A recent business excursion took me to the wonderful city of San Francisco. This was my first trip to the west coast, and I leaped at the chance to mix a little business with pleasure and fly my beautiful wife out to enjoy a few days with me in one of America’s greatest treasures.
Like all endeavors I undertake, I decided to take a little less touristy, little more ‘road less traveled’ approach to exploring the city. The decision paid us back in spades! So read on as we explore the great city that is San Francisco!
Eat the Street Food:
If you are on a budget (or you just like great food on the cheap) try out the street food in Fisherman’s Wharf. You can find great street food everywhere. My favorite spot is located on Taylor Street and Jefferson Street. For $15, my wife and I dined on fried calamari and possibly, the best Lobster-Bisk my pallet has ever feasted upon. If you do not enjoy seafood, there are easily a dozen other vendors nearby selling everything from Argentinean Burgers to old-fashioned hot dogs.
Grab a spot at any one of the public benches all around the Fisherman’s Wharf area. Most provide a great view of the ocean, which also makes for a nice sun-set view at dinner.
Share a Beer with Someone Interesting:
San Francisco has a great nightlife, but you can drink anywhere. The great thing about San Fran is you are certain to encounter people from a variety of countries and backgrounds. I ventured to a touristy (but cool) little bar near Union Square called Gold Dust Lounge. The prices were reasonable and it had a pretty good vibe. I met a French Canadian couple from Quebec and talked about everything from healthcare to camping. They introduced us to the CANADA (a 12 shot drinking marathon). We still keep in touch today.
Visit the Local Markets:
If you want to mingle with the people of San Francisco visit the Market. Everything was organic and grown locally. I can honestly say that San Francisco had some of the most beautiful produce I have ever laid eyes on. The selection of fruits and vegetables reminded us more of art than food. There were also a ton of FREE snacks and samples.
Experience the Local Art and Music:
There is no need to pay for a concert or visit a museum to experience the vibrant art and music scene. There are several places to view extraordinary art for FREE. Check out some of the galleries that sell art. The galleries are open to the public and carry works from a variety of artist including Picasso, Salvador Dali, and many locals. If you are not into museums check out the street artists. The local artists were extremely talented and ready to create pieces for you on the fly for a fraction of what pieces offered at the local galleries cost. My wife and I try to purchase custom street art almost everywhere we travel; they make for great reminders of your trips and wonderful keepsakes for the home.
Street musicians were also common. Some were incredibly talented (and some were drunks) and love an audience so feel free to crowd around and enjoy. It also makes a good opportunity to enjoy some street food with a few tunes. Many of these artists make a living off performing for crowds, so if you are feeling generous, tip.
Check out Alcatraz:
It may be the obvious choice, but I want to reiterate that visiting Alcatraz Island is worth the trip. Here are a couple of tips:
Remember only one fairy boat has rights to transport people to Alcatraz, so be sure you deal with them.
BOOK EARLY! The Alcatraz cruises often fill up months ahead of time. If you want a night tour book even earlier.
Go to the top of the hill:
If you have ever been to San Fran you know exactly what I am talking about. The hills there seem like mountains when you are walking them. The inclines require athletic ability to manage (you can do it!), but when you get to the top it presents a unique photo opportunity and possibly the most beautiful views in San Fran. Make the trip to the top of the roads around San Francisco Bay and snap a picture.
A picture is worth 1000 words.