Golden Gate Bridge Daylight - San Francisco, California, USA

20 Must-Do Experiences in San Francisco for Travelers

Discover the best things to do during your visit to San Francisco, from iconic landmarks and culinary delights to captivating views. You won’t want to miss this insider’s guide!

Most of these places mentioned below are FREE to visit. Just within the city, you will have tons of activities to do. Are you ready to explore The City by the Bay?

Whether you’re a foodie, love culture, historic, or a nature lover, you’ll find amazing things to do in this eclectic city. From iconic landmarks to hidden gems, San Francisco will leave you breathless. So, grab a map, hop on a cable car, and get ready to explore!

Here are 20 must-do things in San Francisco that will make your trip unforgettable.

1. Golden Gate Bridge

This Iconic Bridge is not only a masterpiece of engineering but also a symbol of San Francisco and one of the most impressive bridges in the world.

Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge is a must-do activity for any tourist visiting San Francisco. The bridge has a pedestrian walkway on the east side that lets visitors walk across the iconic span from one end to the other.

From the bridge, you will see spectacular views of the city, bay, and ocean. If you want to go on a bike I recommend renting a bike near the Embarcadero or Pier 39 and going from there. There are a lot of rental bikes nearby! Don’t forget to capture some Instagram-worthy shots, especially at sunrise or sunset!

Here are some Fun Facts:

  • Did you know that it weighs a whopping 887,000 tons? And can withstand winds of up to 100 mph? That’s one sturdy bridge! 
  • When it was completed in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world – and it held that title for nearly 30 years. Nowadays, it’s still a top tourist destination, attracting millions of visitors each year who come to stroll or cycle along its pedestrian walkway. 
  • The bridge’s color is officially known as “International Orange.” It was chosen because it complemented the natural surroundings of the bridge and could be seen easily through the infamous San Francisco fog. 

2. Fisherman’s Wharf

Visit this historic area for shopping, sightseeing, and delicious seafood. Take a tour of the famous San Francisco Bay and see the sea lions sunbathing on Pier 39.

This bustling waterfront area is a paradise for seafood lovers. Sample classic San Francisco dishes such as clam chowder in a bread bowl or sourdough bread, and Dungeness crab legs while enjoying the colorful street performers and sea lions basking in the sun.

There are plenty of activities around the area that make it a great place to explore. From the beautiful landscapes to the incredible culture, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. And with convenient transportation options and accommodations, it’s easy to get around and find your way back home.

3. Pier 39

Address: The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94133

Located on the waterfront, it features restaurants, gift shops, street performers, and some of the best views of the bay.

The pier is also home to a colony of sea lions who have become a popular attraction. Visitors can watch them play in the waters below and hear their loud calls echoing across the pier.

There are plenty of shops to explore, from souvenir stores to upscale boutiques, as well as interactive attractions for the whole family. Whether you’re looking for a day of sightseeing or just want to relax and take in some fresh air, Pier 39 is sure to provide an enjoyable experience.

4. Alcatraz Island

Address: San Francisco, CA 94133

An iconic tourist attraction that has a legendary history. This infamous island is home to the legendary Alcatraz prison, which held some of the most notorious criminals in American history.

What to do there? Take a ferry to the island, explore the prison cells, and learn about the fascinating stories of the prisoners and guards. You’ll feel like you’re stepping back in time.

Here are some Fun Facts:

5. Golden Gate Park

San Francisco’s Natural Treasure. This sprawling park is a green oasis situated in the heart of San Francisco that offers a refreshing escape from the urban jungle.

You can stroll through the Japanese tea garden, the garden features stunning exhibits of traditional Japanese architecture, including a pagoda, a zen garden, and a koi pond, visit the de Young Museum, which houses an impressive collection of American art from the 17th through the 21st centuries, and the California Academy of Sciences which is home to a unique aquarium, a natural history museum, and a planetarium, or just have a picnic near the lake.

