June 19, 2024

Alex o'Loughlin

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Mistakes Tourists Make While Visiting San Francisco

San Francisco is one of the most popular cities in the United States for tourism ― and for good reason. It boasts a top-notch food scene, gorgeous parks, iconic architecture and more.

But according to locals, Bay Area tourists tend to get things wrong during their visits. We asked San Francisco residents to share some of the faux pas they’ve observed, and they eagerly obliged.

From wearing the wrong clothes to leaving items exposed in a car, here are just a few mistakes tourists often make while visiting San Francisco ― and some advice for avoiding these errors during your travels.

Not wearing layers

“One fashion mistake that most tourists make when visiting San Francisco is packing the wrong clothes. Since the weather changes frequently and it gets quite windy and foggy, layer up! Skip the shorts and mini skirt and opt for baggy jeans or trousers.” ― Ally Chen, blogger and YouTuber at Fashion by Ally

“A common question I receive from family and friends who are planning to visit SF is, ‘What should I wear?’ No matter the time of year, I always recommend packing a few light layers — the weather can change quickly so it’s best to be prepared with pieces you can easily take on and off. My go-to combination is a comfy sweatshirt layered under a long modern coat.” ― Kate Ogata, content creator and style blogger

Leaving items exposed in your car

“A big mistake is leaving things in your car while it’s unattended. If you plan to rent a car or drive up, please please do not leave anything valuable in the car, like your luggage, backpacks, purses, electronics, etc. Car break-ins have reached an upsetting and unprecedented level.” ― Ashleigh Reddy, photographer and content creator

“Never leave anything showing in your car, not even clothes or a charging cable. It will get broken into. If you want to put stuff in your trunk, put it in before you get to your destination and don’t open your trunk once you get there.” ― Allie Tong, blogger at Allie Eats

Spending the whole time in Fisherman’s Wharf

“Tourists flock to Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square in droves, but many are missing what really makes San Francisco special ― the dozens of neighborhoods that make up the city! The differences between them can be very striking and each one has something special to offer. Some of my favorites to explore are Alamo Square for all the colorful houses, the Mission for the vibrant food scene and people watching, North Beach to take a mini trip to Italy, and Hayes Valley for dining and shopping.” ― Kelly Huibregtse, blogger at A Side of Sweet

“Fisherman’s Wharf is the Times Square of San Francisco. Of course, you have to visit it at least once, but a huge mistake tourists make is spending the majority of their time there and they leave without an authentic San Francisco experience. You can find an Applebee’s and IHOP anywhere, after all. I would suggest budgeting a couple of hours to visit Fisherman’s Wharf but when you start to get hungry, leave the touristy area and head to North Beach, the city’s historic Italian neighborhood and you can find some of the best cioppino and pizza here.” ― Kara Harms, blogger at Whimsy Soul

Expecting warm summers

“As a San Francisco local, I know any day now the fog will roll in and stay until September. Travelers think of California and picture hot summer days with sunshine, palm trees and long sandy beaches, but San Francisco is in Northern California (not Southern) and is famous for its microclimate. June, July and August bring tons of thick fog, which cools the city down to the 50s. I always see tourists shivering in shorts and tank tops in the summer and always have a chuckle when they are wearing some sort of San Francisco sweater shirt because I know they caved and bought a hoodie from Fisherman’s Wharf to stay warm.” ― Harms

Just because it's in California doesn't mean San Francisco is always warm and sunny.

Don White via Getty Images

Just because it’s in California doesn’t mean San Francisco is always warm and sunny.

