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What to Do in San Francisco at Night

Updated: November 23, 2023
 By Britt

This post offers suggestions for the best things to do at night in San Francisco, including a top 20 list, night tours, dinner cruises, late-night museums, rooftop bars, and more.

A lot of travelers worry that there won't be a lot to do after dark in the Bay Area, but our local tour guides have a different opinion, and we've compiled some of their favorite nightlife spots below.

Disclosure: While our recommendations are always unbiased, we may receive a small share of sales through some of the links below at no cost to you. See the full text.

TOP 20 THINGS TO DO IN SAN FRANCISCO AT NIGHT

Below are our top 20 things to do in the evening in San Francisco.

Free Tours By Foot has provided thousands of walking tours here in San Francisco, and our guides have a lot of great advice for some of the best activities to enjoy in the Bay Area after dark.

For even more ideas on spending time in the city, check out our master post on things to do in SF or read the other sections of this post.

We'll also include a selection of tips and advice from both locals and travelers who have been to San Francisco.


1. TAKE AN ALCATRAZ NIGHT TOUR

Alcatraz is one of the most popular attractions in San Francisco, but not that many people know that you can actually visit it at night!

Evening tours depart twice daily: 5:55 pm & 6:30 pm, Monday-Thursday.

In addition to offering guided tours from specially trained National Park Rangers, Alcatraz also hoses talks and lectures in the evenings.

Learn more about visiting Alcatraz at night.

Tip: The Alcatraz Night Tours tend to sell out in advance due to their limited availability, so be sure to book your spot in advance!


2. GO SEE A BROADWAY SHOW IN THE THEATER DISTRICT

Though Broadway might be more well known, San Francisco's Theater District offers a wide variety of award-winning shows such as Hamilton, An American in Paris, Book of Mormon, Fun Home, and much more.

If musicals aren't your thing, there are several dance and opera performances to choose from as well.

View a full list of performance art events in San Francisco.

Many nice restaurants and bars are also found in this neighborhood, so be sure to allow time for a quick bite to eat before or after the show!


3. ENJOY A DINNER CRUISE

One of the best ways to spend an evening in San Francisco is to take a dinner cruise around the Bay.

Check out our full post comparing all of the San Francisco Bay cruises to learn more!

Hornblower Cruises offers a 4-course dinner cruise that is very popular with many visitors to the city (read the reviews).

The cruise departs from Pier 3, which is near Market Street.


4. SEE THE BAY LIGHTS ON THE BAY BRIDGE

The Bay Bridge is one of the most iconic sites in San Francisco and there's no prettier time to visit it than at night!

There is a spectacular light show every night from dusk until dawn.

Leo Villareal, one of the most well-respected light artists designed and orchestrated The Bay Lights.

We have 50 more ideas for free things to do in San Francisco for you to discover, many of which can be enjoyed in the evening.


5. ENJOY LIVE MUSIC

From small venues to large arenas, a world-class city like San Francisco has lots of options for those who need to rock it out.

There are too many to list here, so be sure to see this full list of performances taking place in town.

Some of the more popular venues include:


6. HAVE A NIGHT ON THE TOWN IN NORTH BEACH

There are many fun bars and clubs in North Beach for those who would prefer to check out San Francisco's nightlife.

Some of the most popular watering holes include Church Key, Red Jack Saloon, and the Boardroom.

Views of the Bay are fantastic in this area so be sure to allow time to stroll along the waterfront!

We also visit this popular neighborhood on our North Beach/Little Italy tour!


7. CELEBRATE SF'S AMAZING CULINARY HISTORY

San Francisco is known worldwide for its high quality and vast variety of cuisines.

During your visit to the Bay, you have the opportunity to visit some of the best ethnic and international food in the world.

Some of the most popular cuisines that every foodie should try are Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and Mexican.

Learn more about the best international dishes in San Francisco in our full post here.

If you'd like to know more about the history of some of these neighborhoods, join us on our North Beach/Little Italy Tour or Chinatown Tour.


8. CHECK OUT A SPORTING EVENT

Regardless of which team you support, it's always fun to go to a baseball game. AT&T Park is an impressive stadium that offers beautiful views of the Bay.

Click here for ticket information.

See our full post on how to get tickets to a Giant's game here. Or, consider tickets to see the A's baseball team in Oakland.

Of course, there are also NBA basketball games with the Warriors or you can catch a Sharks NHL hockey game in San Jose.


9. EXPLORE CHINATOWN

Chinatown is a great neighborhood to visit at night and in the day.

We offer a daytime tour of Chinatown for those who would prefer to visit then, but it's also a fun area to explore after dark.

As we noted above, San Francisco has some of the best Chinese food in the country, so it's a fantastic place to visit for dinner.

It's also fun to just wander through the colorful streets and do a bit of shopping.


