Image: San Francisco
Eric Risberg  /  AP file
A cable car makes its way down Powell Street headed for Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.
updated 3/24/2009 10:24:21 AM ET 2009-03-24T14:24:21

The original '49ers came armed with pickaxes, but it's possible to mine the pleasures of the City by the Bay without striking gold. Jump aboard a ferry or streetcar for a cheap tour of San Francisco's scenic splendor, grab a burrito from a Mission District taqueria and catch a glimpse of wild life, from the sea lions barking away at Fisherman's Wharf to the two-legged denizens of the Haight Ashbury District.

Getting around
A seven-day adult pass for San Francisco municipal transit including cable cars is $24. For $59 you can buy a City Pass that also includes a ride on the Blue & Gold fleet and entrance to a number of museums, including the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park (famous for a 2.5 acre living roof).

Free guides and maps are available at the Visitor Information Center of the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau (SFCVB) located at the cable car turnabout at the foot of Market and Powell streets. The center also has information on free walking tours of the city. For more info go to http://www.sfcityguides.org.

Famous places
If you're going to San Francisco you may or may not want to wear some flowers in your hair but you will definitely want to put comfy shoes on your feet, as a lot of the city is best seen by foot.

Walk the winding outlines of Lombard Street between Hyde and Leavenworth and appreciate its steep curves.

Image: Alcatraz sign
Eric Risberg  /  AP
A vintage sign where telescopes once looked out at Alcatraz Island is shown at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.
Take a daytime stroll in the green oasis of Golden Gate Park or amble along the kitchsy but still entertaining Fisherman's Wharf. At Pier 39, sea lions bark for free and a few blocks away, at Pier 45, the Musee Mecanique offers old-time thrills with an antique arcade that includes famous Laughing Sal; fork over 50 cents to hear her creepy cackle. Ghirardelli Square on the west side of the wharf at Beach and Larkin streets has a collection of shops, restaurants, an ice cream shop and two wineries.

From the wharf you can take SF Muni Route 30 and transfer to Route 28 at Laguna & Chestnut to reach the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, where you can snap pictures and walk across if you're feeling spry.

Sightsee like it's 1967 with a visit to the Haight Ashbury District and poke through the area's eclectic mix of head shops, boutiques, second-hand clothing stores, cafes — and more head shops.

For a foggy interlude visit Ocean Beach and stroll the wide sands or trace the outlines of the ruined remnants of the Sutro Baths, an old pleasure ground. (And do remember to bring long pants and a warm jacket for your visit — yes, even in high summer.) The restored Cliff House, 1090 Point Lobos Ave., offers a variety of options from an upscale dinner at Sutro's to more casual fare at the Bistro or a drink at the bar.

It's A Snap! Readers' best shotsTurn over a new leaf at City Lights Books, the independent bookstore co-founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 261 Columbus Ave.

Visit the Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street and admire the produce on display on the Tuesday and Saturday farmers market. You can pick up a hefty burger from Taylor's Refresher and, weather permitting, eat it on the picnic benches outside, watching the ferries come in and out.

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Chinatown starts with an elaborately decorated gateway on Grant Avenue and unrolls from there, a dense and bustling neighborhood threaded with tiny alleys.

Cheap eats
Get some java with a kick at the Buena Vista Cafe near Fisherman's Wharf, said to be the home of the original Irish coffee, 2765 Hyde St.

Pick up a slice of pizza in North Beach, or a burrito from one of the many taquerias on 24th Street in the Mission district. Eat potstickers in Chinatown or get some takeaway crab and sourdough (or clam chowder in a bread bowl) from Fisherman's Wharf. Another al fresco option is to stop at the deli at the Marina Safeway, 15 Marina, and picnic across the street on the grassy expanse of Marina Green.

For a high-low experience, window shop the boutiques of Union Square in downtown San Francisco and then pick up a latte at the Emporio Rulli right on the square. Go ahead, have a pastry, too, it's a well-known fact calories consumed on vacation don't count.

And besides, you'll be doing all that walking.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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
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    Slideshow (28) San Francisco: City by the Bay - The Golden Gate Bridge

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