San Franciscos fishing fleet is docked on the Jefferson Street promenade. Take an early morning stroll down “Fish Alley” (Jefferson between Hyde and Jones) to view the fishermen at work.
Family entertainment is the specialty along Jefferson Street with attractions such as the Ripleys Believe It or Not! Museum and the Red & White Fleet, offering bay cruises with award-winning narration in six languages. Visit with Hollywood Celebrities, U.S. Presidents, world leaders and the Chamber of Horrors at the Wax Museum. Ghirardelli Square, once home to the world-famous chocolate factory, has been renovated to an open-air center filled with specialty shops, international restaurants, an ice cream parlor and displays of the original chocolate-making machines.
Experience San Franciscos authentic maritime history at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park which extends from Aquatic Park to Hyde Street Pier, the only floating National Park. Board the world’s largest collection of historic ships.
The parks Maritime Museum, at the foot of Polk Street, houses ship models, photos, artifacts and changing exhibits. The USS Pampanito, a WWII submarine museum and memorial is open to the public at Pier 45.
Fisherman’s Wharf is famous for its Italian seafood restaurants with waterfront views. Vendors along Jefferson Street sell Dungeness crab from steaming cauldrons, walkaway seafood cocktails and clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, a signature San Francisco dish. Boudin Museum & Bakery boasts a compelling array of historic photos, artifacts and interactive exhibits that detail the history, art and science behind the original San Francisco Sourdough.
PIER 39, a renovated cargo pier, is home port to the Blue & Gold Fleet and offers two levels of specialty shops and destination dining including Pier Restaurants and Hard Rock Cafe. Aquarium of the Bay and Turbo Ride (a simulation theatre) are popular family attractions located on the pier. The famous sea lions make their home on K-Dock (seasonal).
Alcatraz, Spanish for pelican, was named Isla de los Alcatraces after the birds that were the islands only inhabitants. The island served as a military fortification in the 1850s and an incarceration facility for war prisoners during the Spanish-American War.
In 1934 Alcatraz became the infamous maximum-security prison for Mafia criminals and high-risk convicts. Famous island residents have included "Machine Gun" Kelly, Al Capone and Robert "Birdman" Stroud. Although the island is only a mile from shore, there is no evidence of any successful escapes across the icy bay. The prison was the only one in the federal system that touted hot showersa luxury designed to keep prisoners from acclimating to cold water.
A federal penitentiary until 1963, "The Rock" is now a popular tourist attraction. The 12-acre island is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is accessible only by Alcatraz Cruises boats which depart daily from Pier 33 near Fisherman’s Wharf on the Embarcadero.
From 1969 to 1971, a group of American Indians seized the island as a protest against the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Much of the facility was destroyed during this period, but the main block, mess hall and lighthouse remain intact.
For additional information and photographs of Alcatraz Island, visit our Alcatraz page.
NOTE: During peak travel times, reservations must be made well in advance. Advance tickets may be charged to a credit card by phone, (415) 981-7625.
PIER 39, the second most-visited attraction in California, is located at Beach Street and the Embarcadero just two blocks east of Fishermans Wharf. This renovated cargo pier hosts over 10.5 million visitors annually. PIER 39 is home port to the Blue & Gold Fleet and offers two levels of waterfront restaurants and specialty shops, a 350-berth marina, Aquarium of the Bay, the Venetian Carousel and Turbo Ride (a simulation theatre). The famous sea lions make their home on K-Dock (seasonal).
Golden Gate BRIDGE
The Golden Gate Bridge (Highway 101 North) links San Francisco with Marin County. Before its completion in 1937, the bridge was considered unbuildable because of foggy weather, 60-mile-per-hour winds and strong ocean currents sweeping through a deep rugged canyon below.
