The best damn driving tour of San Francisco as far as you know.

Never been to San Francisco before? Then you need my Best Damn Driving Tour of San Francisco.

Want to see the most sights in in the least amount of time possible? Then you need my patent-, Best of San Francisco—it's the most efficient way to the city of San Francisco without coughing up hundreds of dollars for a helicopter ride.

So who's this driving tour of San Francisco for?

View of san francisco from twin peaks
San Francisco, from Twin Peaks.

This tour is for people who've never been to San Francisco, obviously. People who've never driven across the Golden Gate Bridge, never taken a Red Line boat to Alcatraz, never heard the honking sea lions of Fisherman's Wharf, and never watched the sunset from Twin Peaks.

Sad, right? Well, soon, that won't be you anymore if you follow this route!

Palace Of Fine Arts
San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts.

To be more accurate, this tour is for anyone who has a valid US driver's license and either owns their own car, can borrow a car from a friend, or is old enough—and has the requisite credit rating—to rent a car in California.

You could, I suppose, use ride-sharing companies like Uber® and Lyft® to get you from point to point along this route. But, with surge-pricing and driver tipping, I'm not sure if it would be any cheaper than the helicopter ride.

Wait, what exactly is a “San Francisco”?

the painted ladies from San Francisco
The “Painted Ladies” near Alamo Square.

San Francisco is a major city in Northern California, best known for its crazy-steep hills, pride parades, and famous landmarks like omnipresent fog named “Karl,” the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, and Alcatraz Prison.

This beautiful city covers a mere 49 square miles and is the second-most densely populated U.S. city after New York City. And with almost a million people in that city, and thousands more coming in from all over the Bay Area, you know driving is going to be super fun. 

Driving in San Francisco can be a damn nightmare.

Couple resting with bicycle
Bicycles are fun!

Cars aren't the only way to tour San Francisco. In fact, if you have more time, you could reasonably see all of these same sites by walking, riding a bicycle, or using some combination of the SF Bay Area's two main mass-transit systems, BART and Caltrain. But the title of this post isn't “The Best Damn Walking, Cycling, and Mass Transit Tour of San Francisco,” now, is it? No, it's not. But it is a good idea for another post.

What makes my driving tour the “best damn” one, you ask?

San Francisco's seal lions lounging around
The Fisherman's Wharf sea lions with the former floating restaurant, Forbes Island, in the background.

Experience, plain and simple. You see, I've lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1997, and I know what tourists from the rest of America (and the world) want to see while visiting this fair city. I'm talking about Lombard Street, Coit Tower, Pier 39, Ghirardelli Square, Haight-Ashbury, the Castro, and the rest.

Basically, tourists want to see every location in San Francisco that they've seen in movies and on TV. And the easiest way to do that is by driving—especially within the short time-frame most tourists have before their annual business conference ends (see also, Dreamforce). In one day, you can see practically everything your friends back home will ask you if you saw while you were visiting San Francisco. 

San Francisco's Lombard street
You'll see “The Crookedest Street in the World,” aka, Lombard Street.

Follow my favorite tour route through San Francisco.

TransAmerica building
TransAmerica Building, shot during the “golden hour.”

When friends and family of mine from New York, or anywhere on the East Coast, visited San Francisco, they'd often ask me to give them “a driving tour of San Francisco.” Of course, some of them would ask me to buy them weed, But when I wouldn't, they settled for a driving tour.

In fact, so many people had asked me to drive them around San Francisco so many times, that I finally made a Google Map of my favorite and fastest route through the city.

San Francisco, as viewed from the East Bay, blocked by the Bay Bridge.
The Bay and San Francisco.

By creating a Google Map on the Internet, I wouldn't have to keep reinventing the route every time somebody I knew visited the Bay Area—which was very often.

Better yet, I could just share the Google Map with anyone I didn't like well enough to spend 4 hours in a car with. As a result, my anti-social-ness, horrible memory, and laziness are your gain!

Is this really the best damn driving tour of San Francisco? Yes.

There are plenty of excellent reasons why people from all over come to San Francisco, and you'll see a lot of them on this tour. Here's a list of the 25 must-see sights you'll totally-see when you follow my best damn driving tour of San Francisco:

Drive my fastest route to see the Top-25 sights in San Francisco.

Sunset over San Francisco
Sunset over San Francisco

This self-driving tour of San Francisco is a fairly comprehensive—and relatively speedy—route, considering that it covers 25 of the most popular “Fog City” highlights! Wow, that's a lot of stuff to see and do.

So, to make the best of your limited time, you'll want to get started early on my driving tour of San Francisco, when traffic is lighter. Of course, in San Francisco, traffic is only lighter at 4am. Maybe wait until the sun is up, so you'll actually be able to see the sights without night-vision goggles.

San Francisco at dawn
Start my driving tour of San Francisco at sunrise. Photo@Kehn Hermano

Some driving tips for driving in San Francisco.

Okay, your rental car doesn't have to be this small.

Large pickup trucks and SUVs are not welcome in San Francisco—do not rent them unless you're a masochist. San Francisco is a cramped city, not a sprawling suburb like most Americans may be used to. So driving and parking anywhere, in anything larger than a damn Yugo®, can be a real b!tch

Instead, rent the smallest car you can possibly get, and then download the SpotHero parking app. That will make finding a place to park in San Francisco a helluva lot easier.

PRO TIP: Do not rent a convertible in San Francisco. The average air temperature is a chilly 55°F, yet the sun will instantly give you skin cancer.

Streets of San Francisco in black and white
The Streets of San Francisco

Quick note: when parking your tiny rental car on a hilly street in San Francisco—in other words, all of them—you must “curb your wheels” by law.

Curbing your wheels simply means turning your front wheels hard towards the curb before putting the car in park. DO NOT FORGET TO DO THIS.

The reason for curbing your wheels is important. If the car rolls, for whatever reason, the car will only roll until it hits the curb—no harm, no foul. If you don't curb your wheels, the vehicle could roll straight down the hill, gathering speed, until it kills innocent people. That would be bad.

More general tips about San Francisco you should know.

Young woman in sundress
By 4pm, this woman's going to freeze to death. @Robert So

Basically, the weather in San Francisco is the world's most annoying weather. It gets damn cold, even in the summer (just ask Mark Twain). And it gets effing hot, even in the winter. In San Francisco, you can expect to experience a temperature range anywhere between 50°F and 95°F. Every. Damn. Day.

Mornings are freezing*, midday is sweltering, and afternoons and evenings are freezing again. So accept the fact that you'll never be able to choose the right clothes.

If you commit to wearing cool clothes, you will regret it. If you commit to warm clothes, you will regret that, too. The only solution is to bring several layers of clothing, always and everywhere. Do not trust the weather in San Francisco—it lies.

Oh, and one final tip: Sourdough bread kinda sucks. There, I said it.

Do you drink sour milk, too?!? Photo@Dzedyshko

Like these words?

Get notified when I post more of them—once a month, at most).