Christmas in New York City: Top 5 Places To See and Do in NYC During the Holidays

NYC Christmas

Experiencing the holidays in New York City is magical and uniquely special. New York City does not hold back when it comes to celebrating the holidays – it puts on a show! If New York City wasn’t already buzzing with life and activities, Christmas time adds an extra layer of magic and fun that can soften even the hardened heart of any New Yorker. There is something about the energy of the concrete jungle combined with the spirit of the holidays that make the experience unique. There is Christmas everywhere you turn. The bustling metropolis is transformed into a festive winter wonderland adorned with glittering lights and holiday sounds in the way only New York City can.

There is a lot of different holiday events and places to check out all throughout the city during this time of year. But if you’re visiting and are here for a limited time, here are my top 5 iconic places to see and experience in New York City during the holidays.


Bryant Park Winter Village

Bryant Park Winter Village
Image Credit: TimeOut New York

Bryant Park is transformed into a festive holiday destination lined with artisan and specialty shops and food vendors, centered around a 17,000-square-foot ice skating rink. The Winter Village even has it’s own Christmas tree and tree lighting ceremony featuring a live performance by Olympic and World Champion skaters.

Admission to skate is free, so if you have your own skates you’re in luck! Skate rental is 20$. Enjoy hot cocoa in between skating laps and ice cleanings.

There are many events by Bryant Park Winter Village throughout the holiday season. Visit their website HERE for details and updated information including pricing and hours of operation.


Macy’s Herald Square

Macy’s Herald Square is the world’s largest department store… they own the entire city block!
Image Credit: nycgo/Julienne Schaer

Macy’s Herald Square is a New York City icon on its own and during the holidays, the entire store is transformed to celebrate the season. Before going inside, you can view Macy’s holiday windows featuring themed holiday displays. On the 8th floor, you’ll find Macy’s Santaland, and just like in the classic holiday movie “Miracle on 34th Street”, kids can meet Santa. However, in true New York City fashion, you have to make a reservation to visit Santa.

Macy’s Herald Square is the world’s largest department store, covering an entire city block. The Herald Square area surrounding Macy’s and 34th Street is lined with many popular retail stores making it a great spot to finish all of your holiday shopping.

Macy’s “Miracle at 34th Street” Santa …legit beard and everything!
Image Credit: AP


Dyker Heights

What to expect at Dyker Heights
Image Credit: Business Insider

This iconic residential neighborhood in Brooklyn is known for its extravagant holiday decorations. Describing it extravagant is putting it lightly. Each year, the community of homes in Dyker Heights get overly decked in Christmas decorations that can rival even the most elaborate decorations in the city!  Make sure you have good walking shoes and bundle up before trecking out. Grab yourself a cup of hot cocoa while walking around.

The best lights are on 11th Avenue to 13th Avenue and from 83rd to 86th Street.

There are guided tours available but you can certainly roam on your own.


Wollman Rink, Central Park, and 5th Ave Shopping

Image Credit: Flickr/Charley Lhasa

Wollman Rink in Central Park is another one of those iconic New York City locations that feel even more special because of the holiday season. Located southeast Central Park, it is a nice short stroll from the 5th Avenue and 59th Street entrance. It feels secluded, you are skating surrounded by the trees and the city’s towering skyscrapers. There is a snack bar offering hot chocolate and small bites, perfect while waiting for the Zamboni to clean the ice.

For more information, rates, and hours of operation check out their WEBSITE. It can get crowded at times. However, they now offer VIP reservations to skip lines.

After skating, walk down 5th Avenue and visit the many high-end stores, even if it just to window shop. Practically all the retail stores on 5th Avenue is dressed up for the holidays with dazzling decorations and holiday window displays.

From there you’ll end up at the last spot on this list…


Rockefeller Center and the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Image Credit: Flickr/Michael Vadon

Of course, you can’t forget to visit Rockefeller Center and take pictures in front of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree! The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is the beacon of the holidays in New York City. You can watch people ice skate at The Rink At Rockefeller Center overlooked by the golden sculpture of Prometheus. The entire plaza is dressed up in lights and decorations.

