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Top Five San Francisco Attractions

San Francisco, California

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San Francisco is a city packed full of interesting things to do and fun places to explore. I mean, there is enough exploring to be done in this city to keep you busy for several days…and then some. I recently took a trip to San Fran with my husband for an extended weekend getaway. We were able to spend three full days in the city (not including travel time), and we crammed in as much sightseeing as our feet would allow. I have narrowed down my list of faves, and will share with you my Top Five San Francisco Attractions and why you should experience them too! 

To begin the countdown (because we want to build up to the best, right?), let’s start with #5.

#5 – Union Square

Do you like shopping? Well, let’s talk shopping then! Union Square is definitely the place to be in San Francisco if you like shopping. For sure. Without a doubt. There are plenty of amazing restaurants, night life, galleries, unique artwork and outside spaces to take advantage of here, but the shopping is a major draw in this area. Numerous name brand anchor stores call Union Square home, like Niketown, Nordstrom, Apple Store, and Macy’s…just to name a few (you can browse the full list here, or see the map below). Everything from posh high end designer brands, gift and souvenir shops, to Starbucks and 7-11 stores can all be found within several blocks of each other. You could spend several hours, or days, in this area and still find more places to shop.

Union Square Map San Francisco, California

Another public spectacle here is The Cable Car Turnaround on Powell at Market Street.  This is the spot where the cable car, well, turns around! It’s a tourist hot-spot, and you can usually expect a crowd of people taking photos and a 45 minute wait to hop on for a ride. We elected not to ride the cable cars because of the crowds. Maybe next time.

Cable Car Turnaround Union Square San Francisco, California  Cable Car Turnaround Union Square San Francisco, California

Our hotel was located in Union Square, so all of this was very convenient to us. We stayed at the Sir Francis Drake, a Kimpton hotel. I had just returned from my first trip to London a couple of weeks prior to this SF trip, and this hotel had me feeling like I had just traveled back across the pond. Complete with Beefeater doorman, Tom Sweeney, in full red dress and all. Fun tip: Tom has been a Beefeater Doorman with the SFD hotel for 42 years and is the most photographed man in San Francisco! It was a great spot with a very convenient location and I would highly recommend it!

Tom Sweeney Sir Francis Drake Hotel Union Square San Francisco, California   Tom Sweeney Sir Francis Drake Hotel Union Square San Francisco, California

#4 – Lombard Street

Lombard Street (aka the crookedest street in the world) made the list simply because of the cool factor. There is nothing to do on this one block section of the street except to take pictures, people watch a little, enjoy the AMAZING views of San Fran, and get your exercise in for the day/week/month/year. You know, depending on your normal activity level. Definitely interesting enough for a visit.

San Francisco is obviously known for steep angled streets, and walking UP to Lombard Street about gave me a heart attack. Well, maybe not quite THAT extreme, but almost. I have never seen a street with inclines like this. My quadriceps and calves did not understand that was happening to them. They were in shock, and I had to stop and catch my breath on more than one occasion. It was worth it. The popular block has stairs to climb and that makes it easier. All I kept thinking about was, can you imagine living on this street with thousands of visitors walking and driving on your block each month? How challenging must it be to run out for a quick errand? Oh yeah, and how much do these homes cost??? 😉

Anywhoo, Lombard Street is really cool and should be on any first-time-to-San Francisco-list!

Lombard Street San Francisco, California  Lombard Street San Francisco, California

Lombard Street San Francisco, California    Lombard Street San Francisco, California    Lombard Street San Francisco, California

 #3 – Chinatown

Who doesn’t love a good Chinatown? Most of the major cities I have been to have an area of this type (NYC, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, etc.). San Francisco is no different. These neighborhoods tend to be culturally authentic and a great way to experience the Asian culture and cuisine first hand. San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest is the US and the largest in North America, at about 1.34 square miles in diameter, which is roughly 24 city blocks. Total awesomeness.

