Once you decide you’re heading to San Francisco, you probably have a long list of items you want to do during your visit. Everywhere you go you’ll have your camera out trying to capture every moment you’re in this big, beautiful city. There’s so much to see and do, but make sure these five things you’ll only find in San Francisco are added to your list of things to see and try.
1. Golden Gate Bridge
There’s a reason this is the No. 1 suggestion given by everyone in San Francisco. When it opened in 1937, the San Francisco Chronicle called the Golden Gate Bridge “a thirty-five million dollar steel harp,” and it’s the most magnificent giant steel harp you’ll ever lay eyes on, as well as the perfect place to start any trip to San Francisco. It was the longest suspension bridge in the world until 1964 and is now the ninth longest. Although it’s called the “Golden” Gate Bridge, the bridge’s color is actually an orange vermilion called International Orange.
Image Source: Mobilus In Mobili
The consulting architect recommended this color as something distinct from the cool colors of the water and the sky and because it provided visibility for ships and boats coming into the Bay even with fog. It was only supposed to be a temporary color, but it’s remained the same. When it first opened, you had to pay a toll to even walk across the bridge. Luckily in 1970, the toll for walking was eliminated, but today there’s a toll for driving across the bridge. On a clear day you’ll enjoy a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Bay on the other.
2. Sourdough Bread
Yes, you can get sourdough from just about any store, but if you want to try authentic sourdough bread, you must go to a bakery in San Francisco. Sourdough is so popular in San Francisco, the sports teams even get involved, like the 49ers naming their mascot Sourdough Sam. French bakers brought sourdough bread methods to San Francisco during the 1849 Gold Rush, and some of the bakeries have been making this bread continuously since then. Tartine Bakery is one of the bakeries locals will recommend you get your bread from. You’ll need to order your delicious loaf ahead of time or be prepared to stand in a long line after 4:30 p.m.
Image Source: Breville USA
Boudin Bakery is known to be where many tourists stop, and for good reason. Right in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf, Boudin boasts some of the best sourdough bread in the city. If you want something besides a sourdough loaf, many recommend the clam chowder in a bread bowl. You know you’re one of the best bakeries when vendors proudly claim that their sandwiches are made with bread from your bread company, and that’s exactly what Acme Bread Company experiences. As one reviewer said, “I hate you but I love you.” Acme Bread Company was founded in 1983 and has plenty of varieties of bread they make today, but nothing compares to the sourdough. When you want just a slice instead of a full loaf, stop by The Mill. They’ve not only figured out the best recipe for bread, they’ve also figured out exactly how much time it takes to perfectly toast a slice of bread. You will be asking for their secrets so you can replicate the process at home.
3. Coit Tower
Coit Tower is even older than the Golden Gate Bridge, and at the top of Telegraph Hill, it provides a full 360-degree view of San Francisco. Built in 1933, the Tower is a memorial to Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a wealthy and eccentric socialite. She obtained some of her money by dressing like a man and gambling in male-only establishments. Her will stipulated that some of her fortune was to be used to beautify the city she loved so much. The funds were used to build the tower and a monument in Washington Square.
Image Source: Michele Ursino
You don’t even have to ride to the top to get an amazing view of the city, but with a few extra dollars and either a climb up 80 stairs or a short elevator ride, you can have an obstructed 360-degree view of San Francisco. You’ll see the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge, just as long as there’s no fog! You will definitely want to have your camera set to panorama to capture beautiful pictures of the cityscape.
The bottom of Coit Tower features beautiful murals that nearly everyone who’s been there mentions. Artists employed by the Public Works of Art Project originally painted these murals. Funded by the New Deal during the Great Depression, these artists were able to earn a wage while documenting life in San Francisco. In the past few years, these paintings have been restored so the colors are more vibrant than ever before. You will not want to miss seeing this piece of history.
4. Mission Burrito
There are burritos, and then there’s the Mission burrito. This burrito is so big and full of fixings that it has to have foil wrapped around it to keep it structurally intact. Rice, beans, meat, and salsa are all included in this burrito. It’s so amazing that other restaurants outside of the city have added it to their menu as the “San Francisco Burrito.” To experience it the authentic way, you need to stop into one of the restaurants in the Mission district in San Francisco. Warning: You won’t want to plan a big dinner after or a big lunch before because this burrito will fill you for the rest of the day.
Image Source: An Mai
Taqueria San Francisco is hands down the favorite place to purchase a burrito. Many reviewers have pitted Taqueria against other restaurants, and it always comes out on top. One of the many secrets is they use the same griddle for the meat as they do to warm the tortillas. If you have a late night craving, stop by Taqueria Cancun to get your fill. The burritos will be enough for two people so don’t feel bad about having to share or take some home. Taqueria Cancun is cash only so make sure you have some of those dollar bills on hand. If you want something a little more fancy than a local hangout, Papalote Mexican Grill has won every award for their burritos. If you’re not a burrito fan, the homemade salsa will definitely get you to return.
5. Ride the Cable Car
Other places may have trolleys or subways, but cable street cars are San Francisco’s mode of transportation. It’s also the last manually operated cable car system in the world, so you know you won’t find this anywhere else. Originally 23 lines or routes were established between 1873 and 1890, currently only three are still in use. Two of the lines run north and south, and the third line runs east to west. Buy an all-day pass and ride across town. You can snap pictures as you ride and get off at specific stops without worrying about parking, traffic, or finding your way around the city. You can travel to Ghiradelli Square and Fisherman’s Wharf, pass by Lombard Street, and discover Nob Hill.
Image Source: Alfonso Jimenez
Once you’re done riding, visit the San Francisco Cable Car Museum to learn more about the history of the cable car system and to learn about San Francisco’s history. You can take a peek at three antique cable cars from the 1870s. If you’re someone who’s dying to know how the cable cars work, the museum even lets you go downstairs to see how the machinery works to pull all the cars around town.
The City By the Bay will fill up your itinerary quick with plenty of places to see and visit, but be sure that you make time to enjoy these five adventures that help make San Francisco a unique vacation destination.
This post was written and provided by IHG Hotels. IHG offers hotels for every type of occasion and has 4,700 properties in nearly 100 countries.