The most iconic San Francisco attractions are just a drive away from wherever you are in the city. So, why not get behind the wheel right now and drop by?
Driving yourself around San Francisco is fun, but be aware of the steep ascents and rush hour traffic. Parking in San Francisco city wouldn't be a problem; try to limit street parking and go for an affordable parking lot instead.
Ready for your self-drive city tour? Here are some of the must-visit San Francisco attractions for your itinerary:
Golden Gate Bridge
Can you imagine a San Francisco without the iconic Golden Gate Bridge? Spanning across the strait of Golden Gate, the 1.7-mile wonder of the modern world is on every traveler's wish list.
Did you know this San Francisco landmark was once called "the bridge that couldn't be built"? At least 11 workers lost their lives in the four years it took to build the bridge connecting San Francisco's Presidio and the Marin headlands. Braving the treacherous tides, rocks, wind, and fog, the single-suspension span was finally opened in 1937 and has since attracted visitors from around the world. Its twin towers stand 746 feet high, and the sturdy cables supporting the suspended roadway are over 7000 feet long. The magnificent structure is awe-inspiring no matter how many times you see it – from near or afar.
Golden hour at the Golden gate bridge is not to be missed – early morning visits are a must, at least once. Pedestrians and bicyclists are allowed on the bridge's sidewalks during daylight hours. If you've got time, take a walk across the bridge but remember it is almost a 2-mile walk one-way. The view is worth it – keep your fingers crossed for a clear day so that you can see all the way to East Bay.
Driving across the bridge toward Sausalito is free, but you'll have to pay a toll on the way back. Limited parking is available at the north and south Vista Points; have a back-up plan to leave your car at a San Francisco parking garage in Presidio.
Golden Gate Park
It is just a short drive from the grand vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge to the gardens, lakes, and museums at this massive urban park. The thousand-acre Golden Gate Park is brimming with some of the most-visited San Francisco attractions; one visit wouldn't be enough to experience it all.
The Conservatory of Flowers is home to rare tropical blooms from around the world, while the Japanese Tea Garden welcomes you with a 1.5-ton Buddha, pagodas, and a moon bridge. The San Francisco Botanical Gardens will transport you to the Mediterranean or the Central American Rainforests instantly. The California Academy of Sciences highlights immersive experiences like coral reef dives, planetarium shows, and Penguin feedings. A ride on the newly-opened The SkyStar Wheel at the Music Concourse is a great way to see the park grounds from above. Guided Segway tours can reveal Golden Gate park hidden gems like the Shakespear Garden and the Lilly Pond. You can also rent bikes to explore the park and even take a trip up to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Driving down to the Golden Gate Park is easy, and you'll find plenty of San Francisco parking lots around. Free parking is available throughout the park, but it is minimal considering the number of visitors the Golden Gate Park attractions host throughout the day. You can conveniently find a parking spot at a garage nearby and avoid the risks of street parking in San Francisco. Go online or download a San Francisco parking app to find safe and affordable parking deals.
Historical ships, the famous fishing fleet, sea lions basking in the sun, souvenir shopping, cauldrons of crab, sourdough French bread... the sights and smells of Fisherman's Warf is a unique San Francisco experience you must add to your itinerary.
Pier 39 is undisputedly the most-visited place in San Francisco -- shopping, dining, and postcard views take it to the #1 spot on San Francisco city tours. Located along the city's historic Embarcardero, you can fill your camera rolls with the San Francisco skyline, Golden Gate, Bay Bridge, Alcatraz, and Angel Island from here. At Aquarium of the Bay, get acquainted with local marine life as you walk through clear acrylic tunnels holding up 700,000 gallons of water and 20,000 animals. More family entertainment awaits in the heart of Fisherman's Warf -- tour the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum on Jefferson Street and the San Francisco Dungeon next door.
You can find your way to Fisherman's Warf without any trouble from the East, North, or South Bay – ‘100 Jefferson Street' on the GPS should guide you. Plenty of parking is also available near Pier 39; check Bay Street, Powell Street, and Green Street for cheap parking garages near Fisherman's Warf.
The "Painted Ladies" of Alamo Square are San Francisco's all-time stars! You might have even seen them on the 90s sitcom 'Full House.'
The "postcard row" at Hayes and Steiner Street is one of the most photographed locations in the city. Elegant Queen Ann era Victorian houses standing tall against a contrasting background of downtown skyscrapers in the distance – you don't want to miss that on your Instagram feed. You could also try a home tour or spend some time on the green square and take in all that beauty.
Drive to the corner of Hayes and Steiner, and you'll find plenty of parking on the streets in the neighborhood. You can also lookup San Francisco parking garages in the area for a safer option.
The San Francisco downtown hub for shopping and entertainment is a favorite among visitors and residents alike. The public plaza is surrounded by hotels, restaurants, upscale boutiques, art galleries, and theatres.
The Union Square owes its name to Thomas Starr King rallies and Union Army support during the Civil War. At the center of the historical California landmark stands the Dewey Monument with Nike's statue – the Greek goddess of Victory.
There's a lot to explore and experience at Union Square and can be done on foot. Leave your car at a secure downtown parking lot on Powell Street, Post Street, or Stockton Street and take a stroll down to the square.