San Francisco Vacation – California Holidays At Its Best!

San Francisco vacation will leave you with great and a lot of images such as the Rice-a-roni, Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars and more. It also brings to mind gay rights and the Silicon Valley.

Whatever your thoughts are, San Francisco retains a special place in the heart of most Californians because it so much epitomizes the state – its spectacular beauty, its breathtaking coastal and bay views, and its historic architecture. To be sure, it’s an expensive place to live – perhaps the costliest place to live in California – but an incredibly diverse and entertaining place to visit.

On your San Francisco vacation, you will find out the city’s hotels are among the best in the world and each seems to have its own charm and window into San Francisco history. Some are located by the waterfront, while others are perched on one of the many hills that have made this city famous.

Whether you’re a California resident, or visiting from out of state, San Francisco vacation should rank high on your list of California and USA vacations in general. While it’s a good 400 miles north of the Los Angeles basin – in other parts of the country you would travel through three or four states to drive that far – it’s so much a part of the California experience that it cannot be overlooked.

Before you decided to go for a San Francisco vacation, there are a few things you should know:

You don’t need a car to enjoy your San Francisco vacation. The city is congested enough with all those people on that little peninsula but the good news is that public transportation in San Francisco is easy, fast and cheap. You can find a Bart (mass transit) station at the airport, or across the East Bay and let these modern trains whisk you into the downtown area. From there, you can walk, take a streetcar or take a short taxi ride to any part of the city you want to visit. If you do take your car, be sure to budget for parking spaces that cost more than some cheap motel rooms.

To save even more money on your San Francisco vacation, buy a San Francisco CityPass, which will give you seven days of riding all San Francisco Municipal Railway vehicles: cable cars, streetcars and buses. The pass, which is priced around $43 for an adult, also includes admissions to some of the city’s best museums.

Another important thing to remember on your San Francisco vacation is that the weather is quite a lot cooler than Los Angeles or the Central part of the state. You have to remember if it’s sunny and hot in the Central Valley, it’s foggy and cold here. Some cities sell tee-shirts – we sell sweatshirts.”

A few of the highlights for any visitor going on a San Francisco vacation that you’ll not want to miss are as follows:

  • A trip to Alcatraz is a must – you’ll see first-hand what it was like in maximum security prison that housed the likes of “Machine Gun” Kelly and Al Capone.
  • The Aquarium of the Bay is located here as well as various rides and attractions.
  • The Golden Gate Bridge – This is obviously a must be part of your your San Francisco vacation. You’ll also want to visit the Marin County side to see spectacular views across the bay to San Francisco. With about 1,000 acres, the Golden Gate Park is an attraction unto itself with trails, grassy meadows, lakes and gardens.All of this area is protected as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Enjoy a couple of miles of this lovely coastline and then make a left turn on John F. Kennedy Blvd to enter Golden Gate Park. As you pass the Dutch Windmill and Beach Chalet restaurant feel the tensions of everyday life dissolve as we cruise past the grassy fields and wooded groves. The urban life of the cosmopolitan city is lost in the enchanted setting.It’s amazing how many of the famous attractions are found among these green glades and small bodies of water to maximize your San Francisco vacation experience to the fullest:
    • Buffalo Paddocks – You will leave the Golf Clubhouse and Soccer fields behind before finding the Buffalo Paddocks, where bison have grazed since the 1890’s, on your left. On the other side are the Anglers Lodge and Fly Casting pools, near the Polo fields. Further along on the left is the Model Yacht Club and Spreckels Lake.
    • Stow Lake – Don’t miss the loop drive around Stow Lake with its island called Strawberry Hill and the scenic vistas as the road climbs to the lake. There is one of the San Francisco vacation spots with outdoor activities to suit all tastes:
      • Baseball fields
      • Tennis courts
      • Bowling greens
      • Horseshoe pits
      • Handball courts 

And other fun spots like the children’s playground and carousel to while-away the time when you are on your San Francisco vacation.

    • Flower Power – In a city that was once the center of the ‘Flower Power’ movement you might expect a garden or two. Here is a sneak peak of gardens to visit and enjoy on while on your San Francisco vacation: 
      • AIDS Memorial Grove
      • Botanical Gardens
      • Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden
      • Rose Garden
      • Shakespeare’s Flowers 

These gardens are just the ones that share the long stretch of Golden Gate Park with the Japanese Tea Garden, there are many other garden spots throughout the city to heighten your San Francisco vacation.

  • Haight and Ashbury – A couple of blocks out of the Golden park you can take a right on Ashbury St. and then one long block brings us to the intersection made famous by the Hip generation, Haight and Ashbury.
  • Painted Ladies from Alamo Park – It’s at Alamo Park that you will find the classic postcard view of the restored Victorian houses, called the Painted Ladies, with the San Francisco skyline as a backdrop. This is likely the most photographed spot for most San Francisco vacationers.
  • The Embarcadero – This one way thoroughfare skirts the shoreline of the San Francisco Bay to the east and the heart of The City to the west.
  • Coit Tower – Passing along the odd numbered piers (piers are numbered from the Ferry Bldg., odd to the north and even to the south), you will find the Levi’s Plaza, across The Embarcadero from Pier 29. This is the world headquarters of Levi Strauss & Co. and houses their visitors center.

Situated behind the plaza, perched atop Telegraph Hill, stands one of the San Francisco vacationers’ favorite attraction that has come to symbolize the City by the Bay in photographs since it was built in 1933. The views from Coit Tower offer truly magnificent panoramic vistas. With the historic murals painted on the inside and the flock of wild parrots that have made Telegraph Hill their home you can get colorful visual treats year-round.

