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How to Spend an Afternoon In San Francisco: Top 5 Attractions

6:30 AM

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 Welcome back to Maple Leopard Travels! Today I'm sharing one of the best spots in CA; the city by the Bay- San Francisco. It's a great place for a day trip or an extended vacation. If you have only an afternoon to spare: 

Here are the top 5 attractions to visit

I suggest a visit to SFO on a weekday, and wait until 9:30 am to hit the road. Start north of the city and work your way south, this seems to work better with the traffic flow.

The Golden Gate Bridge

I've been fortunate to visit the bridge many times, but have never walked across it.  On this trip we walked half way and turned around- the wind was blowing so hard! 

 My alma mater is only a 90 min drive from SFO. I did 4 years of college in Stockton, and often students went for weekend trips to the Bay Area. It's a special place, and there is always something new to discover.

If you wish to view the bridge from below, taking a cruise around the bay is the way to go. I've yet to do this, but it's on the bucket list!


San Francisco: See the Top 5 Attractions in 5 Days

The view is spectacular and will take your breath away. Euphoria is the only way to describe what you feel when you first see it. When you visit, dress in layers to stay warm . Even if it's  warm in the city, it's usually windy cool by the bridge.

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What makes this view so unique? The bridge often appears to be suspended in mid air among the clouds. I think its rare to see the entire bridge in clear view. I've never seen it without clouds present.

The Golden Gate Bridge made it's debut on May 19th 1937. I was reading the history of it a few years ago. I discovered it opened on the very day my dad was born, a special place indeed.

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The big rock sitting on the side, is so unique. I had a fleeting thought about getting a boat and riding out to it.  Wow the photo shoot you could get on top of that rock!

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If you do walk across the bridge, hold on tight to your belongings. My camera almost ended up in the bay, the wind was so strong.

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Lombard Street

Your visit is not complete with out a trip to Lombard street. Walking or driving, it's a stupendous view from the most crooked street in the world! This famous street has 8 hairpin turns, and is located in the neighborhood called Russian Hill. I always take the lazy way out and only walk down!  Next time I will have to hike upward, it's good exercise.

If you aren't brave enough to drive Lombard yourself, hire a driver service to take you on the ride of your life in a go car!

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The houses are so beautiful and unusual, living here would be the ultimate! For chunk change in the amount of 4 million, one of these gorgeous homes could be yours.

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Lombardstreet, Sanfranciscotravelguide, Sanfranciscotop5, Sanfranciscodayguide

Pier 39- Fisherman's Wharf


This is my favorite destination in San Francisco. I have fond memories of visiting the wharf with my college buddies. Pier 39 has amazing things to do and is very family friendly.

 If you are a foodie, be prepared to eat eat eat! Any type of food you are craving, it's here. The people watching and zany street performers are entertaining to say the least!

The parking near the wharf is limited and the traffic can get crazy. Save yourself some time and hassle by using the Hop on Hop off bus!

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Pier 39 also has a variety of unique shops, a video arcade, virtual 3D rides, an aquarium and boat tours galore. On most days you can see the huge sea lions getting their suntan on. The view of Alcatraz from the pier is quite amazing too . 

 As I mentioned earlier I have been to SFO many times, but never to  ALCATRAZ. It's been unavailable at times over the years.  This is a "must do" experience in SFO!

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A big hit with the kiddos is the two-story carousel. It's always fun to be like a child again, if only for a few minutes!

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Both of my grown kids are left handed, so we always stop at the lefty store. This is a super fun shop, so make sure you stop in if you visit the wharf.

The Painted Ladies

This was my first time to visit the world famous Victorian homes sitting high on the hill. The city skyline view in the background is gorgeous. The popular sitcom "Full House" was filmed here, I'm sure this adds to the popularity factor.

The largest of the painted ladies was the most recent one to sell in 2010. It sits on the corner of Steiner and Grove streets.

This part of town is the perfect location to rent an electric bike, and tour the area yourself. 

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Cable Car Ride

The cable car ride is the ultimate San Francisco experience! It is manually operated and the last one in the world to be operated this way. Only three of the original routes remain from the 1800's. Wow- it's kind of scary when you are teetering at the top of the hill. When the card starts down the hill; you'll get a big adrenaline rush! 

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The Union Square route is best, as it offers the most interesting sights to see . The shopping is wonderful. A four story mall, is at the end of the cable car line. The cable cars are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The station is located close to Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory. Go grab some chocolate before you get in line, it usually a long wait to ride.

If you wish to explore the city with a tour guide; reserve a guided SEGWAY TOUR . You will have the time of your life!  This wraps up my day tour of San Francisco! I hope you find yourself in the CITY BY THE BAY SOON~!

