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San Francisco

CALIFORNIA, USA

"KNOW BEFORE YOU GO"

1. GETTING AROUND

75%

Staying near the Bay, most attractions are within walking distance. Huge tip, walking East / West is relatively flat, walking North / South is up & down huge hills!

20%

We mainly used Uber to avoid hills, but super handy to have installed / set up on your phone beforehand. Internet required.

5%

Ride the infamous San Francisco cable car for just $7 single ticket!

2. MUST-HAVE APPS

"Google Maps"

Travel & Itinerary Planner

Click here for Android app link.

"Currency Converter Plus"

International Currency Converter

Click here for Android app link.

Googe Maps App iPhone Download

"Booking.com"

Hotel Reservations

Click here for Android app link.

"Uber"

Immediate Transport Service

Click here for Android app link.

(Click icon for Apple App download link)

3. QUICK FACTS

American Dollar

£1 (GBP) = $1.23 (USD)

(figures as per May 2020)

Required Documents

UK citizens with a British passport must apply & be granted an ESTA before travelling to the USA. It costs $14. Make sure you apply through the official Government website, there are dozens of fraud 'third-party' websites.

Vaccinations

Click here for United States of America vaccination recommendations. Always consult your local travel nurse for the latest advice.

Plug Adaptors

You will require an adaptor to suit Type A & B. Their standard voltage is only 120V.

4. ACCOMMODATION

Our Review

✔    Great location, walkable from most key   

         attractions!

✔    Basic, but great price if on a budget.

✔    Breakfast included in the price.

✔    Free wifi

✔    Communal breakfast terrace on 2nd floor.

✔    Free private parking.

     Breakfast is collected from main reception desk         downstairs next to main road (don't come down         in your pyjamas!)

     No lift. Concrete spiral staircase only - no fun               with a big suit case!

Tips

•    Book the 'King Room' and request highest floor.

       Ground level rooms open onto a car park.

OR

Super 8 motel

Super 8 motel

5. TRIP ITINERARY

PSST!

CLICK FOR GOOGLE MAP LOCATION!

1. THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE

The Golden Gate Bridge has to be the first stop! First, visit the Welcome Centre courtyard -  full  of fun facts and history before crossing to truly appreciate the bridge! Rent a bike, join a guided bike tour or walk across this grand icon in just 30 minutes! I'd suggest walking to stop & enjoy views at your own leisure.

Tip: Get in lane! The LHS of the bridge is cyclists only, RHS is for pedestrians. You'll be sternly addressed by a speaker phone if you head up the wrong one! It is a big faff to re-cross the bridge too - traffic is very busy!

Fun Fact: The official colour of the Golden Gate Bridge is actually 'International Orange', not red!

Fun Fact: The bridges colour was chosen to maximise visibility in extreme fog. The fog is so common, it has inherited a nickname - Karl. It is foggy 100+ days of the year. You are lucky if you catch it on a clear day!

Learnt Fact: There are numerous emergency 'Samaritan' helpline phones dotted along the bridge, specifically for people feeling vulnerable or suicidal.

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The Golden Gate Bridge

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2. BATTERY SPENCER LOOKOUT

Reaching the end of the bridge, walk that extra mile to Battery Spencer Lookout! Fellow walkers, stop off at H Dana Rest Area, use the public loos and cross beneath the bridge to reach Battery Spencer. Cyclists are already on the correct side. On an incline, follow the winding grassy verge up to the top (use the benches to catch your breath if needed). Reward yourself with wonderful panoramic views looking back on the Northern coastline and cityscape of San Francisco!

Tip: Across the bridge, H Dana Bower Rest Area provides a car park and public toilets, but no shops. Bring all food & drink you need before you cross the bridge!

 

Tip: Try to go on a relatively clear day for the best chance of spectacular views (minus 'Karl the Fog') if possible.

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Battery Spencer Lookout

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3. PALACE OF FINE ARTS

The Palace of Fine Arts has to be seen to be believed! Since 1915, it provides a grand exhibition venue for artwork from all around the world. Weave through this monumental collection of architecture, manicured hedges and pristine lagoon in awe - proudly remaining in tact with the San Francisco residential neighbourhoods simply built around them! 

Fun Fact: The lagoon is a wildlife haven - from dozens of terrapins, swans, ducks and geese! In May - there are loads of babies running around!