Don’t forget to watch the Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Light Show directly right on 5th Avenue as well as view their famous Christmas window displays. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is also in the immediate area and is worth a visit.

Image Credit: Flickr/Shinya Suzuki


BONUS: Rolf’s Bar

Image Credit: 6sqft/James and Karla Murray

It is always Christmas time at Rolf’s Bar all year around! Rolf’s Bar is German restaurant and bar known to have elaborate holiday decorations up the entire year! As in any highly Instagram-able spot, this place gets really packed, especially during the holidays. Wait times for table service could be a while. However, access to the bar is far easier here and your best bet to get inside and view the spot’s sophisticated decorations.


There you have it, my top 5 iconic places to see and experience in New York City during the holidays 🎄. If you are visiting during this season, you must put these in high priority. Visiting these places will surely put you into the spirit of the holiday season. No other city does the holidays like New York City!

Cover Image Credit: Flickr/Anthony Quintano

Again, don’t forget to bookmark or follow Aventures and Things for albums360 photos and videostravel ideasproduct reviews, and advice on my latest travel and adventures!

Enjoy!

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NYC Destinations: Untermyer Park and Gardens

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A visit to Untermyer Park and Gardens. Picturesque Victorian gardens with beautifully decorated fountains and slowly decaying pillars at this 43-acre historic park just minutes north of NYC. A dope spot not many New York city dwellers know about.

Untermyer Gardens is located in Yonkers NY, only around 30 minutes north of midtown Manhattan. The property was originally a part of a larger estate known as “Greystone” in 1864 and was later purchased by lawyer and civic leader, Samuel Untermyer and established in 1912. For the next 40 years, Untermyer transformed the gardens and greenhouses in the 150-acre estate into some of the most celebrated gardens in America. After his death in 1940, the park gradually fell into disrepair. The City of Yonkers eventually acquired the core 43 acres of the property while the rest were reclaimed by nature. Currently, the non-profit Untermyer Gardens Conservancy is dedicated to the restoration of Samuel Untermyer’s gardens and has ambitious plans to revitalize Untermyer’s once great gardens.

Alongside the park’s garden features and ancient structures, the park has dramatic views of the Hudson River and the Palisades.

Some of the memorable sections of the park is a rock and water feature called the “Temple of Love” and a “Vista” staircase that overlooks the Hudson River.

If you’re a New Yorker looking for a quick getaway from the concrete jungle or even a visitor looking to see more of New York’s historical beauty, definitely check out Untermyer Park and Gardens.

Here is the Conservancy’s website for more info: Untermyer Gardens Conservancy.

Make sure to bookmark or follow Aventures and Things for albums, 360 photos and videostravel ideas, product reviews, and advice on my latest travel and adventures!


The Vista
The Vista Overlook. Two columns framing the view of the Hudson River and the Palisades

The gatehouse marked with graffiti

The Temple of Love

View from the top of The Temple of Love


All the photos I took in full resolution can be found on my Flickr page here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeprox718/albums/72157662324331088

Again, don’t forget to bookmark or follow Aventures and Things for albums, 360 photos and videostravel ideas, product reviews, and advice on my latest travel and adventures!

Enjoy!

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My Travel Photo Journal of my visit to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Magic Garden

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is probably one of the most unique and popular attractions to see in Philadelphia. In 1994, mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar purchased the property and turned the entire building into a giant mosaic work of art. Almost everything in the property is mosaic and is made up of many random knick-knacks and parts. Ordinary and broken items have been put together to make up something interesting, thought-provoking, and beautiful. If you take a walk around South Street, you will notice other spaces that Zagar has adorned with his mosaic style. Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is a symbol of creativity and uniqueness that South Street is known for. Currently, the venue is both a popular attraction and gallery space. The organization that maintains Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens also provide educational programming, performances, tours, and mosaic workshops, open to the public.

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is definitely a unique place you must check out when you are in Philadelphia.

Iteniary, tips, and details on visiting Philadelphia can be found on my guide: Top Things to See and Do in Philadelphia for First-Timers.

Make sure to bookmark or follow Aventures and Things for albums, 360 photos and videostravel ideas, product reviews, and advice on my latest travel and adventures!


