Welcome to MetroGuide Networks' overview of San Francisco-area attractions. The Greater San Francisco
area is full of attractions for all ages. Seductive to the extreme, no matter where you turn in
San Francisco, a picture postcard photographic opportunity pops into view. From Golden Gate
Bridge to Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf, the colorful Haight-Ashbury section and beyond,
San Francisco attractions beckon for far closer scrutiny. Rising from sea level to more
than 900 feet in elevation, the city often can be shrouded in fog that lends an ethereal
quality to all there is to see and do. This charismatic port city has trafficked with
peoples of the world for more than a century and its large number of residents with
ties to other cultures has flavored cuisine, commerce and lifestyles, making the city
a magnet for diverse unconventionality that lends color to an already thrilling locale.
Below is a list of some suggested things to do in the San Francisco Metropolitan Area,
with links to more details when available.
- Alamo Square
The line-up of Victorian houses called “Postcard Row,” is one of the most photographed residential streets in America. Bounded by Webster, Broderick, Oak and Golden Gate streets, Alamo Square Park overlooks the downtown area to the east, framing these turn-of-the-century homes against a backdrop of modern skyscrapers. Several are open to the public either as private home tours or as Bed & Breakfasts.
Once the chilling destination of maximum-security convicts, Alcatraz now hosts more visitors each year than the inmate population of its entire 29-year stretch as a federal pen. Tours in many languages recount history of inmates including Machine Gun Kelley, Al Capone, and Robert "Birdman of Alcatraz" Stroud. On clear days, bridge views are stunning. Ferries depart Fisherman's Wharf, with ticket sales at Pier 41.
Call (415) 705-1042 for more information.
- Cable Car Museum
See models, photographs and relics of San Francisco's early transit system, including the first cable car built in 1873. A video describes operation and an underground viewing room showcases how sheaves guide the cars under the street. 1201 Mason Street at Washington Street.
Call (415) 474-1887 for more information.
- Cable Car Rides
The nation's only moving national historic landmarks, San Francisco's cable cars still run on 8.8 miles of track along three of their original 100-year-old routes. These motorless carriages travel by gripping onto underground cables on the ascent and releasing on the descent. Average speed is 9.5 mph, and the steepest grade is 21.3 percent.
- California Academy of Sciences
Like a park within a park, this state museum consists of a planetarium, natural history museum, a green museum of sustainable architecture, aquarium and rain forest, and offers interactive dive shows and simulated journeys through space. 55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park.
Call (415) 379-8000 for more information.
Home to the largest concentration of Chinese outside China, San Francisco's Chinatown packages exotic shops, restaurants, produce markets, temples and more within nearly two dozen downtown blocks. Bounded by Broadway, Bush, Kearny and Stockton streets, this is truly a city within a city. Grant Avenue, the main thoroughfare, is lined with tearooms, theaters and grocery stores. Walking tours are available.
Call (415) 981-8989 for more information.
- Electric Bike Tour
The San Francisco and Sausalito Electric Tour Companies offer a selection of tours of San Francisco and Sausalito on A2B electric bikes, including special tour over the Golden Gate Bridge with a return by ferry. Tours leave from Fisherman's Wharf.
Call (415) 474-3131 for more information.
- Fisherman's Wharf
Although considered the city's most popular tourist destination, picturesque Fisherman's Wharf with its pungent aromas remains a working fishing pier, annually bringing in thousands of tons of fresh fish and crabs. Here you will find dozens of restaurants, markets, import houses and souvenir shops. Among favorite buys are fresh seafood and sourdough bread. You can park in lots along Beach, North Point, Bay and Francisco streets.
- Ghirardelli Square
Shopping and dining opportunities abound at this 2.5-acre site where the historic San Francisco Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory was saved from destruction to become one of the nation's first showcase examples of adaptive reuse. Within walking distance of Fisherman's Wharf, the square is bounded by Beach, Polk, North Point and Larkin streets.
Call (415) 775-5500 for more information.
- Golden Gate Bridge
Actually painted an “International Orange,” the world's most famous bridge spans the Golden Gate strait, a mile-wide gulf between the bay and ocean, separating Marin County from the city. Early Spanish explorers sailed the fog-shrouded coastline for years before finally discovering this vital gateway that, in 1769, led them from rough Pacific waters to the shelter of San Francisco Bay. The Golden Gate's pair of bridge towers are the world's highest, at 746 feet above the water, and a clearance of 220 feet allows passage of the largest oceangoing vessels. Drive, bike or walk across the two-mile long suspension bridge. A $5 vehicular toll is charged southbound, while northbound is free.
