This past summer may have been the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love in San Francisco, but there definitely won’t be any next-day regrets for visitors to the great California city by the bay who missed the festivities honouring the hippie fest of 1967 and still plan to visit this fall, or any other time for that matter.
I’ve been several times, but my enduring image of the city is a photo of three travel industry ne’er-do-wells at an epic IPW evening party a few years ago at Alcatraz, the trio hamming it up behind prison bars, one even daring to sit on the toilet.
And sadly, I also still have that jingle – Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco treat – rumbling around somewhere in the back of my brain.
Nevertheless, delegates at that annual IPW U.S. trade show learned – or were reminded of – what most of us in the travel industry suspect, know or simply take for granted: that San Francisco rates as one of not only North America’s, but the world’s, great destinations.
Surprisingly small at only 80 sq. km. – hence immensely walkable – it’s easy to see a lot in a little time, making it a perfect long-weekend getaway. Throw in nearby gems like Sausalito, Muir Woods National Monument (for the redwoods), Santa Cruz, Big Sur, and the wine valleys of Napa and Sonoma, and one could easily make a week of it.
So, now that you’re planning an excursion, I offer a list of sights and experiences certain to ensure that you, or your clients, leave your heart in San Francisco:
• The Golden Gate Bridge – Arguably the most famous bridge in the world impresses even the most experienced travellers with its stunning 2.7-km. span. A pedestrian walkway allows crossing on foot, and bikes are allowed on the western side. The Bridge is said to be one of the most photographed things on Earth.
• Cable cars – In operation since the late 19th century, the cars are synonymous with the city and make a great and inexpensive ($6/ticket) sightseeing excursion along three routes that rise and descend along San Francisco’s famous hills.
• Alcatraz – Better known as “The Rock,” the notorious former prison, sitting in the middle of San Francisco Bay (and usually attractively surrounded by sailboats), is as iconic as the Golden Gate Bridge. Home to some of the United States' most notorious criminals until closing in the 1960s, the island facility never suffered a successful escape. Visitors today get there by Alcatraz Cruises ferry from Pier 33 to explore the prison and grounds, including recorded cell-house tours. Advance reservations are recommended, 415-981-ROCK (7625).
• Fisherman's Wharf – The festive waterfront marketplace and home Pier 39, is one of the city's most popular attractions. This is the place to see the colourful community of California sea lions and sample of bowl of chowder in a sour dough bowl. It’s also a short walk from attractions like Madame Tussauds, the San Francisco Dungeon, Ripley's Believe It or Not! and the famous crab vendors selling walk-away crab and shrimp cocktails.
• Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill offers a splendid vantage point for photos of the bridges and the Bay.
• Chinatown is 24 busy blocks filled with restaurants, food markets, temples and small museums, and is accessible through the “Dragon’s Gate” at Grant Avenue and Bush Street.
• For everybody’s inner hippie, Haight-Ashbury, is the epicentre of the Summer of Love… Meanwhile, the San Francisco Public Library continues to host the exhibit “50th anniversary of Love and Haight” through Oct. 29.
• Lombard Street – the famous “crooked” street with eight hairpin switchbacks in one block (framed by gorgeous flowerbeds) – is a must-have photo… GPS 1099 Lombard to find the right spot.
• Disney fans will find an unexpected treat at the Disney Family Museum founded by Walt’s daughter Diane Disney Miller to tell the story of her father – including his Canadian connections – from a personal and family perspective. The history ends at Walt’s death in the 1966 and the exhibit of newspaper condolences from around the world is heartwarming. The museum is located in the Presidio.
• Sailing and speedboat tours of the bay are ubiquitous, the latter often pausing for effect beside the scenic bayside AT&T baseball park.
• Union Square is shopping central.
• North Beach, the city's Italian quarter, is a neighborhood of romantic European-style sidewalk cafés, restaurants and shops centred near Washington Square along Columbus and Grant avenues. The beautiful Church of Saints Peter and Paul is a beloved landmark.
• For a complete list of dining and nightlife options, visit www.sanfrancisco.travel/explore/dining and www.sanfransico.travel/explore/nightlife .
• Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection is adding a fifth “Super Ship” to its fleet of floating boutique hotels on European waterways. After an extensive renovation, The River Beatrice will be transformed into the S.S. Beatrice after an extensive bow-to-stern renovation and will set sail on its maiden voyage in Europe on April 4, 2018.
• Goway has teamed up with Qantas to offer a $55 incentive for its Icons of Australia tours – “six distinct packages [designed] to unlock Australia’s most memorable sights, along with some of its hidden corners.” (GowayAgent.com)
• Clients clamouring for the Cayman Islands this fall will be delighted to know that the Fall Only In Cayman promotion offers up to 40 per cent off accommodations, watersports, dining and more when booked by Oct. 31, for travel through Dec. 15. Accessible by Air Canada from Toronto in four hours, Cayman is known for its amazing beaches, high-end resorts, excellent scuba diving, modern culinary scene and attractions like Stingray City, where waders can encounter Sting Rays in the open ocean. Visit http://www.caymanislands.ky/ca for details and participating hotels.
This & That
• New destinations Borneo and Mongolia highlight G Adventures 2018 National Geographic Journeys line-up, which features 83 tours including less-travelled wildlife parks in Tanzania and Botswana. The National Geographic Journeys line offers hands-on exploration with an emphasis on storytelling, local immersion and social good. Tour prices start at $1,249.
• To celebrate its 70th anniversary in 2018, Costa Cruises is offering savings on sailings that depart on or after April 1. The anniversary promotion, which must be booked by Oct. 23, 2017, gives guests up to $500 in discount vouchers per cabin that can be used toward a selection of onboard experiences. In addition to this special booking incentive, Costa will have a series of onboard and shore-side initiatives throughout 2018 centring on its milestone year.
• Increased capacity to Alaska and cruises to Cuba highlight Norwegian Cruise Line’s recently announced summer 2018 season. The former includes the addition of the Norwegian Bliss and the return of the Norwegian Jewel to the routes from Seattle, Seward and Vancouver. Meanwhile, the Norwegian Sun will reposition to Port Canaveral, Fla., in order to offer four-day cruises to Havana and three-day cruises to the Bahamas.
Words of the Week!
“Last year alone, 1.235 million travellers crossed international borders in one single year. By 2030, this 1.2 billion will become 1.8 billion. The question, as we celebrate World Tourism Day 2017, is how we can enable this powerful global transformative force, these 1.8 billion opportunities, to contribute to make this world a better place and to advance sustainable development in all its three pillars. This World Tourism Day, whenever you travel, wherever you travel, remember to respect nature, respect culture and respect your host.”
- UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai on the importance of World Tourism Day, Sept. 27.
San Francisco rates as one of not only North America's, but the world's, great destinations.