Things to do in

San Francisco

Experience a patchwork of unique neighborhoods and bold metropolitan beauty rich in cultural delights.

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Our most recommended things to do in San Francisco

  • San Francisco: Beyond the Painted Ladies Walking Tour

    1. San Francisco: Beyond the Painted Ladies Walking Tour

    Your day begins at Lafayette Park, where you’ll meet your small group of 20 people and take in a slew of different Victorian mansions from the outside, including the famous (and jaw-dropping) Spreckels mansion. Pass some of the famous row houses and learn how much money it takes to afford your own slice of a San Francisco Victorian.  Your next stop is the highlight of the trip. Get special access to a privately-owned Victorian mansion that has been lovingly restored and features a private collection of Victorian artifacts and knick-knacks. The tour, which is guided by the home’s owner, is completely exclusive and the experience of a lifetime for any lover of Victoriana. Your final stop is the famous Alamo Square, home to the “Painted Ladies” which you will recognize from television and postcards. Approaching from the very best viewpoint, you’ll be able to take your own postcard-perfect...

    Ted, our guide, was very helpful and always ensured we were comfortable with the walking up hills. He gave us various options for the route to view the wonderful houses. Ted’s knowledge was vast on San Francisco, as well as the architecture and history of the many houses we visited.

  • San Francisco: Golden Gate Bay Cruise

    2. San Francisco: Golden Gate Bay Cruise

    Launched in 1939 as part of the Golden Gate International Exposition, this 1-hour cruise has been a highlight of any visit to San Francisco for over 75 years. With 8-14 departures daily from 10:00, you will sail along San Francisco's breathtaking waterfront, under the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, and close to the notorious Alcatraz Island. Discover San Francisco's fascinating history, brought to life through audio commentary broadcast in 16 languages via personal headphones. Look out for wildlife along the way, including pelicans, sea lions, and even dolphins and whales. Sail past the lively neighborhood of North Beach, the famous swimming clubs of Aquatic Park, the historic vessels at Hyde Street Pier, and San Francisco Maritime National Park, before heading west towards Golden Gate Bridge. Enjoy views of Crissy Field and the lush hillsides of the Presidio, before cruising under Golde...

    Great experience. There are restrooms and a bar with snacks on board. It was a nice relaxing and educational tour to see the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz island. Everyone was friendly. I would recommend 100%!!

  • San Francisco Zoo Admission Ticket

    3. San Francisco Zoo Admission Ticket

    Arrive at the San Francisco Zoo, an urban oasis nestled against the Pacific Ocean home to over 2,000 animal varieties and more than 250 species of native and foreign plants. Your full-day admission ticket includes access to all areas including the majestic Leanne Roberts African Region and the Valentine Family Savanna. Both zones offer multi-species landscapes with giraffes, zebras, kudu, ostriches, storks, and more. At Hearst Grizzly Gulch, get nose-to-nose with rescued grizzly bear sisters Kachina and Kiona. See how lemurs leap through the Lipman Lemur Forest, the largest outdoor lemur habitat in the country. Marvel at Penguin Island which is home to the largest colony of Magellanic penguins outside of the wild. Admire the Zoo's troop of gorillas living in the lush Jones Family Gorilla Preserve. See farm animals for feeding and petting in the popular Fisher Family Children's Zoo. Fin...

    Our family met at the Zoo to celebrate our grandson's third birthday. There were 4 families. It was a great day for all! Of course the playground at the end with bread bowls of clam chowder were highlights. The kids especially enjoyed the big cats, the giraffes and the prarie dogs! Everything was clean and felt quite safe which allowed everyone to enjoy the day!

  • San Francisco Hop-On Hop-Off: Classic, Premium or Deluxe

    4. San Francisco Hop-On Hop-Off: Classic, Premium or Deluxe

    San Francisco Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Loop:

    Stop 1: Pier 41 (End of Powell St), Fisherman's Wharf 

    Stop 2: Washington Square – Corner of Columbus and Union Streets

    Stop 3: Embarcadero Center – Corner of Clay and Battery Streets

    Stop 4: Ferry Building - 1 Market Street, between Stuart and Spear Streets

    Stop 5: Union Square South – Geary Street across from Macy’s Entrance 

    Stop 6: Hilton Hotel – Corner of Mason and Ellis Streets 

    Stop 7: Civic Center - Fulton Street between Larkin and Hyde

    Stop 8: Alamo Square/Painted Ladies - Corner of Fell and Pierce Streets

    Stop 9: Haight Ashbury - Corner of Haight and Shrader Streets 

    Stop 10: Golden Gate Park - Music Concourse Drive Golden Gate Park

    Stop 11: Golden Gate Bridge- North Vista Point Main Parking Area

    Stop 12: Palace of Fine Arts – Corner of Rich...

