Things to Do in San Francisco: A Guide to Fun (2024)

photo of Golden Gate Bridge

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Welcome to the enchanting city by the bay, where every street corner whispers tales of diversity, landmarks beckon with storied histories, and breathtaking scenery leaves you awe-inspired. San Francisco, a city like no other, is a vibrant tapestry of cultures, a treasure trove of landmarks, and a masterpiece of nature’s beauty.

Things to Do In San Francisco Cover

Picture yourself strolling along the bustling streets, the aroma of freshly baked sourdough bread wafting from corner bakeries, and the eclectic mix of languages and laughter filling the air. You’re not just visiting a city; you’re embarking on an adventure through a melting pot of cultures that have woven themselves into the very fabric of this metropolis. You will be amazed at all the things to do in San Francisco for people of all ages.

But it’s not just the diverse culture that makes San Francisco a must-visit destination. The city boasts iconic landmarks that have graced postcards and inspired filmmakers for generations. From the majestic Golden Gate Bridge standing guard over the bay to the historic Alcatraz Island, where echoes of infamous inmates still resonate, there’s no shortage of stories etched into the cityscape.

Let’s not forget the scenery that will steal your heart – rolling hills dotted with colorful Victorian houses, the sparkling Pacific Ocean stretching to the horizon, and the lush green spaces that invite you to relax and rejuvenate. San Francisco’s natural beauty is as captivating as its urban charm.

I want to take you on a journey through this eclectic wonderland, unveiling the best activities, hidden gems, and insider tips to ensure your stay is nothing short of unforgettable. Whether you’re a foodie, history buff, nature enthusiast, or just someone seeking adventure, San Francisco has something special in store for you.

Golden Gate Bridge

Things to Do in San Francisco: A Comprehensive Guide to the Best Attractions and Activities

So, grab your heartiest appetite and your most comfortable walking shoes because the City by the Bay is ready to enchant, inspire, and surprise you at every turn. Join us as we uncover the endless possibilities in our comprehensive exploration of “Things to Do in San Francisco: A Guide to Fun.” Your adventure begins now with these tourist attractions!

Iconic Landmarks

San Francisco is home to some of the most famous landmarks in the world. Here are three must-see landmarks that you can’t miss on your trip to San Francisco:

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is an iconic symbol of San Francisco and one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. The bridge spans 1.7 miles across the Golden Gate Strait, connecting San Francisco to Marin County. One of the best ways to experience the bridge is to walk or bike across it. You can also take a guided tour to learn more about its history and construction.

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island is a former federal military prison that is now a national park. It is a small island located in the middle of San Francisco Bay and can only be reached by ferry. Visitors can take a guided tour of the prison and learn about its infamous inmates, including Al Capone and Robert Stroud, the “Birdman of Alcatraz.” The island also offers stunning views of the San Francisco skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Cable Cars

Since childhood, I have seen these iconic gems in the commercials that touted the favorite rice dish of San Franciscans – and still have that Rice-A-Roni jingle stuck in my head. It goes without saying that San Francisco is famous for its cable cars, which are a fun and unique way to explore the city.

This fun form of public transportation runs on three lines: the Powell-Hyde line, the Powell-Mason line, and the California line. You can hop on and off at various stops throughout the city, including Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, and Chinatown.

Cable Cars

Riding a cable car is a great way to experience the city’s hilly terrain and historic neighborhoods. And heck, what fun photos and TikTok reel opportunities as you go up and down those steep hills!

These three iconic landmarks are just a few of the many attractions that San Francisco has to offer. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, you won’t want to miss these must-see sights.

Cultural Experiences

I adore that San Francisco is a melting pot of cultures, and there are many ways to experience the city’s diverse cultural offerings. Here are some must-see cultural experiences to add to your itinerary:

Chinatown

San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest and largest Chinatown in the United States. It is a vibrant neighborhood that is home to many shops, restaurants, and historical landmarks. While you’re there, be sure to visit the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, where you can watch fortune cookies being made by hand.

