Downtown SF from up above the city.

San Francisco tours you need to check out

Take a walk on the wild side with a San Francisco tour.
Take a walk on the wild side with a San Francisco tour.

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

After experiencing all of the benefits of going on tours while visiting New Orleans, I was pretty excited to check out the guided tours presented to me while starting my new life in San Francisco. While the City may seem small, there’s a ton to see. From public parks to neighborhood walk-abouts, San Francisco tours are plentiful and just as diverse as the population of the city. Here are a few tours you need to check out while traveling to San Francisco.

Take an aerial tour of SF with Accessible Aviation Golden Gate’s Sightseeing Flights

SF-Aerial-Tour
Fly above the City with Accessible Aviation.

I can’t think of a better way to get familiar with the city than taking an aerial tour of your new home. Accessible Aviation Golden Gate invited me to their Oakland hub for a sunset tour of the City. I hopped on BART toward East Bay for a quick ride to the Oakland Airport where Carl, pilot and instructor, picked me up. A five minute car ride took us to the Accessible Aviation Golden Gate offices and aircraft.

Downtown SF from up above the city.
Downtown SF from up above the city.

After getting a bit of preliminary information, we boarded the Piper Seneca, a twin-engine craft ideal for up to four passengers. Once we got into the sky, we got a bird’s eye view of Oakland, Treasure Island, the Bay Bridge, Financial District, Alcatraz, Golden Gate Park and the Pacific Ocean. Tours last anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes of air time.

Fly over the Golden Gate with the guys at Accessible Aviation.
Fly over the Golden Gate with the guys at Accessible Aviation.

 

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Views of Alcatraz Island.

Passengers have the option of booking daytime, sunset and evening tours. And after each tour, the pilots can provide you with a video of your tour from their GoPro. That’s definitely a uniquely San Francisco souvenir you’ll want to take home with you. For more information, visit www.flysftours.com .

Get a fun history lesson with All About Chinatown Walking Tours

Chinatown SF
Exploring Chinatown during the Lunar New Year celebration.

Walking tours can be a little boring but leave it to Linda Lee of All About Chinatown Walking Tours to give you an exciting and thoughtful tour of Chinatown, one of the City’s most touristed neighborhoods. Linda, a Chinatown native, has been with the company for more than 30 years and is the person you want to talk to about Chinatown history, where to eat and where to buy groceries, among so much more. She’s a true wealth of knowledge and has an amazing spirit to show for it.

Chinatown-Fortune-Cookie-Factory
No visit to Chinatown is complete until you visit the Fortune Cookie Factory.

Take a tour and you’ll learn about the history of Chinese immigration into the City during the Gold Rush, the average day in the life of an immigrant, how they lived back then, what their housing units looked like, and how modern Chinese residents continue to shape the area with culture, tradition and family values.

Chinatown-Herbalist
Choose from 400 different herbal remedies at the Herb Shop in Chinatown.

On this particular tour, we visited an herbal pharmacy, market, fortune cookie factory and Buddhist temple. Lunar New Year festivities were happening throughout the streets during our tour, adding an extra bit of excitement. Expect to spend about two hours on the tour or make your stay in Chinatown even longer and opt for lunch at one of the nearby dim sum eateries.

No joke, you can buy live frogs in some of the markets in Chinatown.
No joke, you can buy live frogs in some of the markets in Chinatown.

Chinatown spans 20 square city blocks and it can be a lot to take in upon first glance. But let All About Chinatown Walking Tours lead the way for a memorable and educational experience. For more information, visit www.AllAboutChinaTown.com.

Work up a sweat with Urban Hiker’s Presidio Exploration

Lyon-St-Steps-view
Once you climb to the top of the Lyon Street steps, the view will be totally worth it.

Parks are everywhere you look around the City and locals and residents alike love spending time among the grass and trees when they can. While my list of local parks to check out continues to grow, I went on a guided tour of the Presidio with Urban Hiker.

You’ve been warned. Urban Hiker’s tours aren’t for those looking to spend a couple hours in the great outdoors in flip flops or expect a leisurely, non-sweaty stroll in the City. The Presidio Exploration is the “easiest” of the tours and I was drenched in sweat 10 minutes into our tour after climbing 200 steps and then again after climbing through the woods all day.

Presidio-cemetery
Inside the San Francisco National Cemetery at the Presidio.

We started our five mile, two and a half hour hike by climbing the gorgeous, sweat-inducing Lyon Street Steps to the entrance of the Presidio. Our tour guide, Max, who moonlights as an urban tour guide, lead our hike with facts about the Presidio’s 200 years of military history and how its once barren hills became the lush park it is today.

Presidio-Wood-Line
You have to find the Wood Line inside the Presidio.

Our small group walked down artist Andy Goldsworthy’s Wood Line, saw Lovers Lane, visited the Presidio Main Post and the National Cemetery, among many other vistas and lookout points. If you can find it, make sure to visit Andy’s other work, Spire. Most of the Presidio’s trees were planed by the Navy between the 1880 and 1890s so some of the Monterey Cypress trees are nearing their 100-year life span. The installation celebrates the lives of naturally fallen trees while new, young trees have been planted around and will one day tower over it.

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Check out the Spire. Photo courtesy of Inhabitat.com.

If your family is rooted in military history or you love breathing in the fresh air in the middle of the City, you must check out Urban Hiker. Five million visitors walk through the Presidio annually so get off the grid for a bit and work up a sweat. For more information, visit www.UrbanHikerSF.com.

Whether you’re looking for a history lesson, food-filled day, or a hike outdoors, San Francisco tours offer something for everyone. For more information about San Francisco tours, visit www.sanfrancisco.travel.

 

 

 

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