At a cost of $35 million, the 1.2-mile bridge took more than four years to build. Eleven men lost their lives during construction. Often shrouded in thick fog, the bridge sways 27 feet to withstand winds of up to 100 miles per hour. The color of the bridge, known as International Orange, was chosen because it blends well with the bridges natural surroundings. The two great cables contain enough strands of steel wire (80,000 miles) to encircle the equator three times. The concrete poured into its piers and anchorages would pave a five-foot wide sidewalk from New York to San Francisco. Pedestrians and bicyclists are allowed across the bridge on pathways with sweeping views of the City, Alcatraz and the Marin Headlands. The bridge toll for vehicles is $5 collected when entering San Francisco. Pedestrians and bicyclists are allowed across the bridge on pathways with sweeping views of the City, Alcatraz and the Marin Headlands. The bridge toll for vehicles is $5 collected when entering San Francisco. Vantage points from the San Francisco side include the Toll Plaza and Visitors Center (before crossing the bridge) and Fort Point (under the bridge). The first exit on the Marin side of the bridge, Vista Point, provides outstanding views of the San Francisco skyline. The best way to see the bridge is to walk across it which takes about an hour round trip. When walking the bridge dress warmly whatever time of year.
Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park is among the world’s greatest urban parks. Approximately three miles long and a half mile wide (1,017 acres), this treasure is covered with grassy meadows, wooded bike trails, secluded lakes, open groves, and gardens.
The Conservatory of Flowers, built in 1879 and modeled after London’s Kew Gardens, is a glass Victorian displaying a paradise of flowers. Situated near the eastern edge of the park, the Conservatory of Flowers is a spectacular living museum of rare tropical plants.
The Japanese Tea Garden is a four-acre refuge of traditional Japanese architecture, koi ponds and bamboo trees.
The herd of bison that graze in an enclosed paddock just off Kennedy Drive have been a tradition at the park since the 1890s. A Visitors Center is located in the Beach Chalet at the West end of the park near Ocean Beach.
The deYoung Museum features American art from the 17th through 20th centuries and art of the native Americas, Africa, and the Pacific in a state-of-the-art new facility.
Nearly 514 blocks of San Francisco, including much of Nob Hill and Van Ness Avenue, were destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire. Many beautiful examples of nineteenth-century Victorian architecture were lost in the disaster.
Today some 14,000 Victorians have been preserved west of Van Ness Avenue in the Cow Hollow, Pacific Heights and Alamo Square districts.
Distinguished by their design features, the three styles of Victorians include the Italianate, the Stick and the Queen Anne.
The Italianate which flourished in the 1870s is identified by a flat roof (often hidden behind a false front), slim pillars flanking the front door and bays with side windows that slant inward. These narrow row houses were patterned after Roman Classical ornamentation. Outstanding examples of the Italianate can be found at Bush and Fillmore streets.
The Stick, which peaked in popularity during the 1880s, added ornate woodwork outlines to the doors, frames and bay windows to the Italianate design. Other additions included the "French" cap, gables and the "three-sided rectangle" bays. View classic San Francisco Sticks at Laguna near Bush streets.
Designs changed dramatically with the Queen Anne Victorians in 1890. Turrets, towers, a steep and gabled roof, arches, spindles, glass art windows and sections of shingle siding distinguish the Queen Anne from her predecessors. Tour a grand Queen Anne, the Haas-Lilienthal House, located at 2007 Franklin at Washington. (Tours given Wednesdays and Sundays only.)
Postcard Row is possibly the most photographed spot in the City. These colorful Victorian houses or "Painted Ladies" with the San Francisco skyline in the backdrop have graced many postcards and movie scenes. Capture the view from the center of the park on the edge of Alamo Square at Steiner and Hayes streets.
Atop Telegraph Hill is the 210-foot Coit Tower, built with funds left to the City by philanthropist Lillie Hitchcock Coit for the beautification of San Francisco. Due to Coits admiration for the fire fighters who fought the 1906 earthquake fires, many believe the tower was designed in the shape of a fire hose nozzle. The view from atop the east side of the tower spans 360 degrees. Inside, youll find a history museum and murals that depict working life in 1930s California.
The history of the Haight is as colorful as the Victorian architecture that lines the streets of this neighborhood. The Haight Ashbury community is universally recognized for its creativity and diversity expressed by the hybrid mixture of shops, residents, and its landmark place in history. The style and ingenuity that started in the sixties still rings true today.
Ocean Beach is a three-mile stretch of Pacific coastline. While not suitable for swimming, the beach is a great place to sunbathe, stroll and view a sunset.
