On a sunny day, San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge glows an orangey-red on the backdrop of a bright blue sky. Although clear weather is no guarantee, taking in views of this impressive structure makes the short list for many trips to the Bay Area. Good news is that glimpses of the bridge can be found from many a hilltop in the city's northern neighborhoods. But for those who want a better look, here are tips for making the most of a visit:
- Recreate that classic scene from the Full House opening credits with a drive across the bridge -- convertible optional, but encouraged. Visitors beware, though: After the switch from cash to 100 percent electronic tolling, it's best to pay the toll online in advance at Bayareafastrak.org. Don't panic if you cross without paying though; the tolling system will take a picture of your license plate and send a bill. Or if your rental car is enabled with PlatePass, you'll pay a PlatePass usage fee, plus the cost of the toll.
- Burn off that delicious brunch with a walk on the bridge. Although the walk across and back is about three miles, there's no mandate you keep walking, so feel free to turn back at any point. After all, you're on vacation.
- If walking the bridge doesn't strike your fancy, consider biking across instead. Rent some wheels from one of many companies in the Fisherman's Wharf area and take off. After crossing the bridge, aim for the picturesque towns of Sausalito or Tiburon, from which you can hop on a ferry for a scenic ride (including more bridge views!) back to San Francisco.
- On the north side of the bridge, skip crowded Vista Point and head west to the more rugged Marin Headlands. On a clear day, this is a great place to snap your own classic pictures of the iconic Golden Gate with the city of San Francisco in the background.
- Keep driving through the headlands, and you'll reach Point Bonita Lighthouse, an active lighthouse set on the southwestern tip of Marin County. Cross a newly rebuilt suspension footbridge to the lighthouse and take in more views of the Golden Gate.
- If you're feeling like a splurge, reserve a table at one of the few upscale restaurants that boast views of the bridge. Choices include Greens Restaurant, a vegetarian restaurant in Fort Mason, and The Caprice, an option in scenic Tiburon.
- Got a four-legged friend in tow? Although you can't walk dogs across the bridge, they're welcome at Crissy Field, an active park and beach area in the Presidio with views of the iconic structure. Grab a picnic lunch in the nearby Marina neighborhood and head out for an afternoon by the water.
While in town, take advantage of discounted San Francisco hotels, entertainment offers and local ceals.
Veronica Crews is a deal expert at Travelzoo and is based in San Francisco. Travelzoo has 250 deal experts from around the world who rigorously research, evaluate and test thousands of deals to find those with true value.