San Francisco is a city like no other. Known for its hilly terrain, stunning views, and diverse culture, San Francisco offers visitors a unique experience that’s hard to find elsewhere. With its unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, San Francisco truly has something for everyone. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at some of the top things to do in San Francisco, from its famous landmarks to its vibrant neighborhoods. First let’s get a brief overview of all the wonderful things that San Francisco has to offer.
What to do in San Francisco?
The city is home to iconic landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island. It’s also home to vibrant neighborhoods such as Chinatown and the Mission District, each with their own distinct character and charm. San Francisco is also a hub for foodies. It has a plethora of restaurants offering everything from classic seafood dishes to innovative fusion cuisine. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, San Francisco is a city that never fails to captivate and inspire. San Francisco’s rich history and cultural diversity also make it a fascinating destination for those interested in art, architecture, and social movements. The city is home to a number of world-class museums. The de Young Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which showcase a diverse range of artistic styles and periods, are popular. Architecture buffs can marvel at the Victorian and Art Deco buildings that dot the city. Those interested in social justice can explore the city’s LGBTQ+ history. The legacy of the counterculture movement in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood as well.
San Francisco’s natural beauty is also a major draw. With its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the Bay, and nearby parks such as Muir Woods and Yosemite National Park offering countless opportunities for outdoor recreation. With its blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, San Francisco truly has something for everyone. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at some of the best things to do in San Francisco California. From its famous landmarks to its vibrant neighborhoods. Here’s a breakdown on how we would spend 3 days in San Francisco and a list of a number of other attractions and restaurants we would add to our San Francisco to do list.
Morning: Start your day off with a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge. This iconic suspension bridge, spanning 1.7 miles across the Golden Gate Strait, offers stunning views of San Francisco Bay and the city skyline. You can walk or bike across the bridge or simply take in the views from one of the many lookout points. For the best views, head to the bridge at sunrise when the colors are at their most beautiful.
After your visit to the Golden Gate Bridge, head to the Presidio, a historic park and former military base that offers beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay. The park features hiking trails, historic buildings, and museums. You can also enjoy a picnic lunch in one of the park’s many scenic spots.
Finish off your first day in San Francisco with a visit to Chinatown. This neighborhood is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia and is full of colorful buildings, markets, and restaurants. You can try some authentic Chinese cuisine, shop for souvenirs, or simply wander around and take in the sights and sounds.
Start your day with a visit to Alcatraz Island. This is a must do in San Francisco. This former federal prison, located on an island in the San Francisco Bay. It is now a national park and a popular tourist attraction. You can take a ferry to the island and explore the prison cells, learn about the island’s history, and take in the stunning views of the city skyline.
History of Alcatraz
Alcatraz is one of the most iconic landmarks in the city and a must-visit for anyone interested in history, true crime, or simply looking for a unique experience. Originally built as a military fortress, Alcatraz was later converted into a federal penitentiary that housed some of the most notorious criminals in US history, including Al Capone and Robert “The Birdman” Stroud.
Today, visitors can take a ferry to the island and explore the prison, which has been preserved as a National Historic Landmark. The award-winning audio tour takes visitors through the prison’s main cell block, revealing the harsh realities of life on “The Rock”. Visitors can see the cramped cells, the mess hall, and the recreation yard where inmates were allowed outside for only an hour a day. The tour also includes stories about famous escape attempts, as well as the daily routines of prisoners and guards.
Alcatraz for Nature Lovers
Beyond the prison itself, Alcatraz Island is also a fascinating destination for nature lovers. The island is home to a variety of bird species, including nesting colonies of Western Gulls and Black-crowned Night Herons, as well as rare plants and flowers. The island’s gardens and tide pools are also popular attractions.
Alcatraz Island offers visitors a unique and immersive glimpse into a fascinating chapter of US history, as well as the chance to experience the natural beauty of San Francisco Bay. It’s a must-visit for anyone looking for an unforgettable experience in the city.
After your visit to Alcatraz, head to the Mission District, a vibrant and diverse neighborhood that’s full of street art, murals, and colorful buildings. The neighborhood is known for its food scene, with many great restaurants and cafes. Don’t miss out on the famous burritos at La Taqueria or the pastries at Tartine Bakery.
End your day with a visit to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. This museum is home to a collection of modern and contemporary art, including works by Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, and Frida Kahlo. The museum also features rotating exhibitions and special events, so be sure to check their calendar for upcoming events.
