Best 55 Things to do in San Francisco (cool, fun and unusual places to explore around the city)
The city is fun and exciting with so many places to visit in San Francisco and explore. There’s lots of cool and fun things to do in San Francisco to keep you busy and exploring all around town. You can enjoy a lot of San Francisco activities (many of them are free to experience), so check out these San Francisco tourist spots, neighborhoods and unique places to explore below for ideas on what to plan and do when you are visiting the city soon.
Outside of the many attractions you will find around the city, there’s so many cool and hidden treasures to explore around San Francisco’s unique neighborhoods, outdoor venues, expansive parks and some of the beaten path places that only locals will know.
We share 55 things to do around the city in this guide, so save it for later when you want to do a bucket list of city tours and adventures to explore around town.
What’s the best time to visit San Francisco?
Probably the best time to explore the city is during the shoulder season when everyone is back home from vacation and visiting hits some of the slower times in the city. What months or days are those you ask? That happens in Spring from April to May or September to November when the weather is still good and conditions are fine, less crowds and skies are typically clear.
How many days to spend in San Francisco?
With so many cool attractions, neighborhoods and popular places to explore you can easily spend a week here. If you want to just visit the highlights then three days is adequate. But a week is perfect to visit areas outside for day trips and explore more of the unique neighborhoods, parks and other local venues around the city.
What should you not miss in San Francisco?
Visit the highlights like Chinatown, Union Square, Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, The Ferry Plaza marketplace, Lombard street and Golden Gate Park.
Is Alcatraz Island worth visiting?
Yes the cruise to the island, unique views of the city and touring this historic prison and gardens is a unique and fun experience that really adds to your San Francisco visit.
What food is San Francisco known for?
Known as a foodie city, eating here is an art covering trendy and Michelin star restaurants, popular seafood venues with dungeness crabs with sourdough bread, delicious Italian food in little Italy and the many ethnic neighborhoods like Japan town, Mission Street, Little Vietnam and so many other venues to explore.
Should you walk the Golden Gate bridge?
The Golden Gate Bridge is an iconic landmark and walking on the bridge is a fantastic experience with expansive views, enjoying the outdoors and really seeing the bridge upclose is truly a unique experience to have visiting the city.
Here’s 55 things to do and see around San Francisco area
We have you covered with all of these fantastic attractions, cool sites and one of a kind places to explore around San Francisco. Bookmark this post as a guide to visiting the best places to explore around San Francisco now!
Walk or bike across the Golden Gate Bridge
One of the top San Francisco tourist spots is the Golden Gate Bridge. One of the most iconic sites of the city, the Golden Gate Bridge is the gateway to the city that you can walk or bike or even run through with stunning views of the bay and city skyline beyond. You’ll have some amazing views of the bay, city skyline and the various islands around the bay including the Marin headlands you can explore if you have more free time to do that side of the bridge. You can do a fun bike tour here for more details on this 3 hour tour of the bridge and area.
Here’s a quick look at walking across the Golden Gate Bridge and those amazing views of the city and bay
Visit Chrissy Field area by the Golden Gate Bridge and enjoy some fantastic views of the bay
Chrissy fields on the bay front of the city extends all the way from the Golden Gate bridge to the small harbor area of St. Francisco harbor. It’s fun to walk Chrissy fields with the fantastic Golden Gate bridge in the back ground all the way to Fort Point at the bottom of the bridge. Chrissy Field is the best place in the city to go to for those sunset views of the bay and bridge. It’s a nice time to be on the waterfront area and even capture sunset behind the bridge for some magnificent photo taking possibilities.
Here’s a cool walk around Crissy field to the Golden Gate Bridge below
Explore Fort Point below the Golden Gate Bridge and explore the historic fort that used to protect the entrance to San Francisco Bay
An old brick fortress that protected the entrance of the bay, Fort Point was a formidable armory and fortress that was never actually used but provided the main security to protecting the city. You can tour the inside of the fort and museum and also walk along the ramparts for unique views of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge
Here’s a quick tour of Fort Point right below the Golden Gate Bridge
Do the beautiful coastline trail hike around the Golden Gate bridge to Marshall beach and Baker beach
One of the cool things to do in San Francisco is to be outdoors and hike the gorgeous coastal trails along the cliff areas of Land’s End to Baker Beach area. There is a nice trails that heads through the coastal walks that connects the Golden Gate Bridge to both these beaches and beyond. Spring time in San Francisco is the best time to visit and hike these coastal trails or just enjoy the beach scene and vibe away from the crowds.
