Travel like a local.

Podcast, Reedy Press

Fleet Week, Coit Tower & Hyde Park Schooners in San Francisco, California

Best things to do in San Francisco California - Ruth Carlson - Golden Gate Bridge by Joonyeop Baek on Unsplash

Golden Gate Bridge. Photo by Joonyeop Baek on Unsplash.

I’m really excited to interview Ruth Carlson author of “Secret San Francisco: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscureabout San Francisco, California. Ruth’s tips for the best things to do in San Francisco are awesome because she’s lived in the Bay Area since she was 17 years old. She loves how the city has preserved the waterfront and treasures its history with cable cars and Victorian homes.

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Best things to do in San Francisco California - Ruth Carlson - Trolley at Union Square by Shaunak De on Unsplash

Cable car at Union Square. Photo by Shaunak De on Unsplash

San Francisco, California

San Francisco is located in the Bay Area of northern California. It is one of the major commercial, cultural, and financial centers of California. Ruth considers San Francisco the most European city in the U.S. with live music, food from just about every country, and little villages throughout the city.

Ruth says that summer is the worst time to visit San Francisco. It is foggy, windy, and cold. Winter often has 80* days, so it can be a great time to visit. September and October have the best weather with temps in the mid-70s, sunshine, and cool breezes.

Fleet Week with Blue Angels is a fun experience for aviation lovers. Ruth’s favorite festival is the American Heritage Day Parade. Outside Lands concerts happen in the summertime and the San Francisco Opera singers perform for free at the ballpark throughout the year. Stern Grove has free concerts, ballet, and other events during the summer. And the Chinese New Year Parade is in February.

We share a lot of resources and local suggestions in today’s podcast, but you should also check out Travel to San Francisco, the local visitor’s bureau. They are a wealth of information and can help you plan an itinerary based on your time, budget, and interests.

If you’d like to learn how to travel for free using airline miles and hotel points, check out my free 7-day email course.

Best things to do in San Francisco California - Ruth Carlson - Sea lions at Pier 39 by David Vives on Unsplash

Sea lions at Pier 39. Photo by David Vives on Unsplash.

Getting around San Francisco

The local airport is San Francisco International Airport (SFO), which is easily accessible through the BART subway system.

Ruth says that, if you’re staying downtown, there’s no need to rent a car. The city is very walkable, but its many hills can be a challenge for many visitors. Uber and Lyft are excellent ways to get around. San Francisco is also very well-known for its BART public transit system.

If you’re looking to explore beyond the city center, renting a car might be a good idea. For the best rental car offers, visit Avis, Budget, or Hertz.

When you only need a car for a couple of hours, you can rent by the hour with Zipcar. Join now to get $25 loaded into your account.

Best things to do in San Francisco California - Ruth Carlson - Victorian homes by Joshua Hanks on Unsplash

Victorian homes. Photo by Joshua Hanks on Unsplash.

Places we talked about on the podcast

Here is a map of all of the places we talked about on the podcast episode with Ruth Carlson about San Francisco, California. You can zoom into the map and click on each dot to explore the city.

  • Red dots = best places to eat in San Francisco, California
  • Green dots = best things to do in San Francisco, California
  • Yellow dots = best places to stay in San Francisco, California

Who is Ruth Carlson?

It makes sense Ruth Wertzberger Carlson ended up in San Francisco. Growing up in Dubuque, Iowa locals called it little San Francisco because of its hills overlooking the water, Victorian architecture, and a cable car! When she was 17 her large family (she has 9 siblings!) moved to the Bay Area for her father’s job.

She’s an international travel writer who has been published in American Way magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Bon Appetit, and two anthologies. Ruth has also written two books, “Secret San Francisco: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure” and “Secret California: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure.” She loves hats, champagne, San Francisco, and getting on airplanes.

Best things to do in San Francisco California - Ruth Carlson on trolley with book

Ruth Carlson on a trolley with her book

Here are a few articles promoting her books:

You can connect with Ruth on her website and on Twitter and Instagram. You can also view her profile at Reedy Press to learn about her books.

Best things to do in San Francisco California - Ruth Carlson - aquatic park

View the ships at Aquatic Park

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Thanks to our sponsor, Cirque du Soleil, you have the opportunity to win a pair of tickets to “O” at the Bellagio, Las Vegas. Between August 23, 2021, and October 31, 2021, you can enter in three different ways with a valid email address:

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Vouchers are good through October 1, 2022. Reservations must be made at least 72 business hours in advance and are final. See vouchers for complete details.

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Stay tuned for our next episode

Best things to do in Cincinnati Ohio - Rick Pender head shot by Mikki Schaffner Photography

Photo by Mikki Schaffner Photography

Listen to the next episode when author Rick Pender shares the best things to do in Cincinnati, Ohio. In this episode, Rick and I talk about watching the Riverfest fireworks, ballet at Civic Music Hall, and riding coasters at Kings Island Amusement Park. We hope you’ll join us when We Travel There.

What’s your favorite part of San Francisco? Send us a Tweet, let us know in the comment section below, or continue the discussion in our Facebook group!

Please take a moment to subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcasts or Stitcher so you don’t miss the next episode! While you’re at it, give us a rating and Tweet the podcast to your friends.

To see which cities we’ve interviewed and scheduled, please visit If you’d like to be a guest on the show, please submit an application at

Related episodes

To learn more about California cities, listen to these other episodes:


  1. Sara Jen

    I am very familiar with San Francisco and spent many happy years studying and living there, leaving only in order to take a job. On occasions when I have returned, I have been stressed by the fear of being a crime statistic (again). I seriously want to see Pet Shop Boys and New Order next year at the Chase venue, but think, “do I want to be out and about after dark?”

    Also, thank you for offering the Cirque du Soleil tickets. For Christmas, my friend bought me tickets for March 2020 for the ice performance in San Jose. Sadly, it was cancelled due to the pandemic. I have never experienced their show and appreciate your giveaway.

  2. Melissa

    We’ve been to San Francisco and call me a tourist, but I loved all the main attractions. Alcatraz was our top favorite, so cool and very interesting. We did cross the Golden Gate Bridge on foot and it was crazy, but I can’t imagine going across on a tandem bike, especially with someone that doesn’t know how to ride. And we were victims of the surprisingly cold weather and are proud owners of our lovely “San Francisco” jackets, lol. San Francisco is definitely a place I’d like to return to and pretend I’m a local. I feel a city like this has so many checklist items that you are just buzzing through trying to check them all off. Next time will be at a slower pace where we can take advantage of the local tips, one of the best tips was not waiting in the viciously long line for the cable car. Thanks for all the insightful info!

  3. Chris G

    I’ll have to try the water taxi and the arcade games next time I’m in San Francisco. Sounds like fun!

  4. JR

    Riding a bike over the bridge to Sausalito and Tiburon was my highlight

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