San Francisco is the 13th most populous city in the United States, and it is the cultural, commercial and financial center of Northern California. This means that it is a vibrant and bustling city with a rich history and culture. Visitors to this interesting and diverse city will find that there is a vast array of activities, attractions, and landmarks for them to enjoy during their visit. When you are planning your trip, you might have trouble deciding which are the best things to do to make the most of your time in this city as there are so many options. To help you decide which activities and attractions to include in your vacation itinerary, here are the 20 best things to do in San Francisco in 2019.
20. Spend a Day at Ocean Bay Beach
Due to its coastal location, you should spend some time at the beach during your visit to San Francisco. One of the best beaches to visit is Ocean Beach. This is a beautiful beach with gorgeous white sands. It is very quiet because it is one of the beaches that tourists rarely visit. When you take a stroll along this 3.5 mile stretch of beach, you can enjoy the beautiful natural views and watch the birds. You can also paddle in the water, go surfing, or simply relax on the beach. This beach is part of the Golden Gate National Park and it is not surrounded by high rises like many of the other beaches.
19. California Academy of Sciences
Time Out recommends a trip to the California Academy of Sciences. For anyone interested in science, this is a fascinating attraction that covers many different scientific fields. The Morrison Planetarium will appeal to stargazers and aspiring astronomers, while the Steinhart Aquarium is something that lovers of marine life will adore. There is also a four-story living rainforest that features tropical plants, butterflies, and birds. There is something for everyone at this fascinating attraction, and it will suit people of all ages.
18. Japanese Tea Garden
Those who enjoy peaceful activities might like to visit the Japanese Tea Garden. This is the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States, and it was created in 1894 for an exhibition. After the exhibition was closed, the owner of the garden reached a gentleman’s agreement to keep the garden open to the public. Originally, the garden was much smaller, but it has gradually been expanded over time. It now consists of five acres of beautiful grounds for visitors to enjoy. Within the gardens, there is a Zen garden, a koi pool, stepping-stones, pagodas, and arched bridges. There is also a small cafe that serves traditional Japanese refreshments. This is a relaxing place to visit if you want to get away from the busy pace of life in San Francisco.
17. Go to Angel Island
Located in San Francisco Bay, Angel Island has a tiny population of just 60 permanent residents. Despite the low population, it is the second-largest island in the bay. To access the island, you must travel by ferry, which is an adventure in itself. On arrival, most people take a tour of the island either by open-air tram, on foot, or by joining a Segway tour. Form the island, you can enjoy stunning views across San Francisco Bay to the city, and there are often live events to enjoy. This is something you should check before you visit to avoid disappointment. Angel Island also has several cafes and restaurants for you to grab a bite to eat during your visit.
16. Muir Woods National Monument
While most of the activities and attractions in San Francisco are based in the center of the center and reflect the urban vibe, there are also places where you can get away and enjoy beautiful, natural surroundings. One of the best places to do this is Muir Woods National Monument. This is part of the Golden Gate Recreational Center, and it covers 554 acres. A large portion of this park is covered with redwood trees. There are many trails to enjoy during your visit, and these vary in their difficulty. It is one of the prettiest places in San Francisco, and it is popular with walkers and birdwatchers.
15. Coit Tower
One of the best places to admire the views over San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean is from Coit Tower, which is also one of the most historically significant landmarks in San Francisco. This structure was built in 1933, and it stands on top of Telegraph Hill. It was named after an eccentric, wealthy local called Lillie Hitchcock Coit. She left a substantial sum of money to the city, and the money was used to construct this tower in her memory. The tower has an observation deck, that is accessed via the stairs or an elevator, and it offers spectacular panoramic views.
14. The Asian Art Museum
To enjoy an experience relating to a different culture, a trip to the Asian Art Museum is a must. This museum boasts one of the most comprehensive collections of Asian art in the world. There is a huge art collection, which consists of more than 18,000 pieces. These range from modern works of art to pieces that are more than 6,000 years old. Originally, this museum was founded when a wealthy man called Avery Brundage donated a large sum of money. Brundage was a collector of Asian art. The main exhibitions cover artwork form all the major Asian countries, and there are often traveling exhibitions on display.
13. The Palace of Fine Arts
There is plenty to admire before you even step into the Palace of Fine Arts, as it is a magnificent building set in beautiful grounds with ponds and wildlife. It is on the United States National Register of Historic Places and it is also a San Francisco Designated Landmark. Once inside the building, there is a large collection of art to admire.
12. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
For art lovers, the best attraction to visit is the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. An interesting fact is that this museum was the first in the United States to show only modern art. There are now more than 29,000 works of art on display, including paintings, architecture, sculpture, and photography. There are both permanent and visiting exhibitions. As there are so many pieces, you can potentially spend a full day at this venue.
11. Sample Delights at the Ferry Building Marketplace
The cuisine of San Franciso is superb and focuses on using fresh, seasonal, and local produce. Therefore, you should make sampling some of the San Francisco food part of your vacation. A fantastic place to sample some culinary delights is at the Ferry Building Market place. The market consists of a range of large and small shops, along with some of the finest restaurants in the city.
10. Aquarium of the Bay
A great day out for all the family is to Aquarium at the Bay. Located on the waterfront of San Francisco, it is an opportunity to get up close and personal with local marine life. The mission of the aquarium is to protect San Francisco Bay and the marine life for which this is a natural habitat. There are more than 20,000 animals from the bay and the surrounding area living in the aquarium, and two of the highlights are the jellyfish and the leopard sharks.
9. The Presidio of San Francisco
This former military base is now a park. It is located on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean. The area was initially owned by the Spanish and then the Mexicans until the United States took ownership in 1948. This is a recognized California Historical Landmark.
8. The Exploratorium
Another attraction recommended by Time Out is the Exploratorium. Located on the Embarcadero waterfront, this is a massive museum that utilizes play and experimentation to introduce scientific principles to its visitors. Everything within the museum is interactive, so guests of all ages can get fully absorbed in this fun learning experience.
7. Enjoy the Culture of Chinatown
San Francisco is a culturally diverse city, and you can experience one element of this by visiting Chinatown. This neighborhood is a visual delight, and you can absorb yourself in the culture of one of the largest Chinese communities outside China. You can admire the Chinese-influenced architecture, stroll around the markets, and sample some Chinese cuisine. A great attraction to visit, while you are in Chinatown, is the Fortune Cookie Factory, where you can see the fortune cookies being made.
6. Visit Union Square
Union Square is the epicenter of San Francisco. It is the best place to enjoy some retail therapy as the square is lined with shops. However, this is not all you can enjoy at Union Square. There are events held at this location throughout the year, and in the winter months, there is a temporary ice rink added.
5. Ride the Cable Cars
Trip Savvy says that one of the best ways to get around San Francisco is using the cable cars. These are much more than a mode of transportation, as they are part of the history and culture of the city. It is a unique way to get from one attraction to another and to enjoy the sights of San Francisco along the way.
4. Go to Golden Gate Park
One of San Francisco’s most popular attractions for both visitors and locals alike is Golden Gate Park, which attracts more than 13 million visitors. The park spans 1,017 acres, and it is split into sections including landscaped gardens, playgrounds, picnic areas, monuments, and lakes. This is a pretty place where you can enjoy time away form the buzz of the urban setting.
3. Dine at Fisherman’s Wharf
The most famous waterfront community in San Francisco is Fisherman’s Wharf. Not only is this a hive of activity, but it is also one of the best places to enjoy a culinary experience. For casual dining, there are multiple cafes and food stands, serving things such as fresh Dungeness crab. It is also where you will find some of the best gourmet restaurants, and many of them feature freshly caught fish on their menu. Fisherman’s Wharf is also the starting point of many walking, boat, and Segway tours.
2. Visit Alcatraz
Possibly the most famous prison anywhere in the world, the reputation of Alcatraz has been enhanced by the movies. The only way to access this former prison built on a large rock in the ocean is by ferry, and this requires a round trip of several hours. Some of the most infamous criminals in the world have served sentences at this former prison, so it has an interesting yet dark history. Some tours only sail past the prison, so if you want to go inside, you should check that this is included in the tour.
1. Golden Gate Bridge
The Crazy Tourist says that the top activity that you must do on a trip to San Francisco is to cross the Golden Gate Bridge. This is one of the most iconic structures in the United States, if not the world. It is the most photographed bridge of all-time, and it is a rather impressive sight. Opened in 1937, it has been declared one of the modern wonders of the world. When it was first created, it was the longest suspension bridge ever built. It links San Francisco Bay and Marin County, and it is named after the ferry company that operated between these two destinations at the time of construction. You can cross the bridge on foot, by car, on a bicycle, or using public transport.