The Cliff House sits on a rock perched over the Pacific Ocean with a view of Seal Rocks (a popular hangout for sunbathing seals).
The original Cliff House structure was a posh playground for San Francisco’s elite, former presidents and writers including Mark Twain. North of the Cliff House are the remains of the Sutro Baths, once the world’s largest swimming pool. Seven indoor fresh and saltwater swimming pools were housed under a giant stained glass canopy until the structure burned in 1960.
As you pass through the dragon-adorned Pagoda Gates on Grant Avenue at Bush Street, your senses will be tempted by the aroma of ethnic cuisine, bright neon and the sound of foreign languages.
The heart of Chinatown is Portsmouth Square where San Franciscos first Chinese immigrants settled in the 1850s. Today, Chinatown is home to more than 10,000 of San Franciscos Chinese residents.
Most local Chinese commerce remains along Stockton Street where visitors will find traditional herb pharmacies, temples, fortune cookie factories, garment factories, fresh produce markets, seafood and poultry shops, and many fine restaurants.
"Wall Street West" begins at Montgomery Street and extends east toward the Embarcadero. Although San Francisco’s Financial District is contained within a few city blocks, it is ranked as one of the top four financial centers in the nation. The Transamerica Pyramid (600 Montgomery/ Washington) is San Francisco’s tallest building, rising 853 feet.
Located in the Russian Hill district, Lombard Street is known as "the crookedest street in the world" because of its eight sharp turns on a 40-degree slope. The turns, known as switchbacks, were built in the 1920s to allow traffic to descend the steep incline. The street zigzags around beautiful flowers and shrubs and offers a nice view of the bay. There are stairways (without curves) on either side of the street for pedestrians. The descent begins at Hyde Street.
yerba buena gardens/SOMA
The area south of Market Street continues to be transformed from vacant warehouses on industrial lots into a fashionable neighborhood. The South of Market district (SoMa) has emerged as the art and nightlife center of San Francisco and offers a collection of restaurants, cafes, galleries, bars and nightclubs.
Yerba Buena Gardens, the citys urban redevelopment plan, includes the Center for the Arts, a visual and performing arts complex, 5.5 acres of gardens with an outdoor performance area, the Martin Luther King Memorial, the Zeum (an arts and technology center), an ice skating and bowling center, and San Franciscos historic Charles Loof Carousel. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is now the second largest modern art museum in the United States. The California Academy of Sciences has temporarily relocated downtown.
Van Ness Avenue, the widest street in the City, is home to San Francisco’s city government. The gold-domed City Hall (extensively renovated in 1995-1999) was modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Tours of this “beaux-arts” building (the tallest dome in the U.S.) are available.
The magnificent new Asian Art Museum is one of the largest museums in the western world devoted exclusively to Asian art. The museum’s holdings include nearly 15,000 treasures spanning 6,000 years of history.
North Beach, tucked between Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf, is a favorite gathering spot for visitors and locals alike. Waves of immigrants have created a diverse ethnic mix in North Beach which is often compared to Paris’ Left Bank. Today, the area is predominantly Italian and known as Little Italy of the West. At the heart of North Beach is Washington Square, a grassy piazza where the Church of Saints Peter & Paul is located.
The Beat Generation of the 1950s is rooted in this eclectic San Francisco neighborhood. Upper Grant Avenue maintains the flavor of its Bohemian past. Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights at 261 Columbus Avenue, the first paperback bookstore in the country and Allen Ginsberg’s publisher, was at the movement’s center. Facing City Lights on Jack Kerouac Place is Vesuvio, a saloon worth a visit for its Beat Generation memorabilia.
It’s the restaurants, however, that draw the crowds to North Beach, and you won’t be disappointed with any selection that you make. Traditional cafes, Italian delicatessens selling homemade ravioli, and bakeries offering tempting pastries line Columbus Avenue.
The Marina District was built on lagoon and marshland filled for use during the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition which celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal. Remaining from the Exhibition is the Palace of Fine Arts designed by Berkeley architect Bernard Maybeck. Today, the Palace houses the Exploratorium, a hands-on science museum containing 650 interactive exhibits. A flat, grassy park favored by sunbathers, picnickers, kite flyers and people watchers, the Marina Green is a great spot to exercise while enjoying a view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Nihonmachi, also known as Japantown, covers seven square blocks. Located in the heart of Japantown is the Japan Center, a shopping and dining complex. Reminiscent of the Tokyo Ginza, Japantown includes restaurants, shops, hotels, a spa and a movie theater. Other points of interest include the 100-foot Peace Pagoda, a gift from Japan.
