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San Francisco City Guide

Guide to Life in San Francisco

Aside from the famed Cable Cars, Fisherman’s Wharf and Golden Gate Bridge, there are countless other destinations for visitors who come to San Francisco. This is an insider’s guide to the city, its quirky politics and some “Only in San Francisco” sights that you won’t hear your hotel concierge recommend. We’ve compiled our best San Francisco stories on this page to give you recommendations and tips that will make your stay in the City by the Bay all the more memorable.

Insider Q&A

fw3Question: Where’s the best place to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge?

Answer: There are plenty of places to shoot the iconic bridge. For a shot with the San Francisco skyline in the background, we recommend heading over to the Marin County side and photographing the bridge from the Battery Spencer side. For a scenic shot of the underside of the bridge, head towards Fort Point, the former military installation that stands at the foot of the bridge on the San Francisco side.

And check out our posting: Where are the five best spots to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge?

Question: Does it really cost $5 per person to ride a Cable Car?

Answer: Yes, it does. And here’s the kicker: it’s $5 one way, with no transfers issued or honored. For a family of four looking to head to Fisherman’s Wharf from Union Square, that’s $20 each way. It’s a steep price to pay to ride on one of the city’s cash cow transit vehicles, but there’s a way to get around the fare — purchase a 1-day, 3-day or 7-day passport that will allow you to ride any MUNI vehicle, including cable cars, as many times as you’d like within the valid period. The passports also give you discounts to several San Francisco attractions.

ghirardellichocolateQuestion: Are Ghirardelli Chocolates really made in San Francisco?

Answer: This may surprise you: they are not. The famous Ghirardelli building on the northern waterfront used to be the old chocolate plant, but was converted to multi-use office space and shopping a while back. But the scrumptious San Francisco chocolates are made locally across the bay in the city of San Leandro where the Ghirardelli plant is located in an industrial portion of the Bay Area. There’s also a factory outlet store where you can buy the same chocolate you find in San Francisco for much less than you’d pay at a boutique shop near Fisherman’s Wharf.

Do you have a question for the San Francisco Insider? E-mail us with your name, hometown and question about anything about where to go, what to do, and who to see during your next trip to San Francisco. We’ll put it up here.

Getting Around

Driving in San Francisco is tough. Clogged downtown streets, steep hills and a scarcity of parking spots encourages both locals and visitors alike to rely on public transportation to travel within city limits. The city’s much-maligned and cablecar1 rarely-on-time public transit workhorse is the San Francisco Municipal Railway, which operates modern and historic streetcars, motor and electric buses and the city’s collection of famed Cable Cars. The agency transports 700,000 riders every weekday, making it the busiest transit system in the San Francisco Bay Area. For travel inside the city, grab a 1-day, 3-day or 7-day passport and enjoy unlimited travel on all “MUNI” routes around town.

If you’re planning to visit Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 or the northern waterfront, you’re encouraged to take a look at the California Beat’s guide to public transit service to these popular tourist traps. Travel smart, and take a look:

For travel on public transportation outside of San Francisco city limits, the choices are just as plentiful.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) rail system offers rapid rail service connecting the East Bay with San Francisco and northern San Mateo County. BART serves both the San Francisco International Airport and Oakland International Airport.

For rail service to San Jose and the Peninsula, Caltrain commuter rail service offers frequent trips connecting Silicon Valley with San Francisco.

AC Transit, Golden Gate Transit, and SamTrans are a few of the other public bus operators which operate routes into San Francisco. Ferries also criss-cross the bay connecting Oakland, Marin County and Vallejo with the city.

Full Bay Area traveler’s information is available at 511.org.

Other Important Links

SFGate.com — The online home of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper
sfmuni.com — Schedules, Maps, Fares and Transit information for San Francisco’s public transportation operator
onlyinsanfrancisco.com — San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau (deals, discounts and great places to go)
511.org — Regional trip planning for your excursion outside of the city

San Francisco Destinations

[By Beat News Service | 20 Jan 2011 | Comments Off]
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A three-day celebration, complete with cake and educational tours, will mark the 21st anniversary of the arrival of San Francisco’s iconic sea lions — a loud group of city residents that have called the Pier 39 waterfront attraction home since they arrived in the Bay in 1990.

The celebration will begin on Friday when naturalists from the Aquarium of the Bay will lead walking tours of Pier 39 every hour to share the story of the incredible history of the California Sea Lion and how they came to call the pier home for the past two decades.

