19 Places to Explore and Eat in San Francisco

San Francisco was one of our many stops on our California road trip. This was our second week in California and we decided to work during the morning and explore during the afternoon to save some vacation days. It wasn’t easy waking up at 6AM and having a hard stop at 1PM. Somehow we were able to check off most of the things on our list even with two half days. Here’s what you’ll have to see when you’re in this city which is known to be foggy one-third of the year:

Lombard Street

This iconic attraction in San Francisco is known for its steep street with hairpin bends. You can visit on foot or by car. If you decide to see Lombard Street from your car, you can only drive it downhill from Hyde St and exit on Leavenworth St. The best place to get a shot of the crooked street is at Lombard St & Leavenworth St which is at the bottom of the hill. The amazing view at the top of the hill is also one not to miss.

Rating: 7.8/10.0
What Have I Learned: The famous Lombard Street used to be a normal street until 1922. It was designed to reduce the steep slope of the street.
Hour: 24 Hours

Fisherman Wharf/ Pier 39

This busy tourist area has everything from souvenir shops, restaurants, Ghirardelli Square, historic ship museums, and many more. Pier 39 is one of the piers in Fisherman’s Wharf where we had the famous clam chowder in a sourdough bowl and checked out all the cute sea lions sunbathing on the docks. We also love the famous hot fudge sundae at Ghirardelli where they show you how they make their chocolate.

Rating: 8.0/10.0
What Have I Learned: I would suggest walking or taking public transportation to and from Fisherman Wharf to avoid the parking nightmare near the piers.

Golden Gate Park

Dutch Windmill
SkyStar Wheel

I have been to San Francisco twice before but this is my first time to the Golden Gate Park. This park has so many attractions including the Dutch Windmill, SkyStar Wheel, de Young Museum, California Academy of Sciences, Japanese Tea Garden, San Francisco Botanical Garden, and more. We didn’t have time for all the attractions but we did see de Young Museum which is the nation’s fifth most visited art museum and the beautiful Dutch Windmill filled with flowers.

Japanese Tea Garden
de Young Museum

Rating: 8.2/10.0
What Have I Learned: Golden Gate Park is 20 percent larger than Central Park in NYC so you should drive here. There’s a lot of parking throughout the park. de Young Museum is free for all on the first Tuesday of every month for the permanent collection galleries but full-priced admission still applies for special exhibitions.
Cost: de Young Museum: General Admission: 15 USD (Adult)/ 12 USD (Senior 65+ years)/ 6 USD (Student w ID)/ FREE (Youth 0-17 years)
Hour: Mon: Closed/ Tues to Sun: 9:30 AM to 5:15 PM

The Palace of Fine Arts

This beautiful golden structure designed to look like a Roman ruin includes a huge dome and curved columns. It took about ten years to construct this 966 seat theater from start to finish. This is worth stopping by if you’re in SF to take in the breathtaking views. This is a popular spot to take engagement photos, wedding photos, quinceanera, and more. We saw all three when we were here.

Rating: 7.8/10.0
What Have I Learned: Parking is available on a first come first serve basis along Palace Drive. Additional metered event parking is located in the triangle lot along Palace drive.
Cost: FREE
Hour: 24 Hours

Fort Point National Historic Site

Fort Point was built between 1853 and 1861 to help defend the San Francisco Bay following California’s Gold Rush through World War II. This is located on the southern side of the Golden Gate Bridge. It not only served as an armed fortification but was also home to hundreds of men.

Rating: 8.2/10.0
What Have I Learned: This is a great spot to take photos of the Golden Gate Bridge because there are free parking spots and a restroom. The first day we came here, it was foggy but luckily it was clear the second day.
Cost: FREE
Hour: Fri to Mon: 10:00AM to 5:00 PM/ Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island is one of five islands in the San Francisco Bay, also known as the “The Rock”. This used to be a fort, a military prison, and a maximum security federal penitentiary. Alcatraz City Cruises, LLC is the only 15-minute ferry that will take you to Alcatraz Island, which leaves from Pier 33. There are three different tours you can join: the day tour, night tour, and behind the scenes tour. The behind the scenes tour takes you to areas that were not available to the public before including a tunnel, an underground jail and even a stunning garden.