HIking Golden Gate down to the trails heading to Marshall beach gives a different perspective and view of the bridge up close
Check out this video experience at Marshall Beach
Sail below the Golden Gate Bridge and around the Bay
One of the fun things to do in San Francisco is to be on a boat and explore the bay, bridges and those gorgeous water views. When you are on a boat, you’ll experience different viewpoints of the city from the water and actually sail under and outside the Golden Gate bridge with gorgeous views of the surrounding coastlines, panoramic skyline views and the city itself to enjoy. Check out the details of this tour here for more information to doing this unique experience.
Here’s a fun sailing experience highlight around the San Francisco Bay and under the Golden Gate bridge below
Check out the ancient batteries from the Golden Gate bridge
If you walk or drive from the coastal drive from the Golden Gate Bridge towards Marshall beach you’ll see the old batteries that are lined up on the hills above the cliffs that used to be the batteries protecting the city and from their you get fantastic coastline views of the cliffs and hidden beaches and some wonderful vantage points to photograph the Golden Gate Bride.
One of the most beautiful vistas is from Battery Spencer on the Marin side looking down to the bridge and San Francisco
Take a Helicopter tour across the San Francisco Bay
Enjoy this Helicopter tour from above around the many monuments and attractions of the city and fly over the bay to see the magnificent skyline, the gorgeous coastline, Alcatraz, Sausalito and the many bridges spanning the city. Check out this unique Helicopter tour experience here for more information on how to make it happen.
Here’s a San Francisco look from a helicopter above
Have a fun Beach Day at Baker or Marshal Beach and enjoy the Golden Gate Bridge in the Back Ground
Nothing like enjoying a day on the beach with fantastic views of the Golden Gate bridge and the entire San Francisco coastline to enjoy. You can do this on either Baker beach which is easy to drive to or hike down to Marshal Beach where you can practically walk along the beach to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. The water might be cold but it’s fun to just beach comb, hang out and enjoy the magnificent views from the beach.
Check out this gorgeous day on at Baker Beach in fall time below
Check out Lombard street and walk down the crookest street in the USA
Lombard street is an iconic attraction to visiting this city and must photo op especially when the gardens are colorful and in full bloom when you plan a visit here. The crookedest street in the world is fun to walk through especially if its from the top and walking downhill.
Here’s a fun tour driving down Lombard street from the top down
Check out the Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39
For something fun to do at Pier 39, you’ll get to see all the cool underwater aquariums covering California to more tropical aquatic aquariums to explore in this underwater world of over 20,000 marine and sea animals. Check out the details for the Aquarium on the Bay here for visiting this fun attraction at Pier 39.
Here’s a quick and fun tour of the Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39 and what to see
Enjoy Pier 39 and window shop, watch the free performances and watching the sea lions at Pier 39
There’s a lot of fun window shopping, watching all the live street performances around Pier 39 or grab a nice seafood meal or snack at the many food venues with nice bay views on the Pier to explore
Here’s a fast tour around Pier 39 from above and walking around
Do the Land’s End hike
From Sutro baths and into the forested coastal trails to some unique and open areas along the rugged coastline up to Baker Beach, Marshall beach and even the Golden Gate Bridge for an extended hike along the coastal trails
Do the Labyrinth walk at Land’s End
A nice meditative labyrinth awaits you at Land’s End with gorgeous coastal views, this is a wonderful spot to stop and slow down and be meditative in your focus and pace to enjoying this unique space on the coastline of the city.
Check out the Sutro bath pools and tunnel view to the coastal areas of Land’s End
This historic area of the coastline is fascinating to tour the old pools and coastal walk, enjoy the views and just explore the area of Sutro baths, check out the history at the visitor’s center just in the parking lot area for some displays and good information and history of the area.
Check out the Views on top at Sutro Heights Park down to Sutro Baths and ocean beach.
There are some magnificent views from this old park that used to be the topping point of the old railway on the way to the Sutro Baths. You get a unique view point of the wonderful coastline from above and views to Sutro Baths, the Cliff House and Land’s End along with walking through some of the wild gardens in the park.