You can also explore the alleyways and side streets to discover hidden gems like the Tin How Temple and the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum. If you want the perfect memorable photo, take a selfie at the Dragon Gate.

Things to Do in San Francisco Chinatown

Mission District Murals

I love street art and that put this on my list of great things to do in the city of San Francisco! The Mission District is known for its colorful street art murals. They reflect the neighborhood’s Latino heritage and social activism.

Take a walking tour to see some of the most iconic murals, like the Women’s Building Mural and the MaestraPeace Mural. You can also visit the Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitors Center to learn more about the history and significance of the murals.

Japanese Tea Garden

Location: 75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive San Francisco

The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park is a serene oasis that offers a glimpse into Japanese culture. It is the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States and features traditional Japanese architecture, koi ponds, and a tea house. You can participate in a traditional tea ceremony or simply stroll through the garden and admire the beautiful scenery.

Ferry Building Marketplace

Location: One, Ferry Building, San Francisco

The Ferry Building Marketplace is a food lover’s paradise that showcases the best of San Francisco’s culinary scene. It is home to many artisanal food vendors, including Cowgirl Creamery, Acme Bread, and Blue Bottle Coffee. You can sample local cheeses, fresh oysters, and gourmet chocolates while enjoying views of the San Francisco Bay. The marketplace is also a great place to shop for souvenirs and gifts.

Whether you’re interested in history, art, or food, San Francisco has something to offer every culture lover. Don’t miss these unique cultural experiences on your next visit to the city.

Things to Do in San Francisco Golden Gate Park

Outdoor Activities

San Francisco is known for its beautiful outdoor spaces and activities. Whether you’re a nature lover or simply looking to enjoy some fresh air, there’s something for everyone in the city. Here are some of the top outdoor activities to experience in San Francisco:

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to enjoy the outdoors in San Francisco. This expansive park spans over 1,000 acres and offers a variety of activities for visitors of all ages. Some of the top attractions within the park include:

  • The Japanese Tea Garden: This tranquil garden is the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States and features beautiful landscaping, koi ponds, and a tea house.
  • The de Young Museum: This art museum features a variety of exhibits and collections, as well as stunning views of the city from its observation tower.
  • The California Academy of Sciences: This museum is home to a planetarium, aquarium, and natural history museum all in one, making it a great option for families.

Presidio

The Presidio is a former military base turned national park that offers a variety of outdoor activities for visitors. Here are some of the top things to do in the Presidio:

  • Hiking: The Presidio offers over 24 miles of hiking trails that range from easy to challenging. Some of the top trails include the Batteries to Bluffs Trail and the Ecology Trail.
  • Beaches: The Presidio is home to several beautiful beaches, including Baker Beach and Marshall’s Beach, which offer stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • The Walt Disney Family Museum: This museum is dedicated to the life and work of Walt Disney and features exhibits, screenings, and interactive experiences.
Things to Do in San Francisco beaches

Ocean Beach

If you’re looking to enjoy some time by the ocean, Ocean Beach is the perfect destination. This long stretch of beach offers plenty of space to relax and take in the views. Some of the top activities to enjoy at Ocean Beach include:

  • Surfing: Ocean Beach is known for its challenging surf conditions, making it a popular spot for experienced surfers.
  • Bonfires: Visitors can enjoy a bonfire on the beach with a permit from the city.
  • Sunset watching: The sunsets at Ocean Beach are some of the most beautiful in the city, making it a popular spot for photographers.

San Francisco Botanical Garden

Location: 1199 9th Ave, San Francisco

These botanical gardens are s a beautiful oasis in the middle of the city. This 55-acre garden features over 8,000 different plant species from around the world. Some of the top attractions within the garden include:

  • The Redwood Grove: This section of the garden features towering redwood trees that are over 100 years old.
  • The Succulent Garden: This garden features a variety of unique and colorful succulent plants.
  • The Ancient Plant Garden: This garden features plants that have been around for millions of years, including ferns and cycads.

