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what to do in san francisco

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San Francisco, CA

What to Do in San Francisco Start your San Francisco vacation by spending the day in Golden Gate Park (between Fulton Street, Lincoln Way, Stanyan Street and the Great Highway). Observe multicolored tropical fish and other marine creatures at The California Academy of Sciences (55 Music Concourse Dr.), contemplate great art at the de Young Museum (50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr.) or stroll through plantings from around the world at the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum (9th Avenue and Lincoln Way).

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If you're looking for things for couples to do, you can walk or bike across the Golden Gate Bridge (across Golden Gate Strait via US 101). Dress in layers for the 1.7-mile trek, and remember that you'll have to turn around and walk back. Parking is extremely limited in the north- and south-side parking lots, so take public transportation to the bridge.

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Explore the Sutro Baths (1004 Point Lobos Ave.), the oceanside ruins (due to a fire) of what once was a lavish bathing spa complex with the world's largest indoor swimming pool. If you're wondering what to do to cap off your day, nothing beats watching the sun set from the nearby Cliff House (1090 Point Lobos Ave.).

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Yes, Fisherman's Wharf (along The Embarcadero from Pier 39 to Ghirardelli Square) is touristy, but who can resist restaurants where you can nibble Dungeness crab or scarf down clam chowder from a sourdough bread bowl; it is one of those things you just have to do. Stop by the flagship location of Boudin Bakery, watch the team of bakers do their thing from an observation window and don't forget to pick up a fresh loaf or two to take home.

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At Fisherman's Wharf, adventure travel awaits in the form of the sightseeing ferry cruise from Pier 33 to Alcatraz Island (in San Francisco Bay), site of the infamous federal penitentiary where the likes of Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly did time. Purchase tickets in advance to get the departure time you want.

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There are many fun things to do in San Francisco like riding a cable car (just don't call it a trolley). The Powell-Hyde line begins at Powell and Market streets and ascends up and over steep Nob Hill before ending at Beach and Hyde streets. If you're interested in learning more about the massive engines and wheels that power this manually operated system, visit the Cable Car Museum and Powerhouse Viewing Gallery (1201 Mason St.).

Climb the Filbert Steps (Filbert and Sansome streets) ascending the east side of Telegraph Hill (near the east end of Lombard Street) and then take the elevator to the observation deck at the top of 210-foot Coit Tower (1 Telegraph Hill) for panoramic views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate and Bay bridges.

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The block of Lombard Street (between Hyde and Leavenworth streets) is often called “the crookedest street in the world.” The serpentine brick street, with its sculpted hedges and seasonal displays of pink and blue hydrangeas, is a prime photo op.

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Walk through the ornamental gate and explore bustling Chinatown (Bush Street and Grant Avenue). Plan a day trip where you can duck into Grant Avenue's souvenir shops and bakeries, then cross over to parallel Stockton Street for the sensory overload of produce and meat markets.

AAA/Greg Weekes
Grab a sidewalk seat and sip a cappuccino in North Beach (along Columbus Avenue), this town's Little Italy. Browse the tomes at City Lights bookstore, a Beat generation hangout, then have dinner at the North Beach Restaurant (1512 Stockton St.), an old-school Italian experience all the way.

AAA/Greg Weekes
No trip to San Francisco is complete without experiencing the smell of incense that still wafts along Haight Street (between Stanyan and Divisadero streets), which remains resolutely groovy nearly 50 years after the Summer of Love.

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San Francisco, CA

Top AAA Diamond Hotels

AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.

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Travel Information

City Population

805,235

Elevation

63 ft.

Sales Tax

State and county sales taxes total 8.5 percent in San Francisco. A hotel room tax of 15 to 15.5 percent also is levied.

Emergency

911

Police (non-emergency)

(415) 553-0123

Hospitals

California Pacific Medical Center, (415) 600-6000; Saint Francis Memorial Hospital, (415) 353-6000; St. Mary's Medical Center, (415) 668-1000; Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, (415) 206-8000; University of California San Francisco Medical Center, (415) 476-1000.

Visitor Information

749 Howard St San Francisco, CA 94103. Phone:(415)391-2000

Air Travel

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is about 13 miles south near San Bruno off US 101 (Bayshore Freeway); it receives flights from some 50 airlines as well as private charters. Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) is about 3 miles northwest of downtown San Jose. Oakland International Airport (OAK) is off I-880 about 10 miles south of downtown Oakland.

Rental Cars

Hertz, with locations at the San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose airports, offers discounts to AAA members. Phone (650) 624-6600 for the San Francisco airport location, (415) 771-2200 for the outlet at 325 Mason St., (510) 633-4300 for the Oakland airport location, (408) 938-6000 for the San Jose airport location, or (800) 654-3080.

Rail Service

For schedule and fare information phone Amtrak at (800) 872-7245.

Buses

Greyhound Lines Inc., (800) 231-2222, departs from Bus Deck Level Three of the Salesforce Transit Center, 425 Mission St.

Taxis

Taxis in San Francisco are metered, with fares averaging about $3.50 for the first one-fifth mile and 55c for each additional one-fifth mile or minute of waiting time. Either phone for a cab or wait at a hotel taxi stand (hailing one on the street often takes time and persistence). Limousine service ranges from $60-$80 per hour.

Public Transportation

San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) provides public transportation consisting of buses, streetcars, light rail, trolley buses and cable cars. BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) connects San Francisco with East Bay cities, and passenger ferries link the city with the northern Bay Area.

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