Hang out at Ocean beach
On sunny days Ocean beach is fun to hang out and picnic or beach come and even enjoy a nice sunset view from there. Night time gatherings are also fun for a bit on the wild side and some impromptu small bonfires that happen infrequently with groups hanging out on the beach
Take a tour of Alcatraz Island
One of the most iconic prisons of the United States, Alcatraz housed some of the most dangerous criminals on this isolated island that only a few have tried to actually escape from. You can tour and see the main facility and historical sites around this fascinating island. Check out the details Visiting Alcatraz Island here for more information to going there.
Walk to the Dutch windmill
Explore the Dutch windmill at Golden Gate park from spring to summer flowers at the surrounding garden with the tulips are blooming late February to March timeframe.
Check out the Academy of Sciences
A very cool museum to visit and family friendly in the concourse area of the park, the Academy of Sciences features the cool natural and scientific exhibits of California with an extensive aquarium, natural science museum and exhibits along with dioramas and beautiful displays, education centers, videos and even a living garden roof that you can explore upstairs. To book advance tickets to visiting the Academy of Sciences, check out this post here for more details.
Check out more details to visiting the Academy of Sciences here for more inspiration and fun things to do and see in the museum.
Do a walk around Stowe lake and climb up Strawberry Hill in Golden Gate Park
Stowe lake is where most locals walk or jog around the lake for exercise or rent rowboats to enjoy time on the lake. Also climb up Strawberry hill island for some nice views of the park and also to check out the fun waterfall from the island.
Check out the Bison in their large pen area close to Stowe Lake
Did you know that there are actual Bison staged at an outdoor section of the park and some stable areas? They were located in the park at the paddock and were given to then Mayor Diane Feinstein from her husband in 1984.
Check out the beautiful rose gardens and blooms at Golden Gate Park
The rose gardens are spectacular during the late spring to early fall months and are fairly easy and quiet to visit in the area and worth smelling and seeing these gorgeous blooms.
Other public gardens of Golden Gate Park
There are so many other wonderful public gardens to explore in the park including the Japanese tea garden, San Francisco Conservatory and Rhododendron dell along with the Dahlia Dell. Check out which gardens to visit in season at these Golden Gate Park gardens here for more inspiration.
Enjoy the grassy areas around the Conservatory of flowers
You can explore the gorgeous glass wooden greenhouse at the Conservatory of Flowers with it’s gorgeous displays of Tropical, water, potted plants and floating shows and check out the cactus/succulent area and Dahlia dell in blooms around summer time frame
Explore the Irving district
Just outside the park off Ninth and Irving and window shop till you drop or pick up some cheap snacks or take-out food
Weekend fun in Golden Gate Park
On weekends the park is closed and you can walk or bike the closed streets in the park. Or, watch the roller blade dancers jive to some funky tunes or watch the classic big band dancers around the big bandstand. You can actually do a fun Segway tour of the Golden Gate Bridge here for something unique and fun to do in the park.
Check out 16th Avenue steps in the Richmond
This outer Richmond venue has become an Instagram venue with this colorful and amazing staircase made of mosaic art that the neighborhood helped to create a magical tapestry of earth to celestial experiences walking the staircase and enjoying the views out to the ocean from the area. You’ll love taking this colorful walk and enjoy the gardens, art and views at the 16th avenue staircase.
Explore the Haight district – funky and colorful neighborhood
Walk around the funky area of the Haight district where hippy shops meld in with thrift and uber chic shops shoulder to shoulder and makes for some fun window shopping in the are
Visit Japan Town
Japan Town on Geary street is fun to explore the different areas that comprise this area with shops, galleries, snacking areas and hang out spots and all the spectacular Japanese food restaurants you can visit and enjoy around the center.
Check out the fun and uber trendy Divisadero district and going towards the Castro Area
Lots of uber fashionable dining venues, bars and cool hang out spots have sprung up along Divisadero Street from the Filmore area and down to the Castro. This is the see and be seen street with all the cool clubs, bars and chic restaurants in San Francisco now.
Check out the Painted Ladies at Alamo square and do some selfies
A fun experience to enjoy the view of the Painted Ladies and hang out in the park and watch the views into sunset time frame is a simple and fun thing to do in the area and then check out the cool food venues on Divisidero street afterwards.
Explore the Cool Castro district
The Castro Street and neighborhood is fun, colorful and becoming more gentrified, but you can still see a lot of the fun gay venues and theatrics around the street, window shopping, catching a delicious bite or watching a movie at the historic Castro Theater.
