An American city unlike any other. Home to the best food I’ve eaten in the US, with one of their best airports (though there isn’t much competition), making it a great stopover destination for 3-4 days. Huge amount to do and see for what is actually a relatively small city itself (850k people, though 7.5m in the greater Bay Area), here are some of my picks…
Alcatraz and Angel Island
Alcatraz is obviously a must see, to understand the fascinating history of an infamous if relatively short lived prison. Angel Island is less well known but equally interesting, full of history and beautiful sights. The two can be combined in one great day trip (9.30-3), by ferry from Pier 33. When you return check out the bustle of the Ferry Terminal, home to plenty of places to eat.
Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill
Has some of the best views of the city. Particularly interesting how zoning restricts the CBD hi-rise to a very defined area, unlike most cities. Also a good place to see the final flyby of the Space Shuttle…
A pretty horrifically touristic and tacky part of town, but home to two must sees. Musee Mecanique is a free collection of mechanical and electronic toys from the ages, from antique pinball machines through to arcade video games. Next door is the USS Pampanito, a claustrophobic insight into the life of a submariner during WW2, one of the most dangerous jobs in the US Navy.
Golden Gate Bridge
As spectacular as I’d hoped, if slightly dodgy to cycle over due to its narrow width and strong winds.
M.H. De Young Art Museum
The best art gallery in town, housed in an awesome building, including a free viewing tower.
Japanese Tea Garden
Next door to the M.H. De Young Art Museum and as good as any I visited in Japan, well worth exploring.
Legion of Honor Art Museum
A slice of Europe in the New World, home to Rodins and other classical works housed in an impressive classical building with stunning views out toward the Golden Gate Bridge.
Golden Gate Park
Home to many of the sights I’ve mentioned, this huge park ends on the shores of the Pacific with a couple of slightly random windmills. Close by are the remains of the Sutro Baths, now an evocative ruin, overlooked by the equally evocative remains of the home of Adolph Sutro, owner of the ill fated baths.
Rent a bike
A great way to explore the huge Golden Gate Park area and the Northern Waterfront. From the CBD head west through the park to the coast, then north along the coast into Paradiso and over the Golden Gate Bridge and get the ferry from Sausalito back into town. One of the best days I’ve had travelling.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
A pretty good if not amazing modern art museum, M.H. De Young Art Museum has a better building and collection, but still worth a visit.
Asian Art Museum
Enjoyment dependent on your appreciation of Asian art which I’m somewhat lukewarm on, but it has an extensive and nicely presented collection.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Bay Model
Enjoyably random find in Sausalito, over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. It’s a working hydraulic scale model of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta System. Surprisingly interesting!