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50 Things To Do In San Francisco

San Francisco is famous for many things: its Hispanic heritage, cool summers and steep streets, its bustling Chinatown district, and of course, Alcatraz!

Ironically, despite housing one of the most infamous prisons in the country, San Francisco is also known as a center for liberal activism–a bastion of free speech and equality. Through the years, it has steadily built its reputation as a haven for quirky iconoclasts.

In any case, San Francisco’s influence on literature, movies, and American culture is undeniable. Like Paris, or New York, it’s the kind of city that lures you with an idea, and unalterably changes you. Don’t take our word for it, though.

Rudyard Kipling once said, “San Francisco has only one drawback–’tis hard to leave.”

If you’re keen on testing his words and visiting San Francisco, here are some things to do while you’re there!

50 Things to do in San Francisco

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Take a tour through the Golden Gate Bridge

What’s special about this place?

The Golden Gate Bridge, as its name implies, is a 1280-meter long suspension bridge that spans the Golden Gate, a strait that connects the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. One of the greatest feats of engineering and architecture, it’s considered as one of the Wonders of the Modern World, and is popular among locals and tourists alike.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Hugely popular the world over, and probably one of the most overused views for establishing shots of San Francisco, tourists of all ages from all walks of life would love the Golden Gate Bridge. From hardcore architecture enthusiasts, to casual visitors and locals, the Golden Gate Bridge has something for everyone.

What to do here?

The city offers a variety of guided and individual tours through the Golden Gate Bridge. Bike over the Golden Gate Bridge and take in the breathtaking views. For those seeking a tamer experience, walk through the Golden Gate Bridge and take photos from its best photo spots!

Best time to visit

This is largely dependent on what your plans are when you get to the bridge. That said, the best days to take photos would be on fog free days, from September through November. If you plan on watching the sunrise from any vantage point near the bridge, then go there early, around 5-6 AM!

Explore the Institute of Illegal Images

What’s special about this place?

Located at 3466 20th Street in an old Victorian mansion between Mission and Capp, the Institute of Illegal Images, also known as the Blotter Barn, is San Francisco’s unofficial LSD museum. Home of San Franciscan Mark McCloud, it houses the most comprehensive collection of LSD blotter paper in the world. It also features acid art. Yes, that’s art made from acid tablets.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

This place is not for children for obvious reasons, but adult visitors who have a penchant for hallucinogens, especially those who consider themselves as radicals or were radicals at some point in their lives, would love it here. The whole place is a 70s San Francisco time capsule.

What to do here?

Check out Mark McCloud’s collection of acid art, and take a tour through the 70s explored through acid imagery. Check out Mark’s collection of memorabilia from the decade, which includes a photo of him with Timothy Leary!

Best time to visit

McCloud’s house is open by appointment only, so this largely depends on your itinerary, and whether you want to be grouped with morning people, or with afternoon people. That said, an afternoon stroll through an LSD museum sounds like a typical day in San Francisco.

Learn more about Institute of Illegal Images here!

Take a gander at the oddities within Paxton Gate

What’s special about this place?

Located at 824 Valencia Street, San Francisco, Paxton Gate is a shop that sells ethically sourced taxidermy animals and mounted insects, crystals, art books, plants, and gardening supplies. It also showcases curiosities that include various fossils and skulls!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Nature lovers, aspiring naturalists, nature historians, gardeners, and even casual tourists looking for a quirky souvenir would all find something to love about Paxton Gate. What’s not to like about a shop that celebrates nature, art and death? For some people, a visit here would be well worth the trip to San Francisco!

What to do here?

Check out their treasure trove of oddities that include cured raccoon foot, human molars, and the different stages of frog development encased in glass! For kids, check out Paxton Gate’s cute animal plushies. Browse their wide selection of books, from The Mincing Mockingbird Guide to Troubled Birds, to Green: Pocket Guide to Pot.

Best time to visit

Paxton Gate gets quite busy over the weekends, so the best time to visit or shop there would be on Wednesdays or Thursdays, at around 12 PM to 3 PM! If you like meeting fellow tourists and engage strangers in naturalist discourse, though, go there on Saturday, around 3 PM.

Learn more about Paxton Gate here!

Visit the Book Club of California

What’s special about this place?

Located at 312 Sutter Street in San Francisco, the Book Club of California has been in existence for over a century! The Book Club hosts public programs and literary exhibitions that promote and celebrate not only literature, but the existence of print. It houses more than 10,000 volumes on the history and art of book publishing and book arts.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Bibliophiles and visitors who can appreciate all the qualities of a book–its pages, spine, its cover, its smell, the type of ink that was used in its publication; these are all the things that the Book Club stands for, and more.

What to do here?

Check out the Book Club’s limited-edition books, from Mallette Dean, A Printmaker and His Art, to The Noblest Roman: A History of the Centaur Types of Bruce Rogers. Don’t miss the Albert Sperisen Library, the Book Club’s reference library that houses fine press books and ephemera printed in California and the West; a great resource for bibliophiles who’d love to immerse themselves in book history, and history and literature related to California and the West!

Best time to visit

The Book Club is open from 10 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. Public programs are held on Monday evenings, from 5 PM to 7 PM. While it doesn’t really get too busy, it is recommended to visit early, at around 10, or just a little past that

Learn more about Book of Club California here!

Stroll through Golden Gate Park

What’s special about this place?

Located in San Francisco, the Golden Gate Park is a 1,017-acre urban park that houses, among other attractions, a variety of gardens, a museum, a polo field, and an archery range. It is also home to some rarely seen wildlife, such as coyotes and mountain lions. It is the third most-visited park in the United States, and is twenty percent bigger than New York’s Central Park. Some of the attractions within Golden Gate Park will be mentioned separately in this list.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Tourists who, either would love to take a break from all the quirks of San Francisco, or just want a quiet place within the city, would love the Golden Gate Park. It’s big enough for peace and quiet, and with its attractions, interesting enough for those looking for a more active day at the park.

What to do here?

Check out the park’s natural features and visit its gardens. Try to see if you can spot some of the wild animals in the park. Check out all the exotic plants dispersed throughout the park that were grown in the Golden Gate Park Nursery. If you can, catch a game at the Kezar Stadium!

Best time to visit

The park is open 24 hours a day, and usually gets very busy during the weekends. The best time to visit would be during weekdays, early in the morning, or just around noon.

Learn more about Golden Gate Park here!

Get lost in Muir Woods

What’s special about this place?

Located on Mount Tamalpais within Marin County, California, just 12 miles north of San Francisco, the Muir Woods National Monument is the first National Monument that was created solely because of a land donation from an individual. Named after the great naturalist John Muir, this 554-acre piece of land was donated to protect the rare redwoods, some of which are over 150 years old!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

As the Muir Woods National Monument is a protected area, those who care about the conservation of trees and the wildlife that rely on them, and outdoor enthusiasts should enjoy their time here. The Muir Woods’ trails are great for both solo and group hiking trips.

What to do here?

