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Holidays in San Francisco

San Francisco Holidays

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Holidays in San Francisco

It's time to declare yourself off duty and write your out-of-office reply. Head to San Francisco and explore a destination that's full of surprises.

With around 800,000 proud residents, you're bound to meet plenty of new friends!

If you venture 75 miles northeast of San Francisco, you'll hit Sacramento, the state capital. Travel 6 miles northwest and you'll come upon Sausalito.

In a classic tourist destination that's overflowing with things to see and do, Golden Gate Bridge and the University of San Francisco always seem to be the ones visitors remember. You mustn't forget Pier 39 and Lombard Street either!

An afternoon at the Castro Theatre or the San Francisco Mint is a fantastic opportunity for some family bonding. Are the little ones still bouncing off the walls? Keep the excitement going with a trip to the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas and the Presidio Theater.

Take a deep breath and embark on an underwater adventure at Aquarium of the Bay, where you'll happen upon a variety of creatures of the deep. Yet another oceanic world is waiting for you at Aquarium of the Bay.

Come face-to-face with some amazing animals and learn about the need to protect our environment with a family day trip to the San Francisco Zoo.

Do you and your pals enjoy a few cold ones every now and then? See if there are any scheduled tours and pick the brains of the experienced brewers at the Anchor Brewing Company.

Learn how the best local wines are made, and later sample a handful of them, with a visit to the Winery Collective.

The Artichoke Joe's Casino is the place to go for high-stakes games and an electric atmosphere. Place a bet or two, have a cocktail and take in the pulsing atmosphere.

This region takes its plant collecting seriously, so there are a number of places where you can go and learn all about botanic species from both regional and international landscapes. A wander through the landscaped gardens at the Conservatory of Flowers and the San Francisco Botanical Garden is a must. For those who are more committed, the Dahlia Garden and the Queen Wilhelmina Garden also have some pleasing floral exhibits.

Get comfortable with your favourite book, kick a ball around or just watch the clouds pass overhead at the Palace of Fine Arts and Twin Peaks. Also consider whiling away some time at Golden Gate Park or the Japanese Tea Garden.

Whether you want to discover the hottest restaurant or what to do after dark, you'll find the information you're after at San Francisco Visitor's Center or Sausalito Visitors Kiosk. Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary - Visitor Center and California Welcome Center are two more useful places to get the scoop on what to see and do around town.

The tranquil sounds of lapping water and chirping waterbirds at San Francisco Bay Sailing and Stow Lake guarantee you a dreamy afternoon out. If you could do with some more downtime by the waterside, take a trip out to Lake Merced.

There's nothing better than a day spent at the seaside. You're spoilt for choice in this area, with Rockaway Beach and China Beach among the top places to plunge a toe in the water. Travellers who are eager to see more should continue to Baker Beach and Miramar Beach.

You probably know about its must-see museums and malls, but don't forget that San Francisco has some impressive natural havens too. Alcatraz Island and Fisherman's Wharf are two to keep in the front of your mind. Muir Woods and Angel Island are two more that are worth a look.

A crucial area of marine conservation, JV Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is overflowing with underwater activity.

The Exploratorium and the California Academy of Sciences both have a range of fascinating displays. Ask the welcoming staff about one-off events or walk the peaceful halls in your own time. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and California Palace of the Legion of Honor are also leading alternatives.

Ship building and navigation techniques have played a massive role in shaping many countries across the world. To find out more about the nautical past of the area, dust of your map and mark a cross on the San Francisco Maritime Museum.

Satisfy your inquisitive mind with a visit to Morrison Planetarium. While you're there, don't forget to enquire about any travelling exhibits. Trust us, you won't want to miss a thing!

We're not exactly sure how the Mexican Museum and the Kimball Natural History Museum have managed to gather so many of this planet's fascinating artefacts into just two spaces. A stop at either will transfix you for hours on end. When it comes to the natural world you'll never experience it all, but there's certainly no harm in trying! For even more exotic specimens, add the Natural World Museum to your itinerary.

Whichever genre of art rocks your socks, there's a chance you'll find it in San Francisco. Why not start your day of gallery hopping at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and the De Young Museum? More vibrant canvases and stunning sculptures await you at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Cartoon Art Museum.

Step back in time to discover the events and people that have helped shape this area at the Randall Museum and the Museum of the African Diaspora. You can also immerse yourself in intriguing exhibits which help bring history to life at the GLBT History Museum and the Wells Fargo History Museum.

Time spent delving into history is never a worthless exercise. Let the University of California San Francisco and the San Francisco State University give you a deeper insight into the area's past. If you're still looking for more, Coit Tower and the City College of San Francisco should be next on the list.