    2 things to improve: they should give you a map when you first get on so you know which stops are closest to the sites you want to see. And both headphone jacks were on the same side, so my husband's cord was stretched across me the entire time.

  • San Francisco: 1-Hour Bay Cruise by Boat

    5. San Francisco: 1-Hour Bay Cruise by Boat

    Enjoy a 1-hour journey along San Francisco's historic waterfront and experience the thrilling history of the San Francisco Bay, with all the sound and glory it deserves. The 1-hour Bay Cruise takes you past the famous PIER 39 sea lions and along San Francisco’s historic waterfront, revealing the city’s fascinating skyline. Relax in comfort, with both indoor and outdoor seating, and enjoy a full narration describing major landmarks as you sail by. Whether it’s your first time to San Francisco, or your 10th visit, the Bay Cruise is something you simply must experience at least once in your life. You will get a complimentary souvenir map, which is available in nine languages, and if you get hungry, there’s a full-service snack bar on board.

    Exactly what I expected. We were late getting to our schedule time and was graciously accommodated at a new time slot.

  • San Francisco: Bridge to Bridge Cruise

    6. San Francisco: Bridge to Bridge Cruise

    See both the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in 1 cruise with personal headphone audio included. Explore San Francisco's famous landmarks, history, natural history, architecture, and Native American culture on board this unique bay cruise. During the 90-minute cruise you'll depart from Fisherman's Wharf, one of the city's busiest tourist attractions. From there, sail under the Golden Gate Bridge. Completed in 1937, the Golden Gate is one of the world's most famous and beautiful bridges, and was at one point the largest suspension bridge in the world. Cruise past Alcatraz Island, once home of one of the world's most infamous prisons, and take the chance to enjoy the stunning San Francisco waterfront. The boat will pass along the harbor before heading under the colossal San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Then it's time to head back to the charming city of San F...

    The crew was very helpful getting my husband on and off the boat. He is in a wheelchair. I wish he could have give up too, more to set up there. We enjoyed the audio tour which was broadcast over the ship. I learned a lot about the bridges and the surrounding areas.

  • GoCar Tour: Golden Gate Bridge & Lombard Loop

    7. GoCar Tour: Golden Gate Bridge & Lombard Loop

    If you're a driver over 21, let a GPS-guided, talking GoCar be your guide on an exciting loop of San Francisco's breathtaking Golden Gate Bridge and Lombard Street. GoCar, lets you experience the beauty of San Francisco and visit places tour buses cannot go – all at your own pace. Zip around in a cute, yellow storytelling GoCar as it takes you on your own GPS-guided tour. The GoCar is easy and fun to drive and, since it is GPS-guided, the car knows where you are – even if you don't. With you in the driver's seat, it not only tells you where to turn, it tells stories that bring the city to life. Let GoCar take you off the beaten path through many of San Francisco's iconic parks on your way to the Golden Gate Bridge and back. Snap some amazing photos along the Pacific Ocean and see the Golden Gate Bridge up close from above and below. You can even park and take a stroll along the span of...

    Very fun experience overall! I wish we could have done our tour earlier in the day, but it was still fun. Would recommend!

  • From San Francisco: Muir Woods and Sausalito Half-Day Trip

    8. From San Francisco: Muir Woods and Sausalito Half-Day Trip

    Wander through the ancient groves of coastal redwoods in Muir Woods National Monument. Walk along the quaint sidewalks of Downtown Sausalito on a relaxed half-day tour. Muir Woods National Monument is an old-growth redwood forest located 30 minutes from downtown San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge.

    After a pick-up from a central San Francisco hotel, head north over the bridge and into the Marin Headlands. If the fog is clear, you might get a chance to stop and take some pictures of the bridge up close.

