One of the best things about travel is it’s often such a rich learning experience.

Northern California offers so many cultural experiences and opportunities to learn, starting with its world-class museums and various ethnic neighborhoods. Whether you’re traveling with kids, or you just have a curious mind, the San Francisco Bay area provides opportunities to broaden your knowledge of the world.

A Multitude of Museums

We started in beautiful Golden Gate Park, full of sculptures and statues, a kind of “one-stop shop” for museums. First, we went to the De Young Museum to explore its collection of contemporary art. Then, we went to the California Academy of Sciences, where we enjoyed a fascinating show about the Hubble telescope at the planetarium. It was fun to see a colony of African penguins at play in the Steinhart Aquarium. After a visit to Cal Academy, we took a moment to rest and reflect at the Japanese Tea Garden in the park.  We also took a short drive outside San Francisco, less than an hour, to San Jose, where the technology lovers in our group enjoyed the Intel Museum and the Tech Museum of Innovation.

The following day we were in for a treat back in San Francisco when we went to the Exploratorium, because we didn’t just observe the exhibits, but we got to interact as well. It’s a great option for kids! And, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was just enormous, an awe-inspiring collection for lovers of 20th century art.


San Francisco’s Chinatown is the real deal, with lanterns suspended between the buildings for so many blocks you can hardly see where they end. Our first stop was for some dim sum. There were many restaurants to choose from, and they were all busy so we knew we couldn’t go wrong with any of them. After our meal, we went and experienced some authentic Chinese tea at one of the tea houses. And, of course, there were multitudes of beautiful clothes, jade jewelry and art pieces to see as we walked past the stores over the massive 24 square blocks.

The Mission

Though I had an idea of what to expect when we visited Chinatown, I had no idea what awaited us at The Mission. As we cruised through the neighborhood in a convertible, we were able to experience the neighborhood’s murals in all their glory. It is said The Mission has the highest concentration of street art in the world. Be sure to take a drive through Balmy and Clarion Alley where bold images and bright colors greet you. We visited Mission Dolores, which dates to the 1780s and is among the oldest buildings in all of San Francisco – beautiful architecture that makes you feel like you might be in Europe. Of course, our trip wasn’t complete without some Latin food – I loved the carne asada.

Whether you’re looking for a little culture without leaving the continent, or if you love learning and appreciate engaging museums, Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Area should be at the top of your “must visit” list.


Where to Stay


Parc 55 San Francisco – a Hilton Hotel, 55 Cyril Magnin St., San Francisco, is home to three restaurants and lounges, including Michelin-rated Kin Khao. The hotel near destinations such as Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf and the SoMa district. Get in a workout in the on-site fitness center, equipped with the latest generation of cardio and strength-training machines.

Embassy Suites by Hilton San Rafael-Conference Center, 101 McInnis Parkway, San Rafael, offers guests cooked-to-order breakfast in addition to local cuisine and artisan cocktails at Grille 101. Relax in the hotel’s tropical atrium by a koi fish pond, swim in the heated indoor pool or kick back in the whirlpool. The hotel is near Napa and Sonoma Wine Country, Sausalito and Northgate Shopping Mall.

DoubleTree by Hilton San Francisco Airport, 835 Airport Blvd., Burlingame, is home to 37 North, an award-winning restaurant serving sustainable, local foods. The hotel features updated rooms with views of San Francisco Bay. A complimentary 24-hour shuttle service to the San Francisco International Airport or nearby Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station is offered.

A story with Visit The USA: The Official USA Travel Website

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