San Francisco

San Francisco Vacations Begin with Fascinating History

San Francisco skyline

Sometimes called the “Paris of the West,” San Francisco’s comparison to great European cities ends with its relatively short history. Alongside the Old World’s millennia of civilization, San Francisco is still just a kid. It exploded, in the span of a few years, from a sparsely populated outpost to a bustling Gold Rush port where fortune seekers from around the world converged during the mid-1800s after gold was discovered in California’s foothills. A massive earthquake and resultant fires virtually leveled the city in 1906, but like the phoenix rising from the ashes, San Francisco came back with a vengeance — bigger and better than ever.

By the end of World War II, San Francisco was the largest, wealthiest city on the West Coast. Today, it’s the fourth-largest city in California with a population of about 856,000, less than 5 percent of the state’s total. One of the most densely populated cities in America (with 17,000 people per square mile), San Francisco proper occupies a 7-by-7-mile area on the tip of a 32-mile peninsula between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Known for steep hills (50 in all!), a thriving waterfront, world-class museums and cultural events, walkable neighborhoods, a socially tolerant citizenry, and an excellent public transit system, San Francisco vacations stand apart as some of the most captivating adventures in the world.

San Francisco Vacations Local Tips: Know Before You Go

Like Tony Bennett, we at Northern California have “left our heart” in San Francisco. One of our partners, Sam, grew up in the Bay Area and waxes nostalgic every time he visits. No matter how many times we go back, we always find something new to enthrall us about San Francisco vacations.

Whether you’re planning your first trip to the City by the Bay or have visited multiple times, we’re sure you’ll view San Francisco vacations with fresh eyes every time. We’re here to help you plot your itinerary, from the must-sees and must-dos on every tourist’s list to San Francisco’s hidden gems (and there are more of those than there are street performers at Fisherman’s Wharf).

Before we launch into San Francisco vacations, it might help to know a few Insider Tips. First, regarding terminology: If you want to sound like a local, don’t call San Francisco “Frisco.” It makes us testy! Northern Californians, when we’re talking about San Francisco, typically refer to it as “the city.” 


San Francisco Bay

Second, always – ALWAYS – bundle up for San Francisco vacations. Especially during the months of June and July. As Mark Twain was incorrectly credited with saying (actually we don’t know who said it first), “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Temperatures in San Francisco typically hover around the high 50s to mid-60s year-round except for September and October, when the mercury climbs into the 70s. (It’s no accident many San Francisco vacations happen in the fall, when the wind dies down and the fog isn’t as soupy.) Just something to keep in mind.

OK, that’s enough background for now. Get ready to explore San Francisco vacations like you’ve never imagined. How to do that? Follow these suggestions.

Top Ways to Make the Most of Your San Francisco Vacations

Be a Savvy Tourist – Attractions

Pier 39 near Fisherman’s Wharf

By this we mean definitely do the obvious touristy San Francisco attractions like Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, Union Square, and cable cars. Believe us, every San Francisco vacations itinerary has to include these things at least once. But don’t stop there! Expand your horizons a little. Challenge yourself to discover one or two of San Francisco vacations lesser-known treasures. Stick with us — we’ll tell you where to find the hottest drag queens and coolest free slides. (Be sure to bring a leftover pizza box for your tush.)

Mix with the Revelers – Events

SF Events

San Francisco events are known for their offbeat flavor (Gay Pride Parade? ‘Nuff said!), and attending one is part of the quintessential San Francisco vacations experience. Make a point to plan your San Francisco vacations around Fleet Week (you’ll be awed by the Blue Angels), the San Francisco International Film Festival, Chinatown’s Autumn Moon Festival, or Bay to Breakers, a kooky 100-year-old 12K foot race featuring runners in costume. And that’s just for starters.

Munch Like a Local – Dining

SF Dining

If there’s anything San Franciscans would rather do than eat, we don’t know what it is. As it turns out, they’re exceptionally good at it. The San Francisco dining scene is packed with internationally renowned destination restaurants and cuisines from every corner of the globe. Looking for something different to spice up your San Francisco vacations? Enjoy an escargot lollipop from a food truck or dine in pitch-darkness while being served by blind waiters. No matter what your taste buds’ preference, we’ll nudge you in the right direction.

 Spend the Night in Style – Lodging

Palace Hotel

San Francisco lodging includes dozens of historic hotels clustered around Union Square. One, the Palace Hotel, was built shortly after the 1906 earthquake and boasts one of the grandest rooms in the city (or anywhere else, for that matter) – the Garden Court. Smaller, independent hotels scattered around the city can also be a wise (not to mention more affordable) choice for your San Francisco vacations overnight stays. Let us help you find your ideal place to bunk.

Don’t Gawk and Drive – Transportation

Cable Cars

We can’t stress this enough: Ditch your car! Finding a parking spot in the City by the Bay is an exercise in self-torture, and it’s mega-expensive to boot. Your San Francisco vacations will go a lot more smoothly if you hop on a bus, train, ferry, bike, or cable car. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about San Francisco transportation.

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