If you plan to visit more than a couple of these popular sights, you can save money by getting a Go Card (find out all you need to know about Go Card)or a San Francisco CityPass which we also reviewed. Which one is right for you will depend on how many things you want to do.
- San Francisco Zoo:
Located on the west side of town, they're very active in California condor preservation and home to about 700 animals representing almost 200 species.
- Art Museums: San Francisco's premier art museums include The Palace of the Legion of Honor which holds an impressive collection of Rodin statues, including The Thinker, the M. H. de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, near the Convention Center south of Market Street.
North Beach is an Italian veneer laid over a half-Chinese neighborhood, and that's only the first of its many surprises and contradictions. This is the place to go for old-fashioned Italian food, people-watching in the park and interesting neighborhood shops. Nearby
Coit Tower offers panoramic bay and city views from the top of Telegraph Hill and a bit of 1930s San Francisco captured in its murals.
- Ocean Beach, Cliff House and Camera Obscura: This west-facing beach area has been a San Francisco favorite since 1863, when the first Cliff House was built. The restaurant, while popular, offers mediocre food and poor service at high prices, but that's no reason to stay away - the surroundings are much more rewarding. The small building behind the Cliff House dressed up like a giant camera is a camera obscura, its design based on a fifteenth century design by Leonardo da Vinci. Inside, views are reflected from the surrounding ocean and beach and displayed on a parabolic dish. The adjacent beach is popular for all forms of water recreation, kite flying and fishing.
- Victorian Houses: The "painted ladies" seem synonymous with San Francisco. Some of the best are found near Alamo Square and others are famous from films and television programs. View photos
Union Square: One of the city's three original parks, it's now a public space atop a multi-level underground parking garage and ringed with elegant shops and hotels. The Powell cable car line begins about a block away, and the theatre district is nearby.
Ferry Building Marketplace: One of the city's liveliest venues, full of local artisan food shops and restaurants, and the site of weekly farmers' markets.
- Angel Island: Also called the Ellis Island of the West, it's rich in history and a great place for a hike or a Segway tour.
- Take In the View from Twin Peaks: It's on the 49-Mile Drive, but you don't have to do the whole thing to see it. On a clear day, you'll be rewarded with iconic views in every direction.