When you come to San Francisco you want to soak in the scenic bliss of one of the most popular travel destinations in the world.
We asked a professional photographer and video editor Ted Hemberger for the most scenic and beautiful places in San Francisco, where you can leave a piece of yourself behind.
Here’s what he told us.
When I think of my favorite places in San Francisco I must admit there are too many to list. I think if we are being specific I have a solid idea of my choices.
I was super lucky in how I saw most of these places because working in my field (The Film Industry). We were able to close off lots of streets and I was able to get a first hand view of some of the most amazing spots. One that comes to mind is seeing the “Worlds crookedest street” which is actually at the tip of Vermont St. But the tourist spot is Lombard. We were able to close the street completely to shoot the feature “San Andreas” with The Rock a few months ago. A lot of my time in San Francisco has been like that. The first time I ever stood on a baseball home plate was actually at The Giants Stadium as we had people Sky Diving out of planes into the Stadium for another shoot where an earth quake had hit the stadium. I have without question been blessed since moving here!
So here we go, Ted Hemberger’s favorite spots in San Francisco for photo ops, meditation and panoramic views!
Best Places with Scenic Views in San Francisco
One. Sutro Baths – Now this place holds a dear place in my heart because it was one of the first places I experienced when I got to San Franciscoю Just two years ago I sold everything I had (Including my camera and all my camera gear), I closed out my apartment, gave the rest away and I bought a plane ticket to San Francisco. Along with the plane ticket I put a down deposit on a place in the Richmond district for one month with the attitude of “I’m either going to make it or break it”.. Luckily at this point I am doing just fine :).
I remember riding the Bart from SFO to the Powell Bart stop at 11:00 on a Monday evening, I got off and rode the 5 all the way out to the Richmond district. Because it was dark I really didn’t see much but the next morning I woke up and skateboarded downhill all the way to Sutro Baths to see my first glance of the Golden Gate Bridge. Breathtaking indeed!
The entire hiking path out there at Lands End became one of my favorite places to run, take photos, take dates, meditate, the list goes on and on. There is a little spot out on that hiking path if you walk down the never ending stairs which brings us to my third spot.
It is a perfectly circular maze made to walk through and meditate as you get to the center. Behind it is a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marina, The Oceanic Preservation Society, the cliff houses, and so much more. Probably, the most under-rated of San Francisco attractions.
Another one of my spots over in that area is Ocean Beach. The first few months that beach helped me lose about twenty five pounds! I ran daily barefoot from my place in the Richmond District down the beach and back.
By the way, in 2011 Ocean Beach was the site for the Rip Curl Pro surfing contest and 39-year old Kelly Slater won this world championship, the first and the only one for him in the continental US.
Here are more San Francisco fun facts.
That knocks out about four spots so far. Maybe a couple others in-between :).
Market street and Embarcadero
The next spot I would have to say I absolutely love is right where Market street meets Embarcadero when you get off the Muni. One of the main reasons is because there are so many little tents selling everything from jewelry and clothing to amazing prints of the world and paintings of San Francisco. One of the prints that I saw down in the square there is actually what got me back into photographing around the city.
I would have to say the entire Embarcadero is one of my favorite spots in the city. The entire street from AT&T park all the way down the last peer on the street and everything in between. When I lived in the Castro and didn’t have a car, I used to Hop on the M train in the morning, throw on my beats headphones to drown out the sound, and climb into an almost concert like filled MUNI train to get downtown.
Anyways when I would get down town I would usually have my skateboard and get off at the last stop “Embarcadero” I would walk or skate through the amazing little booths that people set up with everything from unbelievable world photographers and their prints, homemade jewelry, rugs and tapestries, foods, and everything else you could imagine!
I would get down to the main street where I would skate in to one of my offices but every day at lunch at the Ferry building there are so many spots to choose from inside. Great Mexican food around back, the slanted door spring rolls and ramen soups, great ice cream bars (you’ll have to look up the names of the ice cream and Mexican spots), Blue Bottle coffee is in there! And there’s this one place with just amazing choices of cheese. Eggs and cheese, bread and cheese, super simple but great!
