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Northern California Trip Itineraries

Best San Francisco Budget Attractions

Destination(s): Mill Valley

San Francisco has many affordable attractions and outdoor activities to thrill people of all ages. Golden Gate Park has tons of nooks and crannies to explore, aside from its paid attractions. Muir Woods has a nominal admission fee and boasts hours and hours of nature walks and challenging hikes that extend to Mt. Tamalpais and Stinson Beach. Visiting Angel Island is free; you only have to cover the cost of the ferry ride, which in and of itself offers priceless views of the bay. Riding a Cable Car is also an inexpensive way to experience the roller coaster-worthy San Francisco hills. Take the Hyde Street line to the top of Lombard Street, one of the city’s most famous sights. If your timing works out, you can bypass costly admission fees on monthly free days at many of the city’s museums. Hungry for history? The centuries-old Mission Dolores has a $3 admission fee. Just plain hungry? Chow down at Pancho Villa for the city’s tastiest burritos—also the best dining deal in town. read more about Best San Francisco Budget Attractions

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park

  • Stanyan & Fulton Sts
  • (Great Highway at Fulton St)
  • tel:(415) 831-2700
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94118

Spanning three miles from the edge of Haight-Ashbury all the way to the Pacific Ocean, Golden Gate Park contains so many mini-universes and attractions you'll want to (literally) stop and smell the roses on several occasions. Die-hard nature lovers can check out the Rose Garden, the Conservatory of Flowers, or the famous Japanese Tea Garden, featuring a classic pagoda, cherry blossoms, and landscaping straight out of the Land of the Rising Sun. Golden Gate Park's natural highlight, however, is the San Francisco Botanical Garden, which features a horticultural trip around the world (don't miss the redwood grove and succulents section).
Don't miss Golden Gate Park's two world-class museums, the California Academy of Sciences and the De Young Museum. Both were completely rebuilt in their original locations in the past decade, and are worth a visit for their architecture alone. The park is also the perfect place to get active. There are tons of walking paths, several public tennis courts, an affordable pitch and put nine-hole golf course, sport fields, and picnic grounds. You can even rent a boat and head out for a delightful row on Stow Lake. Spring, summer, and fall bring a number of events to Golden Gate Park, including bluegrass, rock, and hip-hop concerts and Shakespeare in the Park performances. read more about Golden Gate Park

Cable Cars

Cable Cars

  • 401 Van Ness
  • (between Golden Gate and Grove Sts) Admin Offices
  • tel:(415) 673-6864
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94102

You just might not be able to stop yourself from singing the old Rice-a-Roni jingle each time you ride a gleaming, red San Francisco Cable Car. Although it's mostly tourists who ride these iconic streetcars, even locals who live near the cable lines get in on the action just because it's the most fun way to experience the hilly, roller-coaster ride that is San Francisco topography. Hold on tight and boldly lean outside the Cable Car for unparalleled views of the cityscape and the Bay rising and fading. For the best Cable Car ride the city has to offer, brave the line at Powell and Market and take the Powell Street line up some of the city's steepest hills, all the way to its terminus at Fisherman's Wharf. For an alternative, take the Hyde Street line to the top of twisty-turny Lombard Street. The California Street line takes you through the Financial District to the more elegant residential turf of the Nob Hill district, home to some of the city's most luxurious hotels. read more about Cable Cars

Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods National Monument

  • Muir Woods Rd and Camino Del Cyn
  • (Follow signs from Hwy 101 N)
  • tel:(415) 388-2595
  • Visit website
  • Mill Valley, 94941

Commissioned by President Teddy Roosevelt and named for conservationist John Muir, these woods are a tribute to the enchantment of redwood trees. For anyone who's encountered California redwoods, you know of what we speak. For those who haven't, Muir Woods National Monument is the perfect place to experience these majestic wonders for the first time. When you enter the park, you're treated to flat, paved walking paths that meander through the lush grove of towering redwoods, spiraling ferns, and other native plants, complete with historic and scientific explanations of the forest's features. We recommend taking this classic Muir Woods route and then ascending higher towards where you can choose from a variety of dirt hiking paths; that's where the magic truly happens. As most visitors stick to the easy ground-level path, hikers are treated to a truly serene experience the higher they climb, sometimes hearing almost nothing but delicate birdsong. Some trails originating in Muir Woods go all the way to Stinson Beach or to gorgeous parts of Mount Tamalpais State Park, or lead to very special local secrets, such as the Tourist Club, a German beer tavern. (Because what's better than a refreshing brew after some hearty physical exertion?) read more about Muir Woods National Monument