Tip: Check the planned art exhibitions showing during your stay. 

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The Palace of Fine Arts

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The Palace of Fine Arts

4. THE MARINA & WAVE ORGAN

Just a 3-minute walk from the Palace of Fine Arts is a little marina and small beach. Join friendly locals, dog walkers and families and watch a magical sunset behind the Golden Gate Bridge. Find 'The Wave Organ' at the harbours end, an interactive acoustic sculpture from 1986. Place your ear against the different pipes to hear musical notes - activated by the oceans waves!

Tip: For the best chance of hearing 'The Wave Organ's unique acoustics, visit on a high tide.

Tip: Look out for the colourful 'San Francisco' style terraced houses opposite the little marina!

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Little Marina

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Spotted Wildlife!

California Ground Squirrel

Otherwise known as a "Beechey Ground Squirrel". They reside in complex underground burrow systems, with each squirrel using their own entrance! Their diet consists of insects, seeds, fruit and nuts - using their cheeks to store any extra! Lifespan in the wild is typically up to 6 years. Spotted on grassy verge just before Crissy Field East Beach.

5. WIND DOWN LOMBARD STREET

Everyday is a winding road at Lombard Street! Branded the 'crookedest road in the world', this short section of Lombard Street tackles an otherwise un-drivable incline in the most unique way. The road tightly weaves 8 sharp turns to enable cars downhill, and is lined with manicured hedgerows, flowerbeds and iconic San Francisco terraces. Be sure to get here early, it is a tourist hotspot!

Tip: Start from Hyde Street junction - this is the top of the road, and the hill!

Tip: There are designated pathways either side of the road. Car speed is minimal, but if you do venture onto the road, be quick, vigilant and safe! 

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Lombard Street (Hyde Street Junction)

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6. MACONDRAY LANE

Every city has a hidden secret. Macondray Lane is San Francisco's. Starting at the Jones Street entrance, escape reality as you descend down a short pedestrian path, lit only by dappled sunlight with just sound of rustling leaves. Take your time strolling on the uneven cobbles of the 'Buddha Park', a fairy garden-esque area with wild flowers, calming water fountains and moss covered Buddha statues. As you emerge at the other end near Taylor Street, be rewarded with gorgeous harbour views!

Tip: The start of Macondray Lane is highway up one of San Francisco's steep hills - get ready for a glute workout!

Fun Fact: The quaint facades of Macondray Lane's houses are not all they seem - check out this incredible house!

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Macondray Lane - Jones Street Entrance

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Macondray Lane (Taylor Street Entrance)

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Fun Facts

The Chinese Fortune cookie was invited by a Japanese San Francisco resident.

San Francisco has approximately 10,000+ more dogs in the city than children.

San Francisco is built upon 50+ named hills!

7. UNION SQUARE

You've made it to Union Square, there's only one thing for it - Retail Therapy! Spend an afternoon hitting the shops (including Macy's and Saks dept. stores) on the main square. Re-fuel at the plentiful small cafes and bars dotted around this bustling hub. 

Tip: Look out for the quirky art markets, commonly hosted in the main square!

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Union Square Art Market 

8. RIDE A CABLE CAR

All shopped out? Looking uphill for a miracle? Then you hear the iconic "ding" from San Francisco's infamous cable car. Walk a short 5-minutes from Union Square to Powell / Market Street "Cable Car Turnaround Point". Once manually turned around on the wooden platform, you are ready to board! Single one-way ticket is $7, sit on the wooden benches or opt to stand along the sides (the best way - just hold your phone tightly)! This tram stop takes you straight to Fishermans Wharf.

Tip: There are 'on-route' stops, but board the cable car at the very first stop. They get incredibly full and not a lot of people tend to get off until the end.

Tip: At the weekend, expect to wait at least 1-hr for a cable car ride. Best time is during a weekday - the queues are 1/3 of the size, approximately a 10-15 minute wait.

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San Francisco Cable Car

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San Francisco Cable Car

9. FISHERMANS WHARF & PIER 39

Close your eyes. Imagine squawking seagulls, cable car chimes, hustle and bustle, the smell of salty sea air with freshly cooked seafood. You my friend - are at Fishermans Wharf! Grab yourself a delicious selection of fresh crab, seafood cocktails, prawns, squid, muscles or just a cone of chips and relax, watching the ferries sail past. Once finished, head over to the infamous Pier 39. A two-storey, wooden pier jam-packed full of craft gift and art shops, small fair rides, impromptu performances and bustling music - a fun, eclectic and infectious vibe. It is also home to a large group of wild Californian Sea-lions  who for reasons unknown, have made Pier 39 docks their permanent residence. You can certainly hear and smell them before you see them!

