Best Views of San Francisco

by | Feb 17, 2017 | California, San Francisco Best Views, United States | 4 comments

The views of San Francisco in February are fabulous!


Our son, Ben, is working in Silicon Valley for a couple of weeks. His family joined him on the adventure …. and we joined in too!

A future blog will be on how we all managed to have fun and do what we wanted on a three-generation trip.

Our first destination was San Francisco and our first priority was to take in the views of the Bay and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

Below is a picture of the young family on our first foray to the waterfront.



There are no bad views of San Francisco.

We set out to find the best views.


Our first fabulous view of San Francisco is from the top of Coit Tower.

Coit Tower offers unparalleled sweeping views over San Francisco Bay. There is a catch! It is hard work to hike up to Coit Tower!

Coit Tower looks like a turret without a castle.

Coit Tower, a slender white concrete column rising from the top of Telegraph Hill, has been an emblem of San Francisco’s skyline since its completion in 1933, a welcoming beacon to visitors and residents alike. Its observation deck provides 360-degree views of the city and bay, including the Golden Gate and Bay bridges.


The simple fluted tower is named for Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a wealthy eccentric and patron of the city’s firefighters. Coit died in 1929, leaving a substantial bequest “for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city I have always loved.”

Coit Tower sits on top of Telegraph Hill.

Telegraph Hill takes its name from a semaphore telegraph erected on its summit in 1850 to alert residents to the arrival of ships.

Coit Tower looked deceptively close from our hotel

It turned out to be quite a hike to get there! The street leading up to the Tower is so steep that the sidewalk is actually stairs. The man in this picture stopped for lunch half way up!

There are fabulous views from the base of Coit Tower. You can take an elevator to the observation deck for $8.00 ($5.00 for seniors).

If the walk up to Coit Tower is a little too ambitious, you can drive or take a bus or cab.


All the walls on the main level of Coit Tower are covered in murals

The murals inside the tower’s base were painted in 1934 by a group of artists employed by the Public Works of Art Project and depict life in California during the Depression. When violence broke out during the 1934 longshoremen’s strike, controversy over the radical content in some of the panels became quite heated. Some of the most controversial elements were painted over, and the tower was padlocked for several months before the frescoes were finally opened to the public in the fall of 1934.

The murals show scenes of agriculture, dairy and industry. I liked the mural of the little boy curled up in a nook with a book.

Norman was the first to venture up to Coit Tower. The weather broke just as Norman reached the top and he caught the view of the Golden Gate Bridge engulfed in fog. After I saw the picture, I just had to go to the top. However, we waited until the next day so that Norman’s muscles could catch a rest.

I walk a lot in Toronto but that did not prepare me for hikes up and down …. and up and down…. all the hills in San Francisco. By day two, my shins were screaming. I did not know there were muscles in those shins. I know it now!

This is the view of Alcatraz Island from the top of Coit Tower


The notorious prison on Alcatraz opened for business in 1933 and was ordered closed by Robert Kennedy in 1963. A tour of the prison is a popular tourist attraction but we skipped it on this trip. I did this tour years ago when Ben was a teenager. It was July. It was so cold and foggy that we had to buy fleece jackets before we boarded the ferry to the Island.

Confession time: I am writing this blog after a long and busy day. I just opened a wonderful bottle of California chardonnay. If I have a second glass, this post will not get out the door!


Our second location for the best views of San Francisco is from the deck of a ship


This is an accidental trip that turned out to be fabulous. We bought a City Pass on our first day. It was not cheap: $90.00. However, it covered admission to the museums that we wanted to see, as well as unlimited travel on buses, street cars and cable cars. Otherwise, each cable car ride is $7.00!

We perused the City Pass booklet and found that it included a boat tour of San Francisco Bay. We caught the boat tour from Pier 39. Let me be clear. I am not a boat person. I loved this boat trip!

The photo above is Coit Tower from the deck of a boat!

This is a view of a famous landmark in San Francisco: Ghirardelli chocolate

Ghirardelli controls every aspect of its chocolate manufacturing process.

Parasailing in February!


Sometimes I wonder why our ancestors stopped in Nova Scotia. If they had just kept going west, I could have been a California Girl. On the day that I watched the parasailors, Nova Scotia was closed for a snow storm and Toronto was under an extreme cold alert.

Alcatraz looks tantalizingly close to the city


The Birdman of Alcatraz must have watched the gulls as they flew freely over Alcatraz.

Our boat cruise took us under the Golden Gate Bridge


The Golden Gate Bridge is the most photographed bridge in the world. It is one of the longest suspension bridges in the world.

When Ben was a teenager, we rented bicycles and cycled across the bridge. If you look to the left in this photo, you will see the road that leads from the bridge down to Sausalito. You need good brakes to manage this ride!

Sausalito is a picturesque community that is surrounded by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It has a lovely main street, filled with shops and restaurants. However, a teenage boy was not interested in those shops!

We did not ride our bikes back up the hill to the Golden Gate Bridge. We took the ferry back from Sausalito to San Francisco.


The sun started to set as we made our way back to Pier 39


I do not like sailing but I loved the sailboats that sailed under the Golden Gate. The water turned golden before my eyes!

This was our final view of Golden Gate Bridge


After we disembarked from the boat, we used our handy City Pass to board the streetcar and trolly up California Street to the top of Nob Hill for our final view of San Francisco at the Top of the Mark, a rooftop bar at the top of the Mark Hopkins Hotel.

I was prepared to pay a premium price for a glass of wine at the Top of the Mark … but it was less than any bar in Toronto! We were tempted to order a bottle of champagne to celebrate our final view of San Francisco, but we had to get down from the top of Nob Hill!

This is a picture of Grace Cathedral at the top of Nob Hill. (The photo quality is not great because I’m not great at night photography and this is a picture taken through glass.)

Grace Cathedral is famous for its front doors, a replica of Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise. We saw the original Gates of Paradise in Florence last spring. You can see a picture of the original gates in a previous post.

In 1943, the original gates were removed from the Florence baptistery to protect them from bombing. They were hidden in a disused railway tunnel. After they were rediscovered, a latex cast was made. The replica doors were cast for a war memorial. When financing for the memorial fell through, a San Francisco philanthropist purchased the doors for the Grace Cathedral.

Each door is over 16 feet tall and weighs more than a ton.

We enjoyed the sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge from the Top of the Mark

PS: I had that second glass of chardonnay!


Please return next week to celebrate the Chinese New Year in San Francisco

Rose Ann MacGillivray

Rose Ann MacGillivray

World Heritage Traveller at
I love visiting World Heritage Sites, celebrating the world’s most fascinating places and cultures, and most of all, having fun on a trip. Join me on the road to fun and fascinating places. Thanks for reading – and remember to add your e-mail below for updates!
Rose Ann MacGillivray

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