10. VISIT THE EXPLORATORIUM AFTER DARK

The Exploratorium After Dark is often rated as one of the best things that you can do in San Francisco at night.

The popular science museum opens its doors on the first Thursday of every month to adults only from 6 pm to 10 pm.

Enjoy a drink while you explore their pitch-black dome to a fog bridge, a large-scale kaleidoscope, dazzling light displays, mind-bending mirrors, and more!

Tickets to the Exploratorium are included for free with more than one San Francisco tourist attraction discount pass, allowing you to save some money on admission.


11. RIDE THE CABLE CAR AT NIGHT

Riding a cable car in San Francisco is an iconic activity, but taking a ride after sunset offers a special experience. The city lights twinkle like far-off stars, making every hill and curve a small spectacle. 

Streets that buzz during the day have a different rhythm at night. As you traverse the slopes, you might find the evening chill adds a touch of magic to your ride.

you can enjoy a hot coffee or cocoa at nearby cafes to warm up before or after your nighttime ride.


12. GO TO A LATE-NIGHT MOVIE

Seeing a film late at night is a choice way to unwind in the city. The big screen illuminates darkened theatres as audiences settle in for a cinematic adventure. 

A row of seats in a movie theater. Image source: Pixabay user Tim Pritchard.
A row of seats in a movie theater. Image source: Pixabay user Tim Pritchard.

It's a time when niche films and cult classics often make an appearance, offering viewers a break from the mainstream. Watching a movie in this context often feels like a shared secret, as the world outside sleeps on.

You can enjoy artisanal popcorn and ice cream that some theatres offer. It's like a mini-feast for the senses in an intimate setting.


13. SAN FRANCISCO GHOST HUNT

For those interested in the mysterious, a ghost tour provides a fascinating twist on urban exploration. Guides lead you through places known for paranormal activity, telling tales that blend history with the unexplained. 

You'll find that as the darkness settles, your senses heighten. More than just a tour, it's an encounter meant to pique your insatiable curiosity about the unknown.

This kind of outing gains an extra layer of mystique on a foggy San Francisco night when the mist seems to amplify every sound and shadow. 


14. SEE A SHOW AT THE OASIS

Oasis is not just a venue; it’s a stage where imagination comes to life through drag shows, cabarets, and live performances. The atmosphere hums with the excitement of the audience, all eyes focused on the stage. 

Each performer adds something unique to the evening, making it a collage of talents. You'll leave with a new appreciation for the art of live performance.

Also, the venue has a full bar, allowing you to enjoy craft cocktails designed to match the vitality of the show.


15. GO TO A COMEDY SHOW

If laughter is the best medicine, a comedy show in San Francisco can be quite therapeutic. The city offers a wealth of options for those looking to chuckle, from well-known comedy houses to smaller, intimate venues. 

The material ranges from political satire to everyday observations, and there's usually something for everyone. More than just a source of amusement, a comedy act serves as a window into San Francisco's distinctive culture.

Comedy venues also serve delicious finger foods and craft beers, allowing you to munch and sip as you laugh the night away.


16. GO SKATING AT THE CHURCH OF 8 WHEELS OR THE FERRY BUILDING

If you have a love for skating, San Francisco provides two unique venues: The Church of 8 Wheels and the Ferry Building. Both locations bring their vibe to the skating experience. 

The Church of 8 Wheels combines spirituality with spins, offering a truly unique atmosphere. At the Ferry Building, you can glide across the smooth surface with views of the Bay as your backdrop. 

Don't forget to grab a smoothie or a cold drink from nearby vendors, making your skating adventure even more refreshing.


17. GRAB A BITE FROM A FOOD TRUCK AT OFF THE GRID

Off the Grid is where food and community come together in an open-air market setting. You can find an array of food trucks offering everything from gourmet burgers to international dishes. 

As you walk through the market, the aroma of grilled meats and spices fills the air. It's a great place to sample a variety of foods while enjoying the casual atmosphere. 

Many of the food trucks even offer vegan and gluten-free options, so everyone can find something delicious to enjoy.


18. SEE GHIRARDELLI SQUARE AFTER DARK

Ghirardelli Square, known for its delicious chocolate factory, offers a completely different vibe when visited after the sun goes down. The lights from the shops cast a warm glow, inviting passersby to explore further. 

Besides the legendary chocolates, you'll find boutique shops and eateries, making it an ideal spot for a leisurely evening stroll. 

Don't leave without savoring a world-famous Ghirardelli hot chocolate, which tastes even better as night descends on the city.


19. TAKE A SUNSET SEGWAY TOUR

For an unconventional tour experience, consider navigating San Francisco on a Segway as the sun sets. 

Rolling through the city on two wheels lets you cover more ground than walking, and the timing allows you to see landmarks as they are softly illuminated by the setting sun. 

