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The Grand Tour

Explore the best of San Francisco in a single day!
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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 18 miles
Duration: Full day
Family Friendly

Overview :  We take you on a counter-clockwise Grand Tour of San Francisco, on an 18 mile cruise around the best sites of the city.

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Points of Interest

1. Side Trip: 'Twisty' Lombard St.

A side trip here would add 0.9 miles to your total journey. There's elevation gain of 174ft (53m) to reach Lombard Street.

One of the most iconic images of San Francisco, Lombard Street is also one of the crookedest streets in the world. The quarter-mile long switchback road was designed this way in order to reduce the hill's natural 27% grade, which was considered too steep for cars and pedestrians alike.

3. SF Maritime National Park

Travel back in time to see how 19th Century sailors fared on the Pacific Ocean at the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, which includes tours of historic vessels, a visitor center, a maritime museum, and a library/research facility.

(415) 447-5000
Free admission to Hyde Street Pier.
Paid admission required to board vessels.
... More

Formerly the headquarters of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company this preserved block of historic brick buildings is now home to a selection of stores and restaurants.

(415) 775-5500
Free admission.
http://ghirardellisq.com

A side trip here would add 0.3 miles to your total journey. There are no hills on this side trip.

The Panama Pacific Exposition of 1915 was an event dedicated to progress, the celebration of the completion of the Panama Canal and the rebirth of San Francisco following the disastrous 1906 earthquake.

Considered by many the most romantic feature of the fair, the Palace of Fine Arts was the only building to remain in place after the demolition... More

A huge warehouse of science experiments, the Exploratorium has hundreds of hands-on exhibits for a child or an adult to explore, discover and play.

Touch magnetic black sand, watch a giant ring of mist rise 30 feet in the air, perform some math on a calculator powered by gravity, or crawl and feel your way through a dark obstacle course in the ... More

8. Side Trip: Wave Organ

A side trip here would add 0.9 miles to your total journey. There are no hills on this side trip.

9. Wave Organ

Listen to the music of the waves at the Wave Organ, an art installation that includes 25 organ pipes that rumbles, gurgles and sloshes when the waves move in and out of the pipes.

This piece of environmental art was created by Peter Richards and George Gonzales in 1986 for the Exploratorium, including pieces of masonry salvaged from a demolished... More

10. Side Trip: The Presidio

A side trip here would take you to the Presidio area which you may choose to explore in depth. View our Free Ride guide to see more details of routes in the Presidio.

In 1846 the U.S. Army took control of this once windswept dune area from Mexico and transformed it into a large military base called The Presidio. In 1994 the National Park Service took over the area and it became part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Today, the military buildings still stand, although non-profits, businesses and ... More

12. Yoda Statue

Today's Presidio has as much in common with Star Wars as it does wars past. The revitalized former military base is now home to many companies including famed movie special effects artists Industrial Light and Magic and LucasArts. This modest Jedi statue is a welcome nod to the current tenants. Impressive, it is.

Celebrating the life and achievements of the father of Mickey Mouse, the Walt Disney Family Museum is a relatively new addition to San Francisco having opened in 2009. The museum is a great attraction for both children and adults alike, as it presents the story of the man's rise to great things, as told by himself and those who knew him well.

... More

Once the military’s first Air Coast Defense Station on the Pacific Coast, Crissy Field is now a great place to take a break at one of the cafes or picnic tables that sit along a promenade trail. After a quick break you can head to the beach and watch the kiteboarders and windsurfers weave and bob under the Golden Gate bridge or check out the... More

Want to catch some air? House of Air is an indoor trampoline park that lets the kid in you jump and twist on a floor covered with 42 trampolines!

The trampoline floor is also surrounded on all sides by full-sized trampoline walls set at angles to the floor, allowing flyers maximum uninterrupted bounce.

(415) 345-9675
Paid admission.
... More

16. Side Trip: Fort Point

A side trip here would add 0.8 miles to your journey. There are no hills on this side trip.

17. Fort Point

The once grand military fortress guarding the entrance to San Francisco Bay is now dwarfed by the bridge stretching above it. Fort Point National Historic Site has been well preserved for its architectural and historical appeal and can be explored for free by the public.

(415) 556-1693
Free admission.
http://nps.gov/fopo/index.htm

18. Side Trip: Bike The Bridge

A side trip across the bridge and back would add 3.6 miles to your total journey.

Take your time weaving through the crowds on the eastern sidewalk and enjoy the city views, or speed along on the bike-only western sidewalk and marvel at the engineering and architectural genius behind the bridge. Or better yet, time it right and you can bike both ... More

The World Records that the Golden Gate Bridge held back in 1937 may have now been surpassed, but the jewel in San Francisco's crown remains proud as an icon of engineering and art-deco design and possibly the most recognizable bridge in the world.

Held in place by cables supported by the two 750ft tall towers, the 1.7 mile span connects the San... More

20. Rich and Famous

In a city where you need to be a millionaire to own the house the size of a shoebox, the dwellings in this neighborhood are notable by their size and equal parts elegance and garishness. To live around here you need to be particularly wealthy, or perhaps a famous comedian and celebrated actor ..

The Legion of Honor contains over seventy sculptures by Auguste Rodin, including a bronze caste of one of his more famous sculptures, The Thinker.

The Legion of Honor also has a collection of European painting from the 14th through 20th centuries including works by Fra Angelico, El Greco, Rubens, Rembrandt, Watteau, Gainsborough, Monet,... More

This dramatic clifftop location is a great place to enjoy a leisurely lunch or dinner whilst enjoying the Pacific Ocean views.

(415) 386-3330
http://www.cliffhouse.com

Two restaurants, one building. Choose the upstairs Beach Chalet for views facing Ocean Beach and some spectacular sunsets, or decide on the slightly less formal Park Chalet at ground level which opens up onto lawns and patios. Both venues are highly recommended.

(415) 386-8439
http://www.beachchalet.com
http://www.parkchalet.com

24. Dutch Windmill

One of two windmills located within the park, the restored Dutch Windmill is an impressive landmark. Commissioned in 1902 the windmills were built to pump water to the park, but became relics once more effective electric pumps took over pumping duties.

25. Bison Field

A legacy of a century old commitment to conservation, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park has been home to a small herd of bison since 1891 back when their numbers where dangerously low. Today’s animals still call the park home.

When you fancy a break from pedaling around the park, why not pedal around a Stow Lake instead? Or if you prefer to give your legs a rest, try renting a rowing boat instead to explore the lake, the waterfall and the pagoda. And try and spot some turtles, too.

Paid boat rental.
(415) 752-0347

USA's oldest public Japanese tea garden was originally built as the Japanese Village for the California Midwinter International Exposition in 1894, which pre-dates the more modern Worlds Fair festivals.

Wander through the garden and enjoy the decorative foilage, koi ponds, wooden bridges and artistic pagodas chased with a refreshing cup of tea... More

28. SF Botanical Gardens

The San Francisco Botanical Garden contains over 8,000 varieties of plants from around the world spread out over 55 landscaped acres. You can see plants from New Zealand, South Africa, East Asia, Chile, Australia, as well as California natives. There are also some special gardens including a Meso-American Cloud Forest, a Redwood Trail, and a... More

The De Young Museum not only has world class art, but also has one of the best views of Golden Gate Park and San Francisco at its observation tower, a glass enclosed structure that provides 360 degree views.

The museum’s general collection includes American Painting, American Decorative Art, African Art, Art of the Americas, Oceanic Art, and... More

The California Academy of Sciences is the only museum in the world that can boast an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum and a four-story rainforest dome all under the same roof. Speaking of the roof, the open-air observation deck on the museum roof features the densest concentration of native wildflowers in San Francisco.

(415) 379... More

The oldest wood and glass conservatory in North America, the Conservatory of Flowers is not only wonderful example of Victorian architecture, but it also houses exotic plants, tropical flowers, and special exhibits.

(415) 831-2090
Paid admission.
http://conservatoryofflowers.org

32. Children's Playground and Carousel

One of the oldest playgrounds in the United States is still a great place to take the kids - whether their preference is for the sand pit, climbing frames or concrete slides.

The area even includes a 1914 era classic wooden carousel complete with a menagerie of animals to ride from horses and camels, to frogs and ostriches!

A side trip here would add 0.3 miles to your total journey. This route is slightly uphill to Haight Ashbury.

If you’re going to San Francisco, you might want to be sure to wear flowers in your hair when you’re visiting Haight Ashbury, a neighborhood forever immortalized by the era of the Summer of Love.

Back in 1967 a perfect storm of counter-culture, psychedelic rock music and drug subculture all came together here. The Grateful Dead, Jefferson... More

A side trip here would add 0.2 miles to your total journey. You will have a hill to tackle on this side trip, but since the route is so short it should be a small obstacle only.

Surviving the twin threats of earthquakes and redevelopment, many fine examples of Victorian homes still exist today scattered throughout the city, but none are so well-known as the Painted Ladies on Alamo Square. You’ll have seen them in every guidebook and on every postcard rack (which is why this viewpoint is also known as 'Postcard Row') and... More

Rebuilt after being destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, the City Hall and surrounding landscape is an impressive sight to behold. Head inside the building and you’ll remain impressed, and you can even sign up for a free 45 minute tour.

