When in San Francisco, do as the locals do

San Francisco isn’t very large in size, but with all the hills, it can feel a lot more spread out than it actually is. Sightseeing here can easily fill up a few days and the list of things to do is rather endless.

The Golden Gate Bridge. Image credit: iStock
The Golden Gate Bridge. Image credit: iStock

While popular attractions like Golden Gate Bridge or Alcatraz Island can easily fill up a whole day, there are a few ways to sneak in some fun things to do in San Francisco if you only have a couple of hours free in your schedule.

These quick-visit suggestions should help you get your tourist fix while still giving you something unique to do.

Climb the hills

Most visitors try and avoid the hills as much as possible, but why not break from the norm and use the city’s landscape to improve your workout. The natural inclinations offer some challenging ascents for even the most physically fit, but it’s all in your approach – walk, run or sprint, it’s up to you.

Some of the steepest streets to tackle include Filbert between Leavenworth and Hyde (31.5 percent grade); 22nd Street between Church and Vicksburg (31.5 percent grade); Jones between Union and Filbert (29 percent grade); and Duboce Avenue between Alpine and Buena Vista (27.9 percent grade).

Be sure to enjoy the views and snap some pics before you make your way back downhill.

Beat a personal best on one of the many hills in San Francisco. Image credit: ibsky/iStock
Beat a personal best on one of the many hills in San Francisco. Image credit: ibsky/iStock

Grab a cold one

There’s always time for a fresh, cold beer, right? Something is always brewing in San Francisco, especially at Anchor Brewing Company, where several unique beers are produced in one of the most traditional and handsome breweries in the world.

Tours are offered, reservation-only, at specific times all through the week, excluding holidays. Be sure to book yours via their website.

The San Francisco Brewers Guild also sponsors a number of events and has a map of local breweries on their website,  in case you have time to make more than one stop.

Museums for a taste of history

If you’re going to spend time visiting a museum, San Francisco is the city to do it in. Top tip: many museums in the city have extended hours at least once a week. Evening hours tend to be less crowded and an early dinner at the museum café can be the perfect prelude to an art lark.

There are a range of museums to choose from, including the Asian Art MuseumContemporary Jewish Museum, the ExploratoriumCalifornia Academy of Sciences and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).

Board a ferry

For a convenient and enjoyable way to see the city, why not hop on a ferry for a round trip across San Francisco’s central waterfront.

Many ferries criss-cross the bay as the sun carves deep shadows across the waterfront, making for some epic photographic shots of the city skyline and bridges. Adult fares range from approximately 14 USD to 29 USD (round-trip) for passages to Alameda, Angel Island, Oakland, Sausalito, South San Francisco, Tiburon, and Vallejo. Be sure to jump onto the Water Emergency Transportation Authority’s website to review schedules and departure points.

Pier 14 along San Francisco's waterfront. Image credit: iStock
Pier 14 along San Francisco’s waterfront. Image credit: iStock

Visit the wharf in South Beach

Brannan Street Wharf opened in July 2013 in the heart of the city’s South Beach neighborhood. Built over the Bay, the 57,000-square-foot space includes a neighborhood green, a waterside walkway with seating and picnic tables, and a shade structure for those sunny days.

Just around the corner is Mission Creek Park, the first of many parks and open spaces being developed in the Mission Bay neighborhood. The three-acre park is divided into north and south areas by Mission Creek and offers up shade trees, pathways, benches, and gentle grass-covered hills to help unwind after a busy day. You can access the park from sunrise to 10 p.m. daily. And for bird lovers, bring binoculars.

Head for the overlook at Sutro Heights Park

Ask your Blacklane driver to take you to the corner of Pt. Lobos Avenue and 48th Avenue in the outer Richmond District, where two stone lions guard the entrance of an old carriage road, which meanders through the grounds of 19th-century millionaire and former Mayor of San Francisco Adolph Sutro’s estate.

The elements have reclaimed all but a few pieces of statuary including the lions and a parapet, which offers a dazzling view of the Pacific Ocean and the Farallon Islands. This might be one of the best-kept viewpoints in the city.

Stroll through the San Francisco Botanical Garden

Open 365 days a year with seasonal hours, the 55-acre park in Golden Gate Park has more than 7500 varieties of plants from around the world. Of particular interest are the Coast Redwoods, one of the most remarkable and unique plant communities in the world. A brochure detailing a self-guided trail walk through these majestic trees and more than 100 associated species can be downloaded from the website.