Explore Sensational San Francisco
Explore the hills of San Francisco, one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. The "City by the Bay" is steeped in history and has an endless array of things to do.
Cliff HouseTake a short road trip to see the Cliff House, located at San Francisco’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area -- the largest urban park west of the Mississippi River. Learn about the house’s rich history, dating back to 1863. Looking for a bite to eat? The Sutro Wing houses a two-story dining room with a view overlooking the Pacific Ocean. 960 1280
San Fran Cable CarsHop on an iconic San Francisco cable car. British promoter Andrew Hallidie and engineer William Eppelsheimer designed and started the city’s cable car system in 1873. Of the 23 lines established between 1873 and 1890, only three routes remain, two of which stretch from downtown near Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf, and a third that runs along California Street. 960 1280
Russian HillOne of the 44 hills in San Francisco, the Russian Hill neighborhood is most famous for being home to what's been called "the crookedest street in the world," Lombard Street. This picturesque street was designed with a series of switchbacks to help vehicles make it down the extremely steep hill. We definitely recommend taking a drive down the perfectly manicured street, but look out for the hordes of tourists snapping photos at the bottom. 960 1280
Alamo Square ParkPerhaps best known for being the setting of the "Full House" opening sequence, Alamo Square Park offers spectacular views of the city, perfect for a picnic of your own. But the best view is along the east side of the park, where the famous Painted Ladies sit along Steiner Street. Sometimes called “Postcard Row” for obvious reasons, the houses were built between 1892 and 1896 by developer Matthew Kavanaugh, who lived next door to the row houses, in the mansion at 722 Steiner Street. 960 1280
Napa Valley Wine TrainGet out of the city and head north to take a three-hour ride on the Napa Valley Wine Train through stunning vineyards, while indulging in elegant food and, of course, tasting local wines. The vintage train has been running since 1989 on a rail line first established in 1864 by San Francisco’s first millionaire. A ride on this train is the epitome of luxury. 960 1280
Aquarium of the BayAt the Aquarium of the Bay, stroll through 300 feet of tunnels to see over 20,000 marine animals from San Francisco Bay and its surrounding waters. The aquarium also has fun activities for kids, touch pools with sharks and an interactive Bay Lab station. 960 1280
Ghirardelli SquareOriginally the site of a chocolate factory, Ghirardelli Square is now a large retail and restaurant complex. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is considered the first adaptive reuse project in the country. We recommend tourists stop here for a tasty ice cream sundae or to sample some delicious Ghirardelli chocolate. Simply follow the intoxicating smell of chocolate wafting through the air. 960 1280
Precita Eyes MuralistsAdd a little culture to your San Fran trip. Stop by the Precita Eyes Muralists Association, one of only three community mural centers in the U.S. Established in 1977 in San Francisco’s Mission District, the multipurpose community-based organization sponsors and organizes ongoing mural projects throughout the Bay Area and internationally. Weekly art classes are also offered for children, ranging in age from 18 months to 19 years old. 960 1280
The Dragon GatewayExplore Chinatown and enter the gateway, located on Grant Avenue at Bush Street. San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinese community outside of Asia. Seen here, the Dragon Gateway -- installed in 1969 -- is a gift from the Republic of China. 960 1280
Nob HillNob Hill is one of San Francisco’s signature neighborhoods, renowned for its swanky character, city landmarks and famous hotels that border Huntington Park. Some popular places to visit when you’re in the hood include Flood Mansion, the Cable Car Museum, Lumiere Theatre, Bigfoot Lodge, You Say Tomato and the Big 4 Restaurant. 960 1280
Coit TowerTake the steep walk or drive up to the 210-foot-high Coit Tower for the best views of San Francisco. Located in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood, the Art Deco tower was designed to resemble a fire hose nozzle in tribute to local volunteer firefighter Lillian Coit’s affinity for the San Francisco firefighters of her youth. Architects Arthur Brown Jr. and Henry Howard designed the tower, while 27 on-site artists and numerous assistants created the beautiful murals. 960 1280
Palace of Fine ArtThe San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts was constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, but rebuilt in 1965 along with the renovation of the lagoon and walkways. It remains a popular attraction for tourists and locals, as well as a popular location for weddings. It has become such an iconic structure that a miniature replica was built in Disney’s California Adventure Park in Anaheim. 960 1280
Japanese Tea GardenLocated in the heart of Golden Gate Park, the Japanese Tea Garden was developed for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition. Unwind and experience the garden’s natural beauty and tranquil atmosphere. This popular San Francisco attraction features classic elements such as pagodas, stone lanterns, stepping-stone paths, native Japanese plants, koi ponds, a Zen garden and the Temple Gate (pictured). 960 1280
San Francisco de Asis (Mission Dolores)On a site selected by Juan Bautista de Anza, the first mission church was a 50-foot-long log and mud structure. It was eventually moved to higher ground, adjacent to Lake Dolores. The mission was dedicated to Saint Francis by Father Serra in 1776. 960 1280
Santa CruzAlthough the soil was excellent and the location ideal, this mission never reached its potential. The dedication of Mission la Exaltacion de la Santa Cruz was made in 1791 by Father Lasuen, but the site was unfortunately located next to Branciforte pueblo, a community of ex-convicts and thieves.
