Our Favorite San Francisco Sights to Experience From Your Car
There’s no shortage of sights to see in San Francisco. Whether you’re in the mood for great food, beautiful vistas, some dangerously crooked streets, or even a notorious prison on an island, you can develop an itinerary for a rich visitor experience across multiple neighborhoods.
When it comes to planning your next adventure, it never hurts to have a few key places in mind. We’re sharing some of our favorite San Francisco spots that make for some great instagram-worthy pictures and unforgettable memories. Best of all, most are easily accessible from the comfort of your car or through some good ol’ foot power.
1. Twin Peaks
If it’s breathtaking views you’re after - or at least panoramic views of the city - there are few better spots more captivating than Twin Peaks. This lookout point that reaches a height of about 920 ft is home to wildlife and is a popular place for visitors to take in the city from a new perspective and snap some photos.
You can drive up the hill, passing some beautiful architecture along the way. Regardless of the time of year, be prepared for some chilly gusts of wind – due to the elevation, there’s almost always bound to be a breeze. So don’t forget your favorite jacket or coat!
2. Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is the most quintessential San Francisco landmark, immediately identifiable even to the city’s most infrequent visitors. On the San Francisco side of the bridge, the entrance is just off the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
You can drive across this bridge, which is part of Highway 101, and spend some time in the town of Sausalito on the other side. Spend a few hours shopping and enjoying the small town feel before heading back into the hustle and bustle of the San Francisco metropolis.
Bonus: The famous Japanese Tea Garden is near the San Francisco Botanical Garden, just a few blocks away from the bridge on the city side of the bridge. It’s also a few blocks from some of the city’s most famous murals, which are plentiful across town.
3. Lombard Street
If you’re craving something both cool and historical, Lombard Street will possibly scratch the itch; it’s been called the world’s most crooked street. The name derives from the fact that in a particular one-block section, there are no fewer than eight hairpin turns. This is by design, as the road was so created to make it safe to drive down the steep incline.
This is definitely a San Francisco must-do, whether you decide to drive down Lombard Street or stroll down on foot. Regardless of how you decide to see this unique spot, chances are you’ll probably snap a pretty spectacular picture of the lineup of cars that appear to almost zig zag down the street.
4. Ferry Building Marketplace
Local food is the highlight of the Ferry Building, particularly during its farmers’ market which runs three days a week. The market has a wide selection of farmed and prepared foods of superior quality. About 40,000 people stroll through this market on a weekly basis, looking for edible goods of all kinds.
If you do go to the market, feel free to stock up. The market offers a Veggie Valet on Saturdays so you can drop off your purchases and keep shopping. That’s in addition to regular valet parking Monday-Friday. The Ferry Building itself is also very beautiful and offers some really incredible restaurants and shops inside.
Many cities have a Chinatown, but the one in San Francisco is one of America’s oldest and largest. There’s plenty to appreciate about this area of the city, from the shopping to the numerous restaurants. You can never go wrong with a little dim sum pitstop.
You can even take a free tour of the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory just to see how those messengers of prophetic wisdom are created. This particular business also sells jumbo-sized cookies to satisfy your sweet tooth.\
6. Fisherman’s Wharf
You can’t say San Francisco without Fisherman’s Wharf. Like the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf is an icon of the city. Here you can take in some unique attractions, like the Aquarium at the Bay, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, the Railway Museum, the Maritime National Historical Park, and the Sea Lion Center. Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze is another quirky gem.
Of course, you can also eat your way to a good time at the Wharf. Have a sit-down meal at the pier or take your munchies with you as you stroll along on the waterfront, breathing in the salt air.
7. Alcatraz Island
Just the name “Alcatraz,” invokes images of notorious gangsters like Al Capone. There is no longer a prison on the island. Instead, it has become a bit of a tourist haven, with the National Park Service offering visitor-friendly attractions.
You can’t park on Alcatraz, but you can ride the ferry there from Fisherman’s Wharf. Once on the island you can take a self-guided tour of the legendary “escape-proof” penitentiary and walk around a piece of American history.
8. Union Square
Shopping is the name of the game at Union Square. This area is home to many big-name - and high-dollar - retailers who can provide you with a host of luxury items. There are also events that occur by the season, from a skating rink in the winter time to summertime activities.
Not only can you shop til’ you drop at Union Square, but there are also tons of incredible places to eat. There are just as many places to satisfy your appetite for food as for designer goods; trust us. From casual eateries and fine dining to cute little coffee shops, you can probably find just what you’re in the mood for. Union Square is also just a few blocks from the city’s museum’s, including the impressive San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. You can also hop on a cable car in Union Square and see San Francisco in a whole new way!
Regardless if you’re a tourist or if you call San Francisco “home”, one of the best things about the city is the variety of things to do and see. You can take in a wide range of experiences in a short period of time, and the options are truly endless. If you need a way to get around - whether that’s for one month or more than a year - Canvas makes getting a car easy! Our car subscriptions always include insurance, maintenance, and mileage. So grab your keys and get ready to explore San Francisco.