San Francisco

San Francisco is a city of great character, beautiful views and a huge variety of excellent restaurants, bars and shops.

The city also offers a good range of famous attractions from Alcatraz and Fisherman's Wharf to Chinatown and the Golden Gate Bridge - it is a fun place to spend a few days.

San Francisco is also a good base for exploring the surrounding area which includes the wineries and fruit groves of the Napa Valley, one and a half hour's drive to the north, and mile after mile of beaches along the Pacific Coast Highway to the south.

"San Francisco is such a fantastic city - there's so much to see, explore, taste and drink... and it has a great chilled out atmosphere. I can't recommend enough staying here at least 1 night before or after your Lake Tahoe ski trip!"

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Attractions

Dining

  • If staying at the Hotel Adagio, there's a great place for breakfast called 'Dottie's True Blue Café' just around the corner - ask reception to point you in the right direction. It's a Southern diner with heart and soul - one of the biggest and best breakfasts you'll find. We advise getting there early before the queues build up, it's really popular.
  • For fantastic steaks in an elegant setting, try 'Harris's' steakhouse - absolutely fabulous and reasonable prices. 2100 Van Ness Ave. (at Pacific), Phone: 415-673-1888 www.harrisrestaurant.com. 'Mortons Steakhouse' also comes highly recommended, just near Union Square.
  • We advise getting away from the touristy Fisherman's Wharf restaurants (good food but more expensive) and instead try the 'Hyde Street Seafood House and Raw Bar' at Nob Hill for fantastic seafood at excellent prices - it was recommended to us by a taxi driver and was amazing, though they don't have heating so take a jumper.

Shopping

  • If shopping at Macy's at Union Square, make sure that you ask about the 11% discount that they give to international customers.

Sightseeing

  • Of course you've got to visit Alcatraz whilst you're in San Fran. You definitely need to book this in advance as it's very popular, and we recommend you do the evening tour leaving at 4.30pm - it's generally less misty, you're on the boat as the sun is setting and the tour is slightly longer.
  • The open top tour buses are a really convenient way to see as many of the sites much as you can in a short amount of time. There are a couple of different bus companies but all with the same idea - you pay approx $26 for a ticket that is valid for 3 days and the buses go to all the main city sights on a circuit. You just jump off at a place that you're interested in and then catch another of the buses once you're ready. You can pay for your ticket on the bus - your hotel will be able to tell you where the nearest stop to you is.
  • The Golden Gate Park is well worth a visit and we can recommend tea in the stunning Japanese gardens - entry is approx $5.
  • Chinatown in San Francisco is the largest Asian community outside the Orient and is a must see. The best time to go is before 8am - it wakes up early and you'll see merchants sweeping the nights litter from the streets and deliveries of tangerines, hairy melons and mustard greens being pushed around in ladened carts. Try amazingly cheap and delicious dim sum in one of the many cafés/ restaurants.
  • Golden Gate Bridge - avoid the crowds and visit this in the late afternoon. The bridge's pedestrian walkway is open from 6am - 9pm and there is a viewing spot on the far side that is great for taking photos. Many people choose to hire a bike (can hire from Pier 13) and cycle over.

Further afield

  • On your way to or back from Lake Tahoe, going via one of the nearby vineyards is a great option. Napa valley is one of the better known, just north of San Fran - we advise going to the Napa Valley visitors bureau (signposted once you enter Napa) for advice on the vineyards to visit (they sometimes also have vouchers for free tastings), alternatively you can research where you'd like to go in advance. We can recommend the Black Stallion winery as worth a visit and the V Sattui wineries where there's a fabulous Italian deli and you can picnic in the gardens.
  • Drive down the coast to Santa Cruz - the coastline is absolutely stunning!
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