It is hard to decide on souvenirs for people but it is always a nice gesture to bring something back from your trips for someone special. I always find it nice to buy local food items but of course, it depends on whether or not it is perishable and whether or not you can get it in your suitcase. Here is my list of the Top 10 Souvenirs to buy from San Francisco.
1. A cable car replica
A mini souvenir of a cable car is always nice because you’ve rode it during your trip to San Francisco and it is a reminder of things unique to San Francisco. No where else can you ride the cable cars. You can always purchase one of the cable car ornaments to hang on your Christmas tree or around the house, or a mini car that actually has the cable car ring when you roll its wheels. You can purchase this at one of the numerous souvenir shops in Chinatown along Grant Avenue.
2. Sourdough bread
Sourdough bread originated in San Francisco during the Gold Rush and was the main bread. You actually have to acquire a taste for it but sourdough is used in California for sandwiches and French toast. You can purchase this at Boudin bakery at Fisherman’s Wharf or at the Macy’s Union Square location.
3. Ghirardelli chocolate
Although Ghirardelli does not manufacture its chocolate in San Francisco–it has since moved its factory to San Leandro—its chocolates have been a popular confection to take back home. Ghirardelli has chocolates at its namesake square at Fisherman’s Wharf as well as a free standing store on Stockton Street next to Barney’s. The Ghirardelli stores sell gift packages and other items that you won’t find elsewhere, like its chocolate covered berries selection. You can also find Ghirardelli chocolates at the ubiquitous Walgreen stores throughout San Francisco. The selections have become varied, with chocolate flavors that appeal to both dark and milk chocolate lovers.
4. San Francisco photos
A photograph or a painting of San Francisco is a souvenir that will remind you years to come of the beauty that is endemic to San Francisco, whether it be of Coit Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito, Chinatown, North Beach, etc. Natural landscapes abound of Ocean Beach, Muir Woods, Presidio, etc. You can find these in the galleries that dot Geary, Sutter or Post Streets as well as the galleries along Columbus Avenue in the North Beach section of town.
5. Alcatraz mementos
Most people who have gone on an Alcatraz tour wish to bring something back. The Alcatraz gift shop has many items–sweatshirts, mugs, tin cups, magnets, etc. There is also an Alcatraz gift shop at Pier 39.
6. Golden Gate bridge memorabilia
Anything to remind you of the beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge is special. It could be a photo, note cards, or a coffee table book. The gift shop at the Warming Hut café at Crissy Fields has a very nice gift shop, with tasteful souvenirs to bring back home
7. Sausalito handicrafts
Sausalito has a community of local artists. You can find unique, handcrafted jewelry or paintings by artists. Some of these are of the surrounding coastline or of the famous hillside of Sausalito.
8. Jelly Belly candies
Where else can you get jelly beans that have unique flavors and names? Even Harry Potter inspired some interesting jelly bean flavors. You can also purchase flavors of ice cream inspired by Coldstone Creamery as well as soda flavors or snack flavors like cotton candy, chocolate pudding and bubble gum. They also have exotic fruit flavors like mango or pomegranate. You can purchase these at Jelly Belly factory in Vacaville or at Macy’s at Union Square.
9. Chinatown souvenirs
San Francisco’s Chinatown, reputed to be the largest outside of Asia, has lots of souvenirs for visitors. You can purchase silk tops, decorative boxes, tea cups, Chinese parasols, slippers, etc. There is usually something for everyone. Stroll along Grant Avenue until well into the evening.
10. Napa and Sonoma wines
If you are a wine drinker, wines from the local region make great gifts. However, you may not want to carry it home in your checked luggage. Just order a shipment of some bottles directly at the winery and they will take care of the delivery and packaging for you so that your wines arrive safe and intact. Some cities do not allow shipments of wine from wineries so you may have to take a bottle home in your suitcase. Just make sure that you purchase a cushioned wine bottle holder.