For refreshments, many tours include short breaks where you can enjoy local snacks. 

It's an exciting, dynamic way to take in the city’s scenery while the sky paints itself in hues of orange and pink.


20. GO TO AN ESCAPE ROOM

Escape rooms are one of the most popular forms of group entertainment, and The Escape Game has five unique escape rooms.

You and your friends or family must work together to find clues and solve puzzles in a set amount of time.

If you succeed, you get the ‘keys’ to get out of the room. If you fail, well, they still let you out and you will have had a great experience!

Find out more about this great activity here.


MUSEUMS OPEN LATE 

Several different museums offer late-night entrance once a week.

Most are on Thursday or Friday nights and feature special lectures, performances, and music.

Food and drinks are also served at some of the museums.

Admission to a majority of these museums is included for free with multiple San Francisco tourist attraction discount passes, so you might not even have to pay full price!


California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences is a science museum and educational institution that offers late-night entrance every Thursday from 6-10 pm.

Fascinating talks on science, as well as entertaining live music performances, are featured. You must be 21 years or older to attend.

  • Hours - 6 pm - 10 pm on Thursdays
  • Cost - $15 per person

You can also visit the California Academy of Sciences for a discount, and even for free.


de Young Museum 

The premier fine art museum in San Francisco, de Young Museum is open late every Friday from 5:30-8:45 pm.

Admission is free, and food and drinks are served at the cafe bar. Enjoy the live museum, special talks, demonstrations, and dance performances.

  • Hours - 5:30-8:45pm on Fridays
  • Cost - FREE

Click here for ticket information.


Exploratorium 

The Exploratorium After Dark is a fun, adults-only night out that features interactive exhibits, live music, and a bar.

They do a fantastic job of really transforming the place after dark, so definitely don't hesitate to visit even if you've been before.

  • Hours - 6-10 pm on Thursdays
  • Cost - $15 per person, $10 for members

Click here for ticket information.


Asian Art Museum 

Every Thursday the Asian Art Museum keeps its doors open until 9 pm for special exhibitions, talks, and opportunities to meet the artists themselves.

There is a cash bar serving drinks, as well as a DJ playing music.

  • Hours - Thursday until 9m
  • Cost - $5 after 5pm

Other museums with late-night entry: 

  • Auto Desk Gallery
  • California Historical Society
  • Chinese Historical Society of America Museum
  • Contemporary Jewish Museum
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Museum of Craft and Design
  • Museum of the African Diaspora
  • Oakland Museum of California
  • Presidio Dialogues and Sessions
  • Tenderloin Museum
  • Yerba Buena Center

NIGHTLIFE 

The only downside to San Francisco's fantastic nightlife is the challenge of choosing where to go out!

There are several different neighborhoods that are worth visiting.

Some of our favorite places to grab a drink are in Union Square, Mission, North Beach, and SoMa.


RESTAURANTS AND ROOFTOP BARS 

San Francisco has several dozens of fantastic restaurants and bars, but nothing quite beats drinking cocktails on a rooftop with a beautiful view.

These are plenty of our favorite places to grab a drink outside.

El Techo de Lolinda - A Mexican bar that offers spicy cocktails made of mezcal, honey, lime, and chipotle bitters.

They have large umbrellas to shade you from the sun, as well as heating lamps to warm you up during the winter.

Their food is also excellent, so be sure to come hungry!

Dirty Habits - Located on the 5th floor of Hotel Zelos, this little cocktail bar is a real hidden gem.

The decor is simple yet elegant, featuring candles and string lights. Food and cocktails both come highly recommended by visitors.

Jones - Located in the heart of the Tenderloin, one of the trendiest neighborhoods in San Francisco, is this simple rooftop bar.

Though you won't be able to see the waterfront or Golden Gate Bridge from here due to the tall buildings surrounding it, Jones does allow you to enjoy watching the action happening on the streets below.


SIGHTSEEING TOURS AT NIGHT

There are 3 bus companies and 2 segway companies currently offering night tours of San Francisco.

Both bus tours are fairly similar in terms of the route they take and the neighborhoods they visit, but they differ slightly in regard to the duration and price.

You could also read our full blog post on San Francisco bus tours, including a section on night tours.


Skyline Sightseeing (formerly City Sightseeing)

A live guide narration of San Francisco's most beloved sights. The bus visits the Financial District, Chinatown, North Beach, Nob Hill, Alamo Square, and Embarcadero.

Reviews are extremely positive for this tour, with many praising both the driver and the guide.

Night Bus Tour

  • Cost - $43.99 | Adults and $34.99 | Child
  • Duration - 1.5 hours

Big Bus Tours

This open-top bus tour departs at Fisherman's Wharf and ends at Union Square.

