Touring San Francisco in style!

posted in: Tours, USA | 19

We just couldn’t say no when we found out that this amazing city can be explored by a vintage Volkswagen van. Coming across Vantigo’s website online and seeing what the tour offered, we had to make sure we were on this tour and we weren’t disappointed. Instead of taking a tour bus which would usually get stuck in traffic and only take you to the top spots in the city, here was a tour in a van with a driver who knows a lot of information and fun facts on San Francisco (also the fact the driver knows all the shortcuts if there are traffic jams around is a bonus!) is the way to go. Here is why.

Touring San Francisco in Style with Vantigo's VW City Tour
The campervan tour starts on Post Street (as pictured) in Downtown San Francisco
Touring San Francisco in Style with Vantigo's VW City Tour
Claire showing off in the front of the van

After booking up the tour, we met at the starting point at Post Street (just north-west of Union Square in Downtown), the driver explained to us what type of van we were in, what to do and not to do during the tour before setting off. Straight away we were taking in the sights of Union Square, Chinatown and Financial District of the city as well as listening to amazing history of the area. We won’t say too much as it will spoil the tour if you decide to book on one when hitting up the city.

Touring San Francisco in Style with Vantigo's VW City Tour
Driving through the streets of San Francisco at the start of the tour
Touring San Francisco in Style with Vantigo's VW City Tour
Driving through the streets of San Francisco at the start of the tour

The tour stops off at a few places on the way which is fantastic as we wasn’t stuck inside a van all the time on the three hour tour. The first place we stretched our legs was on the summit of Pioneer Park which is located between Downtown/Financial district and Fisherman’s Wharf. At the top is the Colt Tower which can be seen for miles and is a lookout tower. However, the views from here overlooking downtown, the bay, Alcatraz are simply amazing. We were told people can walk to the summit from the bottom of the hill but there are over four hundred steps to take on.

Touring San Francisco in Style with Vantigo's VW City Tour
View from Pioneer Park of Downtown San Francisco
Touring San Francisco in Style with Vantigo's VW City Tour
View from Pioneer Park of Alcatraz and the northern side of San Francisco bay

Moving northwards we passed Fisherman’s Wharf and then entered the area of San Francisco which has parks dotted all over the place. One of the highlights of the tour was having a look at the amazing Greco-Roman architecture of the Palace of Fine Arts theatre which still hosts concerts and plays. Standing outside and looking at this sure reminded me of buildings we have seen similar like this dotted around Europe and could imagine watching a show. However, the building can only hold nine hundred people so tickets are hard to get, especially if there is a big star in town.

The beautiful Crissy Fields was seen and is the ideal location for doing running, cycling or anything to do with fitness. This is also a great viewpoint (or place to take photos) of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. At the north western end of Crissy Fields (where there is a fantastic small cafe at the Warming Hut we must add!), we were taken to Fort Point, a mini fortress located underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. This was built during the Civil War but has never been under attack.

Touring San Francisco in Style with Vantigo's VW City Tour
Palace of Fine Arts theatre
Touring San Francisco in Style with Vantigo's VW City Tour
Golden Gate Bridge

After seeing San Francisco’s main tourist sight, the tour guide took us for a drive around Lands End park before stopping at the cafe here. It is here we had a great view of the Sutro Baths and the Pacific Ocean.

Touring San Francisco in Style with Vantigo's VW City Tour
Looking out towards Lands End park
Touring San Francisco in Style with Vantigo's VW City Tour
Sutro Baths and the view of the ocean

Around the corner and down the hill we had a fantastic view of Ocean Beach which is San Francisco’s main surfing paradise, before driving around Golden Gate Park. This is America’s largest city park, even bigger than Central Park in New York City. There seems to be lots to do for visitors as we saw two windmills donated by the Dutch, hiking roots, music stage, the De Young museum and a planetarium. It seemed like forever to drive around the park but looking out of the window, it was wonderful to see how green the park was with all it’s trees and green grass.

Touring San Francisco in Style with Vantigo's VW City Tour
Ocean Beach
Touring San Francisco in Style with Vantigo's VW City Tour
Golden Gate Park

The tour took us up one of the spots we really want to check out whilst in the city and that was Twin Peaks. The two hills which overlook the city from the southwest has been featured on many films (mostly for make out scenes with young people), but it’s here where the best views can be had. For us it wasn’t just seeing the skyscrapers from the distance but it was seeing the coastline and small mountains overlooking the northern side of San Francisco bay to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The views were totally amazing and we were so glad to catch this before the sun went down.

Touring San Francisco in Style with Vantigo's VW City Tour
A view from Twin Peaks
Touring San Francisco in Style with Vantigo's VW City Tour
A view from Twin Peaks
Touring San Francisco in Style with Vantigo's VW City Tour
A view from Twin Peaks

As it was becoming nightfall, we drove through the Castro District which is San Francisco’s gay village. It was so funky to see the rainbow colours on the pedestrian crossings at the traffic lights. This was a very good idea and a great way to brighten up the place. Before we finished the tour we saw the ladies houses and took in the city hall before being dropped off.

Touring San Francisco in Style with Vantigo's VW City Tour
Castro district
Touring San Francisco in Style with Vantigo's VW City Tour
Castro District
Touring San Francisco in Style with Vantigo's VW City Tour
The crossing markings in the Castro District

We were so glad to see San Francisco in a different light, a new perspective. Before our visit to the city, the thought of doing a tour in a campervan never came across our mind, however we were so glad to find out about Vantigo and take the chance of doing this. We loved every minute of the tour, the guide/driver was very informative and passionate about the city and everything was well organised from the moment we were picked up to the moment we were dropped off. We highly recommend this tour to anyone who is visiting the city (or even living in the city!).    

