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Top 5 things to do in San Francisco

“Home to a little bit of everything,” there’s plenty to see and do in San Francisco, the City by the Bay, where historic cable cars whisk visitors to and fro. We’re offering up the Top 5 Things to Do in San Francisco, while you stay in a historic hotel. We won’t blame you if after your trip you decide to leave your heart here, much like singer Tony Bennett did.

1. San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge

There’s good reason why the Golden Gate is one of the world’s most photographed bridges and No. 1 on our Top 5 Things to Do in San Francisco list. Revered as San Francisco’s most iconic landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge was once the world’s longest suspension bridge at 4,200 feet, making it one of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the World. Perhaps, though, more awe-inspiring is that its red towers rise up 746 feet, sometimes consumed in mist.

If you desire nighttime views of the bridge, check into Cavallo Point, a luxurious historic hotel set on the San Francisco Bay at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. Travel + Leisure named Cavallo Point the No. 1 hotel in the San Francisco Bay Area. Not only a room with a view, this hotel offers green contemporary lodging, Lexus preferred vehicles and a renowned culinary school.

2. Night Alcatraz tours

San Francisco visitors flock to Alcatraz, a lighthouse-turned-penitentiary that makes most every visitors' Top 5 Things to Do in San Francisco. Known as “The Rock,” Alcatraz became a maximum security penitentiary in 1934, housing some of the country’s most notorious criminals on this isolated island. A tour of Alcatraz is certain to fascinate, but if you want to make it extra creepy, head out on a nighttime tour with a scenic ferry ride from Fisherman’s Wharf that embarks in the late afternoon.

After a day at Alcatraz, check into Hotel Whitcomb, a marvel of early 19th century and Edwardian architecture that once served as City Hall. Centrally located near many of San Francisco's historic sites, the hotel is a short cable car ride away from Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf.

3. The Presidio of San Francisco

For 218 years, the Presidio of San Francisco served as an army post for three nations. Older than the United States, this San Francisco area was named a National Historic Landmark District in 1962. Thirty-two years later, the Presidio’s Golden Gate location helped it become a national park. The park is a favorite for both history buffs and California sightseers.

Inn at the Presidio, a member of Historic Hotels of America, was the first hotel to open here. Built in 1903 and once reserved for Army officers, this Classic Revival brick building is three stories high with third-floor views of the San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge. Seventeen of its twenty-two accommodations are one-bedroom suites with a separate sitting room.

4. The 1906 earthquake

The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake is remembered as one of the worst natural disasters in United States history, alongside Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But it’s said that greatness springs from tragedy, and there’s no better proof than the Palace Hotel and The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco. Both these historic hotels were destroyed when fire swept through San Francisco following the earthquake. But more importantly, both hotels rose up from the ashes to reach their current-day splendor.

Palace Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, remains a San Francisco landmark with its timeless stained glass dome, Austrian crystal chandeliers and Maxfield Parrish mural. Meanwhile, The Fairmont is known for its Beaux-Arts style architecture, affording breathtaking Nob Hill views, where Tony Bennett first sang his signature tune, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”

5. Chinatown San Francisco

The largest and oldest Chinatown in the United States, Chinatown, San Francisco is an attraction all by itself. This obvious addition to our Top 5 Things to Do in San Francisco list is marked by the iconic Chinatown Gate. Innumerable Chinese eateries, souvenir shops and herb stores line the narrow streets of this cultural hub. Grant Avenue is like Main Street for tourists, a must-see stroll, yet somewhat commercialized. For a deeper Chinese immersion, visit Stockton Street, where locals do their shopping, typically on Saturdays. From annual Chinese festivals to Chinatown’s famed fortune cookie stop — where two women hand-make some 22,000 cookies a day — visitors won’t be disappointed.

For a convenient hotel stay, consider the InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco. Situated at the crossing of three cable car lines on illustrious Nob Hill, this landmark hotel is within walking distance of Chinatown. With unbeatable views, luxurious accommodations and historic charm, this sophisticated San Francisco hotel is an ideal choice for travelers who appreciate the finer things in life.

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