1. Walk or Ride Across the Golden Gate Bridge. Arguably the most recognized symbol of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge is a popular attraction for tourists. Experience the bridge in all its glory by walking or biking across. At 1.7 miles the bridge isn’t an easy trek, so if you want to make it all the way across you may elect to take a bike. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous ride across the bridge into Tiburon, grab a bite to eat at Sam’s Anchor Cafe and catch a great view of San Francisco across the bay. Then take the ferry back into San Francisco (bikes are welcome abroad the ferries).
2. Climb to the top of Telegraph Hill/Ride to the Top of Coit Tower. Poised on the top of Telegraph hill, Coit Tower offers unparalleled views of San Francisco. You can enjoy the view even from the base of the tower, so you may decide it’s not worth paying to go up to the top. Either way make sure you peek inside the tower to see the murals, which are free to view.
3. Complete the Unofficial Food Tour of San Francisco. San Francisco is known for its food and has many signature bites. I couldn’t choose just one, but here are some of my favorites. Boudin – famous for their sourdough bread which they make into really fun designs (crabs, bears, etc.) if you get there early enough in the day to get one. They sell out pretty much every day, so pick some up early to eat later or dine on the famous clam chowder in a bread bowl at their cafe. Ghiradelli – if you like ice cream or chocolate, this is your place. Here you can find a huge assortment of sundaes and chocolate, which make a great souvenir to take home to friends. Buena Vista – this cafe and bar is renowned for claims to be the first place to serve Irish coffees and is conveniently located just around the corner from Ghiradelli.
4. Explore Golden Gate Park. Larger than NYC’s Central Park, Golden Gate Park has tons to offer. Enjoy the free summer concert series on Sunday nights, walk throughout the highly acclaimed Japanese Tea Garden, or observe the resident herd of buffalo.
5. Observe the Bay Bridge Lights. In 2013 an art installation was created on the side of the bridge to commemorate its 75th birthday. LED lights were placed on the side of the bridge which move in a pattern designed to never repeat itself. Grab a snack and head down to the waterfront one evening to relax and watch the memorizing light show before it is potentially removed in March of 2015 (there is currently an effort to extend the project).
6. See San Francisco from the Water. Whether it’s a ferry to Alcatraz, Tiburon, or Sausalito or a sunset dinner cruise, seeing the city from a boat on the bay offers great scenery.
7. Ride on a Cable Car. There are 3 different lines in San Francisco that operate the historic cable cars. The Powell-Hyde line will take you from Ghiradelli Square with a stop right by Lombard Street. If you’re just in it for the ride, try the California Line, which will let you skip the massive lines from Fisherman’s Wharf. All tickets are one way, so if you need a ride back you can elect to take a streetcar which is much cheaper.
8. Get a Drink at the Top of the Mark. Formerly the 11 room penthouse of the Mark Hopkins hotel, Top of the Mark is now a rooftop bar and restaurant at the highest point of downtown San Francisco. Grab a drink or champagne brunch and enjoy stellar views.
9. Brunch on Authentic Dim Sum. While it may not be your typical idea of brunch, dim sum is a widely popular meal in Chinatown. For the best experience, pick a place where the dim sum is cart or tray-passed. Servers will come around to your table and offer you small plates of various kinds of dim sum. If it looks delicious, you can snag a plate or if it’s too intense you can just say no and wait for the next option. Don’t be intimated by the lack of English menu items, it’s hard to go wrong with dim sum and a nod or a shake of the head are universal signals.
10. Visit Lombard Street. Nicknamed “The crookedest street in the world”, Lombard Street is a sight you have to see to believe its absurdity. If you are really brave (and patient) try your luck at driving down it.