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San Francisco

by Suzanne Milne on 21/03/2022

With a history of progressive bohemians, hip writers, earthquakes, fires, and economic boom and bust, San Francisco is a vibrant and diverse cultural melting pot offering plenty of fascinating and unique destinations that will enthral all the family. 

There are more than 75,000 acres in Golden Gate’s Recreation Area peppered with trails, campgrounds, and wildlife preserves, plus over 200 parks, playgrounds, and open spaces throughout the city.

Best of all, San Francisco is an extremely manageable six miles square, so you can experience the majority of this city’s icons – the cable cars, Alcatraz, Golden Gate Park, Haight-Ashbury – in just a few days

This also means you won’t feel particularly limited by the neighbourhood where you choose to stay or the proximity of one place to another. However, we do recommend planning a minimum of three days in this city – the first around Fisherman’s Wharf and visiting Alcatraz; the second around the Golden Gate Park area with a diversion into Haight-Ashbury, and a third at The Presidio. With a few days to spare, you can also go further afield and discover life across the bridge in the gorgeous seaside village of Sausalito or even head down the coast to Monterey for a day.

THE LOWDOWN Originally the home of the Ohlone people, the Presidio was the first place in this city to be founded by European explorers, and in 1776, the Presidio Army Base was founded here. On July 9, 1846, a small outpost of wood shacks, Yerba Buena, founded by an eager Mormon priest, Samuel Brannan, became an official part of the United States. Three years later, James Marshall discovered gold dust in a Sierra saw mill and San Francisco became the entrance port to the famed “El Dorado,” the legendary land of gold in the West. Soon San Francisco was overrun with gold fever and the city grew up to be a somewhat lawless circus. Just as the gold boom bust, silver was discovered, and  San Francisco grew and beautified. Cable cars arrived and changed the history further, the reclaiming of sand dunes to make Golden Gate Park, San Andreas Fault and the earthquake of April 18, 1906, then fires started, and

http://www.sanfrancisco.com/history/

THE HIGHLIGHTS Teens will be inspired by the flower power spirit of the Haight-Ashbury district, while a visit to Alcatraz delivers a handcuffed history of America’s gangster culture. Visit The Presidio, a park photogenically located beneath The Golden Gate Bridge, and take a bounce on The House of Air’s spectacularly cojoined trampolines. Then spend a day in what is possibly the world’s most playful science lab, the Exploratorium on the waterfront Embarcadero.

WHEN TO GO Weather-wise, San Francisco enjoys a mild climate year-round, sitting in the mid teens to mid twenties in Celsius (mid fifties to mid seventies, Fahrenheit) for the entire year. The months of June through October have the most pleasant temperatures, while January sees the greatest rainfall and December is the coolest month on average.

WHERE TO STAY 

  • Fisherman’s Wharf xxxx The Sea Lions at Pier 39, Alcatraz, Fresh seafood is one tasty reason to visit the northern waterfront area, once the bustling center of the fishing industry. (You must try clam chowder in a sourdough bowl at Boudin’s.) It’s flush with attractions like a boardwalk populated with crab shacks, souvenir shops and breathtaking views of the Bay, Golden Gate Bridge and Marin County to the north. (Most of the wacky novelty museums are skip-worthy). Pier 39, a shopping/eating emporium, deserves a whirl if only to say hi to the famous sea lions that laze on the docks below. Indulging in an ice cream sundae at the historic Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory is an absolute Y-E-S! Hands-down, though, one of the best reasons to hit the Wharf is to hop a ferry (departing from Pier 33) to Alcatraz, the notorious island prison. The 2.5-hour tour of the cellblock is fascinating and fun. Make sure to book tours in advance and opt for the guided audio tour.
  • Nob Hill xxxx Coit Tower
  • Union Square xxxxThis is retail central, in the heart of downtown, where stores of all types are snuggled into an easy to navigate area. You’ll find large retailers (Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Macy’s) to designer stores (Prada, Barney’s, BVLAGRI) to every chain imaginable (Crate and Barrel to Gap). The très charming Maiden Lane, a teensy cobblestone, pedestrian alley dotted with high-end shops and outdoor cafes, is a must-shop. Gump’s, a legendary local department store, and the city’s only Frank Lloyd Wright building—now home to the Xanadu Gallery—are found here. Union Square, the public park itself, is an ideal place to take a shopping break, grab a snack at Emporio Rulli Caffè and enjoy abundant people-watching. Also in this neighborhood: the city’s small theater district and ever-crowded Powell Street cable-car turnaround.

