Cultural Experience | California

12 Hour Guide to San Francisco

Two Friends, One day in One City.


Last Summer, a bunch of friends and I decided to go to the music festival Outside Lands, in the beautiful San Francisco.  I decided to go up a day early and stay with my best friend Madi, who lives in Marin County, right across the Golden Gate Bridge.  I was born and raised in Los Angeles so we have had the classic debate several times about which city is, in fact, better.  She spent the whole day showing me around San Francisco and I must say that it puts up a tough competition.


After making the short drive across the bridge and into the city, Madi took me to a really cool breakfast place called Porkstore Cafe on Haight St. and Ashbury (a very famous area I’ll talk more about later.)  This place has the classic diner look with a cool edgy feel.   I got the Piggy Special which comes with 2 eggs, 2 french toasts, and sausage and it was absolutely delicious.  It fills you up way faster than you think!


We walked out of Porkstore and walked around The Haight.  This area is known for its hippie culture mostly because The Summer of Love that happened in the 1960’s.  During this time, this district was the center for the hippie lifestyle, marijuana, LSD, and the psychedelic rock music.  Since then it has kept its bohemian ambience and is filled with interesting thrift shops and record stores to look through.  However, most importantly, it is home to one of the original Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shops.  This provides for a delicious snack.


San Francisco is known for its extremely hilly streets and iconic cable cars.  At this point in the day, we hopped on a cable car and headed downtown to shop around until we got hungry.  In Union Square we saw the Heroes and Heart art, which are cute sculptures of hearts.  We shopped around the mall and the huge Macy’s for an hour or so before we got pretty hungry.

Fisherman's Wharf Ryan image

Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf

Madi had already decided where we were going for lunch: Fisherman’s Wharf.  This is right on the harbor and is filled with small shops and farmer’s markets of seafood.  You can really pick any of the tiny shops and grab some quick calamari or fish and chips, which is exactly what we did.   There are a few must-see places in this area that are all walking distance from each other:

Boudin: This is a huge store where you can actually watch delicious fresh sourdough bread being made.  You can even get the bread formed into different shapes to take home with you.  This is the place to go for some amazing clam chowder in a bread bowl.  Yes, we ate our way through San Francisco.

Pier 39: If you think sea lions are really, really cute, this is the place for you.  There are hundreds of them sitting around this pier.  There is also an aquarium, carousel, food stands, and your basic pier arcade games.

Ghirardelli Square: If you are a chocolate fan this is your own personal heaven.  Hot chocolate, chocolate ice cream, chocolate bars, you name it.  The ambiance is really quaint and romantic as well.  It’s a good place to go to with a boyfriend or girlfriend.  But, I would go there completely alone if I had to.

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The iconic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco


On our way back to the house to freshen up and change for a night out, we made two stops.  First, we stopped at the classic sightseeing spot to take pictures in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.  From here one can also get on a boat to the famous Alcatraz Island.  This is home to an abandoned prison that many claim is still haunted.  Tours are available for a creepy look at the old military turned federal prison.

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A military bunker covered in graffiti in Marin

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The Marin Headlands

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View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the headlands


On the other side of the bridge is the Marin Headlands.  Madi brought me here to show me the amazing view of the water and the bridge as well as the old military bunkers that remain fully intact.  This was one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen.  There are multiple places to stop and take pictures.


Once we got back into the city, Madi took me to the Marina District where all the bars and nightlife are located.  If you are a college traveller, this is where you want to be come 9:00 p.m.  Dinner was had at Roam Burgers.  For a decent price you get to create your own burger and get a huge order of french fries on the side.  This is definitely the way to go to start off a night involving drinking.


At this point, the bars in the Marina were packed and full of young people.  We went to Matrix, Mcteagues,and Stock In Trade.  These are all within walking distance of each other! Matrix is more modern and classy with a dance floor.  It’s located in the Fillmore Hotel.  Mcteagues is more on the sports bar side with many TV’s and a pool table.  And Stock In Trade is a tavern that also serves great dinner.  These are only some of the really cool bars I saw.  Basically, the Marina District is where it’s at.

Gian Ryan

UC Santa Barbara | 10 stories

Hi there! I'm Gian. I am currently a sophomore at UC Santa Barbara studying political science. In my teenage years I have been around the states and Europe to places like France, Spain, and England. I have visited Morocco and Lebanon. I am studying abroad in Florence, Italy in the coming fall. I'll be spending my summer in Los Angeles writing some fun and informative articles about traveling in college! Can't wait to get started.

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