Tennessee Travel Guide | Exploring the Great Smoky Mountains


The Great Smoky Mountains sit along the border of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. The mountain range has been a national park since 1940, and today it’s not only the most-visited national park, but also the largest park east of the Rocky Mountains.

Beautiful views, unique Appalachian culture, an easy-going way of life, outdoor adventures and cozy cabins are just a few of the reasons why people opt to take a Smoky Mountain vacation every year. If you’re planning to see the area soon, here are some of the most popular spots to stay and play while you’re here.

Cities Surrounding the Great Smoky Mountains

If you’re looking for a place to stay that gives easy access to the Smokies, check out these cities and towns below. Each city has its own attractions outside of the national park, offering a wide variety of things to do on vacation.

  1. Pigeon Forge, TN


    To say Pigeon Forge is family-friendly would be an understatement. Starting with Dollywood, the biggest attraction in town, you can stay for a whole week and still not do everything there is to do at the theme park, water park, and resort. This includes thrill rides, entertainment for the little ones, parades, seasonal activities, museums, live shows, crafts, shopping, and restaurants. When you’re not at Dollywood, check out some of the museums in the area dedicated to Titanic and old cars.
  2. Gatlinburg, TN


    For anyone who wants to see unique sites, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg should definitely be on your list of things to do when you visit. It’s been rated one of the top aquariums in the country by travelers, and you can hang out with penguins, sharks, rays and more when you visit. Check out the ski resort and amusement park at Ober Gatlinburg and the Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway.

  3. Sevierville, TN


    Sevierville, located in Sevier County and known for being the hometown of Dolly Parton, doesn’t have quite as many big adventures as Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. That said, it’s known as one of the most affordable places to stay if you’re looking for a local mountain adventure. In Sevierville, you’ll find an exotic petting zoo with kangaroos, camels and zebras. Of course, the nearby Smoky Mountain National Park provides you with plenty of outdoor adventures too, like horseback riding, hiking, fishing, wildlife watching and rafting.

  4. Wears Valley


    Wears Valley isn’t a city or town, but it is a quiet little community that attracts locals and visitors alike. Located within a three-by-five-mile area, Wears Valley is known as one of the most beautiful places in East Tennessee, especially in September, October, and November when the leaves on the trees turn red, orange, and gold.

  5. Exploring the Smokies

    The Great Smoky Mountains National Park literally serves as a common ground between Tennessee and North Carolina, covering a total of 520,000 acres in both states. With a vast amount of land to explore, you might be overwhelmed with where to start. Take the time to marvel at each of these sites when you visit the Smokies.

    1. Bustling Waterfalls


      Discover just some of the hundreds of waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains. Choose a Smoky Mountain cabin rental near the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail to be near the Grotto Falls. Hike the trail through hemlock forests, and find yourself standing behind this cascading waterfall. You can also witness the Ramsey Cascades, the tallest waterfall in the park. Start your hike along the Ramsay Cascades Trail in Greenbrier, traveling through forests and across rivers as the elevation increases. The water drops over 100 feet into a beautiful rock-filled pool with salamanders in it.


      Venture underground in Townsend to see a double waterfall known as the Silver Falls in the Tuckaleechee Caverns. Take the guided mile-long tour to see the spectacular sight of the 200-foot drop waterfall.

    2. Ever-Changing Scenery

      Stay in the lower elevations to see beautiful wildflowers in bloom, with the best blooms to be seen between mid-April and mid-May. See wild geranium, rhododendrons, flame azaleas, trout lilies and trillium among the many colorful displays. When staying in higher elevations, vacation during June to see the picturesque floral scenery.

      Fall is another fantastic time to stay in the Great Smoky Mountains. Over a hundred tree species color the mountainsides with hues of yellow, orange and red. When renting a cabin at a lower elevation, take your vacation in mid-October for the best fall views. Choose mid-September when staying at a higher elevation.

    3. The Appalachian Trail

      When vacationing in the Great Smoky Mountains’ subrange, be sure to hike its famous trail. Over 70 miles of it scales the national park so you’ll have easy access to the Appalachian Trail when renting a cabin in the park. Choose different sections for varied views and difficulty levels.


    4. Clingmans Dome

      Be sure to visit Tennessee’s highest point, Clingmans Dome, which is accessible from the Appalachian Trail. This popular round-top peak has an elevation of 6,643 feet. Hike the paved trail near the summit to reach the observation tower at the top. Gasp at the spectacular 360-degree views of the mountains and park around you.


    5. Cades Cove

      Visit this stunning valley surrounded by the Smokies to see amazing views, wildlife and historical buildings. Travel along the Cades Cove loop road around the valley, and visit the old buildings along the way, including cabins, barns, mills and churches. Spot the local wildlife, such as deer, black bears, turkeys, and coyotes. Explore the Cades Cove Nature Trail, and venture to nearby scenic areas, such as Thunderhead Mountain and Abram Falls.

    Plan your outdoor escape to the Great Smoky Mountains to check this national park off your bucket list!

Plan a Romantic Getaway to Tennessee | Gatlinburg Date Ideas

Gatlinburg, Tennessee — nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains — has something to offer for just about everyone who visits. If you’re looking for a couple’s getaway, Gatlinburg attractions won’t disappoint. From water rafting and zip-lining, to touring Gatlinburg’s very own Space Needle, there are many great ways to spend quality time with your loved one in this beautiful city.


Create the perfect set-up for a romantic escape by booking a vacation rental that you’ll both feel comfortable in. Cabin rentals are one of the most popular types of accommodations, so you’ll find a wide array of them in many different sizes and styles.

In Gatlinburg, the cabins are decidedly upscale and luxurious. Many feature spacious bedrooms, comfortable seating areas, gourmet kitchens and delightful decks where you can observe the wildlife in the area. You’ll often enjoy hot tubs and other luxury amenities that are included with your cabin rental.

Treat Yourselves to a Delicious Meal


Once your getaway is all booked and ready to go, it’s time to research the best places for a date. There are many great restaurants to eat in Gatlinburg, but if you’re looking to impress your significant other, these local restaurants guarantee a quality dining experience.

Brick & Spoon offers a delightful brunch selection. Their menu includes dishes such as a crab cake benny, bananas foster french toast, and baked brie bruschetta. For only $7, you can also order a mimosa trio, where you can choose your top three favorite flavors between OJ, pineapple, mango, and wildberry.


If it’s a nice day out, you can spend an afternoon on the patio at Red Oak Bistro. The restaurant is open from 4:00 PM to 10:00 PM, but reservations are highly encouraged between the hours of 5:30 PM and 7:30 PM. The menu changes weekly, but Red Oak is known for their delicious tapas paired with wine.