Since the redwood forest is dense, the trails of the Muir Woods are only for hiking. That said, the climate within the park is almost always ideal for hikes, ranging from 40-70 degrees. On account of its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the forest’s environment is regularly moist, ideal for plant growth.

Best time to visit

Muir Woods is open 8 AM to 6 PM daily. Like most well-known tourist spots in this list, it’s usually quite busy during weekends. It’s best to take a hiking trip early in the morning, preferably when it opens, or late afternoon, as the park gets busier around noon!

Learn more about Muir Woods here!

Immerse yourself in The Beat Museum

What’s special about this place?

Located at 540 Broadway, San Francisco, The Beat Museum is a museum dedicated to spreading the spirit and values of the Beat Generation–tolerance, compassion, and having the courage to live your individual truth. It is home to Beat memorabilia, letters, personal effects, and other cultural ephemera.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

The Beat Generation was an American social and literary movement in the 1950s. Its adherents rebelled against conformity to the conventions of modern society, and advocated the liberation of literary expression from the standards of conventional academia. Those who see the great Beat writers as kindred spirits, and those who want to explore one of the most historically celebrated literary movements, should find something to love in The Beat Museum.

What to do here?

While you can take a normal tour through the museum, you can also take a guided tour of the museum and learn about the legacy of the Beat Generation. Check out the Beat memorabilia and personal effects of some of the Beats, and take a peek inside their lives. Learn the difference between the term Beat and the rather derisive “beatnik.”

Best time to visit

The Beat Museum is open Thursdays through Monday, from 10 AM to 7 PM. It’s a small museum, so it gets a little busy fairly quickly! It’s recommended to get there a little after 10 AM, or late in the afternoon, at around 4 PM!

Learn more about The Beat Museum here!

Check out the Balmy Alley Murals

What’s special about this place?

Located at 50 Balmy Street in San Francisco, Balmy Alley is an iconic one-block-long alley that features the most concentrated collection of murals within the city. These murals are collectively called the Balmy Alley Murals, and are regularly changing!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

The Balmy Alley Murals are often described as one of the spaces in California that allow Chicanos to reclaim their identity and to give expression to a history of Chicano oppression. The Balmy Alley Murals is a prime example of activist art. That said, visitors who can appreciate folk and contemporary political art should make sure to spend some time here.

What to do here?

The Balmy Alley Murals is a wonderful place to just take a stroll in. It is also popular for doing photo shoots and video shoots! The murals add a distinctive colorful Latino vibe to the alley.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit would depend on your itinerary. The alley is always open, and is fairly small, so people typically just pass by and spend less than an hour here.

Learn more about Balmy Alley Murals here!

Visit V.C. Morris Gift Shop

What’s special about this place?

Located at 140 Maiden Lane in downtown San Francisco, is an iconic building that was used by the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright as a prototype for the Guggenheim. Currently, ISAIA Napoli, a high end Italian men’s fashion store, occupies the building.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

As the building is one of the few buildings in America that has Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural touch, architecture enthusiasts and architects should enjoy a visit here. The building is a work of art, and so is most of the furniture within it, as those are designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as well.

What to do here?

Explore the interior of the building. Walk through its legendary spiral ramp and appreciate the early proof of concept for the Guggenheim. Appreciate how the street entrance is designed as a modern arched tunnel that intrigues visitors to come in, rather than allowing the shop to just display its wares on the sidewalk.

Best time to visit

ISAIA, the shop occupying the building, opens at 11 AM and closes at 5 PM. It’s recommended to come in early, when the shop’s not too busy, to explore its interior and see all of Frank Lloy Wright’s architectural flourishes.

Explore Chinatown

What’s special about this place?

Centered on Grant Avenue and Stockton Street, San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in North America. A major tourist attraction, it has more annual visitors than San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Known for its bustling alleys full of authentic dim sum joints, traditional Chinese eateries, and ornate souvenir shops, it is a neighborhood that exists almost on an entirely different plane as the rest of San Francisco!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Chinatown’s rich and long-standing history as a primarily Chinese neighborhood, with immigrants coming from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Mainland China, practically makes it a small piece of China in North America. As such, tourists looking for authentic Chinese food and looking to do some extensive souvenir shopping would love Chinatown!

What to do here?

Take a walk through Chinatown’s alleys and explore its culinary scene. Go shopping in its many souvenir shops. For first timers, there are many guided tours offered within San Francisco, but nothing beats exploring Chinatown on your own. It makes for a more authentic experience.

Best time to visit

Most of the shops and restaurants within Chinatown open around 10 AM, and almost all of them have long hours and are open 7 days a week. That said, it’s best to come there early, as Chinatown is a major tourist spot that is almost always busy! If a night tour appeals to you and you don’t mind large crowds, it’s best to start your trip through Chinatown around 5:30 PM.

Learn more about Chinatown here!

Spend some time in Alcatraz

What’s special about this place?

Located in San Francisco Bay, just over 2 kilometers offshore from San Francisco, Alcatraz Island is the site of the now defunct Alcatraz federal prison. The prison now serves as a museum that offers audio tours to its guests. The island has iconic landmarks such as Building 64, the Recreation Yard, and the Model Industries Building.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Tourists who have a fondness for the history of the U.S. federal prison system and the life story of infamous criminals like Al Capone who once stayed in Alcatraz, and tourists who can appreciate how wildlife reclaims abandoned structures would all enjoy a visit here.

What to do here?

Take either a day tour or a night tour through the island. The evening tours vary from daytime tours in several ways, so try both if you want the full Alcatraz experience! If you prefer to explore the island on your own, taking the day tour is ideal, while a more guided tour is offered in the evening program. While on the island, check out the abandoned buildings, and the seabird colony that nests on the island!

Best time to visit

The island’s open from 10 AM to 9 PM, with various tours offered at various times. Depending on the type of tour you want, you can go there at around 10 AM, or around 6 PM. Ferry rides to and from the island take about 12-15 minutes, so take that into consideration when planning your trip!

Check out the Secret Tiled Staircase

What’s special about this place?

Located at 16th Avenue in San Francisco, this ironically popular mosaic staircase is “hidden” within the Sunset district of San Francisco. The staircase is 163 steps of colorful mosaic art, and rewards those that traverse it with stunning views of San Francisco!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Tourists looking for a little artsy getaway that offers a great view of the city would love it here! It’s an accessible work of art that beckons all kinds of tourists to explore it. In this way, it fully represents the San Francisco spirit.

What to do here?

First of all, explore the neighborhood and try to find this not-so-secret staircase. Once you’re there, check out the tiled mosaic art that features a flowing sea to stars design! Walk up its 163 steps, and enjoy the view at the top!

Best time to visit

The area is pretty busy during weekends, so it’s best to go there during weekdays, at around 8 AM to 3 PM. It never really gets too busy, but if you want to avoid large crowds, that would be the ideal time frame!

Have a Mescaline Grove trip

What’s special about this place?

