Planning to head to the Bay Area for the upcoming Super Bowl 50? Chances are if you’re heading to Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, you’re flying into San Francisco International Airport, and if so, we’ve got just the itinerary for you. If you’re planning on arriving a few days early and staying a few days after the big game to take in the sights, here are some Bay Area experiences not to be missed!
Image Source: http://www.latimes.com/
Golden Gate Bridge
Let’s face it, trying to pull together a list of ‘sights not to miss’ for a city as iconic and diverse as San Francisco is nearly impossible. That being said, the famous Golden Gate Bridge really shouldn’t be missed, especially if it’s your first time in the Golden State. This feat of architecture dominates the San Francisco skyline and makes for some incredible views of city skyscrapers and the open waters of the Pacific Ocean. Consider either renting a car to drive across the bridge to take in the sights from Vista Point, or getting in some serious cardio by renting a bike and pedaling across this California landmark. If you’re there late enough in the day, be sure to also say hi to Karl the Fog. No, seriously, he even has his own Twitter account.
Golden Gate Park
Speaking of bicycling, Golden Gate Park is not to be missed, especially if you’re on a bike and trying to see as much as possible in a short span. Dominating over 1,000 acres of public grounds, this park is the site for many a San Francisco festival or an everyday lunch break. If you’ve got the stamina to get from one end of the park to other, you’ll also run into sites like the the de Young Museum and California Academy of Science, where you could spend an entire day trying to see everything. As you reach the beach end of the park, relax and let your feet sink into the sand as you enjoy the ocean views.
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Just as much as snacking and tailgating are integral to any Super Bowl party, so is discovering great food in San Francisco. It’s safe to say you’ll find many a palette-pleasing dish around the Bay, but the Mission is where to head if you’re in search of some of the best hole in the wall establishments in one of the most eclectic and artsy neighborhoods. From traditional Salvadoran pupusas to refreshingly modern cocktails, a foodie love affair is sure to occur. You (and your appetite) can thank us later.
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If you’re there on the weekend, you’ll likely be facing some serious crowds, but Union Square is a must for any newbie to San Francisco. This bustling public square is bordered by a variety of stores, so If you’re looking to get your shopping on before the big game (forget to pack that lucky team jersey? We get it.) you’ll find everything you need and more. Once you’re ready to head to another part of the city, hop aboard one of the iconic cable cars (the Powell-Market Turntable is a popular choice for many) and enjoy the fresh air on your face as you avoid having to trek up one of the many hills this city is known for.
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No visit to San Francisco would be complete without a visit to Fisherman’s Wharf, a waterfront location home to to everything from fresh seafood restaurants, to Ghirardelli Square (heads up, chocolate lovers!), the famous Pier 39, and Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum. This is a part of the city where you can walk around feeling the ocean breeze on your face as you collect souvenirs from one of the many gift shops, pop over to see the sea lions lounging in the sun on the docks, and enjoy some of the most delicious clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls. You’re also not far from the North Beach neighborhood, which is also called “Little Italy” and offers up some of the best Italian cuisine in city. Take a cable car to get there or stretch your legs and enjoy the walk.
Once a federal prison from 1933 until 1963, this facility is now an iconic sight in the bay and attracts many a tourist, for good reason. The notorious prison was once home to Al Capone and is also the site of the oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast of the US. Visitors can get a better idea of what life may have been like for prisoners by taking a ferry across the bay from Pier 33 and participating in an audio tour. If you run into any ghosts, we suggest giving them a wide berth, unless of course you were in search of some spectral friends.
Palace of Fine Arts
The next sight on this itinerary will take you to the Marina district of San Francisco, where you’ll be awed by the Palace of Fine Arts. This Greco-Roman architectural attraction hosts many a performing arts event, but even if you’ve only got a few hours to pop by, standing underneath the ornate dome and strolling along the nearby walkways will provide plenty to admire. It’s also worth noting that the Palace of Fine Arts is one of the few surviving structures from the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition and continues to occupy it’s original site.
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With a city that has as much personality as San Francisco, it’s essential to head to the Castro district to get a feel for the LGBTQ history that is so tied to the Bay Area. The Castro was one of the very first gay neighborhoods in the US and it remains a prominent symbol for equal rights through the activism and events that take place in the neighborhood. If you’ve got some time, a visit to the Castro Theatre is also a must, as it’s one of San Francisco’s premier movie houses (and has been around since 1922).
Last but not least, is the oldest Chinatown in North America. Make your way down to the The Gateway Arch on Grant Avenue at Bush Street and prepare yourself for discovering some of the most delicious Asian-inspired foods, browsing eclectic gift shops, and soaking up the culture of this district. San Francisco’s Chinatown is home to the largest Chinese community outside of Asia, and it’s influence on the city makes it a major tourist attraction. At the very least, make a pit stop for some Dim Sum and explore part of the neighborhood where iconic authors like Amy Tan grew up and found inspiration for the works they created.
Chances are you won’t be going there for the Super Bowl but this is an area you cannot miss. Check out our #USAmazing series and it won’t be long until you will be booking your adventure.
Authored By: Tiffany Harrison, STA Travel Communications Manager. Tiffany lived in San Francisco for two years (and hopes to see the South Carolina Panthers win the Super Bowl this year!).