If you Google for “San Francisco travel”, you’ll find so many millions of sites that your brain might crash just looking at them. However, there are only a handful of sites that are truly high quality, unique, and comprehensive for people who are seeking useful travel information. We ranked sites based on their overall combination of five key factors: usefulness; usability; originality; photography; and timeliness. Without further ado, here is the SFTravel ranking for 2011 of the top ten travel websites for San Francisco:
1. 7×7 is a print and online magazine written by locals who love living in San Francisco. The visitor’s guide on the website offers a comprehensive look at the many different things that there are to enjoy the city, organized in a variety of different ways for different types of readers, all from a local perspective. For example, this site offers a guide to non-cheesy activities at popular tourist attraction Fisherman’s Wharf. This is the right San Francisco travel guide for you if you enjoy getting ideas from articles like “50 Sweets to Try in SF Before You Die” and “The Top 7 Most Romantic Things To Do in Napa”. There is an emphasis on food and drink but that’s not the only information you’ll find in this guide. What’s great about 7×7 is that it offers top tips for people who are new to the city but can be used in an ongoing fashion to keep getting to know San Francisco better and better each time that you visit.
2. Travel + Leisure SF is another print and online magazine for a variety of destinations. Travel + Leisure is based out of New York and offers information about many different types of travel destinations. Their San Francisco specific section is quite comprehensive. It offers information on hotels and restaurants but then it gets into more depth with the “articles” section. In this section, visitors can learn about some of the hottest topics and attractions in the city as well as a few off-the-beaten-path ideas for their trip. In comparison with 7×7, this site is less local-oriented and more traditional to the standard traveler’s guide.
3. SanFrancisco.com offers extensive information on life in San Francisco and is designed to be useful to travelers as well as to people who are new to the city. In the latter category, it offers information on jobs and real estate in the city. For tourists, it provides a hotel and restaurant guide, a guide to the city’s music and nightlife and a section on tourist attractions. This section provides basic common attractions that are visited by a majority of visitors to the city. People who are seeking a fairly traditional San Francisco vacation that hits all of the highlights will find this website to be helpful.
4. SF Gate is the city’s newspaper. But it can also help you planning your trip to the city. An in-depth look reveals a comprehensive visitor’s travel guide that can be terrifically useful. The difference between this guide and many of the others is that it has a more “real time” approach where readers can learn about the city’s current weather and events to aid in trip planning. There are also guides to top hot spots in the city, like the most popular recent restaurants. This site has many unique articles for the off-the-beaten path traveler, such as a guide to places to play Bocce ball in the city. In addition to the SF Guide, SF Gate has a great section on the city’s neighborhoods. It tells you about each neighborhood, provides some history and points out some highlights of what to see in each area. This is a great travel tool that is unique from the other San Francisco travel sites.
SF Guide is an online version of the traditional San Francisco travel guides, as are handed out from a variety of “free” kiosks in printed form. It reads similarly to what you would get if you got a print travel guide from a bookstore, with information on restaurants, shopping, nightlife, neighborhoods, etc. The information in this type of guide is general and not in “real time”. For example, if you want to know generally what type of weather to expect in San Francisco, this is a good site, as compared to if you want to know what the weather is there right now, which would be found on a more “real time” site like SF Gate. This is a good guide for the planning and initial stages of a trip to San Francisco. It offers assistance with hotel booking and other travel services.
6. Tripadvisor has an approach similar to SF Guide however– together with mountains of advertising and “buy now” links — it comprehensively lists travel information to destinations all around the world, not just to San Francisco. The San Francisco section has travel information ranging from how to get in and out of the city to the “top things to do”. One of the highlights of this website is that it includes reader reviews, which means that it provides a first-person perspective on many of the hotels and activities that are recommended but those things are recommended originally in a third person, objective perspective. This dual viewpoint can be very helpful when planning a trip to San Francisco.
7. Only in San Francisco is produced by the city’s tourism bureau with a streamlined design that makes it easy to search for city travel information without experiencing a lot of online clutter. Start with the site’s “essential toolkit” to plan a San Francisco trip. It offers visitor information including specialty information such as info for gay travelers. It also has maps, transportation information and suggested itineraries. Explore the city more in-depth with the pages on current events and neighborhood information.
8.Visit California is a great travel site for people who are interested in visiting cities across California, including San Francisco. That makes it idea for people stopping in San Francisco on a multi-city trip. That said it can be used just to look at the San Francisco section as well. Each section of the site (such as “arts and culture” or “outdoor recreation”) has must-see suggestions as well as insider scoops and links to articles in that category. This is probably the most family-friendly non-niche site.
9. Not For Tourists is designed to provide travelers with information about things for their trips that are interesting, unique and informative but aren’t listed in traditional travel guides. If you’re that type of traveler, this can be a good selection. It’s best for you if you want to find out where to see an indie film, what dive bars are popular and where to buy vintage clothing. A section on “landmarks” provides sightseeing information without an emphasis on tourist hot spots.
10. Yelp Lists: The majority of the items on this list are written and edited by people with professional travel writing experience. If you want to get some good first-person insight into San Francisco travel, Yelp is a good place to go. You can use it to check out what people think of a particular hotel or a particular attraction. Another important tool on Yelp is the availability of lists, where people put together their own suggestions for what a traveler should see. A good example to start with is The Insider’s San Francisco Tourist Destinations. If you have time to do some browsing through the site then you can get a lot of great information about the city.