Located in the iconic Golden Gate Park and officially known as the Tree Fern Dell, the Mescaline Grove features a forest of enormous tree ferns that surround its winding paths. The Mescaline Grove is home to New Zealand’s man fern, and Australia’s lacy tree fern.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

The Mescaline Grove is considered a favorite among dinosaur loving visitors who want to experience a “jurassic” environment. The dense fern forest gives the garden an otherworldly, primordial appearance that gave rise to its hallucinogen-inspired nickname. Nature lovers of all ages and those looking for an otherworldly natural environment should love it here!

What to do here?

Walk through its winding path, take in the sights and breathe in the smells of the dense fern forest. The city’s mild climate allows for the growth of these foreign plants and, in turn, it allows for a very specific ecosystem to thrive within the park!

Best time to visit

As the Golden Gate Park is open 24 hours a day, any time would be an ideal time to visit Mescaline Grove. Since it’s not very well-known among tourists, you should find the area to be relatively quiet at any time!

Visit Cayuga Park

What’s special about this place?

Located at 301 Naglee Avenue, on the edge of the Cayuga Terrace neighborhood in San Francisco, Cayuga Park features a playground, a clubhouse, tennis courts, a baseball diamond, and intricate wood carvings and elaborate gardens that are all connected through tiny trails within the park.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Families, park enthusiasts, and tourists who appreciate how a little piece of barren land in the middle of a highly urbanized neighborhood can be transformed into such a unique park, would love Cayuga Park.

What to do here?

If you’re traveling with family, take a stroll through the park’s trails and inspect all the wood carvings. Kids can explore the playground while you enjoy a quiet picnic or a book.

Best time to visit

Since the park is in the middle of a busy neighborhood, it’s best to get there around 6 AM to 9 AM. The park is open until 10 PM, so if you plan on taking a night stroll, do so a little after 6 PM on weekdays (ideally Monday to Wednesday)!

Explore the Good Vibrations Antique Vibrator Museum

What’s special about this place?

Located at 1620 Polk Street in San Francisco, the Good Vibrations Antique Vibrator Museum is part of Good Vibrations, and adult entertainment store that sells anything from lingerie to sex toys. The museum within the store houses an extensive collection of vibrators and other sex toys throughout the late 19th to 20th century, and allows visitors to take a peek at the wonderful history of sex toys through a sex positive lens.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Sex positive visitors and those who are curious as to the beginnings of the modern sex toy should find something of interest in the museum and the shop. The invention of the sex toy for “curing hysteria” and the stigma associated to its recreational use shows how the puritanical values of the early pilgrims were still very much ingrained in the American psyche well into the modern era.

What to do here?

Explore the museum’s exhibit of different sex toys from different eras. Check out how these quirky contraptions were advertised. See how at first they were marketed for medical procedures, then as home appliances–a reflection of how society at that time viewed women’s bodies and their assigned spaces. Or, just do some good ol’ sex toy shopping at the main shop. Good Vibrations has it all, and has heard it all.

Best time to visit

As the museum may be closed at times due to reservations, it’s best to phone Good Vibrations first before visiting the museum. As of this writing, the museum is temporarily closed for seismic retrofit, but the store is open daily, at 12:30 PM to 6:30 PM!

Learn more about Good Vibrations Antique Vibrator Museum here!

Check out Bourn Mansion

What’s special about this place?

Located at 2550 Webster Street in San Francisco, Bourn Mansion is another one of San Francisco’s great architectural landmarks. While it’s notorious for its sordid past, and not as glamorous as the Golden Gate Bridge, or even the V.C. Morris Gift Shop, due largely to the fact that it has since fallen into disrepair, it’s still considered a masterpiece by another great American architect, Willis Polk.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

After it was purchased by Arden Van Upp in the 70s, it became a site for lavish parties where rockstars, movie stars, and even porn stars attended. As such, visitors who seek to explore San Francisco’s rich history, and architecture enthusiasts should enjoy passing by Bourn Mansion.

What to do here?

As of this writing, there are no known tours available to see the inside of Bourn Mansion. It was sold at auction in 2010, and has since stood dormant. However, visitors can still pass by here and take pictures of what was once one of the classiest houses in all of America.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit largely depends on your itinerary. That said, passing by the mansion shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes, and it’s a convenient stop for tourists passing by Pacific Heights.

Skate at the Church of 8 Wheels

What’s special about this place?

Located at 554 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, the Church of 8 Wheels is a roller skating rink that offers public skate sessions, rentals and lessons. The skating rink is set in an old 19th century church that once hosted Vietnam war protesters and the Black Panther Party’s free breakfast program. It’s an old school skating rink that encourages visitors to don disco-themed costumes and accepts cash only.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

The Church of 8 Wheels has hours for all ages, and hours for “adult skate,” so, whether they come alone, or with their family or with a small group of fellow adults, tourists who want to try out roller skating should feel welcome here!

What to do here?

Skate through the church floor and dazzle the locals and other tourists with your skate moves! If you’re a beginner, the Church of 8 Wheels offers skating lessons and public skating sessions, so you can partake in the fun without feeling self-conscious!

Best time to visit

The skating rink is open Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday with varying hours. It opens around 4 or 5 in the afternoon (depending on the day), and the first few hours are for all ages. That said, if you’re with your family and you have underage kids, it’s ideal to get there when it opens! Otherwise, mingle with locals and other tourists during their “adult skate” hours!

Learn more about Church of 8 Wheels here!

Escape to Angel Island State Park

What’s special about this place?

Another island located in the San Francisco Bay, Angel Island is the largest natural island in the San Francisco Bay and offers some of the best views of the surrounding Bay Area. Angel Island State Park includes the whole island. The park is home to the endemic Angel Island Mole, as well as various species of trees such as eucalyptus, Japanese Redwood, and Monterey Pine. It’s also home to a considerable mule deer population that was introduced by the military in 1915!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Tourists looking for a great view of the Bay Area would love it here! There are hiking trails and limited bike trails as well, for those inclined to engage in an Angel Island adventure. It’s a popular destination for families.

What to do here?

Bike through the island’s main roads and walk through the park’s trails. Have a picnic and check out the view of the Bay. Check out the Immigration Station – Barracks Museum. Try camping at the various environmental campsites within the park!

Best time to visit

Some activities aren’t allowed and some parts of the park are inaccessible at night, so the best time to visit Angel Island would be during the day. The island is easily accessible through ferry or boat, and its hiking trails are fairly easy.

Chill out at Union Square

What’s special about this place?

Union Square is a public plaza within downtown San Francisco that’s surrounded by a range of upscale shops, restaurants, hotels, gift shops and art galleries. It’s named as such because the area was once used for pro-Union rallies during the American Civil War. It is conveniently close to other San Francisco attractions like Chinatown, and as such, is a major tourist destination!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Union Square is a must-visit for every new San Francisco tourist. A visit here is a great way to start your San Francisco adventure. It’s also a good meeting point for tourist groups with different itineraries.

What to do here?