GETTING AROUND  Train and airport connections. xxxxx public transport system consists of xxxx, yyy and zzz. Taxi fares generally start at . As a guide, a daytime trip from xxx to yyyy will cost xxxx
XXNeed to rent a bike? Equipment rentals are offered at Stow Lake Bike & Boat Rentals (50 Stow Lake Drive; (415) 752-0347); Golden Gate Park Bike and Skate (3038 Fulton Street; (415) 668-1117); American Cyclery (510 Frederick Street and 858 Stanyan Street; (415) 664-4545); Avenue Cyclery (756 Stanyan Street; (415) 387-3155); Park Cyclery (1749 Waller Street; (415) 221-3777); and Skates on Haight (1818 Haight Street; (415) 752-8375).XX

CULTURAL TIP
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THE BASICS
Banks… Banking hours are from 09.00-17.00, Monday through Friday. Some banks are open on Saturday until 16.00. Chase closes at 16.00 on Saturdays. Bank of America is open from 09.00-14.00 on Saturdays. ATMs are available in almost every block. International visitors may be charged a fee for withdrawals.
Business hours…  Shops are open from as early as 10am to 6 pm from Mondays through Saturdays. Some stores have longer hours during the tourist season. Most stores have shorter hours during Sundays. The Ghirardelli Square, and the big department stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom have longer hours, generally closing at xx. Restaurants usually serve lunch from 11.30. There are more than 3500 restaurants to choose from – check our EAT recommendations now.
Mobile phones… The city offers a free WiFi service in selected areas. You can connect through “#SFWiFi”. Website – with external link xx
Pharmacies… Pharmacies are located all over the city. Most pharmacies are open 7 days a week from 8am – 8pm. Walgreens have longer hours, generally opening from 06.00-24.00. Safeway on Powell St. and Walgreens in 7th Ave. are 24/7 pharmacies.
Police… The central police station is Richmond Police Station in 6th Ave. For emergency police assistance, dial 911. For non emergency police calls call (415) 666-8000.
Post Office… The central US Post Office is located at Evans Ave. The business hours are from 7am – 8:30pm Mondays – Fridays, 8am – 2pm on Saturdays and closed on Sundays.
Supermarkets… The best supermarket to head for is the Wonderful Foods Incorporated in Irving St. The Bi-Rite Market is also one of the most patronized and highly rated supermarkets in the city. If you prefer organic stores you can visit Scarlet Sage Herb Company in Valencia St. or Green Earth Natural Food in Divisadero St.
Telephone codes…  International code for US: +1 ;  San Francisco area code: 415. When phoning out of the country, dial 011 as the prefix.
Tipping… is expected in San Francisco. Tip at least a dollar per bag in hotels for bellhops. For a chamber staff also tip $1 per day. For cab rides the usual tip is 15 per cent of the fare. In restaurants, the usual tip is 15-20 per cent of the total bill. Waiters are taxed on the assumption that they receive tips so it is smiled upon if you give an ample amount of tip.
Toilets… There are hi-tech oval shaped green kiosks (looking a little like an alien space ship) on sidewalks which are actually public toilets. You pay 25c to enter and there is no time limit. It is not recommended to use public toilets in sketchier neighborhoods like in the Missions. Use toilets in hotel lobbies, bars and restaurants instead if these are readily available.
Visas… The US Visa Waiver Program allows certain countries to enter the US without a need for a Visa as long as they have a passport and a national ID to show immigration. Countries that need additional Visa permission include LINK or list of countries.

CITY CARDS…
The City Pass of San Francisco gives you access to transportation and discounts all over the metro. With a city pass, you will be able to enjoy unlimited transportation on all Muni trolleys, buses and cable cars for 7 days. You can avoid the long lines and save on money when you use a city pass.

IN AN EMERGENCY
For an Ambulance… Call 911
To report a crime, accident, or other emergency… Dial 911
Out and About? Call 911 or look for
Hospital for a paediatric emergency… the best and most central hospital either with a paediatric unit OR that is a dedicated pediatric hospital are St. Luke’s Hospital in Cesar Chavez St. with contact number (415) 647-8600 and California Emergency Physicians in Stanyan St. with contact number (415) 668-1000.

BEFORE YOU GO…

  • Read it… 
  • Watch it… 
  • Buy it… 

WHILE YOU’RE THERE…

  • Taste it… 
  • See it… 
  • Buy it… 
ESCAPES FROM THE CITY… Now that you’re familiar with xxxx, here are a handful of Escapes, all worthy of a day (or three) from your holiday plans.
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