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View From Atop Twin Peaks © Nicolas Raymond/Flickr
View From Atop Twin Peaks © Nicolas Raymond/Flickr
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Culture Trip's Quick Guide To San Francisco

Picture of Natalie Savio
Updated: 25 October 2016
San Francisco may be small, stretching only seven miles to create a 49 square mile city, but the size of the city does not reflect the amount of things it has to offer. You could spend weeks — even years — in San Francisco and not be able to complete the various activities and entertainment the city provides. In fact, there are spectacular views, tourist attractions, food, events, and more that can only be experienced in San Francisco. Here is the guide to those things that you can only do and see in this exceptional city. There is no time to waste, so jump right in and start checking these things off your bucket list.
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Visit an Elite Prison – Alcatraz Island

From 1934 to 1963, Alcatraz Island used to be a maximum security prison for the worst of the worst. Although many inmates tried to escape the island — also known as ‘the rock,’ — none were successful. Visitors can go on the cell house tour of the prison which can be given by a recording of actual inmates who were housed there or on the eerie night tour. Entrance onto the island is free, but you need to pay for a ferry ticket to get there, which includes an audio guide. Be sure to book in advance, though.

Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, CA, USA

Alcatraz Island © WPPilot/Wikipedia

Alcatraz Island © WPPilot/Wikipedia

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Ride Adult Slides – Steward St Slides

Seward Mini Park is home to the Seward St Slides: two large concrete slides designed by a fourteen-year-old girl who lived on Seward Street. The best way to tackle these concrete slides is to race a friend down to the bottom while sitting on cardboard, which allows people to slide down faster and not get stuck at the bottom. Cardboard is sometimes provided there, but it’s best to bring your own. If you’re feeling daring, use wax paper to make you go even faster. At the bottom, there is a sand perimeter for a soft landing.

Seward Mini Park, 30 Seward St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 831 2700

Seward St Slides © Kate McCarthy/Flickr

Seward St Slides © Kate McCarthy/Flickr

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Dress Up to Run a Race – Bay to Breakers

Zappos.com’s Bay to Breakers is a two day, 12K race that moves west through the city, finishing with a festival at Ocean Beach’s parking lot. For over 100 years, people have been participating in the race whether that be by running, supporting on the sidelines, or people watching from a nearby bar. Watching the roughly 50,000 runners does take a big part in the race because of the sometimes crazy and fun outfits that get lots of attention and laughs. This year, Bay to Breakers will take place on Sunday, May 15, 2016.

Bay to Breakers © Geoffrey Weber/Flickr

Bay to Breakers © Geoffrey Weber/WikiCommons

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Drive on the Most Crooked Street – Lombard St

Lombard St — the section between Hyde and Jones St — may be a tourist attraction, but it’s a must see. Walk or preferably drive down this intentionally crooked street for an amazing view of the city and the beautiful mansions and flowers along the road. The one-way street is very steep at a 27 degree angle and has eight fairly sharp turns. Although Lombard is called the most crooked street in San Francisco, technically, that title should belong to Vermont Street between 20th and 22nd, but that can be our secret — don’t let the tourists in on it. The drive down Vermont is just as fun with all its turns, but not as beautifully landscaped.

Lombard St, San Francisco, CA, USA

Ride America’s Only Mobile Historical Landmark – Cable Car

Starting atop Lombard St, you can take San Francisco’s Cable Car downtown or on a couple other routes. At only nine miles an hour, the ride is surprisingly thrilling — especially when hanging off the side of the cable car holding onto the pole going up and down San Francisco’s hills. The cable car lines can take you through Nob Hill, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, the Financial District, and more. At the end of each of the three routes tickets can be purchased for $7 or day passes for $20 that can also be used on Muni.

San Francisco Cable Car© Fred Hsu/Wikimedia
San Francisco Cable Car | © Fred Hsu/Wikimedia

Attend a Music Festival in a Vast City Park – Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park is home to many festivals, some of which are even free. Outside Lands is a three day music festival that occurs every year in Golden Gate Park with notable artist line-ups each day. Tickets can be purchased by the day or for the whole weekend. This year, Outside Lands takes place August 5-7, 2016. In the fall, Alice 97.3 Now & Zen Fest is hosted in Sharon Meadow and has free entry. Popular artists like the Goo Goo Dolls, One Republic, Neon Trees, and Sara Bareilles have performed during this event. There is also henna art, rock climbing, food trucks, and more. Another free music festival in the park is Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (HSB) festival, which will occur on the weekend of September 30, 2016. Although HSB does indeed, play bluegrass music, ‘Hardly’ was added to the name because it does contain artists from other music genres. You can choose from over a hundred performers on seven stages.

