With its steep hills, colorful Victorians, sea cliffs and surrounding bay, San Francisco's good looks are undeniable. But there's more to the city than just eye candy. San Francisco sites range from the epicure-focused Ferry Building Marketplace to the remote prison on Alcatraz Island. And what better way to navigate than by hopping aboard another San Francisco legend: the venerable cable car?
Sight #1: The Golden Gate Bridge
A great way to experience the most iconic of San Francisco sites is an early morning walk along it. Even pre-rush hour, there's some traffic gently shaking its steel cables. The fog might roll in, enveloping the walkway, and the wind might whip up, slapping your face. No matter. When you're about midway out, you'll see waves crashing into the headlands in front of you and the skyline rising through the mist to your right. It's utterly romantic.
Sight #2: The Ferry Building
Come any time of day to this historic spot and you'll hear its clock tower chiming with regularity. The ground floor marketplace and thrice-weekly famers' market are filled with local vendors serving up the goods that inspire California-cuisine chefs such as Alice Waters. Artisanal cheeses? Gourmet street food? A seat at the renowned Slanted Door for impeccable Vietnamese summer rolls and spicy salads? Take your pick!
Sight #3: The Cable Car
Simply put, your travels around San Francisco aren't complete until you've ridden one of its historic cable cars. All three lines climb steep grades, but the one with the steepest climbs is the Powell-Hyde. It runs from the turntable at Powell and Market streets and up and down both Nob Hill and Russian Hill before finishing at Ghirardelli Square on Fisherman's Wharf.
Sight #4: Alcatraz Island
A ferry ride away from frenetic Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz Island looms, wind-blown and surrounded by icy waters — all the better to discourage inmates from escaping "The Rock." Book one of the fascinating tours, which take you through the cellblocks that held notorious felons like Al Capone and Robert Stroud, the so-called Birdman of Alcatraz.
Sight # 5: Golden Gate Park
The obvious attractions — the rainforest dome at the California Academy of Sciences, the bursting blooms at the Conservatory of Flowers, the textiles and American art at the de Young Museum — provide hours of delight. Less-ventured quarters have their delights too, though. In Buffalo Paddock, for instance, you can see bison roam. And you need only hike Strawberry Hill, with its tucked-away statues and windmills, to discover why this green sward is the city's finest public park.