SAN FRANCISCO – Let me begin by saying how welcoming the city of San Francisco is to tourists. I cannot remember a time when a tourism bureau, in this case, The San Francisco Travel Association (, was so helpful. It is no wonder more than 25.1 million people visited this destination in 2016.

For our first full day in San Francisco it was a no brainer to take the hop-on, hop-off Big Bus tour. You can buy your tickets in multiple ways. Log on to and click on the San Francisco section, as this company operates across the globe. We previously experienced it in London and Paris. Download the free App before you go. In a city like San Francisco with stunning bays, bridges and hills, this bus tour is the perfect way to sightsee and get off at spots like Haight-Ashbury, Nob Hill, Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf. We called an uber to bring us to crooked street on Lombard. Lineups for the cable cars were simply too long for our patience.

We wanted to see the Muir Woods National Monument and the grove of coastal Sequoias (Redwoods) – the tallest trees in the world!  Via Best Bay Tours (,   we boarded a comfortable van at our hotel and with an incredible chauffeur/tour guide in charismatic Paul Berman, we got a history lesson of every monument and site we saw on the way. We spent about 90 minutes in the Redwood grove after which the tour moved on to picturesque Sausalito, where had a chance to shop, visit art galleries and have lunch all while enjoying the view of beautiful San Francisco across the bay.

San Francisco

The legendary Alcatraz Island is a must stop on any visit

I have always been fascinated by Alcatraz, once home to some of America’s most notorious criminals. The federal penitentiary that operated here from 1934 to 1963 brought a dark mystique to the Rock as the presence of infamous inmates like Al “Scarface” Capone, and the “Birdman” Robert Stroud helped to establish the island’s notoriety. To this day, Alcatraz is best known as one of the world’s most legendary prisons. A visit here is high on every San Francisco tourist’s list. We booked our tickets a few months in advance via Alcatraz Cruises (, which hosts nearly 1.5 million visitors annually. Plan about two and a half hours for your visit. You can stay as long as you like, taking the cell house audio tour, exploring the rest of the island and its historic exhibits, and returning to the mainland.

The California Academy of Sciences ( is home to an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, and research and education programs, which engage people of all ages and backgrounds on two of the most important topics of our time: life and its sustainability. Based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, it’s remarkable what is housed all under one living roof.

The Steinhart Aquarium is one of the most advanced and biologically diverse aquariums in the world, home to the world’s deepest indoor living coral reef, an albino alligator, a colony of African penguins, a shark lagoon and more than 38,000 live animals representing over 900 species. Along with dozens of daily programs on the museum floor, there are plenty of ways to see and learn more during your visit and after hours. You can book a behind-the-scenes tour and get a closer look at the live animals, discover scientific collections, or learn what makes this museum the greenest in the world.

As for entertainment, the San Francisco Playhouse ( presents a diverse line up of shows from cutting edge, bold plays direct from Broadway runs to innovative musicals. The Playhouse has a cool bar and happy hour, as well as the diverse entertainment offering, presenting a wide range of theatre, including premieres by new writers, all in an intimate setting of 200 seats. They have performances throughout the year.

I’d make this an automatic stop for any planned trip to San Francisco. We thoroughly enjoyed a showing of the classic La Cage Aux Folles. As artistic director Bill English notes, there is no better recipe than La Cage, with the catchy tunes of Jerry Herman and the wicked book of Harvey Fierstein to install a permanent grin on our faces. You can find the full lineup of their productions planned through September 2018 on their website. It is located at 450 Post Street (between Mason and Powell Streets) on the second floor of the Kensington Hotel, less than one block from Union Square. There is elevator service.

Related Posts