We’re here! But first things first… Food at Reading Terminal Market and quick visit to the Love Sculpture
we enter Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
giant mosaic wall mural on the entire side of the building

driveway

from ceiling to floor… every inch is covered

I believe these ladies are directly related to Isaiah Zagar
a small production was using the venue as a backdrop for their video
as random as it looks, there is an underlying theme throughout
just hangin’

curious
hall way to the bathroom
multiple Mickeys found

All the photos I took in full resolution can be found on my Flickr page here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeprox718/albums/72157686242185965

Again, don’t forget to bookmark or follow Aventures and Things for albums, 360 photos and videostravel ideas, product reviews, and advice on my latest travel and adventures!

Enjoy!

NYC Destinations: City Island, Bronx

City Island is the first destination of a series dedicated to highlighting locations, events, and hidden gems around New York City. NYC Destinations will feature fun and amazing places and happenings around NYC that only locals know.

City Island

City Island has been one of my go-to New York City summer day trip destinations for a long time now and I’m sure a lot of people who have been there feel the same way. I always had a sense of pride for knowing this destination – a “secret” spot tucked away in the east corner of the Bronx on the Long Island Sound. I guess it’s not much of a secret as the line of cars trying to get into the island were somewhat considerable over the weekend. Thankfully it wasn’t substantial enough to sway this impatient New Yorker.

After crossing the bridge into City Island you feel like you’ve been transported to a random fishing town in New England. Words like ‘quaint’ and ‘laid-back’ are commonly used to describe City Island, expressions not commonly said about New York City. Even though it’s only roughly 30 minutes away from the heart of Manhattan, City Island keeps its small town charm and easy-going atmosphere, a welcome vibe for those looking to get away from the city’s hustle-and-bustle without traveling too far.

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Counter-service at Johnny’s Reef Restaurant

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Pina colada… because why not

A trip to City Island, for me, typically means seafood. Numerous seafood restaurants line the main (and only) avenue of the island. There are many great options on where to eat, however, though I hate to admit it, I’ve only been going to one spot which is at the tip of the island – Johnny’s Reef Restaurant. What I like about this place is that you can take your food outdoors to the waterfront picnic tables on the patio. Don’t worry, trying the other restaurants on the island is on my to-do list.

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Calamari
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Soft-shell crab
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Oysters

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After eating, a quick visit to Lickety Split Ice Cream is in order. They serve ice cream, sorbet, gelato, coffee, and other beverages, and provide decent outdoor seating.

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Lickety Split Ice Cream

Take the time to stroll through City Island’s main road and check out the island’s numerous small businesses.

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Walking through City Island’s main avenue, lined with cute small shops and restaurants

City Island is the first destination of a series dedicated to highlighting locations, events, and hidden gems around New York City. Everyone knows New York City’s famous landmarks and tourist spots. NYC Destinations will feature fun and amazing places and happenings around NYC that only locals know.

Make sure to follow me here on Adventure and Things for the latest posts on NYC Destinations as well as travel tips, product reviews, and my travel photo journals!

Enjoy!

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My Travel Photo Journal from San Francisco

San Fran Pictures

These are my photo highlights from when I traveled to San Francisco in December 2015.

The places I visited on this trip are: Sutro Baths, Painted Ladies, Dragon’s Gate/Chinatown, Union Square Area, Downtown San Francisco, Ferry Building Marketplace, Hog Island Oyster Co, Brenda’s French Soul Food, Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, Marina District, Palace of Fine Arts, Mr. Holmes Bakehouse, Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito, Muir Woods, Twin Peaks Summit, Mission District, Taquerias El Farolito, and Balmy Alley Murals.

Iteniary, tips, and details about my trip to San Francisco can be found on my guide: Top Things to See and Do in San Francisco for First-Timers.

Make sure to follow me here on Adventure and Things as well as my Flickr page for latest albums and photo journals, as well as travel tips, product reviews, and must-do’s!


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As soon as we landed, we went straight to Sutro Baths Ruins

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epic view!