For sports enthusiasts, Golden Gate Park has an array of wide-open sports fields, bike trails, and hiking paths. The park’s most notable feature is the Polo Field, which hosts a variety of sporting events and cultural festivals throughout the year.

If you’re looking for a place to escape from the urban hustle and bustle or to spend a relaxing and rejuvenating day in nature, Golden Gate Park is the perfect destination. So, Just head along to Golden Gate Park!

6. Yerba Buena Gardens

Address: 750 Howard St, San Francisco, CA 94103

This garden is a great place to relax and explore. From landscaped gardens to interactive playgrounds, it’s a perfect spot for children or adults looking for a quiet escape from the city buzz. It is located on Mission Street a block from Market Street. Perfect place whenever you want to get away a little bit to get some fresh air or green area within the city!

The garden also hosts festivals throughout the year, so be sure to check out the calendar for upcoming events.

If you’re feeling hungry or thirsty, Yerba Buena Gardens has got you covered. The park is surrounded by some of the best cafes, restaurants, and bars in San Francisco, offering everything from artisanal coffee to locally sourced cuisine. So, go and check it out!

7. Lombard Street

This twisty street is one of the most photographed spots in San Francisco and a popular tourist attraction.

Buckle up and get ready for the ride of your life because this 600 ft. stretch of Lombard Street consists of eight sharp hairpin turns with a gradient of 27%. It’s like a rollercoaster for cars, and only the bravest drivers dare to navigate its twists and turns. 

Take pictures from the top, or just walk up the hill to see it from the bottom – you won’t forget this iconic view!

Fun fact time!

  • Lombard Street was created way back in 1922 to reduce the gradient of the road and make it accessible for cars.
  • The architects and engineers behind this famous landmark knew how to think outside the box and make something ordinary into something extraordinary.

Every year, over two million people flock to witness this picturesque street in all its glory. 

8. Twin Peaks

One of the most iconic landmarks in the San Francisco skyline is the Sutro Tower antenna towering over the Twin Peaks neighborhood, serving as a beacon for the entire Bay Area. 

It is crowned by a duo of majestic peaks standing tall at 922 feet-high. The neighborhood, complete with its modern homes, winding streets, and steep lots, reflects the perfect balance of urban living amidst nature’s grandeur.

With its scenic surroundings, modern architecture, and vibrant community, it’s no wonder why so many people choose to call this place home.

Overall, Twin Peaks is a charming neighborhood with a rich history and a promising future.

9. The Painted Ladies

If you like architecture type of things this is a place you must stop by!

The city by the bay is home to some of the most stunning examples of painted ladies and is not only a beloved part of the city’s architecture but also a symbol of the bohemian spirit of the 1960s.

These gorgeous Victorian and Edwardian houses have been transformed into unique works of art.

So what makes these houses so special? Well, each one is a unique masterpiece. With their bold, bright color schemes, they’re impossible to miss.

The Painted Ladies aren’t limited to just one street. The city is dotted with colorful houses, each one more beautiful than the last. So next time you’re in San Francisco, take a stroll through some of the city’s many neighborhoods and see if you can spot all the painted ladies.

10. Ferry Building

Address1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94105

Let me tell you, this iconic spot is not just any old terminal transportation hub with ferries departing to destinations all around the Bay. – it’s a foodie heaven, an office hub, and a gateway to adventure on the San Francisco Bay!

The Ferry Building is like a gourmet food court, there are different vendors selling everything from artisan cheeses to fresh oysters to delectable chocolates.

So there you have it – If you haven’t visited yet, you’re missing out on one more of the coolest spots in the city. Go check it out!

11. Lands End Lookout

Address680 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

Personally, Lands End is the coolest spot in San Francisco! It is located at the mouth of the Golden Gate, right between the Sutro District and Lincoln Park. (One of my first years Living in San Francisco I didn’t even know about this place and I can’t believe how close I used to live to one of the most amazing places in San Francisco).

