San Francisco: Golden guide

By Alex Robertson

With the America's Cup running over three months, visitors can use the downtime to navigate the special parts of San Francisco.

Tourists get a perfect shot of the Golden Gate Bridge at the entrance to the San Francisco Bay. Photo / Alex Robertson
Tourists get a perfect shot of the Golden Gate Bridge at the entrance to the San Francisco Bay. Photo / Alex Robertson

On yer bike

Cycling is hugely popular in San Francisco and there are many bicycle hire shops. The city has the largest city park to cycle through in the US: Golden Gate Park runs from Haight-Ashbury all the way to the ocean.

One of the more popular routes is from Fisherman's Wharf along the waterfront up to Golden Gate Bridge. Cycle across the bridge and up to Fort Point lookout for the perfect photo opportunity (late afternoon is best for the light) then on to Sausalito for an early evening drink or dinner and take the ferry back to Fisherman's Wharf.

Giant encounter

Rising up over 100m from the forest floor, the Giant Redwood is unique to the Pacific coast of the US, from Northern California to Southern Oregon. They thrive in the moist, foggy climate and fertile soils. Extensively logged, only 5 per cent of the original coverage remains and the trees are now protected. Extranomical Tours offer trips to Muir Woods and further afield.

On the road

There are plenty of walking routes around San Francisco. Each offer a chance to view the city up close at a relaxed pace.

After a top-shelf shopping experience in the Financial District, grab a snap of the Transamerica Pyramid before heading down Columbus Avenue. Drop into the world-renowned City Lights bookstore and explore Jack Kerouac Alley immediately behind before a brief detour into Chinatown.

Back on Columbus you can observe Italian culture in the dozens of cafes, bars and restaurants that line the road. At the end of Columbus is Fisherman's Wharf, where you pick up the waterfront back around to the America's Cup Village.

Take me to the ball game

Even if you are not a fan of baseball you will not fail to be entertained. The food and drink choices will astound you; the people-watching opportunities will amaze you. And then there are the hawkers who work the crowd selling everything from giant hands to hot-dogs.

Crowd-pleasers include my favourite, Kiss Cam. There are two teams in town, the better park being the Giants' ground right next to the water in South Beach. Book your tickets early or pay the price - I paid US$100 ($120), but the seats were great.

You'll come away with a smile on your face and the catchy refrain: "Hot Dogs, Hot Dogs!"

Alex Robertson flew with Air New Zealand and was a guest of Visit California.

- NZ Herald

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