Overall, San Francisco offers a wealth of outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy. Whether you’re looking to hike, relax on the beach, or explore a beautiful garden, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant city.

Things to Do in San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Museums and Galleries

San Francisco is home to numerous museums and galleries that cater to a wide range of interests. From modern art to science, there’s something for everyone. Here are some of the top museums and galleries to check out during your visit:

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Location: 151 Third St San Francisco,

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is a must-visit for art lovers. The museum has an extensive collection of modern and contemporary art, including works by famous artists such as Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, and Frida Kahlo. The museum also hosts rotating exhibitions, so there’s always something new to see. Be sure to check out the museum’s rooftop sculpture garden, which offers stunning views of the city.

De Young Museum

Location: Golden Gate Park 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive San Francisco

Located in Golden Gate Park, the de Young Museum is a work of art inside and out. The museum’s collection includes American art from the 17th through the 21st centuries, as well as art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. The museum also hosts special exhibitions throughout the year, so be sure to check the schedule before your visit. Don’t miss the observation tower, which offers panoramic views of San Francisco.

The Exploratorium

Location: Pier 15, (Embarcadero at Green, San Francisco

The Exploratorium is a hands-on science museum that’s fun for all ages. The museum’s exhibits explore a wide range of topics, from physics to biology to social science. Visitors can experiment with light and sound, learn about the human body, and even create their own art. The museum also hosts events and workshops throughout the year, so be sure to check the schedule before your visit.

California Academy of Sciences

Location: 55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco

The California Academy of Sciences is a must-see destination in San Francisco. The museum is home to an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, and world-class research and educational programs. Visitors can see penguins, butterflies, and even a living roof. The museum also hosts special events and exhibits throughout the year.

Walt Disney Family Museum

Location: 104 Montgomery Street in the Presidio San Francisco

Located in the Presidio, the Walt Disney Family Museum is a must-visit for Disney fans. The museum tells the story of Walt Disney’s life and career, featuring artifacts, interactive exhibits, and original artwork. Visitors can learn about the creation of Mickey Mouse, the making of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Disney’s impact on the entertainment industry. Don’t miss the museum’s theater, which screens classic Disney films.

Things to Do in San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf signage

Food and Drink

San Francisco is renowned for its diverse culinary scene, with a wide range of cuisines and dining experiences to choose from. Whether you’re looking for fresh seafood, classic Italian dishes, or craft beer, the city has something to offer every palate. Here are some of the top food and drink experiences to try during your visit:

Seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf is a popular destination for seafood lovers, offering a variety of restaurants and vendors serving up fresh catches from the nearby waters. One of the most iconic dishes to try is cioppino, a hearty seafood stew that originated in San Francisco. Sotto Mare is a local favorite for this dish, with a rich tomato-based broth filled with Dungeness crab parts, mussels, and other seafood.

If you’re in the mood for something fried, head to Alioto’s or the Crab Station for some crispy fish and chips or fried calamari. For a more casual experience, grab some clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl from Boudin Bakery or one of the many street vendors.

Dining in North Beach

North Beach is known as San Francisco’s Little Italy, with a wide range of Italian restaurants and cafes to choose from. One of the most popular spots is Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, which has won numerous awards for its authentic Neapolitan-style pizza. For pasta dishes, head to The Stinking Rose that offers classic Italian cuisine in a cozy atmosphere.

If you’re in the mood for something sweet, stop by Stella Pastry & Cafe for some cannoli or tiramisu. For a more upscale dining experience, consider booking a table at Cotogna or Tosca Cafe, both of which offer a modern take on Italian cuisine.

Craft Breweries

San Francisco is home to a thriving craft beer scene, with a variety of breweries and taprooms to choose from. One of the most popular spots is 21st Amendment Brewery, which offers a wide range of beers on tap, and Magnolia Brewing Company, which specializes in English-style ales.