Chinatown San Francisco, California map

What is there to do in Chinatown? Lots! Eat, shop, eat, shop, and eat. That about sums up my list! Honestly, there are many other things to experience, but all I tend to do is eat and shop. The authentic food is my fave. Beginning with the Dragon Gate, Grant Street is the main street in Chinatown where you will find most tourists exploring the eateries and shops full of authentic Chinese goodies, along with not-s0-authentic brand name knock off merchandise. All available at a bargain price. And if you don’t like the price, you can always barter for a lower option.

There are walking tours of Chinatown, and you can visit The Tin How Temple (oldest Chinese temple in America – built in 1852). You can celebrate Chinese New Year in February and Autumn Moon Festival in September. These are two major holidays that come complete with parades, fireworks, street fairs, and many other events. Read more in-depth details on the history of Chinatown and all it has to offer here and here. Put Chinatown on your “must do” list while visiting San Fran!

Chinatown San Francisco, California  Chinatown San Francisco, California

Chinatown San Francisco, California

#2 – San Francisco Giants Game at AT&T Park

Where are my baseball fans at?!?!? Holla! We love baseball. Our son has been playing for a number of years and we fall more in love with the game each season. My son fully expects to be a MLB player when the time comes, so here’s to supporting and believing in that dream! But, I digress. If you are a baseball fan and you find yourself in San Francisco during baseball season, a San Francisco Giants game is a MUST! You don’t have to be a Giants fan to go, but you might be one by the time you leave!

AT&T Park San Francisco, California  AT&T Park San Francisco, California

AT&T Stadium in San Fran is phenomenal. Sitting right on the water doesn’t hurt either. I’ve never been a Giants fan, per sae. I am from Texas and we are for the Rangers all the way. However, I do love a good ball game and a great stadium experience anywhere I can get it. Great food, great drinks, great atmosphere, and a great game (against the San Diego Padres – big rival game and it was intense). San Francisco Giants and AT&T stadium did NOT disappoint!

AT&T Park San Francisco, California  AT&T Park San Francisco, California

#1 – Golden Gate Bridge

That brings us to #1 on the list! Of course, it’s the Golden Gate Bridge! One of the most recognized US landmarks on the planet, and definitely San Francisco’s top iconic attraction. This massive bridge is 1.7 miles in length and was built between 1933-1937. It is a toll bridge, and therefore will cost between $4.50-$7.50 to cross, which over 110,000 vehicles do every day.

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco, California

So what makes this my #1 attraction on the list? Driving over a bridge, even if it is the most famous bridge in the country, is not that big of a deal. Right? Well, we did not drive over it. WE BIKED ACROSS THAT BAD BOY! This has to be one of my all-time favorite travel experiences thus far. Even though it was the workout of a lifetime, it is an experience we will always remember. We rented bikes at Parkwide Bike Rentals in Fort Mason, rode all the way to the bridge (including an uphill trek), across the bridge, and a full return trip, to boot! I think I cried a few times. My legs burned more than they ever have in my life (well, maybe except for the long haul up to Lombard Street – no, wait…this was worse), and it was the most awesome experience in the end.

My only regret is we did not get to visit Sausalito on the other end of the bridge. We will have to save that for our next trip when we DRIVE across the bridge. Or, better yet, take a ferry. If you have the chance, get on a bike and make it happen. The views alone are worth it. It will be a travel trip you won’t soon forget.

No matter how you experience the big-red-beast-of-a-bridge, the official Golden Gate Bridge website provides plenty of up-to-date information should you want to travel across the bridge on two feet, two wheels, four wheels, etc. Would this make #1 on your top five San Francisco attractions list too?

 Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco, California  Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco, California

 Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco, California  Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco, California

Bonus – Palace of Fine Arts Theatre

You know I love bonuses, so I am including the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre in this list simply for the architecture. We were not able to attend any performances or events here, but I can imagine they are spectacular. Built in 1915 for the Panama Pacific International Exposition, this structure is reminiscent of heavy Roman influence. Left for ruin, the structure was restored in the last 1950’s to early 60’s, and has been a San Francisco landmark since. Read all about this architectural beauty here! Pictures do not do this area justice. At all. I highly recommend experiencing it for yourself!