Hang out at the Mission Dolores park and enjoy the playground and views of the city
One of the most popular hang out spots for locals to picnic, drink and just enjoy the magnificent views of the city from above on the various grassy areas, the weekend scene is loud, colorful and busy at Delores park
Window shop the fun Guerrero Neighborhood
The Guerrero street area is fun to explore with all the cool coffee shops, ethnic and trendy restaurants and bars, cool boutique and art galleries and other hip hang out spots in the street that is so fun to people watch and just enjoy being a part of this cool neighborhood and vibe
Check out the cool graffiti on Clarion Alley
Always changing, the graffiti at Clarion is always colorful, impactful and makes statements that make you think beyond just the graphic and bold designs and well thought out messages for you to be a part of and take away from this visit.
Check out this post on visiting Clarion Alley here in the Mission district for more inspiration
Find the cool spots to hang out in the Mission district
The Mission District is uber trendy with Mission and Guerrero street busy and filled with hip stores, bars, cafes and places to hang out, people watch and just enjoy this fun and hip area that always seems alive and cool to explore and be in day or night time.
If you’re into food tours, check out this fun food tour to do in the Mission district here for inspiration.
Climb Bernal Heights for some fabulous views of the city below
Bernal Heights is one of those fantastic local hills that everyone loves to visit and enjoy and it has a really cool feature on top
Enjoy the fun swing at Bernal Heights
One of the best features and views to visiting Bernal Heights is this magical swing and boy does it really swing very high up as high as you can actually take it. The views from there are really amazing with not too many visitors but mostly locals walking their dog in the trails around the hill.
Check out Noe Valley and some fun shops and people watching in the area
Noe Valley is just one of those easy and quiet neighborhoods that just locals mostly hang out and shop in. It’s fun to visit and check out the local stores, eateries and even the fantastic cheesery in the neighborhood along with the myriads of coffee shops that make this a popular neighborhood to hang out in all day and night
Hike or bike up to Twin Peaks for amazing views of the entire city below
Twin Peaks is the spot to go for amazing panoramic views of the city from above. You can drive, bike or even hike up to the top and explore the other hills and trails around the area to get a different perspective of the landscape and views of the city from above.
Ride the old cable cars of San Francisco
A must do San Francisco experience is to ride the cable cars in the city. No experience is more uniquely San Francisco than a ride on a cable car in the main railways that are still intact. It is still real working transportation up the steep hills of the city taking you from Union Square all the way down to Fisherman’s Wharf area or even through the Financial District to the Ferry Building of San Francisco.
Visit Chinatown and take a fascinating tour and lunch
One of the must do things in San Francisco is a visit to Chinatown at Grant street. You can sign up for these cool walking tours of Chinatown with a meal and enjoy the inside attractions and historic hidden places to tour in this unique section of the city and all the fascinating places you’ll visit in Chinatown. Check out the details here for exploring Chinatown and doing any of these unique walking tours here.
Enjoy some window shopping in Union Square area
A popular must see in San Francisco is the Union Square park and surrounding area. All the cool local boutique stores and international brands are located in the fun Union Square area that is fun to window shop, have a nice meal or just hang out in the big square and people watch or just relax before you catch a cable car or tour around this upscale neighborhood of the city.
Explore the historic North Beach and Little Italy district
There’s cool stuff to do in San Francisco and the North Beach area of town. Located mostly on Columbus and Grant with square fronting Washington square and Sts. Peter and Paul Church., this is a fun district to explore with the cool bakeries, coffee shops and boutique stores, bars along some delicious Italian food restaurants to try out in the area. Grant street contains more of the funky art, galleries and vibe which is more bohemian and trendy exploring the neighborhood on Grant street.
If you are into food tours, check out this excellent tour of the Little Italy district here for information.
Climb Filbert street to Coit Tower
An unusual and fun thing to do in San Francisco from the Embarcadero is to climb the Filbert street steps. One of the cool, hidden stairs to climb, Filbert stairs to the top of Coit tower is unique with beautiful public gardens and hidden homes and peek a boo views of the bay and city skyline below while you are exploring this fun neighborhood on your way up to Coit Tower.
Check out this tour of the Filbert Steps here for more inspiration to visiting this beautiful and quiet neighborhood
Explore the Greenwich stairs
One of the fun things to do in San Francisco is to climb all the unique stairs like the Greenwich stairs in the little Italy neighborhood and Coit Tower area. Also, close by to Greenwich is the Filbert street stairs which are fun to explore with the colorful homes, gardens and hidden spots of this lovely little stairs and neighborhood with views of the bay and city skyline.