Touring San Francisco in Style with Vantigo's VW City Tour
City Hall in San Francisco

We took the San Francisco City Tour but Vantigo have more tours on offer including a San Francisco Brew Tour! Check out their website to see all the amazing tours they offer.

San Francisco, USA, Vantigo
…and yes, Danik did get a chance to ride up front also!

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Touring San Francisco in Style with Vantigo's VW City Tour - San Francisco, California - USA

19 Responses

  1. You hit all the best spots for pictures! It was a trip down memory lane as I lived there during college. Love the idea of seeing the city in a van with a guide. You saw so much in a few hours. Beautiful pictures too. Glad you saw the city in the sun!

  2. Is it bad/embarrassing if my first thoughts on seeing photos of San Francisco were “omg it’s the city from The Room” hahaha. That Volkswagen minivan is adorable though, it looks amazing to drive around and explore a city in. It sounds like a nice, intimate tour too, with just you and the driver/guide.

  3. San Francisco is one of our favorite cities in the world! In 2013, we lived in SF for half a year, and loved every second of our time there! This post is making us so nostalgic! 🙂 It’s good to know that one can tour the city in a vintage VW van! When we return to SF next time, we’d definitely try this out, even if we already know the city quite well. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. What an original way to see San Francisco! With the van AND the driver you get the best experience possible. I totally LOVE that picture with the Golden Gate bridge! I also had never heard of Twin Peaks before, the view is really amazing. This tour is really a good idea!

  5. This is so cool! I love the old campervans, my brother had one and it was great fun driving around, everyone used to wave at us 🙂 I love the idea of touring a city like this, it sounds like you saw a lot in the 3 hours! You got some really great views of the city and the ocean too, and of course, the bridge!

  6. I just love San Fran and doing in a VW Kombi would be just the coolest thing. Kombi’s are really huge in Australia for camping trips, especially by visitors. Looks like you got to see a fair bit of SF. I really loved Lombard St, having seen it on so many movies. The view over the bay is special too. I thought it was great that it actually went into the night as well, allowing you to see the city lit up. Something I would definitely love to do if I went back here.

  7. I used to live in San Francisco. This sounds like an interesting tour, taking you to highlights and off the beaten path. I don’t know Pioneer Park, but I’ll bet I have been there, just without knowing the name. I am glad you got to see my favourite spot in the city, the Palace of Fine Arts. As for Golden Gate Park, I didn’t know it was the largest in the states. (I thought New Orleans claimed that title).

  8. Oh my gosh, that’s definitely in style! I love love love VW buses and I would love to visit such an old-school-hippie destination in one. I’ve never been to San Francisco, but you’ve definitely highlighted some incredible places that I want to visit. Golden Gate Park looks so beautiful. I didn’t realize there was a park around that area. Very cool!

  9. Megan Jerrard

    I would LOVE to explore San Fran in a vintage Volkswagen van!!! Will definitely check out Vantigo’s website for our next trip – this looks so much fun! And I love that the day comes with a local tour guide / driver who knows all the short cuts and can take you around. Sounds like a really great itinerary too – you got awesome Views from Pioneer Park of Alcatraz, and of the Golden Gate Bridge. And I’m glad that you made it to Twin Peaks.

    Glad you had a fab time in San Fran!

  10. I love this idea! I have a real soft spot for VWs and would definitely try this tour when I’m back in San Francisco. I didn’t get the chance to go to Twin Peaks but it looks like great panoramic views of the city and a bit more off the beaten track. The beaches and parks are great and generally the vibe of the whole place. This seems like a great tour to see a lot in a short time

  11. These are so beautiful! I’ve been to SF many times but haven’t been to most of these spots. I love how gorgeous Sutro Baths is.

  12. That is the CUTEST! Wish I’d known about this tour when I visited San Francisco. It’s great to not only get an insider’s view, but also not have to worry about logistics like following the map and figuring out public transportation transfers.

  13. Megan Indoe

    I absolutely love San Francisco and dream of going back! I love the VW van!! That is traveling in style! I love the view from Twin Peaks, we didn’t make it there on our previous trips we will have to make sure we do it when we go back! I couldn’t imagine trying to drive a VW bus down Lombard St even though I’d be tempted!

  14. Awesome! My dad used to own a VW Van so taking a tour with Vantigo sounds like a great flashback memory adventure for me. I have been to san fran before but I have never seen the Sutro Baths or the view you got at the Twin Peaks. What great sights. Guess I need to go back and hook up with Vantigo for a crazy 70s throwback adventure!

  15. That Volkswagen looks like a classic beauty. I remember visiting the Volkswagen transparent factory in Germany and it was simply Wow!. You make San Francisco look even more beautiful with your photographs. Golden Gate has been captured with a very creative perspective.

  16. Ah this post makes me so nostalgic. I last visited in 1997 and did so many of these things. I suspect it has changed a bit since then though!

  17. This seems like a great ways to know more about SFO and its highlights. The view of the city, the Golden gate Bridge and the. Palace of fine arts is already on my list but I think after reading this my priority would be Surrounded baths. It looks gorgeous

  18. Exploring a city in a vintage Volkswagen! WOW! And with a knowledgeable driver cum guide is an added bonus! Loved the way you did not spill out all the beans of the tour!:) The streets looks so abuzz with history. I’d love to tour a city like that. Totally in style :)And glad you got to stretch your legs at regular intervals! This is so much better than a bus hop on hop off tour! The view from Pioneer Park of Alcatraz and the northern side of San Francisco bay looks stunning! Your picture of Sutro Baths is incredible!

  19. This looks like such a unique way to see San Francisco! You definitely got to see the highlights of the city, and then some. Those views from Twin Peaks are amazing! My sister lives in SF, so hoping to visit her this summer. Will definitely look into this tour with Vantigo!

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