Tourist-ing in San Francisco, California

Earlier this fall, I flew to San Francisco for yet another Vogue Knitting Live conference. You can read about the conference and the yarn shops that I visited on the trip here.

Chinatown, San Francisco

Beyond my yarn adventures, I was able to spend some time being a tourist in this interesting and beautiful city. I spent a full day before the conference – visiting the yarn shops and tourist sites – and another half day on my last day in San Francisco.

On this trip, I tried to hit as many of the famous tourist sites as I could. Anytime I told someone I was going to San Francisco, they asked me if I was going to see the Golden Gate Bridge, or go to Chinatown, or eat at Fisherman’s Wharf, or visit Alcatraz. Although I couldn’t do everything, I did a lot.


I arrived in San Francisco late Thursday night. Knitting classes at the conference began on Friday morning, but I decided to pass on Friday classes so I had nearly the whole day to explore. I slept in and didn’t get an early start, but I managed to cover a lot.

Chinatown, San Francisco

The hotel where I stayed was in the Union Square area, which is within walking distance of Chinatown. As I walked, it didn’t take long before I began to see an occasional store with an Asian-sounding name. Soon, I was on Grant Street in the heart of Chinatown.

Shopping in Chinatown,
San Francisco

I wandered around for an hour, popping into some of the trinket shops. If I wasn’t planning to purchase yarn, I might have been more tempted buy paper fans, a tea set, or a silk scarf. “Don’t take any room,” the clerk told me, but still I resisted. Maybe next time.

Although it was still early, I decided to eat lunch before leaving the area. I had a delicious lunch at a small place called Maggie’s. When I asked to pay by credit card, the server (who may have been the owner) hesitated, but said it was fine. Then she walked next door to the seafood restaurant to run my card. Next time, I’ll bring a little more cash.


I was warned not to go to Oakland, because it’s not a great area. However, there were two yarn shops there, so I went anyway. I’m not sure what part of Oakland isn’t great. I walked and I rode the bus a couple times – I appreciated all the parts of the city I visited.

One of the shops was in an area that seemed to have been recently rebuilt. It was now very hipster – so much so that the clerk in the yarn shop thought I might have trouble finding a Coke.

I walked through an area that seemed to be inhabited by people originally from India. Several shops advertised custom made saris, with examples in the window and others on racks inside. I wanted to walk in to see the beautiful fabric up close, but I didn’t think that would be proper.

After visiting the second yarn shop, I walked through an older area of town – one with beautiful old homes and mature trees. Overall, I enjoyed Oakland.

Painted Ladies
Victorian Homes in San Francisco

I didn’t get back to San Francisco until late afternoon, but still had a chance to visit a couple yarn shops. The second shop was near Buena Vista Park, and walking to the shop, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful Victorian homes along the way. I love the architectural details and embellishments on these homes.

Painted Ladies, with San Francisco
in the Background

After shopping, I took the bus to the Painted Ladies – a row of Victorian homes made famous when included in the opening credits of the TV show, “Full House.” When I arrived, I started laughing – I couldn’t believe the crowd of tourists across the street in Alamo Square Park photographing the homes.  I joined them, but just for a couple quick photos. The weather had turned cold and I was eager to get back to the hotel. I’d save the rest of my site-seeing for another day.

Cable Car Ride and the Golden Gate Bridge

On Sunday, I didn’t have class until two in the afternoon, so I had the morning to do a little more site-seeing. On top of my list was a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out as well as I had hoped. I spent some time trying to figure out public transportation to near the bridge and finally decided to try to take the bus. When I finally found the bus and tried to get on, though, I was told that the ticket I had (the Muni Pass) did not cover buses. Frustrated, I got off and tried to figure out a new plan.

Waiting in Line to Ride the Cable Car

The cable car stop wasn’t far from where I was, and I knew it would get me to Fisherman’s Wharf – maybe I could figure out how to get to the bridge from there. The line for the cable car was long, but since it was also on my list, I waited. The ride was great – we had a funny and enthusiastic gripman.

Lombard Street, San Francisco

I had talked to the people behind me in line and they recommended sitting on the right side. From there, we had the best view. Looking up the streets, we saw glimpses of the bay. We rode right past crooked Lombard Street, although we didn’t have a good angle for photos.

The Golden Gate Bridge
(Look Carefully)

The cable car dropped us off at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park next to Fisherman’s Wharf. From the park, I could see the Golden Gate Bridge – off in the distance. Although there was not a cloud in the sky overhead, there was a solid bank of clouds or fog, by the bridge. Between the fog, the distance, and the time I had left, I gave up on getting closer to the bridge for a postcard-like picture.

Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square

Fisherman’s Wharf is a combination of business and tourism. Fisherman use the pier here (Pier 43) to dock their boats. They fish, bring in their catch, and sell it to local restaurants. Other boatmen offer Bay tours for tourists. Restaurants selling fresh seafood line the streets.

Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurants

I love crab, and since I had heard about street vendors selling fresh steamed crab, I was determined to find some. I found a row of restaurants along Taylor Street that offered indoor dining or take-away food to eat at the picnic tables near the water. Although not a cheap lunch, I ate my fresh steamed crab. Yum!

Ghirardelli Ice Cream Sundae

After lunch, I walked over to Ghirardelli Square. Originally home of the Ghirardelli chocolate factory, the area is now filled with shops and restaurants. I couldn’t resist indulging on a Ghirardelli sundae.

What I Missed

I needed to get back to the hotel for my afternoon class, so I got back in line for the cable car. The weather had been beautiful all morning and I would have liked to stay and enjoy it more. My main reason for being in the city, though, was to attend the knitting conference.

I did not get a chance to go to Alcatraz – there was just not enough time. This will be on the list for my next visit.

Although I visited Fisherman’s Wharf, I did not make it down to Pier 39. Next time, I’d like to be able to spend more time in this area so I can see it all. I missed seeing the sea lions, in this area.

I’d like to visit to Golden Gate park – and see the de Young Museum. I’d also like to see the Legion of Honor, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Palace of Fine Arts.

Visiting San Francisco

The first and only time I had been to San Francisco was 22 years ago, when my husband and I were on our way to Hawaii. He had won the trip through his work. The organizers had planned a day and a half stop in California, so we would have less jet lag when we arrived at our final destination.

This time, I was on my own – although I was able to enjoy a breakfast out with my nephew who lives there. I enjoyed re-visiting the city and am eager to return again.

The tourist sites are popular for a reason – and are well-worth visiting. Next time, though, I’d like to broaden my scope.  Since I’ve done a little more research, there are museums and other sites that have been added my list.

Have you been to San Francisco?  What was your favorite part? What should I see the next time I am in the city?


  1. I was there in May. Did an overnight before my cruise to Alaska. Early arrival gave
    me almost a day and a half. I stayed at the Westin. Trolly stop was at the front door. A lovely park was across the street. They had an art exhibit on Saturday. Had lunch at the pier. So easy to hop on and off the trolley.

  2. We love taking the ferry from Oakland to San Francisco and back. Love the whole area. Have family in the East Bay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *