San Francisco is known for its hippy and grunge culture, thick blankets of daily fog; great variety of fabulous ethnic cuisine, and for being home to one of the World’s Seven Wonders- the Golden Gate Bridge …. but it’s also known for being a super expensive travel destination. The ESL Teachers at Transworld Schools (www.transworldschools.com) compiled this list of fun ways to experience the rich culture and unique style of San Francisco, without your wallet taking a hit!
1. Bike the Bridge
The best way to experience the Golden Gate Bridge is to cross it. You can look up and see the fascinating 4,200 foot suspension span engineered in the early 1900’s. Of course, you can cross the bridge by foot, but you can also rent a bicycle for less than $10 per hour at the base of the bridge and feel the wind in your hair. And why is the bridge red you ask? Well the bridge was not originally intended to stay red. The steel used to construct the bridge was coated in a reddish primer to protect it from corrosive elements. However, the bright red color was so striking, it stayed as the bridge’s signature red.
2) Seafood & Slots at the Wharf
There is no better way to experience the seafood culture and history of Fisherman’s Wharf than to enjoy a basket of freshly fried shrimp or butter dripped crab while standing in a crowded (but atmospheric) fish market stand – followed by some penny arcade games at the Musée Mécanique. The Musée Mécanique is a historical museum displaying the world’s largest privately owned collection of antique arcade games in original working condition. Admission is free, you just need a handful of quarters to play some games!
3) Snack your Way through Chinatown
Proper sit-down establishments in Chinatown can still be pricey, but it’s known that some of the tastiest and most authentic Chinese street foods and snacks can be enjoyed on the cheap at the many food stands and markets lining Grant Street. The steamed buns at AA Bakery will not disappoint at $1 each!
4) Scoot down Lombard
As a tourist in SF, you can rent a Scoot for just $79 for a full 2 days. One of these little red scooters will take you across the entire city - saving you big bucks on expensive taxi rides and car parking rates. You can ride your Scoot down Lombard to experience the most crooked street in the world- just don’t get too dizzy and fall off!
5) Seward Street Slides
Located in the mega-famous Castro district of San Francisco, the Seward Street Slides shoot you through a neighborhood park and California native plant garden. The creation of the slides represent a turning point in SF legislation, requiring a minimum amount of open space in new developments. The slide ride is free, but as this is intended for children, you do need to bring your kid (or little brother) with you for access!
6) Bonfire at Ocean Beach
What screams California more than a beach bonfire? Ocean Beach in SF has 6 public fire rings- that only cost you the firewood! Bring some hot dogs and marshmallows and watch the sunset by a warm bonfire.
7) Explore the Sutro Baths
The Sutro Baths, built at the beautiful entrance to San Francisco Bay, was once the world’s largest indoor swimming pool, complete with 6 salt water pools, 1 fresh water pool, and a springboard. Most of the historic baths were destroyed in a 1966 fire, but the ruins can still be explored for free.
8) Sparkle with the Bay Bridge
Every night from sundown until sunup, the Bay Bridge puts on a terrific light show designed by world renowned artist Leo Villareal. What is the best way to enjoy it? Get yourself a Blue Bottle coffee from the Ferry Building and take a stroll along the Embarcadero.
9) Step up Filbert
One of the steepest street climbs in SF, the Filbert Street Steps rise from Sansome Street to Coit Tower. The steps take you up the side of a cliff through some beautifully tended sculpture gardens and will pitch you out on top of the city with panoramic views of the Marina District and the North Bay. You can make your way back down to earth using the Greenwich Stairs to complete your experience.
10) Play the Wave Organ
This wave-activated acoustic sculpture consists of 25 PVC organ pipes and concrete located at different elevations in the San Francisco Bay. Come check it out for free during high tide for its command performance.