They say San Francisco is the most beautiful and magical of American cities, a dream. The mix of history, art, culture, hip urbanites and a vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene, count this City as a top vacation destination. Where to go? What to do?
Here are SF's brightest seasons for play:
If you didn't know, the Bay Area is known as Fog City simply because we sit right at the water in-between two bays. This allows for billowing cloud, over cast conditions and misty air throughout most of the year. If you plan on coming in during the typical summer months..don't. You are better off planning your Bay Area vacation/foray after the Summer months or right before. The most popular time to make it in, is that golden month of September. Ahh September, when magic happens. The fog rises, the air clears, the sky beams its royal blue best and the weather is gorgeous; perfect for outdoor movies in the park, long walks along the beach, gourmet dining by the water and poking around one-of-kind store for signature pieces.
September through to October/November is counted as high season in the business industry as hotels are discounted due to the mass exodus of holidaying families headed home for the school year. While you can look forward to less crowding, expect convention center traffic and busy upscale restaurants, particularly in the SoMA [South of Market] neighborhood of San Francisco.
Irregardless of the weather, prepare for it to change at the drop of a hat. San Francisco is home to the micro weather system - one weather system over one part of the city does not mean that the weather will remain the same at another. Best practice is to wear layers which you can peel off and pull back on depending on which weather system you encounter.
The number/age of your crew and expected vacation plans will determine how you make your way around the city. If you have a family of young ones with you, driving is the most practical choice. Be advised however that parking in and around the city is at a premium - be it by price or by availability.
If you are more flexible, the BART [Bay Area Transit System] of subway/trains is most seamless and easily accessible, with stations dotted across the city.
You can never exhaust the sightseeing possibilities that the Bay Area has to offer. Even after living here almost 3 years, I am still surprised by all that is yet left to experience.
Neighborhoods and Sights:
Golden Gate Bridge: was originally built as a more expedient form of transit between what was San Francisco and Marin County. Prior to the bridge's installation, transit between both shores was via ferry offered by the Golden Gate Ferry Company. Built between 1930 and 1937, the bridge launched San Francisco to worldwide tourist attraction status.
Fisherman's Wharf: This popular tourist stop offers up lots of seafood, souvenirs and views of the Bay. It also serves as the proverbial launching point of numerous water, sailing and cruise tours. Make sure you try the Alcatraz Sunset Cruise which is not to be missed if you've made it through this far.
Chinatown: Rich in culture and history, browse and shop along with locals through exotic produce and flower markets. The elaborately designed Chinatown Gate serves as Chinatown's hub. Particularly fascinating is the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory where over 22, 000 fortune cookies are made every day in this old school establishment.
Golden Gate Park: Stretches from Stanyan Street in San Francisco to the majestic swells beating the shores of Ocean Beach. This stretch of green, counts as the City's one haven in the midst of a concrete jungle. Go on a nature walk and try to spot the bison often sighted roaming through the trees. A boating jaunt on Stow Lake is a must.
The Haight: Home to the origin of 60s hippie culture, the Haight is a colorful neighborhood filled with nostalgia and 60s whimsy. If you came searching for memories of the past in tie/dye clothing, flowered print, free love theology, smoke shops and incense, you found the place.
The Marina: Perfect and dreamy for sunny days. Down by the water, this piece of reclaimed land that at one time was home to marshes, seabirds, sand dunes and scrub, showcases gorgeous homes, Fort Mason, Crissy Field, Palace of The Fine Arts and numerous fine dining eateries. Look out for the occasional Off The Grid trucks that serve up a mobile food extravaganza; a staple for SF foodies.
Nob Hill: exudes San Francisco's streets of luxury, vintage and privilege. History cites the hill as home to rich gold barons in the 1800s built sprawling mansions well away from the rowdy miner hordes crowding the waterfront. Today, landmark hotels and expensive condos crowd tree lined avenues. The Cable Car Museum, Nob Hill Cafe and the regal Grace Cathedral Episcopal Church should be on your list of stops. Finish off your tour with a drink and classic appetizer at the landmark Top of the Mark Lounge at the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental Hotel.
Union Square: The proverbial center of downtown San Francisco cannot be missed. It is the premier shopping destination of the Western US with boutiques, designer shops, galleries, major department stores and restaurants lining Post, Stockton, Geary and Powell streets which form the Square. In the fall, holiday cheer fills the air when the giant Christmas Tree goes up, twinkling lights are hung and the ice-skating rink is installed.
Marin County: is a getaway from the noise and clutter of the city north of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge. Drive through the waterfront Mediterranean style community of Sausalito, enjoy nature trails through the Redwood trees at Muir Woods, browse San Anselmo's antique stores then head further north into Napa for wine tasting.
February: Chinese New Year Parade
November: Annual Holiday Light Celebration at the Embarcadero Center; Dia de Los Muertos [Day of The Dead] Procession through the Mission; Embarcadero Holiday Ice Rink opening; Holiday Festival of Lights at Fishermans Wharf; Macy's Union Square Tree Lighting Ceremony