Which San Francisco Tour Is Best for You? Here Are Our Recommendations
From cruises to foodie tours, we've got you covered with the top San Francisco tours for you.
Tours are a great way to learn the ins and outs of a new travel destination; but with so many great landmarks, historic sites, restaurants, and film locations, it can be difficult choosing the best tours of San Francisco. Lucky for you, we've discovered a wide variety of the very best tours that eclectic and cultural San Francisco has to offer. So whether its classic Alcatraz and Bay Cruises or eat-your-way-through-SF foodie tours, we've got you covered with the top San Francisco tours for you.
For the San Francisco Classic: Alcatraz and Bay Cruise
Alcatraz is most famous as a penitentiary that housed some of the United States's most notorious criminals, such as Al Capone and the "Birdman" Robert Stroud. Few are aware of the island's extensive and fascinating history. Around 10,000 to 20,000 years ago, the San Francisco Bay Area's native peoples, the Ohlone and Miwok, would come to Alcatraz to gather food, especially bird eggs. Even today, the island is home to a large amount of rare flowers and plants, marine wildlife, and sea birds. Then, during the US Civil War, the island was used a defense fort. It wasn't until 1934 that Alcatraz became a penitentiary. Following its closing, Alcatraz then became the site of an American Indian protest movement, where for 18 months they occupied the island. The event is now considered a significant moment in American Indian history and each year, Native Americans of all tribes go to Alcatraz Island on Columbus and Thanksgiving Day to hold a sunrise ceremony and to commemorate the Occupation.
Currently the island is a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area because of its unique human and natural history. Take a ferry to visit the island with Alcatraz Cruises, the official vessel of the National Park Service. The vessel is the nation's first hybrid ferry that is mostly powered by solar panels, wind turbines, and grid electricity. Even its carpet, countertops, and fixtures are made of recycled and sustainable materials.
For more details on schedules and prices visit: http://www.alcatrazcruises.com/
For the Wine Enthusiast: Napa Valley Wine Tour
Since the mid-19th century, viticulture and wine-making have been practiced in Napa Valley, and it is now known throughout the world as a premier wine-growing region. Currently there are over 400 wineries, making it a popular destination not just for its wine tasting, but also for its culinary delights, hiking trails, bicycling adventures, and historical sites.
Go with Green Dream Tours, which has received numerous "Excellent" reviews on TripAdvisor. It also boasts small groups of 14 people maximum and is 100% carbon neutral and eco-friendly. With this tour, you'll visit three boutique wineries: Spelletich Family Winery, Judd's Hill Winery, and Andretti Winery. Each winery is known for its unique character, friendly staff, and award-winning wines.
Ready to drink award-winning wines, take a look at Green Dream Tours' website for more info: http://greendreamtours.com
For the Nature Lover: Whale Watching and Farallon Islands Cruise
Protected under the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine sanctuary, the Farallon Islands are located just off of San Francisco. The sanctuary attracts whales, seals, seal lions, dolphins, and seabirds as a favorite place to feed and breed. Scientists have estimated that there are 36 different species of marine mammals there including 18 different species of whales and dolphins and more than 250,000 types of seabirds including tufted puffins, rhinoceros aucklets, shearwaters, pigeon guillemots, jaegers, and phalaropes. In fact, the Farallones boasts the contiguous US's largest seabird rookery! On rare occasions you might even encounter great whites, orcas, or leatherback sea turtles. It's the perfect destination for nature lovers!
The most highly-recommended tour is with the Oceanic Society, a nonprofit founded by a group of San Francisco Bay Area sailors and scientists in 1969. Concerned about the state of the oceans, their mission has been "to conserve marine wildlife and habitats by deepening the connections between people." Be aware that this is not a leisure cruise. You'll be on a fishing boat and will sometimes be navigating through rough waters. However, the staff is very knowledgeable and you'll be sure to see an amazing variety of wildlife. The season for wildlife viewing is between May and November.
For more information about reserving a cruise to the Farallon Islands with the Oceanic Society, visit https://www.oceanicsociety.org/whale-watching/farallons
For the Authentic San Francisco: Haight-Ashbury Tours
Once the home of flower-power, acid-dropping, and tie-dye wearing hippies, the Haight District is now a fun neighborhood for shopping, drinking, and music. There are tons of great vintage stores, tasty food, Internet cafes, and funky bars. Nowadays, the people who are more likely to frequent the area are neo-punks, club kids, graffiti hunters, and neighborhood folks who are just looking for a good burrito. It makes for some excellent people-watching.
