Before you head to a new city, there will be at least a few places that are absolute must-sees before doing any research. Likely because you hear about them time and again, and from many sources.
When we first travelled to San Francisco, I planned our itinerary of must-sees based on popularity and what was in close vicinity while there.
Since we took our kids along for the adventure, I wanted to be as prepared as possible and try to plan for the unexpected, including no backtracking in order to see all that we wanted to.
Here’s what we, as a family, consider to be the seven must-visit landmarks in San Francisco!
Golden Gate Bridge: This classic appears on every list for the Bay Area, and its popularity is rightfully deserved. Whether you park and photograph on a clear day, or simply drive across and take in the city from across the bay – you absolutely must stop by the most famous bridge around. If only to smile and say ‘I’ve been there and it’s beautiful’ the next time you spot the bridge in the latest blockbuster movie or advertisement.
Alcatraz: Also known as ‘The Rock’, this island in the middle of the bay is the home of what was once the most famous prison ever built. The feature of many famous movies, it is now a place to tour, even with kids in tow. Learn about how and where prisoners were kept and even listen to accounts of the many escape attempts and a few successes through the years. Best part? Riding the ferry across the bay to the island!
Lombard Street: Start at the top and weave your way down this fun little street famous for its abrupt twists and turns. This venture isn’t one for big trucks, but fun for cars, bicycles and motorcycles. Literally every car length is another turn in the opposite direction. While the homes on this street are pretty to look at, the winding road offers the most appeal.
Fisherman’s Wharf: Home of the sea lions, this Pier 39 attraction is a must-see for all visitors to the city. Sure it is a cliché landmark, but its one that just can’t be missed! You’ll recognize the view from tons of your favourite movies, and of course the kids will love watching all the sea lions basking in the sun. We’ve spent a great deal of time on the wharf, there’s plenty to see and do within just a few blocks radius and it’s a place you’ll want to visit time and again!
Chinatown: The heart of the city lies in Chinatown. Entertainment, nightlife, food and shopping can all be found in this area of town. The best little hole in the wall Chinese restaurants will be found here and offer you food you’ll never eat anywhere else. When touring Chinatown with kids, stick to daytime visits, as nighttime in Chinatown is more geared toward adults.
Cable Cars: Not a place, per say, but a means to get everywhere in the city. Running for over a century, cable cars are one of the premier ways to get around the city. Not only are they fun, they are functional. Take the time to ride the circuit and tour the city from the comfort of one of the many cable cars still in operation today. Don’t forget to grab a picture of yourself next to one too!
Sutro Baths & Ruins: What was once a thriving indoor swimming establishment, is now only a few stairways, concrete walls, and dividers. This site was closed down and caution is now advised when visiting, but the history of this site is not lost on many. Worth taking a look and learning more about it when you visit San Francisco.
Whether you’re planning your first or fifth trip to San Francisco, keep these must-visit landmarks in mind. Not only are you sure to find a great family friendly activities here, you may find yourself with a desire to learn a bit more about the history of this famous city.
I highly suggest getting a San Francisco City Pass for your trip. The coupons and freebies in this package are plenty, I’d never visit San Francisco without it.
What do you love to do while in San Francisco?