San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts Theatre

San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts Theatre Palace of Fine Arts Theatre San Francisco, California

 

San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts Theatre San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts Theatre

San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts Theatre San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts Theatre

San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts TheatreSan Francisco Palace of Fine Arts TheatreSan Francisco Palace of Fine Arts TheatreSan Francisco Palace of Fine Arts Theatre

Pier 39 – worth a quick mention

A VERY touristy spot is Pier 39, a 45 acre waterfront space known for overpriced shopping, restaurants, and attractions. While this place is worth a visit, it didn’t make my list because it wasn’t anything too spectacular. If you have younger kiddos with you in San Francisco, it’s probably a worthy trip. And the large crab statue is cute. 🙂 We walked, window shopped, and I got a hydro water massage. That was pretty cool!

Pier 39 San Francisco, California  Pier 39 San Francisco, California

Fisherman’s Wharf – AMAZING

Everyone knows you if you’re in San Francisco, you MUST visit the hot spot that is Fisherman’s Wharf! Lots to see, lots to do…lots of people, and LOTS OF SEAFOOD! I will explore this destination more in a San Francisco food post at a later date. I will, however, leave you with one word. #yummmmmm

Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco, California  Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco, California

SF Ferry Building Marketplace

Another foodie destination (but worth the mention as an attraction as well) is the Ferry Building Marketplace and Farmers Market. Again, I will cover this in more depth in a SF food post, but the people watching here is an attraction all it’s own! Beware if your are traveling with children. There are plenty of naked people hanging out (literally – ha!) in this area. Not something I would want my kiddos to see, but my husband and I still giggle about it when the topic comes up.

Directly across Embarcadero Street from the Ferry Building is another market with a plethora of local artists selling goodies of all kinds.

Top Five San Francisco Attractions – plus a few extra!

That wraps up my list of the top five San Francisco attractions, plus bonuses. We all know San Fran is loaded with top attractions (we did not visit Alcatraz – not really into the prison vibe), but I had to narrow them down or we would be here all day. Wait. Too late. Oh well. It’s all GOOD in the San Francisco hood! If you have yet to visit the AMAZING city of San Francisco, I hope this gives you a small glimpse of what there is to see and do. There is no way I could possibly cover it all. But that’s the beauty of it. I hope you get a chance to create a San Francisco adventure of your own!

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Just a few of the Hearts of San Francisco!

  

We LOVE San Fran!

 

 

Top Five San Francisco Attractions

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49 Comments

  • Tiffany

    Great photos! Enjoyed reading your blog. Would love to explore SF! Thanks for sharing ♥️ ♥️ By any chance you are interested on doing collaborations, you can check out the collaborations portal of Phlanx.com and connect with amazing brands!

    Xoxo,
    Tiffany

    April 19, 2018 at 7:30 pm
  • Mickey

    I read the five and was surprised to see pier 39 didn’t make it onto the list but then realised it got a special mention.

    April 19, 2018 at 11:55 pm
  • Genny

    I love San Francisco too and every time that I have the chance to go there I try to take advantage to know more spots. I need to visit the Palace so magnificent place

    April 20, 2018 at 1:24 am
  • Laura

    Wow, I’d love to go to San Fransisco one day. This goes straight to my notes! Thanks!

    April 20, 2018 at 1:34 am
  • William

    We love SF, especially the Presidio and Golden Gate Park!

    April 20, 2018 at 1:42 am
  • Amber

    I love your list! I do want to go to all of these places. I’ve been wanting to go to San Francisco for years! One day, I hope. I need some sourdough bread.

    April 20, 2018 at 7:24 am
    • lifewithjessi

      You definitely have to try The Boudin Sourdough Bakery in the Pier 39 area. They have more bread options than you will know what to do with!

      April 20, 2018 at 4:02 pm
  • dani

    Oh My Goodness the Palace of Fine Arts Theater looks AMAZING! I would love to snap a thousand pictures in that place. Will be making a note to head that way when we visit. ALSO, Chinatown for sure.

