Sure it's California... but it is COLD
After seeing a family in a tank top and jean shorts today in 51 degree weather, again, I really don't think it is well emphasized the interesting micro-climate weather we have here in San Francisco.
In the summer, it can be varying degrees, but more likely than not - you will be experiencing the coldest summer temperatures you will experience anywhere. 51 may not seem cold to you, but somehow, it chills you to the bone.
General rule of thumb in any San Francisco season: Please, I urge you to bring some pants and a jacket. Dress in layers. Even if it is hot in the day it will get cold at night. The micro-climates can vary the temperatures drastically. It's cold in one neighborhood, it's warmer in another. And then you travel outside of San Francisco a half an hour and it can be hot.
Another general clothing tip: people in San Francisco don't wear short-shorts. Even if it's 85 degrees out. More likely ladies will wear a cute summer dress they've been saving for a year to have the opportunity to wear. Guys just wear pants and a short-sleeve shirt.
Missed a great excursion but Bridge was wonderful
The great view of the Bay with Alcatraz offshore. We really wanted to do the Alcatraz trip but did not book prior to arrival. I expected that we would be able to get on the end of a tour. Not so - the earliest opportunity was a day after we left. We won't make that mistake again. One of the best memories is going to the Golden Gate Bridge. Everything we expected and no fog. The view back to San Francisco was fantastic.
Chinatown, past and present
Start from Broadway and Columbus, then work you way down Stockton, toward downtown, then downhill to Kearny and Portsmouth Square, then go back up to Grant and finally through the Chinatown gate and end up on Bush.
Chinatown is in its present day location because the then city hall wanted to put "Chinaman" out in a corner of the city, forgotten. The worst neighborhood in the city then is the corner of Columbus and Broadway, known as "The Barbary Coast", full of nude dance, brothels, and opium dens. Chinatown was placed "behind" that section of town to be forgotten. You can still see the night clubs and adult theaters and such on that corner. They've cleaned up a bit, but you can imagine what it was like back then...
Walk down Stockton and look at all the shops. Make your way down Jackson and go through the first alley. You'll discover the original Chinatown fortune cookie factory, and they STILL make fortune cookies there. In the old Chinatown days, these alleyways are considered turf territory by the local gangs known as the Tongs.
One of these alleyways used to have a bar named Rickshaws. When Beatles came to town, they had a nightcap there. Really.
Head down to Portsmouth Square and explore the various plaques and monuments there. This is where discovery of gold was announced, the location of first school, and much more. It's now a public square with Chinese chess players and more. On weekends, they have a night market there.
Walk back up to Grant and head toward the old St. Mary's Church. Admire the uber-Chinese style on the houses and lamp-posts and such. Pickup some souvenirs if you wish (prices aren't that bad).
Continue on Grant (opposite the traffic flow) and you'll reach the Chinatown gate, with the four words written by Sun Yat-Seng, founder of Republic of China (reverred by both China and Taiwan).
There's far more to Chinatown than just dim sum and Chinese signs. Oh, there are plenty of fond memories to be had within Chinatown.
Trying various types of dim sum (most of them you can't even pronounce and many of them you wouldn't want to know the ingredients involved) would be a lot of fun. For large selections, try Asia on Pacific and Stockton, or Gold Mountain on Broadway between Stockton and Grant.
Check out the various markets selling everything from VCD's and CD's to vegetables and meat.
There are several Buddhist and related temples in Chinatown that is worth a visit if you can actually find them, and most do not permit cameras (the flash disturbs the deities).
You can take the cable car on California/Grant or Powell / Clay (going in slightly different directions) to continue your journey.
Get a hotel or campgroup ready...
Get a hotel or campgroup ready before you get there! We pulled into San Fran late at night, and of course, hadn't even begun to think about accomodations. We decided to just sleep in the car for the night. Unfortunately, the only streets we could find to sleep were all angled at 30 degrees, so it wasn't a very good sleep.
Walk across the Golden Gate...
Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge when the sun is shining. The views are absolutely incredible. Bring a jacket though because it can get mighty windy. San Francisco has a huge mix of people and so it shows in the city's culture. There are many great restaurants, shops, music and of course, dot-coms.