Once your stomachs are coated with a hearty meal, head over to Gatlinburg’s neighboring city of Pigeon Forge and visit the Old Forge Distillery, a 200 year old distillery with seasonal craft cocktails. In the fall, their drink menu consists of a creme brulee martini, french toast cider, mulled coffee, and more! Share a toast with your loved one and embrace the time you have together on vacation.

Spend Quality Time Outdoors

Gatlinburg is one of the best places to stay if you want to visit the Great Smoky Mountains. If you’re already planning to make your way to Tennessee for a couple’s retreat, then taking a hike around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is absolutely mandatory.


The park features more than 900 miles of hiking trails rated for people of all exercise levels. Catch sunrise or sunset from the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Then, for a relaxing leisurely hike, you and your adventure buddy can traverse the Laurel Falls Trail. This round-trip trail is less than three miles in length, and you’re treated to views of a gorgeous waterfall on the way. A moderate hike just under four miles awaits at Chimney Tops. You won’t want to miss the beautiful scenic overlooks on this trail.


Lastly, a more challenging hike is the Charlies Bunion Trail, just over eight miles of strenuous hiking that gains 6,000 feet up in elevation.

See Gatlinburg From Above

If you and your other half aren’t afraid of heights, there are three attractions that will allow you to see Gatlinburg from a different perspective, hundreds of feet up in the air!

  1. The Gatlinburg Space Needle


    This local staple can only be described as a Smoky Mountain tradition. Located conveniently in downtown Gatlinburg, the Space Needle dates back to 1970, when it initially opened. It’s hard to equal the views from the top of the needle as you hover over Gatlinburg, 407 feet in the air. You’ll get enjoy it from 360-degree views inside the viewing platform.

    You can even get a closer view of Great Smoky Mountains National Park thanks to the free SeeCoast viewfinders, available on the viewing platform. You can ascend to the top during the daylight hours to take in the impressive mountains, or visit the Space Needle at night, which promises to be equally impressive as you enjoy the stars and city lights.

  2. Ober Gatlinburg


    If you really enjoy venturing up into the air, you could also add the Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park to your list of things to do. The amusement park includes an aerial tramway that ascends a whopping 2.1 miles, affording you breathtaking 360-degree views of the Smoky Mountains. Other activities at Ober include bumper cars on the ice rink, zooming down an alpine slide, a mountain coaster, and tubing in the summer.
  3. Gatlinburg SkyLift


    Another option is the Gatlinburg SkyLift, whisks you up Crockett Mountain, where you’ll look out onto Gatlinburg below. Just five minute drive along the Highway 441 Parkway takes you to Anakeesta Theme Park, where they offer zip-lining, gem mining, and an amazing tree canopy walk.

Whatever time of year you visit Gatlinburg for a couple’s getaway, you’ll find a wide array of activities waiting for you. Plan your trip with VacationRenter and turn your romantic getaway into a vacation you’ll remember forever.

We’re Traveling Fast: Three Award Wins in Two Weeks


At VacationRenter, we are obsessed with making travel easier. That means providing the best search experience for travelers looking for vacation rentals all over the world. No more endless scrolling across different websites or wondering whether or not you got the best deal. 

 With the number of vacation rentals well into the millions and growing quickly, using technology to intelligently and programmatically find the perfect rental for every traveler is critical. Over the last year and a half we’ve invested heavily into proprietary automation and AI to constantly improve how we find travelers the best rentals. We’ve also layered on helpful content like local expert travel guides and smart destination pages with data on price trends to help you plan the perfect trip. 

 As we continue to grow and innovate in the vacation rental industry, we are honored to be recognized by the Travel Weekly Magellan Awards and the Golden Bridge Awards with three different wins:

  • Gold for Startup of the Year in the Consumer Product category by the Golden Bridge Awards
  • Gold for Online Travel Services: Trip Planning in the Travel Weekly Magellan Awards
  • Silver for Online Travel Services: Website in the Travel Weekly Magellan Awards

The Golden Bridge Awards program recognizes and honors the world’s best achievements and innovations in every industry around the world, with more than 160 global experts participating in the judging. The Travel Weekly Magellan Awards celebrates the best in travel globally, with judges comprised of some of the biggest names in the industry. We are honored to be recognized and awarded by both of these prominent organizations.

While we are excited about what we have accomplished, we are even more excited about what’s on the horizon:

Expanding Globally

This summer we began expanding to new markets, making it easier to find your perfect rental wherever you are. We’re continuing to invest in expansion and plan to launch in more markets in the final months of 2019 and into 2020.  Expanding globally means localizing content, adding more currencies, and adding additional partners to ensure travelers have the best options when exploring other countries. As we grow and build more partnerships around the world, we’re continuously improving our search results rankings so even with more listings being added everyday, we’re ensuring you only see the best ones. Not only will you see more listings, but you’ll see better, more unique ones along with more local data on our travel guides and price trends for all the places you want to visit.

Expanding Locally

While we are growing the reach of our vacation rentals, we are also working to localize our website based on where you are, wherever you are, across the globe. Our goal is for everyone to eventually be able to book in their native currency and language. Keep an eye on our announcements over the coming months to learn more about the localized features that are underway. 

More Tools to Plan, Wherever You Plan on Going

Our content will increasingly help you plan trips both domestically and internationally so you can identify the right vacation rental, regardless of your destination. Our proprietary tech enables us to search and sort millions of listings very fast and present you with the best ones so you don’t have to spend your time sifting through pages and pages of listings. Want to head to Macchu Picchu or lounge on a beach in Spain? We’ll help you plan the perfect stay. 

We are excited about how far we have come, and we are excited about what lies ahead. Here’s to traveling!

To learn more about the Travel Weekly Magellan Awards and the Golden Bridge Awards, check out our announcement or visit their websites at:




How to Find Great Gatlinburg Cabins with Incredible Views

As one of the gateways to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are stunning views for all Gatlinburg vacation rentals and no end of activities to choose from. Whether you want quick access to the national park, to discover the area’s history, or to simply enjoy outdoor adventures, you’ll be able to do it all close to your vacation rental in Gatlinburg.

Tips for Finding the Best Rentals

Gatlinburg cabins are available to accommodate virtually any group size ⁠— from couples, to extended families celebrating an event, or even a family reunion. Just because you’re out in the woods though, it doesn’t mean you won’t have the modern amenities you want like Wi-Fi and high-tech electronics. Plus, if you’re planning to bring along a furry family member, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a vacation rental that allows pets. Just ask about policies, and be ready to pay an additional pet fee. Here are a few handy tips to help you choose the right rental for you.

