Best Cool Things to Do in San Francisco
San Francisco is the cultural and commercial center of Northern California with countless historical, culinary and artistic exploration on its list.
The beautifully landscaped neighborhoods in the hills and the eye-popping street-art enclave of the electric Mission Street are places that will leave you yearning for more. Chances are that everyone would have seen a San Francisco memorabilia on a television show, movie, or in a postcard.
The rumbling cable cars, landmark sights, exploring the famous markets, going behind the scenes of the country’s most recognized wineries, a round trip of the famous parks, valley, and nature walks in the redwoods, and the very famous San Francisco Hop-On Hop-Off Tour are some of the must do things on a traveler’s itinerary.
Here’s the best definitive guide to best of sightseeing, nightlife, parks & nature walks and a happening food scene that travelers enjoy doing in San Francisco.
Golden Gate Bridge
This iconic orange color bridge in San Francisco is world-famous and visited by more than 13 million people annually. It is also the most photographed bridge in the world.
This longest suspension bridge spans 1.7 miles and has 6 lanes. But to get a feel of its colossal size, one needs to stand atop and watch how small the big ships look from right above. You can drive or bike but most tourists just enjoy taking a scenic stroll on it.
Take A Trip Across The Bay Bridge
This bridge connects San Francisco Bay to Oakland. Over 240,000 vehicles pass over the 10 lanes bridge in a single day. This bridge used to carry trains on the lower deck but when the transit line closed it was converted for vehicular passage.
Golden Gate Park Tours
The 1,000-plus acres of park is a home to many picnic sites, lakes, scenic trails, 9-hole golf rink, and museums. The most tourist heavy areas are the famous conservatories of flowers like the Japanese Tea Garden, Shakespeare Garden, and the San Francisco Botanical Garden. The famous stow lake, the meadows that host an annual music festivals, a bison paddock and several windmills are other attractions.
Muir Woods National Monument
On Mount Tamalpa is the world’s last remaining protected nature reserve of the redwood forest spread in 554 acres. The forest forms a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation. It has attractions like Stinson Beach and Fort Baker that offers a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The average age of redwoods in the Muir is 600 to 800 years; largest one being 258 feet tall and yet, not the oldest one.
Nearby Mount Tamalpais State Park which has several beaches including the Muir Beach, Rodeo Beach.
Cable Car ride of the city’s Muni System
The city’s iconic cable car or trolley is the last of its kind in the US. This is one of the major attractions in San Francisco and tourists flock to them in droves. No experience is as unique as a ride on the city’s Muni system.
Long lines and interminable wait is worth the experience. The best way is to board en-route to avoid the long queue.
Tourists have a blast riding to and from on these cable cars. About 9 million tourists hop on them annually.
It passes through the various streets and steep hills, the Alcatraz Island, famous Lombard Street and the equally popular Russian Hill neighborhood. Stop at the Cable Car Museum to get a glimpse of antique models from the 1870s.
A walk down Lombard Street
This street is so popular that on a busy day, every single tourist in San Francisco is around here.
Although the street runs all the way across town, its most interesting part is the block between Leavenworth and Hyde, a section with 8 sharp turns fringed by colorful flowers.
It’s best to get off the cable car and walk down and take photos and leave.
Bay cruise to famous “The Rock – Alcatraz”
The former federal prison located on a small, rocky, windy island of Alcatraz once held notorious criminals like Al Capone and George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly. This attraction is a major hit amongst the tourists. Over a million visitors come to see this national historic landmark and tickets are sold-out fast; sometimes weeks in advance. Typical tours include admission to the infamous federal penitentiary and a day of sightseeing. There is a self-guided tour of the cell house and the special program includes 2.5 hours for full prison experience including a 15-minute ferry ride.
Trip to Chinatown
San Francisco’s Chinatown is a star attraction and tends to take the center stage. It hosts one of the largest Asian communities outside of Asia comprising of mainly Chinese immigrants who migrated here during the Gold Rush. Chinatown is the city’s most crowded and most visited neighborhoods.
Eat, gawk and take photos of attractions like the Chinatown Gate, plenty of souvenirs shops, Tin How – the oldest Chinese temple in the USA and not to forget the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory where you can try some naughty funny treats guaranteed to make you laugh. Take back The Inappropriate Edition of nice X-rated fortune cookies; see how they are made in tiny open kitchens.
