San Francisco, the glittering gem of the West Coast, boasts a unique blend of historical wonders, architectural marvels, and contemporary innovations. From the majestic curves of the Golden Gate Bridge to the lively stalls at Fisherman’s Wharf, there’s no shortage of things to do in San Francisco. We invite you to immerse yourself in a city where the old seamlessly fuses with the new. In this guide, we’ve rounded up the top 22 things to do in San Francisco.
See The List Below for Top 22 Things to Do in San Francisco
1. Golden Gate Bridge
When you think of San Francisco, the first image that likely comes to mind is the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Stretching 1.7 miles and standing over 746 feet in height, this architectural wonder has been a vital part of the city’s skyline since 1937. You can admire its impressive Art Deco towers by walking or cycling along the bridge, ensuring that you stop at the vista points for mesmerizing views of the city and the vast Pacific Ocean.
- Perfect for sunrise or sunset views.
- A popular spot for photography enthusiasts.
2. Alcatraz Island
A trip to San Francisco isn’t complete without a journey to the infamous Alcatraz Island. Once home to some of America’s most notorious criminals, the prison is now a National Historic Landmark that offers guided tours. As you step onto the island, you’re transported back in time, feeling the chilling stories that lie within its walls. With its rich history, it’s no surprise that Alcatraz remains one of the top things to do in San Francisco.
- Experience the award-winning audio tour.
- Spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline from the island.
3. Fisherman’s Wharf
Vibrant and bustling, Fisherman’s Wharf is a haven for seafood enthusiasts. From clam chowder served in sourdough bread bowls to the catch of the day, the culinary delights here are endless. It’s not just about food; the Wharf is alive with street performers, historical ships, and shopping zones, making it one of the most lively things to do in San Francisco.
- Home to the famous Pier 39.
- A variety of boat tours available.
4. Ride the Cable Cars
San Francisco’s cable cars aren’t just a means of transport; they are moving monuments of history. Riding these cars, you can traverse the city’s hilly terrain, offering stunning views at every turn. The clang of the cable car bell, combined with the panoramic views, make this experience quintessentially San Franciscan.
- Only three of the original 23 lines remain.
- The Cable Car Museum offers a deeper dive into its history.
5. Visit the Painted Ladies
Positioned against a backdrop of the modern city skyline, the Painted Ladies are a row of beautifully colored Victorian houses. Found in Alamo Square, these houses are a testament to San Francisco’s architectural heritage. Often called “Postcard Row”, visiting here offers a picture-perfect moment.
- Featured in many TV shows and movies.
- Offers a blend of history with modern-day charm.
6. Explore Chinatown
Delve deep into the cultural mosaic of San Francisco by exploring the oldest and one of the largest Chinatowns in North America. The vibrant neighborhood is teeming with temples, pagoda roofs, and dragon parades. Besides the rich cultural experience, the area also offers a plethora of dining options where one can savor authentic Asian flavors.
- Visit the famous Fortune Cookie Factory.
- Explore alleyways filled with art and history.
7. Relax at Golden Gate Park
Spanning over 1,000 acres, the Golden Gate Park is an urban oasis filled with gardens, playgrounds, lakes, and more. The park plays host to a multitude of attractions, such as the Conservatory of Flowers, the Japanese Tea Garden, and the de Young Museum. Whether you wish to enjoy a boat ride, a picnic, or simply a leisurely walk, the park is one of the serene things to do in San Francisco.
- Home to the California Academy of Sciences.
- Regularly hosts concerts and events.
8. Coit Tower Panoramic Views
Perched atop Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower offers an unparalleled 360-degree view of the city. Built in 1933, the tower is adorned with murals that capture the essence of life in California during the Great Depression. The rich history, combined with breathtaking views, make it a must-visit.
- Fresco murals were painted by 25 different artists.
- Offers bird’s-eye views of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges.
9. Dive into Ghirardelli Square
Chocolate lovers rejoice! Ghirardelli Square is the hub of sweet indulgences. Once a factory, it’s now an enticing mix of shops, restaurants, and of course, the famed Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop. The historic charm, combined with sweet treats, makes it one of the most delightful things to do in San Francisco.
- Hosts various events and festivals throughout the year.Offers a blend of shopping, dining, and history.
10. Explore Pier 39
Nestled within the vibrant surroundings of Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 is a world of its own. With its waterfront dining, unique boutiques, and live entertainment, it promises a delightful experience. Not to mention the colony of sea lions that have made the K-Dock their home. Their playful antics are a joy to witness and remain a key attraction for many visitors.
- Aquarium of the Bay offers a peek into marine life.
- Regular street performances make it lively and entertaining.
11. Revel at the Palace of Fine Arts
An architectural marvel, the Palace of Fine Arts stands as a testament to San Francisco’s commitment to art and culture. Originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, it’s an oasis of serenity amidst the urban setting. With its Greco-Roman columns and rotunda, it offers a picturesque setting that’s especially beloved by photographers.
- A popular spot for weddings and photoshoots.
- Features a tranquil lagoon that is home to swans and ducks.
12. San Francisco MOMA
Dedicated to modern and contemporary art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) is where creativity comes alive. With over 33,000 artworks spanning paintings, sculptures, photographs, and more, it’s a haven for art enthusiasts. The museum’s ever-evolving collection ensures that every visit offers a unique experience.
