things to do in san francisco

Last Updated on: 2nd February 2024, 10:03 am

Are you planning a trip to San Francisco, California? Get ready to be amazed by the countless attractions and activities that this vibrant city has to offer. From iconic landmarks to cultural experiences and outdoor adventures, there’s something for everyone in the Bay Area. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or a foodie, San Francisco has it all.

So, what are the best things to do in San Francisco? In this article, we’ll explore the top attractions and provide you with insider tips to make the most of your visit. From walking over the famous Golden Gate Bridge to exploring the historic Alcatraz prison, there’s no shortage of exciting adventures awaiting you in this captivating city.

Ready to start planning your San Francisco itinerary? Let’s dive in and discover the best things to do in the City by the Bay!

Walk Over the Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge, one of the most famous landmarks in San Francisco, is an iconic structure that captures the imagination of visitors from around the world. Walking across this majestic bridge is not only a thrilling experience but also an absolute must-do for anyone visiting the city. Spanning an impressive 1.7 miles, the Golden Gate Bridge offers breathtaking views of the cityscape and the beautiful bay.

The journey begins at either end of the bridge, where pedestrians can access the dedicated walkway that runs alongside the traffic lanes. As you make your way across, take a moment to appreciate the sheer grandeur of the bridge’s architecture, with its majestic towers and vibrant red-orange color that stands out against the backdrop of the ocean and the sky.

Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge is not just about reaching the other side; it’s about immersing yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of San Francisco. With every step, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the city’s skyline, the rolling hills, and the glistening bay. Make sure to bring your camera along to capture the stunning scenery that unfolds before your eyes.

Once you reach the other side, take a moment to soak in the accomplishment of traversing this world-famous bridge. Feel the sense of achievement as you reflect on the feat of engineering that created this masterpiece, connecting the city of San Francisco to Marin County.

Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge is not just a memorable experience; it’s a journey that allows you to become a part of history. So, put on your walking shoes, take in the breathtaking views, and create lasting memories as you traverse this iconic symbol of San Francisco.

Ride A Cable Car

Riding a cable car is a unique experience that captures the essence of San Francisco. The san francisco cable cars have been a mode of transportation in the city since the late 19th century. They allow passengers to enjoy the scenic views of the city’s hills while also experiencing the charm of this historic transportation in san francisco. A one-way trip costs £8 and is well worth the price for the unforgettable ride.

Step on board a san francisco cable car and be transported back in time. These iconic vehicles have been transporting locals and tourists alike for over a hundred years, making them an iconic transportation in san francisco. With their classic wooden interiors and open-air seating, cable cars offer a nostalgic and authentic way to explore the city.

san francisco cable cars

As you hop on a cable car, you’ll experience the thrill of ascending San Francisco’s famous hills. The clanging of the bells, the gripping of the brakes, and the rhythmic movement of the cable beneath the streets create a memorable and exhilarating journey. You’ll witness panoramic views of the city’s landmarks, including Alcatraz Island, Coit Tower, and the city skyline.

“Riding a cable car in San Francisco is like taking a step back in time. It’s an opportunity to embrace the city’s history while enjoying its stunning vistas. Don’t miss your chance to experience this iconic mode of transportation!”

The cable car system consists of three lines: the Powell-Mason line, the Powell-Hyde line, and the California Street line. Each line offers its own unique perspective of the city, passing through distinctive neighborhoods such as Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, and Nob Hill. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned local, riding a cable car should be on your list of must-do activities in San Francisco.

How to Ride a Cable Car?

When it comes to riding a san francisco cable car, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Find a stop: Look for the iconic cable car turnaround or check the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) website for a list of stops.
  2. Pay the fare: A one-way ticket costs £8 and can be purchased either at the ticket booth located near the turnaround or directly from the conductor.
  3. Board the car: Wait in line and hop aboard when the car arrives. Be sure to follow the conductor’s instructions and find a seat or grab onto the handrails if standing.
  4. Enjoy the ride: Sit back and take in the sights as the cable car navigates the city’s streets. Feel free to ring the bell when you’re approaching your desired stop.

