San Francisco Attractions

San Francisco Attractions

San Francisco attractions are popular for both local residents and those visiting from other places around the world. The many great San Francisco places to visit are enticing for people of all ages. There are activities for everyone who visits. From the Golden Gate Bridge and the piers, to museums and the most crooked street in the world – there is something for everyone. Of all the places to visit San Francisco offers – no visit is complete without a stop by the Aquarium of the Bay, a visit to the PIER 39 sea lions, or a chance to see the whales on a whale-watching excursion.

San Francisco Zoo and Gardens

Well known as one of the biggest zoos in the US, this popular San Francisco tourist attraction is one of the reasons the city gets so many visitors. With over 1,000 animals that have been rescued or who are on the endangered species list, it is a great learning opportunity as well as an enjoyable way to spend the day. It covers over 100 acres and has benches and gardens for resting spots along the way. For those who want to become more informed, there are many different education programs in the zoo with rides, talks, presentations, and more.

The Exploratorium

With over 600 exhibits that are engaging and interactive, The Exploratorium lets adults experience the world like kids, and lets kids explore the world around them. Both locals and tourists enjoy the hand on experience that allows you to use all of your senses to experience the world, and you are sure to learn something new along the way. Located on Pier 15 it is near many of the great San Francisco sightseeing locations so easily added into your plans and available on the San Francisco CityPass for a great rate.

Adults can enjoy this attraction without the kids on certain Thursday nights! The Exploratorium is open 6pm-10pm on Thursdays to ages 18 and up and they often have a DJ and fun themed nights that you can choose if you would like to learn about specific areas. This outing is a popular date night for couples looking to do activities together with something a little different away from the kids. And yes, there is a bar that you can enjoy adult beverages while you explore the exhibits together to make it that much more fun. Buy tickets here for Thursday night as this popular adults only time slot can sell out on popular days.

Cable Car Museum

cable car with alcatraz behind

Of all the San Francisco sights anyone who loves all things historic, or just transportation in general, must stop by the cable car museum. Housed atop Nob Hill and overlooking the current mechanisms that move the cable cars, view the huge engines that power the system and the wheels that wind the cable cars up and down. With many photos, displays, and even a gift shop, the visit to this museum must include the three antique cable cars that are on display from the 1870s. It offers both a step back in time and a view of the wonders of modern technology all in one stop.

If you don’t make it to the museum – you absolutely must ride a famous cable car live in action! Plus, it’s an incredible open-air means of transportation from downtown Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf where every visitor to San Francisco must stop by at least once during their visit. There are three cable car lines. Two start at Powell and Market and one starts at California and Market. Yes, there can be long lines to board and ride the cable car if you visit during the busy season. But if you don’t ride the cable car – did you really visit San Francisco? You can’t go home and tell everyone about your trip who will assuredly ask “did you ride a cable car?” and have nothing to show for it.

Be sure to hold on tight during your ride on the cable car. There are no sides to the car and the streets can be very steep – which adds to the excitement of your ride. We also like to point out that bicycles are not permitted on the cable cars so if you plan to do a bike tour around the city or perhaps across the bridge to Tiburon/Sausalito (hint: you should!) be sure to pick up the bikes after the cable car ride to avoid complications.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum

One of the installations of Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum is right next door to another of San Francisco tourist spots, bordering the area of Pier 39. It houses many of the tallest, smallest, funniest, and even scariest things that Ripley’s has come across over the decades. It is a must see for both kids and adults, with something to surprise everyone. Through his own travels the founder of this brand located many things that people have never seen before, and some that have never been seen since. Step through the entrance and be transported back to the time you were most curious and take in all of the exhibits and items.

Pier 39

PIER 39 sea lions on the docks

Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf may be the most well-known places to visit in San Francisco. It houses several top attractions and best restaurants and with so much to do many people spend full days and even several days seeing everything.

The navy museum off the pier offers a step back in time and the wharf has several seafood restaurants. With a small walk the seals can be found basking on their own pier and enjoying the sun. Protected as a sanctuary area for them, they are there throughout the year. As an addition to the main attractions in San Francisco they add a little whimsical fun to any walk around the piers and are close enough to finish a walk to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Perhaps most well known for the range of top restaurants or the many different activities and attractions, there are hours of things to do. The Sea Lion Center, Carousel, escape room, street performers, virtual reality experiences, whale watching,  arcade, and so much more no visit is ever the same and it is on the top of San Francisco places to visit.

Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco View

The iconic Golden Gate Bridge is a key feature of the city and is recognized around the world. It offers both vehicles and foot traffic a way across the Bay, and many tours include a visit to the bridge. Often seen representing the city on television, movies, postcards, and so much more, it has become a central feature and one of the main ways that the city is recognized.

If the weather is nice, be sure to take a walk across and take in the beautiful views of the entire San Francisco Bay.

California Academy of Sciences

Perhaps a lesser known but no less valuable San Francisco tourist attraction, the Academy of Sciences feeds the mind of anyone interested in any of the sciences. It is home to both an aquarium and a planetarium, offering a view of the deepest oceans that is balanced by a view into the stars. The natural history museum reminds everyone of the past and how the bay came to be as it is today, the local and natural wildlife to the area is well represented, as is the plant life and ecosystems that have been in place since the city was established.

The academy includes a four-story rainforest that is living, full of plants and animal life, and shows an inside look at the ecosystem it maintains. This is balanced by the coral reef that shows the ecosystems in under the water that is full of the fish, both small and large, that inhabit the area.  Finish the visit with the penguin feeding or a walk through the wildflowers. Special programs run every day to ensure people get the most from their visit, and with an entire day worth of exhibits and things to see, it is a top choice for tourists.

Alcatraz Island

Well known for it’s almost inescapable prison, Alcatraz Island is a must-see on many lists. The island itself is mostly barren but the large prison covers a large portion of its surface and remains standing today even in its damaged state. Tours still go to the island, and boat tours offer a view from the water. It is a strong and long-standing force that has become an iconic landmark. It is so famous for the prisoners being unable to escape, that the three men who managed to get off the island have made history. The mystery around it remains and feeds its popularity decade after decade.

During your visit you will learn endless stories of infamous prisoners that were locked up at the prison for terrible crimes. You will also hear harrowing tales of the few times when prisoners actually escaped from this high-security prison on an island with famously severe tides and currents on all sides! Kids and adults alike with be in awe of this incredible experience.

Local Wildlife

Whether you snorkel, boat, or watch from land, the local wildlife is sure to amaze. Whale watching tours offer a chance to see the whales up close in their natural habitat, and the sea lions have claimed their own area on the piers. Diving can offer a view that is not available anywhere else, and the local zoo, science academy, and more offer a peak into the lives of the animals that have made their homes in the San Francisco area since before it was populated. Each adventure is sure to create a lifetime of memories and offer experiences that are not available anywhere else.

Sightseeing San Francisco offers visitors a once-in-a-lifetime experience that ranges from modern technology and cutting-edge planetariums, but also has traditional and historic locations and museums as San Francisco tourist attractions. There is certainly something for any age and demographic, and the welcoming and high-energy atmosphere makes guests feel at home. With a thriving restaurant and food scene paired with unmatched views and original attractions, there is no shortage of things to do no longer how long your stay is. Tourist attractions in San Francisco are so plentiful your only problem will be narrowing down which of the many San Francisco attractions to fit into your trip – rather than running out of San Francisco attractions to see and do. You’ll have to come back another visit!