San Francisco is a top travel destination in the USA and within California. This remarkable city is full of history, colorful communities and offers a large variety of things to do for tourists from all over the world. In this post, we are going to list out some of the most recommended things to do in San Francisco to help you plan your visit.
We also have a 3 Days in San Francisco sample itinerary and template, which you can download and edit with many of these activities listed here. So take a look and start planning your visit to San Francisco!
A Quick Introduction to San Francisco
San Francisco has so much to offer- spectacular sights around bay piers and bayous, eclectic food scene and vibrant vibe-San Francisco is like no other American city. You can enjoy the sound of wheels on street tracks, areas lined with emblematic Victorian houses as cable-car clangs meet the slopes and busy intersections. You can explore the hippest neighborhoods when you visit.
If you’re coming in from the SFO airport, the BART, the Bay area rapid transit is the best option- it will take you right into the city center under 45 minutes.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can take the helicopter tour that goes under the Golden Gate Bridge. you can freely rent Uber bicycles by and/or other companies- which is great. Keep in mind though that San Francisco is a very walk-friendly city.
If you’re a hiker by nature and you don’t mind walking up hills and steep streets, exploring The Golden City by foot is a great option for you; plus you’ll get to avoid the hectic traffic.
Right on the bay is the exciting Pier 39 with a Hard Rock Cafe, The Flyer, flying theatre attraction, The Hook (fish and chips house) and many other great places for food and drink. You can check out wild western shops, a carousel and much more. Boat rides are also widely available, you get a fantastic view of ships, the island of Alcatraz and you definitely won’t forget about those sea lions.
1. The Golden Gate Bridge
Though it may sound cliche, the Golden Gate Bridge is astoundingly majestic, bigger than you think and well worth a visit, whether you’re driving in or catching a glimpse from a distance.
2. Crissy Field Park / Beach (great for dogs)
Gorgeous coastal trails make for a perfect morning walk. Hazy mountains sit undisturbed across the scenic waters. This vast beach is a favorite among joggers, surfers & dog-walkers. It is on Hana’s list of top dog beaches.
3. The Presidio
Once a military post, the Presidio is today a wonderful recreational park with lengthy scenic trails, a fascinating museum and a great of view of The Golden Bridge. Stumble upon the San Francisco national cemetery, visitor center, explore the museums, the woodline and much more while exploring the Presidio.
4. Fisherman’s Wharf
Take the city’s cable car down to hyde St. Pier, and catch stunning views and attractions all along the bay. Familiarize yourself with the Musee Mecanique housing old coin-operated games, pianos, and other nifty thingamajigs, open daily.
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5. Aquarium of The Bay
Located near Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf, the Aquarium of the Bay offers a great experience for the entire family. Walk-through the glass tunnel and explore the sea creatures, up close- from jellyfish, North American river otters to Alcatraz sharks.
6. Lombard Street
Take a walk down the famous Lombard street, just watch your step. See the most curved road in the world, slopes at 27 degrees with cars moving at a 5 mph speed limit.
7. Little Italy
Grab a pastry, a cappuccino or espresso at Caffe Trieste in North Beach. Visit Golden Boy Pizza and feast your eyes with the phenomenal architectures on Columbus Avenue. The home of coit tower and the Greenwich Steps, Little Italy is well-known for its vibrant parks, bustling nightlife with open late bars and eateries.
Enter the dragon’s gate, through the beautifully crafted arch, where lions, horses, and monkey statues are situated on Bush st. and Grant Avenue. Check out the tea shops and enjoy some good eats in Chinatown. There’s also a park where you can grab dim sum and watch the locals play card games and checkers.
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9. Tour of Alcatraz Island
Explore this iconic facility a mile and a half from San Francisco Bay. America’s historic federal penitentiary that housed some notorious gangsters like Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly, and closed in 1963. It’s open today as the city’s most regarded tour attractions. Don’t miss out on touring Alcatraz Island while in San Francisco.
10. Golden Gate Park
A perfect escape from the city’s hustle and bustle, Golden Gate Park – the lungs of San Francisco is a great place to relax and just breathe in. From the California Academy of Sciences, the oldest Japanese tea gardens, to flower conservatories, Golden Gate Park offers tons of fun activities.
11. Haight-Ashbury District
Once known as the hippie haven of the 1960s, Haight-Asbury District is located near Golden Gate Park. The ‘Instagram-friendly’ street, decorated with typical Victorian homes, cool record stores, a shop just for socks, highly recommended Thai restaurants is definitely a must-visit.