Do some general sightseeing of downtown San Francisco. Take in the city’s “vibe” and atmosphere. Strike up a conversation with passing locals and ask them for recommendations, or just ask them about their experiences. Stopping by at a public plaza in a major city like San Francisco is a great way to have one’s finger on the pulse of the city.

Best time to visit

This again largely depends on your itinerary. It doesn’t really get too busy during the weekdays, so it’s best to stop by Union Square around that time. If you want to mingle with large groups, however, Union Square is usually packed with people from noon to around 6 PM on Fridays through Sundays!

Check out Lotta’s Fountain

What’s special about this place?

Located at Kearny Street, San Francisco, Lotta’s Fountain is a historic cast-iron fountain that served as a meeting point in the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. It is designated as a San Francisco Designated Landmark, and one of the U.S. National Historic Places.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Tourists who’d love to take pictures of iconic San Francisco landmarks would enjoy a visit here. While its aesthetic qualities may not be for everyone, it’s a great little piece of the old San Francisco, one of the few that remains, in an aggressively developing city.

What to do here?

Stop by and take pictures of Lotta’s Fountain. Check out the locals passing by the streets that intersect at the fountain. Check out the fountain’s ornate details and inscriptions.

Best time to visit

It usually never gets busy during weekdays, so it’s best to visit the fountain around this time. To get the most out of the visit, try to get there early in the morning, as the fountain is a major intersection where cars often pass by.

Visit the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers

What’s special about this place?

Located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the Conservatory of Flowers is a Victorian-era greenhouse and botanical garden that has more than 2,000 species of exotic plants!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Florists, horticulturists, botanists, and tourists who are into rare and exotic plants would love it here! The conservatory offers educational tours through galleries filled with unusual plants from all over the world that tourists would otherwise never get to see.

What to do here?

Partake in the conservatory’s free educational tours and connect with the conservatory’s flora! Learn about the latest horticultural and gardening trends. The conservatory also hosts events such as wedding parties, so if you’re looking for a great venue for your wedding, the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers is a serious contender!

Best time to visit

The Conservatory of Flowers is open from 10 AM to 4:30 PM, Tuesdays through Sundays. Like a lot of the places mentioned above, it doesn’t get too busy during weekdays, so it’s highly recommended to visit the conservatory before the weekend! If you can’t help it, though, the least busy weekend hours would be just before noon!

Learn more about San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers here!

Ride San Francisco’s historic cable cars

What’s special about San Francisco’s cable cars?

There’s a total of three cable car lines in the San Francisco cable car system. Two start at Powell and Market and continue to the Fisherman’s Wharf area; and one starts at California and Market and continues to Van Ness Avenue. The city’s cable car system is the last manually operated cable car system in the world! The cable car system was named a National Historic Landmark in 1964, and is kept in tip-top shape to this day!

Who’ll enjoy San Francisco’s cable cars?

Tourists who want to travel the length of San Francisco in a time-honored way would love the popular cable car trip! It offers a distinct view of San Francisco that can’t be replicated by any other mode of transportation!

What to do here?

First, find the schedules and maps of each cable car line, and plan your trip accordingly! As this is one of the most frequented rides by tourists, expect a long wait. Once you’re on it, check out a San Francisco only viewed through the cable cars, the same way locals saw the city 150 years ago!

Best time to ride a cable car

As of this writing, the cable car system is currently suspended due to the ever evolving COVID-19 crisis. That said, under normal circumstances, the cable cars begin their runs at 6 AM and continue until midnight. It’s best to purchase a ticket early and get to your chosen line at least an hour before your intended trip, as it gets crowded fast!

Learn more about San Francisco’s historic cable cars here!

Visit the Japanese Tea Garden

What’s special about this place?

Located at 75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, another popular feature within the Golden Gate Park, the Japanese Tea Garden was originally created as part of the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition. The garden has since been expanded to its current size of approximately 5 acres, thanks to its caretaker, a Japanese architect named Makoto Hagiwara. The garden features an arched drum bridge, stone lanterns, and cherry blossom trees! It is the oldest Japanese garden in the United States.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Tourists looking for a quiet place in the Golden Gate Park, and those looking for an authentic Japanese Tea Garden experience would love it here. Its rich history, from its inception through the events after the second World War, is also a point of interest for history fans.

What to do here?

Walk through the tea garden’s stone paths and check out its koi ponds! Visit the gift shop within the garden if you’re looking for authentic Japanese items such as sake sets. Check out the garden’s tea house that overlooks its stunning landscape and South-facing pond!

Best time to visit

The Japanese Tea Garden is open from 9 AM to 5:30 PM, and is usually not so busy during weekdays. For those looking for a relaxed, quiet time without too many people, it’s best to get there during weekdays before noon!

Learn more about Japanese Tea Garden here!

Check out the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

What’s special about this place?

Located at 131 3rd Street, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is one of the largest modern and contemporary art museums in the world. The museum currently features over 33,000 works of art from the 20th century, moving into the 21st century.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Artists and modern art aficionados would find a visit here highly engaging. Aside from its already extensive collection of modern and contemporary art, the museum features a constantly changing exhibition lineup; needless to say, there’s something for everyone in the museum.

What to do here?

Check out its current exhibitions, from the large scale sculptures in Contemporary Optics, to the diverse approaches to abstraction in Approaching American Abstraction. The museum also has pieces from the likes of Georgia O’Keeffe and Gerhard Richter!

Best time to visit

The museum is open from Thursday through Monday; 1-8 PM on Thursdays, 10 AM to 5 PM on the rest of the days. Visiting the museum is one thing, but if you plan to explore some of the exhibitions, you will have to sign up for a specific time slot first, as admission is not guaranteed due to limited space. In any case, it’s best to get there early!

Learn more about San Francisco Museum of Modern Art here!

Pass by Fisherman’s Wharf

What’s special about this place?

Located at San Francisco’s northern waterfront, Fisherman’s Wharf is one of San Francisco’s busiest neighborhoods. Similar to San Diego’s Little Italy, the Fisherman’s Wharf started out as a neighborhood where Italian immigrant fishermen settled during California’s gold rush. A well-known tourist destination, the neighborhood is best known for its great selection of restaurants and souvenir shops; and for being the location of Pier 39, the Wax Museum, and other attractions that are mentioned separately in this list.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Tourists who are looking to relax and spend some time trying out the best seafood in San Francisco would love Fisherman’s Wharf. As Fisherman’s Wharf also features a variety of shops and museums, there’s something for everyone here!

What to do here?

Try out the scallop risotto at Fisherman’s Wharf’s Fog Harbor Fish House, or the Fisherman’s platter at the Pier Market Seafood Restaurant. Go souvenir-shopping at the neighborhood’s various boutiques, and if you’re visiting on the fourth of July, check out the fireworks display!

Best time to visit

Most Fisherman’s Wharf businesses open at around 9 AM and close around 10 PM. As this is a busy neighborhood, expect it to get packed fairly quickly! The best time to visit Fisherman’s Wharf would depend on the shops/restaurants you plan to visit on your trip. It is recommended to spend 1-2 days in the area, though.