Great China Herb Co. brim with fresh Chinese herbs and an on-site doctor present to examine and recommend age old remedies. Don’t look anywhere outside of the four Chinatown if you want to try authentic Chinese food.
Although laden with tourists, the Fisherman’s Wharf is most touristy and is high on a fun atmosphere combined with a great choice of food and shopping.
The wooden plank walkways give an impression of floating in the water. The street full of performers and visitors dressed the “I love SF” tees saunter around dozens of shops, restaurants, and attractions that are ready to fill their day.
Feeling puckish? Grab a bite of authentic seafood including lobsters, prawns, Bay shrimp cocktail, and cracked crab or try out the sourdough French bread at the oldest French bakery.
Visitors love to see and click pictures of the famous colony of sea lions sunbathing and calling near the docks at The Pier 39. It has lots of family attractions like the Ripley’s Believe It or Not and the San Francisco Dungeon.
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Perched right on the Pacific Ocean waterfront, the 300 feet clear tunnel sustains 35,000 animals from the bay and surrounding areas. Enjoy a mesmerizing experience of diving in with a wetsuit and getting up-close to a swirling sea life. Watch how the giant Pacific octopus unfurl its tentacles, stand amidst a swarm of countless jellyfish and sardines, come face to face with the leopard shark and get startled when a hammerhead shark inches right by you.
Watch how the trainers do a health checkup on some of the rarest and cutest inhabitants.
Engage in their Junior Diving Program, custom Romantic Tours amidst Undersea lights. Their overnight sleepover program lets you fall asleep where visitors wake up as the only guest in the aquarium.
Book a New Year’s Eve Sleepover at Monterey Bay and celebrate with sparkling cider toast, sundae bar, pajama dance party and more!
World-famous Museums of San Francisco
Asian Art Museum
Located in the Civic Center neighborhood, This 80 year old stately museum depicts 30,000 internationally acclaimed paintings & sculptures, armors, furniture, art pieces and an authentic teahouse imported from Kyoto. The place has exhibits that originate from India, China, Japan, Turkey, Philippines, and other Asian cultures. Some pieces date more than 6,000 years.
Palace of Fine Arts
The astonishing building reflects the city’s creative spirit and has the most dramatic background ideal for an Instagram feed. The palace has a surrounding lagoon which has different wildlife including ducks, fishes, swans, geese, turtles, and raccoons. Take a moment to experience ballet, theater and musicals performances here.
De Young Museum
The museum dedicated to all the fine arts lovers is located at the Golden Gate Park. It is a home to 27,000 artwork from around the world exhibiting pieces belonging to the pre-Colombian America, sub-Saharan Africa, Indonesia, and New Guinea.
The copper-clad building slowly oxidizing to color green blends into the park and the matching green color the Golden Gate Park. Complete with a 144-ft primitive design of the observation tower, is like a beacon calling art lovers
California Academy of Sciences
Part research institute, part natural history this museum includes attractions that include a state-of-the-art planetarium, massive aquarium that spreads in an entire floor, a four-story living rainforest, an awe inspiring coral reef exhibit, home to butterflies, penguins, and many exotic species of birds and tropical plants.
As a part of its eco-friendly design, the building has an incredible 2.5-acre Living Green Roof that is a home to 1.7 million native plant species.
With so much in one place; the California Academy of Sciences is one of San Francisco’s must visit places.
Best time to visit San Francisco
Every season has its good and bad points but generally its best to avoid the hot summertime. San Francisco is a perfect seaside getaway with ample sunshine year round.
In general, the Best Weather Condition is between September to November with clear skies and warm temperature it’s best time to hit the beach. There is less tourist crowd as well. Spring is another good time to visit San Francisco with mild weather.
September and October is the best time for a walk across the Golden Gate. Best time for riding the cable cars is in summers and also to visit Alcatraz Island.
Cheap Flights to San Francisco:
Winters is for bargain hunters as there are many cheap flights, hotel rates are lower, and there is less crowd as well.
In December, January & February (for Chinese New Year), the flight price is low and you can also be a part of the Chinese New Year.
In rest of the other months like March, April, May, September, October, November airfare are normal.
June, July, and August by far attracts the highest airfare prices.