San Francisco first stops
In a city with so many choices, these are big questions. Cut the confusion with our quick guide to San Francisco's top spots.
Make a beeline for San Fran's two most famous experiences. Start with a cable car city tour for a commuter's view of the city's spectacular hills and harbour. Then get yourself over the Golden Gate Bridge on foot, by bike or on a bus. If you're travelling with kids, you can even ride over the bridge on a vintage open-air fire truck. Going under the bridge - on a boat trip - is another way to discover this awe-inspiring feat of engineering.
North Beach is San Francisco's own slice of Italy. Visit during the day for a perfect espresso at one of the many bakeries or delicatessens. You'll need a little something with that - a slice of Sacripantina cake or maybe a blissful serving of authentic tiramisu. In the afternoon and evening, North Beach becomes cocktail central. Find your way to Columbus Avenue for a martini or craft beer on tap. There's a dimly-lit speakeasy feel about some of the North Beach bars, harking back to the Prohibition days of the 1920s.
AT&T Ballpark, home of the San Francisco Giants, has massive views of the city and bay. You can watch a ballgame and get a big hit of scenery at the same time. To do this properly, you'll need to equip yourself with an American hotdog and a pitcher of beer (not to be confused with the pitcher on field). Another play place is Golden Gate Park, where you can try fly-fishing, rent a bike, go skating or play golf.
Yerba Buena Gardens are right in the cultural centre of downtown San Francisco - an oasis of water features, sculptures and botanical beauty amidst the skyscrapers. Within the park, the Martin Luther King Memorial is truly inspirational. You can walk behind its thundering waterfalls to read his powerful words etched on glass. There's also a restored carousel (merry-go-round) from 1905 and on most days free performances bring people together on the large lawn.
The vibrant historic neighbourhood known as Fisherman's Wharf dates back to the mid-1800s and is home to the city's fishing fleet. It’s also where you’ll find more than a 100 restaurants. Some of the best (and least-touristy) are on the fringe of the area, so wear walking shoes. Look for Dungeness crab, risotto with lobster, striped bass and clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. And make sure you leave room for dessert - the American passion for sweet things is right at home in San Francisco. Before or after, visit the wild sea lions lazing about at Pier 39.
Alcatraz Island has played host to some of America's most notorious criminals - including Al 'Scarface' Capone, 'the Birdman' Robert Stroud, George 'Machine Gun' Kelly and Harlem mafioso 'Bumpy' Johnson. It's a formidable landmark that's packed with hair-raising stories. However it's not all murder and mayhem on Alcatraz, the island is also home to beautiful rare flowers and plants, marine wildlife and roosting birds. Your escape to Alcatraz starts at Pier 33.
per person one way from Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch
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