    April 20, 2018 at 8:56 am
  • Dalene

    San Francisco is very beautiful! But way to go with Chinatown- I love how such places can be full of culture; especially having to eat Chinese foods. And also , the Golden Gate bridge is a total landmark!

    April 20, 2018 at 9:25 am
  • Kevin Davis

    I have not been there for a number of years and now I definitely need to go back again, I can see I missed some things to do when I was there!

    April 20, 2018 at 9:35 am
  • Krista

    I have never been to SF but would love to and this post definitely makes me want to go..like now! So many awesome things to do! Can’t wait to plan a trip soon!

    April 20, 2018 at 9:35 am
  • Amanda

    Love the maps. If i ever go there i will for sure hit the top 5. Great pics 2

    April 20, 2018 at 10:28 am
  • Paula

    It’s been 17 years since I’ve been to San Francisco…your post makes me want to go back! I love the awesome pics you posted – brings back great memories!

    April 20, 2018 at 10:38 am
  • Grace

    This makes me want to jump on a plane and go to San Francisco right now! The Palace of Fine Arts Theatre is stunning!

    April 20, 2018 at 10:48 am
  • Alecia

    I’ve never made it to that coast but my first stop would be the fisherman’s wharf! I love fresh seafood

    April 20, 2018 at 11:16 am
  • Jessica

    San Francisco looks beautiful! I have always loved it since Full House 🙈😂

    April 20, 2018 at 11:21 am
  • Ashley

    San Fransico is a top place on our travel list and this will come in handy!!!

    April 20, 2018 at 12:54 pm
  • Laura Beth

    I love this! I’ve been to California, but not San Francisco!

    April 20, 2018 at 1:13 pm
  • Maia

    I have only been once and I fell in love with this city. You are a brave soul for biking across the bridge. I am SOOOO afraid of heights!!!

    April 20, 2018 at 1:28 pm
  • Shelby

    This throws me back to my SF trip last year! Chinatown had the best Dim Sum and going under the Golden Gate in a boat was the coolest thing!

    My favorite was Pier 39 mainly because the seafood was so gooood!

    April 20, 2018 at 1:30 pm
    • lifewithjessi

      I made a beeline for Chinatown and dim sum as soon as we got there. I researched the best dim sum for days before our trip. I will be writing a post just on this food. This was my first time trying an onion roll. I fell in love.

      April 20, 2018 at 4:00 pm
  • Jennifer Maune

    Lombard Street sounds so interesting! Thanks for your picks!

    -Jennifer

    April 20, 2018 at 1:32 pm
  • Hillary

    I love all of those!! The Boudin Sourdough Bread Bakery and Ghiradelli square are a couple of my other faves!!

    April 20, 2018 at 1:36 pm
    • lifewithjessi

      I have pics from The Boudin Sourdough Bakery of the turtle bread loafs they make. I would eat my way through that store EASILY! There’s a Ghiradelli Square in the ball park. I had a fudge ice cream sundae from there. So. Yummy. 🙂

      April 20, 2018 at 3:50 pm
  • Patricia-Ann Que

    what a great city! so vibrant! always wanted to visit and u just made me confirm it! great photos too!

    April 20, 2018 at 1:41 pm
  • Tabitha Blue

    It’s been SO long since I’ve been! This makes me want to go back!

    April 20, 2018 at 3:36 pm
  • Mohan

    Nice pics and a great guide for San Francisco. So added to my bucket list! Thanks for sharing!

    April 20, 2018 at 4:30 pm
  • Brit Strawbridge

    I’ve been to California so many times and have never been to SF! I can’t believe it! I want to go so badly, it looks beautiful! Definitely, love the shots of the Golden Gate Bridge!

    April 20, 2018 at 5:00 pm
  • Sarah Bailey

    Now these seem like some absolutely amazing places to go and visit! I am LOVING the look of the fine arts theatre and I mean who wouldn’t want to see golden gate bridge.

