It’s Hard Not to Be a Tourist in San Francisco, California

by Don Ferrull

Don and his wife, Jean, pose in front of the Golden Gate Bridge
Don and his wife, Jean, pose in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

Having worked and lived in San Francisco for some 40 years, (but now retired and living in Southern California) on my occasional visits back like on a California coastal cruise such as this one, I’m always determined not to act like a tourist.

You know something? It never works.  What is special about “The City” captivates almost everyone, even this former advertising/newspaper guy who can’t help revisiting attributes that keep San Francisco at the top of the polls as one of America’s favorite cities.

Yes, I will now go to Fisherman’s Wharf  which I never did when working here.  Perhaps it’s the sea air or the walkaway shrimp cocktail or viewing the nearby cruise ships, or maybe the hustle and bustle of other tourists over-spending on gifts for the less fortunate back home.

From the Wharf, San Francisco’s iconic cable cars make the trip “half way to the stars” over Russian Hill and Nob Hill winding up at Union Square where some people are likely to max out their credit cards in places like Tiffany’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom’s, et al.

Along the way, the views of the Bay and beyond show why they call San Francisco beautiful.  On a clear day the vista can include a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge, the hills of Marin and, if you’re lucky, the former home of some of the area’s most notorious guests, Alcatraz.

If time permits, I enjoy taking public transportation (the MUNI) to Golden Gate Park and the great museums –The DeYoung and the new California Academy of Sciences as well as The Legion of Honor in nearby Lincoln Park.

In my new role of tourist, I also like to try to see a San Francisco Giants baseball game.  However, it seems now that a ticket to see last year’s World Series Champs has become even more difficult to get than a ticket to a Lady Gaga concert.  But, when the team plays out of town, their home, AT&T Park, offers behind-the-scenes tours and this venue, right within city limits, is spectacular.

Remember, San Francisco is largely a walking town – it’s only seven by seven miles in area.  Of course, the many hills can make it seem much larger.  I don’t try to climb steep Twin Peaks or up the “Crookedest Street in the World,” Lombard Street, but I might try walking up Telegraph Hill to the landmark Coit Tower for a brilliant view of the Bay.

Another must for me is lunch at one of the great Chinese dim-sum restaurants. This assortment of small plates served from strolling carts is unique and delicious.  The only problem is that some of the servers speak almost as little English as I speak Chinese.  But somehow we communicate because I’ve never left hungry.

Very good eating establishments abound in The City, influenced by the many diverse cultures of its citizens — Italian in North Beach, Asian in China Town and Japan Town, Mexican in The Mission District and even Russian out on the Avenues.

And, for those who can budget $100 & up for dinner, renowned restaurants can be found all over town. But there’s really no need to spend so much — Herb Caen, a legendary San Francisco columnist, once claimed that “the higher the view,” the worse the food.

So, it seems what we see as tourists is exactly what makes the City memorable – even in just one day.  If, like myself, you’re then smitten, you too can leave your heart in San Francisco.