Benefits of Riding a Cable Car

Riding a cable car offers several benefits, including:

  • Epic Views: Cable cars provide some of the best views in the city. Snap photos of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Painted Ladies, and other famous landmarks as you glide by.
  • Unique Experience: Cable cars are one of the few remaining manually operated streetcar systems in the world. Riding one is an authentic and historic way to explore San Francisco.
  • Convenient Transportation: Cable cars can conveniently transport you to popular destinations such as Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, and Chinatown, reducing the need for driving and parking.
  • Nostalgic Charm: Riding a san francisco cable car evokes a sense of nostalgia and romance. It’s a trip back in time to a bygone era of transport.

So, don’t miss the opportunity to ride a cable car and experience the charm of this iconic transportation in san francisco. Hop on board, grab a seat, and immerse yourself in the history and beauty of San Francisco as you traverse its hilly streets.

Reasons to Ride a Cable Car Benefits
Scenic Views Enjoy breathtaking vistas of the city’s landmarks and skyline.
Historic Experience Step back in time and ride one of the last remaining manually operated streetcar systems.
Convenient Transportation Easily reach popular destinations without the hassle of driving and parking.
Nostalgic Charm Experience the romance and nostalgia of San Francisco’s iconic cable cars.

Visit “The Rock”

A visit to Alcatraz Island, home to the notorious Alcatraz prison, is a must for history buffs. The prison, which was in operation from the 1930s to the 1960s, housed some of America’s most dangerous criminals. Visitors can take a guided tour of the prison and learn about its history and the daring escape attempts that took place. The ferry to Alcatraz departs from Pier 33, and advance reservations are recommended.

See the Sea Lions

Fisherman’s Wharf is a popular tourist destination in San Francisco, known for its lively atmosphere and waterfront attractions. One of the main attractions at Fisherman’s Wharf is Pier 39, where a community of California sea lions has taken up residence. Visitors can watch the sea lions play and sunbathe on the docks, creating a unique and entertaining experience.

Whether you’re strolling along the pier or enjoying a meal at one of the many seafood restaurants, the presence of these adorable sea lions adds an extra touch of charm to your visit to Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s fascinating to observe their behavior and interactions with each other, as well as their playful antics in the water.

sea lions in san francisco

If you’re lucky, you might even catch the sea lions barking and lounging around in their favorite spots. Their loud vocalizations and distinct aroma are distinctive characteristics of this unique marine mammal species.

For an even closer encounter, you can visit the Sea Lion Center located at Pier 39, where you can learn more about these fascinating creatures through interactive exhibits and educational programs. The center offers valuable insights into the sea lions’ biology, migration patterns, and the importance of protecting their natural habitats.

Sea Lion Facts:

  • California sea lions are highly social animals that form large colonies along the Pacific coast.
  • Adult male sea lions can weigh up to 800 pounds and grow to a length of 7 feet, while females generally weigh around 250 pounds.
  • Sea lions have an average lifespan of 25-30 years in the wild.
  • These marine mammals are excellent swimmers and can reach speeds of up to 25 miles per hour in the water.
  • Sea lions have long been frequent visitors to Pier 39, with the first arrival recorded in 1989.

So, when you’re exploring Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, be sure to include a visit to Pier 39 to witness the charming sea lions in action. It’s an experience that truly captures the essence of the city’s unique wildlife and adds a touch of natural wonder to your trip.

Have a Picnic in a Park

San Francisco is a city blessed with stunning parks that provide the perfect setting for a leisurely picnic. Two parks that stand out are Dolores Park and Golden Gate Park.

Dolores Park

Dolores Park, located in the vibrant Mission District, is a local favorite and a gathering place for both residents and tourists. With its expansive grassy areas and breathtaking views of the city skyline, Dolores Park offers a picturesque spot for a picnic. Whether you’re lounging on a blanket or sitting at one of the park’s many picnic tables, you’ll have plenty of space to enjoy your meal and soak up the sun. Don’t forget to bring your frisbee or a book to fully embrace the park’s relaxed atmosphere.

Golden Gate Park

Stretching over 1,000 acres, Golden Gate Park is an oasis in the heart of San Francisco. This iconic park offers numerous picnic spots amidst its lush greenery and notable attractions. Consider having your picnic near the stunning Conservatory of Flowers or the tranquil Japanese Tea Garden. If you’re interested in learning while you eat, the de Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences are perfect places to enjoy a meal and take in the beauty of the surrounding nature. Golden Gate Park’s vast size ensures that even on a crowded day, you’ll still find a peaceful spot to have your picnic.

