33 Fun Things to Do in San Francisco – Search Site Content

33 Fun Things to Do in San Francisco

A record 26.2 million tourists visited San Francisco in 2019, and it’s easy to see why. The City by the Bay is a melting pot of cultures with breathtaking natural beauty, a rich architectural history, and a profound impact on American culture.

Don't Miss a Thing in the City by the Bay

This city has something for everyone, from nature-lovers to shoppers to history buffs to foodies (and more!) Coming up are some of the best places to be in San Fran, starting with the following historic park...

1.The Presidio of San Francisco

History, Trails and More

The Presidio, a sprawling 1,500-acre park at the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, is an outdoor-lovers dream. There are miles of trails and dozens of scenic overlooks of San Francisco Bay as well as museums, restaurants, and historical monuments.

The oceanside Batteries to Bluffs Trail is just under a mile. The 2.5-mile long Bay Area Ridge Trail cuts north-south through the Presidio and features three scenic overlooks, the Presidio's forest, the entrance to Golden Gate Bridge, and Fort Point; this military outpost was used by the governments of Spain, Mexico, and the United States during its 200-year history.

When to Go

The Presidio Visitor Center is located in the center of the park. It’s open 7 days a week from 10 am to 5 pm. If you're strapped for time, there are two free 30-minute shuttle loops of the park.

Price

The Presidio of San Francisco is free to visit, the same price as the following iconic attraction...

2. Walk Over the Golden Gate Bridge

Breathtaking Views

The Golden Gate Bridge stretches from the Presidio in San Francisco on the southern end to Marin County on the north. At 1.7 miles long, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world until 1964. Parking options are limited, so it’s best to arrive via public transportation, a ride-sharing service, or your own two feet.

When to Go

The ideal time to walk the bridge is between September and October when the weather is warm and fog is at a minimum.

Price

It’s free to walk the bridge, though there are numerous walking tours where you can learn about the construction and history of the bridge.

If you're bringing kids along (or want to have a nostalgia trip), the next attraction could be right up your alley...

3. Walt Disney Family Museum

The Mind Behind the Legend

Also in the Presidio is the Walt Disney Family Museum, which features the impressive life, legacy, and work of Walt Disney. The 40,000-square-foot museum has attractions for grown-ups as well as children, including 10 interactive galleries featuring Disney’s work, from classics like Pinocchio to the patriotic films he made during WWII to his collaborations with Spanish artist Salvador Dalí. Don’t miss the Fantasia-themed theater.

When to Go

The museum is open daily—except on Tuesdays—from 10 am - 6 pm.

Price

Admission is $25 for adults, $20 for seniors (65+) and students, $15 for youth (6-17), and free for children (5 and under) and military personnel.

The upcoming attraction is great for history buffs...

4. Palace of Fine Arts

Travel Back in Time

The Palace of Fine Arts is a monumental structure made to look like Roman ruins. Constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, it’s a short distance from the Presidio in the Marina District. The lagoon and surrounding park are a favorite respite from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco for numerous wild birds.

Sit on one of the many park benches and people-watch or see a show at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, where several performances are held each month.

Not enough action? You can catch plenty of that at the following attraction...

5. Catch a Baseball Game

A Coastal Ballpark

Whether you’re a baseball fan or not, a visit to San Francisco isn’t truly complete without seeing a baseball game at Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. It’s by far one of the most scenic sports stadiums in the country, located right on the water just a short walk from downtown in the South Beach neighborhood.

When to Go

The MLB baseball season runs from March 26 and September 27.

Price

Ticket prices vary depending on who the day of the week and who the Giants are playing. The average ticket costs $38.30.

Not a sports fan? That won't be a problem at the following laid-back destination...

6. Anchor Steam Brewery

One of the Country's First Microbreweries

Founded in 1896, Anchor Steam Brewery is San Francisco's oldest brewery as well as one of America’s first microbreweries. The tour includes a three-floor tour and an opportunity to taste seven of their signature beer varieties.

When to Go

Tours are held twice daily. Walk-ins are welcome Monday to Thursday. To get the full experience, plan your visit between Monday and Friday when the factory is in operation.