With Wild SF Tours, you'll get a budget-friendly and authentic walking tour led by guides that are passionate about local arts and community issues. They're into showing travelers how the real SF lives by working with independent shops and restaurants. During this tour, you'll visit the Grateful Dead's home, Janis Joplin's apartment, a soup kitchen, cult leader Charles Manson's place, and way more!
For a truly San Francisco experience, check out Wild SF's Walking Tours: http://wildsftours.com/
For the Art Lovers: Precita Eyes Muralists
Painting the Mission District for over three decades, Precita Eyes Muralists is a community-focused organization of artists. They offer art classes, souvenirs, and guided walking tours of the best-known socio-politically-minded murals located throughout the Mission.
These murals define the Mission's Latin American history, culture, and evolution of the neighborhood. Every weekend, Precita Eyes Muralists offer several guided murals walks in order to educate both local and international travelers to the history and process of public street art. Tour options include the Classic Mission Mural Walk, which takes you on a six-block tour through the famous Balmy Alley, 24th Street, and the digital murals at Galeria de la Raza. Then there's the Mission Trail Mural Walk, which focuses on 24th Street, but will also take you to the murals at Cesar Chavez Elementary School and Balmy Alley. The final option is the Precita Park Tour, which includes Balmy Alley, Garfield Park Swimming Pool, and the murals at Precita Park.
For more information about schedules and prices, take a look at http://www.precitaeyes.org/tours.html
For the Foodies: Eat Your Way Through SF
San Francisco is a foodie's paradise, with an array of ethnic cuisine using local and organic produce. You can discover these culinary wonders with Gourmet Walks. Their tours take you throughout different neighborhoods, but we particularly recommend sampling the Asian food in Japantown and the Fillmore. Since the Gold Rush period, Asian immigrants have settled in and opened restaurants in San Francisco. While on tour, you'll sample Vietnamese Bahni Mi sandwiches, Japanese Gyoza Dumplings, Indian Masala Chai, hot Taiyaki (Japanese waffles filled with bean paste, yum), fresh Mochi, and seasonal ice cream. In between all those delicious bites, you'll learn about the history of the neighborhoods and its Asian influences. If Asian food isn't your thing, Gourmet Walks also explores Russian Hill and Hayes. There's even a chocolate tour! Don't miss out on these delicious bites!
To eat your way through San Francisco, visit http://gourmetwalks.com/
For the Film Buffs: Alfred Hitchcock’s San Francisco
The Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, adored San Francisco and used the city as the backdrop of many of his films. It started with Rebecca, where the coasts of Monterey County were used as background footage. Soon after its filming, Hitchcock eventually purchased some property in Scotts Valley, which became his weekend escape from the Hollywood scene. In Vertigo (1958), you'll spot iconic San Francisco Bay Area spots like Big Basin State Park and the Golden Gate Bridge. Meanwhile, the Birds (1963) is set in the quaint nearby town of Bodega Bay, and is based on a real-life bird attack in San Francisco. Suspicion, Shadow of a Doubt, Psycho, and Family Plot also all feature scenes of San Francisco.
With San Francisco City Guides tours, you’ll experience a free tour of Hitchcocok’s San Francisco from Nob Hill to Union Square. You’ll learn why Hitchcock chose these particular locations and how he filmed them, as well as the city's history, architecture, and stories. San Francisco City Guides is a nonprofit founded in 1978 with over 200 trained volunteers who are sponsored by San Francisco Public Library and Grants for the Arts of the San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund. Be sure to watch Vertigo before your tour to put you in the mood!
Experience Alfred Hitchcock's beloved San Francisco on San Francisco City Guides' free tour: http://www.sfcityguides.org/desc.html?tour=120
With such a variety of things to do, see, drink, and eat in San Francisco, it's no wonder that some travelers feel overwhelmed. You'll want to experience them all! But don't worry! We've compiled a list of the best tours for everyone: from film buffs to nature lovers and wine enthusiasts to foodies. No matter which of these amazing seven best tours of San Francisco you choose, we're sure that you'll have a wonderful and memorable San Francisco experience. However, we recommend going to as many as possible to learn about all that foggy San Francisco has to offer. Have fun and bon voyage!
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