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If you’re on a tight travel budget, look to San Francisco's major hotel chains. For example, the Knights Inn, Howard Johnson, Americas Best Value Inn and Suites, and Super 8 are all within walking distance of the Presidio, Pier 39, and Fisherman’s Wharf. The Days Inn, Travelodge at Golden Gate, and Comfort Inn by the Bay are other affordable chains within proximity of the Marina District and the most famous bridge in the world: the Golden Gate.
Other recognizable yet inexpensive hotels in San Francisco include The Hilton near Chinatown, the Holiday Inn at Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Best Western Plus in the always-exciting Tenderloin neighborhood. All of these trusted hotels offer the perfect fit for most travel budgets in addition to amenities like hot breakfasts, ample parking, on-site bars and restaurants, fitness centers, and concierge service.
If you’re looking to go the luxury route with your travel but you don’t want to break the bank, there are a few ways to keep the prices down. San Francisco is home to the top names in luxurious hotels, including The Ritz-Carlton, The Four Seasons, and The St. Regis, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay luxury-level prices.
To get a great price on a luxury hotel, be as flexible as possible with your travel dates. Even for luxury hotels, off-season prices drop to stay on par with the rest of the competition. Although you probably don’t want to visit during San Francisco’s rainy winter, the shoulder seasons of early spring and late fall usually coincide with reduced luxury hotel rates. In addition, booking in advance doesn’t always guarantee a better price, so try walking into a luxury hotel the day of to reserve a room.
When it comes to getting the most out of your visit to San Francisco, remember that locals know best. And what better way to enjoy your stay than by staying at an actual residence? Locals are offering up their rooms, condos, apartments, and entire houses by the hundreds in San Fran, which means you can save money while also experiencing unique housing.
From guest rooms a block from the Presidio and Golden Gate Bridge to homes that sleep eight in the Marina District to condos with views of San Francisco Bay, vacation rentals are low-cost alternatives to pricier hotels. Companies like Airbnb offer hundreds of listing in the San Francisco area, so there’s a great chance you’ll find a fantastic place to stay at an affordable rate. Find rooms on Haight Street for under $100 a night, or rent an entire stunning Victorian for just $150 more.
There are a number of boutique hotels to choose from in the San Francisco area. The Laurel Inn, for instance, in Pacific Heights, is a former motor lodge that's been transformed into a stylish and modern 18-room hotel. It's one of Joie de Vivre Hospitality's many boutique hotels in the area. There’s also the charming Petite Auberge near Fisherman's Wharf that provides guests with free breakfast.
Most visitors fly in and out of San Francisco International Airport on the south side of town. While most desirable hotels are in the heart of the city, you can find affordable and convenient lodging near the airport. The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel San Francisco Airport North, for instance, is right on the bay, yet just 5 miles from the airport. Another nearby option is the Hampton Inn SFO Daly City, which is a quick trip up the interstate from the airport, near San Francisco State University.
If you’ve ever heard San Francisco referred to as the foggy city, that’s because it shares its climate with the Pacific Northwest. This means temperatures stay in the 50s to 70s throughout the year, with lows in the mid 40s and 50s. But with the agreeable, cool climate also comes rain and fog. October through April sees the most precipitation, while May through August experience ample sun.
Because of the ideal weather, tourism booms in San Francisco during the summer, with the city getting almost 75 percent of its yearly tourist totals in a four-month stretch. As a result, hotel rates skyrocket, and affordable rooms become sparse if not impossible to find. Late February through late April are the most budget-friendly months to visit.
September, October, and the first half of November are actually considered the better months to visit San Fran. Due to the Pacific Ocean weather patterns and late season warm fronts, the temperatures during these months usually fall in line with the summer highs and lows, yet tourism drops drastically.
San Francisco is a city made up of unique neighborhoods. There are 28 specific neighborhoods that within San Francisco proper. One of the most popular, Fisherman’s Wharf, offers maritime sights and all the fresh seafood you can eat. This busy area on the northern waterfront is home to the famed Pier 39, the Cannery Shopping Center, and Ghirardelli Square.
