San Francisco is a major city in Northern California and the area’s cultural, financial, and commercial center. It is also a popular tourist destination as this historic city provides a diverse vacation experience. There are activities to enjoy for people of all ages that will suit a wide range of interests. Therefore, regardless of your expectations of a stay in San Francisco, this city will not disappoint. The longer you spend in San Francisco, the greater your opportunity to visit all the attractions and try everything this amazing city has to offer. If you are planning a trip there, here are 20 of the top things you must see in San Francisco, California during your stay.
1. Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is probably the most iconic landmark in San Francisco. Not only is the Golden Gate Bridge an important part of the highway system in San Francisco, but it is also a tourist attraction. The sight, scale, and history of the bridge fascinate those visiting the area. There are sidewalks in both directions if you would like to walk across the bridge. On both the north and south sides of the bridge there are vistas with parking lots where you can take in the surrounding and enjoy views of the city’s skyline.
2. Golden Gate National Recreation Area
If you like spending time outdoors and you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of urban life, then head for Golden Gate National Recreation Area. This park spans 1,017 acres of beautiful gardens, lakes, monuments, picnic areas, and playgrounds. Not only is this a great place to relax or take a stroll, but there are also plenty of events and activities that take place throughout the year. Check online to see if there are any scheduled events during your stay.
3. Fisherman’s Wharf
According to The Crazy Tourist, Fisherman’s Wharf is the most famous waterfront community in San Francisco. It is a great place to enjoy the vibe of San Francisco, and it is also one of the best areas for eating out. The food offerings range from street stalls selling locally caught Dungeness crab to fine dining restaurants that serve fresh fish and seafood dishes. Fisherman’s Wharf is also the starting point for many tours of the area, with tour options including Segway, walking, and boat. Each of these offers a different experience and allows you to learn more about the area from trained guides.
4. Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island was once home to one of the world’s most famous jails and it has been the subject or setting for many movies. Although this island off the coast of San Francisco is well-known, a trip here may surprise you. Alcatraz Island offers a very diverse experience as its rich history is fascinating to explore. Although it is best known for its federal penitentiary, it was also occupied by Indians of All Tribes and is the place where the first US-built fort and lighthouse are located. The island also has a pretty side, where you will find tide pools, views of the bay, gardens, and bird colonies.
Each district in San Francisco has something different to offer. One of the most interesting to visit is Chinatown, which attracts more tourists annually than the Golden Gate Bridge. This district is both the oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinese enclave outside Asia. A colorful part of San Francisco, Chinatown is filled with fantastic restaurants and interesting landmarks. There are many festivals and events held in this area throughout the year. A visit to Chinatown is a great way to enjoy a new cultural experience.
6. A San Francisco Giants Game
During your stay, you should check to see if the San Francisco Giants have any games scheduled while you are there. If possible, you should get some tickets to a game as baseball is a big deal for San Franciscans and the vibe at the games is electric. This is something you should book in advance as many of the big games sell out quickly.
On Pier 15, you will find the Exploratorium, which is a great day out for all the family as there is something for everyone. It is the top-rated museum in San Francisco, and it provides an educational and interactive experience that is suitable for people of all ages. There are over 650 exhibits inside the museum, and various events, programs, and discussions are held throughout the year. The museum is divided into six separate galleries and some of the activities you can enjoy include playing video games or stepping back in time. There is also a restaurant and two stores inside this bayside attraction.
8. Union Square
If you are unsure where to stay, then consider some of the hotels around Union Square as this is where you will find some of the top hotels available and the location is close to amenities and attractions. Union Square is also a great place for enjoying a spot of retail therapy and for eating out because the square and the surrounding area are home to a vast array of shops and eateries.
9. The Presidio of San Francisco
The Presidio of San Francisco is one of the most historically significant landmarks in San Francisco, making it a fascinating place to visit. This former military base is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. One of the highlights of visiting this landmark is climbing to one of the higher points for views of the San Francisco skyline and across the Pacific Ocean.
10. Ghirardelli Square
Originally, Ghirardelli Square was a chocolate factory. Now, the red brick, bayside landmark has been completely transformed to offer a unique shopping and dining experience for both residents of San Francisco and for tourists to the area. The building’s architecture is also noteworthy if this is a topic that interests you.
