Things to Do in Summer in San Francisco

This guide is all about things to do in San Francisco in the summer, updated for 2019. We include a Top 10 list, loads of free things to do, concerts, sports, family-friendly activities, festivals, special events, and more!

 

San Francisco Summer Guide

 


TOP 10 

This is a Top 10 list of things to do in  San Francisco in summer.  

For those on a budget, you’ll appreciate the many free activities from outdoor festivals, concerts, and movies, theater, and more.

Some of the best things to do in summer in San Francisco do charge a fee, so you might want to consider looking into buying a tourist discount pass.

These passes include free entry to popular attractions and activities that are perfect for a summer trip.

There are several different types of passes, so be sure to read our comparison post to learn about how you can save the most money on your trip.

Several of the items below are already included for free with the purchase of a tourist discount pass.

Be sure to check out our master post, Things to Do in San Francisco, for even more ideas.


1. Take a Sightseeing tour

Summer is the best time to see all of the sites in and around San Francisco, and there are a lot of different sightseeing tours available.

 

 

One of the easiest and most affordable options is to take one of our pay-what-you-want walking tours. We currently offer the following outings:

We also have self-guided tours and GPS-enabled audio tours of neighborhoods that you will likely visit as a tourist in the city.


2. Get Out on the Water

What could be better than catching a breeze off the water on a nice summer’s day?

San Francisco is a city on a bay, which means there are a lot of different boat tours you can take, from sunset cruises, sailboat excursions, and tours to Alcatraz.

Our post on boat tours in San Francisco reviews dozens of types of tours by many different companies. You should find this helpful when deciding which boat tour is best for you.

 

 


3. Go on a Bus Tour

In the summer, when temperatures might be higher than you’d like, a bus tour is a great way to see the city with air-conditioning!

There are a few different hop-on-hop-off options which allow you to explore at your own pace.

 You can also take a full-service tour that takes you to the major landmarks of the city while a live guide provides commentary.

Find out about the various tours available from our post on San Francisco bus tours.

 

 


4. Walk the Golden Gate Bridge

One of the most iconic sights of San Francisco is the Golden Gate Bridge. Many people recognize it, but not everyone knows you can walk over it!

For some guidance, take a look at our guide to walking over the Golden Gate Bridge.

It includes information on how to get to the bridge, 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.


5. Visit Alcatraz Island

A trip to this famous prison known as “The Rock” is a highlight of a trip to San Francisco. 

 

 

Though not quite a park, Alcatraz is run by the National Park Service. There is only one authorized way to get here.

Our guide to everything you need to know to get to Alcatraz has information about booking tickets, getting over to the island and what you can expect from your trip to this notorious prison.


6. See a Concert

In summer, you will have no problem finding live music of a genre that you like at a price point you like – including free! 

See our free section below for a list of free music series throughout the summer.

As for ticketed shows at big venues,  here are just a few highlights:

For many more concerts, check the websites of these popular venues:


7.  Attend a Sporting Event

Summer and sports go hand in hand. The Bay Area has two great teams the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics.

Besides seeing a game, you can also take a tour of Oracle Park (home of the San Francisco Giants).

 

 

You will also have a chance to see some soccer as the San Jose Earthquakes are playing in July and there is also the International Champions Cup in Santa Clara.


8.  Visit Muir Woods

The Muir Woods National Monument is one of the most special places in all of America and it is just a short trip from San Francisco.

Famous for its redwood trees that can grow to more than 300 feet (92 meters) and live for over 1,000 years, Muir Woods is a memorable visit and we highly recommend that you visit if you can.

Find out how from our post on how to visit Muir Woods.

 


9.  See Wine Country 

Both Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley, world-class wine regions, are just a 30-minute drive away from San Francisco. 

If you don’t have a car or want a guided experience, you can take a Sonoma Wine Tour or a Napa Valley Wine Tour.

 

 

Even if you don’t care for wine, visiting either of these regions is a refreshing change from the pace of the city. Not to mention that the views are stunning.


10. Look into Getting a Tourist Attraction Discount Pass

If you’re trying to save money on some of the best summer activities in San Francisco, a discount pass might be worth considering.

These services provide discounts of 50% or more on general admission prices, and they’re particularly great if you plan on visiting a lot of attractions.

In addition to the potential savings, these passes usually offer skip-the-line tickets on some of the more popular activities.

 

 

Here are a few of the more notable locations included with various tourist passes in the Bay area:

  • San Francisco Bay Cruise
  • Aquarium of the Bay
  • Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour
  • San Francisco Zoo
  • Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
  • Angel Island Round-trip Ferry
  • UC Berkeley Botanical Garden
  • California’s Great America
  • Oracle Park (SF Giants) Tour
  • San Francisco Bike Tour

Most of these services allow you to pay one low price for access to dozens of different attractions, but there are some that give you the opportunity to select only the activities you want.

