SAN FRANCISCO – From the moment my wife and I arrived in town, it was as if she was the Eddie Murphy to my Nick Nolte.
We had 48 hours to experience one of the country’s great cities.
While we weren’t tracking down a cop killer like Nolte and Murphy in the 1982 blockbuster “48 Hours,” we were tight on time. So, we charted out the high points to determine what we could see in the short time we had to experience “Baghdad by the Bay.”
We started with the iconic cable cars: Not only are they a tourist attraction, they’re a viable method of transportation.
San Francisco’s famous hills necessitated the development of a transportation to effectively transport residents across the city’s steep terrain. At one point, eight different cable car lines served residents (to learn more about the history of cable cars, check out the free Cable Car Museum on Mason Street).
Today, the three cable car lines remain a popular method of transportation. Plan accordingly, however; lines to ride can grow quite lengthy.
While riding, be sure to stop at Lombard Street, which holds the title (albeit debatable) of “World’s Crookedest Street.”
Carl Henry is credited with the proposal to turn a section of Lombard Street in the Russian Hill section of town into the series of switchbacks that it is today. Its popularity as a tourist attraction hasn’t waned in the roughly eight decades since the street was reconfigured.
Another great method for travel is the F Line, a fleet of historic streetcars connecting the Castro section of town and Fisherman’s Wharf. To learn more about the city’s streetcars, stop by the San Francisco Railway Museum across from the Ferry Building.
While near the Ferry Building, head inside to enjoy some of the city’s epicurean treasures from Boccalone, a charcuterie, to The Slanted Door, an upscale eatery that offers up a modern take on Vietnamese cuisine.
When it comes to symbols of the city, another of the city’s recognizable destinations is the Golden Gate Bridge, which celebrated its 75th anniversary earlier this year.
To experience the bridge’s magnitude, head to Fort Point. This well-preserved Civil War era post is located on the southern side of the Golden Gate strait at the entrance of San Francisco Bay.
For years, it guarded the bay. Today, it sits beneath the bridge, and the view from the top offers some of the most astonishing views of the famed bridge.
Another iconic symbol of the city is Alcatraz.
The Rock, as its known, is more myth than reality, but the federal penitentiary-turned-museum attracts more than a million visitors annually. To visit, a boat takes travelers on a 10-15-minute cruise from Pier 33 to the island.
Stepping off the boat onto the island so-often shrouded in the city’s famous fog, it’s hard not to imagine the sense of hopelessness prisoners had when they were transported here when the island was still used as a prison. To further help bring to life the prison experience, be sure to pick up an audio tour and hear the about Alcatraz from prisoners themselves.
No trip to San Francisco would be complete without stopping by Fisherman’s Wharf. Although primarily a tourist attraction, it’s still worth seeing.
While there, head over to Pier 39 and visit the sea lions that inhabit the pier. The Wharf is also home to the Boudin Bakery, the “Original San Francisco Sourdough French Bread.” The bakery offers tours, but travelers tight on time can take a peek in the window to see what fun shape bakers are making with the bread — from alligators to turtles to bears.
One last place we visited was the famed Golden Fire Hydrant at the intersection of Church and 20th streets.
Two days after the April 18, 1906, earthquake, firefighters struggled to extinguish flames because fire hydrants had no water. However, firefighters vowed to make a stand at the intersection, and miraculously, water flowed from this fire hydrant.
Every April 18, the fire hydrant receives a new coat of gold paint.
San Francisco Travel Tips
- Buy Alcatraz tickets in advance. Many of the tickets for purchase on and around Pier 39 are not legit.
- Pick up an all day cable car pass. In addition to the cable cars, passes are valid on all Muni vehicles, including the F line.
- Check the weather often and dress in layers. There’s a reason it’s been said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”
- There is no need for a car. If you don’t mind the hills and can stay downtown, the city is small enough to navigate on foot — or with the help of public transportation.
For more information, visit www.sanfrancisco.travel.