What popular San Francisco tourist spots look like as the city reopens
San Franciscois welcoming touristsagain, but it's still not super crowded.
- The Golden Gate bridge has free parking amid the
pandemicand it wasn't too crowded.
- The famous cable cars aren't running and Pier 39 was emptier than usual.
As California continues to open up and vaccinate its residents, I went to see how San Francisco, one of its most popular cites, is doing.
I've visited the area a number of times over the past few years and know how crowded its attractions, like the Golden Gate Bridge and Pier 39, would get prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
A year into the pandemic, I was curious to see how these spots would look.
The Golden Gate Bridge seemed significantly less crowded than usual
My first stop was at the Golden Gate Bridge, which is a favorite among tourists coming in from all over the world.
In the parking lot, I saw a lot of people wearing masks and keeping their space.
Parking was also free up to two hours since the payment machine was covered up with cloth, likely in an attempt to reduce the high-touch surfaces visitors interact with.
It was an absolutely beautiful spring day which meant it was a prime opportunity to see what the tourism landscape was looking like on the bridge.
I appreciated the signage that this National Recreation Area had placed everywhere, saying that wearing a mask is a non-negotiable where physical distancing cannot be maintained and that visitors should keep their distance from one another.
Still, I noticed a few people on the bridge without a mask.
I'm not sure if it's because they're from an area that isn't as mindful of mask mandates as
Some of the displays in the park area were covered up, perhaps in an effort to reduce crowding around any one object.
I also immediately noticed the absence of tour buses in the parking lot. There's a whole lane just for them and it's typically filled.
These tour buses normally crowd the lot and can empty out up to 100 people at a time all throughout the day - without them, the area was much emptier and the parking lot was a lot less chaotic.
Pier 39 had workers controlling the crowds, and it seemed like tourists were keeping their distance
Next, it was time to visit Pier 39, another beloved tourist attraction in San Francisco. Here, there are shops, restaurants, a carousel, and my favorite part - a pier where you can view the famous sea lions.
There were multiple workers stationed at the entrance to the pier who were monitoring how many people entered while offering hand sanitizer.
There was also plenty of signage stating that face coverings are required for anyone age 3 and up. It seemed like everyone I passed was following the rules.
The area didn't seem nearly as crowded to me as when I've visited the pier before the pandemic. It could be because there are fewer tourists right now or just because the staff had been dutifully enforcing capacity limitations.
The open stores along the pier also seemed to be taking safety seriously.
I stepped into a local candy shop along the pier and noticed a man at the door checking to make sure that people were wearing masks. He also offered every customer hand sanitizer before they entered.
The groups of people seemed pretty spaced out and I felt like I had plenty of room to move and breathe without bumping into others.
Next, I went closer to the water to get a view of the sea lions.
I immediately noticed bright-blue stickers on the ground to show people how far to distance themselves between groups. This was a nice touch since this area can get really crowded.
It seemed like almost everyone was remaining mindful and sticking to their space.
Fisherman's Wharf and Boudin Bakery were busy but I saw a lot of masks
The tables and chairs seemed spaced out pretty far apart inside the restaurant, and there was a large outdoor patio for seating.
Now that San Francisco is in the orange tier because of its moderate coronavirus transmission levels, indoor dining is allowed up to 50% capacity, so there were people eating inside, too.
The eatery also had tons of rules and advisories posted on its window.
Fisherman's Wharf was almost as chaotic and busy as I've always seen it, but since it's a mostly outdoor attraction, I didn't feel unsafe walking around.
After all, the chance of outdoor transmission is lower than indoor transmission especially if you keep moving and don't loiter around any one person for too long. Most people I passed had masks on and kept moving as they explored the different shops.
There were plenty of people buzzing about and dining outdoors on the sidewalk, which did feel crowded at times.
Still, some storefronts and eateries remained closed and it's not clear if they will all be reopening as the state does.
For example, the historic restaurant Alioto's is closed until further notice "in light of recent events," according to its website.
Union Square's famous cable cars were not running and may not be for a while
San Francisco's Union Square is a famous public plaza and shopping district that tourists love.
Usually, a favorite touristy pastime of mine is to take a cable car from the Powell Street BART train station (located near Union Square at the Westfield mall) all the way to Fisherman's Wharf since there are some beautiful views along the way.
But I quickly noticed that the cable cars were covered with decor and were not moving up and down the tracks.
This was not surprising to me because cable cars are usually tightly packed with little breathing room between passengers, making social distancing almost impossible.
It's not clear when the Powell-Mason line will run again, but some lines are set to resume operations in May or this fall.
Still, Union Square had a few people out and about.
The area has upscale shops and department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy's. It's also where the enormous Christmas tree and ice-skating rink traditionally sit during the holiday season.
There were a few people enjoying the sunshine from the steps and a group of boys practicing their skateboarding tricks.
There was also a local pop-up art gallery on display - but otherwise, the area felt pretty deserted.
It was certainly nowhere near as crowded as I've seen it in previous visits, when dozens of shoppers would be rushing by me to get to different stores.
Alamo Square was filled with groups who were keeping their distance
Some of San Francisco's popular park areas include Alamo Square and the area to view the "Painted Ladies," the houses famously shown at the end of the "Full House" title sequence.
The parks we passed were full of small groups of people enjoying the sunshine. Groups seemed to be spaced out at least 5 or 6 feet apart and I noticed most of them were wearing face coverings, too.
Everything seemed normal, though the popular photo-op felt less crowded than it typically was before the pandemic.
Some of the famous houses also had signs in their windows reminding people to mask up.
I didn't really find myself having to push through crowds or move to avoid bumping into anyone as I walked, which was common before the pandemic.
San Francisco's tourist spots seemed emptier than usual, and I felt pretty safe
Overall, the area felt a little bit quiet for such a beautiful spring day, but I was pleasantly surprised at how safe I felt at the attractions.
I appreciated the efforts that major tourist destinations in San Francisco seemed to be taking to protect people in the city, from hanging ample signage to designinating workers to keep crowds at bay.
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