Your Real First Visit to San Francisco


Your Real First Visit to San Francisco

Your Real First Visit to San Francisco

Presented by Dylan Gallagher of Orange Sky Adventures (

Cable cars, Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge and killer hills are all attractions that conjure up images of a bustling San Francisco. During your first-time visit here, however, do you know what you’re really in for? Are you prepared for the norms, or better yet, the un-norms of the city? If not, below is a crash course on what to expect for your first-time stay in San Francisco.


Chilly Weather


San Francisco is a chilly city. The cold, of course, is relative; if you’re an Eskimo, it might seem downright balmy. Yes, during the early afternoon the sun can be strong, warm and inviting. But eventually, as night falls and the fog rolls in, it can become windy, misty and cold. It’s why locals rarely wear shorts (except on sunny days in the park or on the way to the gym). During your stay here, we suggest you follow suit.   



Dress in layers. Even if you look outside and the weather seems perfect, bring a hoodie with you. You’ll thank yourself (and us) later.  


Book Your Reservations Early

Trust us when we say many—and we do mean many—people miss out on San Francisco sightseeing because they wait too long to reserve their spots. Then, when they find a tour, hotel room, restaurant or whatever (Alcatraz ticket!) they find it’s fully booked and has been for months. Instead of being one of the many, do your research and make your bookings early. You’ll be glad you did.



Alcatraz is the #1 attraction in San Francisco and the #1 missed attraction, too. Tickets can sell out weeks in advance. As soon as you know your dates, we suggest you purchase your ticket. The same goes for your hostel or hotel room.


Save Your Cash

San Francisco is on par with Los Angeles, Miami and New York as one of the most expensive cities in America. For your travel time here, be ready for pricey drinks and above-normal food costs and tours—the thing that’ll make your visit much more rewarding—which are more expensive, too. So before you arrive, try and bring a little extra cash to prepare for the price surge.


Be ready for hotel prices to be your biggest jaw-dropper. Hotel rooms hover around $200 per night (for nothing-special rooms), while hostel beds (in other words, one bed in a shared room) can go for $50-$70 per night in summer. In San Francisco, housing is a challenge.


Walk the Hills

Your first day of conquering the hills might put blisters on your feet and pain in your thighs, but if you stretch in the morning, change your shoes and power through during the rest of your time here, you can find some incredible spots devoid of noise, tackiness and tourists. Have you ever heard of the Filbert Street steps? Macondray Lane? Get walking uphill and go find ‘em.



Wear comfy shoes and check out such iconic sites as Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill, Billionaire’s Row or the Pemberton steps on your way to Twin Peaks.


Become a Foodie


Whether you want seafood, sushi, donuts or something non-GMO for the hippie at heart, San Francisco has you covered. Check out the hundreds of restaurants on Yelp, Trip Advisor or any other travel site. Or go old school and explore the neighborhoods on foot. Your next favorite restaurant might be right around the corner.



Skip Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and instead head for Acme Bread in the Ferry Building, La Taqueria in the Mission, The Biergarten in Hayes Valley or look for Off the Grid in a neighborhood near you. The list of good food spots is endless.


Be Ready for the Homeless Scene


The homeless scene is a way of life in San Francisco. Especially near Union Square—where the majority of hotels are—the amount of homeless people can be astounding. The city has over 7,000 in total! Coming from a country or town where you have might have little to no homeless people, the street-dwellers in San Francisco can be a culture shock, which brings us to our next point…


Have an Open Mind


Strolling naked in the park, smoking marijuana in the street or randomly dressing in costume are all normal occurrences in San Francisco. And if you’re around during major events such as the Bay to Breakers race or Folsom Street Fair, get ready. The things you’ll see might astonish you. Before you arrive, open your mind and remember the San Francisco philosophy to live and let-live. Not everyone is the same. Not everyone wants to be the same.   



Try not to double take. Look once and move on.


And Finally…


Don’t Wait in Line for the Cable Car

You can spend your time waiting in line for a cable car or, instead, learn the system’s trends—when it’s busy and when it’s not—and use the data to your advantage. For example, the Powell St. turnaround is usually free between the hours of 6 and 9 a.m. and 8 to 11 p.m. For the Hyde & Beach turnaround, the second most popular turnaround in the city, instead of waiting in line for hours, check out the Taylor & Bay turnaround. It’s only 3 blocks away with usually half the line. The trick to winning the cable car battle, in other words, is to NOT follow the crowd.



Are you two people or less? Hop on the rear of the cable car. Take note of the yellow square on the ground and avoid it, lest you be sent inside with the other tourists, where it’s uncomfortable, crammed and sweaty. You’re at the mercy of the conductor—good luck!


San Francisco is a city like none other. But many times, just like in real life, we let the romanticism of a place distract us from the street smarts. Now we hope you can prepare accordingly for what’s in store for your San Francisco trip—a damn good time!


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