Lefty O'Doul Bridge and Bay Bridge are enduring crossings that will appeal to any visitors that have an interest in historic structures. Francis "Lefty" O'Doul Bridge offers a way to see San Francisco's waterways from another perspective.

Discover the immense stronghold of Fort Point National Historical Site. Learn about its impressive defence techniques and let your mind run wild visualising the sieges that occurred right under your feet.

Get a fill of both local history and faith at Grace Cathedral and Mission Dolores. St. Patrick Catholic Church and the San Francisco Zen Center will also appeal to anyone wanting some quiet inner-reflection.

It's better to reflect on your life and say, "Did I really do that?," rather than, "I really wish I had done that." So, while you're in San Francisco you should also pay a visit to some of the less well-known sights, such as the San Francisco Public Library and the Fort Mason. You'll also find plenty to keep you amused at the California Historical Society and Coyote Point Park.

Hotels in San Francisco

Don't stress too much about securing your San Francisco hotel. Though, the sooner you book, the sooner you can begin organising your itinerary. The ebookers travel guide lists 235 properties.

Full-time backpackers and other penny-wise travellers will find a room rate to suit their budget at the Wharf Inn and the Layne Hotel. These places are proof that great service doesn't have to come at a high price. Alternatively, let the professional staff at the Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square attend to you like royalty. After all, you are meant to be on a holiday!

If you'd prefer to stay near Union Square, the Loews Regency San Francisco and the Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco are two options worth checking out.

San Francisco highlights

Chinatown

This golden nugget is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, plus the oldest in North America. Its entrance, called the "Dragon's Gate," is at Grant Avenue and Bush Street. Inside are 24 blocks of hustle and bustle, most of it taking place along Grant Avenue, the oldest street in San Francisco. This city-within-a-city is best explored on foot: Exotic shops, renowned restaurants, food markets, temples and small museums form its boundaries. Visitors can buy ancient potions from herb shops, enjoy a dim sum lunch or learn how fortune cookies are made.

Palace of Fine Arts Theatre

Constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, this beauty reflects the domed and columned temples of ancient Roman and Greek style. Its exhibition hall, which once housed Impressionist paintings, is now home to a state-of-the-art science museum, the Exploratorium. The Palace is also the site of countless weddings and film backdrops, including the Alfred Hitchcock thriller "Vertigo" and "The Rock." A lagoon lined with Australian eucalyptus trees surrounds the area, making a perfect family-photo opportunity.

Alcatraz

Because of its natural isolation and the bay's cold, strong currents, Alcatraz housed Civil War prisoners, and years later, some of the country's most notorious criminals, including mobster Al Capone, the "Birdman of Alcatraz" and George "Machine Gun" Kelly. The prison closed in the 1960s, but the stories live on. Today, Alcatraz is partially a self-guided experience that you can do at your own pace. Advance reservations are highly recommended.

Union Square

This landmark square is the largest district of retailers, restaurants, galleries and salons in the Western United States. The recently remodeled site boasts granite plazas, light sculptures designed by artist R.M. Fischer and four grand-entrance corner plazas bordered by palms. Find clothing stores, from Banana Republic and Anthropologie to Prada and Yves Saint Laurent, and an assortment of antique stores, art galleries and beauty and health shops. More than 40 hotels are located nearby, as are a variety of restaurants, bars and clubs for late-night dining and entertainment.

Castro District

Spanning Castro Street, from Market Street to 19th Street, is the world's first, largest, and most famous gay neighborhood. It has been a symbol of gay pride since the sixties and seventies, when figures like Harvey Milk established themselves as business owners and activists. One of the district's most notable sites is the Castro Theatre, a movie palace constructed in 1922 that is still one of the city's best. Other sites of interest include Twin Peaks, the city's first gay bar, and Hartford Street Zen Center, a small Buddhist temple open to the public.

San Francisco Cable Cars

Cable cars have been transporting people around San Francisco since the late 19th century, and they're a great way to get conquer the city's notorious hills while enjoying some of the spectacular views and diverse neighborhoods. At Powell and Market streets, a turntable serves as the starting point for two lines, the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde. The Powell-Mason heads to Fisherman's Wharf, while the Powell-Hyde ends near Ghirardelli Square (hello, chocolate!).

Golden Gate Bridge

The world-famous Golden Gate Bridge is a must-see, but doing so is easy, considering the 1.7-mile-long orange behemoth can be viewed from many vantage points. Connecting San Francisco to Marin County, the bridge is the city's only northern exit and is part of U.S. Route 1 and California Route 1. A pedestrian walkway runs the length, and bikes are allowed. (Check posted signs for the appropriate side to ride on; the schedule varies.) Fort Point Overlook offers a primo spot to snap photos.

