First-time visitors to San Francisco often spend most of their time at Fisherman's Wharf and environs. Although the locals are relieved that tourists are not invading their precious neighborhoods, it's wise to venture out a bit and experience the "real" San Francisco. Some highlights follow:

  • A walk along the streets of North Beach; stop in at an Italian bakery for a canolli or eat lunch at one of the numerous cafes where streetside tables are great for people watching.
  • A shopping trip to Union StreetFillmore Street or Hayes Valley where small, charming shops and local restaurants offer a unique experience in three of San Francisco's top-end neighborhoods.
  • Afternoon tea at the Westin St. Francis on Powell Street near Union Square.
  • Drinks at the top floor of the Hyatt on Union Square for unparalled views of San Francisco and the Bay.
  • Renting a car or taking a cab ride or the bus out to the Cliff House where the waves crash on the cliffs while you enjoy lunch or drinks overlooking Ocean Beach and the entry to the Golden Gate.
  • Dinner in the Mission District at a restaurant such as Foreign Cinema where outdoor dining on the patio, the opportunity to view a vintage film while dining, and fine art exhibitions offer a unique experience.
  • A cable car ride up Hyde Street followed by dinner at one of the many fine restaurants on Russian Hill, including places as diverse as Zarzuela's tapas restaurant and Frascati for fine California cuisine. For the cable car, don’t miss the Powell-Hyde line and especially the crooked block of Lombard St (east of Hyde) where perspectives and slope are the most fun.
  • If you're in San Francisco in late June, don't miss the annual Pride Parade where you'll experience the fun, frivolity and activism of the City's lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender community.
  • Renting a car or taking a cab or the bus to the Palace of the Legion of Honor to experience one of San Francisco's best art museums.
  • Going "South of Market" to the Modern Art Museum (MOMA) and having lunch at one of the numerous neighborhood restaurants. This neighborhood is also very nice at night for all its clubs and bars.
  • The Fillmore Ballroom or the Great American Music Hall for concerts to experience San Francisco's music scene. For additional concerts, scour the "Pink Section" of Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
  • The Haight-Ashbury area where you'll find a plethora of shops and restaurants that appeal to both young hipsters and the nostalgic hippie.
  • A show in the Theatre District off Union Square and a meal at one of the neighboring restaurants such as Scala's Bistro in the Sir Francis Drake Hotel post-theatre.
  • A walk along the path through the restored wetlands of Crissy Field for great views of the Golden Gate and Alcatraz (as well as windsurfers catching the winds coming through the Gate).  Bring a jacket!
  • If you're visiting in the summer, check out one of San Francisco's local Street Fairs held in neighborhoods such as North Beach or the Fillmore.
  • Beyond San Francisco, head to the wine country of either the Napa or Sonoma Valleys where wine tasting, fine dining and vineyards take you away to a countryside reminiscent of Provence and far from the bustle of the City.

If this list is too long for your stay, the best way to get a real local insight while discovering the best landmarks would be the walking tours of Discover Walks. Young and enthusiastic guides show the city they love every day without any booking.  City Guides also does a wide range of free walking tours.

San Francisco is such a diverse and captivating city offering everything from a thriving art scene to local neighborhoods that will enhance your visit and take you well beyond the typical tourist experience. Enjoy!