For more details and to figure out which option works best for you, please read our post covering San Francisco tourist passes.

 


Back to Top


 

FREE THINGS TO DO IN SUMMER

San Francisco is a hub of culture all year round. Summer offers even more opportunities to enjoy all sorts of entertainment FOR FREE

There is also plenty of things to do for free, and we list a few below.

For even more suggestions, take a look at our post on What to Do for Free in San Francisco.


Enjoy Free Music, Dancing and other Performances


Catch a Free Movie or Play


See the Sea Lions at Pier 39

If you didn’t already know, there are a whole lot of sea lions (similar to seals) who hang out on the end of Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf.

They won’t charge you a thing to see them! Walk right to the back of the Pier, and follow the signs for the Sea Lion Viewing Area.

Sometimes they leave town, but you can check to see if they are on the pier before going over by looking at the Sea Lion Webcam!


Take a Hike!

Known for its hills, San Francisco has a number of places where you can take a hike and get great views of the city.

One of the easiest to get to, but still steep enough to get a workout, is the hike to Coit Tower.  

You can begin your ascent from a number of neighborhoods including Chinatown, or from Washington Square Park in North Beach.


See the Street Murals in the Mission

Take a stroll around the Mission District where you can see several beautiful murals on various buildings. 

It’s a great way to see art for free. Use our self-guided tour to find the murals in the area.


Visit a Free Museum 

There are a bunch of museums in San Fran that you can always enter for free. There are others that have designated free hours or days. 

Besides traditional art museums, you can go to the Cable Car Museum and the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park.

See what other museums you can see by reading our post about free museums in San Francisco.

For more ideas see our post about things to do for free in San Francisco.

 


Back to Top


 

THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS 

Kids will love San Fran in the summer! You can keep them entertained with boat or bike rides, playgrounds, and visiting attractions that are kid-friendly. 

Below is just a fraction of things to do in the summer with children in the city. For a full list, see our post covering things to do with kids in San Francisco.

Many of the free cultural activities above and the festivals below are kid-friendly,  so take a look!


Go to the Zoo

The San Francisco Zoo has an amazing collection of animals from around the world. 

Their African Savannah exhibit houses animals you’d see on the plains of Africa, such as kudu, giraffes, cranes, and other peaceful species.

Find out about visiting the zoo here.


See Sea Creatures

Aquarium of the Bay has over 20,000 marine life animals including sharks, jellyfish, octopus, and river otters among many other creatures!


Go Row a Boat!

At Stow Lake Boathouse, you can rent rowboats, electric boats, and pedal boats that fit up to four people. This is a great activity for a family.

There are many other options for boat trips. Take a look at our post on Bay Area boat cruises.


Take a Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour

In the summer when temperatures can be high, bus tours are a great way for everyone to cool off while still seeing the city.

Since Hop-on, hop-off bus tours stop at the popular attraction locations, you can see the sights without wearing out the little ones in your family.

See our post about Hop-on-Hop-off bus tours to see if one of these buses is right for you.


Romp Around in a Playground

There are many excellent public playgrounds where you can take your kids.

Many are close to some of the most popular sights in the city so you can combine your activities in one afternoon.

Find out about other family-fun activities from our post on fun places for kids in San Francisco

 


Back to Top


 

FESTIVALS & SPECIAL EVENTS

One of the best things to do in San Francisco in the summer is to go to a festival or celebration.

There are music festivals, food festivals, art festivals, festivals for kids, and more. Below is a list of some of the best festivals.

For more things to do in the summer, just click on the link of the month of your trip.


June

Free to Attend

Ticket Purchase Required


July

Free to Attend

Ticket Purchase Required


August

Free to Attend

Ticket Purchase Required

 


Back to Top


 

PACKING GUIDE FOR SUMMER IN SAN FRANCISCO

Packing for San Francisco is all about bringing layers. You will need clothes of various warmth, even in the summer, as evenings can be chilly.

Essentials are:

Comfortable shoes! You will be doing a lot of walking, some of it uphill, so bring some athletic type of footwear as well as another comfy pair. Waterproof is always good.

A rain slicker or windbreaker. You may experience some rain, and even if it does not rain you’ll be spending some time on or near the water, so bring something to keep dry.

A sweater or hoodie. Again, it’s all about layering. Always have a warmer layer you can throw on as the sun goes down. Don’t let the strong sun fool you. Be ready for some temperature drops after dark.

The rest of your wardrobe should include light to medium weight clothing that can be…layered! T-shirts, long sleeve shirts and blouses, shorts, slacks, skirts, etc. are all good.

Bring sunscreen.  Even on an overcast day, the UV rays can be strong.

 


Back to Top


 

HOW’S THE WEATHER

 


Back to Top


 

About the author

Manager | San Francisco

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.