Price

Basic Tour and Tasting cost $25. All-Access Tours are $55.

Need a little more excitement? Catch the game of a lifetime at the following...

7. The Golden State Warriors

A Slam Dunk of Fun

The Golden State Warriors, one of the winningest NBA teams in recent history, play at the brand-new Chase Center in the Mission Bay neighborhood.

Though the Warriors have fallen on hard times of late due to injuries, a game here is well worth the price of admission. The Warriors have one of the loudest and most dedicated fan bases in the country.

When to Go

The NBA regular season runs from October until April.

Price

Tickets start as low as $45 to $50 a ticket depending on the day of the week and the opponent.

If you need a breath of fresh air, you can't go wrong when you visit the following attraction...

8. Pier 39

Shopping and Dining

Pier 39, a shopping center and tourist attraction at the edge of the Fisherman's Wharf neighborhood, offers excellent dining and recreation options as well as some of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.

Pier 39 is home to over a dozen restaurants and tons of shops where every San Francisco souvenir imaginable can be found. Further, the Wines of California Wine Bar and Beer39 are must-visits for beer and wine lovers.

If you’re visiting with children, stop by Players Sports Grill & Arcade, which houses a giant collection of 85 games, from pinball and air hockey to classics from the golden age of arcades like Pac-Man, Galaga, and Defender.

When to Go

10 am to 9 pm daily.

While you're at Pier 39, you have to stop and see the famous local residents...

9. Sea Lions

Lazy Lions

Following the San Francisco Earthquake in 1989, sea lions began moving into Pier 39. They arrived in such large numbers that the boats eventually had to move out. Today the pier is home to between 100 and 600 sea lions that lazily bask in the sun.

When to Go

The number of sea lions at Pier 39 drops dramatically during June and July when the males are down in Santa Barbara for the mating season. If you come in June or July you may see a few sprawling on the docks or you may see none at all. Timing is everything!

Seeking more aquatic adventures year-round? Make sure to stop by the following during your stay in San Fran...

10. Aquarium of the Bay

Explore the Local Ecosystem

Aquarium of the Bay is a public aquarium located on the edge of Pier 39 at Embarcadero and Beach Street where visitors can discover the beauty and biodiversity of Northern California aquatic life. The aquarium is home to more than 20,000 local marine animals.

When to Go

Monday to Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm.

Price

Admission is $29.25 for adults (13-64), $19.25 for children (4-12), and $24.25 for seniors (65+). Kids 3 and under enter free. Save $12 with a Family of 4 Bundle for $80.

Of course, you can also enjoy the aquatic life of this city in an outdoor environment...

11. Take a Cruise

Hit the Bay

Venture into San Francisco Bay on the Blue and Gold Ferry, which leaves from Pier 39. The ferry takes you along the San Francisco waterfront past the sea lions, underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, and out to the famous Alcatraz Island.

When to Go

This attraction is open during the summer from 9:45 am to 6:45 pm every day and in the winter from 9:00 am to 4 pm Monday to Friday and 9:00 am to 4:30 pm Saturday and Sunday.

Price

Adults pay $33, youth and senior $26, and children $22. You can purchase tickets online for a $4 discount.

While you're taking a ride, be sure to keep an eye out for the following...

12. Go Whale Watching

Whales and Sharks, Oh My!

Another aquatic excursion leaving Pier 39 is San Francisco Whale Tours, which will take you from San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean and into the protected sanctuary of the Farallon Islands. You'll have the opportunity to see multiple kinds of whales — Blue, Humpback, and Gray — and maybe even some Great White Sharks!

When to Go

Check out their calendar of availability at sanfranciscowhaletours.com. Tours usually sell out, so book online ASAP.

Price

Adults are $45. Children (3-15) are $35. Students, seniors (60+), and military members are $40. Children 2 and under sail for free.

One of the most famous attractions of the city? It's coming right up...

13. Alcatraz

Tour the Rock

Just over a mile off the coast in San Francisco Bay is Alcatraz Island, a small rock that once held a federal prison home to the most dangerous criminals in the United States, among them Al Capone.

