California is one of the most popular states in the U.S. for many reasons, and one of these reasons is that it is home to the small but mighty city of San Francisco. San Francisco is a magnificent city, and this beauty doesn't just lie in its infrastructure but also in its history. These are the top 15 things to do in San Francisco.
San Francisco was founded on the 29th of June in 1776 by the Spanish and has grown to be one of the most famous cities in the U.S. California was the center of the gold rush in the 1800s, leading to the state's rapid growth and the City of San Francisco. The city is an economic hub known globally for its substantial economic and tourist activities. It is a leader in tech, healthcare, and other services. The city alone produces a GDP of over 200 million dollars and hosts the headquarters of some of the world's biggest companies, like Wells Fargo, Uber, First Republic Bank, Twitter, and Dropbox.
If there is one city you should go for a vacation in, it is San Francisco. Not only is it a commercial hub, but it is also a cultural center with many historical monuments. It's where you'd have fun as a family, a solo traveler, a digital nomad, or even as a couple looking for a getaway or a little time out.
In all my years of traveling the world, I have never met anyone who didn't love the city. There are so many things to do in San Francisco, especially things to do and see. In this post, I will share some fantastic things you can do while visiting San Francisco.
Visit The Golden Gate Bridge
The golden gate bridge is one of the most famous bridges in the world. It has been portrayed in so many movies that almost everyone wants to see it in real life. If you're ever in San Francisco, the golden gate bridge is one place you'd like to visit.
This bridge is a favorite among tourists for many reasons. The bridge spans over 1.7 miles and has over 100,000 vehicles crossing it daily.
Another reason is that there are so many ways to get there. I recommend walking and if you're up for it, try one of the guided bike tours-this will provide valuable background information about the bridge and ensure that you don't get lost on the way. It has a pedestrian walkway that allows people and tourists to walk across it. So, you might want to bring a camera along to check out this beautiful monument.
To visit the bridge is free and won't cost you a dime. It is one of the top free things to do in San Francisco.
Visit Fisherman's Wharf
Fisherman's Wharf offers more than 2,500 hotel rooms, several restaurants, and an almost endless amount of shopping, history, culture, and attractions. There is something for everyone at Fisherman's Wharf.
The Wharf is famous in San Francisco because it has one of the most beautiful waterfronts. It is packed with people, and you can enjoy some of the best cuisines San Francisco offers. It's seafood like you have ever before. From delicious crabs to prawns, don't forget the gourmet eateries that sell some of the finest and freshest fish cuisines in the world.
Aside from the food, you could also tour the area by walking around the Wharf by boat. If you want to enjoy one of the famous catches at fisherman's Wharf, then November would be a great time to visit. An annual harvest of Dungeness crabs takes place around that time of year, and it wouldn't cost a lot.
If you are interested in the history of the Fisherman's Wharf, take the Port Walk, which is a walking tour that you can take at your own pace while learning about the history of Fisherman's Wharf through the various signs located along the tour.
Part of Fisherman's Wharf is Ghirardelli Square. It has rich history of chocolate and chocolate making this square is now home to some lovely little shops and for chocolates, clothing, souvenirs, and jewelry.
Visit Pier 39
If you thought fisherman's Wharf was a great idea, then you'll love Pier 39. Pier 39 is the sea lion capital of San Francisco. If you want to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, just relaxing and having fun, then Pier 39 is the place for you. It is filled with color and beauty and, of course, the friendly aquatic animals, the sea lion.
The sea lions aren't aggressive, so you could get some pictures with them if you're up for it. The pier can also be peaceful and calming, and you could take a stroll around there with family and show the kids the seals.
Pier 39 has many things for the family to experience such as an arcade, shops, and the Acquarium of the Bay. There are many restaurants where you can get some tasty seafood around the pier as well.
While activities on the pier may cost money, visiting Pier 39 is one of the best fun, free things to do in San Francisco.
Visit Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island is one place you'd want to visit if you're a digital nomad or a gamer. This location is highly used in Call of Duty video games, and many tourists come here yearly.
Alcatraz is a former max security prison that was built in the middle of the San Francisco Bay area. It was previously a lighthouse station but was rebuilt and then converted to maximum security prison in the 1870s, where it housed some of the world's most dangerous criminals. You could visit this magnificent structure by taking a boat from pier 39, which will lead you to the Island.
Tourists can take a tour with audio that narrates the cell house and tells stories of some of its inmates and those who tried to escape. The legend says that no one ever successfully escaped prison.
While the history and story surrounding Alcatraz Island is very interesting, I would recommend this activity as one of the top things to do in San Francisco for adults. The story may be too traumatizing for children.
Visit the Golden Gate Park
While the golden gate bridge might be pretty famous, but golden gate park is another beautiful location. If you want to enjoy some serenity and enjoy nature's beauty, golden gate park is the place to do it. The park receives millions of visitors annually. It is large and spans hundreds of acres and is filled with spots to relax and have a pleasant time with your lover.
This park is larger than New York's Central Park and equally grand. There are also great spots for a family picnic. They are not just trees and flowers, but there are also lakes and monuments like the Conservatory of Flowers and the Academy of Sciences. There is even a playground where the kids can have fun.
A lot of events are held in the park throughout the year, like weddings and get-togethers. You could also get some tasty meals at the park. There is so much to do and see in Golden Gate Park that you could spend a good portion of your vacation here alone.
Take a Walk-Through Lombard Street
Ever heard of Lombard Street? It is the most famous street in San Francisco. It is probably the most exciting street you'll walk on. Its popularity makes it easy to locate. It is located around the Fisherman's Wharf and North Beach area and is super easy to spot.