Enjoy views of Grace Cathedral, Golden Gate Bridge, AT&T Park, Treasure Island, and many more sights.

Reviews are generally very positive. Many praise the guides for being funny and informative.


THE LOVE NIGHT TOUR

This 2-hour tour may be more expensive than the others, but it is sure to be an experience you won’t forget.

The tour bus is a 1970s Volkswagen Bus, decked out as it would have been in the era of hippies.

The tour is a very small group of just 6 guests so you’ll get to know one another as you get to know the city.

You will cover all the major sights of the city: Fisherman’s Wharf, Marina District, the Presidio, Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, Haight & Ashbury, the Castro District, Mission District, Chinatown, Little Italy, North Beach and more.

Best of all, because this is a small vehicle, you will get to drive down Lombard Street, the curviest street in the world!

Price: $85 per person. You must have a minimum of 2 people in your group but no more than 6.

Tours run every night at 7:30 pm. Purchase tickets here.


Night Segway Tours

Segway tours are another great way to explore the city at night!

San Francisco Electric Tour Company

  • Cost - $79
  • Duration - 2.5 hours
  • Visit North Beach, Chinatown, and Fisherman's Wharf.

SF Segway Night Tour


Lucky Tuk Tuk Craft Beer Crawls 

If you’re looking for a unique tour of the city, these outings are an interesting alternative to other San Francisco bus tours.

lucky-tuk-tuk-san-francisco-craft-beer-tasting-2160-1080

A Tuk Tuk is essentially a modified electric motorcycle that has been extended to provide seating for up to 5 people (on average). Think of it as a modern rickshaw!

Lucky Tuk Tuk’s Beer Tasting Crawls include stops at 3 craft breweries.

Visitors will receive a free drink at each stop and enjoy karaoke on board while traveling between each brewery.

  • Tickets: $119 per rider
  • Availability: Daily at 2 pm & 7 pm
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Not currently available

NOTE: While their beer tasting crawl isn't available at the moment, they are still offering a night tour!


NIGHT ACTIVITIES INCLUDED IN TOURIST PASSES

Getting a tourist pass can save you considerable money and time, especially when it comes to night activities.

Be sure to read our post comparing the different tourist discount passes.

Below are the Top 5 nighttime attractions included in San Francisco tourist passes.

  • 7D Experience - Ride & Maze Combo
  • Asian Art Museum
  • Madame Tussauds
  • San Francisco Dungeon
  • Citysightseeing Night Bus Tour

Before buying tickets to any of the above attractions, take a look at our post which compares the different San Francisco tourist attraction passes available to you.


Can you go to Golden Gate Park at night?

Golden Gate Park can be explored at night, although many facilities close at dusk. The park, which is under National Park Service management, is one of the best places to experience nature within the Bay Area. That said, we don't recommend this activity after dark unless you want to go to California Academy of Sciences or the De Young Museum.

Does the Golden Gate Bridge close at night?

The Golden Gate Bridge doesn't close at night and remains accessible for those looking to capture the San Francisco skyline or go for a moonlit drive. It offers a unique view of downtown, especially when the city lights are on. That said, you won't be able to walk across the bridge after dark, only drive.

Does San Francisco have a nightlife?

San Francisco's nightlife is alive and well. From comedy clubs hosting top comedians to cabaret shows on Saturday nights, there's always something happening. Neighborhoods like San Francisco's Chinatown offer a blend of cultural experiences and fun things to do, such as sampling dim sum or catching a concert.


Tips From Locals and Travelers

We usually recommend using Facebook travel groups to find helpful advice about where to go and what to see in any city you might want to visit.

However, when it comes to the Bay Area, the San Francisco Reddit page is actually far more useful.

Here are a few tips to consider.

As this user notes, the view of San Francisco from Lombard Street is actually quite nice after dark.

They also recommend grabbing some Italian food in North Beach, which is never a bad idea!

Another user suggests biking down the Embarcadero, which makes sense, because there are a lot of very well-lit attractions along the way.

Visiting at night also ensures smaller crowds, making it easier to enjoy this activity!

If you're looking for a unique place to eat, there are few spots as interesting as the Tonga Room.

Not only do they have a lagoon in the center of the restaurant, but you'll also experience tropical rain, thunder, and lighting.

This subreddit is also a great place to find advice about the best clubs to visit, as clubbing is undoubtedly one of the most popular activities in San Francisco after dark.


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About The Author

Britt

Britt is a San Francisco Bay Area native, and has spent 25 years in this magical city. He has traveled to over 30 countries, and has never found a place he loves as much as this one! If you come to San Francisco, you might join one of Britt's tours of the city. A graduate of the University of Maryland and University of Southern California, he has been leading tours for Free Tours by Foot since 2015.
Updated: November 23rd, 2023
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