Alcatraz Cruises is the official concessioner to the National Park Service, which now owns the island. All departures leave Pier 33, a short walk from Pier 39.

When to Go

Tours are offered year-round.

Price

Numerous tour options are available, from the 2.5-hour, $29.90 Day Tour to the 5.5-hour Alcatraz & Angel Island Tour for $78.65. See your options here: https://www.alcatrazcruises.com/tour-options/.

If you're craving a vibrant cultural experience, you can't go wrong with the following destination...

14. Chinatown

The Oldest Chinatown in the U.S.

The oldest Chinatown in the United States is also the most charming, with block after block of bustling streets, traditional eateries and herbalists, karaoke bars, and souvenir shops. Make sure you stop by the iconic Dragon’s Gate and the landmark Tin How (Tianhou) Temple.

When to Go

Any time is a good time to visit Chinatown!

Have any science-lovers going with you on your trip? Yes? Then you have to make sure to stop by the upcoming attraction...

15. Exploratorium

Hands-On Museum

This "public learning laboratory" combines art, science, and the study of human perception; it is located at Pier 15, a 20-minute walk down the Embarcadero from Pier 39. The Exploratorium takes the term interactive to a new level with over 650 explore-for-yourself exhibits. You don't look at them, you play with them!

When to Go

The Exploratorium is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm and Thursday night from 6 pm to 10 pm for visitors ages 18+.

Price

Adults (18–64) enter for $29.95. Youth (13–17), teachers, students, seniors (65+), and people with disabilities enter for $24.95. Children (4–12) enter for $19.95 and children 3 & under enter at no charge.

If you want more "open air market" vibes, you can't go wrong with the following...

16. Ferry Building Farmers Market

Fresh Produce and Gourmet Food

A stone's throw from the Exploratorium outside what some consider San Francisco's most famous landmark, the Ferry Building, is a California-certified farmers market where you can find farmers selling fresh produce, cheesemakers selling cheese, bakers selling fresh-baked bread, picklers and jammers selling pickled vegetables and jams.

If you need a bite right away, step inside the 1898 building to find an expansive food hall with everything from wood-fired pizza to street tacos.

When to Go

The Ferry Building Farmers Market is open Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 8 am to 2 pm.

The following place is another great choice when it comes to experiencing the best cuisine San Francisco has to offer...

17. Hog Island Oyster Co.

Seafood with a View

San Francisco is widely regarded as the best spot for seafood in the United States. And Hog Island Oyster Co., located in the historic Ferry Building, is considered among the best seafood spots in San Francisco. Enjoy world-class seafood and hand-crafted cocktails with stunning views of San Francisco Bay.

When to Go

Open 11 am to 9 pm daily.

When you're finished with your meal, take a walk at the the following...

18. Climb Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill

Parrots, Views, and Historic Murals

Coit Tower, a 210-foot tower in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood, offers unparalleled panoramic views of the city and the bay. On the interior of Coit Tower, you’ll find 27 murals painted during the height of the Great Depression. The murals on the ground floor are free to view whenever the tower is open. Be sure to also look for wild parrots from South America that made their home in Telegraph Hill in the 1990s.

When to Go

Coit Tower is open from 10 am to 6 pm from April to October and from 10 am to 5 pm from November to March.

Price

Admission is $9 for non-residents, $6 for seniors (62+) and youth (12-17), $3 for children (5-11), and free for children 4 and under. Full tours are $8 and tours of the second floor are $5.

Don't worry; there are also attractions for bookworms, too...

19. City Lights Bookstore

The Birth of the Beatnik

This landmark independent bookstore in Chinatown was founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and became a favorite hangout for poet Allen Ginsburg, author Jack Kerouac, and other luminaries of the Beat Generation. City Lights famously published Allen Ginsberg's controversial 1956 collection Howl and Other Poems, which was the subject of a much-publicized obscenity trial in 1957.

When to Go

City Lights Bookstore is open every day from 10 am to 12 am.

Tired of walking everywhere? Catch a ride on...

