The first time I visited San Francisco's Chinatown was on Chinese New Year. It was an amazing experience — there was lots of activity with the streets bustling with people. You could see and hear sparklers being set off in the middle of the street. On the main street, there was a big parade with loud drums and music.
The next time I visited the streets were still full, but moved calmly. I got to better absorb the vivid colors of the storefronts, toys, murals, and bright red lanterns hanging over the streets. I walked in many shops and enjoyed their unique offerings. There are many streets which were well decorated but are quieter with less foot traffic. These are my favorite streets to take pictures, because you can dance in the middle of the street with little worry.
One of my favorite places to visit is the Golden Gate Cookie Factory. It's in a small unassuming alley, but it's easy to spot because there's always a long line. Inside, you see people shaping fortune cookies and laying out the ingredients from scratch. Better yet, they offer free samples, so you can taste a fresh fortune cookie. I always stand for a while and watch each person put in the fortune paper, wondering what the reaction of the consumer will be on the other side.
The Financial District is lined with skyscrapers and tall offices, with people in suits on the sidewalk rushing to their next stop. This is a part of San Francisco I've visited less often because of the fast pace of life and lack of attractions. Even so, I enjoyed my time when I was here, and I appreciated the stark contrast it had between the neighborhoods I was more familiar with.
Closeby is Union Square, which I find a bit underwhelming. The majority of things to do there is shop in high-end stores, or enjoy the (very expensive) cafe in the center. I've visited a few times because its known to be a famous tourist attraction, but I never walk away having felt I enjoyed my time much.