Start your day off with a visit to the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. This beautiful museum is home to a collection of European art, including works by Rembrandt, Rodin, and Monet. The museum also features beautiful gardens and stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean. This should absolutely make your list of things to do in SF.
Spend your afternoon exploring North Beach, a historic Italian neighborhood that’s full of cafes, bars, and restaurants. You can try some authentic Italian cuisine, visit the beautiful Saints Peter and Paul Church, or simply wander around and take in the neighborhood’s charm.
End your trip to San Francisco with a visit to Coit Tower. This tower, located on Telegraph Hill, offers stunning views of the city and the bay. You can take an elevator to the top of the tower and enjoy panoramic views of San Francisco. After taking in the view, head to the nearby Fisherman’s Wharf for a seafood dinner and a stroll along the waterfront.
While the above itinerary covers some of the top attractions in San Francisco, there are plenty of other things to see, here are some things we recommend you check out when you’re figuring out what to do in sf.
Golden Gate Park:
On your list of things to see in San Francisco, this should be at the top! This massive park is home to gardens, lakes, and museums. You can spend an entire day exploring the park’s many attractions, including the Japanese Tea Garden, de Young Museum, and California Academy of Sciences. Golden Gate Park is a must-see destination for anyone visiting San Francisco. This expansive park, located in the heart of the city, offers visitors a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of urban life and immerse themselves in nature, art, and culture.
What to do in the Park
The park covers over 1,000 acres and offers a variety of attractions and activities. Visitors can explore the park’s lush gardens, including the Japanese Tea Garden, the San Francisco Botanical Garden, and the Conservatory of Flowers. These gardens feature a wide variety of flora and fauna, including rare and exotic plants from around the world.Golden Gate Park is also home to a variety of cultural institutions, including the de Young Museum, which showcases a wide range of American art and international contemporary art. The California Academy of Sciences is another must-visit attraction, featuring an aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum all under one roof. For those interested in outdoor activities, Golden Gate Park offers a wealth of options.
Visitors can rent a paddleboat on Stow Lake, take a stroll along the park’s many trails, or even try their hand at disc golf at the park’s course.One of the park’s most iconic attractions is the Golden Gate Park Windmill and Tulip Garden. This Dutch-style windmill, built in 1902, still functions today and is a popular spot for photos. The nearby tulip garden is also a must-see, featuring over 200,000 tulips in a variety of colors. Finally, Golden Gate Park is simply a beautiful and peaceful place to spend an afternoon. Visitors can pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a relaxing day in nature, surrounded by stunning views of the park’s lakes, gardens, and landscapes. Golden Gate Park is a must-see destination for anyone visiting San Francisco. With its expansive gardens, cultural institutions, outdoor activities, iconic attractions, and natural beauty, the park offers something for everyone and is a quintessential part of the city’s cultural fabric.
Of all the stuff to do in San Francisco, a visit to the Haight -Ashbury neighborhood is the grooviest. This neighborhood is known for its association with the 1960s counterculture movement. You can find vintage shops, record stores, and murals that pay homage to this historic era. Haight-Ashbury is a must-visit destination for anyone visiting San Francisco. The neighborhood’s history as a haven for artists, musicians, and freethinkers is still evident today. Visitors can explore the colorful Victorian houses that line the streets. Many of these places have been converted into unique shops, cafes, and art galleries. The neighborhood’s bohemian atmosphere is enhanced by its street art, murals, and psychedelic designs that pay homage to its past. Haight-Ashbury is also home to a variety of vintage clothing stores. These offer visitors a chance to step back in time and experience the fashion and style of the 1960s. The neighborhood’s music scene is also thriving. There are many local bars and venues hosting live performances by up-and-coming musicians.
History of Haight Ashbury
For those interested in history, Haight-Ashbury offers a chance to learn about the counterculture movement and its impact on San Francisco and the world. Visitors can visit the Haight-Ashbury Museum of Psychedelic Art and History. This showcases artifacts, photographs, and memorabilia from the era. Finally, Haight-Ashbury is simply a fun and vibrant place to explore. The neighborhood’s unique shops, restaurants, and cafes create a lively atmosphere that is hard to find anywhere else in the city. Whether visitors are looking for a new vintage outfit, a cup of coffee, or a live music performance, Haight-Ashbury has something to offer.In summary, Haight-Ashbury is a must-visit destination for anyone visiting San Francisco. With its bohemian atmosphere, vintage clothing stores, thriving music scene, and rich history, the neighborhood offers something for everyone and is a quintessential part of the city’s cultural fabric.