First off, the views are insane. If you go you know what I am talking about! You’ll be treated to a rocky coastline with windswept cypress trees, all with the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean stretching out as far as the eye can see. It’s like something out of a dream!

But it is not just that Lands End is more than just a beautiful view if you love history the Fort Miley Military Reservation is right next door, and you can even visit a memorial to the USS San Francisco within the park. Plus, there are tons of hiking trails to explore, including the Lands End Trail which takes you through scenic forests and provides some seriously impressive lookout points.

There used to be the legendary labyrinth but unfortunately keeps getting destroyed by vandalism. Now it has a heart made of stones but you should go and check it out and take the awesome view along the bay!

So, whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff, or just looking for some seriously cool vibes, Lands End is the spot for you. Don’t miss this gem!

12. Sutro Baths

Address1004 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

This historical landmark is located in the Outer Richmond District, right next to the majestic Ocean Beach, it was the perfect spot to catch some rays while enjoying the water.

The Sutro Baths weren’t just any old public swimming pool! It was a massive complex that boasted seven different saltwater pools, including one that was heated to a balmy 70 degrees.

What set the Sutro Baths apart was its stunning architecture and engineering. The entire place was built into the cliffs, with huge glass windows overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Can you imagine taking a leisurely dip while gazing out at the sunset? Oh lord…

Unfortunately, the Sutro Baths eventually closed in 1966 when it was destroyed by a fire. But even though it’s long gone, it still holds a special place in the hearts of San Franciscans. But the ruins of this one-of-a-kind attraction are still standing and open to the public.

13. Conservatory of Flowers

Address100 John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118

If you are a plant lover this place to visit, the Conservatory is a must-see. It’s literally the oldest building in Golden Gate Park, surviving through earthquakes, fires, and all sorts of natural disasters. It’s like a living time capsule, with stories and secrets to share.

But it’s not just any old greenhouse. The Conservatory houses a freakin’ collection of rare and exotic plants that’ll make any green thumb swoon. From carnivorous Nepenthes to vibrant orchids, you’ll find some of the most beautiful and unique specimens here!

14. Coit Tower

Address1 Telegraph Hill Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94133

Coit Tower is quite the towering presence in the vibrant cityscape of San Francisco. This 210-foot structure has been a staple of the Telegraph Hill neighborhood since its inception in the early 1930s.

You can take a ride up the elevator (or sweat it out and climb the stairs, if that’s more your style), and be transported to a magical world of vibrant murals – 27 to be exact – that depict scenes from California’s history and industries.

Overall, a visit to Coit Tower is a must for anyone exploring the beautiful city of San Francisco. With its stunning views and fascinating historical significance, it’s a tower that has become a true icon of the Golden Gate City.

15. Palace of Fine Arts

Address3601 Lyon St, San Francisco, CA 94123

This famous monumental structure will leave you speechless! It has appeared in several movie shots. From the moment you catch your first glimpse of this incredible building, you will be filled with awe and admiration!

It’s a place of stunning beauty and peacefulness where you can relax and unwind. The lovely lagoon outside the palace, complete with swans and ducks, will have you feeling like you’re in a fairy tale.

But don’t just take my word for it. Go ahead and experience it for yourself. Take some time to admire its beauty from different angles – it’s truly breathtaking! Whether you are visiting for the day or just passing through.

16. Mission Dolores Park

AddressDolores St &, 19th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Dolores Park is a beautiful urban park located in The Mission District of San Francisco. It’s a great place to spend the day enjoying the gorgeous views and recreational activities.

The Park offers plenty of areas to relax on the grass, enough trees to provide shade have a picnic with your family and friends. The park offers spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline as well as beautiful wildflowers in bloom during certain times of the year.

If you’re looking to spend a lazy afternoon, Dolores Park has plenty for you making it a great spot to enjoy!

Also, the park is full of interesting history and culture. It has been home to many festivals, protests, and gatherings over the years. Whether you’re looking for a place to relax or have an exciting day out with friends and family, Dolores Park is the perfect place!

