Why You Should Visit San Francisco (Hint – Delicious Foods is Just One of the Reasons)

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San Francisco has an undeniably laid-back vibe.

You can feel that vibe when you walk through its eclectic neighborhoods or when you catch a cable car going down a steep street with the breathtaking waterfront in the background. You feel it as you pass by its beautiful Victorian houses or pop into its many bars and restaurants.

San Francisco is relaxed and easygoing to NYC’s fast and hurried. Nonchalant to LA’s glamour.

Yes, it’s had its challenges that we must recognize. If you listen to the news, you’d think it’s all doom and gloom. The stories, the headlines, the photos. Scary, right?

The statistics aren’t as alarming as they seem and don’t tell the whole story. I go deeper into this here for those who want to dig into it.

There are plenty of reasons to visit this fantastic city.

San Francisco’s Famous Neighborhoods

San Francisco’s neighborhoods each have their own unique charm, vibe, and history.

You can find a little bit of everything depending on what you’re looking for and where you go.

  • Looking for a vibrant Little Italy full of cool bars, restaurants, and coffee shops? Head to North Beach.
  • Looking to check out the hippie legacy of San Francisco? Head to Haight-Ashbury.
  • Looking to visit one of the oldest Chinatowns in the United States? Yep, head to Chinatown.
  • Looking for trendy shops, restaurants, bars, and boutiques? The Marina waterfront will hit the spot.
  • If you’re artsy, head to the Mission.
  • Looking for an inclusive vibe that San Francisco is so known for? Head to the Castro.

San Francisco’s Iconic Landmarks

San Francisco has some absolutely breathtaking sights.

The Golden Gate Bridge is perhaps THE quintessential photographed location in San Francisco. Drive over it, or you can choose to walk or bike over it.

Golden Gate Bridge- stunning views!

If you’re interested in a bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge but would rather go with others, take a one or San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito Guided Bike Tour. I’d recommend the e-bike. While some of you may not have any problems biking up the hill to this bridge, this girl right here sure did. 🚴 🥴

Looking back at the Golden Gate Bridge after biking across it to the Sausalito side.

If you’re hungry when you get to Sausalito (and you likely will be after that bike ride), try getting a spot outdoors at Bar Bocce. If you’re exhausted and stuffed and have had a couple of cocktails, you can take the ferry back to San Francisco (bring your bike onboard).

Look out about 1.5 miles from land, and you’ll see Alcatraz Island. Alcatraz has a long and rich history. It’s best known for being a maximum security federal prison, but it was also once a fort and a military prison. It’s now part of the US National Park Service.

on the ferry, arriving at Alcatraz

From the outside, sitting in the San Francisco Bay, it’s stunning, with its gorgeous views. Inside, it’s fascinating, dark, and just a little bit creepy. Walking through the prison’s halls, you can FEEL the people who used to spend their time there, both the inmates and the guards. You’ll see where the infamous inmates (including Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, and Robert Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz) are. ) used to shower, eat, and sleep. You can take a self-guided tour of “The Rock” and hear the real-life stories of the men who were sentenced there.

Nothing is more San Francisco than a cable car. I lived in San Francisco for years, and yet, just recently, I took my daughter on one, and I was still mesmerized. By the sounds of the scale car moving on the tracks, by the bell ringing, by the operator manually operating the car, and by the beautifully gorgeous sites outside, riding up and down the hilly streets. And yes, you can hang off the outside of the cable car!

There are 3 cable car routes left in San Francisco, and they’ll take you through what are likely to be some of the top places you’d like to go.

Cable car at the Powell & Market Streets during the holidays
On a cable car ride

The Arts and Music Scenes

Many artists call San Francisco home.

San Francisco loves art, and it’s a welcoming place for artists to share their work. San Francisco’s art spaces range from big museums to small, experimental spaces.

You can spend hours lost in museums like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art or the Asian Art Museum. After hours of being there, I recently had to tear my pre-teen daughter and her friend away from the SFMOMA.

But it’s not just in museums; you’ll find colorful street art and murals in places like the Mission District.

SF Museum of Modern Art

If music is more your scene, The Fillmore is a legendary spot where famous acts like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin once played. It’s like a musical time capsule.

And if you’re into electronic music and underground vibes, head over to the clubs in the SoMa district. DJ’s are spinning everything from techno to house music, and the dance floors are always packed.

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival is a three-day music festival in Golden Gate Park with both big-name artists and new, emerging talent in Golden Gate Park.

Great Food & Drinking Spots

Now, let’s talk about food.

You knew we’d get there.

The city’s restaurant and bar scene is a food lover’s paradise. Here are some not-to-miss highlights:

Chinatown: Head to this bustling neighborhood for some of the best dim sum in the city. Stop by Good Mong Kok Bakery for dim sum or R&G Lounge for some classic Chinese dishes.

Waterfront: Want to have a bite and a beer, watch the game while enjoying some of the best views of the bay? Head over to Mission Rock, which is one of the rare “fog-free” zones in San Francisco.

