Who doesn’t love a weekend city break once in a while? We’ve offered up some great tips for spending your time in Boston and Chicago – now let’s turn our attention to San Francisco. The City by the Bay.
It’s known by many names, but is often referred to as ‘The City’ by its residents. As with every great city, there is so much to do and see, and packing lots of sightseeing into one weekend requires some thoughtful planning. Really, it’s often a case of cherry-picking the parts that most appeal to you. Once you’ve taken in the famous Golden Gate Bridge, bumbling cable cars and eclectic architecture, here are some alternative sights (and sounds) you might like to explore.
Five Unusual Activities to do When Visiting San Francisco
See a Performance at the Stern Grove
One of San Francisco’s many green outdoor spaces, Stern Grove is a huge 33-acre park in the Sunset District, full of redwood trees, nature trails and even a little pond. But its best feature is its outdoor stage, which holds free weekly concerts and performances all through the summer, including opera, ballet and classical music. They take place on Sundays around 2pm, but it’s best to get there early to nab a good picnic spot before the crowds start arriving.
Climb to the Top of Grizzly Peak
This is a great spot for nature enthusiasts, as it offers some fantastic hiking trails! The hike is not compulsory though – you can drive up there too and enjoy some of the best views of the Bay around. Try going before noon for a clear view of the Golden Gate Bridge, or alternatively watch the sunset with a picnic. San Francisco is pretty big on picnicking, so I say embrace it!
Visit Treasure Island Flea Market
This monthly gathering of artists, musicians, designers, crafters and cooks has become something of a Bay Area hallmark, and for good reason. Treasure Island Flea Market – also known at the ‘Festival of the Bay’ – is just that, full of treasures! It opens the last weekend of every month from 10:00am to 4:00pm on both days, and sells a variety of wares, from clothes and antiques to snacks and plants. Good for a forage and very kid-friendly too. Why not pick up a vintage picnic blanket?
Listen to the Wave Organ
No big deal, just a huge concrete instrument played by the ocean. You can find it perched on a jetty in the Bay, amplifying the natural sound of the waves – a bit like a giant conch shell. This one is something of a hidden gem, as it only tends to attract those who are willing to make the walk down the Golden Gate Yacht Club trail. But it’s still worth it, if not for this then at least for the great view of San Francisco’s Marina District. Try putting your head down to get your ear near the pipes, as each one makes a different sound.
Brave the Banned Toy Museum
This one’s a bit out there, and maybe more suited to some tastes than others. There are plenty of weird and alternative museums to be found in The City, and this is surely one of them. It’s an expansion of the classic toy museum, so you might want to check out the whole thing while you’re there, but this little section is particularly enjoyable. These are the toys that were taken off the market because they were deemed too unsafe or offensive. Highlights include a doll with ‘real chewing action’ that got a little too ‘bitey’, a highly flammable water yo-yo and an atomic energy kit complete with real pieces of uranium. It’s only $3 and kids are free – though maybe don’t let them touch anything!
Have you been to San Francisco? What interesting or unusual places would you recommend?