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MAPLELEOPARD

Hello beauties, I'm Valerie! I reside near Seattle WA, and am a proud Canadian from Vancouver B.C. On this site are guides for travel in the U.S., Canada and Europe. I hope to inspire Women 40+ live their best life: by seeking adventure in the city, at a beach or at a mountain escape. Subscribe for destination tips and style guides for the trip.

Comments

  1. San Fran has been on my bucket list to explore for years! I love all the places you chose to review!

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    1. Thank you RK, it's def a must see, I wish I lived close to it!

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  2. Manually operated?! I'm not sure if I'm ready for all of that. I've only been to California one time and that was to San Diego. I really want to get back and visit San Francisco and LA. I'd love to go to the bridge and prayerfully walk across it in its entirety. Thanks for letting me know that it's possible to get some great activities in even when you're short on time. I'm going to pin this!

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    1. Ha yes that cable car is a bit scary ..if you are scared of heights not a good choice.. thanks for pinning CJ!

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  3. What a fun trip! I have always wanted to go to San Fransisco!

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    1. Thank you..be sure you go..it is such a fun place!

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  4. I've never really considered San Francisco as one of my travel destinations, but your post just convince me that I should definitely add it to the list! It seems like such a cute place.

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    1. Hi Amelie, yes for sure you should plan a visit there is so much more to see than I have covered here!

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  5. San Francisco is such a fantastic city! I used to travel there for work quite a bit, and just love exploring all of the neighborhoods. The food scene is fabulous!!

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    1. How Cool Marlynn, I would love to have a job that I could travel there often...I need to explore more of the hidden places!

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  6. Lombard Street is definitely not something I had heard of before today and would totally be up my alley! Also the cable car!! One day I'll get to go, the wind I could do without!

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    1. Ha wow I thought the cable cars were will known, but perhaps not! The wind yes not so great but the rest of it is amazing!

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  7. my best friend is getting married in san fran next summer so my husband and I are making a trip! I'm gathering everything San Fran related to make it the best trip possible so THANK YOU for your tips! I cannot wait to explore the places you listed!

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    1. Oh yay for you Kristen..I know you will love it.. so much to do ..I haven't even scratched the surface here.thanks for stopping in!

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  8. I love San Francisco! These are all great spots, and can be done so quickly!

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    1. There are so many more spots..I wish I had time to find them all, some day! It is so lovely isn't it!

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  9. Love all of your pictures and the fashion recommendations. Pinned this!

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    1. Thank you so much girl for stopping by again and for pinning, see ya in the pod!

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  10. As a SF local, I'd say you hit 5 big attractions for a day in the city! So many things to do, but these are some of my favorite :)

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    1. Thank you....these are the most well known, I wish I knew all the hidden ones, never have time to get to them!

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  11. I love SF! I've been there twice. I could move there honestly. I also enjoyed going on a wine tour.

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    1. Hi Mistle. I hear ya...I feel exactly the same! I would love one of those Victorian houses sitting on a hill! Ohhh a wine tour sounds amazing!

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  12. San Francisco is one of my all time fave cities :)

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    1. It's a fav of mine too, well I pretty much love all of CA except Bakersfield and the very northern part is kind of yucky....lol

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  13. I absolutely love San Fran. Good tips!

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    1. Yes one of the best...I love SoCal too! thank you!

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  14. I'm dying to travel to San Francisco! These all look like awesome spots to check out.

    Kayla | kaylablogs.com

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    1. Kayla just like me dying to visit Europe..which is much more spendy..thanks for coming by..happy travels!

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  15. I've always wanted to go to San Francisco. I love your list. I'd definitely go to all of these places. I'd love to go on the cable cars. x

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    1. Thank you Chloe! I Hope you make it someday soon!
      xo

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  16. This makes me really regret not driving through San Fran on our road trip from Seattle to San Diego! We almost did but it would have added a couple of hours to the journey. I think it would have been worth it!

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    1. Ah Brittany, I hear that one...sometimes we skip it because of this very reason...it is totally worth it, hope you can next time!

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  17. San Francisco is a city I can't wait to visit. This is definitely a great guide for visiting when you're short on time!

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    1. Hi Sky thank you for stopping by I hope you get to go..!

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  18. All these sights look amazing! I visited Los Angeles this summer and would've loved to go to San Francisco. I can't wait to go there soon.

    Daisi Ari || http://www.onthecolorfulside.com/

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    1. Hey Daisi, I love LA..I am hoping to move south to there or San Diego...I hope you make it to San Fran..its just gorgeous!

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  19. I've been to SF many times and absolutely love it there! I haven't been to Lombard Street in a while since it's always so busy. SF is such a beautiful city!