  1. Picking The Perfect View


    Gatlinburg is known for the incredible fall foliage and gorgeous views of the Smoky Mountains. When you choose a cabin rental in Gatlinburg, you’ll also choose a view. Mountain views, monument views, ridge-top views and wooded views are all available from cabins near the Smoky Mountains. Cabins that are totally secluded are perfect for romantic weekend getaways or a more relaxing vacation.
  2. Consider Your Agenda & Mode of Transportation


    If most of your favorite attractions are located in the city of Gatlinburg, like the Gatlinburg Space Needle or Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, then choosing a cabin within the city limits is probably your best bet to cut down on travel time and expenses. Public transportation within the city is a breeze with the network of trolley lines that run through 100 different stops, and even lead to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge.

    Lovers of mountain views, privacy, and solitude will find comfort in a cabin near the forest rather than being in the hustle and bustle of Gatlinburg proper. Outside of the city, taxis and car rentals are available for visitors with an agenda that reaches farther than the trolleys travel. Driving is a great way to see some of the most beautiful views in the area on your own time.

  3. Combining Comfort and Luxury


    When you arrive in Gatlinburg, one of the first things you’ll notice about the vacation rentals is the rustic luxury that’s present in these homes. Forget any preconceived notion you may have about backwoods accommodations, because these cabins are anything but primitive. Instead, one step in the door and you’ll be surrounded in chic luxury that usually means gourmet kitchens, lavish seating areas, upscale bathrooms, and more.

  4. Make the Most of Any Freebies

    Don’t forget to look for the freebies that make your stay even better. Many cabin rental companies provide free or discounted tickets to Gatlinburg attractions like sky rides, Anakeesta Aerial Adventure Park and Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Discounted or free tickets add value to your vacation rental, making it easier to spend a little more on making lasting memories.

Prime Rental Locations in Gatlinburg

The mountain cabin rentals of Gatlinburg draw visitors from all over the country to explore the Smoky Mountains and enjoy the outdoor adventures found in Gatlinburg. There are several areas of the city that provide mountain views, incredible amenities, and access to the best activities. If you’re not sure where to start, check out these top rental locations around Gatlinburg.

  1. Sugarlands Area


    The eastern section of Gatlinburg borders the Sugarlands Welcome Center of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Nestled in the valley and surrounded by the misty mountains, this part of Gatlinburg is a perfect location for a family vacation. Close to hiking trails, creeks for wading or fishing and breathtaking views, cabins in the Smoky Mountains cabins are plentiful near the Sugarlands Welcome Center. Choose small cabins in the Smokies for a romantic weekend away, or check out the large chalets for family reunions, weddings, and special events.
  2. North Gatlinburg


    North Gatlinburg will put you close to vacation rentals that are perfect for large groups. From two to eight or more bedrooms, these cabins are close enough to the Pigeon Forge area to catch the Gatlinburg Trolleys for a day of adventure. The Trolleys travel all over the city and even make stops at Dollywood and Zion Grove. Some of the most beautiful mountain rentals of Gatlinburg are conveniently located close to The Island in Pigeon Forge and the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster.

  3. Zion Grove (East Gatlinburg)
    Irina Mos [https://www.shutterstock.com/g/irinamos]/Shutterstock

    Take a trolley trip to Zion Grove to explore the restaurants and lovely mountain views of this small Tennessee village. Just a few miles outside of Gatlinburg, cabins in this area are a little less expensive than those right inside the city of Gatlinburg. Choose single family cabins or large retreats for big family events, then dip your toes in the pretty creeks and rivers of the Smokies.

  4. Pigeon Forge

    eakkarat rangram [https://www.shutterstock.com/g/ronram]/Shutterstock
    If Sugarlands, North Gatlinburg, or Zion Grove don’t fit the bill, then consider Pigeon Forge. Although Pigeon Forge is outside of Gatlinburg, the most convenient Great Smoky Mountain rentals are found between these two pretty mountain towns. Visitors to Gatlinburg enjoy day trips to Pigeon Forge, where Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country are the main draw for tourists. Trolleys between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are inexpensive, and make it easy for vacationers to get a taste of both towns without worrying about getting lost.
  5. Black Bear Falls


    Conveniently located near the heart of Gatlinburg and close enough to Dollywood for a lovely day trip, Black Bear Falls is one of Gatlinburg’s beautiful mountain neighborhoods. Wander hiking trails along the mountains and ridges, visit the clubhouse for a dip in the heated swimming pools, and enjoy covered patios for picnics or barbecues. Black Bear Falls offers cabin rentals that are filled with amazing amenities like full kitchens, fireplaces for cozy evenings, and wrap-around porches for jaw-dropping views of the mountains surrounding this neighborhood.
  6. Chalet Village


    Pretty rolling hills, great mountain views, and pet-friendly options with space for the whole family make Chalet Village a perfect neighborhood for your next Gatlinburg vacation. Wander the hiking trails, go bird watching, or spend a winter’s day skiing this incredible neighborhood. Check out lovely secluded cabins with game rooms, theater rooms, and private swimming pools to keep everyone entertained. Or plan a romantic weekend getaway, and enjoy the amenities that include on-site saunas and professional tennis courts.
  7. Hemlock Hills

    Stretching into Pigeon Forge and across Gatlinburg, Hemlock Hills is another excellent neighborhood for cabin rentals. Check out vacation rentals with up to eight bedrooms and game rooms with theater seating. Adults and children alike love the amenities in Hemlock Hills with cabins offering multiple decks and views of the Smoky Mountains, hot tubs, and space for big parties or reunions.

Find a cozy cabin in Gatlinburg next time you plan a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains!

Visit Tennessee | Exciting Gatlinburg Activities For Everyone


Deep in the heart of the East Tennessee Mountains you’ll find one of America’s favorite resort cities: Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It’s close to Knoxville and sits right along the edge of the 520,000-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but the city is a popular vacation spot in its own right. Whether you’re bringing the kids for a fun-filled, family-friendly getaway or you’re traveling with friends to experience the area’s natural beauty, don’t leave home until you’ve read this Gatlinburg travel guide.

Gatlinburg Packing Tips

As you prepare for your Gatlinburg vacation, check the climate details for the time you’ll be there so you can dress for the weather. During the summer, expect daytime highs to reach well into the 80s. Fortunately, you won’t have to suffer much humidity thanks to the higher mountain elevations. Temperatures remain comfortably in the 80s during the day in early fall, but they drop back measurably by October and November.


By winter, snow is a definite possibility, making skiing vacations popular with many tourists. Highs range anywhere from the mid-30s to the mid-50s during the winter. By springtime, you can expect the temperatures to climb slowly and top out in the lower 60s in March. Towards the tail end of spring, temperatures are typically in the 70s.

The weather can change quickly in Gatlinburg at any time of the year, so it’s important to pack for almost anything. Savvy vacationers pack layers, making it easy to shed or add more if the temperature changes. Don’t forget to pack your rain gear, too.