If you're wondering why this street is so famous, here's why. The street has eight hairpin turns filled with large flower beds, and it was built in the year 1922. It was built to make the hill in that area less steep and more manageable for cars to drive through.
The street is over 180 meters long. On both sides are beautiful houses that you can admire as you walk around. Don't feel like taking a walk, then you take a drive up the street and admire the beautiful scenery. There is, however, a speed limit of 5mph. This is one unique experience to have, and it's free.
This is one of the oldest settlements or towns with a large gathering of the Chinese outside of Asia. Chinatown is a beautiful place full of color, arts, and culture. Take a stroll through the dragon gate by Bush Street and explore Chinatown's beautiful scenery.
It is full of historic buildings, parks, shops, and restaurants that sell some of the finest Chinese food like chop suey. You can even get a fortune cookie. One two popular eateries in China town are Good Mong Kok Bakery and Hunan restaurant. There is also the large golden gate factory at 56 Ross Alley, where over 15000 fortune cookies are made daily.
The best thing about visiting San Francisco is that, unlike other cities, it has four huge China towns and is also home to the largest China town in the country, the China town at Grant Avenue. If you want the whole Chinese experience, then Chinatown is the place to go.
Take a Ride in the Cable Cars
This is one of the fastest ways to go around the city and see all its beauty. San Francisco has an excellent cable car transportation system that runs around the city. These cable cars have been around since the late 1800s and carry tourists. The cars move on tracks that are controlled by an underground cable system.
When the cable car system was made, they were twenty-three of them, but today there are just three left. They are operated manually and are fun to ride in. To ride in the cable cars costs as low as 8$. If you want to see the city from a different view while relaxing, you should ride in the cable car.
Cable Car Museum
A great family activity to do in San Francisco is to visit the Cable Car Museum. Kids of all ages will find this museum fascinating. This museum definitely offers a great deal of education and excitement for the family, in addition to learning about these neat cable cars, which have become a trademark of San Francisco transportation. This is one museum I would pay to go to. The fact that it is free is a bonus that I can't resist.
Relax at the beach
I consider it a crime to come to San Francisco and not visit the beach. San Francisco is a city surrounded by water, so it has plenty of beaches to go around, and any one of them is a nice place to spend the afternoon. You could go for a walk on the beach with your lover and have a nice time in the sun. There are beaches like Pacific Coast Beach and Ocean Beach, and if you want to be a view of the golden gate bridge, then you could visit Baker Beach. There are some lovely places for a picnic on the beach and lots of fun to go around.
Visit the Presidio
Another one of the top things to do in San Francisco is to visit the Presidio. The Presidio was once a military base, but it's a park now. It is a historical landmark that would be great to walk in as a digital nomad or if you are a history buff.
The place is also very instagrammable and you can get some great pictures.
Visit California Wine Country
The San Francisco area is very close to California wine country. One of the best things for wine lovers to do in San Francisco is to go wine tasting. There are many tours that take you wine tasting to Napa and Sonoma wineries. When visiting wine country, you can escape the fast city life and enjoy the beautiful views of the vineyards.
To learn about the best wine tasting experiences in San Francisco, click here.
Visit Union Square
Union Square is a plaza in downtown San Francisco. Restaurants, shops, and hotels surround Union Square, and the area is perfect for a day when you want to go shopping and sightseeing simultaneously. Union Square is one of San Francisco's central shopping, dining, and entertainment areas.
My favorite thing to do in San Francisco is to make an entire day while visiting Union Square. A day filled with shopping, eating , and visiting a few bars is so much fun.
Walking Tours of San Francisco
If you are looking for one of the top things to do in San Francisco, you should consider taking a walking tour of the city.
These walking tours are not only entertaining; they are very informative as well. Learn about the history of the neighborhoods of San Francisco and the great people who rebuilt a grand city. With one of these tours, you will learn the complete history of San Francisco from a guide that narrates the story wonderfully.
There are many walking tours of San Francisco that are completely free so you can learn about the city and save some money at the same time. This is one of the greatest things to do in San Francisco for free.
Disclaimer: While the tour is FREE, donations are welcomed.
San Francisco Fire Department Museum
For the big kid in all of us that wanted to grow up to be a firefighter, this museum is the perfect place to visit. It provides excellent historical references and artifacts, but it is also incredible! I can think of no greater compliment to give a museum than that. This museum will be fun for children as well as adults.
Visit Angel Island
Whether you are a true nature lover or simply enjoy the thrill of an educational field trip, you will find both while visiting Angel Island. For nature lovers, there are plenty of things to see such as plant life, bird life, and other interesting animal life.
There are tours that will highlight the wide variety of diverse wildlife on this island.
You can enjoy the sea animals on the ferry ride over if your ride a ferry. Additionally, there are plenty of hikes. There are even guided hiking tours that for beginning hikers which offer information about the island and its rich history. If you don’t like hiking, you can also rent bikes on the island as well. With several trails to choose from with varying degrees of difficulty, even the beginner can enjoy a nice ride around the island.
Best Things To Do In San Francisco
San Francisco has a great history that celebrates its diversity and a future that is golden. From the Golden Gate Bridge to museums that showcase historic events, and everywhere in between San Francisco has a lot to offer visitors in way of art, entertainment, shopping, and mouthwatering food. Just make sure you bring your appetite.
I hope this travel guide helps you on your next trip to San Francisco. If you need recommendations on San Franciso hotels, check out our post about the best San Francisco hotels.