18 Things to do in San Francisco

Stationed in the West Coast of the United States, flanked by the hues of the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco, California.

The “City by the Bay” or “Frisco” as it is fondly called, is home to architectural wonders, world-renowned attractions and mouth Watering food. It is one of the most eclectic cities in the United States of America.

The 7 x 7-mile city has moderate and pleasant climate all year round and is typically tourist-friendly owing to its maritime location and the large hills in the area. 

A tourist in the city will never fall short of things to do. Listed below are a few of the sights that San Francisco has to offer.

  • The Golden Gate Bridge:

There are certain images that define the United States of America and the Golden Gate bridge is one of those sights. Opened in the late 1930s, this iconic bridge spanning 4000 feet and towering 750 feet above the water is synonymous with the city of San Francisco itself.It is referred to as one of the wonders of the modern world. The engineering marvel bolstered the US economy. This bridge can be seen from almost anywhere in the city of San Francisco. It is also one of the most photographed sights in the world.Details:
The main vista points are the Southern San Francisco vista point and the Northern Marin Vista point.
Pedestrians are allowed on the city side sidewalk during daylight hours. It would take about an hour to stroll through the entire length of the bridge. The bridge is accessible by vehicles and bicycles at all times. One of the best ways to see the landmark is by bike.
San Francisco city tours include the Golden Gate bridge in all their guided tours.

  • Marin Headlands:

In the 1960s, real estate developers were keen on building a city on top of the Marin Headlands. Thankfully, this plan never materialized because now, the rocky headlands, north of the Golden Gate bridge remain a natural haven. The open hilltops and natural landscape make for beautiful vistas.
It is one of the most frequented natural tourist attractions in Northern California.

Walking tours of the Marin Headlands can be booked in advance. The nature park can also be accessed by bicycles.

  • Muir Woods

For any nature buff who visits California, Muir woods is on the top of their to-do list. The beautiful forest with its evergreen giant red trees and sunlight streaming in is a sight to behold.
It is a quick drive from the hustle and bustle that is San Francisco. The forest offers hiking trails to tourists who can enjoy the stunning natural beauty.
Details: The admission ticket is extremely hard to come by because of the throngs of people. Be sure to get there at 8 AM when the park opens.

  • Pier 7

There is no better way to traverse the city than on foot. A walk along the bay is unmissable when one finds themselves in San Francisco. The view of the city from Pier 7 is absolutely breathtaking.

  • Palace of the Fine Arts:

The Roman style remnants of the Pacific exposition is one of the city’s most photographed sights. The outdoor rotunda is the perfect destination to stroll around and have a leisurely picnic. There are year-round events that happen at the rotunda. 

  • Lombard Street

Lombard Street is one of the main gateways to San Francisco. It is referred to as the “crookedest” street. The block between Leavenworth and Hyde is composed of 8 sharp hairpin bends and flanked on either side by colorful flowering plants. It is a sight to behold.   

The street can be visited on all days as long as the tourists are mindful of the residents of the area. It is best to take a cable-car that will stop right by Lombard street

  • Point Bonita Lighthouse:

Just a short drive north of San Francisco is the Point Bonita Lighthouse. It is off-the-beaten-track and is only open for limited hours.
Once at the lighthouse, visitors are treated to beautiful coastal views of the Pacific Bay.

  • Alcatraz:

Apart from the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz is the most visited place in San Francisco. The allure of the fascinating former federal prison set atop a rocky island draws thousands of visitors year after year. The barren rock in the San Francisco Bay is known as the Island of the Pelicans. It is famous as a symbol of the Native American predicament.  
The island also offers magnificent views of San Francisco.
The prison is accessible by ferry and is 15 minutes away from San Francisco. A night-tour is also available but is more expensive. However, it offers stunning views of the bay area.
Self-guided audio tours that talk about the history of Alcatraz can be taken around the -now unfunctional-prison.

  • Ride in a Cable Car:

If you want to experience San Francisco like a local and take in scenery, a ride on the cable car is unmissable. Some describe the rumble of the car over the rail and cables as meditative. They are an icon of the city.Details: If you are planning on taking the cable car a couple of times on the same day, a day pass is more economical. Timetables, current fares, and routes can be found online. The cable cars are also disabled-friendly.

  • Chinatown

Chinatown is home to one of the largest cohesive Chinese communities outside of China itself. Most residents are Chinese American but others are Asians.  Plenty of tourist-oriented stores in Chinatown sell Asian themed souvenirs, herbs, groceries, and trinkets.
History manifests itself in a physical form in the thriving community.
Guided tours can be helpful for those who are keen to learn about the history and the architectural styles that prevail in Chinatown, but self-guided tours can also be taken.  
If tourists find themselves in Chinatown in the fall season, the Autumn Moon Festival is unmissable.

  • San Francisco’s Parks

San Francisco boasts of some of the best parks in the country. It is beautiful in the way the outdoors intermingles with the indoors.

