Edited by Stacey Dougherty
Wherever you stay in the San Mateo area, you have easy access to the classic favorites of San Francisco. The easiest way to explore the Bay Area is by train via the Bay Area Rapid Transit system. BART has six stations in San Mateo County and links throughout the cities and neighborhoods around the bay.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA or just Muni) can get you around San Francisco easily, quickly and affordably with its 80 routes throughout the city. “Operating Historic streetcars, modern light rail vehicles, diesel buses, alternative fuel vehicles, electric trolley coaches, and the world famous cable cars, Muni’s fleet is among the most diverse in the world”, claims their website.
Many visitors begin at Pier 39, a marketplace with more than 100 shops at Fisherman’s Wharf and a dozen restaurants. Pier 39 is world-renown as the home to a group of sea lions that live at the K-Dock year-round. For a different perspective, rent a kayak from City Kayak. Beginners can explore the waterfront, while advanced paddlers venture out to Alcatraz Island or beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. For less athletic tourists, several operators offer a quick boat ride to Alcatraz, where park rangers conduct guided tours of the former federal penitentiary.
However, my favorite activity is renting a bike from Blazing Saddles. You can bike across the Golden Gate, visit the boutiques in Sausalito (or push on to the redwood forest), then catch a ferry back to Fisherman’s Wharf. If you want to visit these areas without the bike just make the ferry ride round-trip.
If you want to stay on the city side of the bridge, there’s the Presidio: 1,491 acres of parkland, cultural attractions, historic monuments, 11 miles of hiking trails and 14 miles of bike paths all within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and managed by the National Park Service. A little further south you’ll find Golden Gate Park, just east of Haight-Ashbury. The park is larger than New York’s Central Park, with a little over 1,000 acres and is visited by over 75,000 people on an average weekend.
Beyond the bay, several other San Francisco classics are located downtown. Jump on a historic cable car near Ghirardelli Square (yes, you can visit the chocolate factory) and head to Union Square. From there, wander around Chinatown, climb Coit Tower, relive the 1960s in the Haight-Ashbury district, hobnob on Nob Hill, have a psychic reading on O’Farrell or navigate Lombard Street – the “crookedest” street in the world.
And when hunger strikes and you can’t decide what to have, head over to the Ferry Building, home to three full service restaurants, a handful of small cafés and dozens of gourmet and fresh food purveyors offering everything from handcrafted cheeses to fine wine and fresh homemade pastries. You’ll definitely find something worthwhile to either bring home or back to your hotel to indulge in later.
History, food, culture – San Francisco’s diverse charms have something for everyone.
If You Go
BART – Bay Area Rapid Transit
Historic San Francisco Cable Cars
Muni – San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
The Ferry Building
Embarcadero at Market Street
South Beach Harbor
Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory
900 North point Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
Embarcadero at Beach Street
Presidio of San Francisco
Bobby L. Hickman is an Atlanta area freelance writer who specializes in travel and business journalism. He regularly contributes to several local magazines, an international news service and various Web sites. To contact him, visit www.blhickmaninc.com.