Panorama of San Francisco

San Francisco

Although San Francisco is very hilly, it is very small, so it is easy experience the city in a small amount of time. If you've just flown in from a later time zone, get up early and go to Fisherman's Wharf to check out the sea lions that lounge like giant, stinking dogs, around Pier 39. (This, by the way, is the only thing you should do at Fisherman's Wharf, and only do it around dawn, before the tourists arrive.)

Coit Tower gives good views of the city, though, perched as it is atop historic Telegraph Hill (home to sea captains in the days of the Golden Bough) in North Beach. The views aside, you're really here for the murals. Inspired by the social-realism style of the great Diego Rivera, and commissioned by the federal Works Progress Administration, the paintings inside the tower were completed in 1933 and are great fun to look at. Pay special attention to the depiction of the newsstand, because it is so wonderful and bygone.

You won't find better entertainment value in the U.S. for $2. Hop on a historic trolley car on the Embarcadero (you're looking for the F line) and you can ride it all the way to the Castro. Seventeen trolley cars are in service, painted in the colors of the originals from the 1920s and '30s. Rest your weary dogs as you rattle past the Wharf, down the Embarcadero and onto Market Street, one of the city's main thoroughfares.