Itinerary Ideas

With so many things to do in Gatlinburg, your vacation itinerary might fill up fast. Most people who visit the area have a couple of the biggest attractions high on their lists. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the biggest draws in the area, so this is a definite must-see while you’re there. Check out a full list of Gatlinburg attractions below.

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    A visit to Gatlinburg is not complete without a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of America’s most visited national parks. Pack a picnic and go for a hike for magnificent views. Many hikers like to watch for black bears or elk in their natural habitat. There are several waterfalls to experience, and one of the most popular among visitors is the Grotto, which visitors can walk behind to watch the cascading water. For those who don’t want to hike, a drive through the park is also a way to enjoy the beauty. In fact, many motorists like to tour Cades Cove, a valley that’s popular for wildlife viewing. An 11-mile road surrounds the cove, and the loop takes about two to four hours.

  2. Gatlinburg SkyLift


    This attraction offers an amazing view of Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains. Tourists can take a ride on the Gatlinburg SkyLift 1,800 feet in the air up the side of Crockett Mountain. It’s open year round, so visitors can take advantage of the view any time.

  3. Rafting in the Smokies


    Experience the Smoky Mountains in an adventurous way. Rafting in the Smokies offers courses along the Pigeon River for a range of skill levels, all with a certified, trained guide. This 10-acre attraction also offers a zip lining package for the ultimate adventure through the Smokies!

  4. Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery


    Visitors who enjoy an adult beverage can experience genuine moonshine in downtown Gatlinburg. During a visit to the Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery, guests will learn about the rich history of making moonshine, take a self-guided tour of the distillery, and sample some of the old family recipes of East Tennessee. 15 different flavors of Ole Smoky Moonshine are sold in mason jars, making it a popular souvenir. In addition to the moonshine, the distillery offers live bluegrass music every day. All ages are allowed to visit the distillery.
  5. Westgate Wild Bear Falls


    Families tend to enjoy spending a day at this mountain-themed water park. Westgate Wild Bear Falls indoor water park features a 900-foot lazy river, body slides, tub slides, hot tubs, swimming pool, and a toddler-only area. Since the park is indoors, Westgate is open throughout the year.
  6. Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area & Amusement Park


    Experience winter activities year round at the Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area & Amusement Park. Visitors can enjoy the Ski Mountain Coaster, ice skating, shopping, and dining. In the winter months, visitors can hit the slopes for skiing and snowboarding. On average, the ski season goes from mid-December until mid-March, but this can vary depending on the weather. Ski equipment is available for rent and ski lessons are available for beginners.

  7. Alewine Pottery


    For visitors who love arts and crafts, a trip to the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community should make it on your itinerary of things to do in Gatlinburg. At Alewine Pottery, guests can not only see how the pottery is made and learn all about the crafting process, but they can go home with a souvenir as well. Founded in 1983, the shop also offers entertainment that includes live music featuring local artists, steaming mugs of hot coffee and free popcorn for guests. The shop was founded by Robert Alewine, who recreates the colors of the mountains in his work.
  8. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies


    Ripley’s is Gatlinburg’s largest attraction — an aquarium with over one million gallons of saltwater. It offers many interactive exhibits that allow visitors get up close and even touch some creatures of the sea. The Penguin Playhouse allows guests to take a look at the penguins as they crawl through the see-through tunnels.

    Another popular exhibit is Stingray Bay, where guests can touch a stingray and learn more about this sea animal. The Gallery of the Seas features octopus, jelly fish, sea stars and other creatures. Visitors can step aboard the 340-foot guidepath and watch the wildlife swim above. Guests also have the option to ride the Glass Bottom Boat to see the more than 8,500 animals that reside in the Shark Lagoon. For guests who want an extra experience, behind-the-scenes tours are available.

  9. Hollywood Star Cars


    If you’re fascinated by old school cars, then spending a few hours at the Hollywood Star Cars Museum makes for an entertaining morning, afternoon, or evening. This is the place to see many of the cars from famous television and movie scenes. The museum has recreated many of the settings from the big screen, too. Anyone with even a passing interest in famous cars may want to tour this museum. The curators here are constantly searching to add more famous cars to the collection.
  10. Gatlinburg Trolley


    Park your rental vehicle for the day and get around Gatlinburg on the city’s trolley system. Fares start as low as $0.50 and the kids are sure to love the experience of riding the trolleys. With numerous routes through the entire city, it’s fairly simple to get wherever you want to go. You can even hop on the trolley with the green route to explore the historic nature trail.
  11. Gatlinburg Space Needle


    Take a trip up 400 feet in the Gatlinburg Space Needle. The structure features two glass elevators that take you to the observation deck up top. Once there, get ready to be impressed by the 360-degree panoramic view of the entire area of Gatlinburg, as well as the Great Smoky Mountains in the distance. No matter the season, the view is stunning. You can even get a closer view of the countryside by using the free viewfinders available on the observation deck.
  12. Gatlinburg’s Mysterious Mansion


    If you and you and your travel buddies are brave enough, you might drop in to Gatlinburg’s Mysterious Mansion. This is one of the older, scarier haunted houses in the area. The tours of the house are self-guided, and you’ll have to meander your way through the various secret passages, winding staircases and dark corridors in the house. As challenging as it is to navigate the dark house, you’ll also be faced with confrontations from the mysterious creatures hiding in the mansion.
  13. Rowdy Bear Mountain

    Rowdy Bear Mountain offers thrill rides that include the First Mountain Glider and the Rowdy Bear Mountain Coaster. The glider combines free falling and hang gliding while the gravity-propelled alpine mountain coaster winds through the woods at speeds up to 35 mph. Coaster wristband unlimited ride specials are offered.

Dining Options

After a busy day checking things off your itinerary, you’ll probably be hungry. Fortunately, you have plenty of options to grab a bite in Gatlinburg. From pizza and pancakes, to barbecue and good old-fashioned Southern comfort food, it can be hard to narrow down just where you want to eat in town.

Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Gatlinburg caters to a variety of appetites and cuisines, including barbecue, seafood, Mexican fare, steak, pizza and pancakes. Here’s a breakdown of our top recommendations for Gatlinburg eats:

Enjoy homemade food, award-winning wings, and live music at Three Jimmy’s. Or, have a side of laughs with your meal at Dick’s Last Resort, where the servers are outrageously sarcastic on purpose.

Breweries, Distilleries and Wineries

No matter which restaurant you decide, if you’re over 21, you’ll want to stop at one of the breweries, wineries or distilleries in town to wash it all down. Take a sip of authentic Gatlinburg-style moonshine, attend a wine tasting or test some local, micro-brewed craft beers.

Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Most of the local breweries, distilleries and wineries are conveniently lined up along the Parkway. Enjoy tours and tastings of aged whiskey, craft beer, local fruit wines and completely legal distilled moonshine. You can visit the Gatlinburg official website for a complete list of breweries, distilleries, and wineries, but here are some of our personal favorites:

In Gatlinburg, there’s not just one time of the year that makes for a perfect vacation. Regardless of the weather and the season, you can fill your vacation to-do list with so many attractions that you might not know where to begin. Be sure you allow enough time for your travel group to do and see it all while you’re there — or start making plans for a return trip.

Your Complete Music Festival Guide to Austin City Limits 2019

When the first Austin City Limits Festival was held in 2002, organizers expected only 25,000 people would come. What started as a festival to showcase the local bands and national headliners tied to the “Austin City Limits” television show has grown into one of the most exciting music festivals in the world. This two-weekend festival brings downtown Austin’s Zilker Park to life with mouthwatering food, music, and exciting activities. This year, ACL Music Festival will be held on October 4 – 6 and October 11 – 13 with a wide array of artists, listed below. Are any of your favorites in this year’s lineup?


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Where to Stay for Austin City Limits

If you’re planning on attending ACL, why not skip booking a cramped hotel room in favor of an Austin vacation rental in one of the city’s most popular neighborhoods! Here are the five most convenient places to stay.

  1. Zilker


    When it comes to finding the best place to stay close to Austin City Limits Music Festival, it’s hard to beat the convenience of a vacation rental located in the Zilker neighborhood, just across the lake from downtown. It’s one of the more popular neighborhoods among real estate buffs, and it’s home to a mix of small single-family homes and ultra-modern new construction. Best of all, a vacation rental here puts you within walking distance of Zilker Park, where the festival is held, and the Barton Creek Greenbelt, where you can hike, bike and get in touch with nature during your down time.
  2. Downtown


    The Zilker neighborhood offers quiet surroundings and easy access to the festival, but staying downtown puts you within steps of all the action in Austin. Grab a bite to eat at restaurants like Koriente or Moonshine, sip cocktails at bars like Peche or Midnight Cowboy, and see shows at theaters like the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz or Violet Crown. From eateries to comedy clubs to shops and boutiques, you’ll find it all downtown. Plus, you’ll be just a short ride away from Zilker Park.
  3. South Congress (SoCo)


    The SoCo neighborhood is popular among visitors and locals looking for a laid-back atmosphere, in addition to a variety of things to do, see, and eat. SoCo is known for its artsy vibe and great eateries like Bouldin Creek Cafe. To experience the neighborhood’s artistic side, head to First Street, where there are plenty of galleries, studios, and public art, including the “Greetings from Austin” mural.
  4. Clarksville

    This neighborhood is part of what many locals call “Old West Austin.” It’s known for its gorgeous homes, lush greenery and throwbacks like Nau’s Enfield Drug, a classic soda fountain, diner, and drugstore hybrid. The luscious lemon ricotta pancakes at the Josephine House are also popular, as is the speakeasy vibe at Winflo Osteria. Looking for galleries? Check out Artworks or Wally Workman Gallery.

  5. Hyde Park


    Located just north of the University of Texas campus, this idyllic neighborhood boasts charming bungalows, manicured landscapes and restaurants like Wheatsville Co-Op and Hyde Park Bar & Grill. This historic neighborhood also offers a few gems, like Workhorse Bar, which is a perfect spot for gathering with friends and grabbing a few drinks before or after the festival.

Plan a spontaneous trip to Austin with VacationRenter now!


Things to Do Near the Festival

Austin has a reputation for having some of the most mouthwatering barbecue in the country, so you should definitely take time out of your trip to stop by one of the city’s famous BBQ joints. Aside from that, here are a few other activities in the area.

  1. Sit Back and Relax at Shady Grove


    Shady Grove is less a short stroll away from Zilker Park ⁠— less than ten minutes to be exact. In the summertime, they host the longest running live music series in Austin called “Unplugged at the Grove.” You may even get the chance to catch a movie at Shady Grove’s Starlight Theater, where they play old school classic films under the stars.

    Plus, the establishment offers ACL 3 Day Parking Passes for festival-goers, so you can park your car there and grab a bite at Shady Grove before heading over to the festival.

  2. Rent a Kayak, Canoe, or Paddle Board on Lady Bird Lake


    Rowing Dock at the northern tip of Zilker Park provides rentals of all kinds to explore Austin on water. You have the option to rent regular kayaks, fishing kayaks, canoes, and stand up paddle boards. They also host full moon paddles, and lucky for ACL Weekend 2 attendees, the next full moon happens to fall on October 13th.

  3. Hit a Couple Rounds at Peter Pan Mini Golf


    On a sunny day during your trip, you can walk over to Peter Pan Mini Golf, less than a 15 minute walk from Zilker Park. The vibrant golf course has been around since 1946, and is obviously kid friendly, but the best part about this spot is that it’s BYOB. Mini golf pregame before the festival, anyone?
  4. Cool Off at Barton Springs Pool


    Last but not least, while you’re already in the Zilker Park area, you might as well visit Barton Springs Pool located inside the park. The pool is three acres in size and gets its water from underground springs. Even on a chilly day, the water is naturally warm at an average temperature between 68 to 70 degrees. The pool is normally open to the public from 5am to 10pm, and non-resident admission fees cost $9 for adults, $5 for kids ages 12 to 17, and $4 for kids 11 and under. Little ones under 1 year old swim for free!

A Playlist for the Pregame

No matter where you plan to get hyped up for the festival, we have exactly what you need to set the mood right. Here’s a VacationRenter playlist made up of 55 tracks from artists in this year’s lineup ⁠— ordered from the first day to the last.

Let’s get the party stated. Allow us to help you find an affordable rental near Austin City Limits Music Festival now!

Soak In Tropical Vibes With This San Francisco Tiki Bar Crawl


If you’re still hanging on to that last bit of summer, and want one final escape for the season, San Francisco is the place to be. Yes, the city is notorious for its ever-changing weather and frequent appearances by Karl the Fog, but according to U.S. News, September is the warmest month in San Francisco.

With a reported average temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and a very slim chance of rain on the ninth month of the year, September is definitely the best time of year to visit. To keep that summer vibe going, you can even visit one — or all — of San Francisco’s tiki bars! Introducing VacationRenter’s complete guide to our favorite tiki bars in the city, in case you ever wanted to plan your own tiki bar crawl.

Pagan Idol

Starting with Pagal Idol on the outskirts of the Financial District, and just walking distance from Union Square, this tiki bar shares the same intimate ambiance as Disneyland’s Tiki Room, but with liquor involved. Once you start to hear the occasional thunder rumbling, lights flickering inside, and volcano erupting in the back, you’ll know exactly what we mean about its resemblance to Disney’s world-renowned tropical attraction.