At the upper end of Market Street is the lively Castro District, an area that caters to its largely gay and lesbian population. The neighborhood, marked by the Castro Theatre marquee, has become a symbol of gay and lesbian pride throughout the world somewhat of a gay Mecca. Visitors are always welcome in this friendly neighborhood which offers unique shopping and dining.
Union Square, a shopper’s paradise of designer boutiques and large department stores, is bounded by Stockton, Powell, Post and Geary streets. Located around the square are Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany, Niketown, Gucci and many more. Here shoppers will find the best of Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Napa Valley and North Beach under one roof. Also located nearby (closer to Market Street) are the Apple Store, Virgin Megastore and the San Francisco Shopping Center (home to Bloomingdales and Nordstrom).
San Francisco’s theater district is steps from Union Square. The Curran Theatre, Marines Memorial Theatre and Post Street Theatre present works by local artists as well as Broadway hits.
Immerse yourself in the rich cultrual traditions of Mexico and Latin America on Mission Street, where visitors can enjoy lavish murals, savory foods and a dazzling range of traditional and avant-garde art. One of the City’s oldest structures is Mission Dolores, the sixth Franciscan mission along El Camino Real. The Mission, built by Spanish settlers, stands in the shadow of the more ornate Mission Dolores Basilica. Both are located at 16th and Dolores Streets.
The Embarcadero is a waterfront boulevard lined with elegant palm trees, historic piers structures, hip eateries and luxury apartments and condominiums. San Francisco’s eastern waterfront has emerged as one of the City’s most exciting new neighborhoods. The Ferry Building serves as the marker from which piers are numbered, odd numbers are located to the north and even numbers to the south. Located inside is the Ferry Building Marketplace which consists of gourmet shops and restaurants. An outdoor farmer’s market is held seasonally.
Riding a Muni F-line vintage streetcar is a fun way for visitors to view the San Francisco Bay, Coit Tower and famous Fisherman’s Wharf. The fleet of restored streetcars includes international and domestic trolleys from the 1920s and ’30s as well as San Francisco’s very first street car (built in 1912) and “The Street Car Named Desire” built in 1923 and acquired from New Orleans in exchange for a California Street cable car. The popular F-line runs a total of five miles beginning at its western terminal in the Castro district, down Market Street to the Embarcadero and ending at Jones and Beach streets in Fisherman’s Wharf.
Levi’s Plaza, located between Union and Greenwich streets and Battery and Sansome streets, is the world headquarters of Levi Strauss. Interesting shops, restaurants and a Levi Strauss & Co. Visitors Center are located here.
The “main street” of the Cow Hollow District is renowned for its preserved Victorians (and Edwardians) that now house art galleries, antique stores, boutiques, fine dining and world-class spas.
The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge opened in 1936 and links San Francisco with Contra Costa and Alameda counties by way of an 8.5 mile suspension/cantilever structure. Views of the Cityâ€™s skyline are spectacular from the bridge, however pedestrians arenâ€™t allowed on the structure. A $4 toll is collected westbound.
The cable car was introduced to San Francisco on August 2, 1873. Wire-cable manufacturer Andrew Hallidie conceived the idea after witnessing an accident in which a horse-drawn carriage faltered and rolled backward downhill dragging the horses behind it. The first cable car to descend down Clay Street on Nob Hill was an immediate success. Besides creating a vital link in San Francisco's public transportation system, the cable car opened the door for building on steep hills which until this time was thought to be impossible. Throughout the 1890s, eight transit companies operated 600 cars which covered 21 cable car routes and a total of 52.8 miles. Cable cars remained the primary mode of transportation until the 1906 earthquake.
Cable cars operate seven days a week from 6:30 am until 12:30 am. The fare is $5 (no transfers issued or accepted) or use your MUNI Passport. Purchase your ticket from the conductor on board where exact change is required.