This post has information on the best things to do in San Francisco, including free things to do, nighttime activities, the city’s top attractions, museums, points of interest, and kid-friendly activities.
TOP 10 EVENTS AND THINGS TO DO IN SAN FRANCISCO
Below are our suggestions for the top 10 things to do in San Francisco. Each link leads to a much more comprehensive page on that particular topic.
For more ideas on popular attractions and tours, be sure to read our post comparing the various tourist attraction discount passes available to you in San Francisco.
1. Walk the Golden Gate Bridge
How can #1 be anything but this? The most famous sight in all of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge has stood as a shining beacon signaling arrival into San Francisco.
We created a post with tips on visiting the Golden Gate Bridge, including how to get here, where to park (if you drive), how to cross it and where to get the best photos.
We also include a free, self-guided tour as a companion during your walk or bike ride, but we hope you will join us for our guided tour.
2. Visit Alcatraz Island
One of the most iconic sights in all of San Francisco is Alcatraz Island.
The site of an old American Civil War fort and later the most notorious prison in the United States, Alcatraz is a fantastic experience for visitors to San Francisco.
There is only one authorized way to get here. You must take a boat from Pier 33 over to Alcatraz, which is now overseen by the National Park Service.
Walking into the prison, you receive a very well-made audio tour, which is narrated by former guards and inmates and gives you a really in-person view of Alcatraz.
We detail everything you need to know to visit and be sure to get your tickets early. Tickets are known to sell out months in advance in the high season.
3. Discover San Francisco on a Walking Tour
We offer several guided walking tours, free, self-guided tours, as well as GPS-enabled audio tours.
Our guided tours are free to sign up to, operate on the pay-what-you-like or what-you-can-afford model, and are extremely well-reviewed on TripAdvisor, Google, Yelp, Facebook and more.
Refer to our live calendar for available tours.
4. Visit a Museum
There are a lot of great museums in San Francisco which cover a variety of different subjects.
No matter what you’re interested in, chances are you’ll find a museum to visit while you’re in the area.
Here are a few of the more popular options:
- USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
- The Walt Disney Family Museum
- The Contemporary Jewish Museum
- Asian Art Museum
- De Young Museum
- The Beat Museum
- California Academy of Sciences
Each of these museums is included for free with a San Francisco tourist pass.
There are also several museums in the city that are free to visit on a regular basis.
For additional information on these locations, make sure to visit our post about free museums in San Francisco.
5. Go See a Concert
No matter when you choose to visit San Francisco, chances are there will be at least a few great concerts taking place.
If you’re looking for a big performance, consider heading out to one of the following popular venues:
If you’re looking for more fun after dark, make sure to check our post about things to do in San Francisco at night.
6. Head to a Sporting Event
There are a lot of different teams in San Francisco, ensuring that sports fans will have a game to attend no matter when they choose to come.
If you’re interested in baseball, basketball, or football, consider going to see them on their home turf.
Baseball (April – September)
Football (September – January)
Basketball (October – April)
In addition to these options, there are also major sporting events held in San Francisco.
It’s also worth noting that the San Francisco Marathon takes place every summer, inviting 25,000+ runners to race through the streets of this historic city.
7. Visit Popular and Historic Locations
There are a lot of notable things to see and do in San Francisco. If you’re interested in historic locations, it’s hard to beat a trip to Alcatraz or a cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge.
Alternatively, there are also a lot of wonderful attractions such as Madame Tussauds and Ripley’s Believe it or Not.
Here are a few more places you might want to visit:
- Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Ticket
- Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
- The San Francisco Dungeon
- Aquarium of the Bay
- San Francisco Zoo
- Angel Island
All of these locations have one thing in common: you can see them all with the Go San Francisco Card.
If you’re interested in visiting any of these attractions, make sure to read our post about San Francisco tourist passes.
8. Take a Day Trip
San Francisco is located near some of the most beautiful places in the United States. As such, many tour companies will provide day trips from the city to popular sites in the area. Here are some of the more popular excursions you can take:
If you want to visit any of the locations mentioned above, make sure to read our post about Day Trips from San Francisco for more information.
9. Go on a Bus Tour
One of the best ways to see all the sites in San Francisco is to take a bus tour.
There are several bus tours available in the city, including a few different hop-on-hop-off options which allow you to explore at your own leisure.
You can also take a full-service tour which will take you to all of the major landmarks and provide a fully-guided experience. Or take a night tour.
If any of these opportunities sounds interesting, you can find out more about them by reading our post on San Francisco bus tours.
10. Head to Fisherman’s Wharf
This is one of the most popular areas in the city and there are a lot of fun things to see and do.
In addition to learning about one of the most historic districts in San Francisco, you can also check out a variety of notable sites.
Here are just a few locations you may want to see at Fisherman’s Wharf:
- Ghirardelli Square
- The Cartoon Art Museum
- Museé Mécanique
- Aquarium of the Bay
- Pier 39 & Pier 45
- Alcatraz Island
If you can believe it, this is just a basic rundown of some popular attractions you can see in the area – there’s actually a lot more to experience.
