Why San Francisco?
World-class shopping. Historic cable cars. Dramatic theater and bustling farmers' markets. You can find all this and more just a short walk away from the Hilton San Francisco Union Square.
San Francisco has many attractions and amenities! From Alcatraz to the Golden Gate Bridge: San Francisco has something to offer nearly everyone. Some top sights and attractions include (but are definitely not limited to!). And for the most up-to-date events in San Francisco, check this information.
Walk the Golden Gate Bridge
There’s no view of the Bay like the one seen from the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge. Churning water, Alcatraz, the downtown skyline – all of it looks so much more magical when seen from the bridge, as the briny air blows through your hair and the sun shines on your back. The Golden Gate is nearly 9,000 feet long and takes up two hours for a leisurely stroll across and back, taking advantage of the many photo opportunities. The time goes by fast, however, and the one universal truth about the walk is that if you look around, everyone is having a blast. Bring a camera, bring a snack, and get ready to join in that good time.
Have a cup of tea at the Golden Gate Park
This gigantic park features a Japanese garden, a museum, an arboretum, and tons of hiking and walking trails. Three miles long and stretching about 30 blocks to the sea, it’s 20 percent bigger than New York’s Central Park. Walking from end to end will take half a day. If that’s too much for you, spend at least a few hours here exploring the park, especially if it’s an unusually warm and beautiful day in the city. It’s easy to forget you were ever in a major urban center when you’re strolling through Golden Gate Park. The lush woodland is home to an array of sights and activities to please visitors of any age. There’s archery in a field near the ocean, a buffalo reserve located along the northern drag, the De Young Museum lounging next to the Japanese Tea Garden – and all situated within walking distance of some great bars and restaurants. It’s the perfect spot for everything from a first date to a tranquil solo afternoon on a grassy bank sketching the bucolic splendor. There are also markets and events occurring regularly throughout the week, so be sure to check online for the latest goings-on.
Ride a Cable Car through the streets of SanFran
Riding the cable cars is an excellent way to tour the city and experience various neighborhoods in San Francisco. Catch the cable cars from Market Street (just 10 minutes from the conference hotel). They’re fun to ride and will save you lots of time walking up and down those hills.
Submerge yourself in history on Alcatraz island
Catch a ferry behind Pier 33 on The Embarcadero and sail out to a rocky island in the middle of San Francisco Bay. This was the home of the nation's first military prison which became a federal penitentiary and for more than 30 years, oversaw the incarceration of 1500 men, including Chicago crime boss Al Capone and psychopath Robert "The Birdman" Stroud.To "do The Rock" sign up for the audio tour where narrators, who include former real-life corrections officers and prisoners ("We were like cockroaches in a matchbox"), provide a hauntingly compelling account of what it was like to live and work there. Fabulous.
Visit the Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, and Ghirardelli Square
This area covers numerous blocks along the waterfront and is one of the most popular (touristy) things to do in the city. There are street performers, souvenir shops, and tons of spendy restaurants. Along Fish Alley, you can watch fishermen at work, as they’ve done for decades. This is a good place to wander and explore for people watching, but don’t eat here. The food is overpriced and, to be honest, not that good. If you want to try some of the mouthwatering seafood that San Francisco is famous for, I really liked Waterbar and the Anchor Oyster Bar.
Take a selfie at Lombard Street
While riding the cable cars, make sure to get off at Lombard Street (located south of Russian Hill Park) and see one of the world’s windiest streets. Just take the Powell/Hyde line, which starts at Fisherman’s Wharf.
The history of Lombard Street is worth knowing. During the 1920s, people in San Francisco were beginning to drive around in automobiles, but many of the hills were too steep to navigate. A local man named Carl Henry came up with the idea of using a curved street to help vehicles move downhill, although it would mean several sharp turns. An engineer named Clyde Healy created the design, and overall the hill’s slope went from 27% to 16%. Now you can watch the cars and bikers navigate the sharp turns as tourists gawk at them.
Head to Chinatown
The Chinatown area is almost as old as the city of San Francisco itself. As the 1849 Gold Rush encouraged a flourish of American migration from the East, Chinese migrants arrived from across the Pacific and saw an opportunity. The Chinese-owned restaurants, sundry stores, and laundries helped establish a cultural enclave in the middle of San Francisco that was vibrant and permanent, despite numerous schemes by city leaders over the years to dislodge and relocate the community. San Francisco’s Chinatown is a place that everyone should visit at least once. Despite the crowds and shops brimming over with tchotchkes, the area is packed with art and culture waiting to be experienced. And, of course, there’s the food. Just make sure to head over to Golden Gate Bakery on Grant – it’s renowned for making the best silky-sweet egg custard tarts this side of the Pacific.
Visit the city’s many museums
San Francisco has numerous museums that are worth seeing.
- The Beat Museum – Dedicated to the Beat Generation, here you’ll find a collection of original manuscripts, rare books, letters, and more from authors like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.
- Cable Car Museum – The city’s cable cars have been around since 1873, and you can learn all about them here. There’s an overlooking the huge engines and wheels that make the cars run! (
- Exploratorium – Step into the fascinating world of science at the Exploratorium, where a series of hands-on activities will keep you entertained for hours. It’s not just a kids’ museum – there are exhibits specifically for adults!
- De Young Art Museum – De Young showcases excellent art from the 17th centuries onward, including contemporary, photography, textiles, and more. There is an Observation Level on the 9th floor with great views over the city and the Pacific.
Explore the city with a View
Standing on the top of the city's Telegraph View like a landlocked lighthouse, Coit Tower salutes breathtaking 360 views of the city that take in all the landmarks you want it to: the Golden Gate and Bay bridges, Alcatraz and the Embarcadero. It was built in 1933 using money bequeathed to the city by the hard-drinking, cigar-smoking, trouser-wearing socialite Lillie Hitchcock Coit who, from the age of 15 when she first helped firefighters extinguish a fire on Telegraph Hill, was considered an honorary firefighter, often travelling with the men on calls. This tower, built four years after her death, is her tribute to her heroes.
The 27-kilometre-long Sonoma Valley is an hour's drive from San Francisco and yet, somehow, its 40-odd wineries get far less attention than those in the better-known Napa Valley. Lots of them are just as good. Zinfandel and syrah are the specialities here, but it is a region of enormous variety because of its incredibly diverse topography. The scenery is spectacular and the pace unhurried: locals call the place "Slow-noma".