20. Ride the Cable Cars

Ride a National Landmark

San Francisco’s cable cars are the only national historic landmark in the United States that can move. The system, which is made up of three lines, is the last manually operated cable car system in the world.

Price

You can pay the cable car driver directly or buy tickets at one of the kiosks near the cable car turnarounds. Single rides cost $7 each way with a reduced fare of $3 for seniors and the disabled between 9 pm and 7 am.

Passports for unlimited rides for one, threeM or seven days, as well as single-ride tickets, can be purchased on the MuniMobile smartphone app.

Now, there are a few cable car companies in the city; how do you know which one is best? Well, you can't go wrong with the following company...

21. Powell-Hyde Cable Car

A Panoramic Trip

The Powell-Hyde cable car route is easily the most famous line. Take it if you want views of classic San Francisco row houses and bay views. It travels down Hyde Street on Russian Hill, descending into Fisherman's Wharf with panoramic views of the Bay and Alcatraz.

The Powell-Hyde route begins at the large car turnaround at Market and Powell, as does the Powell-Mason route, which will take you to Chinatown and the quaint walking district of North Beach and its many sidewalk cafes.

When to Go

The first and last trips on the Powell-Hyde line depart at 6:00 am and 12:30 am every day of the week.

You might also enjoy a ride on the following...

22. California Cable Car

Traverse to Nob Hill

The California cable car route goes from Embarcadero Station in the Financial District near the Ferry Building Farmers Market down California Street to Van Ness. Highlights include the trip over Nob Hill, an exceedingly steep trip. Get off at Nob Hill to visit the Fairmont San Francisco, a beautiful old hotel with the popular Tiki bar, the Tonga Room.

When to Go

The first trip on the California line is at 6:20 am on weekdays and 6:30 am on weekends. The last trip departs at 11:32 pm on weekdays and 11:30 on weekends.

If street views are your thing, you have to take a walk down what is widely considered the most crooked street in the world...

23. Lombard Street

San Fran’s Most #Gramworthy Street

Don't miss Lombard Street, a 600-foot-long, red-brick road with eight switchback turns in the span of just one block. There's a reason it's said to be the most crooked street in the world. Walk a block over to Filbert Street, one of the ten steepest streets in the United States.

If you’re coming from Fisherman’s Wharf on the Powell-Hyde cable car line, get off at Lombard Street and walk downhill. If you really want to burn some calories, you can walk straight up the hill to Lombard Street from Ghirardelli Square.

Fan of Full House? Yes? Then your trip won't be complete unless you visit the next destination...

24. The Painted Ladies

City Center Views

The Painted Ladies in the Alamo Square Park neighborhood are a row of historic Victorian houses best known for their appearance in the TV show Full House. The houses are at Hayes and Steiner Streets, but your best bet is to visit Alamo Square Park, where you can see the Painted Ladies as well as the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, and the Transamerica Pyramid building downtown.

Of course, this location isn't the only noteworthy cultural attraction in the city...

25. Haight-Ashbury

The Birthplace of the Hippie

Haight-Ashbury, named after the intersection of the two streets near Golden Gate Park, was the birthplace of the hippie counterculture movement that peaked in 1967 with the Summer of Love. 100,000 young people descended to the district "with a flower in their hair," taking up residence along with music icons like Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, and the Grateful Dead.

Walk up and down Haight Street to take in the psychedelic murals. Don't miss Amoeba Music, a decades-old music store with free shows, or the Grateful Dead House at 710 Ashbury Street. Stop by Hippie Hill in nearby Golden Gate Park to see where Janis Joplin used to strum her guitar.

If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, you need to walk on down the trails at the upcoming park...

26. Golden Gate Park

A World-Famous Park

Larger than NYC’s Central Park, Golden Gate Park stretches across the center of the city, from the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood to the coast at Ocean Beach.

In addition to bike rentals, lawn bowling, tennis courts, a 1914 carousel, fly fishing, boating, and hiking, Golden Gate Park also houses the California Academy of Sciences (the city’s best science museum) and the massive art collection at the de Young Museum.

As you’ll see, you could easily spend two days exploring the park. We have the most important stops lined out for you...