Their cocktail menu upholds the tiki theme with drink names like Pineapple Express, Flex on the Beach, and Bird of Paradise. Plus, their $30 punch bowls literally pack a punch with a generous serving of rum. The knowledgable mixologists at either of the two bar stations can help you find the right drink for your taste buds!

Pagan Idol Hours
Monday to Friday: 4pm to 2am
Saturday: 6pm to 2am
Sunday: Closed

Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar

Heading west towards the Nob Hill neighborhood, you’ll find Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar on the terrace level of the Fairmont Hotel. Established in 1945, the Tonga Room was once a space for a 75-foot indoor swimming pool before being converted into the Polynesian paradise that it is today. Upon entry, you’ll notice that the swimming pool is still very much intact, serving as a lagoon in the middle of the bar. If you get lucky, you’ll also be welcomed by a live band, setting the stage for a carefree evening.


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Pop in for happy hour on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays between 5pm to 7pm to witness one of the oldest tiki bars in the city. Kids are welcome for dinner too, and we’re sure they’d have an enjoyable experience in this tropical escape. All ages are welcome to visit between the hours of 5pm and 10pm, but the bar is only open to adults 21 and over after 10pm.

Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar Hours
Monday & Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday & Thursday: 5pm to 11:30pm
Friday & Saturday: 5pm to 12:30am
Sunday: 5pm to 11:30pm

Zombie Village

The latest addition to San Francisco’s collection of tiki bars is Zombie Village, found on the cross streets of Jones and O’Farrell. The bar is separated into four areas: the main cocktail area with twinkling stars overhead, a second bar called “Doc’s Voodoo Lounge,” a candlelit cave tucked away in the back, and a downstairs section with private tiki huts available for reservation.


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This up and coming tiki bar serves a wide variety of refreshing cocktails, in addition to an extensive rum selection — because in case you didn’t know, islanders love their rum! Since the space is less than a year old, it’s definitely worth checking out before word gets out and the crowds roll in.

Zombie Village Hours
Monday to Friday: 5pm to 2am
Saturday: 6pm to 2am
Sunday: Closed

Smuggler’s Cove

Smack dab on the border of the Fillmore District and the Civic Center neighborhood, Smuggler’s Cove celebrates ten years of tiki love. Over the years, Smuggler’s Cove has received an extraordinary amount of recognition, including earning the title of one of the World’s 50 Best Bars for six consecutive years since 2011. The cocktail menu boasts over 80 different recipes, and they pride themselves with an exclusive rum club called The Rumbustion Society.


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This bar is such a hit, that it even has its own book called Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki. See what all the fuss is about during happy hour, which runs every day between 5pm and 6pm. What are the happy hour specials, you ask? $2 off to every cocktail imaginable on the menu!

Smuggler’s Cove Hours
Monday to Sunday: 5pm to 1:15am

Last Rites

Leaving San Francisco’s downtown proper and approaching the Duboce Triangle, you’ll find Last Rites on 14th Street. A little less of a tiki bar, and more of a tropical jungle pub, the dimly lit interior resembles an abandoned plane that crashed on an island — fully equipped with airplane seats, skulls everywhere, and copious amounts of plants seemingly taking over the ceiling.


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Although there are no physical tikis present, Last Rites definitely earns a spot on the tiki bar crawl map for its tasty tropical cocktails and remarkable attention to detail for having in-theme decor. You can even pretend that the airplane crashed on what was once a tiki island, and it would all make sense.

Last Rites Hours
Monday to Sunday: 5pm to 2am

Trad’r Sam

Traveling to the complete opposite end of the city, in the middle of the Richmond District, you can find your way to Trad’r Sam. Unlike the other bars mentioned above, Trad’r Sam is a no-frills dive bar with a laid back energy. If we’re going to get technical, and pretend we actually found a local bar on a tropical island, this would be it. It’s a true neighborhood gem in the suburbs of the city.


Are you ready for the best part? Every single drink on their menu is less than $10. Let’s be real — delicious cocktails for less than $10 in San Francisco sound like a myth nowadays, but Trad’r Sam’s secret hideaway is the real deal. The only downside is that the bar is cash only, but for the unbelievable price of these drinks in SF, and keeping in mind that this is what it would be like at a local bar on a tropical island, there’s not much to complain about.

Trad’r Sam Hours
Monday to Sunday: 9am to 2am

Ready for a tiki bar adventure? Plan your final summer escape to San Francisco with VacationRenter now!

San Francisco Travel Guide | Top 12 Kid-Friendly Activities

No matter if your family enjoys the great outdoors, baseball games, amusement parks, or museums, there’s something for everyone in the San Francisco Bay Area. Add these top 10 kid-friendly vacation ideas near San Francisco to your itinerary and get ready for an adventure — all within a short drive of your San Francisco vacation rental.

    1. Fisherman’s Wharf
      View Apart/Shutterstock

      With so many attractions, restaurants, and shops, it’s no surprise that Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the top Bay Area family vacation ideas. Visit Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and the Aquarium of the Bay, or just watch the sea lions sunbathing on the shore. As you can see, there’s tons to do all in one place.

    2. Oracle Park
      Eric Broder Van Dyke/Shutterstock

      There’s nothing quite like baseball games in the summer time. Take the family to catch a San Francisco Giants game at Oracle Park, formerly known as AT&T Park. For real baseball fans, come back for a stadium tour to learn the history of the team and interesting facts about the park.

    3. San Francisco Zoo
      Bryan Brazil/Shutterstock

      Kids of all ages love to look at the wildlife living in the San Francisco Zoo. There are over 2,000 exotic animals living in the 100-acre park. Enjoy the gardens and playground, and be sure to check out the feeding schedule to see your favorite animals getting their meals.

    4. Bay Area Discovery Museum


      Learning is fun at the Bay Area Discovery Museum where kids enjoy hundreds of hands-on STEM activities and exhibits. There are several daily drop-in programs for kids as young as six months old. Kids get the opportunity to explore, imagine and create while on vacation.
    5. Exploratorium


      The Exploratorium features more than 650 interactive exhibits that allow you to explore human perception, science, and art. It’s a fun place for your whole family to play and learn. These hands on exhibits will surely spark curiosity and creativity with your little ones.
    6. Golden Gate Park
      Alsu Sabirova/Shutterstock

      San Francisco is rife with parks and outdoor spaces. Golden Gate Park is 1,000 acres of wide open spaces for running and playing. Have a picnic or toss a ball around in the meadows. Visit the Koret Children’s Quarter to ride the merry-go-round. Go for a hike and search for waterfalls, catch a glimpse of the buffalo in the Bison Paddock, or explore the California Academy of Sciences.

