Vacationing in San Francisco? Make Sure You Dress the Part

As the school year begins to wind down, many families and individuals are focusing on their summer vacation plans. There are a lot of factors that go into planning a big trip, not the least of which is determining where to go and why. So, if you already know that going to San Francisco is in the plans for you this year, you’re one step closer already.

There is so much that San Francisco has to offer tourists, though, that your decision to visit is really only the beginning. In fact, according to About.com, San Francisco is one of the cities that tourists are least prepared to visit – many assuming that touring SF is as simple as getting up, getting dressed and driving over to Alcatraz or Fisherman’s Wharf. But, given the many historical, cultural, and entertainment options that the city and its surrounding areas, doing some basic homework before leave can save you time and money.

Tourist Facts

If you or someone you know is planning a trip to the San Francisco Bay area this summer, you will be in good company. In 2010, almost 16 million people from all over the world visited the Golden Gate City throughout the year. However, like most tourist destinations, the spring and summer time are hot for travelers, with peaks in July, August and September. This means that preparation for summer visits is even more imperative if you want to capitalize on your time in San Francisco.

Golden Gate in Fog

Climate Concerns

One important note about visiting in the summer months especially is the weather. Most people assume that the sweltering days of August heat exist across the country. In fact, San Francisco, due to its proximity to the sea (it is a peninsula after all) and hilly streets that catch a lot of shade from surrounding buildings, has peak temperatures only in the high 60s to low 70s throughout the year. September is actually the warmest month with an average high of 71 degrees.

The flip side is that the winter weather in San Francisco is similarly mild. The coldest month, January, has an average high around 58 degrees. Therefore, regardless of the time of year you choose to visit, packing layers of sweatshirts and windbreakers is essential. Otherwise, you will likely end up buying them.

Hoof It

Another big mistake that first-time visitors to San Francisco make is assuming that, like many West Coast cities, SF is spread out and will require the use of a rental car. Unlike Los Angeles and San Diego, however, San Francisco is quite small and very densely populated. This means that most of what you will want to do while there can be accessed on foot, by taxi or by cable car. Unless you plan on visiting outside of the city limits, say to the surrounding wine country of Sonoma and Napa Valleys, renting a car is a waste of money in San Francisco.

Make Reservations for Alcatraz

The final tip for San Francisco tourists is plan what attractions you want to visit and when. As I mentioned above, the weather is generally mild year-round and summers are characteristically dry. Therefore, taking the time to plan when you will visit popular attractions like Alcatraz can make a big difference in terms of waiting times, and you won’t be too likely to get rained out.

Tourist passes like the San Francisco City Pass and the Go San Francisco Card, which can save you a lot of money when traveling to San Francisco, do not include the Alcatraz tour; it’s that popular. However, brave holders of the Go San Francisco Card can receive a 50% discount on Alcatraz tickets if they have the time and inclination to get out to the island early in the day – the discount is only extended to same-day tickets.

Enjoy San Francisco

Clearly, there is a lot to look forward to if you plan a San Francisco vacation this summer, which can lead you to think it wise to “fly by the seat of your pants” while there. However, the basic time it takes to prepare now will pay back big time dividends in terms of time and money saved.

CityPass Recognized by International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA)

In May of 2011, the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) announced that it would recognize CityPass as a Silver Level Global Partner. As one of the leading organizations in the LGBT tourism industry, the membership of CityPass among IGLTA’s partners is an important step in both generating business through new markets for CityPass as well as extending an understanding and welcoming hand to all travelers who wish to see some of the best sights in 11 top cities at a discounted price.

Golden Gate Bridge

IGLTA partners with every tourism facet from airlines to hotels to travel agents and tour offices. It has been around since 1983 with the sole purpose of uniting businesses in the LGBT tourism industry with one another. Recently, they have expanded operations to help identify for the LGBT community those individuals and organizations who want to reach out to the ever-expanding LGBT market.

