The Golden highlights of San Francisco

San Fran is home to hippies, sea lions, a red bridge, Mrs Doubtfire, tasty seafood and Alcatraz. With so much to see, what should you see if you only have a few days in the city? Here are some of the top spots I visited on my trip to the city.

Fishermans Wharf & Pier 39

Fishermans Wharf and Pier 39 stretch across the waterfront and are very popular tourist spots.  There are plenty of food outlets, trinket stores, and street performers. A great place to walk around but the food is pricey and basic.  A highlight for me was the sea lions that hang out on K-Dock. The story goes that they took up residence in the early 1990s and refused to leave. Now they are just another fixture at pier 39.

I watched the sea lions swim about and fight for dock space. I was engrossed with watching them dive from the docks and catapult themselves into the air to land back on their chosen wooden platforms for a sunbathing session. I imagined myself as David Attenborough narrating the actions of the sea lions. *READ IN DAVID ATTENBOROUGH VOICE* The sea lions bask in the sun after returning from hunting in the open ocean. Space is scarce on the wooden platforms and so the sea lions must fight for the privilege.


Every window in Alcatraz has a view of San Francisco – Susanna Kaysen –

The former federal prison was shut down in the 70s but was reopened as a prison museum that you can visit. The history surrounding the prison, from the criminals it housed to the famous escape attempts and the occupation of the island by the native Indians is fascinating. If you decide to go I would book the ferry in advance as it books up quick. I would also take the tour when you are there or buy the audio guide with your ticket. The guide gives you insight into its historical background and also works well as a guide around the island.

These hand-painted markings are all over the buildings. If you keep a lookout you will find red handprints on the inner walls of the prison.

 “It was a run-by fruiting!”

If you have never seen Mrs Doubtfire then I suggest you go watch it right after you read this post! But if like me it is one of your top movies from childhood then you will recognise the house below as the home where Daniel Hillard threw the ultimate kids party.

We tried to be respectful of the homeowner and not get too close. But we saw people walk right up to the door and peer through the windows. Let’s try to be considerate tourists and not the kind that is dreaded people!

The stones circling the trees outside the house were covered with messages from fans to the late Robin Williams. An incredibly lovable actor that is missed.

Japanese Gardens in Golden Gate Park

The oldest public Japanese garden in the US is a series of complex paths and ponds. It is decorated with plants and trees arranged in a Japanese style. The garden is 3 acres of tranquillity and includes sculptures influenced by the Buddhist and Shinto religious beliefs.

Treasure Tower or Pagoda was used as tombs for high ranking Buddhist monks, and shrines for worship. Of course, the one here is a replica and I believe much smaller than the real thing.

Taiko Bashi bridge has four functions:

  1. Slow people down.
  2. Let barges on a canal go smoothly under the bridge.
  3. Reflect a full circle on the water resembling a drum.
  4. Make you look ridiculous while trying to climb over it.

OK, the fourth one I might have made up but it doesn’t make it any less true.

Muir Woods

The Muir Woods National Monument is known for its towering primordial redwood trees. The tallest reaches 258 feet and the oldest is around 1,200 years old.  Trails meander through the forest and ascend the hillside for incredible treetop views. The entrance fee for adults is $10 but there are days when it is free. (Please check the website as ticket prices may have changed)

A few days visiting this city just isn’t enough! There are so many places I didn’t get to see. Next time I visit I want to explore more of Golden Gate Park, visit the Palace of Fine Arts and take a tour of the wine district to taste some Californian wine.

Got any tips or advice? Feel free to share in the comment section.

Jess x

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