My sister and I planned a day-trip from San Jose to San Francisco and were super excited about it. We didn’t have a car and we wanted a budget travel experience. So we took the train which leaves every 30 min from San Jose and takes about 2 hours to reach San Francisco, The schedule can be found here.
We reached San Francisco in the morning and grabbed a bite at Subway on the station. We had heard many stories about people getting pick pocketed and mugged and were extra careful. But guess what, we got mugged at the station and the adventure began! 🙂
Both mine and my sister’s credit cards were in the same bag along with some dollar bills. We were left with nothing but one credit card that was used to pay our subway bill. Hence my motivation for this post was, ‘Exploring San Francisco being Cashless!’
We boarded the bus from the train station but obviously had zero cash! We requested the bus driver to give us a free ride until the Palace of Fine Arts and he being a thorough gentleman, happily agreed.
Below is My List of Top Free Attractions You Must Visit in San Francisco
1. Palace of Fine Arts
It is one of the few structures in existence from the Panama Pacific Exposition of 1915. The palace hosts various art museums as well on a chargeable basis and you can choose not to go inside for the exhibition if you are cashless too :). It is a hot spot for pre & post wedding photography and you can find many bride and grooms taking romantic shots.
2. Golden Gate Bridge
Within a few hundred meters, you can see the iconic suspension bridge of San Francisco. The sidewalk access is available for pedestrians and cyclists and the rules can be found on the link below. We decided to walk instead of cycling.
3. Fort Mason Art Museum
This fort was the Port of Embarkation for US Navy for more than 100 years. During World War II, it was a crucial base for Pacific campaign. Today, this site hosts over 15 million visitors for the various art and culture exhibitions.
4. Ghirardelli Square
This is by far, one of the most happening areas of this northern belt. It has some of the most awesome wine and eatery joints. Not to forget the world famous and the original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop, where you can view the chocolate manufacturing equipment and indulge in hot fudge sundaes & signature ice creams. Being a fan of chocolates and ice creams, this was like a dream come true! I relished the world famous Sundae which was worth every penny!
5. Lombard street
This is claimed to be the most beautiful street in the world with 6 hairpin turns. The road is beautifully clad with flowers and plants and 2-3 tier houses on either sides. Some people recommend taking a cab to the lombard street where as we simply walked from the Ghirardelli square. (remember we were cashless!!)
6. Rainforest Cafe
This restaurant caught my eye and prompted me to have a look. The entry to the restaurant is marked by a jungle like experience with all kind of animals and roof top grass architecture. As their logo says, it is a really wild place to shop and eat at the same time. They sell a lot of souvenirs of their shop itself which was a very new to me. The food served is good as well.
7. Pier 39
It has to be on your to do list in San Francisco. The road to pier 39 is full of entertainment. Street performances, live music, waterfront dining, shopping (lots of souvenir shops), amusement parks, aquarium and the list goes on. Oh yeah! How can I forget! The sea lions. There are thousands of Sea Lions in Pier 39 and here’s their story about how they managed to land here.
Few sea lions came to the Pier 39 shore in late 1989. These sea lions found the environment to be safe from predators and got plentiful food from the bay. Eventually these sea lions brought their friends along and the population of sea lions in Pier 39 significantly increased. In the 1990s, the sea lions would hit the coast and they were troubled by the visitors. Now a partition is created and the visitors are at a higher platform to avoid animal teasing and feeding. It was fun to find these gorgeous creatures lazying around and occasionally jumping into water.
This was the end of my really memorable experience at San Francisco. Below is a split of my $68:
$4 – Subway
$12 – world famous ice-cream at Ghirardelli’s
$12 – cab back to train station
$20 – souvenir (magnet & t-shirt)
$20 – dinner at Pier 39