CityPass, as an active tourism option in both New York and San Francisco, has always been in the market for LGBT tourists and the Silver Level Partnership is merely a formalized step in reaching a market they have always embraced. As San Francisco Travel’s CEO, Joe D’Alessandro explained recently, the addition of an IGLTA membership, particularly at the Silver level and above, is a formal commitment to the LGBT travel market. CityPass is expressly pledging to make the LGBT travel experience in any of its 11 cities a valuable and warm one.

CityPass was founded in San Francisco in 1997 and has since expanded its market to New York, Chicago, Toronto, Boston, Hollywood, Seattle, Philadelphia, Houston, Atlanta and Southern California. Its passes are valid for 9 days (this is extended to 14 days in Southern California) and allows users discounted access to up to six of each city’s best attractions.

The Statue of Liberty and Manhattan

CityPass is known for allowing its users VIP entry to most of its sights and its versatility is unique in the travel pass industry since online purchase, though easy, is not necessary. All attractions that accept CityPass also sell them.

10 Cities to Consider for Your Next Vacation

When it comes to choosing a destination for your next vacation, many different factors come into play.  Climate, activities and cost are all aspects to consider when deciding where to travel to next, and with choices ranging from Oahu to Chicago to London, there are many cities worthy of a trip!  We’ve compiled this list of 10 places to consider visiting on your next trip to make your decision making process a little easier.

1. New York, New York. NYC is a city full of good food and fun, with more activities to do than you can imagine.  There are plenty of sights to see no matter what age you are!  From amazing zoos (Bronx, Queens and Central Park) to a tour of the Empire State Building to visiting the NBC Studio, there is truly something for everyone.  If music is your passion, there is much history to be enjoyed in New York City, so considering checking out Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden. And of course, don’t miss all the amazing museums New York has to offer, including the Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Children’s Museum and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

The weather can vary – in the summer, temperatures and humidity levels are high, while the winter months will offer blustery days.  Fall days will provide a crisp feeling in the air, and picturesque streets with multicolored leaves covering the city.  Spring showers may bring flowers, but the fickle weather in spring has proven to be unpredictable. And though the city is beautiful in every season – you will want to visit when you are most comfortable walking city streets to see the sights.  Overall, NYC has amazing activities that are fun for the whole family – no matter when you decide to visit!

beach party Luau on Big Island Hawaii after sunset

2. Oahu, Hawaii. Hawaii is a beautiful state, and the island of Oahu has a lot to offer a tourist.  Since there is so much to do, it is recommended to invest in a Go Oahu card to enjoy activities and attractions at a discounted rate.  You can easily see all the sights of the island by taking a tour, including the Pearl Harbor and Honolulu City Tour or the full-day Grand Circle Island Tour.  And while in Oahu, you won’t want to miss the sea life native to the area, so be sure to check out Sea Life Park.  To see the sea life up close, consider kayaking, surfing or snorkeling!

Weather on Oahu is very stable – with most months averaging temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees, though the rainiest season is winter.  Even if it rains on your Hawaii parade – you will surely enjoy your trip full of gorgeous scenery, fascinating plant and animal life.

3. Los Angeles. Los Angeles, LA, The City of Angeles, LALA Land… whatever you call it, the city is a great place for a vacation trip!  If roller coasters, funnel cake and people watching are among your favorite pastimes – Disneyland, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Knott’s Berry Farm are all within a reasonable distance from the city.  If movies are of interest to you, LA is the perfect place for you!  Don’t miss Universal Studios, Warner Brothers Studio Tour and Sony Pictures Studio Tour for a behind the scenes look.

The weather in Los Angeles varies a bit – with the best months to visit reported as April through June and September through October. In the summer you can expect sunshine and high temps, while the fall is cool, winter chilly and spring full of showers.

4. London. If your budget allows for a trip overseas, consider visiting the city of London.  There is so much to see, including the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Windsor Castle, Thames River cruise and much more. The London Zoo and the London Aquarium are great activity options for children and adults alike.

With rainfall being common – the highest temperatures are naturally in the summer, but winter temps rarely plunge below freezing.  London is a city with much to offer from beautifully designed buildings to precious views – it is worth the trek!

