Tuesday, 6 December 2011 12:30 PM
If you're planning a USA city break, one destination that's essential to include on your itinerary is San Francisco. Situated in California, this gem is renowned for its wonderful mix of attractions, which include everything from the world-famous Alcatraz to the stunning Golden Gate Bridge. It is this diverse array of sights and experiences that makes the city such an excellent place to spend a few days during any tour of California – particularly on fly-drive holidays.
Indeed, there's no better way to experience America than by hiring a car and setting off down iconic highways, chasing the horizon. If exploring California in a Mustang appeals to you, make sure you don't miss out on discovering all San Francisco has to offer. There is certainly plenty to see, and you'll find you could easily spend more than a few days here. So, if you intend to stay for a weekend, you should plan ahead to make sure you do all the things that interest you most.
Of course, you're bound to want your San Francisco holiday to include a few of the city's best-loved sights – some of which are familiar icons of the US as a whole. However, there are numerous lesser-known gems you should seek out too. Because there is such a wide-ranging medley of things to see and do, you're certain to find something that captures your imagination.
Perhaps one of the most charming things about San Francisco is that it's an amazing place to discover on foot – particularly due to the richly diverse neighbourhoods it is home to. So, a good way to begin your time here is simply to spend a while ambling around some of its fascinating districts. The vast area of Chinatown, overflowing with noisy markets, temples and specialist shops, is a great place to start.
Meanwhile, for a contrasting view of the city, take a walk around Nob Hill, where you'll discover some wonderful examples of Victorian homes. What's more, if you head from here to Russian Hill, you can expect to see some truly spectacular views of the city. Of course, if you are spending just a weekend here, you are likely to want to see some of San Francisco's iconic structures too – and to free up some more time you could opt to take evening walking tours, which will allow you to explore other areas during the daylight hours.
Undoubtedly one of the most famous structures in San Francisco – and indeed the US – the Golden Gate Bridge is an essential ingredient of any weekend to remember in the city. Widely considered to be one of the world's most beautiful bridges, this top attraction marks the San Francisco Bay joining with the Pacific Ocean. Either before or after admiring this world-famous achievement, you might like to visit Golden Gate National Park, which spans almost 1,000 acres of greenery, gardens and museums. This is an excellent place to relax and soak up the sun, but also a fantastic spot for walks – and you can certainly expect to see some incredible scenery. Why not hire a bike to explore the grounds at a faster pace?
Another famous site that's something of a must-see during your weekend in San Francisco is Alcatraz. Best known for being a federal prison, this tiny island – often referred to as 'The Rock' – also once served as a lighthouse and a military fortification. It is situated 1.5 miles offshore and can be reached by a short ferry ride. Taking a tour of the facility, you can see where notorious criminals, such as Al Capone and Mickey Cohen, were held – while night tours are also available for particularly daring holidaymakers.
Before you depart San Francisco to explore the next city on your itinerary – or to head home – stop off at the Palace of Fine Arts, which hosts an array of events. This beautiful structure is a pleasure simply to look at, however, and dates back to 1915. Situated in the Marina District, it was created as part of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition and is one its few remaining buildings.
So, if you're interested in California holidays, make sure you visit San Francisco – a city that boasts a fascinating blend of cultures and attractions. By choosing to drive around this exciting state, you could also see destinations such as Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Big Sur.