For a city that only measures seven miles by seven miles (often referred to as the 7x7), San Francisco offers so much to do within a relatively short radius. This charming metropolis shimmers much like the bay that surrounds it—where visitors are rewarded with the unique combination of downtown skyscrapers, old Victorian houses, grassy hills, and salty waves. Our tour through the city will give you a taste of all this, and much, much more.
Let's be honest, you can't go to San Francisco and not see the Golden Gate Bridge. This stunning piece of architectural engineering was designed by Leon Moisseiff, the man behind the Manhattan Bridge in New York City. The bright orange color (yes, it is technically orange and not red) was chosen because it complements the natural surroundings and enhances the bridge's visibility in fog. Just over 1.5 miles long, the Golden Gate Bridge house California's iconic Highway 1 and connects the city of San Francisco to the neighboring land of Marin County. There are numerous ways to see the bridge: driving (it is a toll road, so you'll have to pay a small fee), biking, walking, or boating. If you choose to boat, there are multiple ferries that leave from Fisherman's Warf and take you directly underneath the bridge, offering up a very unique view!
In a city so known for it's Victorian-style houses, you might never expect to find a large, Greco-Roman style dome. Located in the beautiful Marina District neighborhood, Palace of Fine Arts is a stunning structure that was originally constructed back in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific Exposition—an elaborate world's fair held in San Francisco to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal. On the grounds of the Palace of Fine Arts you'll find a domed pavilion, a lagoon, and an indoor theater. Take a walk around the lagoon, snap a few pictures, and be sure to check out the intricate designs underneath of the dome.
One of the most popular San Francisco tourist attractions (second to the Golden Gate Bridge) is Fisherman's Wharf. A seaside boardwalk filled with small shops and restaurants, it's here you'll find some of the quirkiest characters (including a family of sea lions and those trying to copy the World Famous Bushman) and some of the best clam chowder in the city. And while many places claim to be the best, we think Blue Mermaid on the far end of Fisherman's Wharf takes the top-spot.
The Beat Museum—which is named after the group of San Francisco writers and artists who collectively referred to themselves as the Beats—is a small little gallery tucked away on the corner of a busy intersection in San Francisco's North Beach District. Home to an extensive collection of Beat memorabilia, the museum is probably most known for its Jack Kerouac collection, including a very rare postcard written by Kerouac in the 1950s. For $8, you can see the famous postcard, along with a plethora of other artifacts, manuscripts, photographs, even a short movie (some say the movie alone is worth the admission price).
Even though San Francisco is full of hills, it's very much a walkable city. And after a long day of steep inclines, you'll want nothing more than to kick your feet up and relax at the Holiday Inn Golden Gateway Hotel. Conveniently located along Highway 101, this hotel is surrounded by charming streets, lively restaurants, and plenty of parks. Or, if you feel like staying in, you can indulge at one of two onsite restaurants and take a dip in the heated outdoor pool. And if you're an And if you're an IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card member, be sure to take advantage of the additional points you can earn by using your card at IHG® Hotels & Resorts.
When people think of putt putt golf, they probably picture a wide, outdoor lot with a windmill hole. What they don't picture is Urban Putt, an elaborate mini golf course, filled with insanely detailed holes, all housed inside an art gallery space. Urban Putt is truly one of a kind, and each hole is a piece of art. After buying your tickets and choosing your club, you can grab a drink and follow the winding maze of 14 different holes. For being in such a small space, the course is laid out surprisingly well and balls rarely seem to go flying. One of the coolest holes has got to be Dia De Los Muertos (Hole #9), where you hit your ball through a long hallway and then watch it through the wall as it follows an intricate chain of stairs and levers, passes through a decorated skull, rolls along the ceiling above your head, and comes out the mouth of a skeleton on the other side.
Sometimes called "Postcard Row" due to the extremely picturesque setting, this series of five Victorian houses has become a San Francisco landmark. The Painted Ladies were first built in the 1890s and have remained pretty much the exact same since then. Now protected by the city, the five houses cannot change any of their exteriors (including the paint color) without receiving special permission. Located right across from Alamo Square Park, stop by The Mill on your way for some delicious coffee and homemade bread and enjoy yourself a nice little Painted Lady picnic!
Located in the heart of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, this Victorian-era glass greenhouse has more than 2,000 species of plants and flowers. The Conservatory of Flowers is just as impressive outside as it is inside. The front lawn is usually covered with bright flowerbeds, and it's not uncommon to see people laying on the grass in between the various planters. The conservatory doesn't close until 6:30pm, so we recommend stopping by in the late afternoon (the last ticket is sold at 6:00pm) and then catching the light show that happens at dusk—in the summer, the outside of the conservatory features colorful projections of moving patterns, lights, and designs.
Located out on the far edge of San Francisco, high up on a flat hilltop, sits the Cliff House. Here you can enjoy both stunning views of the ocean and a delightful meal. Inside the Cliff House, you can choose either the Bistro Restaurant, Sutro's Restaurant, or the Zinc Bar & Lounge. If you want something more casual and light, then we suggest Bistro. But if you want to enjoy something a little a nicer, grab a drink at Zinc before sitting down for dinner at Sutro's. Whichever you choose, the Cliff House will not disappoint.
The city by the bay, while relatively small, has a lot to offer. With so much to do and see (and eat), it's not only a highly sought-after 'statecation' for local California residents, but for travelers across the country as well. This beautiful city has surprises around every corner, from large Greco-Roman style domes to small niche museums and everything in between. And with the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, you'll also be surprised to find out how many points you'll be earning along the way...
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