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San Francisco is the City by the Bay and one of my favorites in the world. I spent many nights on business, visiting friends, and just enjoying everything the fourth most populous city in California has to offer. It’s the financial and cultural center of Northern California and has something for everyone. One visit and you’ll soon see why it’s such a great place to explore and you might leave your heart here (as the song goes).
Here are five things you can’t miss on your visit.
5. The Castro
Here you’ll find one of the first gay neighborhoods in the world. The Castro remains one of the most prominent symbols of LGBT activism and is an interesting place to wander around. Here you’ll find the Castro Theatre, which screens movies and hosts discussions and related events, Twin Peaks Tavern (credited as the first gay bar in the city and possibly the US with large, picture windows allowing guests to look out and passersby to look in), and Pink Triangle Park (named after the pink triangles the Nazis forced homosexuals to wear during World War II).
Can’t Miss: Check out the Rainbow Honor Walk, which honors 20 LGBT icons with sidewalk plaques.
Address: located on Castro Street from Market Street to 19th Street, San Francisco, CA
4. Yoda Fountain
I am a Star Wars fanatic. When I heard there was a fountain dedicated to the greatest Jedi Master, I had to stop by and visit. The Yoda Fountain is found outside the Letterman Digital Arts Center in the Presidio. The fountain was installed in 2005. If you have time during a weekday, there is also a small collection of Star Wars memorabilia in the Lucasfilm lobby (the building where the fountain sits outside). May the Force be with you!
Can’t Miss: In a coin toss and a wish you’ll make (read this in Yoda’s voice).
Address: 1 Letterman Drive, San Francisco , California, 94129
San Francisco is home to one of the oldest and largest Chinese communities in the US. It takes up 24 city blocks and is a must every time I go to the city for sweets from the bakeries (Good Mong Kok Bakery is a favorite) and some dim sum. You’ll climb some steep hills to get here, but you’ll feel transported as you watch old women shop in the produce markets and find tons of great things to eat along the way. Make sure to take a picture by the Dragon Gate (the monument marks the southern entrance to Chinatown).
Can’t Miss: If you ever wondered where fortune cookies come from, stop by the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. It’s been pumping out this favorite addition of the takeout bag since 1962.
Address: 413-401 Grant Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94108 (Start here for the Dragon Gate)
2. Baker Beach
It’s a trek down a windy trail to get to the beach. Once you arrive, there is no better place to take photos of the Golden Gate Bridge. Baker Beach is great for catching some rays and relaxing (sans a bathing suit if you want as the north side is clothing optional).
Can’t Miss: Take a selfie with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
Address: 1770 Gibson Rd. San Francisco, CA 94129, USA
1. Ferry Building Marketplace
I am drawn to any market around the globe. This one in the Ferry Building is one of my favorites. Here you’ll find tons to snack on and some of the best local ingredients and artisanal products anywhere in San Francisco. Acme Bread Company offers amazing baked goods. Far West Fungi has mushrooms that I’ve never seen anywhere else. There are many other vendors here to eat your way through offering everything from bagels to ice cream to empanadas.
Can’t Miss: Have lunch at The Slanted Door. It has long been an outstanding Vietnamese restaurant and will reopen this year.
Address: One Ferry Building #50, 1 Ferry Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94111
Come for the food and stay for the culture and unique city vibe. These are my can’t miss picks for San Francisco.
Bonus Hotel Pick: The Palace Hotel, A Luxury Collection Hotel has been my home for more nights than I can remember. It has a great location on Market Street with easy access to SOMA, Union Square, the Financial District, and much of the rest of the city. It’s a grand, old hotel (built in 1875) with luxe rooms and suites, an indoor pool, two restaurants, and more. The center court features a beautiful stained glass ceiling and serves an amazing Sunday brunch. The hotel is part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection, so you’ll earn points and get to use those elite benefits like free breakfast and late checkout while staying here. (Full review here.)
Address: 2 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94105
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