For a more casual experience, head to one of the many taprooms in the city, such as Cellarmaker Brewing Company or Fort Point Beer Company. Many of these spots offer outdoor seating and food trucks, making them a great place to relax and enjoy some local brews.

Things to Do in San Francisco Haight Street

Shopping Destinations

San Francisco is a shopper’s paradise, with a wide range of shopping destinations to suit any taste and budget. Here are three of the best shopping destinations in the city:

Union Square

This is the heart of San Francisco’s shopping district, with a wide range of high-end and mid-range stores. This is where you’ll find the city’s largest collection of department stores, including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Macy’s. If you’re looking for luxury brands, head to the boutiques on Maiden Lane, where you’ll find stores like Chanel, Prada, and Gucci.

Haight Street

Haight Street is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the best places for vintage and alternative fashion. This street was the epicenter of the 1960s counterculture movement, and today it’s home to a wide range of vintage clothing stores, record shops, and head shops. Some of the most popular stores on Haight Street include Wasteland, Amoeba Music, and Loved to Death.

The Castro

The Castro is San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ neighborhood, and it’s also home to a wide range of unique and eclectic stores. If you’re looking for quirky gifts or one-of-a-kind souvenirs, head to stores like Cliff’s Variety, which has been a neighborhood institution since 1936. Other popular stores in the area include Books Inc., which has a great selection of LGBTQ+ literature, and the Castro Theatre gift shop, which sells movie-themed merchandise.

No matter what your shopping preferences are, San Francisco has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for luxury brands or vintage finds, you’re sure to find it in this vibrant and diverse city.

Pier 39 in San Francisco

Nightlife and Entertainment

San Francisco is known for its vibrant nightlife and entertainment scene. From live music venues to comedy clubs and theater performances, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Live Music Venues

This town has a diverse music scene that caters to all tastes. Some of the most popular live music venues include The Fillmore, The Independent, and The Warfield Theatre. These venues feature a variety of music genres including rock, jazz, blues, and hip-hop. If you’re looking for a more intimate setting, check out the Great American Music Hall or the Rickshaw Stop.

Comedy Clubs

Things to Do in San Francisco comedy clubs

San Francisco has a thriving comedy scene with several comedy clubs to choose from. The Punch Line, Cobb’s Comedy Club, and The San Francisco Comedy Cellar are just a few of the popular comedy clubs in the city. These venues feature both local and national comedians, so you’re sure to find something that will make you laugh.

Theater Performances

This great spot is home to several world-class theaters that offer a variety of performances throughout the year. The American Conservatory Theater, The Curran, and The Orpheum Theatre are just a few of the venues that feature Broadway shows, musicals, and plays. If you’re looking for something more experimental, check out The Magic Theatre or The Cutting Ball Theater.

Overall, San Francisco’s nightlife and entertainment scene is diverse and exciting. Whether you’re looking for live music, comedy, or theater performances, you’re sure to find something that will keep you entertained.

CityPASS

If you’re planning a trip to San Francisco and want to see some of the city’s top attractions, consider purchasing a CityPASS. With a CityPASS, you’ll save money and time by gaining admission to some of the city’s most popular attractions.

CityPASS offers two different options for visitors to San Francisco: The CityPASS and the C3 pass. The CityPASS includes admission to four attractions: the California Academy of Sciences, the Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure, the Aquarium of the Bay, and either the Exploratorium or the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. With the CityPASS, you’ll save up to 46% on admission prices.

If you don’t have time to visit all of the attractions included in the CityPASS, consider purchasing the C3 pass instead. With the C3 pass, you’ll get one-time admission to three of the five attractions included in the CityPASS. You can choose from the California Academy of Sciences, the Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure, the Aquarium of the Bay, the Exploratorium, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

One of the best things about the CityPASS is that it allows you to skip the lines at many of the attractions. This can save you a lot of time, especially during peak tourist season. In addition, the CityPASS is valid for nine consecutive days, so you can take your time exploring the city and its attractions.

