I’ve lived on the west coast for over 30 years and never had the opportunity to visit San Francisco until just a few years ago. What prompted me to visit “The City by the Bay” was my discovery of riding the rails. And when you travel along the west coastline via train, you are in for some gorgeous landscape views. The Amtrak Coast Starlight takes you from Seattle all the way to Los Angeles; so you know you are going to cross all kinds of topography. From Seattle, it’s a little over 22 hrs in length to San Francisco. You can do this either of two ways: coach or first-class. Coach means that you most likely will sit next to another riding passenger and sleep in your seat. But fear not! Amtrak’s coach seats on their long distance trains are very comfortable as well as having plenty of leg room. The seats are upholstered and recline back quite a ways, and there are adjustable foot rests as well as an adjustable leg/thigh rest that comes in handy if you are one that likes to sleep on your side. If you opt to travel first-class, you pay extra for a room of your own and all your meals are included. There is a dining car and a cafe car available for everyone to use. If you want to move around and stretch your legs a bit, get up and move over to the “viewing car” that has a dome enclosure to take in views from both sides of the train. There are tables and plenty of swivel chairs to relax in and chat with other passengers. I’ve met many interesting people traveling on the train from all walks of life.
The only problem with taking the train to San Francisco is that the train does not stop IN San Francisco. It stops at the Emeryville depot and then passengers are wisked away on one of Amtrak’s Thruway buses to one of several stopping points along the waterfront drive. (The Embarcadero) You get to cross over the very long Oakland Bay Bridge, locally referred to as the Bay Bridge. It’s actually a pair of bridges connecting Yerba Buena Island. You may want to read a little of the history of this bridge and island. It is quite interesting.
I opted to stay at a hotel in the Fisherman’s Wharf district mainly because it was within walking distance to a lot of places I wanted to visit. There is so much to do and see in this very touristy district. I will go over a few of them. One of the largest attraction areas on the Wharf is Pier 39. Watch the throngs of sea lions bask in the sun on the floating docks, or visit the Aquarium of the Bay that has underwater tunnels thriving with sea life all around you. Just next door is Hard Rock Cafe: plenty of souvenirs to be had here along with the usual food fare and drink. Or you may want to go for a boat ride out in the Bay and cruise around Alcatraz Island. Take your pick. All along this walk area are myriads of souvenir shops, boutiques, eateries, galleries, and on and on. You really need a couple of days to explore all the nooks and crannies in this district. At the other end of the district is the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. Here you can step aboard a collection of historic watercraft such as the WWII submarine, USS Pampanito. There are just too many attractions at Fisherman’s Wharf for me to mention in one blog post. I provided links for many of the sites I mentioned that will give more detailed information and I hope you will enjoy visiting them.
Seal Lions at Fisherman’s Wharf
I want to mention one more tourist site I made a point of visiting that completely bowled me over. You’ll have to head on over to the Marina District for this one. And by the way, there are many modes of travel while visiting San Francisco besides car, (which I strongly do not suggest) such as walking, taxi, street trolley, electric bus, or the old-fashioned cable car. The attraction I am referring to is the Palace of Fine Arts, the only original structure left standing from the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition. With its Corinthian columns and Roman rotunda, you can make believe that you are back in the Classic Mediterranean Era. Today it is used for fine arts performances and houses an Exploratorium museum. For me, standing on the grounds of this magnificent, historical architectural design was the closest thing to being in Greece.
Palace of Fine Arts
I’ve only scratched the surface of all the fine and wonderful activites and attractions in San Francisco. I haven’t even mentioned the bustling Financial District, the cultural lifetstyle of Chinatown, the vibrant arena of Union Square, the colorful and artsy Mission District, the classic architecture of the Civic Center, beautiful Golden Gate National Park, and of course, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. And there’s so many more districts, each with their own uniqueness. Remember the nostalgic song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”? Well, I did!