Learn more about Fisherman’s Wharf here!

Visit Musée Mécanique

What’s special about this place?

Located at Pier 45 on Fisherman’s Wharf, the Musée Mécanique is a for-profit, family-owned, interactive museum that has over 300 mechanical machines that include coin operated pianos, hand-cranked music boxes, antique slot machines, and even old school bird boxes!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Anyone who’s ever been in an old-fashioned arcade, or any gaming arcade for that matter, would love the Musée Mécanique! Needless to say, the museum is a great destination for kids. More than its entertainment value and sheer novelty, it gives visitors a peek into the origins of certain machines and games that are still very much used today, albeit in a much more modern iteration. It’s basically a tinkerer’s and gamer’s paradise!

What to do here?

Check out the museum’s extensive gallery, from Laffing Sal, to their grandmother fortune teller machine, to their love tester machine, to their famous steam-powered motorcycle! Explore the story behind each piece and check out museum’s shop for souvenirs!

Best time to visit

The best time to visit the museum would be around 10 AM, when it opens. If you plan on taking an afternoon trip, get there late in the afternoon to avoid large crowds, around 5 PM. The museum closes at 8 PM.

Learn more about Musée Mécanique here!

Check out the Alvord Lake Bridge

What’s special about this place?

Located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the Alvord Lake Bridge is a designated historic civil engineering landmark, and is the first reinforced bridge built in America. Built in 1889 by Ernest L. Ramone, the structure’s reinforcement consists of a series of cold-twisted steel reinforcing bars, an innovation that Ramone was known for. One of the few notable structures that survived the 1906 earthquake and fire, the bridge is another one of San Francisco’s architectural and engineering marvels!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Tourists who primarily explore a city for its architecture and the history behind such architecture, would appreciate the Alvord Lake Bridge. The fact that it remains a viable entrance to Golden Gate Park is a testament to Ramone’s vision!

What to do here?

Check out the bridge’s structure and overall condition. Inspect its meticulously hammered form that resembles sandstone. Pass through the cave-like tunnel underneath it. Be sure to take some pictures to add to your collection of great architectural feats!

Best time to visit

The best time to visit the Alvord Lake Bridge would be on your way to the Golden Gate Park. It’s not as well known as the other landmarks in San Francisco, so you shouldn’t have any problems with crowds when you get there!

Visit Ghirardelli Square

What’s special about this place?

Located at 900 North Point Street in San Francisco, Ghirardelli Square is a specialty retail and dining complex that was a former chocolate factory established by Domenico Ghirardelli. It is considered the first successful adaptive reuse project in the country!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Tourists looking to dine and do some shopping in a historic complex would enjoy Ghirardelli Square. With its wide selection of specialty shops and boutiques and restaurants, Ghirardelli Square is a must-visit when you’re in the Fisherman’s Wharf area!

What to do here?

Take a break from your San Francisco adventure and dine in Ghirardelli Square. Try out the steaks and fresh seafood from McCormick & Schmick’s, or the authentic Mexican fare at Barrio! If you’re looking to do some light gift/souvenir shopping, check out Lola San Francisco and their assortment of gifts, check out Mashka Jewelry for hand-crafted jewelry!

Best time to visit

Ghirardelli Square opens at 11 AM and closes at 8:30 PM. It’s usually never busy on weekdays, getting mildly busy around 3 PM, so be sure to visit during that time! It’s best to visit around 12 noon.

Learn more about Ghirardelli Square here!

Explore the San Francisco Botanical Gardens

What’s special about this place?

Located at 1199 9th Avenue within San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the San Francisco Botanical Garden is a living museum that offers 55 acres of landscaped gardens and open spaces, and showcases over 8,000 different kinds of plants!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Aspiring botanists and plant hobbyists would definitely find the San Francisco Botanical Gardens as their favorite part of the Golden Gate Park. The Garden is known internationally for its beauty and its dedication to plant conservation.

What to do here?

Check out the Garden’s living exhibits, such as the Andean Cloud Forest, the Conifer Lawn, and its High Elevation Palms! Check out the Garden’s education programs and involve your family in garden craft sessions and thrilling bug hunts!

Best time to visit

The Garden is open daily from 7:30 AM to 6 PM. Like most attractions in San Francisco, it’s busiest on weekends, so try to visit during weekdays! It’s recommended to get there early, around 9 AM, for you to get the most out of your visit.

Learn more about San Francisco Botanical Gardens here!

Check out the Pirate Supply Store at 826 Valencia

What’s special about this place?

Located at 826 Valencia Street in San Francisco, the Pirate Supply Store is exactly what it sounds like: a pirate supply store! It has an eclectic collection of essential pirate paraphernalia such as flags, pirate clothing, compasses, mermaid tears, pins, and patches! The real treasure within this store, however, is its writing programs for under-resourced kids and young adults! Compilations of these young writers’ works can also be purchased at the store!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Anyone with a taste for adventure and high seas piracy would enjoy it here! As it is a very child-friendly place, a trip here is suitable for tourists traveling with family. It’s also a great place to read essays, poems, and stories from young writers!

What to do here?

Shop for pirate-themed souvenirs and browse through the store’s wide selection of pirate paraphernalia. Check out writings from graduates of the 826 Valencia’s writing programs and be inspired by the youthful creativity in their works!

Best time to visitAs the store is only open on weekends, from 11 AM – 6 PM, expect it to be packed! It’s best to visit the store on a Sunday, around 12 – 3 PM!

Learn more about Pirate Supply Store at 826 Valencia here!

Stop by the Palace of Fine Arts

What’s special about this place?

Located at 3601 Lyon Street in the Marina District of San Francisco, the Palace of Fine Arts is a Greco-Roman inspired architectural attraction that is one of the most recognizable landmarks in San Francisco. It is the only remaining structure from the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. The Palace of Fine Arts is a popular venue for private events such as weddings and corporate parties, and it also hosts a changing roster of performing arts!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Tourists traveling alone and tourists traveling with their families would love it here! There are many spots on the palace grounds suitable for family picnics, and the palace’s Greco-Roman columns and interior make for great photo shoot locations!

What to do here?

This is one of the few places in San Francisco where it’s generally accepted to act like the stereotypical wide-eyed tourist. The Palace of Fine Arts has been used in films like Vertigo and The Room, and its structure inspired the Sept of Baelor in the popular series Game of Thrones! So take photos, take scenic walks, and every now and then, stop and admire the sights within the palace grounds!

Best time to visit

The Palace of Fine Arts is open from 10 AM to 5 PM. It’s best to visit during weekdays, as it never gets too crowded during that time. It’s also recommended to go there on a warm sunny day, to get a better ancient-Roman-ruins-vibe!

Learn more about Palace of Fine Arts here!

Visit The Tenderloin Museum

What’s special about this place?