Tower Bridge - London

5. Boston. Though the weather can be fickle in New England, Boston is an amazing city to visit any time of year. With winter bringing snow, sleet, and all kinds of precipitation – you must be prepared to visit in wintertime – though the snow on the trees and buildings is very picturesque.  Spring showers are frequent, summer months are full of sunshine and warm weather, with autumn breezes blowing colorful leaves around your feet.

With some much history surrounding it, the city of Boston offers a great deal of activities.  Between the Freedom Trail, the Trinity Church, museums, memorials, breweries and of course, Fenway Park, you will be busy every day of your trip!

6. Chicago. Known as the “Windy City,” be prepared for the weather in Chicago!  While winters are cold, summers can be humid.  Spring and fall can also be chilly but offers great scenery for sightseeing!

With the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum and architectural tours at your disposal, you definitely won’t be bored during your stay.  And if you are, be sure you add SkyDeck Chicago, Hancock Observatory and the Navy Pier to your list of must-sees!

7. San Francisco. If you love beautiful sights, amazing seafood and unique culture, then the city of San Francisco is for you!  You’ll enjoy the view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Twin Peaks and the entire city – especially if you ride the cable cars.  If you’re a foodie – you’ll be in heaven, as the San Fran streets are full of restaurants and cafes.

San Francisco temperatures are on the cool side all year round, with summer temps averaging between 60 and 70 degrees – though winter weather does not bring temps much lower than 45 degrees.

8. Las Vegas. If you and your travel buddies are over 21, Las Vegas is a city you have to visit at least once!  Vegas is full of bars and clubs – if that is your kind of vacation, but there are also a great deal of entertainment options.  With shows ranging from The Lion King to Cirque du Soleil to David Copperfield, there is surely an event that will suit your interests.  And don’t miss the roller coasters on the strip – including theStratosphere Tower and The Roller Coaster at New York-New York!

With more than 300 days of sun a year, chances are you will be able to enjoy at least one sunny day on your trip! And since the weather is usually warmer and drier than other parts of the country, don’t forget your sun screen!

9. San Diego. Beaches, museums, parks, and more – San Diego has it all!  With so much to do, San Diego is a great city to visit with family and/or friends!  The beautiful weather – withtemperatures barely reaching below 50 degrees – allows for outdoor activities all year round.

When making your San Diego itinerary, don’t forget to plan for the San Diego Zoo, the USS Midway Museum, Torrey Pines State Reserve and SeaWorld San Diego!  With so much to do, your San Diego trip will be full, but if you have time, try to plan for the amazing beaches in San Diego as well!

10. Seattle. Though Seattle is known for its sometimes dismal weather, contrary to popular belief – it does not rain all the time!  While it does rain often, summertime (specifically the last half of July and the first half of August) is the driest time of the year in Seattle and winter is the wettest season.

And if it is raining – have no fear. There are plenty of indoor activities in Seattle that will make your vacation worthwhile, like the Museum of Flight, the Seattle Public Library and the Original Starbucks – a must visit for coffee lovers!  If you are visiting and the skies are clear, don’t miss Pike Place Market, Kerry Park and the Space Needle!

With 10 great recommendations of cities to consider for your next vacation – start planning today!  Whether you decide to visit Boston, explore Hawaii with the Go Oahu card or drink coffee in Seattle, we’re sure you’ll have a great time.

From Quirky to Cosmopolitan, San Francisco Has it All

From the cool breezes at a Giants night game at AT&T Park, to delicious sourdough bread from vendors at Fisherman’s Wharf, to the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco delights sports fans, culture buffs, foodies, and more. The City by the Bay offers a mosaic of travel experiences, and San Francisco CityPASS lets travelers hit all the must-see attractions at nearly half off the regular admission price.

Palace of fine arts, San Francisco, California, USA

Customers will find a booklet of discount tickets to SFMoMA, the Aquarium by the Bay, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise. The CityPASS is also good for a 7-day unlimited passport for Muni busses, street cars, and San Francisco’s famous cable cars. Plus you can choose from one bonus admission, either the hand-on Exploratorium or the de Young Museum and Legion of Honor.  Plus, CityPASS holders can jump the admission line at most venues, so you’ll save time as well as money.

