Hyde Street Pier. Ahoy, matey. Check out the fleet of historic vessels at Hyde Street Pier, near the Powell and Hyde streets cable-car turnaround. Visit the tall ship Balclutha, an 1886 square-rigger that rounded Cape Horn 17 times, and the Eureka, an 1890 steam ferry boat. Even if you don't want to tour the boats ($5 adults, free for supervised children under 16), the views of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge are phenomenal. (415) 561-7169, http://www.nps.gov/safr/historyculture/historic-vessels.htm.
Sidewalk cocktails. Looking for an inexpensive Fisherman's Wharf lunch? Try the chowder-in-a-sourdough-bread-bowl ($5.75) or sidewalk seafood cocktails ($4.75-$9) sold outside the pricey tourist restaurants. Avoid the overhead by ordering at the counter and taking a stroll through the inner or outer lagoons of Fisherman's Wharf, where you can sit on a bench and see docked fishing boats; one of them may have caught your lunch that morning.
Museums-in-motion. Tourists queue up in long lines to ride San Francisco's famous cable cars without realizing they can jump aboard another fun form of transportation: a historic trolley. The city's streetcars, nicknamed museums-in-motion, are vintage trolleys imported from around the world. Along with the cable cars, they form a steel triangle of tourist-friendly rails that deliver riders to Fisherman's Wharf, Union Square, Chinatown, Coit Tower and other famous locales. Fare: $2 adults, 75 cents for youth and seniors. Info: http://www.streetcar.org/museums-in-motion.
Filbert Steps. Three stunning segments of steps soar from Sansome Street to Coit Tower. Take your time, and on either side of the rustic wooden stairs you'll see gorgeous homes — many Art Deco — with lovely gardens. At the top take in stunning city views and wander the perimeter of 210-foot-tall Coit Tower, with its murals from the 1930s, or ride an elevator to the top for a bird's-eye view of the city. From the bottom, it's a 15-minute walk to the Embarcadero.
— Jessica Gelt
Nob Hill/Russian Hill
Lombard Street, on foot. This famously curvy hillside block of Lombard Street (between Hyde and Leavenworth streets) is better for walkers than drivers. Either hike up Russian Hill or arrive by the Powell/Hyde cable car line (www.sfmta.com/cms/mfleet/cablecar.htm). That way, you can linger and enjoy the views down Hyde to Alcatraz and down Lombard to Coit Tower, and you need not scramble for parking. And it's fun to hear the chorus of foreign languages as tourists hop off the cable car and make their way down the winding street. From the bottom of the hill, it's an easy stroll to Washington Square.
Seven Hills Restaurant. Owner-chef Alexander Alioto, scion of one of San Francisco's noted political and culinary families, opened this cozy (just 38 seats) storefront restaurant in 2010. A starter of Parmigiano-Reggiano chips ($4), drizzled with 20-year-old balsamic, took the edge off while waiting at the even tinier bar. The house-made tortelli with wild mushrooms ($21), sauced with brown butter and thyme, were light and silky, but left me lusting after my neighbor's country-style pork chop with duck fat-roasted potatoes ($27). 1550 Hyde St.; (415) 775-1550, http://www.sevenhillssf.com. Open 5:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursdays and Sundays, 5:30-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Reservations a must.
Swan Oyster Depot. Open for more than 100 years, this seafood shack nabbed top Bay Area seafood honors in a Zagat survey last year. The narrow room has only counter seating and is rarely without a line out its doors. Snag a seat and order from a wall menu of fresh oysters, clams and clam chowder as well as shrimp, prawn, crab and lobster seafood salads and cocktails. Meals come with a hunk of chewy sourdough bread and butter and are best consumed with a glass of cold, crisp white wine. The family-run business boasts some of the friendliest service in the city. Most items $10-$20. 1517 Polk St.; (415) 673-1101.