  • Fisherman’s Wharf – Leaving Coit Tower and the North Beach district behind we begin to curve to the west as we enter the center of San Francisco tourism… Fisherman’s Wharf. This district is something of a cross between an ongoing street festival and a tourist trap.

Don’t miss it! Fresh Dungeness Crab, off the boat that morning (Fish Alley, the commercial docks, are just a few blocks away), pulled from a steaming cauldron set up right by the sidewalk and served with a delicious cocktail sauce… will definitely be an unforgettable excursion on your San Francisco vacation.

  • Ghirardelli Square – Located across the street from Aquatic Park is the historic chocolate factory, Ghirardelli Square. Now there is an open, spacious shopping area with restaurants, ice cream parlor and a display of the old chocolate making equipment from the factory’s hey-day.

Walk a block to the east to find the Powell-Hyde St. cable car turnaround for a fun way to explore the colorful heart of San Francisco. Or turn left on Polk and then right on Bay Street to traverse the edge of Fort Mason.

  • Fort Mason – Keep heading west on your San Francisco vacation, circumnavigating the City by the Bay. Only a block from Ghirardelli Square is Fort Mason. The former military real estate on the San Francisco Peninsula has become part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the headquarters can be found at Fort Mason Center.
  • Palace of Fine Arts – Originally the Palace of Fine Arts was intended as a temporary structure for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition, celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal.

Reminiscent of a Grecian Temple, its classic lines are reflected in a beautiful little lake. Swans glide across the water while visitors and locals enjoy the serene atmosphere of the surrounding park.

  • Boudin Sourdough and Bakery Tour – Just opened in Spring 2005, the two-story Boudin flagship building is where San Francisco vacationers can observe 5,000 square feet of bakery action. Located in Fisherman’s Wharf, you can take a history tour showing the legend of San Francisco sourdough and enjoy some fresh-from the oven samples while you’re at it.
  • The deYoung Museum – This well-known attraction for anyone who has experience San Francisco vacation. The area has been around more than 100 years and, with a state-of-the-art facility that integrates art, architecture and natural landscape. The facility showcases the museum’s priceless collection of art from the 17th through the 20th centuries.
  • Metreon in Yerba Buena – Metreon is the first-of-its-kind entertainment center located at Fourth and Mission streets in the heart of downtown San Francisco. This 350,000 square-foot complex features an eclectic mix of the Bay Area’s best restaurants, shopping venues, theatres, and entertainment destinations, including the West Coast’s largest IMAX theatre.
  • Presidio of San Francisco – Formerly a military post, the Presidio is a national park and recreational paradise featuring spectacular vistas, meandering trails, and historic and architectural treasures. Go for a hike, a walking tour, a picnic, to view an exhibit or take a stroll back in time. Entrance to the park and most programs are free. The park is open daily, year-round.
  • Winchester Mystery House, San Jose – A bizarre, four-story mansion containing 160 rooms. Mrs. Sarah Winchester kept carpenters and craftsmen busy 24 hours a day for 38 years building this Victorian structure, but its strange construction and purpose remain a mystery. Hours Daily from 9 am daily; closed Christmas Day. Admission $19.95; $17.95 seniors 65 and over; $13.95 ages 6-12; under age 5 free.
  • Aircraft Carrier USS Hornet Museum – America’s most famous aircraft carrier is a National historic landmark. Families experience Naval History and space exploration firsthand with authentic aircraft on display, Apollo exhibit, and flight simulator available. Hours 10am-5pm, admissions close 4pm. Limited access Tuesday. Admission $12 adults; $10 military, students and seniors; $5 children ages 5-18, free under 5. This site is a great way to learn USA war history and enjoy San Francisco vacation at the same time.
  • The Exploratorium – Experience exciting and interactive exhibits that make learning fun, regardless of your age or familiarity with science. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.year-round. Closed Mondays except holidays. Admission $13 adults; $10 students, seniors, disabled and youth (13-17);$8 children (4-12) and under age 4 free.
  • Cliff House – The world famous Cliff House restaurant sits at the curve with a grand backdrop of the Pacific Ocean and the cluster of Seal Rocks. The vague outline of the Sutro Baths ruins lies nearby.
  •  Sutro Baths – Once the Sutro Baths was a gigantic Victorian greenhouse-like structure that covered swimming pools, a curio’s museum and a restaurant until burning to the ground. All of this is on the border of the Lincoln Park district to the north, home of the Palace of the Legion of Honor.

Finally, your San Francisco vacation would not be complete without visiting many of the locations in the general vicinity of San Francisco. Wine lovers will want to know that Napa Valley and Sonoma aren’t far away. Just across the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll find Sausalito with its many trendy shops and drop-dead views of San Francisco. Travel south from the city and you come to the beach city of Santa Cruz, one of popular holiday destinations for both Californians and out-of-staters. Farther south is the historic Monterey Peninsula with its many reminders of John Steinbeck and its world-class golfing at Pebble Beach. Just south of Monterey is the storybook village of Carmel, loaded with fascinating shops, great boutique hotels and excellent restaurants.


In conclusion, by now it should be obvious to you why San Francisco continually draws visitors back again and again. You do not have to take the recommendations of this article blindly without your own investigation, but  we hope it serves you as basic tourist guide, and give you enough ideas to plan for a San Francisco vacation this year. Enjoy your trip to the bay of San Francisco!

Visit the North American destinations category to learn more about best places to visit in America!