California Dreaming In Sunny San Francisco
Who doesn’t dream of visiting the States? It’s the place that dreams are made of, the only country in the world that can offer a truly stunning, diverse spectrum of experiences. If you want to get the most out of a trip to the U.S. of A., and you don’t care to travel around, you’ve got two choices: east coast or west. New York obviously holds a lot of glittering appeal over on the east side, but cross the country to the west and you’ll discover the real star of the show. And no, it’s not the sprawling urban mass of Los Angeles. San Francisco, or “Frisco” as they call it, should be number one on your Americana bucket list. Perched on the very top of the beautiful state of California, San Francisco has character to spare, seamlessly blending a contemporary urban vibe with a relaxed seaside resort atmosphere. The weather’s not too bad either.
But no one wants a run-of-the-mill San Franciscan experience; you should be looking to make your trip that a little more special. And that’s where BUCKiTDREAM comes in. The app lets you breeze through other people’s experiences and dreams and make notes about the things that interest you, without having to trawl through the swamps of travel blogs out there. If you find something you like the look of, you can save the details with BUCKiTDREAM’s planning feature, so you don’t forget it when you start mapping out your own expedition.
Here’s our breakdown of the top experiences that San Francisco has to offer – make sure to take note of the ones that grab you in your BUCKiTDREAM planner!
A Trip to Alcatraz
Combining a beautiful boat trip with a fascinating and spooky history lesson, a trip to ‘The Rock’, situated a mile or so off the main coast of the city, should definitely be on the cards. If you’re bold, you can even do a night tour, though beware: Alcatraz is said to be haunted.
Hiking in the Redwood Forests
Part of what makes San Francisco so unique is the combination of urban centre and rural suburbs. Just north of the city lie sprawling parks of California’s legendary Redwood trees; an awe-inspiring hike among them is not to be missed.
The seafront of San Fran, Fisherman’s Wharf is the ultimate pleasure pier experience, with all the staples and hallmarks you could possibly desire; aquariums, boat trips, food stalls, amusements – it has it all.
Cycle Golden Gate Bridge
Unlike LA, San Francisco is a very walkable city, but if going by foot isn’t your thing, renting a bike is a great way to see the city. The colossal Golden Gate Bridge is absolutely stunning, even more so when you’re lazily pedalling across it.
Riding in a Cable Car
If walking really isn’t your thing, and you count cycling as equally unappealing, why not travel around in one of San Fran’s historic cable cars? Still used by locals and tourists alike, these cosy cars traverse the hilly streets of the city with ease.
Get your Museum On
San Fran is renowned for its appreciation of art and history so you won’t want to leave town with checking out some of its fantastic museums; the SFMOMA will be high on most people’s ticklist but culture vultures may want to check out the less well-known but equally impressive Asian Art Museum. The beautiful building contains art and relics from all corners of Asia, including a full samurai suit of armour.
While you’re in an Asian kind of mood, a visit to Japantown and/or Chinatown could be well worth your while. Both districts are like stepping into a quarter of Japan and China, complete with restaurants, shops and indigenous locals.
A weird and wonderful museum of science, art and perception, the Exploratorium will fascinate old and young alike.
Winchester Mystery House
A little way outside San Francisco, but still very much doable, is the Winchester Mystery House, built by Sarah Winchester, heir to the Winchester gun dynasty. When a psychic told her she was being haunted by the ghosts of all the people killed with a Winchester, Sarah built a house to confuse the ghosts; and she never stopped building. The result is a sprawling, confusing labyrinth of a building that is equal parts fascinating and spooky.
San Francisco attracts all types of visitors, and the accommodation available reflects that diversity. It can be an expensive city, but there are plenty of ways to keep costs down too. Besides, with so much on offer, what more do you need than a simple place to sleep for a few hours?
- High End: The Fairmont Hotel is a luxurious haven, situated smack bang in the middle of the city, atop Nob Hill. The pinnacle of luxury, this is one surefire way to do San Fran in style.
