Coit Tower and Transamerica Pyramid (credit: Randy Yagi)
With an iconic tower resembling a fire hose nozzle and cable cars climbing halfway to the stars, there’s a seemingly endless list of reasons to visit San Francisco this summer. If Coit Tower and the world’s last manually-operated cable car system isn’t enough, there’s also the world’s crookedest street, the postcard perfect “Painted Ladies” and a host of world famous neighborhoods with something new to behold with each visit, even for the locals. But wait, there’s a whole lot more – the City by the Bay offers overnight accommodations ranging from affordable hostels to the uber pricey, widely acclaimed food destinations, world-class museums, a moderate climate and nearly 30 miles of captivating shoreline. If that still isn’t enough, consider these five best reasons to visit San Francisco this summer.
24 Willie Mays Plaza
San Francisco, CA 94107
Among the best summer traditions is attending a ballgame and AT&T Park ranks among the best sports venues in the country. With panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay, family attractions and great food, there really is no bad seat in the entire ballpark, even in the upper deck. The two-time World Series Champion San Francisco Giants once again are fielding a strong lineup, with returning starters Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence and pitchers Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and newcomer Tim Hudson in the starting rotation. Families with children will enjoy the Fan Lot, featuring the Coca-Cola Superslide, a mini AT&T Park playground and the colossal baseball glove. Other park amenities include one of the world’s largest public Wi-Fi hotspots, statues of baseball legends including Willie Mays and Willie McCovey and great food options, such as the famous garlic fries, Doggie Diner hot dogs and crab sandwiches with more upscale options at the Public House. Club Level ticket holders can view the two World Series Trophies, in addition to a host of baseball memorabilia, from autographed bats and baseballs to keys to the City and historic photographs.
Jefferson and Jones St.
San Francisco, CA 94133
An estimated 75 percent of all tourists will descend upon Fisherman’s Wharf, making this attraction particularly crowded during the summer. Yet visitors will marvel at breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay, in addition to enjoying several food options, eclectic shopping, scenic tours and bay cruises. Those interested in visiting the world famous Alcatraz Island can take a ferryboat from Pier 39, but tickets can sell out several weeks in advance, making prior reservations a strong recommendation. Other highlights at Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 include the historic Ghirardelli Square, Aquarium of the Bay, Musical Stairs, San Francisco Carousel and opening this summer, Madame Tussauds San Francisco wax museum. Because parking near Fisherman’s Wharf can be expensive and sparse, visitors may want to take public transportation, most prominently the celebrated Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde cable car lines or the historic F-Line streetcar.
Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco, CA 94129
The world’s most photographed bridge and San Francisco’s most treasured landmark is typically the first attraction to see. Opened in 1937, the iconic suspension bridge spans the three-mile wide Golden Gate Strait, connecting the San Francisco Peninsula to Marin County. Because public parking near Golden Gate Bridge may be scarce over the summer, visitors are advised to arrive early, take a tour bus, ride a bike or use public transportation. Sightseers may walk or bike across the 1.7-mile bridge but are advised that conditions can be extremely windy. All pedestrians are only allowed access on the east sidewalk and bicyclists have access on either the west or east sidewalks but must yield to pedestrians and use caution and courtesy, particularly near the two main towers. The Golden Gate Bridge can also be observed from several vantage points, including the beautiful Marin Headlands, Crissy Field, Fort Mason and Fort Baker in Sausalito.
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA 94121
With more than 1,000 acres, first-time visitors may be surprised to discover that San Francisco’s greatest park is larger than New York City’s famed Central Park. More than 13 million people annually visit Golden Gate Park to enjoy a number of activities, such as hiking, picnicking, outdoor sports and special events. However, the park’s most prominent attractions are the de Young Museum, California Academy of Sciences, Japanese Tea Garden and the venerable Conservatory of Flowers. In August, the park will host the three-day Outside Lands music festival with past appearances from the biggest names in music, including Paul McCartney, Foo Fighters, Stevie Wonder, Norah Jones, Arcade Fire and Radiohead. Other recommended attractions nearby are Japantown, the colorful Haight-Ashbury district, the Fillmore Jazz Festival and the fabulous Stern Grove Festival, with legendary R&B singers Smokey Robinson and Patti Austin kicking off the free summer series in June.
333 Post St.
San Francisco, CA 94108
One of the world’s premier shopping districts, Union Square is the city’s epicenter for luxury hotels, Broadway shows and casual or fine dining. Visitors can shop from many top retailers like Bulgari, Prada and Tiffany & Co. or dine at fine restaurants like Anzu, Farralon, the Oak Room at St. Francis and Scala’s Bistro. However, not every store or restaurant is expensive in Union Square, with numerous popular shopping choices like bebe, the Gap and Nine West and for low to moderately priced dining – Blondie’s Pizza, Lefty O’Douls and Sears Fine Food. Also close by is San Francisco’s Chinatown, the largest Chinatown outside of Asia and Market Street, one of the city’s busiest streets, home to the enormous Westfield San Francisco Centre shopping center and the city’s major public transportation hub.