    7. The Presidio

      Presidio is a historic national park on the northern end of San Francisco. There are several hiking trails throughout the park — many of which are easy and short enough for even the smallest children. The park features sculptures from felled trees, hidden forts and tons of natural wonders throughout. Additionally, there’s plenty of space to pack a picnic or play games at Crissy Field. Entertain your little one with a game of tag on the field, with a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge right in front of you.
    8. San Francisco Cable Car Museum


      After bringing the kids on one of San Francisco’s iconic cable cars through the hilly city, take a stop at the Cable Car Museum for your San Francisco vacation. Admission is free after all! Families learn about the history of the iconic cable cars and even watch the large wheels at work.
    9. California’s Great America


      If your family enjoys amusement parks more than museums, add California’s Great America to your list of Bay Area family vacation ideas. Located in Santa Clara, it’s one of the Bay Area’s top attractions. It features nine roller coasters and a waterpark.
    10. Jelly Belly Factory

      Kids don’t enjoy anything quite as much as they love candy, which is why a tour of the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield is a popular Bay Area family vacation idea. Take an hour drive out of the city and go behind the scenes to see how these treats are made and shop the hundreds of flavors available in the shop. To make your trip worthwhile, the Jelly Belly Factory Tours are also free to the public!

    11. Monterey Bay Aquarium


      A couple hours south of San Francisco is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, home to more than 35,000 marine animals. The Open Sea exhibit has a 1,200,000-gallon tank — the largest of its kind — that makes you feel like you’re underwater with the rest of the animals. The aquarium is located right at the end of Cannery Row, so be sure to take a walk down the street and enjoy some snacks along the coast.
    12. Big Basin Redwoods State Park

      The mighty redwoods in California are a sight that you don’t want your family to miss. If you want to get your family out of the city and into nature, head over to Big Basin Redwoods State Park, where several hiking trails allow you to see these amazing trees up close.

    Ready to plan an incredible trip to San Francisco for you and the kids? Find the right rental to accommodate the whole family using VacationRenter.

Explore California | 10 Weekend Getaways From San Francisco


Whether you live in San Francisco or are just visiting, there’s more to see outside the city limits. You could have a whole mini-vacation on any weekend, just a couple of hours from the city. Take a drive, rent an RV, or hop on a bus to reach a bevy of cool, fun, intoxicating or relaxing getaways. Weekend getaways from San Francisco give you plenty of time to enjoy yourself and unwind before getting back to work by Monday. Take a peek at these ten cities that are just a drive away from the City by the Bay.

  1. Berkeley


    Berkeley is most famous for its university UC Berkeley, so it’s no surprise that this thriving college town has lots to see and do. Check out the campus and then take a walk down Telegraph Avenue. Take a break in the Berkeley Rose Garden or the UC Botanical Garden to enjoy some greenery. You can also check if your favorite band is in town to catch a show at the stunning Greek Theatre. Sunset shows at this venue are absolutely beautiful.

  2. Sausalito


    Sausalito is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from San Francisco, right on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge ⁠— so it’s a good option if you’re short on time, but want to get away from the city for a while. Check out the city’s famous houseboats, and then head out for some outdoor fun at the Sausalito Boardwalk.

  3. Half Moon Bay


    Sometimes, city sightseeing can be exhausting. If you’re in need of a relaxing day of sun and surf, Half Moon Bay is just 40 minutes away from the city center. Pack some sunglasses and a good book to enjoy between hitting the waves. Spend an afternoon in luxury having lunch at the Ritz Carlton, or opt for good ol’ seafood by the beach at Sam’s Chowder House. If you’re hesitant to make the drive to Half Moon Bay from San Francisco due to the weather, all you have to do is check Sam’s Chowder House’s live camera to see if the sun is out on that side of the Bay Area.

  4. Napa


    If you love wine, a getaway to Napa Valley is a must-do during your trip. Downtown Napa is just an hour away from San Francisco, and the drive there is scenic. Once you’re in town, walk around the downtown core and then set off on a wine country tour. Two notable wineries to visit are Castello di Amorosa and Francis Ford Coppola’s very own winery. You’ll find the best fried chicken in town at Ad Hoc, or for an over-the-top, five star dining experience, make a reservation at French Laundry. Both restaurants have been proudly established by the Thomas Keller Food Group.
  5. Santa Cruz


    Santa Cruz is one of the most popular places to visit near San Francisco. With its historic boardwalk and colorful buildings along the water, it looks like something right out of a postcard. This city is a suitable option for a family day out; Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is packed with rides, games and tasty snacks, offering hours of fun for everyone. When you need a bit of a break from the excitement, head over to the beach and take a dip or just relax in the sun.
  6. Lake Tahoe


    Lake Tahoe is a destination in itself, but you can also visit this stunning attraction as a day trip from San Francisco. In the summer, you can kayak, canoe, or paddle board across the lake’s turquoise surface⁠ — or check out one of the area’s many hiking trails. In the winter, hit the slopes at either Northstar, Heavenly, or Homewood, then end your day with a warm hot chocolate, or a tasty bloody mary.

  7. Sonoma County


    If you want to enjoy the charm of wine country but don’t find the busy atmosphere in Napa Valley appealing, Sonoma is a fantastic alternative. Sonoma County is another popular wine-producing region in the state, but it doesn’t enjoy quite as much hype as its sister in the east. Sonoma is also full of historic charm and there are several redwood forests in the area, so even if you’re not a wine person, you can still find lots to see and do.
  8. Petaluma


    With its quaint buildings and picturesque marina, Petaluma evokes a simpler time. Its downtown main street dates back to the 19th century, and it still maintains the look and feel of a classic western town. Cool off on a hot day near the river around the Waterfront neighborhood, which offers paddle boarding, parks, and wildlife watching. If you want to sample Sonoma wines or one of the area’s many craft breweries, there are lots of options to choose from. Aside from wine, Petaluma also has a wide selection of craft beer! Score a flight of beer at Brewsters or Lagunitas Brewing Company.
  9. Big Sur


    This spectacular coastline has served as inspiration for the likes of Jack Kerouac and Gary Snyder, but you don’t have to be a famous writer to appreciate the views. Drive along the coast on Highway 1, cross the majestic Bixby Bridge, or take a hike through impressive redwood forests. Keep your eyes peeled for elephant seals, whales and condors. If you fall in love with this outdoor haven while planning your trip, you can even find somewhere to camp between the trees of Big Sur, with magnificent sunset views.

  10. Grass Valley


    Grass Valley is an early 19th-century gold rush town with a stunning backdrop and small community of tourism-centered shops and accommodations. Check into a historic hotel or a cozy little bed & breakfast, and then check out an array of dining experiences. Shop for edible goodies at the bakeries and cafés, take a look at the shoe and clothing stores, relax at a salon, drop by a wine bar and do it all again the next day. Take a tour of Empire Mine, one of the oldest gold mines in California.

