In this issue:
- Which Airport?
- The Famous Bridge
- Ride a Landmark
- The Rock
- San Francisco's #1 Attraction
- Calling all Shoppers
- Ethnic Delights
- Theme Parks
- Where to Stay
- Featured Hotels
- Travel Deals
Welcome to the April 2012 issue of USATourist News Magazine. This month we're heading to San Francisco, California, one of the greatest U.S. cities. Not only is this region naturally scenic, it also has an interesting history complete with a major gold rush and a cultural melting pot with good food, entertainment and attractions.
The San Francisco Bay Area is served by two airports: San Francisco International Airport and Oakland International Airport but some tourists find competitive rates at other alternative airports: San Jose, Sacramento and Reno. We suggest you price compare all of the airport options before purchasing your ticket. You may find a much better rate at one of the alternative airports.
The Famous Bridge
The Golden Gate strait connects the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. Spanning the strait is the eye-catching 1.7 mile Golden Gate Bridge. It links the city of San Francisco to Marin County. As one of the most photographed bridges in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge is a joy to view from all angles. Visitors can cross the bridge in one of the 120,000 automobiles that drive cross the bridge every day. Another option is to cross by foot or on bike on the assigned paths. But crossing the bridge isn't the only way to experience this iconic landmark. Helicopter sightseeing companies offer aerial tours and several boat companies offer water tours around the Bay Area and under the Bridge.
Speaking of water vessels, the nearby San Francisco National Maritime Park is worth a stop while you're in the area. The historic vessels are docked at Hyde Street Pier and many of the ships are open for public viewing.
If you're interested in extending your water experience, every year from December through May is whale migration season. 15,000 gray whales swim south from the Arctic to Baja California, the location of their breeding and calving grounds.
Ride a Landmark
In the city, San Francisco's cable cars have been a popular transportation choice since 1873 as well as a tourist attraction. The cars, which run on tracks and are moved by an underground cable, run three routes. You can hear the trolley bells even when blocks away.
Speaking of landmarks, we can't leave out Lombard Street which has earned the title: "Crookedest Street in San Francisco." Even if you don't have a rental car, Lombard Street is worth visiting for the photo opportunity. This street has to be seen to be believed!
See that big island in the Bay with a structure and light house on it? That's Alcatraz where some of the most notorious prisoners were held captive. Today it's one of the Bay Area's most popular tourist attractions. When I took a cruise tour around The Rock a few years ago I learned many things, including that many prisoners attempted to escape but none were successful. I highly recommend a cruise when you're in the area. The cruise tours are fun, scenic and educational.
San Francisco Shuttle Tours, a popular and highly-rated tour operator, has a variety of tours including an unforgettable night-time tour of Alcatraz.
San Francisco's #1 Attraction
Fisherman's Wharf is another favorite stop among tourists and for good reason, there's lots to do and plenty of action. For one, it is where a famous group of sea lions relax in the sun, entertaining viewers who watch from the pier or from one of the nearby restaurants. This is also where you will find the bustling Pier 39 with its many shops and attractions including the Wax Museum and Ripley's Believe It or Not! As for dining, you can't go wrong with the seafood options including Dungeness Crab available at outdoor crab stands, fresh sourdough bread, and locally made chocolate.
Tip: You can view Alcatraz from Fisherman's Wharf and two of the three cable car lines have a nearby stop.
Calling all Shoppers
A visit to San Francisco wouldn't be complete without a stop at Union Square. This is where you will find art galleries, designer boutiques, salons, and major department stores such as Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue as well as the second-largest Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom in the United States.
Despite its name, you won't find a beach at North Beach but you will discover San Francisco's Italian district. Roam the European-style sidewalk cafes, restaurants and shops centered near Washington Square along Columbus and Grant Avenues. Two must-sees in this area are the Church of Saints Peter and Paul and Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill which offers fantastic Bay views as well as impressive 1930's painted floor-to-ceiling murals.
The 24 blocks of Chinatown draw the crowds on a daily basis. The entrance is located at Grant Avenue, the oldest street in San Francisco, and Bush Street is called the "Dragon's Gate". You can easily spend a day here browsing the shops, museums, and food markets and dining at any of the authentic Chinese restaurants. One of the attractions I can't wait to visit is the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory where you can see the treats made first-hand.
While Southern California usually gets the attention in the theme park realm, the San Francisco area has a couple of options for thrill seekers. At California's Great America in Santa Clara the main focus is fun, fun, fun with thrill rides galore, special events and live entertainment.
Six Flags Marine World in Vallejo not only appeals to theme park lovers, but also animal lovers. In addition to the number of thrill, family and kid rides, this 135-acre park features dolphins, sharks, seals, sea lions, walruses, birds, tigers, elephants, and beautiful butterflies.
Where to Stay
Unless you are able to get an air and hotel package you will likely encounter very high hotel prices if you plan to stay in the city of San Francisco. For those of you who wish to keep your costs down and stick to a budget look to the outer cities such as South San Francisco or Oakland for more affordable lodging. Another option is hostels. San Francisco has a nice selection of affordable hostels, many of which are within walking distance of main attractions or with easy access to the Bay Area's fantastic public transportation.
Thank you for reading USATourist News Magazine. We hope you've enjoyed this issue. Please visit our forums to join in discussions about travel in the United States.
Parc 55 Wyndham San Francisco - Union Square - Stay in the center of the shopping district at this 4-star hotel. The Parc 55 is within easy walking distance of shops, the theatre distict and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. With rates starting at $129, this is an economical option if you wish to stay in the city.
Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco - If you've got a bigger budget and want to experience a posh San Francisco Hotel, stay at the Four Seasons. This elegant hotel is located in the center of everything and has all of the modern amenities you'd expect from a 5-star hotel! Rates start at $415 USD.
Hotel Kabuki - This hotel is located in the heart of Japantown. It's just minutes from top attractions like Chinatown, Nob Hill, Fisherman's Wharf, Union Square, and Golden Gate Park. The beautiful Japanese style decor brings a touch of the east to the west! Rates are as low as $110 per night.
Written by: Elizabeth L. Blair
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