    April 20, 2018 at 5:29 pm
  • Ally

    I’ve always wanted to visit Union Square! I love Chinatown! Was it similar to the one in Manhattan?

    April 20, 2018 at 6:05 pm
    • lifewithjessi

      Yes, very similar to Chinatown in NYC, but different in some ways too. The authentic culture, cuisine, and shopping are all a lot alike, but San Francisco and Manhattan each have their own vibe. Definitely worth a visit…or several! 🙂

      April 23, 2018 at 9:13 am
  • Rosie

    I use to live in Southern California and I never got to visit any of the Northern cities. Your pictures make me want to plan a trip the next time we are out there to visit family. I think a trip across the Golden Gate Bridge would be amazing.

    April 20, 2018 at 6:46 pm
  • Sam

    Sam- Thiswaymommy
    I have never been to the west coast. Your trip looks amazing. Looks like a great time was had by all. Will certainly add it to my list. Thank you for sharing such an a wonderful trip and all the sites – Chinatown looks like a place I would dedicate an entire day to.

    April 20, 2018 at 8:24 pm
  • Agnes Vazhure

    I always wanted to visit San Francisco. and those are some beautiful insight and attractions to visit with my love ones. So excited!!

    April 20, 2018 at 8:34 pm
  • Eevi-Sofia

    My girlfriends and I were just talking about doing a girls’ getaway to San Francisco. I would love to go on a walk in the evening by the Golden Gate Bridge.

    April 20, 2018 at 9:41 pm
  • Myriah Mae

    Thanks for this post! Looks like a beautiful city! Hoping to make it there one day to visit!

    April 21, 2018 at 12:04 am
  • Kristin's Peppermints and Cherries

    The Golden Gate Bridge would be so fun to see! What beautiful pictures you were able to capture with such pretty weather! I have been very close to California but never made it to the state!

    April 21, 2018 at 1:13 am
  • Shelley

    I would love to go to fishermans warf and ride the trolley

    April 21, 2018 at 2:34 am
  • Nisha

    Thank you for sharing the lovely photos. I would love to go there someday. This is on my travel list now

    April 21, 2018 at 5:56 am
  • Minakshi Bajpai

    Wow, What a place. I’d love to go to San Fransisco one day

    April 21, 2018 at 11:14 am
  • Cityrocka Perry

    San-Fran is for sure on my list of places to visit very soon. I’ve heard so many good things about it! Every place that you mention will be included in my traveling itinerary. Really appreciate you sharing 🙂

    April 21, 2018 at 12:01 pm
  • Paula Stewart

    I have never been to San Francisco. I would love to ride the trolley and visit Chinatown one day.

    April 21, 2018 at 1:30 pm
  • Jessica

    Oh I must go! Looks so fun, I don’t know about biking across the bridge though! Great job!

    April 21, 2018 at 3:14 pm
  • Stephanie

    It sounds like you had a great trip! I had no idea the SF China Town is the oldest in the US. How cool to bike across the bridge! That’s definitely going on my bucket list!

    April 21, 2018 at 7:14 pm
  • Felicia Life

    I’ve been to San Fran 3x, but I missed 2 of your top 5. Great list!

    April 22, 2018 at 10:29 pm
  • kim

    I have plans to visit San Francisco soon and can’t wait! Your post made me even more excited and I will definitely refer back to it, when I visit.

    April 24, 2018 at 6:25 am
    • lifewithjessi

      I hope you have the best time Kim! San Francisco is such an incredible city. I hope you love it as much as we did!

      April 24, 2018 at 8:32 am
  • Ingrid

    San Francisco seems to be like NYC.It has many interesting sites to visit It even has a China town. but Ithink what is most appealing to me is Fisherman’s Wharf. I frew up in a fishing town and I love lots of fish

    April 24, 2018 at 11:09 am
  • Tara

    Oh I love San Francisco!! We have family out there so I hope to get out there again soon. I love your photos! You definitely showed some amazing places to see! Looks like an amazing time!

    April 28, 2018 at 7:46 pm
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