12. Shopping at Union Square
As a gift to an admiral in the Spanish-American War, the Dewey monument stands lofty and complements one of the best shopping and hotel districts in San Francisco. Many tourists come to the Union Square Plaza to see the four hearts and snap photos. Home of the famous cheesecake factory, Macy’s, Nike and West Field Mall (a must if you love shopping!).
13. Palace of Fine Arts
An important constituent of San Francisco, this popular structure surrounded by a generous body of water, is an ideal spot for photoshoots. The palace was originally built for the Panama-Pacific Internation Exhibition held in San Francisco in the year 1915.
14. Walt Disney Family Museum
This Building hosts a major parcel of Disney history. Especially, the exhibition hall of authentic Mickey Mouse sketches that are well over 90 years old. It is way more polished of a museum than expected, housing a lobby, info placards, and glass cases. Although there’s no-cameras rule inside, you will want to add Walt Disney Family Museum to your itinerary, especially if you are a Disney fan.
15. Explore Fort Point
Check out the military garrison underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Going under the bridge is quite an experience. And you could enjoy in the beautiful scenery of the city. Pack a few sandwiches and come to Fort Point. It’s also a great spot for fishing.
16. Visit the Sea Lions
Come visit the many sea lions located at Pier 39. These fascinating creatures can be found barking and sunbathing in this particular region.
17. Ghirardelli Square
If you consider yourself a chocolate lover, you must visit Ghirardelli Square. Taste world-famous hot fudge sundaes, visit the chocolate shop and relax next to the beautiful fountain.
18. View from Coit Tower
Perched up at the summit of the Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower offers a magnificent panoramic view of San Francisco. Climb up the Filbert steps to reach the tower and inside you’ll be greeted by lwall paintings dating back to the early 1930s.
19. Ride a Cable Car
These caboose-like structures groove along beautifully through the Paris of the American West. What also makes for a breathtaking experience is that you get to stand on the outside of the car as it’s moving. Ticket cost $7.00 (one-way) to ride. The cable car system also offers daily, and weekly passes.
20. Take in a Baseball Game
Neighboring a boat port, Oracle Park home of the San Francisco Giants is worth a visit if you are a baseball enthusiast. Also, this massive ballpark has an indoor Jack Daniel’s bar, an ice cream shop and playground slides for kids.
21. Visit Angel Island
Take the Ferry boat to Angel Island, a hiking haven with lush green scenery, paved roads, and benches to relax at. The island has a lot of informative plaques. You can check Ferry times online and buy tickets for approximately 20 USD.
22. Take a Bus tour Around Town
Take the day Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour. You won’t regret it! One of the most worthwhile sightseeing tours in the city. Super educative and going through tunnels can be a lot of fun.
23. Take a Food Tour
Did you know that San Francisco’s common forecast of fog, lend exceptional value to yeast in their sour doe bread? Taste clam chowder in a bread bowl or get a flagship sandwich. You can also find fresh-cooked lobster and crab at the seafood delicacy hot spot known as Fisherman’s Wharf. San Francisco is a foodie’s heaven.
24. Explore the old Ferry Building
At a time when the Golden Gate Bridge didn’t exist was this spot for Ferry departure. As one of the most visited places in San Francisco, you’ll discover a farmer’s market with local produce to California, with many vendors and shops.
25. Visit the Oldest Japanese Tea Garden (in the States)
Resembling a Monet’s painting, the oldest Japanese Tea Garden offers scenic greens, pond fish, trickling waterfalls, and a lovely drum bridge. Before you lies a gorgeous maze of paths, bonsai trees, and bridges. There’s also a gift shop and a tea house.
26. Wander along Ocean Beach
Wander along a beautiful beach with sand dunes, ideal for surfing and relaxing in the sun. Parking lots are located on the south and north side. The San Francisco Zoo is just across the street.
So as you can tell, the central coast of California has a lot to offer tourists and travelers alike. Many of the sights can be far from one another, so be cautious about round trip uber rides as they can rack up in prices.
So Many Things to Do in San Francisco to Make Your Visit Memorable!
Hear the city, its liveliness, road hums, from streetcar chimes to helicopter fly-ins on top huge company buildings. Feel the splashing of waves from the beaches, taste all the wonderful food, see the New York city-like vibe running through the downtown, and look at the architecture from different perspectives. The memories you create here will stay with you forever.
With all the distracting technology of today, nothing beats it up close and personal. Experience the adventure through nobody’s eyes and ears but your own. There’s so much to see and do in this extraordinary American city, it’s worth every penny. San Francisco is truly beautiful.