A trip to California wouldn’t be complete without seeing San Francisco. Whether you’re going only to San Fran or stopping by on a bigger California trip, there are sites you can’t miss. My list of 10 Things to do in San Francisco, California should help to get you started before you go.
Any list on things to do in San Francisco that doesn’t start or end with the Golden Gate Bridge is bad. There are few symbols of American architecture more iconic than the Golden Gate. Opened in 1937, it was originally the longest and tallest suspension bridge in the world. While it’s neither anymore, it’s still the tallest in the United States. Walking across takes around 35 minutes as it’s 1.7 miles (2.7 KM) long. However, as the most photographed bridge in the world, you’ll want to leave time for photos and admiring the views from way up.
I can’t think of any other major city that boasts a beautiful bay where you lookout upon one of the most notorious prisons in history. Visiting Alcatraz is a must for any tourist who heads to San Francisco. Alcatraz has a fascinating history having been home to some of the most famous criminals in American history. Nowadays, you can not only tour the prison, but the grounds as well. Before you go, make sure you choose whether you want to do the day or, if you’re brave enough, the night tour.
Lombard Street is one of the most famous streets in the USA. Lombard’s 8 crazy turns gave it the moniker “the most crooked street on earth.” I’m not sure about the science to back that up, but having been, I can’t argue. However, the beauty of the entire scene; colorful plants, steep architecture and winding roads, make it a must see on my list of things to do in San Francisco.
If you’ve ever watched a romantic comedy that took place in San Francisco you’re probably familiar with the Painted Ladies. This set of Victorian Style houses look really beautifully symmetrical. The best view is from Alamo Square which depicts the Painted Ladies with a backdrop featuring the San Francisco skyline. This location also known as “Postcard Row,” is also a great park to spend part of your day relaxing at. Lastly, if you were a fan of the show “Full House,” a few minutes away is the original house where the show was filmed.
Pier 39 is a main tourist center in San Francisco. I try to avoid recommending places like this, but there’s one unique aspect of Pier 39 I think tourists will enjoy. For nearly 30 years, Pier 39 has been a site where hundreds of California Sea Lions hang out on the docks. Often overcrowded, Pier 39 is still fun to witness, and children will love it. Still, I’d recommend you avoid shopping and eating around this area as it’s incredibly overpriced.
Arguably no team represents San Francisco more than the Giants. That’s why seeing a game at the beautiful AT&T park makes my list of things to do in San Francisco. Opened in 2000, AT&T Park is consistently ranked one of the best in baseball. Since opening, the Giants have gone on to win 3 World Championships. I recommend buying a ticket to enter the stadium so you can eat some food and hang with the locals. However, there is another awesome way to watch the game. Diehard fans take their radios and kayaks and paddle into McCovey Cove where they listen to the game and wait for a home run ball. It’s a unique experience and one that was incredibly popular when Barry Bonds was setting home run records.
Fort Point is a beautifully preserved American relic from the Civil War Era. It has a unique history, having stood for such a long time. However, the reason many people visit here is because it has one of the best vantage points to view the Golden Gate Bridge. The views as you walk to the Fort are impressive. Once you enter inside, you can climb to the top and get what many argue is the best view of the Golden Gate from below.
If you’re into street art, you won’t want to miss Clarion Alley. 2017 was the 25th anniversary of the Clarion Alley Mural Project which is still producing new work to this day. If you’ve experienced any of the street art in Berlin or at Wynwood Walls, Miami you’ll certainly enjoy this display.
Before visiting, I had no idea the oldest and largest Chinatown in North America was in San Francisco. Like any true New Yorker, I assumed that we had the biggest and the oldest. Ignoring my New York arrogance, seeing Chinatown is one of the coolest things to do in San Francisco. Also, a word to the wise, do your souvenir shopping here as you’ll save a lot of money.
A visit to San Francisco wouldn’t be complete without riding on the Cable Cars. One of the most iconic things to do in San Francisco, the cable cars are the world’s last manually operated system. Seeing packed cars riding by with waving passengers will make you want to join. It’s touristy, but some trips wouldn’t be complete without giving in to simple pleasures like this.