11. Aquarium of the Bay
Aquarium of the Bay is a fantastic day out regardless of whether you are traveling alone, with friends, or as a family. This attraction promises to show you the magic of San Francisco Bay. The aquarium is home to over 20,000 aquatic animals, including sharks, bat rays, sea stars, and anemones. A day at this attraction is both fun and educational.
12. Twin Peaks
One of the best spots to get fantastic views across San Francisco is Twin Peaks, says Fog City Secrets. Twin Peaks are two hills that stand more than 1,000 feet above the city and are just about in the center. This means you can enjoy 360-degree views across the city. Walking to the top of the Twin Peaks is a great way to get outside and appreciate your surrounds. Once you reach the summit, it is a fabulous photo opportunity.
13. Coit Tower
Coit Tower is a notable landmark of San Francisco and it stands at the top of Telegraph Hill. This structure is a concrete column that was built in 1933in memorial od Lillie Hitchcock Coit. It is now a tourist attraction with two main features. The first is a tour of the murals within Coit Tower. The second is a ride to the observation deck close to the top of the tower where you can enjoy panoramic views over the city.
14. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
San Francisco is home to many excellent museums and galleries, one of which is the Museum of Modern Art. The museum is home to more than 29,000 pieces of modern art, including paintings, photographs, architecture, and sculptures. In addition to the regular exhibits, there are regular events and temporary exhibitions throughout the year. Some of the highlights of this museum are the outdoor sculpture garden and the thirty-foot living wall. You can spend a full day at this attraction as there are three restaurants from which you can choose. The museum is open every day except Wednesday.
15. The Palace of Fine Arts
Another fantastic venue for art and culture lovers is The Palace of Fine Arts. This venue is a San Francisco Designated Landmark and it is on the U.S. Register of Historic Places. Although this landmark has served many purposes over the years, it is now used as a fine arts gallery. In addition to the permanent displays, there are sometimes special exhibitions and themed events held at this venue. Not only can you admire the artworks on display, but you can also enjoy the gardens and water surrounding the museum.
16. The Japanese Tea Garden
Located on Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, the Japanese Tea Garden is the oldest public Japanese Garden in the United States. It was originally created for an exhibition in 1894 and it has gradually expanded since. With the gardens are native Japanese plants, pagodas, arched bridges, stepping stones, a Zen garden, and a koi pond. An on-site restaurant serves traditional Japanese refreshments. This is a beautiful spot for relaxation or for feeling close to nature.
17. Muir Woods National Monument
If you want to get away from the urban buzz and enjoy a day in natural surroundings, then a great place to visit is Muir Woods National Monument. The park is located on Mount Tamalpais and it is part of the Golden Gate Recreation Area. It covers 554 acres and 240 of these are filled with redwood trees. There are trails of varying difficulty that you can enjoy during your visit, either by foot or on a cycle. It is important to note that the park does not allow dogs or picnics. The park is open seven days a week throughout the year.
18. San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge
Not quite as grand as the Golden Gate Bridge but still a very impressive sight, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is usually referred to simply as Bay Bridge. It is actually a complex of bridges that span San Francisco Bay to connect San Francisco to Oakland. It has two decks and one of the longest spans in the United States. The bridge has a pedestrian and cycle lane, so you can easily cross the bridge to Oakland during your stay.
19. Angel Island
Angel Island State Park is often described as the hidden gem of San Francisco Bay. To access this beautiful island and all its rich history, you will take a boat trip, which in itself is an enjoyable activity as you enjoy your sailing experience and admire the views. Once on the island, you can take a ride on the open-air trams or take a Segway guided tour. You can enjoy some of the historic sights, such as the Immigration Station and the Civil War buildings. There is also an excellent place to eat called Angel Island Café that cooks food to order.
20. Ocean Beach
Due to the coastal location, a trip to San Francisco is not complete without a trip to the beach. Ocean Beach is part of the Golden Gate National Park, so you can combine a trip to the park with spending time on the beach. It is the ideal place to take a stroll or to simply sit and take in the ocean views. As the beach is connected to the park, your views are not obscured by skyscrapers and you are simply surrounded by natural beauty. People also visit Ocean Beach for picnics, fishing, and surfing.