For more details on activities and attractions, you might want to check out, read our post about visiting Fisherman’s Wharf.
Honorable Mention: Take a Food Tour
The culinary history of San Francisco has been shaped by several different cultures, resulting in some of the most delicious dishes you'll ever taste!
If you want to learn about the history of cuisine in this city and discover some of the best meals you can get while you're here, consider taking a Secret Food Tour.
This outing includes 6-7 tastings at half a dozen stops, including great food like a Mission-style burrito, lumpia, clam chowder, pupusa and more.
Purchase tickets or learn more.
FREE (AND ALMOST FREE) THINGS TO DO
Though San Francisco is an expensive city, there are many free (or almost free) activities to choose from. Below is a list of our top 10 free things to do.
For even more inspiration, check out our post on Free Things To Do in San Francisco.
1. Drive down Lombard Street, the most crooked street in the USA.
2. Visit one of San Francisco's free museums.
3. Take advantage of all the incredible photo ops around the city.
4. See the Painted Ladies.
5. Go for a ride on the San Francisco street car.
6. Visit the San Francisco Ferry Building Market Place
7. Take a tour of Fisherman's Wharf with Free Tours by Foot! Check out our full list of free tours here or take one of our self-paced audio tours.
8. Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.
9. Hike to the top of Coit Tower.
10. Drive along the Pacific Coast Highway.
For even more inspiration, check out our post on Free Things To Do in San Francisco.
San Francisco is a vibrant city with an exciting nightlife.
From taking an evening cruise in the Bay to dining at one of the city's famous eateries, there is always something to do.
Below are a few of our top suggestions.
For a more in-depth look at what to do when the sun goes down, including family-friendly and free activities, please check out our post things to do in San Francisco at night.
Below are the top 10 from this page.
- Visit Alcatraz on a Night Tour
- View the City from Above
- Enjoy a Broadway Show
- Take a Sunset or Dinner Cruise
- Watch a Giants Baseball Game
- Marvel at Bay Bridge Lights
- Dine Out in San Francisco’s Restaurant Scene
- Explore Chinatown
- Visit the Exploratorium
- Hang Out at North Beach
- Enjoy a Late Night Museum
Some of the best museums in the city are open after dark at least once a week, and admission to some of these locations is included for free with various San Francisco tourist attraction discount passes.
Try an Escape Game!
The Escape Game in San Francisco has a variety of games - from an art heist, prison break to special ops mission. These popular activities are like real-life puzzles - with curves and unexpected realizations.
Fun for the family or a date night, The Escape Game has great reviews - nearly 2,000 5 star reviews! Don't worry if you can't figure out how to escape - you get a discount to try again next time.
Check out San Francisco's incredible restaurant scene.
Check out our post on what type of cuisine to eat in San Francisco for a full list of suggestions.
Dim Sum - Discover some of the best dim sum in the world in San Francisco's Chinatown. Interested in learning more about this vibrant neighborhood? Join us on our Chinatown Tour!
Italian - North Beach is THE place to go for delicious and authentic Italian food. Whether you're in the mood for pizza, pasta, or just some red wine, North Beach has you covered.
We have a North Beach/Little Italy tour for those who would like to know more about why this neighborhood has such strong Italian roots.
Korean BBQ - Though the best Korean BBQ isn't located downtown, it's well worth the drive out to Richmond District to enjoy some KBBQ!
Burritos - You can't come to San Francisco and not have a burrito!
The Mission District is famous for its incredible Mexican cuisine. Our favorite place is La Taqueria, but there are many other close contenders!
Below is a list of our 6 favorite family-friendly activities in San Francisco.
For in-depth information on how to visit the attractions, simply click on the attraction’s name and you will be taken to another post with information.
- Join us on a name-your-own-price walking tour.
- Take a speedboat ride in the Bay.
- Bike across the Golden Gate Bridge and ferry back.
- See a baseball game.
- Visit San Francisco's fortune cookie factory.
- Go on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour.
- Enjoy hands-on learning at the California Academy of Sciences.
- See marine life at the Aquarium of the Bay.
In addition to these ideas, there are also several family-friendly museums to visit in the city, and many of them are included for free with San Francisco tourist attraction discount passes.
For even more ideas check out our post, Fun Places for Kids in San Francisco.
Below are annual events that occur during the 12 months of the year, and if you click on the link you will be taken to our detailed posts of these events and more. We have also included links to the typical weather for each month so you know what to expect and pack accordingly.
- January (weather)
- February (weather)
- March (weather)
- April (weather)
- May (weather)
- June (weather)
- July (weather)
- August (weather)
- September (weather)
- October (weather)
- November (weather)
- December (weather)
- Christmas in San Francisco
- Best Christmas Lights in SF
Things to Do By Neighborhood
Here is our list of things to do in each neighborhood. If you don't have a car and want an easy way to get around, consider buying a pass to one of the hop-on, hop-off bus tours.
San Francisco Itineraries
Below are a few sample itineraries for those planning a trip to San Francisco. Choose between: