Winding streets and busy wharfs, balmy days and sea salt tang mixing with the scent of newly minted money, San Francisco has gone from a NorCal culture capital to a dot-com paradise. The City By the Bay is decidedly tourist-friendly, and the new $100 million cruise ship terminal (with climate-controlled boarding areas and a passenger elevator) makes it even more hospitable.
What We Love
Golden Gate Park: This park seems to span almost the full length of the city and is as beloved by residents as it is visitors. The 1,017-acre expanse has many magical places, including the Japanese Tea Garden, Strawberry Hill, and the aquarium.
Chinatown: The oldest Chinatown in the country, this neighborhood feels totally foreign, even while welcoming thousands of tourists a day. Get dim sum, peek into the alleyways, and explore the exotic herb shops.
Best Known For
Golden Gate Bridge: Whether resplendent under clear skies or partially obscured in fog, this iconic red bridge is a must for the photo albums and has sidewalks for pedestrians and bikers.
Pier 39: More than the seafood, sailboats, and street performers, the must-see attraction here is the sea lions. Sunbathing, sniffing the air, slipping off the buoys for a swim, these charming creatures beg for your attention.
Shop for Cruises
Who It's Best For
Wine Aficionados: Bottles from California's top wineries don't have to travel far to get here. And you’ll be surprised how affordable the low end is.
Big Spenders: Whether you’re looking for art or jewelry, independent designers or obscure imports, the world’s best is right at your fingertips. Plan on blowing your budget and not regretting it a bit.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Bye-Bye, Bohemia: The tech boom in and around San Fran brought an influx of new residents (and a higher cost of living), moving out a lot of the Haight-Ashbury hippies, as well as the funky vibe the city was known for.
Lena Katz is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Brides.