If San Francisco’s your destination, let the games begin! In Baghdad By the Bay, as famous San Francisco columnist Herb Caen used to call it, choices are plentiful. With so much to see and do, how do you decide what’s worthwhile?
Here’s a 10-point plan to see, sup, and dine your way through the Paris of the West. So get primed, get jazzed and get ready to fall in love with that gorgeous city by the bay. Believe me, Tony Bennett won’t be the only one who left his heart in San Francisco.
# 1. Dim Sum in Chinatown. A great way to start the day is with dim sum in Fog City. This Chinese meal offers an assortment of bite-size portions—so numerous dishes can be sampled—presented on small plates. Grant Avenue is the place to go, in the heart of Chinatown. If you’re feeling more adventurous, head over to Stockton Avenue where you’ll see few if any tourists.
#2. Go to Alcatraz. After breakfast in Chinatown, you’re not far from Fisherman’s Wharf where you can hop a ferry for Alcatraz. Tours take place all day. Make sure to dress warm. Once there, you’ll enjoy hearing about the prison’s history. An added perk is the view of the City from “the rock.”
#3. Have an Irish Coffee at Buena Vista. After your trip to Alcatraz, you’ll be ready for a toasty drink and nothing could be finer than an Irish coffee at the world famous Buena Vista at Fisherman’s Wharf. These cocktails are so popular, there’s always a line at the bar. They serve 2,000 a day, so you may have a short wait, but after the first sip, you won’t be complaining.
#4. Ride a Cable Car. No matter what the weather may be, you’ll be well prepared for a cable car ride after your last stop. Just hop on right across the street from the Buena Vista, and enjoy the ride.
#5. Go Shopping at Union Square. Why not sample the shops at San Francisco’s best place to shop — Union Square. You’ll find everything you could ask for – retail and luxury shops, restaurants, designer boutiques, art galleries, and bookstores.
#6. Walk Across Golden Gate Bridge. A trip to San Francisco isn’t complete without viewing that famous landmark, Golden Gate Bridge, and depending on your stamina, you may want to walk across it, too. Park by the tollbooth and put on your walking shoes.
#7. Have tea at the Japanese Tea House, Golden Gate Park. This is one of the more popular sites at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. What began as an entry in the 1894 World’s Fair became a permanent fixture soon after due to the desires of a Japanese landscape designer who wanted to share his country’s beauty with San Francisco. With waterfall, lake, footbridge, tea house and pavilion, you’ll enjoy the solitude and zen infuence of these beautiful gardens.
#8. Visit Haight-Ashbury. If ever there was an unforgettable neighborhood, it would be “the Haight,” as it’s called by local San Franciscans. Propelled to fame in 1967’s Summer of Love, the cross streets of Haight and Ashbury became the rallying place for hippies, musicians and performers (including Jefferson Airplane) during those crazy days. It’s still a colorful hangout, with funky-chic shops, restaurants and bars, and the Victorian houses are painted in every color of the rainbow.
#9. Go to Ocean Beach and Catch the Sunset. This three-plus mile stretch of beach is a draw for surfers and seabirds. Ocean Beach is also home to the famous Cliff House that became the home of the Sutro Baths in the late 1800s. Although the baths burned in 1966, the Cliff House was restored in 2003. It’s also a restaurant, and it has a museum downstairs near the old bath site with relics from Ocean Beach history.
#10. Have Dinner at Original Joes, North Beach. Now in a new location, Original Joe’s is the place to catch some genuine Italian food in San Francisco. A landmark since 1937, its trademark red leather booths, smooth cocktails and great food have made it a popular mecca for natives and tourists alike.
San Francisco is California’s grand old madame: at times as raunchy as a bar in the Tenderloin, and at others as prim as a waiter at the Commonwealth Club. No matter what requests you may throw at your genie in the bottle, when in San Francisco, all wishes will be granted.