With San Francisco’s mild climate, picnicking in the city’s parks is a year-round possibility. Whether you choose Dolores Park or Golden Gate Park, you’re guaranteed a memorable picnic experience in the heart of this beautiful city.

Benefits of Picnicking in a Park

Picnicking in a park offers numerous benefits, including:

  • Connecting with nature and enjoying the fresh air
  • Relaxing and unwinding in a peaceful setting
  • Bonding with family and friends over a shared meal
  • Opportunity for outdoor activities, such as playing games or taking a leisurely stroll
  • Appreciating the beauty of San Francisco’s parks and their unique features

So gather your favorite snacks, pack a cozy blanket, and head to one of San Francisco’s picturesque parks for a delightful picnic experience.

Go To An Outdoor Festival

San Francisco hosts numerous outdoor festivals throughout the year, offering a variety of entertainment options for all ages. These festivals provide a chance to enjoy live performances, indulge in delicious food, and immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of the city. Whether you’re a music lover or a food enthusiast, there’s an outdoor festival in San Francisco that’s perfect for you.

Yerba Buena Gardens Festival

The Yerba Buena Gardens Festival is a delightful summer event that takes place in the heart of the city. It features a wide range of activities, including live music performances, dance showcases, art exhibitions, and outdoor film screenings. The festival also offers an array of dining options, from food trucks to pop-up restaurants, allowing visitors to indulge in a variety of cuisines. With its vibrant atmosphere and stunning setting, the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival is a must-visit for locals and tourists alike.

Stern Grove Festival

The Stern Grove Festival is a beloved San Francisco tradition that has been captivating audiences since 1938. This free outdoor music festival takes place in the beautiful Stern Grove, nestled among towering eucalyptus trees. The festival showcases a diverse range of musical performances, including jazz, classical, and world music. Pack a picnic and enjoy an afternoon of music in this picturesque setting. The Stern Grove Festival is a highlight of the summer season and attracts music lovers from all over the city.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival

The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival is a highly anticipated event that takes place every October in Golden Gate Park. This free festival is dedicated to celebrating bluegrass and American folk music, but also features a wide range of genres, including rock, country, and blues. The lineup includes both established artists and rising stars, making it a must-see event for music enthusiasts. Pack a blanket, grab some friends, and enjoy a weekend of incredible live music in the heart of San Francisco.

Festival Date Location Genre
Yerba Buena Gardens Festival Summer months Yerba Buena Gardens Various
Stern Grove Festival Summer months Stern Grove Various
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival October Golden Gate Park Bluegrass

Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of San Francisco’s outdoor festivals. Whether you’re dancing to live music, enjoying a picnic in the park, or exploring the diverse culinary scene, these festivals offer a fantastic way to experience the city’s culture and community spirit.

Go On A Walking Tour

Exploring San Francisco on foot is a great way to experience the city’s vibrant neighborhoods and iconic landmarks. Whether you’re a history buff, a food enthusiast, or a fan of ghost stories, there’s a walking tour for you in San Francisco. These guided tours offer fascinating insights, stories, and local knowledge about the city’s history, culture, and hidden gems.

If you’re a foodie, join a food crawl tour and indulge in a culinary adventure, sampling the diverse flavors of San Francisco. From Chinatown to the Mission District, you’ll discover the city’s unique gastronomic scene.

For those interested in history and architecture, take a neighborhood tour and explore the iconic Victorian houses of Alamo Square or the colorful Latino murals of the Mission District. Learn about the city’s rich heritage and its role in shaping American history.

If you’re feeling adventurous and love a good scare, a haunted ghost tour is the perfect choice. Explore the spooky side of San Francisco as you visit haunted locations and listen to chilling tales of ghosts and paranormal activity.

Joining a walking tour not only allows you to see the city’s highlights but also gives you the opportunity to interact with knowledgeable guides and fellow visitors, creating a memorable and enjoyable experience.

Why Go on a Walking Tour?

Walking tours provide a unique perspective on San Francisco. Here are some reasons why you should consider going on a walking tour:

  • Immerse yourself in the local culture and vibe of the city.
  • Discover hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path attractions.
  • Learn interesting facts and stories from knowledgeable guides.
  • Get insider tips on the best places to eat, drink, and explore in the city.
  • Enjoy the flexibility of exploring at your own pace.