Palace of Fine Arts:
This beautiful building, located in the Marina District, is home to a theater and event space. You can also enjoy a stroll around the adjacent lagoon and gardens. The Palace of Fine Arts is a stunning architectural gem located in the Marina District of San Francisco. Originally built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, the Palace of Fine Arts is one of the few remaining structures from the exhibition. It remains one of the most popular attractions in the city. The Palace of Fine Arts features a massive domed rotunda, surrounded by a lagoon and a series of colonnades and walkways.
The structure is built in the style of a Roman ruin. It has intricate detailing and classical elements that make it a truly unique and captivating sight. The rotunda itself is massive, with a diameter of 162 feet. It’s a popular spot for photographers and Instagrammers looking to capture the beauty of the building. The Palace of Fine Arts is a must-see attraction in San Francisco. Its stunning architecture and tranquil setting make it a popular spot for picnics, walks, and even wedding photoshoots. Whether you’re a history buff, a science nerd, or simply looking to admire one of the most beautiful buildings in San Francisco, the Palace of Fine Arts is a must-see.
This neighborhood is known for its LGBTQ+ history and culture. You can find rainbow crosswalks, murals, and the historic Castro Theatre. Which is a place that still shows classic films and hosts events. The Castro District is a must-see destination for anyone visiting San Francisco. This vibrant neighborhood, located in the heart of the city, is a historic and cultural hub for the LGBTQ+ community. It is known for its colorful buildings, unique shops, and lively nightlife. The Castro District played a significant role in the LGBTQ+ rights movement. Its many notable activists and events originating from the area.
Visitors can learn about this history at the LGBT Historical Society Museum. The museum showcases exhibits and artifacts from the LGBTQ+ community’s struggle for civil rights. Beyond its historical significance, the Castro District offers a wealth of entertainment options for visitors. The neighborhood boasts a vibrant nightlife scene. It has a variety of bars, restaurants, and theaters. Visitors can catch a movie at the Castro Theatre. It is a a historic movie palace that showcases classic films and live performances. They can also take in a drag show at one of the many local bars.The Castro District is also home to a variety of unique shops and boutiques, offering everything from vintage clothing to artisanal chocolates.
What to Do in the Castro
Visitors can browse the neighborhood’s bookstores, record shops, and gift stores, or pick up a souvenir at one of the many LGBTQ+ themed shops.Finally, the Castro District is simply a fun and welcoming place to explore. The neighborhood’s colorful buildings, street art, and friendly residents create a unique and vibrant atmosphere that is hard to find anywhere else in the city.In summary, the Castro District is a must-see destination for anyone visiting San Francisco. With its historical significance, lively nightlife, unique shops, and welcoming atmosphere, the neighborhood offers something for everyone and is a quintessential part of the city’s cultural fabric.
Ferry Building Marketplace:
The Ferry Building is an iconic landmark in San Francisco, located along the city’s historic Embarcadero waterfront. The building was originally built in 1898 as a transportation hub for ferries crossing the San Francisco Bay. Now, the building has since been transformed into a vibrant marketplace that showcases the best of the city’s local food and artisanal products. The Ferry Building is home to dozens of vendors. They range from artisanal cheese shops and bakeries to specialty grocery stores and wine bars. Visitors can browse the stalls and sample a variety of local products. There are options from fresh seafood and farm-fresh produce to handcrafted chocolates and jams. The building also hosts a weekly farmers market. This is where local farmers and producers sell their wares to the public.
Architecture & History
Beyond the food, the Ferry Building is also a must-visit destination for architecture and history buffs. The building’s iconic clock tower, which stands 245 feet tall, is a symbol of the city’s transportation history and a popular spot for photo opportunities. The building’s Beaux-Arts style architecture features intricate detailing, ornate metalwork, and soaring ceilings that make it a truly unique and stunning sight. In addition to its marketplace and architecture, the Ferry Building is also a cultural to do in San Francisco.
The building hosts a variety of events throughout the year, ranging from food festivals and book signings to concerts and cultural celebrations. Visitors can check the building’s event calendar to see what’s happening during their visit.Overall, the Ferry Building is a must-visit destination in San Francisco for anyone interested in food, history, and culture. Its vibrant marketplace, stunning architecture, and cultural events make it a beloved destination for locals and tourists alike.
