There is much to love about the City by the Bay. It is compact: Seven miles wide by seven miles long. So it’s easy to get around by walking or via public transportation. It is rich in history and culture: The population exploded during the 1849 Gold Rush, going from around 1000 people in 1848 to about 3500 people in 1850 and it’s been growing ever since. The city has many venues for live theater plus a ballet company and symphony orchestra. It is beautiful, with views of the Pacific ocean to the west and the San Francisco Bay to the north and east, along with many relaxing green spaces such as Golden Gate Park and Land’s End.
Of course, San Francisco has its downsides too. Home prices are astronomical. The average home price is $1.48 million, according to real estate analyst firm Redfin. Who can afford that? There are more than 7700 homeless people, many of whom congregate in the Tenderloin district of the city. Eating dinner out is very expensive with bottles of wine costing $50 to $100 each! Main dishes are typically $20 to $40 and starters often cost $10 or more at upscale restaurants. Spending $75 per person for dinner is pretty typical.
So if you are going to San Francisco, be prepared for sticker shock and homeless people walking around, possibly talking to themselves. Both of our sons live here with their significant others. As a result, we have been here five times in six years. On each visit, however, I have discovered something new here that was simply delightful.
One of the no-cost sights of joy we discovered on this trip is the seal lions that hang out en masse at Pier 39 on Fisherman’s Wharf. Here is a video I took of them a few days ago. I highly recommend seeing this!
Another no-cost sight of joy I discovered on this visit was taking a hike in Land’s End park, at the northwest end of San Francisco. You walk near the bay and are surrounded by trees and bushes. You can also get a good view of the Golden Gate Bridge from here.
One sight I don’t recommend is the San Francisco Aquarium of the Bay. It’s $29.75 for adults and $25 for seniors but it’s nowhere near as nice or as big as the Monterey Aquarium further down the coast. Seeing the jellyfish was fun, however. Here they are doing their magic!
One thing I highly recommend is a visit to Golden Gate Park. Walking through this giant park, modeled after Central Park in NYC, is very relaxing. There are many attractions here, including an awe-inspiring botanical garden and a lovely Japanese Tea garden. These both cost money but we found them to be worth it. We have also enjoyed seeing the art work at the de Young Museum.
One more attraction I recommend is the Big Bus San Francisco tour. It lasts more than two hours and cost $59 for adults. Children’s tickets are $49. This is pricey but a really good way to get an overview of the city. Even though this was our fifth visit in 6 years, this was the first time I took this bus trip. It stops 16 places. You can get off at any stop to explore and another Big Bus will come along within 30 minutes. I had never seen City Hall before this nor the Haight Ashbury neighborhood. I also was unaware that North Beach is adjacent to Chinatown. Taking this bus is a great way to see sights and get a mental map of the city layout inside your head.
During this August 2022 trip, there were many tourists around despite the ongoing pandemic. Some people wore face masks in museums, grocery stores and even on the street while others only wore them on public transportation as required by law. I heard many French families while out and about as well as a few British people. Europeans are definitely traveling here as well as native Americans from other parts of the country.
You can’t go wrong visiting the City by the Bay. Just remember to bring your credit or debit card because most things cost more than whatever cash you may have on hand. For example, I extracted a $20 bill from my wallet to pay for the bus tour but had to switch to my debit card when the bus driver said, “That will be $59. No senior discount.”