20 Best Things To Do In San Francisco – Attractions, Tours & Sights

(Last Updated On: January 19, 2023)

San Francisco is an amazing city located in the state of California, directly next to the Pacific Ocean.

The city is the 17th most popular in the United States.

San Francisco was originally founded in 1776 when Spanish colonists established the Presidio of San Francisco at the Golden Gate.

Thinking of Visiting San Francisco?

In our guide, we’ll share the best things to do in San Francisco, California.

Things To Do In San Francisco

1. Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz is an infamous prison which housed some of America’s worst criminals.

The prison was closed in the 1960s and has since become a tourist attraction.

To reach the island take one of Alcatraz Cruises boats, which operate from Pier 33.

Inside you’ll be able to take your time and explore the cell house at your own pace.

You can also choose to take an audio tour or night tour of the Alcatraz Prison.

The popular tourist attraction has tons of fascinating history, from housing Al Capone and other legendary criminals, you can learn about their “home”.

It’s recommended that you book this in advance and buy your tickets early, as it is often fully booked.

2. Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge dominates the San Francisco Skyline with this towering bridge spanning 4200 feet, at the height of a 65 story building.

On a sunny day it’s recommended you walk or bike across the bridge to take in the amazing views.

It’s also recommended you visit Fort Point which has great views looking up at the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay from the south side.

You can also go to vista point which is located on the north side and again will provide you breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Both viewing points will give you a perfect picture taking opportunity.

For those visiting San Francisco in the colder months, you can take a bus tour which drives across the bridge and even stops, so you can snap some pictures and take in the views.

3. Oracle Park

Oracle Park

Oracle Park is the home of the San Francisco Giants.

For any baseball fan this is a must.

Public transportation will get you to the park very easily and from there you can enjoy a Giants game.

If you have the time, they offer a tour around Oracle Park, to learn about the history of the stadium and the San Francisco Giants.

For the foodies out there, don’t miss out on the garlic fries which taste amazing and have great reviews all-round.

Address: 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94107-2134

4. Palace of Fine Arts Theatre

Palace of Fine Arts Theatre

Designed to look like roman ruins, the Fine Arts theatre, located in the Marina District, is a beautiful structure to explore and snap a picture at.

The palace was originally built in 1915 for the Panama Pacific Exposition. Nearly 50 years later the Palace of Fine Arts was completely rebuilt in 1964-1974.

The beautiful site offers great architecture and landscaping, for all to enjoy.

In the warmer months you can enjoy a picnic on the benches or grass. Listen to the birds chirping and get some vitamin D.

Address: 3301 Lyon Street, San Francisco, CA 94123-1002

5. Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park

The Golden Gate Park has various gardens and greenery located inside the park.

You can explore the Botanical Gardens, Japanese Tea Garden, the Rose Garden, Dutch Windmill and much more.

If you combine this with Hero’s Grove, the Ferris Wheel, The De Young Museum, you could potentially spend all day at the Golden Gate Park.

We recommend that you spend at least 2 hours exploring the Golden Gate Park, whenever you think you’ve seen it all, you’ll soon discover something new.

You can ride a bike or stroll around the park and for those looking for more active things to do in San Francisco, you’ll find the Golden Gate Park center courtyards have three large water fountains. Many people practice Kung fu, martial arts and even some modern dancing.

Address: 501 Stanyan St, San Francisco, CA 94117-1898

6. Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks are a 20 minutes bus ride from downtown San Francisco.

These mountains are a great place to get stunning views of the San Francisco city skyline or watch a breathtaking sunrise.

Twin Peaks features hiking trails, although you can take a vehicle up and park. Parking can be tricky.

Twin Peaks provides beautiful views at night too, as the city lights up below you.

Avoid visiting when it’s cloudy, windy or foggy.

Address: 501 Twin Peaks Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94114

7. Exploratorium

Exploratorium

This San Francisco museum is a must see for science and art lovers.

With six different spacious galleries to browse, you’ll be able to interact with wondrous phenomena from all around the world.

With optical illusions, bubbles, cosmic rays, electricity and so much more to explore.

Alongside this you have dining options to grab some food with beautiful views of the San Francisco Bay.

The Exploratorium is located near telegraph hill and is easy to walk to.

Address: Green St Pier 15, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111

8. California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences features an aquarium, planetarium and living rainforest in an all in one natural history museum.

You can visit to see the sharks, penguins, parrots and many other animals located throughout.

Many people love to visit for the butterfly garden and the four story rainforest exhibit.

You can also browse the planetarium to take a visit past the milky way or perhaps experience an earthquake simulation.

The California Academy of Sciences has something for everyone in the family and is a fantastic natural history museum to learn from.

Address: 55 Music Concourse Dr Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA 94118-4503

9. Walt Disney Family Museum

Walt Disney Family Museum

The Walt Disney museum is a great place to take your kids.

Immerse yourself in the life of Walt Disney, exploring his creations, animations and a spectacular model of Disney Land.

With more than 200 video screens featuring his work, you can feel inspired by what Mr Disney was able to create in his lifetime.

Address: 104 Montgomery St The Presidio, San Francisco, CA 94129-1718

10. Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the best free things to do in San Francisco.

