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By Angela Jackson

In preparation for the 2015 AAPS National Biotechnology Conference in San Francisco, one of the nicest things about visiting is that, although the city is “big” in terms of attractions and amenities, it is geographically small—only 49 square miles. Consequently, it is very easy to see and do a great many things in a short period of time.

It is also easy to spend weeks in San Francisco and still not experience everything the city has to offer. Here is a suggested list of the top 10 things not to miss in San Francisco, according to the San Francisco Travel Association:

1. The Golden Gate Bridge, the most famous bridge in the world, manages to impress even the most experienced travelers with its stunning 1.7-mile span. A pedestrian walkway allows the crossing on foot, and bikes are allowed on the western side.
goldengate

2. Cable cars have been transporting people around San Francisco since the late 19th century. The cars run on tracks and are moved by an underground cable on three routes. Each ride will provide spectacular views of the city’s celebrated hills as well as exhilarating transportation.

3. Alcatraz, the notorious former prison, is located on an island of the same name in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Some of the United States’ most notorious criminals were incarcerated there. Though several tried, no inmate ever made a successful escape from “The Rock.” The prison was closed in the 1960s and stories about Alcatraz are legendary. Audio tours of the cell-house are available, allowing visitors to learn about the prison.
alcatraz

4. Fisherman’s Wharf is also home to PIER 39, a festive waterfront marketplace that is one of the city’s most popular attractions. A community of California sea lions has taken up residence on the floats to the west of the pier, and visitors line the nearby railing to watch their antics. From there it’s a short walk to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and the famous crab vendors selling walk-away crab and shrimp cocktails.

5. Union Square is the place for serious shoppers. Major department stores and the most exclusive designer boutiques line streets like Post, Sutter, Geary, Grant, Stockton, and Powell. The Westfield San Francisco Shopping Centre houses the largest Bloomingdale’s outside of New York and the second largest Nordstrom in the U.S.

6. North Beach, the city’s Italian quarter, isn’t a beach at all. It’s a neighborhood of romantic European-style sidewalk cafes, restaurants, and shops centered near Washington Square. The beautiful Church of Saints Peter and Paul is a beloved landmark. Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill offers a splendid vantage point for photos of the bridges and the bay.
coittower

7. The entrance to Chinatown is called the “Dragon’s Gate.” Inside are 24 blocks of hustle and bustle, most of it taking place along Grant Avenue, the oldest street in San Francisco. This city within a city is best explored on foot; exotic shops, renowned restaurants, food markets, temples, and small museums comprise its boundaries. Visitors can buy ancient potions from herb shops, relax and enjoy a dim sum lunch, or witness the making of fortune cookies.

8. Dining in San Francisco is an attraction in itself. Known as America’s best restaurant city, San Francisco chefs excel at combining the freshest local ingredients, authentic international flavors and a touch of creative genius. Visit the San Francisco Travel Association’s dining section for a list of the hottest restaurants, a calendar listing of food-related news and events, and a weekly insider’s blog by Marcia “the tablehopper” Gagliardi.

9. Nightlife in San Francisco is a constantly changing scene. The “hottest” clubs currently are in the South of Market and Mission districts, with live and recorded rock and Latin music. Jazz, blues, swing, and “oldies” music can be found all over town.

10. A visit to San Francisco would not be complete without a cultural experience. The city is home to internationally recognized symphony, opera, and ballet companies. Playwrights such as Sam Shepherd and Tom Stoppard introduce their works in San Francisco and avant-garde theatre and dance companies dot the city. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (closed until early 2016), the Asian Art Museum, the de Young Museum, the Legion of Honor, and other museums and galleries are devoted to the finest of classical and contemporary arts. San Francisco is also home to the California Academy of Sciences—the only place on the planet with an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum, and a four-story rainforest all under one roof. For a complete museum guide, visit our museums listings.
aquarium

We look forward to seeing you all in San Francisco June 8–10!

Angela Jackson was the head of international media efforts at San Francisco Travel.