You can reach any of these places in just two or three hours of driving out of San Francisco. Get some fresh air, a bit of perspective and shake the urban dust out of your brain. Recharge those batteries with a couple of days and nights spent away from the city.

Ready to plan that Northern Californian escape? Find the perfect rental with VacationRenter.

First Time Visiting San Francisco? Here’s What You Need to Know

As the cultural and commercial heart of Northern California, San Francisco is an exciting destination sought out by travelers all over the world. Whether you’re visiting for a weekend or a week, you’ll keep wishing you had just one more day to play. Check out this guide make specially for first timers, filled with San Francisco travel tips, places to go, and all the different kind of tours this city has to offer.


Travel Tips for First Timers

  1. Get a Guide Book


    If this is your first trip to San Francisco, you’re in for a treat. But sometimes a city can be so exciting that it’s too much of a good thing, making it difficult to know where to start. Before you arrive, invest in a good San Francisco travel guide. Check out Lonely Planet‘s handy city guide, filled with local Bay Area tips and informative maps that you can refer to throughout your entire trip.
  2. Dress for the Weather


    California conjures up images of sun and sand, but San Francisco is often on the cooler side. As Mark Twain once said “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Although the city is blessed with warm and sunny days from time to time, you’ll definitely thank yourself if you’ve got a cozy jacket in your luggage, because Karl the Fog tends to roll in at some point. Yes, the fog is so common in the city, that locals have officially named it and made it Instagram famous.
  3. Bring Some Walking Shoes


    There are so many things to do in San Francisco, and there’s no better way to see the city than by putting your feet on the street. By all means, take a ride on the famous cable cars, but don’t miss an opportunity to disembark and explore the captivating sights and sounds.
  4. Try San Francisco’s Most Famous Food


    San Francisco is foodie heaven, with a huge variety of exciting eateries to explore. No visit is complete without grabbing a mission-style burrito from La Taqueria in the Mission District, or stopping at Boudin to eat clam chowder out of a sourdough bowl. And if you make your way to Fisherman’s Wharf, make sure you try fresh Dungeness crab.

Seeing the City’s Landmarks

If you’re visiting the city for the first time, you should definitely take the time to pay a visit to some of San Francisco’s most iconic landmarks.

  1. The Golden Gate Bridge

    If you’re setting off on your first trip to San Francisco, be sure to include this postcard favorite on your itinerary. You can get great views of the bridge from several points around the city. Baker Beach, Crissy Field, Fort Point National Historic Site, and South Vista Point are all great options. If you really want to impress your friends back home, go for a walk or a bike ride across the entire bridge and hop on the ferry back into the city.
  2. Alcatraz


    Alcatraz Island operated as a prison for just under 30 years, but it housed big names like Al Capone during its short lifespan. It closed its doors as a prison in 1963, but it has been open as a tourist attraction since the 1970s. Take a ferry ride to the island and take a tour of the infamous facilities. You can also combine a visit with a cruise tour of the bay, giving you great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island and other amazing sights.
  3. Chinatown


    The largest and oldest Chinatown in the country is one of the best places to visit in San Francisco. Spend an afternoon wandering the streets and taking in the various sights, sounds and smells. Pop into one of the many great cafes, restaurants and bakeries to try some delicious Chinese delicacies. Be sure to explore some of the side streets to get a feel for the hidden side of Chinatown.
  4. Fisherman’s Wharf


    From sea lions lounging on wooden rafts off Pier 39 to the famous chocolates at Ghirardelli Square, you’ll find lots to see and do in and around Fisherman’s Wharf. Even though this is a tourist hot spot, it still has a fun atmosphere, and the stunning view of the bay makes a trip worthwhile on its own. You’re best walking or taking a cable car to this attraction, as the area can get crowded, but if you absolutely must drive, you can find parking near Pier 31, Pier 35 and Pier 43 1/2.
  5. Mission District


    Once upon a time, the Mission District was where artists and intellectuals congregated. Even though the neighborhood is now a poster child for gentrification, it still maintains much of its creative flair, with artwork adding character to the neighborhood’s streets. Enjoy browsing hip boutiques, grab a bite to eat at one of the area’s excellent cafes and walk down Clarion Alley, filled with vibrant street art. When your feet need a rest, take a break in Dolores Park.
  6. Ride a Cable Car


    Getting to the top of San Francisco’s famous hills can be a bit of a hike, but luckily, taking a cable car trip uphill combines two bucket list activities. To beat the crowds, go early in the morning or catch the California Car to Nob Hill.

  7. The Painted Ladies


    The “Painted Ladies” have graced many a postcard over the years, but now you can see them in person. Take a stroll around Alamo Square and enjoy the views of these local fixtures.

Pick a Tour to Explore More of the City

There’s so much to see that a newbie tourist ⁠— and often, a seasoned one⁠ too — couldn’t possibly see everything without some very careful planning. Fortunately, the city of San Francisco has a wide selection of unique tours that will take you to all the places you want to see.

  1. Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours


    Double-decker bus tours are international hits when it comes to getting to know any new city. Big Bus San Francisco features more than 20 stops at destinations including Union Square, the Painted Ladies, Haight Street, and more. If you want to see as many sites as possible in one trip, this would be the right tour for you because you can hop off at any stop you wish, then hop right back on the next Big Bus! You even have the option to purchase a 2-day deluxe ticket, because it’s physically impossible to explore San Francisco in its entirety in only a day.
  2. Alcatraz Island Tour


    One of the most famous jails in American history is just a boat ride away from San Francisco’s Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing. Get up close with the prison that held the likes of notorious criminals such as Al Capone. You have the option to do either the Day Tour or Night Tour, but keep in mind that if you opt for the Night Tour, you may have to book months in advance due to high demand.
  3. One-Day Napa Valley Tour


    Napa Valley is world-renowned as one of the most cherished wine regions. If wine falls on your short list of guilty pleasures, then consider a day trip to Napa as a mini vacation from your San Francisco vacation. Viator’s semi-private wine tour will pick you up downtown and coordinate a customized itinerary, allowing you to visit 2 to 4 wineries based on where you and the other participants in your group would like to go.
  4. Bike Tour Over the Golden Gate Bridge


    Take this three-hour bike tour from Fisherman’s Wharf, which takes you through local attractions before crossing the famous Golden Gate Bridge. The end of your bike ride takes you to Sausalito. This tour costs $55 per person, which includes a helmet, a map, a bike lock, and the option to choose between a classic bike or an electric bike.

  5. GoCar GPS Tour


    As you’re wandering the streets of San Francisco, you might notice tiny yellow cars zooming through the city. Those yellow cars are called GoCars and you can explore the city in them! The GoCar Tour is pre-loaded with narrated tour information for hundreds of local sights, landmarks and locations.