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Cave
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view from inside the cave

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walked over to Cliff House Restaurant

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dining with ocean views
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after Sutro Baths, we drove to Alamo Square Playground to view the famous Painted Ladies… cue the theme song!
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Mint Mojito Iced Coffee at Philz Coffee is highly recommended when in the West Coast
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Took the BART to get to Ferry Marketplace
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Ferry Building Marketplace

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Food and market hall at Ferry Building Marketplace
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Delicious dinner at Hog Island Oyster Co.
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Clam chowder at Hog Island Oyster Co.
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Clam chowder and oyster sampler
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Southern Bunch spread at Brenda’s French Soul Food
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San Francisco City Hall
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Took the cable car from Downtown to Fisherman’s Wharf
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View of Alcatraz Island in the distance
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Made a stop at Lombard Steet. Cars line up to drive through the steep winding road
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Fisherman’s Wharf
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Seafood restaurants at Fisherman’s Wharf
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old-timey penny arcade games and artifacts at Musée Mécanique
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seafood galore
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Lobsta’
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clam chowder bread bowl

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entrance to Pier 39
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merry-go-round and live show for kids at the pier
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The ROCK! Alcatraz Island
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don’t miss the sea lions at Pier 39!
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…don’t walk like I did. Get a ride to the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre instead

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serene space
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Palace of Fine Arts Theatre

Ghirardelli Square
the famous Irish Coffee at The Buena Vista
Señor Sisig food truck by Union Square
Charming city of Sausalito… right across the Golden Gate Bridge

Eat at Barrel House Tavern and sit at the second-floor terrace
Beautiful Sausalito City

Muir Woods National Park
giant redwood trees

an interesting tour guide

Nighttime view from Twin Peaks Summit
The Golden Gate Bridge in the distance
Dragon’s Gate, entrance to San Francisco’s Chinatown
Sign inside Mr. Holmes Bakehouse
Tried the famous “cruffin” (croissant/muffin combo) at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse.
the path to Battery Spencer where you can see the Golden Gate Bridge up close!
Battery Spencer
Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge
Battery Spencer
Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge
Eat at Taquería El Farolito – hole-in-a-wall Mexican restaurant in the Mission District
Mission District murals

left my heart in San Francisco


All the photos I took in full resolution can be found on my Flickr page here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeprox718/sets/72157684683077760

Again, don’t forget to bookmark or follow Aventures and Things for the latest albums, travel ideas, product reviews, and advice!

Enjoy!

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Top Things to See and Do in Philadelphia for First-Timers

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Philadelphia is an amazing city with lots of history and culture. Home of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were signed, along with many other historic sites, Philadelphia is teeming with U.S. history. The city has a wide range of attractions, from its many iconic museums to amazing food venues, or just walking around to view the streets lined with public art and giant wall murals, Philadelphia has something for everyone.

Living in New York City, Philadelphia is a short and easy trek so I’ve been there many times for quick day trips. What I really like is that Philadelphia is small enough that it is easy to get from one site to another, sometimes within walking distance.

This guide is meant for first-timers in Philadelphia but past visitors might find something interesting here that they’ve missed for future travels.

Must See & Do

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  • Reading Terminal Market
    • Bustling food and farmers market at the heart of the city
    • You can choose from a wide range of food from Asian to BBQ and even an Amish market
    • Home of DiNic’s Roast Pork and Beef, which has been featured on top of many food lists and shows
    • I also recommend The Grill at Smucker’s and having their pot roast sandwich with everything
    • Hours and more details can be found at their WEBSITE

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  • Rocky Steps, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Fairmount Water Works
    • The steps of The Philadelphia Museum of Art is the location of the famous running scene in the Academy winning movie Rocky.
    • Along with running up the Rocky Steps, you can pose with the statue of Rocky, located on the right side of the steps when facing the museum.
    • The Philadelphia Museum of Art houses a vast renowned collection of artwork and it’s the third-largest art museum in the country
    • Adults: $20. Youth (13–18): $14. Children (12 & under): Free
    • Admission and hours can be found at the museum WEBSITE

Pro Tip: Every Wednesday between 5:00 to 8:45 pm admission to the museum is “Pay What You Wish”

    • Friday of the month, the museum holds a feature live jazz or international music concerts and a cash bar in the Great Stair Hall starting at 5:00 pm
    • Free parking is available at The Oval in front of the museum. Additional paid parking is available behind the museum, but free after museum hours
    • If you have time, take a stroll through the scenic Fairmount Water Works located behind the museum