A great way to take in all of the city’s sights at once is on the Blue & Gold Fleet’s hour-long Bay Cruise Adventure. This is a great way to get your bearings at the beginning of a trip, or relax and take in the view when you want a break from being on your feet. You’ll sail past the waterfront, catch a glimpse of the famous sea lions at Pier 39, cruise underneath the famous Golden Gate Bridge, and circle the infamous Alcatraz prison.

The California Academy of Sciences packs an aquarium, natural history museum, four-floor rain forest, and planetarium into one eco-friendly building. Visit animals like piranhas, penguins, and albino alligators, or see what Earth looks like when viewed from space. The building boast eco-friendly design elements, too, like walls that are insulated using recycled blue jeans.

Alcatraz

The Aquarium of the Bay lets visitors get up close to local marine life as they walk through tunnels where sevengill sharks swim overhead. More than 20,000 sea creatures call the tanks at Aquarium by the Bay home, and visitors can even touch some of the animals, including bat rays, sharks, and sea stars.

For a different slice of San Francisco life, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is the most comprehensive collection of contemporary art on the west coast. Programs and special exhibitions are always changing, and their museum shop is a great place to look for unique souvenirs. Take a break in SFMoMA’s Caffé Museo and enjoy upscale cuisine and special cocktails with museum visitors and locals alike

Round out your San Francisco visit with one of two very different experiences offered by the CityPASS option ticket. The family-friendly Exploratorium is a hands-on exploration of art, science, and human perception. The de Young Museum and Legion of Honor span the spectrum of art with works from ancient times through the 21st century.

The Exploratorium, in the Palace of Fine Arts, has been a leader in interactive museum experiences for decades. Exhibits include the Tactile Dome—a pitch dark maze that can only be navigated by touch (reservations required). The Shadow Wall lets visitors freeze their shadow in place and explore light and movement. And a 10-foot-tall indoor tornado lets you get up close to nature’s fury.

In Golden Gate Park, the de Young Museum presents American art from the colonial era through today, contemporary art from around the world, costumes and textiles, and art from Central America, South America, Africa, and the Pacific Islands. This summer they present Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay, a rare opportunity to explore the roots of one of the modern era’s most popular artistic movements, featuring works from a famed Paris museum.

The Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park is much more than a military museum. Built to honor California servicemen and women who died in France during World War II, the building is a scale replica of Paris’s Palais de la Légion d’Honneur. Inside is a collection spanning 4,000 years: a world-renowned collection of sculptures by Rodin, ancient Greek and Egyptian art, English porcelain, and more.

San Francisco’s Aquarium of the Bay Poised for Success

The Aquarium of the Bay is bouncing back from an inauspicious start as a failing tourist destination. The nonprofit Bay Institute Aquarium Foundation today announced the successful purchase of the institution from Darius Anderson and Kenwood Bay Aquarium, LLC. The acquisition had been in the works for four years, says a spokesperson. The goal is to transform the aquarium into a self-supporting nonprofit that will serve as a center for science, education, and conservation of the San Francisco Bay and its surrounding waters. Christina Swanson, the Bay Institute’s executive director, touted the acquisition as “a new model of social entrepreneurship that partners a leading science-based nonprofit with a successful, public aquarium.”

SF Aquarium

The Bay Institute had attempted a capital campaign to buy the failing aquarium in 2006, but fell short of its fundraising goals. Political strategist and fundraiser Darius Anderson stepped in and bought the aquarium, enabling the Bay Institute to buy more time. Anderson was able to transform the aquarium into the city’s third-largest ticketed attraction. He helped the Aquarium of the Bay get Green certification, launched a sevengill shark research initiative, and instituted an educational program that brought free classes and tours to 15,000 San Francisco public school students in all grades. “As a fourth-generation San Franciscan, I wanted to ensure that the city had a waterfront aquarium where people would both have fun and leave with a sense of purpose to protect the San Francisco Bay,” Anderson said.