Located at 398 Eddy Street in San Francisco’s famous Tenderloin neighborhood, the museum is inside a single-room occupancy apartment complex called the Cadillac Hotel. Its exhibit is simple enough: a collection of photographs and newspaper clippings accompanied by videos and sound clips that show a profound retelling of the neighborhood’s colorful history. It tells the stories of San Francisco’s people, from immigrants, to gay rights activists, to office workers, to prostitutes. Its gift shop sells works of local artists on a rotating schedule.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Anyone interested in San Francisco’s history, in all its colors and blemishes, would want to stop by The Tenderloin Museum. It’s a great place to explore what the things even local San Franciscans are hesitant to talk about.

What to do here?

Walk through the museum’s exhibits and explore Tenderloin’s history. Check out the pivotal moments in the LGBTQ movement. Explore the neighborhood’s history of crime and violence. Breathe it all in, and appreciate that these little moments are well-preserved in a small room, away from all the gentrification of the city.

Best time to visit

The Tenderloin Museum is open from Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 AM to 5 PM. It’s best to visit the museum on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, as it doesn’t really get too packed at any time during those days.

Learn more about The Tenderloin Museum here!

Try to catch a game at Oracle Park

What’s special about this place?

Located at 24 Willie Mays Plaza, in the South Beach neighborhood of San Francisco, Oracle Park is a baseball park that is home to the San Francisco Giants. The park has also hosted, on days that the Giants aren’t playing, non-baseball events such as professional and collegiate American football games, and soccer games. While primarily a baseball park, the park occasionally hosts races and concerts, and has many venues that accommodate private events.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Giants fans, and even tourists who don’t plan on catching any game at the Oracle Park would enjoy it here! The award-winning waterfront complex offers public and private tours of its grounds, which include entry into the dugout, the visitor’s clubhouse, the field itself, and even access to game-day batting practice!

What to do here?

Take your family on a private tour of Oracle Park. Check out the Giants Dugout Store and The Coca Cola Fan Lot. If you’re not necessarily a baseball fan, just enjoy the view at one of the country’s premier MLB venues!

Best time to visit

This depends on what activity you have planned. If you plan on watching a Giants game, it’s advisable to get there at least an hour before the game starts! If you plan on just taking a tour and you’re bringing a car, it’s best to get there a few minutes early, as parking can be very limited if the Giants are playing.

Do some light reading at a Short Story Vending Machine in Cafe Zoetrope

What’s special about this place?

Located at 916 Kearny Street within San Francisco’s Sentinel Building, Cafe Zoetrope is a European-style cafe that offers authentic Italian cuisine and a wide selection of wines. If the name’s familiar, that’s because it’s named after the production company of its owner (a certain Francis Ford Coppola). Within the cafe is a Short Story Vending Machine that generates 1-minute, 3-minute, and 5-minute short stories!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Fans of Francis Ford Coppola and the New Hollywood filmmaking movement would love the movie-themed cafe. Tourists who want to get some light reading done while waiting for their food would love the cafe’s Short Story Vending Machine. The best part of the vending machine is that the stories are written by unknown writers, so customers get to read stories they wouldn’t get to read in say, a news outlet or a bookstore!

What to do here?

Try the cafe’s authentic Italian fare; some of the items on the menu are from Francis Ford Coppola’s personal recipes. Check out the Short Story Vending Machine. The stories are free, so you can chill out and read as many short stories as you can!

Best time to visit

The cafe opens at 12 PM and closes at around 7 or 8 PM. While it’s never too busy on weekdays, the place does get a bit packed at around 6 PM onwards, so get there when it opens, or a little after 12 PM.

Learn more about Short Story Vending Machine in Cafe Zoetrope here!

Check out Vaillancourt Fountain

What’s special about this place?

Located in the Embarcadero Plaza, just a 2 minute walk from the Ferry Building, the Vaillancourt Fountain is a large water fountain made out of concrete square tubes. Also known as the Quebec Libre Fountain, the structure was intended to be a confrontational work of art that could be a site for dissent and protest. Though countless proposals have been made to take the controversial structure down, it still stands today, a true symbol of defiance.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Tourists looking to visit an underrated landmark of San Francisco would love the Vaillancourt Fountain. While its contemporary, blocky, brutalist design may not be for everyone, there is some charm in its history and perceived “ugliness.”

What to do here?

Inspect the jumble of concrete tubes and put yourself in the shoes of the fountain’s designer. Check out the algae rich water that flows out of its spouts. As the fountain is conveniently located in Embarcadero Plaza, it’s a great place to observe the locals from and do some sightseeing!

Best time to visitThe fountain is accessible 24 hours a day, so this really depends on your itinerary. It’s best seen during the day, though, when the concrete tubes are sunlit!

Try the thrilling Winfield Street Slides

What’s special about this place?

Located on Bernal Hill, in Esmeralda Slide Park within Bernal Heights, the Winfield Street Slides are a pair of 40-feet metal slides that run alongside a section of the Esmeralda Street stairs. The slides were constructed by local volunteers in the 70s with city assistance, and have since been delighting locals and tourists of all ages!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

The metal slides are favorite joyrides for kids and adults alike. Young children take turns at the slides during the day, while most adults and teenagers enjoy the thrilling rides in the dark!

What to do here?

Try sliding down the Winfield Slides without any cardboard or wax paper first. If you’re looking for a more thrilling ride, increase your sliding velocity with the cardboard pieces that can be found near the slides!

Best time to visit

The Esmeralda Slide Park’s hours are 7 AM – 8 PM, 7 days a week. It’s usually quite busy in the afternoon; so if you plan on trying out the slides for the first time without too many judging eyes, it’s recommended to get there before 12 PM!

Do some browsing at Amoeba Music

What’s special about this place?

Located at 1855 Haight Street, in the neighborhood that famously hosted the Summer of Love and was home to the likes of Janice Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, Amoeba Music’s San Francisco branch is the largest independent record store in the city.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Amoeba Music is a favorite among indie music lovers and old-timers who are looking to expand their collection of classic vinyl records! Amoeba Music has an eclectic stock of obscure new releases and vintage records!

What to do here?

Do some vinyl and CD hunting and try to look for your favorite albums, or that one record that you just can’t find anywhere else. If you’re not looking to buy new records, Amoeba Music also has an extensive collection of music memorabilia and posters! Chances are, you’ll find everything you need in Amoeba Music’s wide collection! Be sure to check out their collection of new releases as well.

Best time to visit

Amoeba Music is open from 11 AM to 7 PM. As there is a resurgence of people collecting physical copies of records, the store might be a little busy at any time of the day. It’s best to stop by Amoeba when you’re not in a rush.

Learn more about Amoeba Music here!

Explore Andy Goldsworthy’s Wood Line

What’s special about this place?

Located at Presidio Blvd in San Francisco, Andy Goldsworthy’s Wood Line is a 1,200-feet winding sculpture made out of recycled eucalyptus trunks in a forest path near Lovers’ Lane. Wood Line reimagines the cycle of life and death and creates art out of debris!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Tourists looking for an artsy layer to their routine nature walks would love the sinuous winding sculpture. Kids love tracing the Wood Line’s path and snaking their way through the Presidio woods. The Wood Line is a great place for photo shoots as well.