The scenic and parklike Pacific Heights is next to the hiking trails and open spaces of the Presidio. It's home to many boutiques and restaurants on Filmore Street and offers amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay.
Entering San Francisco's Chinatown is like walking into a different world, thanks to the iconic Chinatown Gate. It's North America's oldest and largest Chinatown community, filled with parks, clubs, shops, and, of course, authentic Asian cuisine. If you visit in mid-September, you'll catch the Autumn Moon Festival.
One of the most convenient ways to travel between the airport and the city is via the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) subway system. BART’s rapid rail train travels between the airport’s international terminal and multiple locations in the city. Travel times vary depending on where your destination is, but the rates for BART are definitely lower than taxis and airport shuttles.
If you're not traveling out of the city, taxis are affordable alternatives to renting a car in San Francisco. However, they are the most expensive mode of transportation from the airport 15 miles away. If you have a planned departure or event, reserve your taxi well in advance so you aren't left waiting for a ride.
San Francisco International Airport offers 10 on-site rental car companies. Renting a car is a wise choice if you plan to explore beyond the city's center. City parking consists of metered street parking, enforced Monday through Saturday, and garages with rates upwards of $2 an hour.
Another great form of public transportation in San Francisco is the SamTrans Public Bus Service, which runs from the airport to many locations in the Bay Area. Adult day passes within the city cost just $5 per person. With 75 routes to choose from, you'll be sure to reach any destination on your list.
For something a little different that’s also an icon of the streets of San Francisco, take advantage of the city’s trolley system.
If you appreciate contemporary art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is a must-see. Its notable collection of 20th century works includes pieces by Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol. Also visit any of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, including the Legion of Honor museum and its display of European art and the de Young museum's collection of American art.
San Francisco is home to several major league sports teams. For football, catch the San Francisco 49ers play at Levi's Stadium during the winter months. The Giants baseball team plays at AT&T Park during the summer and fall, and the Golden State Warriors play basketball at Oracle Arena from October to April.
For less conventional sports, watch the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in June or Golden Gate rugby throughout the spring.
As for the sights that should top your list, of course there’s the Golden Gate Bridge. But instead of viewing this famous landmark from the Presidio side, walk, bike, or take the bus to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area on the northern side of the bridge. You’ll get all the great views without the crowds.
Other landmarks include Lombard Street, known as the most crooked street in the world. There’s also the Transamerica Pyramid in downtown, the Filbert Steps in Russian Hill, Pier 39 on Fisherman’s Wharf, the bird’s-eye views from Telegraph Hill, and, of course, Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay.
Weekday mornings are probably the best time to visit landmarks, but if your travel schedule only allows for a weekend visit, nights are best. Almost all the landmarks in the city are well-lit and even more beautiful at night.
San Francisco is a sightseer’s paradise, but the crowds can sometimes be overwhelming. So keep in mind that off-hours sightseeing is the best way to experience San Francisco. The city is also pedestrian-friendly, which makes sightseeing by foot a fun, safe, and affordable way to explore. There are crosswalks and easily identifiable pedestrian crossings on just about every street and avenue. And by walking, you’ll avoid traffic and see things you might otherwise overlook.
From the neighborhoods to the sights and attractions, it’s easy to see that San Francisco has a lot to offer. If you don’t want to miss anything, then you need some traveling resources at your side. San Francisco’s Visitor Information Center is easy to find and a great resource when it comes to getting around the city. The visitor center, located at 900 Market Street and open six days a week, has friendly attendants and free maps that can help you get where you need to go in The City by the Bay.
© 2015 Hipmunk, Inc. Hipmunk is a trademark of Hipmunk, Inc.
© 2015 Hipmunk, Inc. Hipmunk is a trademark of Hipmunk, Inc.