First, here's what NOT to do...

  • Don't call it "Frisco" unless you want everyone to know you're a tourist who's never been more than 10 miles from your home town.
  • Don't call in "San Fran" unless you want everyone to know you're a tourist who's never been more than 10 miles from your home town.
  • Don't drive anywhere during rush hour.
  • Don't think you can visit the South Bay and the North Bay on the same day. The drive alone is at least two hours.
  • Don't waste your time at Union Square. It's just another pricey shopping district, just like the one back home.
  • Don't go swimming in the ocean. If the cold doesn't kill you, the great white sharks will.
  • Don't bother with the Napa Wine Train. It's just an overpriced meal on a train. Number of vineyards visited by the wine train: zero.
  • Fisherman's Wharf? No way. The most soul-sucking tourist trap in SF, packed with equal numbers of homeless, buskers and foreigners, all of whom are in nasty moods because they wish they were somewhere else. Anywhere else.
  • What to do:

  • Bring a sweatshirt. This isn't Southern California.
  • Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. But wear your sweatshirt. It's cold on the bridge, no matter how warm it is at your hotel. Today it was 82 degrees at our home, but only 55 degrees and windy on the bridge. That temperature gap is often 40 degrees.
  • Eat clam chowder in a sourdough breadbowl at Boudin at the Wharf. Boudin is San Francisco's oldest continuously operating business (1849).
  • Take a day to visit Napa or Sonoma. Wine country is a different world, and worth the time.
  • Visit Muir Woods. Then watch The Empire Strikes Back, and see how many scenes are familiar.
  • Take a drive to the Marin Headlands for some of the best scenery this country has to offer. Picnic at Rodeo Beach.
  • Attend "Nightlife at the Academy of Sciences" any Thursday from 6:00pm to 10:00pm, where you can enjoy live music, live creatures, and great cocktails while you have after-hours access to all Academy exhibits. They have a unique theme each week. See this link for more information.
  • Visit Alcatraz. But you'll need reservations several days in advance. Take the Powell/Hyde cable car to the Cannery/Ghiradelli Square, and walk from there to the Alcatraz boat dock at Pier 33.

  • "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."

    Often attributed to Mark Twain, but he never actually said it