What to do here?

The winding “bridge” created by the wooden sculpture is an ideal place for short, quiet walks! Take a walk through the Wood Line and take photos of you and your family in the woods. As it’s surrounded by trees, the place provides an ideal escape from the San Francisco sun.

Best time to visit

The best time to take a walk through the Wood Line would be a little after 3 PM on weekdays. The shadows are not too harsh, and the air is nice and cool–perfect for short strolls!

Stop by the famous Sutro Baths

What’s special about this place?

Located at 1004 Point Lobos Avenue, within the USS San Francisco Memorial, Sutro Baths was a large saltwater swimming pool complex built in 1896. The complex eventually burned down in 1966, leaving only remnants of smaller pools and one deep diving pool, which still has its ladders and some of its paint; the ruins has since become one of the most iconic spots in San Francisco.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Tourists looking to explore a part of an older, much wilder San Francisco would love a trip to the Sutro Baths ruins. It’s also a great spot for birdwatching; another San Francisco institution slowly being reclaimed by nature!

What to do here?

Watch the sunset at Sutro Baths. Try to see if you can spot any stranded river otters in the area (one was seen in one the baths’ smaller pools some years back). Try to envision what the Sutro Baths looked like in its heyday as you’re checking out the ruins!

Best time to visit

The ruins are accessible to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and it never really gets too busy during weekdays! Since it’s a fine spot for sunset watching, it’s recommended to get there around 5 PM!

Explore the Ferry Building Marketplace

What’s special about this place?

Located at 1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, the Ferry Building Marketplace is a food artisan marketplace within the historic San Francisco Ferry Building. The marketplace features merchant shops that offer everything from artisanal honey to craft beers. It also features a Farmers Market that offers a variety of fresh produce and other regional specialties!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Tourists looking to soak in the food culture of the Bay Area would enjoy the Ferry Building Marketplace. As the marketplace is located within the Ferry Building, it’s also a great place for tourists who are interested in learning about San Francisco’s maritime history.

What to do here?

Check out their artisan merchant shops. Try the oysters at Hog Island Oyster Company; try gluten-free baked goods at Mariposa Baking Company; browse through an extensive selection of books at Book Passage! Take a stroll through their Farmers Market!

Best time to visit

The Ferry Building opens at 7 AM, and is only really busy on Saturdays. Hours for businesses within the Ferry Building Marketplace may vary, so it’s best to get there early. The Farmers Market is only open on Saturday (8 AM – 2 PM), Tuesdays and Thursdays (10 AM – 2 PM), so plan your trip accordingly!

Learn more about Ferry Building Marketplace here!

Unwind at Bourbon & Branch

What’s special about this place?

Located within a nondescript building at 501 Jones Street, Bourbon & Branch is a speakeasy that serves a handpicked selection of premium spirits and cocktails. Opened in 1923 as “JJ Russell’s Cigar Shop,” Bourbon & Branch has remained faithful to its identity, and to this day maintains an authentic Prohibition-era atmosphere.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Visitors who love Prohibition history and/or appreciate handcrafted cocktails, and all the fine things authentic speakeasies represent would love Bourbon & Branch. It’s a great place for date nights and corporate events as well!

What to do here?

Have a glass of Rittenhouse 21 Year neat or on the rocks. If bourbon’s not for you, check out their great selection of cocktails. The Frank Lloyd Wright is popular among regulars. As you leave, check out the speakeasy’s secret underground exit tunnels!

Best time to visit

It depends. Bourbon & Branch is open 6 PM to 2 AM, 7 days a week. The bar’s library is accessible at any time, you just have to remember the password–“books.” In order to access the main bar and its full menu, plan ahead and make a reservation!

Learn more about Bourbon & Branch here!

Watch avant-garde short films at the Peephole Cinema

What’s special about this place?

Located at 280 Orange Alley, the Peephole Cinema is a literal hole in the wall theater that plays an endless loop of silent short films. While the viewing position may prove uncomfortable for most people, this novelty of a cinema is quite the attraction in Mission District!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Tourists who don’t mind bending down a bit to catch a few silent shorts should enjoy their time at the Peephole Cinema. Kids should enjoy the Peephole Cinema as well, as they won’t have to strain themselves to watch the movies!

What to do here?

Engage your inner cinephile and check out the endless loop of short films through the peephole! Discuss the films within your film circle, or with locals and other passersby!

Best time to visit

The films run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so it really depends on what you have planned for your San Francisco trip. If you happen to pass by the Peephole Cinema, a few short films should only take a few minutes, so really, any time is ideal!

Experiment with a wild collection of sounds at the Audium Theatre

What’s special about this place?

Located at 1616 Bush Street, San Francisco, the Audium Theatre features “sound sculptures” that are performed through 176 speakers in total darkness. It creates a deep immersive experience for its guests with its unique spatial sound art.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Tourists who want to immerse themselves in a unique auditory exploration would definitely love the Audium Theatre. Its custom-built space is designed specifically for its guests to connect with the sound sculptures. It is the first of its kind in the whole world, and showcases an experience one can’t get anywhere else.

What to do here?

Engage with the theatre’s sound art. Try out their very unique Sound Hour and get lost in its immersive environment. Try to strike up a conversation with the artists involved in the theatre’s sound sculptures!

Best time to visit

There are performances that are accessible to the public, and private venue bookings are also available. In any case, this really depends on your schedule! Make sure to check out their website for tickets and available time slots!

Learn more about Audium Theatre here!

Get lost in Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze

What’s special about this place?

Located on the second floor of Building O-11 in Pier 39, Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze is a trippy amusement center that features a blacklight-lit psychedelic mirror labyrinth! Oh, and the trip through this disorienting dungeon is also scored by rave music!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

The maze is great for all ages! Adults and kids alike have been raving about the maze since its inception. The best part about the experience is that there’s no time limit on the psychedelic fun! Guests can choose to stay in the maze all day!

What to do here?

Trip out (legally) and walk through the maze composed of 77 mirrors! Try to find your way out of the maze. To the “smart” kids out there, this goes without saying, but try to do it without a trail of breadcrumbs, or a ball of yarn!

Best time to visit

Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze is open from 11 AM to 9 PM, 7 days a week. It’s best to go there on weekdays, as it’s never busy on weekdays. A few hours at the Infinite Mirror Maze is a great way to cap off the work week!

Learn more about Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze here!

Visit Twin Peaks

What’s special about this place?

Located 501 Twin Peaks Blvd in San Francisco, Twin Peaks is the second highest summit in the city. As both summits sit at 922-feet above sea level, Twin Peaks offers its visitors unobstructed views of San Francisco and the entire Bay Area. Twin Peaks is also home to the endangered Mission blue butterfly!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Tourists looking for a free and easily accessible way to view San Francisco would love Twin Peaks. Each of the summits offer great vantage points to take photos of San Francisco from. As Twin Peaks is part of the Mission blue butterfly habitat conservation, tourists looking to see some native San Francisco wildlife would also enjoy Twin Peaks!

