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San Francisco  VC_Hero_Manley -1280x642
Harriot Manley/Sunset Publishing

San Francisco

San Francisco
Sparkling Bay, Magic City

It may measure less than 50 square miles/130 square kilometres, but San Francisco justly ranks as one of the greatest cities in the world. Famous for grand Victorian buildings, classic cable cars, dynamic diversity, a beautiful waterfront and a soaring crimson bridge, the 'City by the Bay' is the perfect place to start any adventure.

For a novel way to explore 'the City by the Bay' park your car and explore by foot, bike, and unique public transportation. Cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge and back, then explore the lush Presidio, a former military base that’s now a park, or head into Golden Gate Park to visit museums and row across a secret gem, Stow Lake. Continue along the flat Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf and the Exploratorium science and learning museum.

Return your bikes and hop on a cable car to ride over the hill to the luxury shops and enormous Macy’s, NikeTown, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus around bustling Union Square, with a stop for Italian pastries and a cappuccino at Emporio Rulli in the square itself. Nearby, stroll along boutique-lined Maiden Lane, a pedestrian-only thoroughfare during the day, when cafés set up tables and chairs in the street. The nearby Westfield Mall, a dazzling complex on once scruffy but now spiffed up Market Street, glitters with even more stores, including a deluxe food court on the lower level. At night, catch a show in the theatre district, or head to North Beach to see Beach Blanket Babylon, a raucous and irreverent San Francisco institution. For more nightlife and dining, stroll along Valencia Street in the Mission, a trendy and eclectic hotbed of restaurants and bars, and awesome late night scoops at Bi-Rite Ice Cream.

From the Bay Area, drive across the Central Valley to climb into the Sierra, home of California’s first national park, Yosemite. You can access the park via several routes, via appealing Gold Country towns, like Oakhurst and Mariposa, and the historic High Sierra town of Groveland. 

Next Stop
Yosemite National Park (165 miles/266 km; 3 hr 6 min)