- Medium: Towering over the Japantown district in the west of the main city, the Kabuki Hotel offers great value for money, featuring beautiful Japanese-style spacious rooms.
- Budget: There are numerous hostels dotted around the city, most of which are clean, safe, and ideally located for exploring. You can also meet some interesting roommates to boot!
While America isn’t as renowned for its food culture as some European countries, most agree that San Francisco offers up some of the best cuisine in the country, with everything from fine dining to historic local dishes. Obviously, the speciality here is seafood, and you shouldn’t take a trip to the city without sampling some delights of the sea. The Bay Area shrimp are legendary, as are the Dungeness crab and abalone. A local favourite is a strange dish called ‘Joe’s Special’, made with ground beef, onions, eggs, mushrooms and spinach, all tossed in together. This eclectic mix apparently came about in the 1930s, when a local chef at Joe’s restaurant informed a hungry post-show band that all they had left in the kitchen were the above ingredients. The band members shrugged and said, “Mix ’em together.” Et voila, a culinary legend is born!
While food trucks are very popular in The Bay Area (Harrison Street’s El Tonayense’s tacos will set you up for the day and then some), San Franciscans are flocking to the newly opened ground floor restaurant of the SFMOMA’s recent $305 million redesign, In Situ. If the bill looks to dent your wallet a little too hard, head over to El Buen Comer instead for trendy, traditional and truly magnificent Mexican fare.
On the sweeter side of things, another local treat is the strangely names ‘It’s It’, which came about at an amusement park in 1928, and takes the form of a scoop of vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two oatmeal cookies, slathered in chocolate. Speaking of sweet things, the absolute best breakfast in San Francisco is to be found at Sweet Maple, a relaxed, hidden gem of a restaurant which specialises in brown sugar-glazed bacon.
Drinks and Nightlife
Nightlife in San Fran is as varied and diverse as the city itself. There are bars and clubs everywhere, suiting all tastes and all budgets. The SoMa neighbourhood specialises in electronic beats and hip-hop, while the artsy Mission district is the place to go for more intimate excursions, where you can skip from dive bar to dive bar. The Marina district has an altogether trendier and flashier (read: expensive) scene, though it’s no less wild, and the North Beach area is a neon lit haven of debauchery. Gay-friendly bars exist all over the city, with the SoMa area leading the charge.
When it comes to individual bars, there are so many memorable ones, it’s hard to choose. Smuggler’s Cove is a fantastic pirate-themed tiki bar hideaway which comprises two full floors and feature its own waterfall, while the Buena Vista Cafe has served a reported 30 million plus Irish coffees to its patrons since it introduced the drink to the city (and America) in the 50s. Needless to say, exploring the San Franciscan nightlife can be one of the city’s most exciting attractions.
Tips and Culture
You’re better off booking a trip to San Francisco outside the summer months, when room rates rise dramatically and the city becomes inundated with tourists. Remember, this is California; early February can be plenty hot, without all the hassle that comes with mid-summer jet-setting.
You’ll notice the relaxed atmosphere of the city as soon as you get there, but that doesn’t mean you should get complacent. San Francisco is a major American city, and that comes complete with the good and the bad implications. Watch yourself and don’t walk anywhere alone at night if you can help it. Overall though, it’s a progressive, free-thinking place which is welcoming of people from many different cultures and backgrounds.
To top off your dream experience, here’s one thing you should definitely make room for at the top of your bucket list: a helicopter trip around San Francisco bay. You’ll get lifted far above the city, and immediately be confronted with stunning views of both the urban architecture and the equally impressive natural architecture in the forests beyond. If you’re lucky and the weather lands in your favour, you might even get to career underneath the Golden Gate bridge; an absolute once in a lifetime experience.
At this stage, you should be eager to open up your BUCKiTDREAM planner and start jotting down some ideas for your dream trip to San Francisco. Explore the app and take some more inspiration from other people’s trips and experiences; and once you’ve had your own and taken in all San Francisco has to offer, make sure to share your own with other BUCKiTDREAM dreamers!