Rating: 8.0/10.0
What Have I Learned: A total of 36 prisoners tried to escape from Alcatraz Island. The majority of the prisoners were captured alive, some were shot and killed, some drowned and some went missing.
Cost:
– Day Tour: 41 USD (Adult)/ 25 USD (Child 5-11 years)/ 41 (Junior 12-17 years)/ 38.65 USD (Senior 62+ years)/ 119.60 USD (2 Adults + 2 Kids 5-11 years)
– Night Tour: 48.40 USD (Adult)/ 28.60 USD (Child 5-11 years)/ 47.35 (Junior 12-17 years)/ 45 USD (Senior 62+ years)
– Behind the Scenes Tour: 93.40 USD (Adult)/ 89.35 (Junior 12-17 years)/ 87 USD (Senior 62+ years)
Hour: Tour Departure Time

OTHER RECOMMENDATION

Painted Ladies – I grew up watching Full House as a kid and love their big Victorian House. The builder built these grand Victorian and Edwardian houses to show the newfound wealth from the California Gold Rush. We enjoy a quick lunch in Alamo Square Park taking in the beautiful Painted Ladies.

Baker Beach – This beach has panoramic views of the southern side of Golden Gate Bridge, Pacific Ocean, Marin Headlands, and Lands End. There are restrooms and picnic tables available.

Umbrella Alley – San Francisco local artists painted seven murals but they are still working on three other murals. One of the murals is the Greetings from San Francisco mural. This is located in Fisherman’s Wharf near Buena Vista Cafe and Ghirardelli Square.

FOOD RECOMMENDATION

Burma Superstar – This restaurant opened back in 1992 specializing in Burma food. We ordered their popular tea leaf salad (14 USD), chili lamb (18 USD), pork pumpkin stew (17 USD), and coconut rice (4 USD). Everything was good but the sweet pork pumpkin stew was my favorite. I might be a bit biased because I normally love stew. There’s an option to join the waitlist on Yelp.
Rating: 7.7/10.0
Hours: Mon to Sun: 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM & 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Menu

Brenda’s French Soul Food – This restaurant opened in 2007 to combine Southern, Creole, and French cuisines. We ordered their famous fried chicken served with hot pepper jelly (11.50 USD – thigh, drumstick & biscuit), mac and cheese (6.75 USD), chicken & andouille gumbo (7 USD), and the beignets flight (12.50 USD). We love their juicy fried chicken and the beignets flight. It’s one of each beignet: crawfish, plain, apply & chocolate. It’s no Café Du Monde’s beignet but I love the different savory and sweet fillings. I recommend taking an Uber here and do not walk or park near the restaurant. We saw a lot of drug addicts on the street as our Uber got closer to the restaurant.
Rating: 8.1/10.0
Hours: Thur to Mon: 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM/ Tues & Wed: Closed
Menu

Fortune Cookie Factory – I was so excited to go here because I never tried different flavor fortune cookies. You’ll be able to see them make in-person and even let you try fresh ones off the line. They were so good and there were so many different flavors. I only had the ones from the Chinese take out restaurants. I wanted to buy a bunch for home but sadly we didn’t make it back in time.
Rating: 8.0/10.0
Hours: Mon to Fri: 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM/ Sat & Sun: Closed
Menu

Tartine Bakery – This bakery is known for its famous morning buns so I was so sad when they told me they ran out of it. If you want to try them, make sure to get there before 12 PM. We got the croque monsieur (9.75 USD) with ham and love that they will warm it up for you. We also got the croissant but it wasn’t memorable.
Rating: 8.2/10.0
Hours: Mon to Sun: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Menu