Those are just a couple reasons I love the Embarcadero but there is just always something happening there. That photo of the couple kissing is my girlfriend Carly and I at four in the morning doing long exposure selfie photography just because it’s such a great place to photograph! Even just this past week as I prepared for the Super Bowl I was in there on a huge stage that they created looking over at the bay bridge and all the buildings in the city for just another huge event in San Francisco.
We’re in the middle of our San Francisco city tour with Ted Hemberger.
Another spot that I love to spend time at is Bernal Heights. If you drive up to the tip of Bernal Heights you get the best of the Mission, Oakland, both bridges, and the heart of the city from a bird’s eye view. Depending on what time you go there not only do you get amazing views but you also get the benefit of hundreds of dogs and puppies getting walked around as its one of the most popular dog walking spots in the city!
The best spot to just gain some perspective on the city and really just on life. Hardly any tourists, the entire city within the turn of a head. It’s truly gorgeous and a place I go to meditate when needed… This place I like a lot better than Twin Peaks where it was always packed.
I would give this place #1 among things to do in San Francisco.
One of my favorite spots to take long exposures like some that you may have seen on my Instagram is Twin Peaks. There are two huge rock mounds at the top of an enormous volcano style hill in the center of mid-city near Portola that are there specifically to stare down Market St. It is the spot without question that you go specifically to see amazing views of the city. I actually ended up there accidentally when I first moved here and was BLOWN AWAY by what I saw, it made me realize how lucky I was to not only be seeing the views I was seeing but also to be living in this city. This amazing city that so many people visit and vacation at was now my home!
If you don’t have time for Alcatraz, Twin Peaks will be a great option!
Another one of my favorite places in general and somewhere I always bring my parents and tourist friends in the city is Market street in general. Basically from the Castro down market street is great. But once you get near Powell there’s every mall and huge store you could ever think of Nike, Macy’s, Vans, Crate and Barrel, there is literally every store of any brand you’ve ever been a fan of within a 4 block radius!
The Mission is a cool spot to take photos of and hang out in. There is a lot of great second hand shops and a great hipster VIBE. With two of my favorite places one is called CREAM. “Cookies rule everything around me” cream get that ice cream. The other is called the Red Velvet Cantina with literally the best nachos you have ever eaten. I’m talking Hard chips that stay hard. None of that Nacho sogginess. A tiny bit of spice, piled with steak, cheese, guac, Souter cream.
There is a ton of side streets around the Mission that have great Murals everywhere. 23rd and Capp there is a great church that’s covered in beautiful paintings. There’s the ALAMO draft house which is a watch and eat type movie theater where they serve you at your table inside the movie itself and it’s all about the movie experience. So much that I was ten minutes late because of my super BOWL shoot on Thursday that they locked the doors and wouldn’t let me in so that I didn’t ruin a minute of the movie for anyone else by letting extra light in. Annoying but very cool at the same time.
Pretty much all of the mission is great, and also reminds me a lot of my old spot in Brooklyn NY!
Another spot that comes to mind and is where I live actually – Castro! There is unbelievable food at every corner, there’s two great gyms that I bounce back and forth from, on our roof there are great views of the city, I live with five wonderful women and one guy named Isaac, you can walk down and see so much history down Castro street (which is what the movie MILK was about). There is artwork, music in the streets at all times, trolleys above ground like the old school 70s Street cable cars, movies, music, food, dancing, bars.
Ideal if you have just one day in San Francisco, just come here and plunge into a local culture.
I love riding the Muni because you get a taste of everyone in San Francisco from homeless to the richest of the rich going to the financial district to the top of one of the bank buildings, but taking the Muni because there is nowhere in the city to park.
There really are so many more and as they pop into my head, this list never ends!
We have to admit, the list is impressive. It will keep you busy for at least 3 days in San Francisco.
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