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Things to do in San Francisco

Things to do in  San Francisco

Welcome to San Francisco

San Francisco is seven square miles of fog-shrouded magic. Travelers come for cable-car rides and the Golden Gate Bridge—and stay for edgy neighborhoods, cultural diversity, and beautiful open-air spaces.

When to visit

Mark Twain famously said the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. In truth, the fog is unpredictable but you can expect a relatively seasonless climate year-round.

Cool summers are perfect for bike rides across the Golden Gate Bridge, or row boat rentals at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park.

Fall brings Indian summers and the warmest weather, ideal for checking out the produce harvest at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market.

Winter is the heart of whale watching season, and the best time to try Dungeness crab served whole at Fisherman’s Wharf.

With spring come cherry blossoms at the Japanese Tea Garden, and offseason wine country trips—with fewer tourists.

Getting around

Walking: San Franciscans take pride in walking (or biking) instead of driving, and for good reason: they live in one of the most compact and traffic-congested cities in the US. Thankfully, most neighborhoods are perfect for exploring on foot, with lively street life, public spaces, and restaurants and cafes to explore.

Bus and rail: It’s reasonably easy to get around the city on MUNI buses and streetcars, though many lines run infrequently depending on the time of day and stop after midnight. Cable cars take limited scenic routes, while BART rapid rail is the fastest connection from downtown to the Mission, airport, and surrounding Bay Area.

Rideshare: Uber and Lyft services are most widely used, and will save you the trouble of driving and parking. Taxis can be hard to flag down—but they don’t charge surge pricing during peak travel times. Bike shares are common and growing in popularity, especially downtown and along the waterfront.

Traveler tips

San Francisco is known today for being the home of techies rather than hippies; it’s a city in flux, but with time-tested attractions that easily show why it’s a special place. Alcatraz Island, Muir Woods, and Golden Gate Park are worth visiting for their natural beauty alone. Chinatown and North Beach have blissfully held on to their cultural roots, while the Castro, the heart of the city's LGBTQIA+ community, is walkable, sunny, and anchored by the lovely Castro Theater. To see a truly classic side of the city, we recommend visiting the Beach Chalet, Cliff House, and Sutro Baths ruins near Ocean Beach.

Top 10 attractions in San Francisco

#1
Alcatraz

Alcatraz

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Alcatraz, the former federal prison that once held notorious criminals Scarface Al Capone and George 'Machine Gun' Kelly, is today a national historic landmark and one of the most sought-out (and sold-out) attractions in the San Francisco Bay Area. Tour the remains of the maximum-security facility on small and windy Alcatraz Island, aptly nicknamed 'The Rock,' to scope out the grounds and cellhouse; hear stories from former inmates; and pass by the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, and Angel Island on your 1.25-mile (2-km) ferry rides in and out.More
#2
Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

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No traveler to San Francisco leaves without checking out the stunning views along the Golden Gate Bridge. The iconic, red-orange suspension bridge rises high above the San Francisco Bay and spans 1.7 miles (2.7 km) across, connecting the city’s northernmost point to Marin County. While it’s a major route for Bay Area commuters, the famous landmark attracts visitors from around the world with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, the Marin headlands, Alcatraz, and San Francisco.More
#3
San Francisco Bay

San Francisco Bay

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A natural harbor spanned by the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the picturesque San Francisco Bay is the defining feature of California’s Bay Area. Get out on the chilly, choppy water—or just savor the views from the shoreline as the fog rolls in.More
#4
Muir Woods

Muir Woods

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The Muir Woods National Monument is a must-see destination on any visit to the San Francisco Bay Area. Home to one of the world's last remaining coastal redwood forests, this protected nature reserve allows travelers to hike, relax, or picnic among these giant Northern California trees for an incredible experience only minutes from the city. The Muir Woods forest forms part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which includes nearby outdoor attractions including Stinson Beach—the park's only lifeguarded beach—and Fort Baker, offering great views of the Golden Gate Bridge from Marin County.More
#5
Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf

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Once the stomping ground of Italian fishermen, Fisherman’s Wharf is now one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist destinations. The bustling waterfront strip is filled with souvenir shops, seafood restaurants, and a wealth of family-friendly attractions—most notably a colony of sea lions that sunbathes and poses for photos on Pier 39.More
#6
San Francisco Chinatown

San Francisco Chinatown

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San Francisco’s Chinatown, one of North America’s oldest and largest, has long been one of the city’s top attractions. Visitors can browse the many shops, dim sum restaurants, temples, and markets in this bustling neighborhood that dates back to the California Gold Rush.More
#7
Palace of Fine Arts

Palace of Fine Arts

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San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts dates to the 1915 Panama–Pacific International Exposition. One of the only remaining buildings from the World’s Fair, the Greco-Roman–inspired ruin is a favorite Bay Area venue. Walk under the picturesque rotunda, wander the grounds, and visit lagoons that are home to ducks, swans, and geese.More
#8
Pier 39

Pier 39

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One of the most visited sights in San Francisco, the multilevel Pier 39 complex is home to shops, restaurants, street performers, and a video arcade. Its waterfront setting on the San Francisco Bay means visitors can take in panoramic bay views, breathe fresh sea air, and watch sunbathing California sea lions.More
#9
North Beach