A walking tour is not only a great way to see the sights but also an opportunity to connect with the city and its people.

So, lace up your walking shoes, grab a map, and embark on a guided tour of San Francisco. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, a walking tour will enhance your experience and leave you with lasting memories of this beautiful city.

Types of Walking Tours in San Francisco

Tour Type Description
Food Crawl Tour Explore the city’s culinary scene and sample a variety of dishes from different cultures.
Neighborhood Tour Discover the history, culture, and unique architecture of San Francisco’s diverse neighborhoods.
Haunted Ghost Tour Get spooked as you explore haunted locations and hear chilling ghost stories.

See A Show

San Francisco is renowned for its thriving music and performing arts scene. The city boasts a variety of music venues and performance spaces that showcase the best talent from around the world. Whether you’re a fan of live music, theatre, or dance, San Francisco offers a vibrant cultural scene that is sure to impress.

One of the most legendary music venues in San Francisco is The Fillmore. Known for its rich history and intimate setting, The Fillmore has hosted iconic musicians spanning various genres. From The Grateful Dead to Aretha Franklin, this venue has seen it all. Attending a concert at The Fillmore is an unforgettable experience, allowing you to soak in the city’s musical heritage.

Another notable music venue is The Warfield Theater. Located in the heart of San Francisco, it has welcomed countless world-class performers. The Warfield Theater is known for its stunning architecture and excellent acoustics, ensuring a memorable night of entertainment.

For those looking for a more intimate setting, The Masonic is the perfect choice. This historic venue hosts a diverse range of concerts and shows, with a seating capacity of around 3,000. The Masonic offers an up-close and personal experience, allowing you to connect with the performers on a deeper level.

In addition to these iconic venues, San Francisco is home to a multitude of performing arts companies and smaller theaters. These venues showcase a wide range of theatrical performances, including plays, musicals, and dance shows. Whether you’re a fan of classic or contemporary productions, there is something to suit every taste.

Attending a show in San Francisco is not only a way to enjoy top-notch entertainment, but it also provides a glimpse into the city’s vibrant cultural scene. Immerse yourself in the creativity and talent that San Francisco has to offer, and you’ll leave with memories that will last a lifetime.

performing arts in san francisco

Experience Illuminate SF

Experience the magic of light art in San Francisco at the Illuminate SF festival. This spectacular event showcases over 60 installations throughout the city, transforming buildings, sidewalks, and even cars into mesmerizing works of art.

From the day after Thanksgiving through January, visitors have the unique opportunity to explore San Francisco in a whole new light, quite literally. The festival features a diverse range of light art displays that captivate and inspire.

Discover these stunning installations as you stroll through the streets of San Francisco. Marvel at the creativity and innovation that goes into each piece of light art, and take in the breathtaking visuals that illuminate the city.

Highlights of Illuminate SF Festival Location
1. “Lunar Cycles” Union Square
2. “Liquid Fire” Embarcadero Waterfront
3. “Illuminated Forest” Golden Gate Park
4. “Harmony of Light” Chinatown
5. “Glowing Waves” Ocean Beach

These are just a few examples of the extraordinary light art displays you’ll encounter at the Illuminate SF festival. Each installation tells its own unique story, creating a captivating and immersive experience for visitors.

Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to witness the intersection of art and technology come to life. Illuminate SF is a must-see event for art enthusiasts, families, and anyone seeking a one-of-a-kind experience.

Visit the Historic Presidio

If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the history, natural beauty, and art of San Francisco, a visit to the historic Presidio is a must. Once a former military base, the Presidio has been transformed into a national park that offers a diverse range of attractions and activities for visitors to enjoy. Whether you’re interested in exploring the Walt Disney Family Museum or taking a leisurely stroll through the picturesque outdoor spaces, the Presidio has something for everyone.

Discover the Walt Disney Family Museum

The Walt Disney Family Museum is a fascinating tribute to the life and work of one of the most iconic figures in the entertainment industry. As you explore the museum’s exhibits, you’ll gain insight into Walt Disney’s vision, creative process, and the legacy he left behind. From early drawings and animations to the creation of Disneyland and beyond, the museum offers a captivating journey through the world of Disney.

