French skipper Olivier de Kersauson and
Tony Avelar  /  AFP - Getty Images file
French skipper Olivier de Kersauson and his crew guide their boat, Geronimo, under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, June, 11 during their record breaking voyage from Yokohama, Japan to San Francisco, in 13 days, 22 hours, 38 minutes, 36 seconds. Kersauson broke the previous record held by Bruno Peyron - 14 days, 17 hours, 22 minutes and 50 seconds.
updated 7/31/2006 1:06:57 PM ET 2006-07-31T17:06:57

An Early Morning Cable-Car Ride: Skip the less-scenic California line and take the Powell-Hyde cable car down to Fisherman's Wharf -- the ride is worth the wait. When you reach the top of Nob Hill, grab the rail with one hand and hold your camera with the other, because you're about to see a view of the bay that'll make you a believer. Oh, and don't call it a trolley.

An Adventure at Alcatraz: Even if you loathe tourist spots, you'll like Alcatraz. The rangers have done a fantastic job of preserving The Rock -- just looking at it is enough to give you the heebie-jeebies -- and they give excellent guided tours (highly recommended). Heck, even the boat ride across the bay is worth the price, so don't miss this attraction.

A Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge: Don your windbreaker and walking shoes and prepare for a wind-blasted, exhilarating journey across San Francisco's most famous landmark. It's simply one of those things you have to do at least once in your life.

A Stroll Through Chinatown: Chinatown is a trip. I've been through it at least 100 times, and it has never failed to entertain me. Skip the crummy camera and luggage stores and head straight for the markets, where a cornucopia of sights you just don't see that often in America sits in boxes for you to scrutinize (one day we saw an armadillo for sale, and it wasn't meant to be a pet). Better yet, take one of Shirley Fong-Torres's Wok Wiz tours of Chinatown.

A Shopping Spree: Up your credit card limit and bring an extra suitcase, because you're sure to find hundreds of must-haves in the department stores and boutiques surrounding San Francisco's retail epicenter, Union Square. Boutique hounds should head to North Beach's Grant Avenue, upper Fillmore, and Hayes Valley for the best selections of chic women's wear.

Frommer's Best Authentic Experiences in San Francisco

Feasting at the Ferry Building: During Farmers Market days, this bayfront alfresco market is packed with local shoppers vying for the freshest in local produce, breads, and flowers -- or just mingling during their lunchbreak. But the building itself has become a mecca for food lovers who daily browse the outstanding artisan food shops and restaurants and linger over glasses of wine at the festive wine bar.

Cafe Hopping in North Beach: Join residents by lingering at a cafe as the aroma of roasted coffee beans wafts down Columbus Avenue. Start the day with a cup of Viennese at Caffé Trieste (a haven for true San Francisco characters) and follow it with a walk in and around Washington Square. Continue with lunch at Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store (à la focaccia sandwiches), book browsing at City Lights, more coffee at Caffé Greco, and dinner at L'Osteria del Forno or Moose's. Finish the day with a nightcap as Enrico Caruso plays on the jukebox at Tosca.

Frommer's Best Off Beat Travel Experiences in San Francisco

A Soul-Stirring Sunday Morning Service at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church: Preacher Douglas Fitch turns churchgoing into a spiritual party here that leaves you feeling elated, hopeful, and unified with the world. All walks of life attend the service at this Tenderloin church just west of Union Square, which focuses not on any particular religion, but on what we have in common as people. It's great fun, with plenty of singing and hand clapping.

A Cruise Through the Castro: The most populated and festive street in the city is not just for gays and lesbians (although the best cruising in town is right here). While there are some great shops and cafes, it's the people watching here that makes the trip a must. If you have time, catch a flick at the beautiful 1930s Spanish colonial movie palace, the Castro Theatre.

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A Date in the Haight: It's not quite as groovy as it was during the Summer of Love, but the stretch of shops, restaurants, and bars along the strip between Masonic and Stanyan streets do make for good browsing and the vibe underscores the city's counterculture, including a good deal of homeless folks, contemporary hippies, and funky-clad urban kids.

AsiaSF: Rather than simply having dinner, this SoMa spot serves up great entertainment with gorgeous Asian transvestites serving baby back ribs and performing lip-synch ensembles throughout the evening. Trust me, it's pure fun.

Frommer's Best Free Things to Do in San Francisco

Meander Along the Marina's Golden Gate Promenade and Crissy Field: Join the joggers, windsurfers, dog-walkers, and frolickers in one of the city's favorite pastimes -- strolling the bayfront Marina in the Marina District. You won't find more fabulous views of the Golden Gate, Marin Headlands, beach, bay, and native flora and fauna anywhere else.