The Golden Gate Park: This park stretches halfway across the city and is frequented by tourists and locals alike. The popular attractions in the park are the Japanese Tea Garden, the DeYoung Museum, the Conservatory of Flowers and the California Academy of Sciences. Tourists are also welcome to have a picnic in the park that stretches across more than a 1000 acres.

Stow Lake Boathouse in the Golden Gate Park: 
Renting a paddleboat on Stow hill is a wonderful way to spend the afternoon. Other activities include picnicking around the area and feeding the ducks at the lake. The charming man-made lake is a favorite among the locals. Boats can be rented on an hourly basis.

The Dolores Park: The park of 16 acres is a very popular destination in San Francisco. It is situated in an area that once housed a Jewish cemetery. The lush green lawns, soccer fields, tennis courts, and music events draw scores of crowds. It is a popular destination on the weekends where people laze about, eating ice cream from Bi-Rite Creamery.

Presidio: The natural wooded area of Presidio makes it a great area for hiking or walking.

  • Napa Valley

Napa Valley in California is an icon as an unparalleled success story in wine, food, relaxation, and tourism. It is located north of San Francisco and most tourists spend a day on the vineyards of Napa, wine tasting and strolling around the acres of grape vines.
Among everything that Napa Valley has to offer, one of the most sought after activities is the hot-air balloon ride over the vines.
September and October are the best times to go on a wine tour
Most vineyards offer free tours of the same. Visitors can pick up a bottle or two from each vineyard as a souvenir.
Most hot air balloon rides are conducted early in the morning.

  • Sutro Baths

One of San Francisco’s best-kept secret is the Sutro area on the west side of the city. The hiking trails leading to a stone labyrinth and then to the bay offers stunning views of the Golden Gate bridge.  

  • Farmers Market:

The Ferry Building in San Francisco is more than just a place to buy groceries- it plays hosts to farmers markets every week. Locally produced artisanal products like jam, pickles, cheeses, and coffee can be found here.Details:
Some of the best Farmer’s Markets in San Francisco are the Ferry Plaza Farmers market, Alemany Farmer’s Market and Mission community market.

  • Mission Street Art Tour

The Mission Street neighborhood has walls that are covered with murals. The vibrant splashes of paint are entailed across two blocks. The graffiti and tapestries have Latino influences that are worth a look.  The murals reflect the culture and history of the city of San Francisco.

  • Union Square 

The densely populated palm-fringed area in San Francisco is a hotel neighborhood that is also a tourist destination owing to its restaurants, shopping complexes, and upscale hotels. With the 7 story mall, Union Square is a shopaholic’s paradise.
It houses the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, theatres, market area and a myriad of clothing stores. Maiden Street, Geary Street, Market Street, and Post street are lanes around Union Square that are noteworthy for tourists.

It should take about an hour or two to browse the entire area. It is easily accessible by Cable Car. Guided tours for the area are also available.
The area is beautifully decked out during Christmas time.

  • Fisherman’s Wharf:

The Wharf hauls in so many tourists year after year. The historic waterfront district is home to many restaurants that have been family owned for generations- these specialize in seafood and sourdough bread. It is the center of ocean-oriented activity in San Francisco.

It also has street performers and musicians that entertain the tourists and locals. Tourists can watch fishermen with their nets, take a boat out into the calm waters or get some seafood.
The Ghiradelli Square at the Fisherman’s Wharf with its ice cream trucks and chocolate bars offers beautiful vistas of the port area. It is a must visit during the evening, bathed in the glow of the setting sun.

Visitors should head down to Pier 39 on Fisherman’s Wharf and keep an eye out for the Bushman street performers. Pier 39 is also home to hundreds of sea lions.

  • San Francisco City Bus Tour:

San Francisco has a myriad of bus tours like hop-on and hop-off tours, themed tours, day trips from San Francisco and guided tours to various attractions like Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.
These tours allow tourists to enjoy the city in any which way that they want. For tourists who have no itineraries, these guided tours along scenic routes are the perfect way to see San Francisco.

   Picture worthy spots:

  • Alamo Square: The painted ladies of Alamo Square and the distinctive mansions are known the world over as postcard picture worthy.
  • Haight-Ashbury: This perfect spot for cruising is apt for taking snapshots of the famous Haight-Ashbury intersection. Guided tours will help one relive the old hippie days of the ’60s and the ’70s.
  • Twin Peaks: The 360-degree view of the bay area from Twin Peaks above Castro District is unmissable. This viewpoint offers vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Angel Island all from a single point- away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
  • Coit Tower: This picturesque place in Telegraph Hill tells the tale of a socialite turned firefighter. The history of the place also known as Lillian Coit Memorial Tower will transport tourists to a place in America’s past.
  • Treasure Island: The island offers magnificent views of the Bay and the city. It is just a short drive across the Bay Bridge. It is worth a visit for a stroll around the old military base.

Local Restaurants to Eat at:

100’s of new restaurants pop up in the city year after year. Some of the local gems are:

  1. Scoma’s
  2. Ghirardelli Square
  3. Doc Ricketts
  4. Dirty Water
  5. Fringale

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