[By Vanessa Guerra | 16 May 2010 | Comments Off]
BOOGIE DOWN in the City by the Bay during the 99th running of the ING Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco Sunday, May 15, 2010. (Photo by Vanessa Guerra/ CALIFORNIA BEAT)

To the naked runners — and those who chose to wear nothing but the boxers and bikinis — it must have been pretty darn cold for you during Sunday’s 99th running of the ING Bay to Breaker’s race in San Francisco.

But it didn’t really matter, did it?

[By California Beat | 23 Sep 2009 | Comments Off]
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For the eager people who can’t wait to get the weekend started early – a San Francisco hot spot targeting  urban hipsters, yuppies, science geeks and everyone in between beacons you to stop by.

By now you’ve probably heard of and visited the new California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. The renovated science emporium reopened last November to great fanfare featuring a new indoor tropical garden and a spiffy aquarium that took years to design and build.

[By California Beat | 6 Aug 2009 | Comments Off]

A while back, the California Beat published the top five locations to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge. Shortly afterwards, a comment was left on that article by ‘Bob in Pacifica,’ who suggested that San Francisco’s Fort Miley was another good location to photograph San Francisco’s most famous landmark. So, the California Beat decided that we should check out the location ourselves to see if it should indeed be included on our previously mentioned list.

Fort Miley is located at Land’s End on the north side of Clement St. directly next to the Lincoln Park Municipal Gold Course. Parking can easily be found at the end of El Camino del Mar and all trails can be reached from this point.

[By California Beat | 25 Jul 2009 | Comments Off]

San Francisco has long been a venue for musical performances. But of all of the shows that have performed in the city, one in particular has been performing since it was created well over thirty years ago. While hints of its long and successful career can still be found in today’s performances, Beach Blanket Babylon has continued to stay fresh and unique to the city it celebrates.

Beach Blanket Babylon in performed Wednesday through Sunday at Club Fugazi located at 678 Beach Blanket Babylon Blvd. Ticket prices vary depending on where you sit with seats closer to the stage being more expensive. Keep in mind that you must be at least twenty-one years of age to enter, with exception to Sunday shows. Finally, photography is not allowed so don’t bring your cameras.

[By California Beat | 23 Jul 2009 | Comments Off]

The serenity found at Muir Woods National Monument in Marin County will likely never be found anywhere else on earth.

Because once you walk under the soaring California redwoods that have survived earthquakes, fires and man-made calamities, the feeling is majestic — an experience that’s uniquely California and Bay Area.

[By California Beat | 21 Jul 2009 | Comments Off]

When Fr. Francisco Palou established Misión San Francisco de Asís, little could he know just what he was establishing. Today, 230 years later, that small mission has resulted in one of the recognizable cities in the world.

Officially established on June 29, 1776, Misión San Francisco de Asís was the sixth of the total twenty-one California missions and has been designated San Francisco Historical Landmark # 1. Better known as Mission Dolores, the old mission is located on the corner of Dolores and 16th Street and is open daily. Admission is free but there is a suggested donation of $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and students.

[By California Beat | 30 Jun 2009 | 3 Comments]
castrotheatre

The city of San Francisco is made up of many colorful neighborhoods, each with its own unique characteristics and history. But one district stands out more than the rest. It is a district that no matter where you’re from, you’ve heard of it. It is a district that is colorful not only by the people who live, but literally by the flags that fly all along its main street. Regardless of how you feel about, the Castro District has become a uniquely San Francisco neighborhood.

One can find many different types of businesses and establishments located throughout the district. From the many Asian restaurants along Castro Street to the several bars and clubs that make up the local nightlife. There are even the occasional adult themed stores for those who may be into that sort of thing.

[By California Beat | 11 May 2009 | One Comment]

It is perhaps the most iconic structure that defines the city of San Francisco: the Golden Gate Bridge.

But after seeing millions of postcards, tourist guides and magazine spreads featuring the famed suspension bridge, you want to take your own photograph of it. So, where do you go for that picture-perfect shot, just like what you’ve seen in the travel brochure?

[By California Beat | 27 Apr 2009 | Comments Off]

From Angel Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, the views of the city, the bridges (all three of them), the rolling East Bay hills and the endless sight of ocean waters that sweep out into the Pacific are simply amazing.

So too are the miles of hiking trails that give visitors a chance to climb tall mountains and scour historical sights that once housed thousands of troops in wartime and welcomed thousands of immigrants from overseas.