Overall, if you’re planning to visit several of San Francisco’s top attractions, the CityPASS can be a great way to save money and time.

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Final Thoughts:

As we near the end of our journey through the captivating city of San Francisco, one thing becomes abundantly clear: this city is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be uncovered. From the rich tapestry of cultures that harmoniously coexist to the iconic landmarks that tell tales of bygone eras, and the natural beauty that will leave you breathless, San Francisco is a destination like no other.

We’ve explored the vibrant neighborhoods, savored delectable culinary delights, and marveled at the city’s architectural wonders. We’ve delved into its history, from the Gold Rush era to the counterculture movement, and we’ve reveled in the stunning scenery, from the fog-kissed Golden Gate Bridge to the tranquil serenity of Muir Woods.

But beyond the sights and sounds, it’s the spirit of San Francisco that truly sets it apart. It’s a city that embraces diversity, celebrates individuality, and welcomes all with open arms. It’s a place where you can be yourself, where the boundaries of tradition are challenged, and where creativity knows no bounds.

Whether you’re planning your first visit or returning for another adventure, San Francisco promises to surprise you, inspire you, and leave an indelible mark on your heart. It’s a city that invites you to explore, to dream, and to savor every moment.

As you wrap up your journey through the “City by the Bay,” take with you the memories of laughter in colorful neighborhoods, the taste of world-class cuisine, and the sense of wonder that comes from standing before iconic landmarks. And remember, this guide is just the beginning. San Francisco is a city of endless possibilities, and the best way to discover it is to step out and explore for yourself.

So, whether you’re gazing at the city lights from the summit of Twin Peaks or sipping artisan coffee in a quaint café, let San Francisco work its magic on you. It’s a city that thrives on curiosity, and in return, it offers an abundance of experiences that will stay with you long after your journey ends.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the top 20 things to do in San Francisco?

San Francisco is a city that offers a wide range of activities and attractions. Some of the top things to do in San Francisco include visiting the Golden Gate Bridge, exploring Alcatraz Island, taking a cable car ride, visiting Fisherman’s Wharf, and checking out the Painted Ladies. Other popular activities include visiting the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, exploring Chinatown, and going on a food tour of the city.

What are some famous districts to visit in San Francisco?

San Francisco is known for its diverse neighborhoods, each with its unique character and charm. Some of the most famous districts to visit in San Francisco include Chinatown, Haight-Ashbury, the Castro, and the Mission District. Each of these neighborhoods has its unique attractions, restaurants, and shops.

What shouldn’t I miss during my trip to San Francisco?

There are several things that you should not miss during your trip to San Francisco. These include visiting the Golden Gate Bridge, exploring Alcatraz Island, and taking a cable car ride. You should also check out Fisherman’s Wharf, the Painted Ladies, and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. Don’t forget to explore the city’s diverse neighborhoods and try some of its famous cuisine.

Can I see San Francisco in 2 days?

While it’s impossible to see everything San Francisco has to offer in just two days, you can still experience many of the city’s top attractions. You can visit the Golden Gate Bridge, explore Fisherman’s Wharf, and take a cable car ride. You can also check out some of the city’s famous neighborhoods, such as Chinatown and the Mission District.

What is the number one attraction in San Francisco?

The Golden Gate Bridge is arguably the number one attraction in San Francisco. This iconic bridge is recognized worldwide and is a must-see when visiting the city. You can walk or bike across the bridge, take a boat tour underneath it, or simply admire it from a distance.

What are some easy things to do in San Francisco?

If you’re looking for some easy things to do in San Francisco, you can take a leisurely walk through Golden Gate Park, explore the Ferry Building Marketplace, or visit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. You can also take a scenic drive down Lombard Street or enjoy a picnic in Dolores Park.

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