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  • Liberty Bell & Independence Hall
    • Located in Independence National Historical Park, The Liberty Bell Center and Independence Hall are right across the street from each other
    • Entrance to The Liberty Bell Center is free but requires airport-like security
    • More information about The Liberty Bell Center can be found HERE
    • Entrance to Independence Hall is via timed ranger-led tours only
    • Independence Hall tickets are also free and require going through security
    • Limited tickets for Independence Hall tours are purchased same-day at the Independence Visitor Center or in advanced (with a 1.50$ fee) at their website HERE
    • More information about Independence Hall can be found on their WEBSITE

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  • Geno’s Steaks & Pat’s King of Steaks
    • Which Philly cheesesteak is better? …I’ll leave that up to you
    • A late night staple, these two sandwich shops sit across the street from each other and are known for their rivaling Philly cheesesteaks
    • Open 24 hours
    • Street parking might be difficult during peak hours

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  • Mütter Museum
    • A medical museum featuring a collection of anatomical specimens, abnormalities, and historical medical instruments
    • For those interested in oddities and medicine
    • A little creepy and not for everyone, but I found it very interesting
    • Admission, hours, and more info can be found HERE

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  • Dilworth Park, Philadelphia City Hall, & the Love Sculpture
    • Dilworth Park is a public space in Center City Philadelphia, along the west side of City Hall
    • Nice area to stroll through and people watch. Admire the architecture of City Hall
    • The café provides outdoor seating and hosts happy hour and other events
    • Features a public fountain and an ice skating rink and Christmas village during the winter holidays
    • Across the street is the Philadelphia Municipal Services Building that has the bigger than life board games pieces throughout Thomas Paine Plaza, also known as Board Game Art Park
    • Also across the street, on John F Kennedy Blvd and N15th St, is Love Park, where the iconic Love Sculpture and fountain is located.

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  • South Street
    • A vibrant area of fusion of culture, you’ll find diverse urban mix of restaurants, bars, galleries, coffee shops, stores, and performance spaces at South Street
    • Mainly between Front Street to 9th Street, but stretches past the Magic Gardens to Brad Street.

Pro Tip: Also plan to visit Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens when walking through South Street

    • The area hosts summer block parties, BBQs, and other events throughout the year
    • More information can be found at the community’s WEBSITE

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  • Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
    • Mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar transformed this property to be his largest work of mosaicked spaces and public murals
    • It has become a unique Philadelphia destination that includes an immersive outdoor art installation and indoor galleries

Pro Tip: Try to visit during weekdays when crowds are less and give you more viewing room as a lot of the space is narrow and can easily get overcrowded

    • Tickets for admission can be purchased on-site but they advise people to purchase reserved time slots online… it’s also a good idea to find out if the venue is closed for special events
    • More information and operating hours can be found on their WEBSITE

Map

 

Enjoy!
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Top Things to See and Do in San Francisco for First-Timers

SanFranBanner

Beautiful San Francisco. I remember coming back home from San Francisco and saying to people that if I ever leave New York City that San Francisco is on top of my short list of cities to live in. Beautiful views, a hip and trendy restaurant and bar scene, the west coast chill vibe… definitely a great place to consider moving to, albeit expensive (however New York isn’t far behind).

My trip to San Francisco was the very first time that I’ve traveled alone. Traveling alone is a unique and fulfilling experience that everyone who loves to travel need to do at least once. It’s something that I will cover in a future post, but right now, here is my breakdown of my trip to San Francisco. This guide is specially catered to first-timers in San Francisco.

The photo journal of my trip to San Francisco with more photos can be found on my post: My Travel Photo Journal from San Francisco.