Mission Rock

Ferry Building Marketplace: If you look over the bay into San Francisco and see a large tall clock tower, that’s the Ferry Building. While beautiful, it’s also functional. You’ll find a farmers market with fresh, local produce and artisanal food products inside. Also inside is a wide variety of restaurants and coffee shops.

Mission District: This area is a foodie’s paradise. Sample authentic Mexican cuisine. Try the mouthwatering burritos at La Taqueria, known for their massive and delicious creations. Don’t forget to explore the street food scene, with popular food trucks like Senor Sisig serving up Filipino-Mexican fusion. Head over to the Mission District, and you’ll find these tiny taquerias dishing out amazing, mouthwatering tacos.

Fine Dining: Looking for a more upscale experience? You have plenty of options, but for a truly memorable experience, you can book a table at one of the three 3-star Michelin restaurants Quince, Benu, or Atelier Crenn.

Seafood: If you’re a fan of seafood like I am, Swan Oyster Depot is a legendary spot known for its fresh oysters and clam chowder. My daughter’s fave sushi spot (and maybe mine) is Akiko’s Sushi Bar in Union Square (the one on Mason – not to be confused with AKIKOS on Folsom Avenue). It’s TINY, with only 4 tables and a few seats at the bar.

My daughter running uphill to her fave sushi spot in SF

Fisherman’s Wharf: Yes, it’s a touristy area, BUT if you’re interested in clam chowder served in freshly baked sourdough bread bowls, it may be worth a visit.

North Beach: North Beach is one of my fave areas to explore in San Francisco. Exploring North Beach’s history and food through a food tour is the best way to go. This North Beach Food Tour is great.

Let’s not forget bars. San Francisco’s dive bar scene is strong.

San Francisco is not just about the big touristy spots; it’s also got some awesome hole-in-the-wall places that you have to check out. These are those hidden gems that the locals swear by, and once you find them, you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled upon something special.

And history. Places like Vesuvio Café, where Jack Kerouac used to hang out, or Specs’ Twelve Adler Museum Cafe, which feels like a step back in time with all its knick-knacks and memorabilia. These spots serve up history alongside your drinks, making for a memorable night out.

The Outdoors

San Francisco’s natural beauty and mild weather is prime for exploration and outdoor adventures.

There are so many options for being active in gorgeous surroundings – exploring Golden Gate Park, hiking in Marin Headlands, playing frisbee in the Marina, and biking across Golden Gate Bridge.

The stunning Golden Gate Park is a big, green oasis in the middle of the city with gardens, lakes, and even bison. The park has botanical gardens and museums and hosts various outdoor concerts.

If you like hiking or being outdoors, there are trails like the one in Marin Headlands with beautiful coastline views, or you can take a short drive to Muir Woods and walk among giant redwood trees that are hundreds of years old. And if you just want to relax by the water, Ocean Beach has its wide sandy shores. If you’re up for a bit more adventure, try sailing in the San Francisco Bay. San Francisco’s natural beauty is all around, and it’s one of the reasons why people love to visit this city.

San Francisco’s Recent Challenges and Why You Should Still Visit

Despite its awesomeness, it’s important to acknowledge that San Francisco has faced some recent challenges. Issues like homelessness and the high cost of living have become more visible, and in some areas, there have been safety concerns. These problems have led to a mixed perception of the city among both residents and visitors.

San Francisco is actively working to address these challenges. The city is implementing measures to address homelessness and affordability issues while also increasing safety measures, including increasing its police presence in certain areas. While stores and restaurants have closed, others, led by people passionate about the city, are opening.

Ok, let’s take a deeper look at the statistics. 

When I dug into the statistics that showed your chances of being a victim of a violent crime in SF on NeighborhoodScout, it was 1:148.

Let’s look at the same statistic in other large cities.

  • 1:69 in New Orleans
  • 1:122 in NYC
  • 1:119 in LA

The stories and the photos may be real. Yes, a lot of that is happening in San Francisco. But it doesn’t tell the real and FULL story.  Most of the crime and the homeless is in the historically high-crime areas. 

Now, property crime IS high. For you as a tourist, that would mostly mean to be on the lookout for car break-ins. My car has been broken into more times than I care to count

So, what’s the bottom line? Is San Francisco safe? For those of you who want a quick summary of whether or not San Francisco is safe, here it is:

Stay out of the few high risk areas and your chance of a victim of a violent crime is NOT high.  However, your chances of being a car break-in victim IS high. I’ve lived in and spent A LOT of time in San Francisco and have never felt truly unsafe. I can say that, fortunately, except for break-ins in my car, I have always been safe.

While these are big issues, I don’t at all think that they should detour you from experiencing San Francisco’s unique charm and culture. San Francisco is still a safe, bustling city.

By exploring the city responsibly and supporting local communities, visitors can still enjoy all that San Francisco has to offer while being mindful of these challenges.