Assuming restaurants will be open late

“A mistake tourists make is trying to go to a restaurant late. We are a city of morning risers, hikers and yogis. We love our sleep and catching the sunrise.” ― Safiya Jihan, fashion designer and style consultant

Calling it ‘San Fran’

“Tourists often call it ‘San Fran’ or, even worse, ‘Frisco.’ But locals call it San Francisco, SF or The City.” ― Anna Alexia Basile, photographer

Wearing the wrong shoes

“San Francisco is an extremely walkable city, but not if you’re wearing the wrong shoes! A lot of times I see tourists in flip-flops or sandals (especially during the ‘summer months’). First thing to note is our summer is typically colder than winter thanks to inland warmth driving the fog into the city. If you wear flip-flops during the ‘summer,’ prepare for your toes to freeze. Second, because our city is so walkable and there are many hills, it’s smart to wear comfortable walking shoes, so you can truly explore the city by foot. If you visit San Francisco and you don’t have plans to walk around all day, you’re definitely making a mistake.” ― Chandamheer Stacker-Chung, blogger at Pancake Stacker

Not being strategic about the cable car

“Riding a cable car up a steep hill in San Francisco is iconic, but it can also take you literally hours of standing in line only to board a very crowded car and have a disappointing experience. There’s a better way to do it and it will require a bit of strategy but the payoff is fantastic. First, set your alarms early and aim for a morning cable car ride no later than 9 a.m. Instead of wandering over to the Powell-Hyde cable car on Market or Fisherman’s Wharf, which are the most crowded stops, head to the Van Ness and California stop. This stop is further away from the touristy areas and thus has a fraction of the riders getting on here. Last time I rode the cars, we headed here and had the whole car to ourselves for a few stops, which meant we got to snag coveted front-row seats with all the good views.” ― Harms

Missing Golden Gate Park

“Did you know that Golden Gate Park is bigger than Central Park? There’s also bison that live in there (for real), a couple of Dutch windmills, secret public art spots, rose gardens, Redwood groves, a conservatory of flowers, a tea garden, the country’s first playground, and so much more. Golden Gate Park is bursting at the seams with hidden gems and fun outdoor things to do. Sadly, tourists either never make it to the West half of the city, or they go to the Cal science museum and call it a day. I wish more people took the time to explore the park; it’s one of the spots that makes San Francisco unique.” ― Harms

Not making reservations

“If you’re a foodie, make reservations a month in advance. There’s a high volume of incredible and delectable restaurants in SF. But if you’re anything like me and want to check out some of the newest or more popular restaurants that have a bit of buzz (Penny Roma, Good Good Culture Club, Che Fico), make a reservation on Resy or directly through the restaurant’s website.” ― Aimee Rancer, blogger at The Ohio Transplant

“I highly recommend visitors do their research on their favorite restaurants and make a reservation to avoid getting turned away at the door.” ― Cynthia Cole, blogger at Cyn Eats

Making too many wine stops

“Another mistake I often see tourists make is to pack multiple winery visits into one day. Pace yourself, enjoy the scenery, the wine and the food by visiting one to two wineries during your daytrip to Napa or Sonoma from San Francisco.” ― Jihan

Staying Downtown

“A mistake is staying in Financial District as opposed to our more charming neighborhoods, such as Hayes Valley, Bernal Heights, Inner/Outer Sunset, or the Mission. Though there are excellent hotels Downtown, I’d recommend booking an Airbnb in a more walkable neighborhood where you can get an authentic taste for local life.” ― Tiffany Wang, writer and digital creator

“Union Square is chock full of beautiful architecture, fantastic museums, shopping and restaurants, but there is so much beyond that! Some of my favorite parts of the city are outside downtown: pastries at Tartine in the Mission (followed by sunning yourself at Dolores Park), hiking to Marshall’s Beach (the best view of the Golden Gate Bridge in my opinion) and doing a sunset neighborhood crawl where you explore all that Irving, Judah and Noriega streets have!” ― Rancer

Missing the affordable hidden gems

“I’d say the biggest mistake tourists make when traveling to SF would be eating at very well-known and popular restaurants. Though eating out is inevitable when traveling, I think it’s important to know that there are so many hidden gems in San Francisco. From mom-and-pop diners to teeny-tiny pubs hidden throughout Maiden Lane, I think balance is key when eating out in San Francisco. That is, of course, if you don’t want to go broke!” ― Chanel Butler, blogger at Chanelfiles

Winging it

“Plan ahead! While you can always ‘wing it,’ I would map out each area you want to explore to avoid wasting time driving back and forth. For example, if someone is already checking out North Beach, walk a block over to Chinatown to get some tasty dumplings before making their next stop.” ― Cole

This article originally appeared on Huffington Post Travel News