Basics

  • Trip Date: December 10 – 13 (4 days / 3 nights)
  • Weather: Cool, fall like weather. Dress in layers, it can get hot in mid day.
  • Arrived at San Francisco via San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
  • I opted to rent a car against advice that parking in the city is very difficult and garages are pricey.
    • You will need a car if you want to drive across the Golden State Bridge and visit Sausalito and Muir Woods.
    • Having a car allowed for greater flexibility and the ability to visit a lot of spots in a short period of time, especially at night when public transportation is limited.
    • Some garages have bad reviews and reports of break-ins. I looked up several garages prior to arrival and decided on the Sutter-Stockton Garage to be the most economical and best reviewed.
  • The BART is fairly easy to use in comparison to New York’s subway system
  • I stayed at The Mosser Hotel conveniently located in the heart of Downtown San Francisco.
    • Walking distance from Union Square, the Powell St. & Market St. cable car terminal station, BART train stations, and shopping areas.
    • I opted for the Mosser Twin with a shared bathroom. Great price point and perfect for a solo traveler. Other rooms types are available.
    • Full review HERE.

Must See & Do

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  • Sutro Baths
    • Ocean views and the ruins of the old salt water swimming pool complex.
    • Convenient free parking at Lands End Main Parking Lot.
    • Estimated time spent: 1 hour

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Painted Ladies *cue the theme song!
  • Painted Ladies
    • Brightly colored Victorian terraced houses made famous by the sitcom Full House.
    • Estimated time spent: 30 minutes
    • Easy Parking around the park.

  • Downtown & Union Square
    • Shopping, hotel, and theater district in the center of downtown San Francisco
    • Plenty of parking garages throughout
    • A list of stores, restaurants, and events can be found at the Union Square WEBSITE
    • Location of the Powell & Market St cable car terminal to get to Fisherman’s Wharf

Visit at least one of the Philz Coffee locations and grab a Mint Mojito!

    • Estimated time spent: depends on how much you shop… I just walked around for about an hour.

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Inside the iconic SF Cable Cars
  • Ride the San Francisco Cable Car
    • San Francisco is known for their electric cable cars and a definite touristy thing to do… However, only worth it do just once as the wait can be long.
    • Cost is 7$ per ride ($3.00 for Senior/Persons with Disabilities after 9:00 pm and before 7:00 am)
    • Unlimited ride passes are available, more information on the SFMTA WEBSITE
    • I suggest getting on at the terminals early in the day for a better chance to get a seat but you can get on from any stops marked by street signs along the route.

Lines and wait can get very long at the end of the day at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park location so I took an Uber back to downtown

    • Powell-Hyde line going towards the Fisherman’s Wharf area is best for views of Alcatraz as you go downhill
    • Estimated time spent: typical ride time from the Powell & Market St terminal to Fisherman’s Wharf area on either the Powell-Hyde or the Powell-Mason line is about 20-25 minutes.

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Steep winding road of Lombard Street
  • Lombard Street
    • The famous steep winding road
    • You can drive through it but there might be a line of cars trying to do the same thing
    • You can take the Powell-Hyde cable car which has a stop on top of the hill
    • Fisherman’s Wharf is only a few blocks away
    • Estimated time spent: 30 minutes taking pics and walking up the street

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  • Fisherman’s Wharf & Pier 39
    • Northern waterfront district, a major fishing pier with rows of seafood restaurants, souvenir shops, attractions, and views of Alcatraz
    • Popular tourist destination – so expect crowds and lack of parking
    • Location of boat tours to Alcatraz and Bay Cruises
    • Good for kids

Do not miss the sea lions at Pier 39! Located towards the end of Pier 39 on the left side when facing Alcatraz

    • Food, for the most part, is okay and overpriced but it’s expected of a tourist area
    • The oldest restaurant at the wharf is Alioto’s #8 and highly recommended
    • Visit the historic Buena Vista Cafe known for their Irish Coffee
    • Estimated time spent: 3-4 hours wandering, eating, & souvenir shopping

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  • Ferry Building Marketplace
    • Ferry terminal filled with farmer’s markets, restaurants, artisanal shops
    • View of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge with The Bay light show starting at dusk

I recommend eating at Hog Island Oyster Co. and trying their bacon clam chowder… damn good!