Anderson’s work in making the aquarium profitable helped the Bat Institute Aquarium Foundation reach their fundraising goals.  Steven N. Machtinger, president of the foundation’s board of trustees said, “Raising the capital to acquire Aquarium of the Bay through traditional fundraising during the most serious economic downturn in our country’s recent history was an uphill battle.” But local corporations and foundations like David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, the Marin Community Foundation, and the Dean Witter Foundation joined individual donors including Ruth and Ben Hammett and the Bay Institute’s entire board joined to finally put the capital campaign on track for the acquisition. Fundraising efforts continue, and are earmarked for further expansion of science and conservation programs and partnerships with other environmental organizations.

Executive director Swanson feels that the outlook is positive for the Aquarium of the Bay. “The Bay Institute’s work to protect the largest estuary on the west coast of the Americas will reach a larger audience, “ she says. And the aquarium itself can now offer school programs to a broader audience while undertaking more aggressive research and conservation projects. “The Aquarium of the Bay will crossroad for collaboration among the scientific, educational, interpretive, and conservation communities.”

The Aquarium of the Bay is included in the San Francisco CityPassPier 39 Attraction Pass and Go San Francisco Card.

Celebrate Gay Pride Month with Events Across the Country

40th Anniversary of Pride Celebrations in Many Cities

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Pride Month, and cities around the country are celebrating. Here’s a round-up of events in some top U.S. destinations, according to Smart Destinations. Revelers can use the company’s Go Cards and Explorer Passes for unlimited admission to many attractions around each destination and make the most of all these cities have to offer. Visit smartdestinations.com for more information as you plan your pride experience.

Boston, MA – June 4-13, 2010
Boston’s 10-day Pride celebration is New England’s largest, and this year marks its 40th anniversary. With the theme “Riots to Rights – Celebrating 40 Years of Progress,” the annual Pride Parade is a cornerstone of the events. Visitors taking advantage of the Go Boston Card can choose the Bay State Cruise to Provincetown, a world-class gay and lesbian vacation resort destination at the far end of Cape Doc. For three consecutive years, PlanetOut Travel has named Provincetown, “Best Domestic Gay Resort Town.”

Boston Harbor and Financial District in Boston, Massachusetts at Sunset

Chicago, IL – All month
“One Heart, One World, One Pride” is Chicago’s Pride celebration theme in 2010. Events are scheduled all month long, commencing with the annual parade on the last Sunday in May. With the Go Chicago Card, you can experience the Frank Lloyd Wright Architectural tour, take an afternoon sail on Tall Ship Windy, and visit the Shed Aquarium.  Hit up some of the Chicago’s best gay and lesbian bars in Andersonville and Boystown by renting bikes from Bike and Roll.

New York, NY – June 19-27, 2010
Constance McMillen, the Mississippi teenager who was denied the right to attend her senior prom with her girlfriend, is this year’s marshal of “The March,” New York’s massive pride parade. Rallies, more parades, and special concerts round out the 9-day celebration. Keep your budget in check while in New York with the New York Explorer Pass, which offers users up to 50% off admission to 45 sights around the city.

Los Angeles, CA – June 11-13, 2010
GLBT pride is always on display in LA’s Christopher Street West neighborhood, named after the New York City street that was home to the pivotal Stonewall Rebellion. Christopher Street West hosts the city’s 40th Pride celebration, “PRIDE 365: Power. Passion. Purpose.” Visitors can make the most of their visit to LA with Smart Destination’s Go Los Angeles Card, which includes admission to Pacific Park, Paramount Studios, the Queen Mary, and Kodak Theatre.

San Francisco, CA – June 26-27, 2010
Home to one of the most popular and well-attended Pride events in the world, San Francisco celebrates this year with “Forty and Fabulous.” Parties are sure to last all weekend long, but the Go San Francisco Card offers admission to many sights around the city to round your Pride weekend. Or unwind afterward with a trip to Napa and Sonoma Valleys, where the Wine Country Explorer Pass will give you admission to 17 wineries.