- Features works of eminent artists like Frida Kahlo and Andy Warhol.
- The outdoor sculpture garden offers a blend of art and nature.
13. Attend a Giants Game at Oracle Park
Baseball fans are in for a treat when they visit Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. With its waterfront location, it not only offers an exhilarating game experience but also stunning bay views. Even if you’re not a baseball enthusiast, the park’s ambiance is contagious, making it one of the sporty things to do in San Francisco.
- Renowned for its gourmet ballpark food.
- Offers tours that delve into the history and architecture of the park.
14. Lands End Hiking Trails
For those seeking a blend of nature and adventure within the city limits, Lands End is the perfect destination. The rugged coastline offers breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge, shipwrecks, and labyrinth. The trails are adorned with wildflowers and provide a serene escape from the hustle and bustle.
- The Sutro Baths ruins add a touch of history to the landscape.
- Offers various vantage points for whale watching during migration seasons.
15. Visit the Mission Dolores Park
A popular spot among locals and tourists alike, Mission Dolores Park offers panoramic views of the city’s skyline. On a sunny day, the park buzzes with activity – picnickers, musicians, yoga enthusiasts, and more. The park’s vibrant and diverse atmosphere captures the essence of San Francisco’s spirit.
- The children’s playground is a hit among young visitors.
- Home to numerous festivals and events throughout the year.
16. Haight-Ashbury District
Step back in time as you walk through the streets of the Haight-Ashbury District, the birthplace of America’s counterculture. With its bohemian vibe, vintage stores, and psychedelic murals, it’s a stark contrast to the city’s modern landscape. It offers a unique insight into the revolutionary ’60s and remains one of the hip things to do in San Francisco.
- Shop for vintage records, clothes, and memorabilia.
- Experience the vibrant nightlife with its array of bars and music venues.
17. Sip Coffee at North Beach
North Beach, fondly dubbed San Francisco’s “Little Italy,” resonates with the hum of espresso machines and the aroma of freshly baked Italian pastries. The area is a fusion of rich European heritage with the bohemian vibes of the Beat Generation, offering an ambiance that is both nostalgic and contemporary. Walking through its streets, one is transported to a European town, with cozy cafes, bookstores, and trattorias at every corner.
- Home to the historic City Lights Bookstore.
- Enjoy live jazz music in the evenings at various venues.
18. San Francisco Zoo & Gardens
For a wild adventure within city limits, the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens is a must-visit. Spanning 100 acres, it houses over 1,000 exotic, endangered, and rescued animals. From African lions to Australian kangaroos, the diverse range of species ensures a delightful day for both children and adults. The gardens, on the other hand, showcase flora from around the world, adding a touch of nature’s serenity.
- Children’s Zoo offers interactive experiences.
- Regularly hosts educational programs and workshops.
19. The Ferry Building Marketplace
A landmark that stands testament to San Francisco’s maritime heritage, the Ferry Building is more than just a transit hub. Since its renovation, it has transformed into a gourmet paradise, housing some of the city’s finest food stalls, cafes, and artisanal stores. Every week, the farmer’s market here bustles with activity, offering fresh produce, gourmet foods, and local delicacies.
- Renowned for its clock tower inspired by the Giralda bell tower in Spain.
- Offers a wide range of culinary workshops and events.
20. Walt Disney Family Museum
Dive into the magical world of Walt Disney at this immersive museum located in the Presidio of San Francisco. Chronicling the life and legacy of the pioneer of the American animation industry, the museum offers a blend of interactive exhibits, early drawings, movies, and animations. Whether you’re a Disney aficionado or simply curious, the museum offers a magical journey that resonates with both the young and the young at heart.
- Houses the earliest known drawings of Mickey Mouse.
- Offers a panoramic view of the Golden Gate Bridge from its glass wall.
21. San Francisco Botanical Garden
Nestled within the Golden Gate Park, the San Francisco Botanical Garden is a lush oasis spread over 55 acres. Home to over 8,000 plant species from around the globe, it offers a tranquil escape from the city’s hustle. Each garden, from the Mesoamerican Cloud Forest to the Ancient Plant Garden, tells a unique story, showcasing nature’s unparalleled beauty.
- Offers free guided tours.
- The Helen Crocker Russell Library here is one of the most comprehensive horticultural libraries in the country.
22. The Exploratorium
Perfect for those with curious minds, the Exploratorium is an interactive science museum located on Pier 15. With hundreds of exhibits covering topics from physics to psychology, it promises an educational yet fun-filled day. The Tactile Dome, where visitors navigate in complete darkness, and the outdoor installations that provide bay views, are some of the unique attractions here.
- Offers “After Dark” events for adults.
- A fusion of art and science with its thought-provoking exhibits.
San Francisco, often dubbed the “City of Dreams,” is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered. With its rich tapestry of cultures, histories, and landscapes, every alley whispers a tale, and every horizon promises a new adventure. From its historic landmarks to its innovative museums, from its serene parks to its bustling marketplaces, there’s no end to the things to do in San Francisco. As we wrap up our journey through these 22 iconic spots, we invite you to lace up your walking shoes, pack that spirit of adventure, and uncover the myriad charms that this city has to offer. Let San Francisco’s magic captivate your heart and etch memories that last a lifetime.