San Francisco – sunny city of California and the land of the Golden Gate Bridge. Its one of the most popular tourist destinations in the USA. The city is known for its awesome weather, amazing landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, the Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown district, Alamo Square (Full House shoot location), cable cars, Sausalito, Coit Tower to name a few
Over the years, San Francisco has received several nicknames, including “The City by the Bay”, “Fog City”, “San Fran”, and “Frisco”, as well as older ones like “The City that Knows How”, “Baghdad by the Bay”, “The Paris of the West”, or simply “The City”.
Arriving and Staying in San Francisco
San Francisco is well connected via air and roadways. San Francisco’s airport is located within the San Mateo County. (San Francisco International Airport)
If you are flying to San Francisco, look for cheaper flights to San Jose. San Jose is located 50 minutes from San Francisco Airport. Accommodation (hostels and hotels including airbnb accomodation) will be slightly cheaper in San Jose as compared to San Francisco
Day 1 ~ Arrival
I arrived at the Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport (San Jose) in April, late in the evening.
I booked the Camino Inn and Suites in Mountain view, CA. My booking was done via hotels.com and the hotel has a ranking of 3.5/5 on their website. I had a pleasant stay at Camino Inn and Suites. Cab services was provided from the hotel. Breakfast was not included. A trip to the Caltrain was 10-12 minutes and the cab fare was $20 USD
After checking in to the hotel, I took a quick ride around Mountain View, including hitting their burger joint for dinner- In and Out Burger
Staying in Mountain view hotel, I was able to visit head-offices of Google, LinkedIn, Apple etc.
Using Cal Train to travel between San Francisco and Mountain View
I utilized the amazing Cal Train (transit services) to travel to and from San Francisco and Mountain View. The Train journey covered areas like San Mateo, Stanford, San Antonio, Menlo Park, etc. The ride from Mountain View to San Francisco took us 45 minutes.I enjoyed the train journey as locals use this everyday as a means of trasport to their workplaces and Universities. You can literally feel the techno-metro-Bay life in those moving trains, which I kinda like 🙂
Learn More about Cal Trains here
Day 2 ~ The next morning
I started for San Francisco from Mountain View at 9:00 am, the next morning. Using Cal Train I arrived in San Francisco in about 45 minutes. From the Cal Train San Francisco Station, you either take a cab or ride the MUNI/light street car to anywhere in San Francisco.
I was joined by a friend of mine and we took a cab ride to Fisherman’s Wharf – our first tourist spot in San Francisco. (This cab ride cost about $30-40 USD)
We took a stroll around the pier and clicked some pictures. Fisherman’s Wharf has great places to eat, souvenir shops and great sightings, including great entertainment.Pier 39 is also located in this area.
At the Fisherman’s Wharf, we bought Big Ben’s Hop-on and off tickets (48 hours). Our hop on and off service started at Pier 39.
On the first day we took a complete ride of the city and touched down all the major attractions that the trip covered.
After one complete loop, we got down at the Golden Gate Bridge
Big Ben Bus Tours had open top buses like most hop-on and off services. We were able to get a good insight into the San Francisco city, thanks to our guided tour. The trip cost us $55 USD each. And I think it was totally worth it.
Other than covering the major tourist attractions like Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, Coit Tower, Legislature Building, Union Square, ChinaTown, Japanese Garden, the guide also shared stories about wildfire that once almost destroyed the entire city (wildfires are very common in SF), Full House cast (popular sitcom of the 90s), the cable cars around the city, etc.
I was able to capture quite a few images of the everyday city life while we went on the first hop on and hop off loop.
After the day trip, we settled in for a relaxed dinner at the Union Square. We headed back to Mountain View via Cal Train at night.
Day 3 Hop on and off Continued….
Our hop-on and hop off tickets allowed us a second day of travel. And today we spent about 1.5 to 2 hours in each of these locations, including the Golden Gate Bridge, which was our last stop for the trip.
We started from Mountain View and reached Fisherman’s Wharf which was our hop-on and hop-off service pick up point.
We started the day with some indulgent food (at Pier 39) that included crepes, hot dogs and chilli cheese fries (these fries tasted sooo delicious)
From the Pier 39, we hopped on and covered the Legislature Building and the City Hall
Our second stop for the day was China-Town. We bought some souvenirs from this area.
Third Stop was Japanese Tea Garden. I loved to walk around the garden, its very peaceful and serene. There were cherry blossom trees, Buddha statues and pagodas in the Garden as well.
And our fourth stop was at the Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park
We strolled around the park area and crossed the bridge on foot! It was very breezy out there on that evening. We stopped for some pitures on the bridge.
The Park area also has a Gift Shop (I bought a post-card that read – “I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge Today — with the date on it” 🙂 )
It was a great and eventful day!
Day 4 – Half-Moon Bay
Located in the San Mateo County, Half-Moon Bay is about 45 minutes (drive) away from Mountain View. This coastal city has a very laid back feel to it as compared to the bustling Bay Area. You can grab a bite or two to eat and hike or picnic in their beaches.
Day 5 : Final Day
Before flying back to Canada, I went to see Infinity Loop (Apple’s Head Office) and some of the other Corporate Offices located in Mountain View and the nearby Bay Area. Its a different culture in those places with bikes to commute within campus, the building structures, the brain-storming look on everyone’s face! In short, I found it very fascinating!
In the evening, I reached San Jose International Airport for my trip back home
- There are 2 places I could not visit in this trip, which were kind of must see for me – Sausalito and Alcatraz. I did see the Alcatraz island from a distance, but I really wanted to see the inside of the building and learn more about that place.
- Big Ben Tours offers more then 24 or 48 hour hop-on and off services. Read more about them here