Tip: The Fishermans Wharf food speciality is the 'clam chowder in a sourdough bread'!

Tip: Watch out for the seagulls, they have 0% fear for humans and will take your chip if they want it!

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Fishermans Wharf

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Spotted Wildlife!

California Sea-Lion

Known for their iconic barking, these social animals hang out in groups packed together on ocean 'rafts' - Pier 39 being a perfect spot! They feed on fish, squid, octopus and even baby sharks. Their colour ranges from dark to golden brown, and have adorable visible small ear flaps!

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PSST!

TAP FOR SOUND!

10. ALCATRAZ PRISON

Shawkshank - eat your heart out! Venture across the Bay to the isolated island housing the infamous Alcatraz Prison. First wander its derelict exterior before uncovering its chilling secrets and unsettling history. Catch the 'Alcatraz Cruises' ferry at Pier 33, the second pier past Pier 39.

Tip: Book online way in advantage to avoid disappointment, it is incredibly popular! The most common booking is the 'Alcatraz Day Tour', but they also offer early bird and night tours (gulp)!

Fun Fact: Al Capone, the notorious mob boss and gangster was one of the first inmates to serve in the new Alcatraz federal prison in 1934.

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Alcatraz Prison

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11. GOLDEN GATE PARK

Escape the concrete jungle and meander through the greenery of Golden Gate Park. Venture through the Japanese gardens, catch an exhibition at California Academy of Sciences or enjoy panoramic views atop Strawberry Hill. From rowing a boat across the serene Lake Stow or watching a baseball game on sports pitches, Golden Gate Park has something for everyone. Finally reach the two dutch windmills to arrive at the California coast!

Tip: Start your trail near the California Academy of Sciences, and walk through until your reach the coastline!

Fun Fact: Look out for the  American Bison paddock! The park is also a hotspot for the resident coyotes!

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Golden Gate Park

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Golden Gate Park Dutch Windmills

Fun Fact!

The bear on California's state flag was modelled after a California grizzly bear named Monarch, who lived at Golden Gate Park!

12. LANDS END TRAIL

From Golden Gate Park, take in the Ocean Beach views then head to Sutro Heights stairs to begin your trek! Steep inclines fire your glutes as you peak at Sutra Heights, providing epic views of the beach & Golden Gate Park. Continue all across the Northwest coastline on a levelled Lands End Trail. Sidetrack down 100+ steps to Mile Rock Beach, the perfect place for a picnic!

Tip: Before Sutra Height Stairs towards Lands End, stop off at Safeway (large supermarket) to stock up on snacks and drinks!

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Sutra Heights Lookout

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13. BAKER BEACH

After finishing Lands End Trail, carry on walking for a further 12-minutes to treat your toes to an ocean dip at Baker Beach! This stretch of soft sand is perfect for relaxing, strolling, finishing off your picnic and gives gorgeous Golden Gate Bridge views!

Tip: The end of the Baker Beach is a full on nudist beach! These sunbathers certainly redefined the term "hanging out at the beach!"

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Baker Beach

14. VISIT MRS DOUBTFIRE'S HOUSE

For those who adore the 'Mrs Doubtfire' film (featuring Robin Williams), don't miss the opportunity to visit the real house used on set! The house almost looks exactly the same, bar a little paint job and an added white fence!

Fun Fact: They kept the correct address in the movie - 2640 Steiner Street!

Fun Fact: If you're willing to venture further out, you can also visit Mia Thermopolis house from the original 'Princess Diaries' movie, at 724 Brazil Avenue.

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Mrs Doubtfires House

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Mrs Doubtfires House

15. THE PAINTED LADIES

Though full of unique Victorian architecture, the Painted Ladies terraced houses win San Francisco's prize for being truly 'postcard perfect'. Sit on the grassy park opposite, admiring these soft pastel dwellings coupled with the San Francisco skyline behind. 

Fun Fact: The Painted Ladies are also nicknamed the 'Seven Sisters' or 'Postcard Row'. 

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Painted Ladies Terraced Houses

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