Highlights for me were the dead sea scrolls, european furniture from the early 15th century, and an ancient Greek golden leaf head wreath. Regular admission is $10, more for special exhibits. If you get a bus transfer the discount is $2 off. Take a taxi or the #1 (cross-town) bus.
If you're visiting, don't rent a car, buy a MUNI pass. You can buy them at the SFO airport, at various tourist locations in the city, or your hotel can direct you to the nearest location. Print out a map before you get here; it'll be a life saver for being in control of your planning and time-management. Three-day passes are $18; one and seven-day passes are available as well. The really great thing is that it's valid for virtually all public transportation: cable cars, electric streetcars, buses and the metro. The only thing it's not valid for is the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit.) If you take a couple cable car rides as well as buses, it more than pays for itself: regular buses are $1.50, but cable car rides are $5 each!