What to do here?

Check out the view of San Francisco from each of the summits! Take pictures of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge! Check out the wildlife that thrives in Twin Peaks and try to see if you can spot any Mission blue butterflies!

Best time to visit

Twin Peaks is open all year round, from 5 AM to 12 AM. As it’s quite popular among locals and tourists alike, it’s best to get there on weekdays. As it’s also one of the great spots in San Francisco for sunset viewing, it’s recommended to go there a little after 5 PM. It’s the least busy in the morning, though.

Get SF burritos at La Taqueria

What’s special about this place?

Located at 2889 Mission Street, La Taqueria is famous for its traditional, no-frills menu that includes their rice-free burritos! Known as one of the best Mexican places in San Francisco, this iconic taqueria is a hit among native San Franciscans and tourists alike!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Hungry tourists of all ages would love it here! Since La Taqueria offers vegetarian options and rice-free burritos, it’s also a great place for vegetarians and tourists who are looking to cut back on carbs.

What to do here?

Try La Taqueria’s dorado-style burrito and tacos! For those looking for a spicier salsa than the regular green salsa, ask for La Taqueria’s salsa roja. La Taqueria also offers a combination meat burrito, so make sure to try those when you visit!

Best time to visit

The best time to visit La Taqueria would be around lunchtime, as the place doesn’t get busy until around 6 PM! La Taqueria is open Wednesdays through Sundays. Like most places on this list, it’s busier during weekends, so plan your trip accordingly!

Unwind at NoPa

What’s special about this place?

Located just north of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, NoPa, short for North of the Panhandle, is a small section cut out from San Francisco’s larger Western Addition neighborhood. It’s a highly gentrified area full of trendy, highly rated bars and restaurants (one of which is the eponymously named Nopa)! It’s also situated right beside the University of San Francisco, so college students frequent the area.

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Tourists who want to unwind and take a break from all the busyness of San Francisco would appreciate NoPa, regardless of what their stance towards gentrification is. It’s a small peaceful neighborhood with a variety of great places to dine in. It’s a great stop for tourists who are traveling with family!

What to do here?

Try out the neighborhood’s restaurants. Nopa is known for their farm-fresh, organic wood-fired cuisine! For a more casual dining experience, check out 4505 Burgers & BBQ Burgers & BBQ! Go for a stroll at Alamo Square and check out the iconic Painted Ladies!

Best time to visit

This depends on your schedule and budget. Shops and restaurant hours may vary, but if you want to just take a walk through the neighborhood, the best time would be late afternoon, around 4 or 5 PM–most of the establishments should be open by that time!

Check out the Aquatic Park Tombstones

What’s special about this place?

Located at 3260 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco’s famous Aquatic Park Tombstones have a rather grim history. As the name indicates, before they ended up in the park, these relics of San Francisco’s wild west era were in mass graves in Colma. When the owners of these tombstones were relocated, the city thought it best to reuse these tombstones to commemorate their early dead. Quite ingenious, right?

Who’ll enjoy it here?

Tourists looking to pay their respects to the dead that helped build the great city of San Francisco (evidently, even long after their passing), and tourists who want to connect not just with the city’s past, but with its first citizens, would find the visit here quite meaningful.

What to do here?

Stroll through this area of Van Ness Avenue and try to make out the names on the tombstones. Watch as the waves break on these tombstones and appreciate how they’re now integrated to an environment teeming with marine life.

Best time to visit

As the area is accessible 24/7, it’s best to pass through here around sunset, or during low tide. The tombstones are definitely seen better during low tide, as some of the site’s visitors have claimed that if you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s hard to make out the tombstones from regular rocks.

Explore the California Academy of Sciences

What’s special about this place?

Located at 55 Music Concourse Drive, the California Academy of Sciences is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that doubles as a research institute, and as a natural history museum. It features a diverse range of exhibits that include interactive, hands-on exhibits; and houses over 46 million specimens!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

As one of the largest natural history museums in the world, the California Academy of Sciences is a hit among tourists and locals of all ages! A great place for families, young biologists and biology enthusiasts should find something to love here. Regardless of the extent of your interest in the natural sciences, you’ll definitely marvel at the museum’s exhibits!

What to do here?

Take one of the museum’s guided tours. Walk through the museum’s Osher Rainforest, a living 4-story rainforest exhibit that features free-flying butterflies and giant Amazonian fish! Or check out the museum’s Tusher African Hall and explore human evolutionary history. The museum also has a Living Roof exhibit that features over 1.7 million plants!

Best time to visit

The museum is open from 7 days a week, 9:30 AM – 5 PM and 11 AM – 5 PM, on Mondays through Saturdays, and Sundays, respectively. The best time to visit would be, you guessed it, on weekdays, specifically Monday to Thursday; either early in the morning (around 10 AM), or late in the afternoon (around 3 PM).

Learn more about California Academy of Sciences here!

Reaffirm your faith in Jazz at the St. John Coltrane Church

What’s special about this place?

Located at 2097 Turk Blvd in San Francisco, the St. John Coltrane Church is a church that integrates the music of John Coltrane to the religious teachings of Christianity. The church has an incredible community that welcomes all types of people–regardless of creed, color, and musical taste!

Who’ll enjoy it here?

The St. John Coltrane Church welcomes and accepts all people, so tourists of all ages should feel at home here. The church provides a great environment for people to connect with each other and celebrate life either through the Bible’s teachings, or through Coltrane’s music–both induce deeply immersive spiritual experiences.

What to do here?

Hear mass at the St. John Coltrane Church. For non-Christians and atheists, check out the church’s community and how they integrate John Coltrane into their lives. Check out how the church celebrates its identity as an African Orthodox Church with Byzantine-style icons that feature a Black Virgin Mary and infant Jesus.

Best time to visit

The Coltrane Church has A Love Supreme Meditation day every first Sunday of every month, and holds mass every Sunday at noon. Any time is ideal to visit the Coltrane Church, as there’s never a bad time for John Coltrane or, if you’re religious, a theological reflection.

Learn more about St. John Coltrane Church here!

FAQ

FAQ – Frequently asked questions about San Francisco:

Is San Francisco safe?

This really depends on how you define safe. If you’re a tourist from a developing country, major cities in the USA can seem significantly safer. Overall, San Francisco has lower violent crime rates than other popular cities in America, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely crime-free. As with any city that has a large income disparity among its population, theft is a common issue in some neighborhoods.

Is San Francisco expensive to visit?

On average, excluding airfare and tourist attractions, a day in San Francisco would cost just under $300. Thus, it is quite pricey compared to other cities, and this reputation precedes the city for a reason.

Do you need a car to travel within San Francisco?

Not really. San Francisco ranks very highly among lists of cities in the U.S. that have the best public transportation system, and consequently, lists of cities in the U.S. for living without a car.

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