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Things to Do in San Francisco

Here is a look at some of the things to do in San Francisco, based on our recent trip there (2008).

Alcatraz and Fisherman's Wharf

At top of the list for many people is a trip to Alcatraz, the famous prison island in just a mile out in the San Francisco bay. Having been there before, I can say that it is worth the cost, which is about $25 per person at the moment. The boat ride alone is impressive, giving you a different view of the city. The prison is both depressing and fascinating.

Having tried to go there on our recent trip, I can also say that it makes sense to have reservations. We arrived in town on a Wednesday, and the next available seats on the tour were for the following Monday. Unfortunately, that was the morning we were leaving. If this happens to you, though, there are alternatives. In our case, we took a boat tour ($22) which went under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz Island. Other tours of various sorts are available in the Fisherman's Wharf area.

(Note: The lady at the ticket counter said there was no way to get tickets to Alcatraz, but there may be. After a guard also said there was no way to buy tickets of those who canceled there reservations, I waited, and he quietly told me, "Get in line tomorrow at 7:00 AM." So perhaps there is a way to get on that boat if you are an early riser.)

Fisherman's Wharf is a great place to hang out in any case. There are numerous seafood restaurants, street performers to watch, a wax museum, Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not, and other attractions. Tours of the city on open-top busses also leave from here. Amphibious vehicles take you on drives that go in and out of the water. There is also a Hard Rock Cafe.

Other Things To Do In San Francisco

There must be thousands of restaurants in San Francisco, serving food of every type. In the few days we were in town (we drove out to see other parts of the area) we ate seafood, Nicaraguan food, Chinese food, and more. If you like to try new foods, plan on exploring many areas of the city.

It can be very reasonable to eat out here if you look around. One evening, for example, we ate at "Tuk Tuk Restaurant" in the North Beach area. They serve Thai food, and dinners start at about $8. I had a dish I can't recall the name of that was unlike anything I had ever eaten before (with dried shrimp and lime juice and cabbage), and a Singha beer. Delicious. My wife Ana ordered a bowl of chicken soup for about $6, which would have fed four people.

What else? You can rent a bicycle and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge (rentals can be found in the Fisherman's Wharf area). You can take a tour to the Muir Woods north of the city, to see the giant Redwood trees (well worth seeing). A walk through China town will provide you with an opportunity to buy all the unusual things you might want. Other areas have great shopping as well. Union Square is surrounded by stores of every sort, for example.

Parks seem to be everywhere. The Golden Gate park has hiking and biking opportunities. The Presidio may seem familiar, since you have probably seen it in a few movies. Lincoln Park has a golf course.

To get around, you have many options. Although the famous cable cars cost $5, we were not charged either time we took one. This is apparently common if the conductor is alone and you get on in the middle of the route. There are also busses, taxis, tour busses that you can get on and off of all day for a set price, and electric trolleys. Most city maps show the routes for the Trolleys, busses and streetcars.

Many hotels have coupon books and guides to attractions. Ask about these when you check in and you'll find plenty of things to do in San Francisco.

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