Leave Your Heart in San Francisco, by Fly.com's Michelle Erickson
In 2010, the readers of Conde Nast Traveler selected San Francisco as the Best U.S. City for the 18th consecutive year. Celebrated attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf, combined with a year-round temperate climate, have given rise to one of the country’s top tourism markets – witness its many chic boutique hotels and an incredible array of restaurants, despite its compact size.
A pedestrian-friendly city of neighborhoods, San Francisco offers visitors an endless list of things to do. But this scenic city is also famously offbeat. Hometown newspaper The San Francisco Chronicle is the only one in the U.S. to have its own architecture reporter. Visitors can find sports fanatics clad in Giants and 49ers jerseys as well as a vibrat gay and transsexual community. San Francisco was first in the nation to require universal health coverage. And no city loves a protest more than San Francisco.
There are at least three culinary schools in San Francisco, including the prestigious Culinary Academy and Le Cordon Bleu. Graduates often stay in the city, which helps explain why residents boast that it has the best restaurants in the country. They claim San Francisco and New Orleans are the only two cities in America where visitors come just for the food.
Feast for about $20 in the multiethnic Mission District, or splurge on a fine meal at one of the city’s 30 Michelin-starred restaurants. At the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, you can practically fill up just walking around eating samples of cheese, fruits, vegetables, oysters and bread. There is always something going on in San Francisco’s foodies’ scene.
When to go?
Although summer is the most popular time for tourists, it is often characterized by fog and wind – so pack a sweater -- and be prepared to pay higher hotel prices during this peak season. September and October, as well as spring months, tend to have the most pleasant weather. But year-round, although temperatures are moderate, visitors should prepare to dress in layers. One of the best times to visit is during the less-busy winter, which coincides with opera and ballet season, holiday shopping and lower hotel rates.
How to get there?
San Francisco International Airport is served by nearly every major airline, including an increasing number of low-cost carriers. Be forewarned, the legendary fog may cause delays, when the airport is reduced to operating just two of its runways. However, there are two alternative airports: The Oakland Airport and the San Jose International Airport. BART rail connects SFO to the city, and taxis are easily available.
Visitors would need at least a couple of weeks to see all the city’s great attractions. But those that rank at the very top include the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Coit Tower, the San Francisco Zoo, Lombard Street (the most crooked street in the world), the “Painted Ladies” Victorian homes and Pier 39.