27. The California Academy of Sciences

Sustainability in Action

The California Academy of Sciences, which holds a four-level rain forest, planetarium, aquarium, and living roof, is a must-visit. Not only is the museum considered one of the greenest on the planet, but it's also taking an active role in protecting endangered species. Its renowned breeding program is helping to ensure the preservation of the planet's biodiversity, one endangered species at a time.

When to Go

It’s open Monday - Saturday from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm and Sunday from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. For guests 21+, there’s Thursday NightLife from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm.

Price

Admission prices vary depending on the day of the week and the month. Adults should expect to pay between $31.50 and $38, youth (3-17) between $24.50 and $29.50, students and seniors (65+) between $26.50 and $34.50.

This attraction isn't the only place in the park you need to visit...

28. de Young Museum

World Art Hub

With an eclectic art collection spanning Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park delivers an engrossing experience in a scenic setting.

When to Go

The de Young is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 am to 5:15 pm.

Price

Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors (65+), $6 for students, and free for youth (17 and under).

Be sure to stop and smell the roses—literally—at the next destination...

29. San Francisco Botanical Garden

Exotic Plants Galore

Another treasure in the heart of Golden Gate Park is the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Called the Arboretum by locals, it’s 55 acres with over 8,000 plants from all over the globe. You will find plants from the Mediterranean, South Africa, and the cloud forests of Central America, Southeast Asia, and the Andes.

When to Go

Open daily starting at 7:30 am. The last entry is at 6 pm in spring and summer, at 5 pm in the fall, and at 4 pm in winter.

Free

Admission is $12 for adults on weekends and $9 during weekdays. Youths (12-17) and seniors (65+) pay $6. Children (5-11) pay just $2. Toddlers 4 and under are free.

While you're at the Botanical Garden, be sure to see the following destination right next door...

30. Japanese Tea Garden

A Slice of Japan

Right next to the San Francisco Botanical Garden is the Japanese Tea Garden. With its winding paths, arched wooden bridges, stepping stones, peaceful Zen garden, and acres of exotic plantings, it will transport you to Japan. Don’t miss the Redwood Grove, where these impressive trees have been growing since 1900, and the tea house for a restorative cup of tea!

When to Go

Open 9:00 am to 4:45 pm in winter. Extended hours to 5:45 pm in summer.

Price

Adults pay $10 from October to February and $12 from March to September. Seniors (65+) and youth (12-17) pay $7. Children (5-11) pay $3 and children under 5 enter free.

The following attraction is free, although it requires that you be in decent shape to explore...

31. Land's End

A Windswept Coast

The sheer rocky cliffs of Land’s End in the northwest corner of the city set it apart from anything else in the City on the Bay. The 1.5-mile Coastal Trail, which is much less trafficked than the trails in the Presidio, winds along the bluffs and the rocks over the frothy water.

It’s a moderately strenuous trip. After all, the trail is a mixture of steep stairways and paths made of dirt and rock.

The best place to watch a sunrise above the city? It's coming right up...

32. Twin Peaks

Best View in Town

A twenty-minute ride from downtown, Twin Peaks is the best place to catch a San Francisco sunrise. If you sleep in, don’t worry! The afternoon during the "golden hour" offers the same views. Make sure to bring a jacket, because the winds are unforgiving.

Complete your trip with the perfect meal from the following famous restaurant...

33. Anchor Oyster Bar

No-Frills Seafood

A short drive from Twin Peaks is Anchor Oyster Bar in the Castro neighborhood, which is considered one of the best seafood joints in San Francisco. Enjoy delicious but simply prepared dishes like shellfish, crab, and sustainably caught fish. Don’t miss the clam chowder, proclaimed the best in the city by the San Francisco Chronicle.

When to Go

Open 11:30 am to 10:00 pm Monday to Saturday and 4:00 pm to 9:30 pm on Sunday.

What's next?...

Don't Miss Out on All the Fun

Whether you’re visiting San Francisco for a weekend or two weeks, it can be difficult to decide what to do and where to go. We hope this guide of 33 fun things to do in San Francisco will help you make the perfect vacation itinerary.


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