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA, USA

Outerlands Festival at Golden Gate Park © Alejandro De La Cruz/Flickr
Outerlands Festival at Golden Gate Park | © Alejandro De La Cruz/Flickr
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Eat the Best Burrito in the World – La Taqueria

The Mexican Bistro La Taqueria is home to what science calls ‘the best burrito in the world.’ FiveThirtyEight narrowed down 67,391 restaurants in the U.S. to the 64 burrito joints, where they sampled each place’s burrito and assigned it a score based on its tortilla, meat, flavor, and presentation. After each bracket, they would return to sample that round’s winners again until, after the third bracket, only one burrito ranked supreme: La Taqueria in San Francisco. Located in the Mission District, La Taqueria has everything you would want from a Mexican restaurant, including the traditional, rice-free burritos.

La Taqueria, 2889 Mission St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 285 7117

La Taqueria © Stu_spivack/Flickr

La Taqueria © Stu_spivack/Flickr

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Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge

Everyone has to walk, bike, or for locals drive, the Golden Gate Bridge at least once — hopefully not when Karl the Fog decides to join. The 4,200 foot suspension bridge provides views of San Francisco’s skyline to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Even on a foggy day, the bridge has a certain charm about it. The Golden Gate Bridge, which opened in 1937 spans 1.7 miles and has about 120,000 vehicle visitors every day.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA, USA

Walking Golden Gate Bridge © Jondoeforty1/Flickr

Walking Golden Gate Bridge © Jondoeforty1/Flickr

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Take a Small Hike to Top of the Tower for the View – Coit Tower

Built in 1933 on Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower is 210 feet tall with 360 degrees views at the top — after you climb the rather large amount of stairs. Also inside the tower, there are floor to ceiling murals painted by what was later called the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The agricultural murals cast light on California life during the Depression. You can reach the top of Coit Tower without taking the stairs by paying a small fee to use the elevator.

Coit Tower, 1 Telegraph Hill Blvd, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 249 0995

Coit Tower © Brian Hillegas/Flickr

Coit Tower © Brian Hillegas/Flickr

Visit the Greenest Museum in the World – California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is a natural history museum located in Golden Gate Park. The museum is one-of-a-kind, being equipped with aquariums, various exhibits, a digital planetarium, a scientific research program, nightlife on Thursdays, and a green roof which covers 87 percent of the roof with seven grassy hills. The rooftop is home to 1.7 million native plant species and provides insulation and water for the building. Needless to say, the green roof also has a beautiful view.

California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 379 8000

California Academy of Sciences © Dennis Jarvis/Flickr
California Academy of Sciences | © Dennis Jarvis/Flickr
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Walk up San Francisco’s Hidden Stairways

San Francisco has more than 300 hidden stairways throughout the city; they are sometimes located in places that require stairs to reach certain areas because of the hilly terrain, and in other instances they are in alleyways. These staircases provide sometimes necessary pedestrian traffic routes and in other cases, quiet places to gather or exercise. One of San Francisco’s hidden stairways is 16th Avenue Tiled Steps, also known as the Mosaic Steps, which has 163 steps covered in beautiful mosaic tiles starting with images of fish at the bottom and working its way up to the sky and stars at the top of the staircase. To find more hidden stairways, click here.

16th Avenue Tiled Steps, 16th Avenue, San Francisco, CA, USA

16th Avenue Tiled Steps © Ed Bierman/Flickr

16th Avenue Tiled Steps © Ed Bierman/Flickr

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Drive to a Beautiful View on top of Mountains – Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks consists of two small mountains that are 922 feet tall, and is a 64 acre park with hiking trails and a driving route to reach the top. The summit has breathtaking views of the city, looking from downtown to the Golden Gate Bridge. Parking is free on the mountain and can be accessed at all hours even at night when the city has all of its lights on. For one of the best views of the city, visit Twin Peaks on a clear day or night and be sure to bring a jacket for the wind.

Twin Peaks, 501 Twin Beaks Blvd, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 831 6331

View From Atop Twin Peaks © Nicolas Raymond/Flickr

View From Atop Twin Peaks © Nicolas Raymond/Flickr