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

  • 151 3rd St
  • (between Howard & Mission St)
  • tel:(415) 357-4000
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94105

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, or SF MoMA, boasts world-class international art installations and is a unique architectural marvel in and of itself. Past special exhibits have included Matthew Barney, Frida Kahlo, Diane Arbus, Claes Oldenburg, and Marc Chagall, just to give you a taste of SF MoMA's diverse coverage of modern and contemporary art-world darlings. The permanent collections are nothing to shake a stick at, either. The painting wing features an array of modern masters, from Magritte to Pollock, and the photography, architecture and design, and media arts wings are full of visual delights. The top floor features awe-inspiring full-room installations (and we really mean FULL room) that are better left experienced rather than spoiled here. SF MoMA also has one of the best gift shops in San Fran. If you feel petered out after wandering through the museum, catch a flick at the SF Metreon entertainment complex, only a block away. read more about San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum

  • 200 Larkin St
  • Civic Center Plaza
  • tel:(415) 668-8921
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94102

San Francisco's Asian Art Museum can be best described in one word: staggering. As in, the western world's largest museum solely dedicated to Asian art. As in, a grand building with three floors of displays constituting only a fraction of the museum's full permanent collection. We did say 'staggering.' The Asian Art Museum's second and third floors take visitors on a tour of all regions of the continent dating back thousands of years, with excellent attention to history and culture in the text descriptions accompanying objects. The first-floor special exhibits exclusively feature contemporary Asian art. Located directly across from City Hall, the Asian Art Museum is also a quick walk away from the hip neighborhood of Hayes Valley, chockablock with unique boutiques, great restaurants, and local fave Blue Bottle Coffee. read more about Asian Art Museum

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

  • 701 Mission Street
  • At 3rd Street
  • tel:(415) 978-2787
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94104
Angel Island State Park

Angel Island State Park

  • Located one mile south of the Tiburon Peninsula
  • tel:(415) 435-3522
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94133

What Ellis Island was to European immigrants, this island was to Asian immigrants. Volunteer guides lead informative tours of the islands historical sites, including the Immigration Station and Fort McDowell. Graffiti left by immigrants awaiting admission or deportation can be seen on the walls of the holding areas. Hiking and biking trails circle the 740-acre island and offer spectacular views of the Bay Area and glimpses of the indigenous deer population. Camping is allowed with proper permits. Ferry service varies according to the season. read more about Angel Island State Park

Lombard Street

Lombard Street

  • Between Hyde & Leavenworth streets
  • Above Ghirardelli Square
  • tel:(415) 391-2000
  • San Francisco, 94133

Famed as the "crookedest street in the world," the swath of Lombard Street between Hyde and Leavenworth streets in San Francisco's Russian Hill district is indeed full of twists and turns. Lombard Street was designed as a series of switchbacks in order to make its steep grade navigable by automobile. Today, you'll almost definitely see Lombard Street congested with cars making the celebrated drive down. Therefore, we recommend hoofing it—you'll be able to admire all the more slowly the lovely, brightly-colored houses flanked with bougainvillea and all manner of flowers, as well as the gorgeous view of North Beach, Telegraph Hill, and the bay. After winding down Lombard Street, head east to nearby North Beach for serious Italian eats, or north to the maritime delights of Fisherman's Wharf and Ghiradelli Square. read more about Lombard Street

Mission Dolores

Mission Dolores

  • 332, 16th Street
  • (at the corner of Dolores Street)
  • tel:(415) 621-8203
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94114
Pancho Villa Taqueria

Pancho Villa Taqueria

  • 3071 16th Street
  • (At the corner of Valencia Street)
  • tel:+1 415 864 8840
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94103