San Juan BautistaFounded by Father Lasuen in 1797, this mission was unwittingly located directly above the San Andreas fault. Much of the original structure remains and has been restored. It's considered the largest California mission church and the only one with 3 aisles. It was named for John the Baptist.
San Carlos Boorromeo de CarmeloFounded by Father Serra in 1770 on Pentecost Sunday, this mission was considered to be his favorite. Both he and Father Lasuen are buried here. It served as the ecclesiastical capital of California, as well as Father Serra's headquarters for administrative duties as president of the missions.
Nuestra Senora de la SoledadThe padres named this mission for Our Lady of Solitude in 1791, which fits its isolated location. The rich soil and plentiful water helped the mission produce more than 100,000 bushels of wheat per year and raise nearly 17,000 head of livestock.
San Antonio de PaduaLocated 40 miles north of Paso Robles, this picturesque mission is nestled in the grasslands and oak trees of the San Antonio Valley. Named for a saint known as the "miracle worker," it was dedicated in 1771 by Father Serra. The church is known for its campanario and archway bells. 960 1280
San Miguel ArcangelThis mission was founded in 1797 by Father Lasuen. It completed the mission chain from San Luis Obispo to Mission Dolores in San Francisco. Located in the Salinas Valley, it was the mid point between the San Luis Obispo and San Antonio Missions. Under the direction of Esteban Munros, the Indians painted the walls and ceilings with ornate designs; the original murals are the best preserved in California today.
San Luis Obispo de TolosaThis humble chapel, built of logs, was dedicated to St. Louis, Bishop of Tolosa in 1772. It was the first mission to use tiles extensively on the roof due to repeated attacks by Indians who used flaming arrows to ignite the original thatched roof.
San BuenaventuraThe ninth mission in the chain was founded on Easter Sunday in 1782 by Father Serra and dedicated to St. Bonaventure. It was the last mission the humble priest would christen. Restored in 1957, the facade exhibits an unusual triangular design which opens onto the gardens.
San Fernando Rey de EspanaFather Lasuen named this mission in honor of King Ferdinand III of Spain in 1797. Located 25 miles north of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley, the convent is the largest freestanding adobe in California and was originally used as a hospice for travelers.
San Gabriel ArcangelFounded in 1771 by Junipero Serra, this fortress-like structure with 5-foot thick walls and narrow windows is a design not found in any other mission. One-fourth of the wealth of the California missions' in stock and grain was credited to San Gabriel.
San Luis Rey de FranciaKnown as the "King of the Missions," San Luis Rey de Francia lies in a sheltered valley just east of Oceanside on State Highway 76. Named for Louis IX, the crusading King of France, the cross-shaped church was dedicated on the Feast of St. Anthony in 1798 by Father Lasuen.
San Diego de AlcalaThe mission trail in California began here on July 16, 1769, when Fathers Serra, Palou and Parron planted a large cross in the beachhead near the mouth of the San Diego River. A bell was suspended from a nearby tree, and the site was dedicated to St. Didacus.
The Spanish Missions in California 21 Photos