Check out more inspiration to visiting the Greenwich Steps and North Beach here for more details.
Check out the Moscone Center
One of the cool places to visit in San Francisco with a view is the Moscone Center. The Moscone Center and park is a nice quiet respite and park area with beautiful gardens, fountains and views to the downtown skyline. Flanked by a shopping center and food venues on the right part of the park and Moma and the Yerba Buena Arts center, you can explore all these venues, eating or enjoying some wonderful art and innovative art installations in the exhibit centers. There are a few eateries with outdoor seating venues that are also fun to just hang out and enjoy skyline views of the city.
Check out the spectacular Moma – Museum of Modern Art
Located at the Moscone center to the left of the park is the Moma building housing all the contemporary modern art exhibits and rotating shows in a spectacular setting. The Moma has a larger expansive space to check out their entire collections and also enjoy some views of the park and city and hang out at the various cafes on site. You can book advanced tickets here to bypass the long waiting lines at the Moma.
Check out the details to visit the Moscone Center here for more information and images
Visit the Embarcadero Center
One of the expansive places to go is the Embarcadero Cener in San Francisco. A large business and shopping complex in the Embarcadero Center, you can explore, shop, eat and enjoy this urban setting with gardens, shops and eating venues along with other fun hang out spots around the plaza area that typically hosts a variety of events, activities and gatherings and many street performances in the main plaza area.
Visit the Ferry Building
One of the cool things to do in San Francisco is to visit the Embarcadero Ferry Building. What makes it fun and cool is exploring the many foodie shops and food markets and specialty vendors in the central spaces along with spectacular restaurants in the area from some of the well known restaurants and specialty food purveyors of the area. You can also explore the various outside venues and piers that you can walk and capture some photos of the bay and city skyline
Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
A fun thing to do in San Francisco is to visit the popular Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. One of the most well attended and full scale farmers markets in the city, the Ferry Plaza market hosts a farm to table approach with regional fruits and vegetables, artisanal food items, snacks and prepared foods at their Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday Market on the front and back areas of the Ferry Plaza.
52. Hop on Hop off self Tour
If you want to explore more places to go in San Francisco, it’s easy to do it on the Hop On Hop Off busses visiting all the tourist attractions in town. You can do your own self tour of the city and highlights to the main attractions to visit around the city and what you want to see and tour on this trip to get off and then back on the tour. Check out more details to this tour program here for more details.
53. Visit Silicon Valley and the Tech Companies
If you are looking for places to see in San Francisco with a techy edge go down to Silicon Valley. Explore the main headquarters of Apple, Google and Facebook in the Silicon Valley tour of Tech Companies here for an interesting visit to the biggest names in the tech industry and visiting their main headquarters and attractions.
54. Enjoy a tour of Muir Woods and Sausalito
One of the wonderful places to visit near San Francisco is Muir Woods and Sausalito on the Marin waterfront area. You’ll enjoy a half day outside of the city with this tour of beautiful Muir Woods and Sausalito here The tour highlights the best of Marin County with the gorgeous redwoods combined with a tour of Sausalito, a quaint and charming art town facing the bay and San Francisco in the background.
55. Do a Sunset Sail on the bay
A fun thing to do in San Francisco is to be on the water and do a sunset sail on the bay. Enjoy a two hour sunset sail around San Francisco Bay on board the Privateer. This gorgeous sunset cruise is pure sailing and enjoying the bay and some of the scenic attractions around the city. Check out the details for doing this sunset tour here for more information on doing this unique event on the bay.
Looking for more inspiration on San Francisco, check out these posts
Conclusion to Places to visit in San Francisco
With all these fun things to do in San Francisco above, you’ll have so many San Francisco activities and attractions to keep you busy and exploring the city for awhile. San Francisco is always changing and creative with so many fun and unusual places and attractions that are for both locals and tourists alike. Hope that you enjoyed the post and found some cool places to visit when you go visit this amazing city.
Thanks for visiting today and checking out this post on Things to do in San Francisco, hopefully some of these places will inspire you to visit when you come to the city. If you enjoyed the images and post, could you please share it with any of the social media buttons located around the post. I have posted recently about visiting more cool and fun places to visit around the city, you can check out this post on San Francisco here.