Riding the cable cars in San Francisco is an experience that should not be missed. This experience should be on the top of your list when researching what to do in San Francisco. The city’s iconic cable car system has been in operation for over 150 years. This is a testament to the city’s history and a unique way to explore some of its most charming neighborhoods.The cable cars offer stunning views of San Francisco’s hills, landmarks, and neighborhoods. Visitors can ride along the steep streets of Nob Hill. They can pass by the Victorian houses in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Or take in the panoramic views of the city from the top of Russian Hill. The ride itself is an exhilarating experience, as the cable cars climb and descend the city’s hills and rattle through its narrow streets.
History of Cable Cars
Riding the cable cars is also an opportunity to learn about San Francisco’s transportation history. The city’s cable car system is the last remaining manually-operated system in the world. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964. Visitors can see the intricate machinery that powers the cable cars at the Cable Car Museum, located in the city’s Nob Hill neighborhood. Beyond the transportation history and scenic views, riding the cable cars is a quintessential San Francisco experience.
The cable cars have been featured in countless movies, TV shows, and photographs. They are a beloved symbol of the city. Riding the cable cars is a way to immerse oneself in San Francisco’s unique culture and history. It’s also a great way to connect with the city’s residents and visitors alike. In summary, riding the cable cars in San Francisco is a must-do activity for anyone visiting the city. The experience offers stunning views, a chance to learn about the city’s history, and a quintessential San Francisco experience that should not be missed.
Wine Country is an absolute must-visit destination for anyone traveling to San Francisco. Located just a short drive from the city, the region boasts some of the most picturesque landscapes in the United States. As well as world-renowned wineries, vineyards, and tasting rooms. The Napa Valley and Sonoma County are the two most popular regions for wine tasting and vineyard tours in Wine Country. Napa Valley is known for its bold Cabernet Sauvignon. Sonoma County produces a wider variety of wines, including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel. Both regions are home to some of the most celebrated wineries in the world. This is including Robert Mondavi, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, and Francis Ford Coppola Winery.
Other Activities in Wine Country
In addition to wine tasting, Wine Country offers a wealth of activities for visitors to enjoy. The region boasts stunning natural beauty. Its rolling hills, picturesque vineyards, and quaint small towns dot the landscape. Visitors can take hot air balloon rides over the vineyards. They can go on guided hikes, or explore the region’s charming downtown areas. Foodies will also appreciate the area’s farm-to-table dining scene. Restaurants offer locally-sourced ingredients and creative dishes inspired by the region’s wine culture. They can even take a scenic train ride on the Napa Valley Wine Train.
Proximity to San Francisco
One of the great advantages of Wine Country is its accessibility from San Francisco. Visitors can easily rent a car or book a guided tour to explore the area. They can even take a scenic train ride on the Napa Valley Wine Train. For those who want to stay overnight, the region offers a range of accommodations. From luxury resorts and hotels to cozy bed and breakfasts and quaint inns. Overall, Wine Country is an absolute must-visit destination for anyone traveling to San Francisco. Whether you’re a wine enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply looking to enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery in the United States. This region has something to offer everyone.
If you’re a seafood enthusiast, then the Crab House on Pier 39 is a must-visit restaurant when you’re in San Francisco. This iconic seafood eatery has been serving up mouth-watering dishes since 1998. It has become a popular destination for both locals and tourists. The Crab House boasts a wide range of seafood dishes, but it’s the crab that steals the show. From crab cakes and crab chowder to crab cocktails to whole roasted crabs. Crab House offer an impressive selection of crab dishes. Dishes are freshly prepared daily using locally caught Dungeness crab.
Not only is the food delicious, but the restaurant’s location on Pier 39 offers incredible views of the San Francisco Bay. Furthermore it’s also where the playful sea lions call the pier home. Dining at the Crab House is an unforgettable experience. is perfect for anyone who wants to savor the taste of fresh seafood while enjoying the city’s beautiful scenery. So, make sure to add the Crab House on Pier 39 to your San Francisco itinerary. And treat yourself to some of the best seafood the city has to offer.
No matter what your interests are, San Francisco has something to offer. We hope this answered the age old question of what to do in San Francisco. From historic landmarks to trendy neighborhoods, you can explore this city for days and still find something new to discover.