Everything you need when planing a vacation trip to San Francisco
On the Bay Bridge



There are three arteries into San Francisco by car. The least interesting is from the south on Highway 101 going north up the peninsula. There is not much of interest once one has entered the metro Bay Area except to keep your eyes open for Moffett Field which is an airfield with its giant (and I mean giant) hangar, which was built to house blimps. It has a floor area of eight acres and is one of the largest unsupported structures in America. It is to the east of the highway and you will know it when you see it. You may also find it interesting to notice the office towers of Google, eBay, Yahoo and PayPal as you drive up 101 at the southern end of the metro area.


The other two ways into the city by car are much more spectacular: across the Golden Gate Bridge from the north on Highway 101 and from the east on I-80 across the Bay Bridge. Both bridges are toll bridges but they only collect a toll as you enter the city. Some say this is because they figure you will be broke by the time you leave.  Be sure to stay out of the FasTrack lanes when going through the toll gates. FasTrack is a system for commuters that collects tolls electronically.  Cars that drive through the FasTrack lanes that don’t have a special device are heavily fined.


The Bay Bridge

The Bay Bridge


The Bay Bridge, properly called the San Francisco-Oakland Bridge, is actually two bridges that meet up in the center on opposite sides of a natural island called Yerba Buena Island. A tunnel cuts through a hill on the island and the traffic is fed through this tunnel.  It has two decks, the upper deck takes traffic into San Francisco and the lower one carries traffic exiting the city.  It opened in 1936, six months before its more beautiful sister, the Golden Gate Bridge.


Tip: One thing we recommend when entering the city, especially for the first time, is to exit onto Yerba Buena Island. The road will wind you down to Treasure Island for one of the most spectacular views of the city. It is particularly stunning at night. Treasure Island is an artificial island next to Yerba Buena Island that was built from muck dredged from the bottom of the bay. It was built as an airport for the flying boats (such as the famous China Clipper) of Pan American World Airways after temporary use as the location of the Golden Gate International Exposition, a world’s fair of 1939-40. During WWII it became a naval base.


To exit the bridge onto the island, work your way over to the left lane as soon as you enter the bridge. The exit is from the left lane just before entering the tunnel for both east bound and west bound traffic.  It is a little tricky getting back on the bridge after leaving Treasure Island. There is no merging lane and one must start from a complete stop.


The toll for crossing the Bay Bridge into San Francisco is $4 on weekdays except during rush hours, when it is $6. On weekends the toll is $5 at all times. There is no charge for using the bridge to leave the city.


The Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge


When going to San Francisco from the north, you will cross the Golden Gate Bridge. We have created a separate page for the bridge and all its wonders, which you can access through the Attractions section or directly from here.  But let us take a moment and make a recommendation.  We know how it is when on a long trip, one becomes focused on achieving the destination and the last thing one wants to do is to stop and “smell the flowers,” but really, if the weather is good, this is one time when it is worth it to force yourself to do so. We strongly recommend that you take the last exit before crossing the bridge – that will be Sausalito exit that you will see soon after coming out of the tunnel. But instead of going on to Sausalito, head up the hill for an overlook of the bridge and the city. You may want to stop at the first turn off and hike out to the end where you will see a famous view of the bridge with the city behind it. But if you do, also be sure to drive up the hill as far as you can to Hawk Hill. The view from there is nothing short of epic. Your entry into the city will then be unforgettable.


The toll for crossing the bridge into San Francisco is $6. Again, there is no charge for using the bridge to leave the city.


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Now What?


Of course once you get to San Francisco in your car you have the famous problem of where to park it. This web site may be of help to you at this point: Municipal Parking Garages.


If you are fancier than me and have a smart phone, you can get updated parking information at SF Park.


And this site is perhaps the best for getting the lowdown on off street parking in San Francisco.



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