Golden Gate Park

One of the largest urban parks in the world, this three-mile stunner is filled not only with natural beauty but also a science museum, art museum, flower conservatory and more. The California Academy of Sciences houses an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, and scientific research facility under one roof -- and a living roof, at that. Scale the deYoung Museum's 144-foot-high observation deck. The Japanese Tea Garden creates the perfect backdrop for munching fortune cookies, which were first created here in 1914.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Founded in 1935, SFMOMA was the first museum on the West Coast devoted to modern and contemporary art. Today, it continues that tradition, exhibiting and collecting works by modern masters and less-established artists. Audio guides, docent tours, interactive kiosks and public programs offer visitors diverse learning opportunities. SFMOMA's landmark building, just a short walk from downtown, displays a soaring atrium topped by a turret and oculus skylight. The MuseumStore features art books, design objects, furniture, jewelry and children's products.

MORE San Francisco Hotels

See all 495 hotels in San Francisco
Hotel Nikko San Francisco

Hotel Nikko San Francisco

222 Mason St, San Francisco
    4.0 out of 5.0
     
     
    3.6 out of 5 (7 reviews)

    Located in Downtown San Francisco, this romantic hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Westfield San Francisco Centre, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Asian ...

    Hotel Nikko San Francisco£142

    Hotel Nikko San Francisco£142
    The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square

    The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square

    335 Powell Street, San Francisco
      4.0 out of 5.0
       
       
      4.2 out of 5 (12 reviews)

      Located in Downtown San Francisco, this romantic hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Westfield San Francisco Centre and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Asian ...

      The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square£130

      The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square£130
      Hotel Whitcomb

      Hotel Whitcomb

      1231 Market St, San Francisco
        3.5 out of 5.0
         
         
        3.0 out of 5 (9 reviews)

        Located in Downtown San Francisco, this historic hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Orpheum Theater and Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. Louise Davies Symphony ...

        Hotel Whitcomb£94

        Hotel Whitcomb£94
        San Francisco Marriott Marquis

        San Francisco Marriott Marquis

        780 Mission Street, San Francisco
          4.0 out of 5.0
           
           
          4.3 out of 5 (7 reviews)

          Located in Downtown San Francisco, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Westfield San Francisco Centre and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Asian Art ...

          San Francisco Marriott Marquis£123

          San Francisco Marriott Marquis£123
          Travelodge by Wyndham San Francisco Airport North

          Travelodge by Wyndham San Francisco Airport North

          326 S Airport Blvd, South San Francisco
            2.0 out of 5.0
             
             
            2.4 out of 5 (11 reviews)

            Situated near the airport, this motel is within 9 miles (15 km) of San Francisco Bay, Bayfront Park and Cow Palace. San Francisco State University and Twin Peaks ...

            Travelodge by Wyndham San Francisco Airport North£57

            Travelodge by Wyndham San Francisco Airport North£57
            Villa Florence San Francisco on Union Square

            Villa Florence San Francisco on Union Square

            225 Powell St, San Francisco
              4.0 out of 5.0
               
               
              4.1 out of 5 (8 reviews)

              Located in Downtown San Francisco, this romantic hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Westfield San Francisco Centre and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Asian ...

              Villa Florence San Francisco on Union Square£86

              Villa Florence San Francisco on Union Square£86
              Stanford Court San Francisco

              Stanford Court San Francisco

              905 California Street, San Francisco
                4.0 out of 5.0
                 
                 
                4.2 out of 5 (14 reviews)

                This hotel is located in San Francisco (Downtown San Francisco), close to Grace Cathedral, TransAmerica Pyramid and Westfield San Francisco Centre. Also nearby ...

                Pier 2620 Hotel Fisherman's Wharf

                Pier 2620 Hotel Fisherman's Wharf

                2620 Jones Street, San Francisco
                  4.0 out of 5.0
                   
                   
                  3.6 out of 5 (14 reviews)

                  Located in North Beach, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Powell and Market Cable Car Turnaround, Fishermans Wharf Cable Car Turnaround and Hyde Street ...

                  Pier 2620 Hotel Fisherman's Wharf£139

                  Pier 2620 Hotel Fisherman's Wharf£139
                  The Park Central San Francisco

                  The Park Central San Francisco

                  50 3rd St, San Francisco
                    4.0 out of 5.0
                     
                     
                    4.0 out of 5 (4 reviews)

                    Located in Downtown San Francisco, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Westfield San Francisco Centre. TransAmerica ...

                    Sweden House Hotel

                    Sweden House Hotel

                    570 O'farrell St, San Francisco
                      2.5 out of 5.0
                       
                       

                      This hotel is located in San Francisco (Downtown San Francisco), close to Westfield San Francisco Centre, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and Louise Davies ...

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