Exploring San FranciscoNorthern California's largest city, San Francisco, is most famous for its Golden Gate Bridge, world-class dining, and status as one of the most progressive cities in the United States. Several sprawling suburbs may belong to the San Francisco Bay area, but San Francisco proper is actually a compact city on the Pacific Ocean and its namesake bay. Most hotels, like Ghirardelli Square's luxurious Fairmont Heritage Place, are situated in the city's northeast section, near the downtown area and the popular tourist attractions of Fisherman's Wharf and Chinatown.
Budget hotels may seem hard to find in San Francisco, but the Grant Hotel is among the downtown area's most affordable places to stay. Fisherman's Wharf and Lombard Street are also filled with affordable options, but the Monte Cristo Inn is one of many more intimate bed and breakfast offerings. Summer rates tend to be more expensive than rates during other seasons. Go San Francisco Card holders are entitled to free museums, tours, and other city activities, while the Wharf Pass covers admission fees to 10 different Fisherman's Wharf attractions. Two aquariums, the Exploratorium, and the California Academy of Sciences are just a few of the attractions that San Francisco CityPASS holders can see at no extra cost.
Sights nearbyStunning natural surroundings from all sides are major reasons why San Francisco is such a popular place to live and to visit. Sausalito lies just across the Golden Gate Bridge, but visitors who venture farther north will encounter the Point Reyes National Seashore and the Muir Woods redwood forests. San Jose to the south and Oakland to the east are other popular daytrip destinations.
- OaklandThis East Bay city may be overshadowed by its western neighbour, San Francisco, but Oakland has much to offer as one of the country's most multicultural cities. The waterfront Jack London Square may be the city's main meeting place, but Lake Merritt is a sprawling tidal lagoon which is popular among boaters, joggers, and cyclists alike. Children may enjoy the Oakland Zoo and the Children's Fairyland fun fair. Some of the state's oldest and tallest redwood trees flourish in Redwood Regional Park.
- San JoseSilicon Valley's unofficial capital, south of San Francisco, has much to offer beyond the latest in technology, much of which is showcased at the Tech Museum of Innovation. A much older attraction is the Winchester Mystery House whose owner ordered the construction of corridors leading to nowhere, doors opening to walls, a stairway to the ceiling, and even a second floor door to thin air to avoid being haunted by spirits. Lake Cunningham Park stands next to the Raging Waters water park.
Eating and drinking and shopping nearbyThere is one restaurant for every 250 residents of San Francisco, a greater per-capita ratio than any other North American city. The city is known both for its outstanding steak houses and its tremendous amount of vegetarian offerings. Each of this foodie paradise's major neighbourhoods seems to specialise in a different type of cuisine. The Sunset and Financial districts contain the largest percentage of Greek and Middle Eastern restaurants, while Americanised Cantonese dishes are served in most Chinatown restaurants. Richmond is said to serve up some of the city's best sushi.
The city's nightlife is equally diverse. Young professionals party at the Marina, while Castro has a sizable gay community. San Francisco also boasts more microbreweries than New York City. Big box chain shops are among the few shopping choices which are hard to find in the city. Union Square may be the largest shopping area, but Fisherman's Wharf contains the largest percentage of souvenir shops. Despite its name, Ghirardelli Square offers much more than just chocolate.