- Golden Gate Park
The 1,000-acre Golden Gate Park features Strybing Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, the Japanese Tea Garden, the Asian Art Museum, tennis courts, croquet, baseball diamonds, horse stables and more.
This center of ‘60s psychedelic activity to this day retains counterculture credentials with a proliferation of piercing salons, bookstores brimming with hippie nostalgia, and off-beat shops set amid Victorian architecture.
- Jelly Belly Visitor Center and Factory
Enjoy a free tour and samples of these famous jelly beans and other confections; shop any time of the day in the candy store where you can find souvenirs, all of the unusual Jelly Belly flavors, chocolate gummies and over 150 other types of candy, and have lunch in the Cafe which features burgers, pizzas shaped like jelly beans, ice cream, soft drinks, and an outdoor picnic area. One Jelly Belly Lane, Fairfield.
Call (707) 428-2838 for more information.
- Mission Dolores
As the oldest structure in San Francisco, Mission Dolores was built by the Franciscan friars and Ohlone Indians in 1791, when the land was still claimed by Spanish pioneers and called Alta California. Inside the church is a small museum, and behind is the Mission cemetery with historical gravestones.
- Monterey Bay Aquarium
Enjoy a close encounter with sea otters, sharks, jellyfish, octopus, penguins, and more. In addition, educational exhibits and SCUBA diving programs for kids are featured. Open every day, but schedule varies by season. 886 Cannery Row, Monterey.
Call (831) 648-4800 for more information.
- Palace of Fine Arts
Originally designed by architect Bernard Maybeck as a temporary structure for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition, the Palace of Fine Arts was conceived as a grand classical ruin. While surrounding structures eventually were razed, public pressure led to preserving the Palace and in 1996, the crumbling structure was rebuilt in near entirety. Its Exhibition Hall houses the hands-on science Exploratorium, conceived by physicist Frank Oppenheimer. An adjacent 1,000-seat theater hosts events and concerts.
Call (415) 561-0360 for more information.
- Pier 39
There is always a lot going on at Pier 39, Beach Street and the Embarcadero, hailed as San Francisco's Premier Bay Attraction, including live entertainment every day, a festival marketplace with over 110 stores, 13 restaurants with a view of the Bay, sea lions and street performers.
Call (415) 705-5500 for more information.
- Powell Street Hill
The foot of Powell Street serves as San Francisco's downtown transportation hub, site of the cable car turnaround and underground Muni and BART stations, plus the F-Line Historic Streetcar route along Market Street. Trek four blocks up the hill, and you'll encounter Union Square, the heart of the city's shopping district. Banks and retail shops line Market Street.
The Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco's tallest building stretching 835 feet into the sky, marks the edge of the financial district and the beginning of North Beach, the Italian quarter brimming with aromatic cafes.
- Raging Waters
Northern California's largest water park, open from May through September only, offers 23 acres of spectacular water rides, including falls, slides and the unique Dragon's Den catapult ride, private rental cabanas, a catered picnic area, burgers, hot dogs, chicken and pizza. 2333 South White Road, San Jose.
Call (408) 238-9900 for more information.
- San Francisco Ferry Building
Reopened in April, 2003, after a $100-million renovation, the landmark San Francisco Ferry Building hosts the long-running Saturday Farmer's Market, also open on Sunday and some week days. You will find fresh breads, gourmet olive oils and organic vegetables and fruits filling the stands, along with more than 40 Bay Area artisan food shops.
Call (415) 274-0488 for more information.
- San Francisco Zoo
At this zoo on Sloat Boulevard with an entrance on 45th Avenue, more than 1,000 mammals and birds await within the Primate Discovery Center, Koala Crossing, a warthog exhibit and more.
Call (415) 753-7080 for more information.
- Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are waiting to swim with you, followed by a gourmet wine-paired lunch served at the pool, close encounters with sea lions, elephant riding, lorikeet and giraffe feedings, and you can also bring your sleeping bag and spend a night with the sharks. Open mainly on weekends during the Winter months and more days during the Summer months; schedule varies monthly. 1001 Fairgrounds Drive
Call (707) 643-6722 for more information.
- Waterworld California
Open from May through September, and closed for the Winter months, California's water park with the most rides and attractions of any other features private cabana rentals, the gigantic Breaker Beach Wave Pool, Lil' Kahuna's Waterworks for the kids, refreshments and more. 1950 Waterworld Parkway, Concord.
Call (925) 609-1364 for more information.
- Winchester Mystery House
Marvel at the meticulous detail that Winchester Rifle heiress Sarah L. Winchester devoted to this rambling 160-room Victorian mansion of her dreams and lifetime preoccupation, built between 1884 and 1922. 525 South Winchester Boulevard, San Jose.
Call (408) 247-2101 for more information.
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