    • Go early as stores close at 7 pm weekdays and earlier on weekends
    • Can be easily accessed by BART train – get off at Embarcadero Station
    • More information can be found on their WEBSITE
    • Estimated time spent: 1-2 hours; depends if you wanna shop. I just came to eat

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  • Palace of Fine Arts Theatre
    • Photogenic architecture in the Marina District
    • When I visited, it was a quiet and tranquil green space
    • A bit out of the way from other attractions (don’t make my mistake of walking from Fisherman’s Wharf… it’s a long walk!). Bike or get a ride.
    • Estimated time spent: 30 minutes

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  • Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point / Battery Spencer
    • IMO the best spot to view the Golden Gate Bridge

Pro Tip: For the best pictures at this location, get there in the afternoon when the sun is behind you and the bridge, otherwise, you’ll be shooting against the light. Alternatively, move across the street to the other Vista Point. If you have a ND filter then this point doesn’t matter 😀

    • I hear you can come here at night as well to see the bridge lit up
    • You need a car to get there. I imagine you could bike there as well. Parking is limited on the street
    • Battery Spencer is pretty cool too in an abandoned photography type of way
    • Estimated time spent: 1 hour

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  • Twin Peaks Summit
    • Two hills located near the center of San Francisco providing panoramic views of the city
    • There is a parking lot and additional parking is available on the street
    • I went at night to get views of the skyline lit up by the city lights

Pro Tip: Bring a tripod or prop your camera on a solid surface. Set to timer. Then put your camera to manual and set the shutter speed around 1 second or more for these night time shots

    • Estimated time spent: 1 hour

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  • Sausalito City
    • Small picturesque coastal town north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge
    • Cute small independent shops along the commercial segment of Bridgeway
    • Metered parking along the streets

Eat at Barrel House Tavern and sit at the second-floor terrace for relaxing water-front views while enjoying your meal

    • Stopped here before heading further north to Muir Woods
    • Estimated time spent: 3 hours walking around, eating, and taking photos

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  • Muir Woods
    • National park known for its giant redwood trees
    • Parking is a little difficult. When the parking lots fill up, people start parking along the side of the road that gets further and further away. The parking turnover seems quick though so spots open up quick

Stay on the main trail (boardwalk) unless you want to hike. The side trails deviate from the redwood trees and add another hour or so of hiking

    • No cell phone/data signal so if you use your phone as a GPS, I advise downloading maps and directions for offline use
    • Estimated time spent: 3 hours walking around and taking photos

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  • Mission District
  • A melting pot of culture – Latino roots, compelling art scene, a growing hipster vibe, and the face of gentrification in SF
  • Plethora of hole-in-a-wall food joints, dive bars, trendy brunch spots, art galleries, coffee shops, vintage bookstores, and artisanal merchants
  • Typical street parking. Can be easily accessed by BART train
  • Colorful graffiti murals throughout the neighborhood

Eat at Taquería El Farolito – hole-in-a-wall Mexican restaurant and order a carne asada super burrito with everything… prepare to be satisfied for days!

    • Estimated time spent: 3 hours walking around and taking photos

Notes & Lessons Learned

  • Parking, for the most part, anywhere outside of the downtown area is not difficult at all.
  • Walking around, even for a few blocks can be challenging as there is a lot of steep hills depending on your location.
  • You can spend a day starting at Downtown SF in the morning, taking the Powell-Hyde cable car to Lombard Street, then walking to Fisherman’s Wharf
  • However, the cable car at the Powell-Hyde turntable at Fisherman’s Wharf to get back downtown has long lines in the afternoon. I suggest to just get a taxi or Uber
  • The area in Downtown SF known as The Tenderloin is notorious for being a sketchy area and many advise to avoid it. However, I walked through it during the morning and found it okay. The Tenderloin is located between Van Ness Ave and Market St and between McAllister St and Geary St. Still heed warnings though, I’m just saying it’s not as bad as some make it sound.
  • No data signal at the Muir Woods area… using phone as GPS was tricky
  • List of places that I didn’t get to go to because of time constraints
    • Golden Gate Park
    • Ghirardelli Square
    • Haight-Ashbury
    • California Academy of Sciences
    • de Young Museum
    • Transamerica Pyramid
    • Coit Tower
    • Exploratorium
    • Oakland area
    • AT&T Park
    • The Yard at Mission Rock
    • Crissy Field
    • Cable Car Museum
    • Yoda Fountain
    • Alcatraz Island

Map

Enjoy!

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