You can roam the Wharf for free and see some of San Francisco’s family friendly entertainment options.

Fisherman’s Wharf offers lots of photo opportunities and has tons of restaurants available in the area.

Head down to the pier and you’ll find sea lions resting, which is great for keeping kids entertained.

Address: Jefferson Street Between Hyde and Powell Streets, San Francisco, CA 94133

11. San Francisco Zoo

San Francisco Zoo

The Zoo is a great way to get a break from San Francisco’s bustling city.

You can explore the Zoo to find over 1000 exotic species.

You’ll also find over 250 rescued species and lots of peaceful gardens with foreign plants.

Some of my favorites were the Tigers, Lions and relaxing gardens.

Address: Sloat Boulevard at 45th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132

12. North Beach

North Beach

North Beach is a great place for those who love Italian food.

You can find some of the best restaurants in San Francisco, as well as cafes and bakeries.

The area is also home to beatniks and has an array of bookstores and art galleries to explore.

If you want to visit a place with a lot of history, North Beach is the place for you.

Address: Columbus Avenue and Bay Street, San Francisco, CA 94133

13. Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square is a great place to finish your day in San Francisco.

This chocolate factory has turned into a shopping and dining destination.

You can buy some of the best chocolate in San Francisco, as well as ice cream and other desserts.

If you’re looking for a place to eat, there are plenty of restaurants located in Ghirardelli Square.

Address: 900 N Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109-1130

14. Muir Woods

Muir Woods

Muir Woods is a must see for nature lovers.

You can explore this Redwood forest and see some of the tallest trees in the world.

There are plenty of hiking trails to choose from, as well as a shuttle that takes you around the park.

Address: 1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley, CA 94941-3998

15. Ferry Building Marketplace

Ferry Building Marketplace

The Ferry Building Marketplace is a great place to find fresh produce and artisan food.

You can explore the farmers market on Tuesdays and Saturdays or visit one of the many restaurants available at the Ferry Building.

Some of my favorites are Hog Island Oyster Company and Slanted Door.

The historic ferry building provides some amazing architecture which is over a century old.

Address: 1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94111

16. Cable Cars

Cable Cars

The Cable Cars are some of my favorite things to do in San Francisco.

Riding the Cable Cars takes you all around the city whilst being a great photo icon and tourist attraction in itself.

With their unique design and decor, you’ll feel like you’re back in the 20th century.

Originally designed in 1873 the Cable Cars are still running to this day and are deemed a historical landmark in San Francisco.

You can find the cars inside Nob Hill.

17. Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum

The Asian Art Museum is the perfect place to go if you want to learn more about East Asian culture.

The museum has a large collection of art from countries such as China, Korea and Japan.

You can also explore their collection of Indian and Southeast Asian art.

The museum offers a variety of walking tours and programs that are great for both adults and children.

Address: 200 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

18. Union Square

Union Square

Union Square is one of the most popular tourist destinations in San Francisco.

The square is home to a variety of shops, restaurants and hotels.

You can also find a number of art galleries and museums in the area.

If you’re looking for a place to people watch, Union Square is the place for you.

18. Dolores Park

Dolores Park

Dolores Park is a great place to relax in the sun.

The park has a number of hills that are perfect for a picnic or for playing sports.

You can also find a number of bars and restaurants in the area.

Dolores Park is a great place to spend a weekend day.

19. Lombard Street

Lombard Street

Lombard Street is known as the “crookedest street in the world.”

The street has eight switchbacks that make it a fun place to drive or walk.

You can also find a number of souvenir shops and restaurants in the area.

If you’re looking for a place to take a scenic drive, Lombard Street is the place for you.

20. City Hall

City Hall

City Hall is a great place to go if you want to learn more about San Francisco’s history.

The building has been home to the city government since 1915.

You can take a self-guided tour of the building or participate in one of their many tours.

Address: 1 Dr Carlton B Goodlett Pl, San Francisco, CA 94102-4689

FAQ

What should you not miss when visiting San Francisco?

You cannot miss a walk over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Riding a cable car, seeing some sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf and going on a walking tour of the San Francisco Bay Area can all be done in a few hours.

What should I avoid in San Francisco?

Avoid driving downtown when the Giants are playing.

Do not leave your belongings in your car, it’s very likely to be stolen.

Stick to popular tourist areas such as market street, bush street, Alamo square park, rolling hills, Russian hill. Avoid areas like Tenderloin and Mission District (although it has some cool murals during the day).

Is San Fran expensive to visit?

San Francisco can cost around $1000 for a 1 week trip.

This includes food, accommodation and attractions.

Many of San Francisco’s sights to see are free to visit, such as: North Beach, San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, Baker Beach and much more.

San Francisco also has tons of hiking trails for those that like to explore nature.

Author

  • Tamara M

    Hey there! My name is Tamara, welcome to my little world! I’m a 20-something-year-old from Toronto, Canada (though I’m rarely there) and I’m super passionate about exploring the world, photography, and cooking delicious plant-based recipes. I created this blog to share my favorite places, adventures, restaurants, accommodations, and travel tips with all of you and keep a bit of a travel diary for myself.

Leave a Comment