Movie buffs may recognize the building from some prominent San Francisco films including Milk, Bedazzled, The... More

38. Westfield Shopping Center

Two blocks from Union Square, Westfield Shopping Center contains a Century Theatres multiplex and over 170 stores including the west coast flagship Bloomingdale's and the second largest Nordstrom store in the U.S.

(415) 512-6776
Free admission.
http://westfield.com/sanfrancisco

If you're looking to shop until you drop, then look no further than Union Square. The Union Square area of San Francisco includes hotels, department stores, upscale boutiques, theaters, etc.

Union Square was also the principal exterior location for the famous 1974 movie ‘The Conversation’, directed by San Francisco resident Francis Ford Coppola... More

40. SF Museum of Modern Art

SFMOMA includes 26,000 works of modern and contemporary art with an emphasis on photography, painting and sculpture, architecture and design, and media arts. The museum’s painting and sculpture collections include Abstract Expressionism, Conceptualism, German Expressionism, and the art of California. The photograph collection also comprises... More

Run by the non-profit organization that’s also responsible keeping the history of San Francisco public transit alive in the shape of the historic streetcars and the famed cable cars, this small museum is a goldmine of artifacts and exhibits for anyone with an interest in history or railway transportation.

(415) 974-1948
Free admission.
... More

Situated at the end of Market Street, there’s much more to the Ferry Building that merely catching a boat across the bay. Inside you’ll find many stores and cafes and restaurants vying for your attention including artisan foods, ice-cream and the immensely popular Slanted Door restaurant. Outside you’ll find farmer’s market stalls in front of the ... More

The 214ft towering landmark which sits atop Telegraph Hill has been gracing the San Francisco landscape since 1933. Often admired from afar, Coit tower is also worthy of a visit on a clear day. Views from the top of the hill are mightily impressive, plus you can continue to the top of the tower by elevator and enjoy the 360-degree views across the... More

Sailing from Pier 33, Alcatraz cruises is the only way to get on and off the The Rock, but that’s at least one more option than the prisoners of this island penitentiary had. In peak season be sure to purchase your tickets in advance.

(415) 981-7625
Paid admission includes both ferry and island.
http://www.alcatrazcruises.com
... More

Great but relatively small aquarium located by the entrance to Pier 39. Though not a world-class attraction, its a great location to while away a couple of hours entranced by a good selection of aquatic animals. Includes two tunnels and a touch pool where you can get up close and personal with leopard sharks and rays.

(415) 623-5300
Paid... More

The wildly popular large pier on the eastern side of Fisherman's wharf is a great place to come for a short stroll, a little shopping, or dining at one of more than a dozen restaurants.

Attractions even include a carousel, a 4D ride experience, a mirror maze and aquarium. And don't leave San Francisco without saying 'hi' to the sea lions who hang... More

47. Blue and Gold Fleet Ferry

The Blue and Gold Fleet ferries serve the routes listed below. The company additionally operates a RocketBoat during summer season and cruises around the bay.
• Pier 39/41 to Angel Island, Sausalito, Tiburon and Vallejo
• Ferry Building to Vallejo, Alameda/Oakland

(415) 705-8200
Paid admission.
Blue & Gold Fleet website.

Red and White Fleet's cruises sail from Pier 43½ at the heart of Fisherman's Wharf. They feature cruises of varying lengths to match your needs and offer the chance of romantic sunset and twilight cruises also.

(415) 673-2900
Paid admission.
http://www.redandwhite.com/

The Fisherman's Wharf is usually at the top of most visitors lists of places to visit in San Francisco. It may be for the many restaurants or crab stands, for the street performers, for the sea lions at the end of pier 39, for the bay views or just somewhere to while away the time waiting for a ferry, but this place sure draws the crowds.

Be sure... More

Home of one of the world's largest collections of antique mechanical arcade machines. Discover out how your great-grandparents were entertained before Playstation, Pacman and Pong.

For those remember Rubik's cubes and legwarmers and want a blast from their own past, the museum also features a selection of 1980s and 90s arcade machines in... More

Tour the depths of the US Pampanito submarine and learn about this World War II veteran which sank six enemy ships and damaged four others. Located behind the Musee Mechanique building.

(415) 775-1943
Paid admission.
http://maritime.org/tour/index.php

Only two of the 2,710 Liberty Ships built during the second world war, only two fully functional vessels remain. The SS Jeremiah O'Brien survived the war intact, even after making several wartime voyages including eleven trips across the English Channel carrying personnel and supplies to Normandy in support of the D-Day landings.

You can take a... More

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