5 Must Do’s in San Francisco

There are so many things to do in San Francisco that choosing just 5 was difficult enough. My top tip – spend more than one day exploring San Francisco! There’s no way you can do it all in one day, especially because the city isn’t walkable. You will need to hop on a bus, cable car, scooter, bike, etc. to see everything, so I would focus on a couple areas per day. However, these five below are must-see sights/places, chosen from living in the Bay Area for 23 years and showing friends around when they’ve visited. I hope you enjoy the city as much as I do!

Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf is my favourite place in San Francisco because there is so much to do in close walking distance. This is where you buy tickets for various city/bay tours (including a cruise around the bay which takes you under the Golden Gate Bridge, a cable car tour, and a trip to Alcatraz). It’s also home to some of the best seafood restaurants in town, though they are usually crowded during peak tourist season, so either call ahead or be prepared to wait around for a bit. Either way, you must have seafood for at least one meal in San Francisco, as most of it is caught fresh that morning! Also check out the sea lions near Pier 39 as they lay in the sun all day, making noise and pushing each other off the docks. Musee Mechanique houses antique arcade games and the USS Pampanito is right around the corner (a WWII submarine open for tours). Pier 39 is a fun shopping experience (there’s a store with all sorts of items made specifically for left-handed people), with some great food and also the Aquarium. Don’t miss out on Mrs. Field’s cookies!

Golden Gate Park

Take a picnic to Golden Gate Park or ride around on scooters. The park is a big open green space in the middle of an otherwise bustling city. Have afternoon tea at the Japanese Tea Garden, visit the deYoung Museum, or go horse riding. There’s so much to do in the park, with events running almost everyday and loads of attractions.

Alcatraz Island

What was once a military post then one of the most secure prisons in the country then occupied by indigenous peoples, is now a tourist attraction. Alcatraz is best known for its prison period – 29 years as a federal penitentiary, housing difficult-to-manage prisoners from other prisons, mostly bank robbers and murderers. Some famous prisoners include Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis. 36 prisoners tried to escape, with 5 missing or presumed drowned. There is now an Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon every year in which people swim the 1.5 miles to shore. This is one of the most popular tourist attractions so make sure to book your tour in advance!

Lombard Street

Also known as the “crookedest street in the world”, Lombard St. is a tourist favourite in San Francisco. Cars queue to go down this one-block hill that has eight hair-pin turns. It is lined with colourful flowers and yes, people do live in the homes on the street (must be quite annoying having to contend with the constant stream of vehicles). Located in Russian Hill, with a view overlooking the entire bay, this is still one of my favourite places to take visiting friends in San Francisco.

Ferry Building Marketplace

The Ferry Building, sitting at the end of Market Street, was the city’s primary portal – visitors arriving by train entered the city through the Ferry Building. It was the only way travellers and commuters could enter the city after ferrying across the bay. It lost its official use in the 1950s, but in 2003 was reopened as a marketplace. Today, it is dedicated to local artisans, farmers and producers, presenting a world-class food market and continuing to operate its ferries. I recommend to anyone who wants to eat good food with a good view and support local business owners.

Dana’s Do’s:

  1. Spend more than a day exploring the city.
  2. Book certain attractions in advance.
  3. Support local business owners.

20 Things That Are the Same Between England and America (from a U.S. Ex-pat)

I read an article the other day about 50 things that are different in the UK compared to the US, and honestly, most of it was stupid things, like people in the UK don’t use umbrellas. Spoiler alert, they do. Some of the list was legit, but most of it seemed to be a way to make the UK exotic and mysterious. As an American ex-pat, it annoyed me because one of the best things about moving to the UK was the lack of culture shock. Sure they drive on the left and they call it ‘maths’ instead of math, but things really aren’t that different from the states. So, I am making a list of all the things (at least the ones I can think of right now) that are similar or the same between the UK and the US to celebrate shared parts of our cultures.

1. Chain restaurants and coffee shops – Pret is to the UK what Starbucks is to the US.

2. Everyone still passes on the left on escalators and sidewalks. God forbid you should be standing on the left, you might as well have kicked a puppy.

3. The money is just as intuitive, or not, depending on how you view US currency. There are bills with numbers to tell you exactly how much the bill is worth and the coins come in different sizes, just like the US.

4. Kids keep coming up with slang words I have to learn and I blame social media. As soon as I have learned what “rock up” means suddenly Twitter has invented “bomboclaat”. Am I getting old?

5. Everyone loves Nike, Adidas, and Lululemon – big brands are still all the rage in UK fashion. Yes, VSCO girls exist here too.

6. People are divided over the leader of their government (Boris is a second hand Trump).

7. There are massive protests for climate change because people care about that no matter where they are from.

8. Hamilton. The Brits love Hamilton. Color me shocked, but apparently there’s no bad vibes from Brits about the Revolutionary War and they love making fun of the monarchy as much as the next country.

9. Similar to above but the general shopping is the same – H&M, Topshop, Gap, etc. You can shop in British brand stores as well, but if you’re homesick H&M is always here for you.

10. Domino’s is still the best delivery pizza. And they do the same deals as the States. College kids need not fear.

11. Speaking of takeout – Uber eats is a thing here along with Deliveroo (Postmates equivalent). And there’s a filter for “American” cuisine.

12. Like New York or DC or really any city with public transport, don’t talk to anyone on said public transport. This is a no socializing zone.

13. Some of the houses in London are painted all sorts of colors, reminding me of big cities like San Francisco where the residents often do the same.

14. You have to pay for plastic shopping bags in grocery stores, just like in America. (P.S. please have reusable bags on hand, the environment appreciates your effort)

15. Different parts of the country have different accents.

16. There are multiple grocery stores, but as in the US, there is Aldi and Whole Foods.

17. Chipotle has made its way to London.

18. Flights get delayed or canceled just as often in London as they do at any major airport in the US (thanks British Airways, American Airlines, United, etc.).

19. Everyone talks about the weather when they have nothing else to say to you.

20. Brits are as obsessed with their sports as Americans. Rugby/Soccer is to Brits what Football/Basketball is to Americans.

I’m sure the list could go on, and feel free to send me your favorite things that are the same between the UK and the US. I also know there are quite a lot of differences – ‘jumper’ means sweater and ‘trainers’ are sneakers, two things that would have made a couple parts of Harry Potter make more sense to me. But, I like focusing on the aspects that are similar because it keeps away the homesickness and reminds me that while I may be an immigrant, I can fit in pretty well in my new home.