Stair Climb: Forget the gym. Get great exercise and catch some of the coolest city and neighborhood views by hoofing it up (or down) the Filbert Street Steps on Telegraph Hill or Lyon Street Steps in Pacific Heights.

Explore the Neighborhoods: The best way to experience San Francisco is to walk it and its vibrant neighborhoods. Take one of the walking tours in this book or just chart your own path. Try the Mission around 16th Street and Valencia for a mix of Latin culture and hip shops and restaurants, North Beach for shopping, cafe culture, and Italian restaurants, and Pacific Heights for stunning mansions and bay views.

A Cocktail in the Clouds: Some of the greatest ways to view the city are from top-floor lounges in fine hotels such as the Sir Francis Drake, Union Square, the Grand Hyatt San Francisco, and The InterContinental Mark Hopkins, Nob Hill. Drinks aren't cheap, but it beats paying for a dinner. Besides, if you nurse your drink (or order something like tea or coffee), the combo of atmosphere, surroundings, and view are a bargain.

For a complete listing of what to see and do in San Francisco, visit the online attractions index at Frommers.com.

Frommer’s is America’s bestselling travel guide series. Visit Frommers.com to find great deals, get information on over 3,500 destinations, and book your trip. © 2006 Wiley Publishing, Inc. Republication or redistribution of Frommer's content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Wiley.

Photos: City by the Bay

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  1. City view

    The Transamerica Pyramid building is seen through the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge on June 20, 2007. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Cable cars

    A cable car makes its way up a steep hill on California Street in San Francisco on Oct. 8, 2008. The California cable car line is the least-crowded of the three working lines and is the one most often used by locals. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Alcatraz

    Seagulls fly over San Francisco Bay with Alcatraz Island in the background on April 24, 2007. The former federal penitentiary is a popular San Francisco tourist attraction. (Eric Risberg / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Cell block walk

    Visitors tour a cell block on Alcatraz Island. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. The scenic route

    A car makes its way along the 49-Mile Scenic Drive on March 25, 2005, in San Francisco. San Francisco's 49-Mile Scenic Drive was opened in 1939 as a guide for visitors to The City's 1939-1940 Golden Gate International Exposition. The route includes most of San Francisco's major sights as well as winding through many of the city's colorful neighborhoods, giving visitors a look into the diversity and beauty of the area. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Chinatown

    A pedestrian walks by the Ma-Tsu temple in San Francisco's Chinatown district on February 3, 2011. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. California Academy of Sciences

    The flooded rain forest exhibit is shown at the new California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco on Sept. 18, 2008. On the ground floor of the exhibit, tropical fish swim in the flooded roots of trees. Then an elevator takes visitors up into the canopy where birds fly free in a giant glass dome. (Paul Sakuma / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Sea lions

    A group of sea lions rest on a dock at Pier 39 on December 12, 2007, in San Francisco. The boisterous and playful mammals are a huge hit with tourists. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Victorian architecture

    The famous row of homes known as the "Painted Ladies" are seen from Alamo Square Park on Feb. 2, 2009, in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Surf's up

    A surfer walks out of the water at Ocean Beach on December 5, 2006, in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Palace of Fine Arts

    Birds fly in front of the Palace of Fine Arts. The building is one of many sites on San Francisco's 49-Mile Scenic Drive. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Lombard Street

    A single car drives down Lombard Street, San Francisco's most crooked street, on April 29, 2003. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Golden Gate Park

    A family rows a boat on Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park on June 21, 2011, in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Fisherman's Wharf

    Pedestrians walk through the typically crowded Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco’s most popular tourist attraction, known for its historic waterfront, delicious seafood, unique shopping and more. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Choose your dinner

    Tourists pick out their dinner at a local restaurant. San Francisco salutes the Dungeness Crab with its annual Crab Festival in February. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Ghirardelli Square

    San Francisco's landmark Ghirardelli Square is seen on May 12, 2003. The square was originally a chocolate factory but now houses retail shops and restaurants. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Angel Island

    A group of visitors take a segway tour on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay on June 3, 2009. Once known as the "Ellis Island of the West," the Angel Island immigration station, a historic site, was designed to control the flow of Chinese immigrants to the United States. (Jeff Chiu / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Japanese Tea House and Garden

    The Japanese Tea House and Garden is an attraction in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Today, 75,000 people visit the park on an average weekend. (Philip H. Coblentz / SFCVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Coit Tower

    The moon rises next to Coit Tower on September 22, 2010, in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: San Francisco Will Study Golden Gate Tidal Movement As Energy Source
    Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (19) San Francisco: City by the Bay - City by the Bay
  2. Image: Bridge Building
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    Slideshow (28) San Francisco: City by the Bay - The Golden Gate Bridge

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