    Polly
    http://gemsandjoy.com

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    1. Hi Polly , it had been quite a few years for me since visiting Lombard street..its just so breathtaking up there! Thank you for the visit!

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  20. Those are all great things to do in SF! Such a shame the bridge was so windy, but at least you tried it. I went Sailing when I was there and it was fabulous. Your style guides are on point. Love the nautical look!

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    1. Thank you Miss K! It is terribly , makes a little hard to enjoy it as much..0h well the scenery was worth putting up with the wind!

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  21. Love this! I really love San Francisco and definitely would add getting out to the city across the water. Love the outfit inspiration and wish I had gone all nautical when there. :)

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    1. Thank you Karen for your kind words...I wish I had to...I just dressed quick and took off since it was just a day trip....happy travels!

      Valerie

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  22. Wow! You can pack a lot in, in just a short amount of time. I loved your photos, especially the painted ladies. What a great tour. I love your style guide at the end as well!

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    1. Thank you Susanna, sorry I Just now saw this! So great you stopped by!

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  23. Wow.. great ideas, will surely visit pier 39 and do the cable car ride the next time I'm in the city

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    1. Thank you so much, I hope you have a great time in SFO!

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  24. This has happened to me before with the wind too! You've got to watch your stuff especially on bridges

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  25. For some reasons every time we plan to go to the US, I panic that we need a long holiday off work, that there's so much to see and do. Glad you posted this - makes me a little more relaxed that I could see a lot in a few hours if I wanted to.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by..yes it is certainly doable in just a few hours!

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  26. I love San Francisco, so I have been a few times. I have not been to the painted ladies though! I think my favorite place in the city might be the Cliff House which is North of Golden Gate park. Have you been?

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    1. HI Anisa,

      Oh ..no I have not heard of that..we are going again soon, I will have to check that out..thank you!

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  27. Can't believe you did all these in 5 hours!!! I had a layover couple months ago in SF for about that time and I really wanted to leave the airport except I heard traffic can get pretty crazy at times so I bailed. Totally regretting it now!

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    1. Yeah it was pretty crazy but we managed and it was awesome! Next time give it a try!

      VAlerie

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  28. What a cool list of things to do all in one day! I especially love those painted ladies!

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    1. Thank you Sarah..I am glad it was informative...it's a lot, but so doable with planning ahead!

      V

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  29. Good tip about the wind! I'm very slight of build and easily blown off my feet!

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  30. It's funny that I live here and I have still never been over to that famous section of Lombard Street. I need to force myself to check it out one day.

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    1. wow that is crazy..ha ha, but I get it! There are several places in WA ..popular sights..that I have never visited and I live close by!

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  31. The "touristy" sites in San Francisco never get old. I could visit that perfect photo spot at the Golden Gate Bridge 100 times and never get tired of it. Great post!

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    1. I so agree....always see it from a different perspective..one of the most iconic spots in America..LOVE IT!

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  32. This post is bringing back such fun memories! We were able to rent bikes and ride across the GG Bridge. It's so beautiful!

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    1. OHHH that is so amazing..I have not done that yet, I hope to on the next trip..thank s for the reminder.!!

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  33. I've been to Europe twice and Hawaii, yet I've never been to California! I need to change that. Ohhh, all of these would be on my list for sure!

    Carrie
    curlycraftymom.com

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    1. Ohhh you have to go!! Soo much to see from north to south. CA is my college state, so Ive explored it top to bottom..hope you get to
      SFO soon! Hawaii and Europe are both amazing too!

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  34. I love San Francisco! I've visited lots of times but the tourist sights never get old. On my last visit I got to ride the cable car with my family and we all got to stand on the outside and hold on. It was *awesome* !

    -Katy

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    1. I feel the exact same..been many times but it never gets old I LOVE SFO!!

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  35. This reminded me of my cancelled trip to California last year! I would love to visit all the places you mentioned when I get to re-plan that trip.

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    1. Awe sorry it was cancelled! Hope you can make it soon.My trip to FL got cancelled 3 times..hoping to do it soon. I cant wait to move to Vegas..so we can hop over to Cali quick!

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  36. I haven't made it to SF yet, so it's great to know what a few of the main attractions are if I'm on a time schedule!

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    1. Ohh you gotta go..... one of the best cities in America!

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  37. I loved reading your insight and how you organized this itinerary! I will definitely keep this handy for my trip to SF!

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  38. We loved visiting San Francisco! The pics of the Golden Gate Bridge we got were amazing.

    https://www.kathrineeldridge.com

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  39. I would love to visit San Francisco one day! It looks like such a fun and vibrant city to see!

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