Tips for Visiting San Francisco

By Laura Jemetta

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So you’re headed to San Francisco! You’re going to have a great time – San Francisco is a fantastic city full of beautiful scenery and people. Here are 5 tips to know before visiting San Francisco:

1. BOOK ALCATRAZ AHEAD OF TIME

This is my most crucial tip! If you’re going to be in San Francisco, I’m going to assume that you’ll want to make the trip over to Alcatraz and explore the jail on a tour. I certainly wanted to check it out, and assumed that we could book tickets for the day we wanted to visit. This isn’t the case! You must book your tickets for Alcatraz well in advance of even arriving in San Francisco. Yes, you might get lucky with a ticket if you are staying in excess of a week in San Francisco, however, tickets sell out days in advance. We didn’t know this, and turned up asking for tickets, only to be told the next available tickets were for the following Tuesday – several days after we were due to move onto our next destination. So, my tip: book those Alcatraz tickets online before you even leave for your trip, and save yourself the disappointment of missing out!

2. Bring Your Walking Shoes

This is also a must for San Francisco: as you probably already know, San Francisco rests on a significantly hilly landscape, so it’s likely that even if you only plan to walk short distances, you will be making your way up and down some pretty steep hills. To be comfortable, you really have to bring some sensible walking shoes. Reach for your Nikes, or whatever your supportive shoes are, and your feet will thank you for it. Aside from the hills, there are lots of beautiful outdoor spaces to explore in San Francisco, like the Botanical Gardens, and Golden Gate Park, so it will help to have your walking shoes with you if you want to get outside and explore San Francisco on foot.

3. Don’t be Discouraged by the Weather

I found San Francisco weather to be a lot like Melbourne weather – so it felt a lot like home! Changeable and a little unpredictable, San Francisco can be a bit of a four-seasons-in-one-day city, and you should know before going there, that it is often overcast and foggy. At first, it was a little disappointing for me to see all the fog and grey clouds when all I wanted to do was see the Golden Gate against the backdrop of a blue sky and sunshine. However, try not to let it discourage you if it’s always cloudy during your stay, or if you never get to see the top of the Golden Gate for all the fog. It’s just the way San Francisco is, and if you do get to see some sunshine while you’re there, you’re a lucky tourist. Try to embrace the San Francisco weather, and see it not as dreary, but unique, and truly San Franciscan.

4. Pack Your Warm Clothes

Speaking of the weather, as you can probably gather, it’s generally not the warmest in San Francisco. It’s definitely a good idea to pack at least a jacket, and even possibly a scarf if you’re headed to San Francisco, (especially in Spring and Autumn), and more layers for the height of winter. We arrived in San Francisco in October from boiling hot and humid Orlando, and the difference in temperature was a shock, (a welcome shock, though). I was so glad that I had brought a denim jacket and my trusty scarf with me from home, and they certainly came in handy in cool and crisp San Francisco. My tip: just throw a jacket a scarf in your suitcase if you’re going to be in San Francisco – sure, you might not need them depending on the time of year you’re there, but you’ll certainly be glad you’ve got them when that San Francisco wind hits you!

5. Get out of San Francisco to Explore

There is so much to see around the San Francisco Bay area. When we were there last year, we took a day trip to the Muir Woods, and Sausalito, both of which were fantastic to see. The Muir Woods were a natural beauty about an hour out of San Francisco, and Sausalito was a small town with great food, from which you can catch a ferry back to Pier 41. When in San Francisco, my tip is to see all the iconic things San Francisco has to offer, but to look past Pier 39 and explore some of the day trips on offer. Actually, if you’re at Pier 39 – that’s a good place to look at some day trips, as is the lobby of your hotel. San Francisco offers so many things to explore, and exploring a little further afield will enrich your experience exponentially.

That’s it for my San Francisco tips – let me know in the comments if you have some tips for San Francisco!

BONUS TIP: 

If you do end up missing out on seeing Alcatraz up close, I still highly recommend seeing San Francisco from the water. It is situated on a bay after all, and one of the best ways to see the city and it’s most iconic sights, is from the water. We chose a short cruise on the water when we missed out on going to Alcatraz, and it only cost about $15 US. The cruise driver was fantastic, and had so much information to give us about the city. He took us as close as you can get to Alcatraz without actually going onto the island, and we also got close to the Golden Gate. While it was still disappointing to leave San Francisco without having been to Alcatraz, the water cruise was a really nice thing to do instead – the sun came out that day, and the water glittered, and we were even allowed to take turns steering the boat on the San Francisco Bay! It was a fantastic experience, and I highly recommend it!

That’s it for my tips for San Francisco. Do you have any tips for visiting San Francisco? Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to hear!

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