Experience the Outdoor Spaces

While visiting the Presidio, be sure to take advantage of the outdoor spaces and playgrounds at The Tunnel Tops. These beautifully landscaped areas provide a tranquil escape from the bustling city, offering stunning views of the surrounding nature and golden gate bridge. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful picnic spot or a place to let the kids run and play, the outdoor spaces at the Presidio are the perfect setting.

Explore the Presidio and immerse yourself in its rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and captivating art. It’s a destination that truly encompasses the essence of San Francisco.

Presidio National Park Highlights

Attractions Descriptions
Walt Disney Family Museum A museum dedicated to the life and work of Walt Disney, showcasing his incredible creativity and impact on popular culture.
The Tunnel Tops Beautifully landscaped outdoor spaces and playgrounds with stunning views, perfect for picnics and family fun.


San Francisco offers an incredible array of attractions and experiences for every visitor. From the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge and the intriguing Alcatraz prison, to the vibrant neighborhoods and outdoor festivals, this diverse city has something for everyone. Whether you’re fascinated by history, captivated by cultural experiences, a food lover, or a nature enthusiast, San Francisco has it all.

Make the most of your time in San Francisco by planning your visit carefully. Start your adventure by walking across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and taking in the breathtaking views of the city and the bay. Immerse yourself in the charm of the city by riding a historic cable car. Explore the infamous Alcatraz Island and learn about its captivating history. Visit Fisherman’s Wharf and witness the playful antics of the enchanting sea lions.

San Francisco’s stunning parks, including Dolores Park and Golden Gate Park, offer picturesque spots for a leisurely picnic. Immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant culture by attending outdoor festivals such as the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival and the Stern Grove Festival. Experience San Francisco’s unique charm and uncover its hidden gems with a guided walking tour. Catch a show at one of the city’s legendary music venues or indulge in the city’s thriving performing arts scene.

Don’t miss the opportunity to witness the magical Illuminate SF festival, where light art installations illuminate the city. Discover the rich history, natural beauty, and art and cultural attractions of the historic Presidio. With so much to see and do in San Francisco, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable experience. Plan your visit to this incredible destination and create memories that will last a lifetime.


What are some popular attractions in San Francisco?

Some popular attractions in San Francisco include the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the parks like Dolores Park and Golden Gate Park.

How can I cross the Golden Gate Bridge?

The Golden Gate Bridge can be crossed by walking or biking across it. There is a designated pedestrian walkway on the east side of the bridge.

How much does it cost to ride a cable car in San Francisco?

The cost of riding a cable car in San Francisco is for a one-way trip. You can purchase tickets on board the cable car or at ticket kiosks located at various stops.

How do I visit Alcatraz Island?

To visit Alcatraz Island, you need to take a ferry from Pier 33. It is recommended to make advance reservations as tickets can sell out quickly, especially during peak tourist seasons.

Where can I see sea lions in San Francisco?

You can see sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf, specifically at Pier 39. There is a community of California sea lions that have taken up residence there.

Which parks in San Francisco are suitable for picnics?

Dolores Park and Golden Gate Park are popular parks in San Francisco that are suitable for picnics. They offer expansive grassy areas and scenic views.

What outdoor festivals are held in San Francisco?

San Francisco hosts numerous outdoor festivals, such as the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, Stern Grove Festival, and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in Golden Gate Park.

Are there any guided walking tours available in San Francisco?

Yes, there are guided walking tours available in San Francisco. These tours provide insights into the city’s history, culture, and hidden gems. Options include food crawls, neighborhood tours, and haunted ghost tours.

Where can I enjoy live music or theatrical performances in San Francisco?

San Francisco has several music venues like The Fillmore and The Warfield Theater, as well as performing arts companies and intimate venues that offer a range of theatrical performances.

What is Illuminate SF?

Illuminate SF is an ongoing festival of light art that showcases over 60 installations throughout San Francisco. These light art displays can be found on buildings, sidewalks, restaurants, and more.

What can I do at the Presidio?

The Presidio, a former military base turned national park, offers stunning natural beauty, art and cultural attractions, and recreational activities. You can explore the Walt Disney Family Museum or enjoy the outdoor spaces and playgrounds at The Tunnel Tops.