San Tung – Due to Covid, they were only doing take-out orders and we had to call them to place an order to minimize contact exposure. We ordered their dry fried chicken (15.50 USD), pork dumplings (10 USD), Mongolian beef (16 USD), and five spice beef soup noodles (14 USD). This was a bit expensive for Chinese take out but their crispy sweet and spicy fried chicken was worth it. We ordered enough for dinner and lunch.
Rating: 8.2/10.0
Hours: Thurs to Mon: 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM & 4:30 PM to 8:30 PM/ Tue to Wed: Closed
Menu

Fog Harbor Fish House – This restaurant is located on the second floor in Pier 39. It is the first restaurant in Fisherman’s Wharf to serve 100% sustainable seafood. There are over 2,000 reviews about their award-winning clam chowder (9.58 USD) on Yelp so we had to stop in here for a quick drink and to try the popular clam chowder. It was good but not mind-blowing.
Rating: 8.0/10.0
Hours: Mon to Sun: 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM
Menu

The Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop – We stop here for a quick sundae break and had their World Famous Hot Fudge Sundae (14.63 USD). If you have time, definitely stop in for their sundaes or shakes. In the back of the shop, you’ll find how they make their chocolate.
Rating: 8.6/10.0
Hours: Mon to Sun: 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM
Menu

Buena Vista Cafe – My husband wanted to try their six-ounce Irish Coffee in a heat-treated goblet (12.99 USD). Jack Koeppler wanted to re-create the Irish Coffee but had trouble getting the taste right and the cream to float. He eventually figured out the perfect whiskey and the cream had to age for 48 hours and frothed to a precise consistency so it would float.
Rating: 9.3/10.0
Hours: Mon to Thur: 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM/ Fri: 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM/ Sat: 9:00 AM to 11:00 PM/ Sun: 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM
Menu

La Taqueria – They opened their doors in 1990 in the Mission District of San Francisco. On our way out of San Francisco, we grabbed a Carne Asada Burrito (14.44 USD) from La Taqueria. It was so good that I was sad that I had to share half of the burrito with my husband. I suggest calling ahead if you do take out because it was packed when we went to pick up our food during lunchtime.
Rating: 9.8/10.0
Hours: Mon to Tues: Closed/ Wed to Sat: 11:00 AM to 8:45 PM/ Sun: 11:00 AM to 7:45 PM
Menu

In-N-Out Burger – Every time I am in California, I have to stop at an In-N-Out Burger. I love their shake (2.75 USD) and special menu animal style burger (4.70 USD) which has thousand island dressing and mustard grilled patty. Their shake and burger are great for their price.
Rating: 8.2/10.0
Hours: Sun to Thurs: 10:30 AM to 1:00 AM/ Fri to Sat: 10:30 AM to 1:30 AM
Menu

Boudin Bakery Cafe – I had my first clam chowder in sourdough bread (7.95 USD) at Boudin Bakery Cafe in San Francisco Pier 39 many years ago. I’ll never forget how much I loved it but sadly we didn’t get it from one of the twenty five locations in SF. If clam chowder isn’t your thing, they have sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, salads, and more.
Rating: 8.5/10.0
Hours: Sun to Thurs: 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM/ Fri to Sat: 8:00 AM to 9:00 AM
Menu

FAQ

What is your main transportation in San Francisco? Car
How long did it take to get to San Francisco? It was a 1.5 hours drive from Napa Valley.
Where did you stay? San Francisco Marriott Marquis
When did you go to San Francisco? August 2021

  1. Ah, I have not been back to San Francisco in over 10 years…and I’m a California native! I only had one night in town, so much of my visit was focused on the touristy sites like Lombard, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Fisherman’s Wharf/Ghirardelli. Golden Gate Park looks beautiful, and that Dutch windmill definitely takes me back to the Netherlands…I would love to return to check out the Painted Ladies, as well as try that Burmese restaurant you went to! Glad you had a fun time in SF. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was really fun! I definitely wish I had more time in San Francisco so I can explore more Golden Gate Park. I didn’t realized there were so much to do there until we went to check out the Dutch Windmill. The Burmese restaurant is really good but it gets packed really fast!

      Liked by 2 people

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