There are plenty of restaurants and stores nearby to enjoy after your afternoon. From hot dogs to bakeries, you’ll find something for everyone.

For those looking for more physical activity, the park offers plenty of options. From running trails to soccer and basketball courts, there’s something for everyone. There are also two playgrounds and a number of other activities for kids of all ages.

It’s always been an ideal spot to take some time out and relax – in recent years, it’s become even more popular!

17. Baker Beach


Baker Beach is a stunning beach!. It offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Baker Beach, San Francisco California

Baker Beach has been an important part of San Francisco’s history since its establishment as a military post in 1853.

Today, it is popular among locals and visitors alike for its picturesque scenery and numerous recreational activities such as swimming and surfing.

Baker Beach is also home to a number of unique wildlife, including harbor seals, seagulls, and the occasional bald eagle. No matter what time of year you visit, you will be sure to find something new and exciting at Baker Beach. Whether it’s a day spent lounging in the sun or an evening stroll along the shoreline.

18. San Francisco Cable Car Museum

Address: 1201 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108

San Francisco Cable Car Museum is a great place to explore the history and evolution of this famous transportation system.

San Francisco Cable Car Museum

Established in 1974, this unique museum showcases artifacts, photographs, maps, and more from the San Francisco cable car system including its three lines – Powell-Hyde, Powell-Mason, and California Street.

Visitors can learn about the development of the cable car system as well as view models of the cable cars, rolling stock, and other related diversions.

For those who are fans of transportation history, the museum offers a variety of guided tours exploring the various components of both the cable car system and other transit networks throughout metropolitan San Francisco.

19. Chinatown

This vibrant neighborhood is the largest Chinatown outside Asia and offers a glimpse into another culture.

You can wander through the narrow alleys filled with colorful shops, eat dim sum or bubble tea, or visit the fortune cookie factory. It’s a busy and lively place, especially during Lunar New Year.

Looking for authentic Chinese cuisine? Look no further! Chinatown has some of the best and most delicious Chinese restaurants in the city. Take your taste buds on a journey as you indulge in dim sum (shiu mai my favorite!), fortune cookies, dumplings, and more. If you haven’t tried this food trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Not only is Chinatown a foodie’s paradise, but it’s also a shopper’s heaven. Take a stroll through Grant Avenue and Stockton Street, where you’ll find an array of stores selling traditional Chinese goods, souvenirs, and trinkets.

You can even buy a year’s worth of lucky charms and feng shui items to bring good luck to your home!

As you walk through the bustling streets of Chinatown, you’ll be transported to a world of vibrant colors and intriguing traditions. Whether you’re a tourist or a local, make sure to add Chinatown to your list of must-visit places in San Francisco.

20. Union Square

The Union Square of San Francisco is a great place to visit. It is full of lively people, interesting shops, entertainment opportunities, and delicious restaurants.

The square is not only a haven for shopaholics, but also a cultural hotspot, housing art galleries, and theaters. It serves as an iconic gathering place for locals and tourists alike, emblematic of the city’s energetic and diverse spirit.

At the intersection of Powell and Market streets, one can find the manual cable car turnaround, a singular landmark unique to San Francisco that provides locals and visitors with an opportunity to experience authentic cable car travel.

A stroll through this vibrant area is sure to be an unforgettable experience. From its lively atmosphere and abundance of attractions to its historical significance and delicious eats, Union Square is a must-visit destination.

Conclusion

San Francisco is a city of wonders and surprises. You can never run out of things to do or places to explore.

From the iconic Golden Gate Bridge to the hidden alleys of Chinatown. San Francisco embodies the diversity, creativity, and resilience of America. So, pack your bags, put on some flowers in your hair, and let San Francisco welcome you with open arms. You won’t regret it!

These are just some of the many attractions in San Francisco. With so much to see and do, you’ll be sure to find something that suits your interests. Have fun exploring!

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