North Beach

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Despite its name, San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood does not border the water and has no sandy spots. But its position between Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, and the Embarcadero makes it one of the city’s most popular areas for visitors and locals, all of whom enjoy its Italian eateries, Beat history, quiet park, and nightlife scene.More
#10
Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

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One of the United States’ most popular national parks, Yosemite National Park is packed with natural beauty and views that never cease to amaze. From the majestic mountain peaks to the green meadows on the valley floor (plus all the waterfalls and groves of tall Sequoia trees in between), there’s no shortage of outdoor and leisure activities set against the park’s epic views. And whether you spend a single day or stay for a multi-day camping trip, you’ll feel a deeper appreciation for the nature at this national treasure.More

Trip ideas

An Exploratorium Exhibit Developer's Guide to San Francisco

An Exploratorium Exhibit Developer's Guide to San Francisco

Know Before You Go: Tips for Visiting Alcatraz

Know Before You Go: Tips for Visiting Alcatraz

Top activities in San Francisco

San Francisco Love Tour

San Francisco Love Tour

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Recent reviews from experiences in San Francisco

star-5
The best of San Fran with Agatha
Gerardus, Feb 2021
⭐ Withlocals™ Highlights & Hidden Gems PRIVATE Tour⭐
I highly recommend this tour to see San Francisco through the eyes of a knowledgable local like Agatha
star-5
Grooviest Experience and Guide!!!
Cheryl_C, Oct 2020
San Francisco Love Tour
What a groovy way to see and learn about San Francisco.
star-5
A great fun way to see San Francisco!
Abel_G, Oct 2020
GoCar San Francisco Tour
What a wonderful way to see most of San Francisco!
star-5
A must!
Chelsi_D, Oct 2020
San Francisco Love Tour
This tour was everything you need to see the highlights of San Francisco!
star-5
Exceptional
Marvin_L, Oct 2020
Big Bus San Francisco Hop-on Hop-off Open Top Tour
It was really great, had an opportunity to see many sites and had a chance to discover many different cultures of san Francisco.
star-5
Painted Ladies Tour is Perfect for seeing San Fran
Debra_M, Sep 2020
Painted Ladies Private San Francisco Tour
He had great insight into the city and we got to see all of the highlights in a fun and entertaining environment.
star-5
A great way to see San Fran at your own pace,
Cat_Rich, Nov 2020
GoCar San Francisco Tour
We got to see the city at our own pace and stop along the way to take some awesome pictures with my family.
star-5
A must if ever in San Fran!!!
Erica_D, Nov 2020
Little Italy and North Beach Walking Tour
It was so neat to see him interact with other locals that knew him.
star-5
San Francisco Via Side Car 🏍💨💨
Wendy_M, Oct 2020
Classic Sidecar Tour of San Francisco
I am traveling to visit my nephew & stopped over briefly in San Francisco to experience the scenery that my hometown doesn’t have.
star-5
Awesome Tour
Kelly_L, Sep 2020
Small Group Half Day Muir Woods and Sausalito Morning Tour
He provided alternative destinations for us such as Muir Beach, Sausalito, and other lookout points to see the redwoods and the Golden Gate Bridge.
star-5
Breezy eve
Anonymous, Jul 2020
2-Hour Sunset Sail on the San Francisco Bay
We had a great time it was an amazing way to see San Francisco and some of the islands.
star-4
Fun and informative
ehrenfrd, Feb 2020
Painted Ladies San Francisco City Tour
This was a great way to see and learn about San Francisco.
star-5
One to One tour guide
dprior, Feb 2020
Painted Ladies San Francisco City Tour
Well what a way to see San Francisco!
star-5
Awesome Chinatown and North Beach tour
operaspaz, Jan 2020
Chinatown and North Beach Walking Tour
He was so full of historical knowledge of the area and even if the places we should try to see before we left beautiful San Francisco.
star-5
City Tour
esteslori7, Jan 2020
Combo Tour: Alcatraz Island and San Francisco Grand City Tour
Just enough time to see the Highlights of San Francisco .
star-5
Happy
Kim S, Jan 2020
Small Group San Francisco Half-Day City Tour
Good job in allowing newcomers to see what San Francisco has to offer.
star-5
San Francisco City Tour
Rao V, Nov 2019
San Francisco Grand City Tour Including Free Walking Tour
He spoke fluently demonstrating his expertise while taking us through various San Francisco attractions which included Downtown, China Town, Fisherman’s Wharf, Golden bridge etc.
star-5
Amazing Experience!!
chilgenberg, Nov 2019
San Francisco Vista Helicopter Tour
Great way to see a lot of San Francisco in a short amount of time.
star-5
See the sights in style
Sebastian_D_NJ, Nov 2019
Vantigo San Francisco City Tour
This is a great way to see the best sights in San Francisco, with some amazing views you didn't expect.
star-5
Fun Tour
Compass826969, Nov 2019
Entertaining Tour of San Francisco
He was very flexible and accommodating, ensuring we got to see exactly what we wanted.

Questions & Answers