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The lure of California continues to persist centuries after settlers ventured “out West” to widen America’s boundaries. No place better manifests the promise of California than San Francisco. San Francisco cruises offer travelers on a Pacific Coast cruise a chance to experience the Bay Area for themselves. Look back at the counterculture movement of the 1960s as you explore Haight-Ashbury, or take an iconic cable car ride along Powell Street using the world’s last operational manual cable car system.
San Francisco’s unbreakable spirit is apparent the second you arrive. While you’re here, explore sights like the Golden Gate Bridge and Chinatown as you walk up and down the city’s endless hills. When you take cruises to San Francisco, venture beyond the city on excursions to Muir Woods, Sausalito, or the famous Napa and Sonoma wine regions.
A trip to San Francisco wouldn’t be complete without an afternoon in Chinatown, a 24-block stretch of shops, restaurants, markets, and historic sites. Take a walking tour or strike out on your own to sip traditional Chinese tea or order dim sum as you explore the oldest Chinatown in the United States.
Bigger than New York’s Central Park, Golden Gate Park is over 1,000 acres of natural beauty enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. On your excursion to Golden Gate Park, visit the Japanese Tea Garden or the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Check out the de Young Museum for an afternoon of fine arts.
Stop in at this waterfront marketplace, home to shops, restaurants, games, and even an aquarium called The Aquarium of the Bay. Stroll along the pier, grab a bite from a local vendor, and look out for California sea lions, who sometimes settle on the docks.
The neighborhood of Haight-Ashbury was the center of the hippie counterculture movement of the 1960s, where people flocked from across the U.S. to experience and participate in the Summer of Love in 1967. Today, the district is one of San Francisco’s best known, its Victorian-style architecture a stark contrast with the foggy city’s looming skyline.
Instantly recognizable through the California fog, walk or bike the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Take photos alongside the signature structures, a special color called “international orange,” and stand in awe of views of the bay connecting San Francisco with Marin County to the north. Though the Golden Gate Bridge was completed less than 100 years ago in 1937, it feels like a quintessential, ageless part of San Francisco.
Powell Street connects many of San Francisco’s districts, including Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf. Hop on a cable car at the intersection of Powell Street and Market Street, where you can tackle those pesky hills the easy way while taking in views of the city’s historic buildings.
Need a break from the urban hustle? Within Golden Gate Park is Stow Lake, a manmade lake perfect for renting a rowboat or paddle boat to from one side to the other. Walk along the trails and bring a picnic to enjoy while you’re at the park, or stop inside the Boathouse for a coffee or a quick snack.
Crime podcast lovers and history buffs can’t miss a tour of Alcatraz, the infamous federal prison where high-profile criminals like Al Capone served their time. Originally, Alcatraz was the first lighthouse and fort built by the United States on the West Coast. Now, it’s a National Park where all can take in its history and rich views of the Bay Area from its lookout points. Patient bird-watchers will find colonies of gulls, egrets, and other species living on the island, too.
Muir Woods is a can’t-miss experience while you’re in California. Stand humbled among the tallest forest of redwood trees in the world, a quiet refuge from the bustle of the city. Muir Woods have been protected since 1908, when the area was declared a national monument. Rent a car for a quick 40 minute drive from the city, or you can take a shuttle bus to get there.
If you’re a wine lover with extra time during your San Francisco cruise, take a drive north to wine country, where you can tour wineries, sip reds, whites, and bubbly, and take in stunning views of the California countryside. Napa is about a three hour drive from San Francisco, while Sonoma is about two hours north of the city. For a laid-back vibe, Sonoma is relaxing and earthy, while Sonoma is considered the glossier, more cosmopolitan of the two wine regions.
You can stick with the classic chain restaurants near the cruise terminal, like Hard Rock Cafe or Bubba Gump Shrimp along the pier. Try the much-hyped In-N-Out Burger—a California institution—while you’re there, too. Here are a few other food and drink spots to try during your San Francisco cruise:
Address: 2889 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
This traditional Mexican taqueria is famous for its unadorned, expertly-seasoned tacos and burritos. Limited seating is available in the restaurant, so La Taqueria is best for a quick bite before you go on to explore other parts of the Mission District.
Address: 490 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133
In the mood for Italian? Try Cotogna, a James Beard award-winning Italian spot in San Fran’s Jackson Square. It serves all the classics, from wood-fired pizza to ravioli and carbonara with some twists, like ricotta gelato and seasonal specialties.
Address: 688 San Jose Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94100
Support this local ice creamery to satisfy your sweet tooth while you’re exploring the city. Mitchell’s has been making and serving their homemade ice cream daily for over 65 years.
Address: 397 Arguello Blvd San Francisco CA 94118
Bon Appetit once named the croissants at Arsicault Bakery the “best in America.”Venture a little ways out of the city’s center to its Richmond District to taste their morning buns, tarts, and croissants for yourself.
The city of San Francisco was originally a Spanish mission, since the bay’s positioning made it a desirable location for trade and commerce. During the Gold Rush of the mid-1800s, the United States claimed the city and it saw considerable growth as a metropolitan area. The 1906 earthquakes and fire left the majority of San Francisco in ruins but, miraculously, the city bounced back. The 1930s saw the creation of the Golden Gate Bridge, increasing accessibility to the Bay Area unlike ever before.
Then, San Francisco became known as the birthplace of the counterculture movement during the “Summer of Love” in 1967, and became a safe haven for the LGBTQ community in the years following. Let San Francisco cruises be your introduction to Silicon Valley, where tech startups and innovators increasingly flock year after year to make it big.
Cruises to San Francisco have the unique benefit of a well-kept cruise port. You can reach the James R. Herman cruise terminal via public transportation or simply walking from Pier 27. San Francisco cruises are incredibly popular, with over 300,000 passengers passing through this port of call every year. You can find luggage storage at Pier 39 within the California Welcome Center, just 0.4 miles away from Cruise Pier 27.
Beyond the classic cable cars running widely through San Francisco, several modes of public transportation are popular in the city. For example, the BART can help you get from the airport into the city. The Muni is one public transit option, which includes bus, metro, and some cable car options, mostly above ground. You’ll also find taxis, Lyfts, and Ubers aplenty in San Francisco.
Need to pop in for a souvenir? South of Pier 39 is the Westfield Mall on Market Street which houses over 170 shops, restaurants, and major department stores for you to find whatever you might need. Head north to explore Chinatown before making your way back to the cruise port.
You’ll find ATMs in abundance in San Francisco. The currency for the area is the U.S. dollar (USD). If you’re a traveler from overseas, note that you’ll need to leave a tip (typically 15-20%) at restaurants and bars.