    When you arrive in Muir Woods, take an hour and a half to roam through this ‘living museum’ where you can glimpse the towering trees that used to dominate the west coast from Santa Barbara to Washington.

    Following your exploration of Muir Woods, hop back in the coach for a quick ride over to Sau...

    Our guide was great! We got to see Muir Woods without having to worry about driving or making reservations.

  • Entry Tickets: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

    9. Entry Tickets: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

    SFMOMA now expands to 170,000 square feet, featuring outstanding holdings of more than 33,000 modern and contemporary artworks by Alexander Calder, Frida Kahlo, Julie Mehretu, and numerous others, including an entire floor dedicated solely to photography. With six art-filled terraces, a new sculptural staircase and Roman steps where the public can gather, a variety of dining options, and a Museum store offering artful gift options for everyone, SFMOMA is an unforgettable experience and a must-see San Francisco destination.   The museum is committed to exploring the new, the challenging, and the unexpected. From its internationally recognized and rapidly growing collection of more than thirty thousand artworks to its innovative film and performance programs, SFMOMA has continuously advanced the interpretation, presentation, and preservation of modern and contemporary art — embracing its ...

    It was great. I was provided with the proper information I needed. I will surely use this again when I return.

  • From San Francisco: Napa & Sonoma Valley Full-Day Wine Trip

    10. From San Francisco: Napa & Sonoma Valley Full-Day Wine Trip

    Indulge yourself in luxury on this full-day tour of California’s wine regions from San Francisco. You will enjoy panoramic views of California on the way toward Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley, 2 of Northern California’s famous wine regions. This tour features wine tastings at 3 of the local partner's favorite wineries. At each winery, learn about wine-making techniques on a tour of the estate, and enjoy extraordinary wines at your tastings. In addition to visiting wineries, your professional guide will take you to see other famous sites in California’s wine country, including a lunch stop at the historic Downtown Sonoma Square. Here, enjoy eclectic dining options and boutique shopping during your lunch break. You also have the option to book this trip to include lunch at a local restaurant in the middle of the historic Square in Downtown Sonoma. Enjoy items from a variety of Califor...

    My experience was very enjoyable, the driver was very informative and all of the places I went made me feel comfortable being there

Frequently asked questions about San Francisco

What top attractions are a must-see in San Francisco?

Planning Your Visit

  • How many days?

    Some would say for as long as you can, so bear in mind that it's a big and busy city with plenty to see and do. First-timers should consider spending at least a week there if possible, though even that might not be enough!

  • Where to stay?

    Which of San Francisco's neighborhoods is best for you depends on the nature of your trip. Fisherman's Wharf will meet all the immediate needs of a fleeting visit, though Union Square is a more neutral and relaxed jumping-off point for tourists. Other neighborhoods each have their own personality so it's worth putting in the research, but high-crime areas to avoid include Bayview, Hunter's Point, Sunnydale, and Visitation Valley.

  • How to get around?

    "San Francisco has one of the world's most unique public transport systems. As well as buses and trains, the city is mostly mobilized by its historic cable-car network. Although newer trams do operate, visitors may want to ride one of the older ones for the novelty. Be warned though, notable routes such as the F-Market & Wharves line tend to get very crowded!
    The city is also very bike-friendly,with extensive bicycle lanes and even bike lockers!"

Good to know

  • Language
    English
  • Currency
    USD ($)
  • Time Zone
    UTC (-08:00)
  • Country Code
    +1
  • Best time to visit
    Summer, Fall

Insider tips: Planning a trip to San Francisco

There's good reason so many people have left their hearts in San Francisco. The stunning views, rolling hills, historic culture, and more make the city one of the most exciting to visit in the United States. To help you make the most of your time in San Francisco, we've enlisted help from travel expert Cathy from Mummy Travels. Read the tips below for your next visit.

What should I do on my first trip to San Francisco?

Start by soaking up San Francisco's atmosphere - you can't miss a look at the Golden Gate Bridge, but it's fun wandering around Pier 39 to spot the sea lions, browsing at the Ferry Building, eating and enjoying street arts in the Mission District - or hop on a cable car to beat those famous hills.

What are some hidden gems to see in San Francisco?

Head out towards the yacht harbor for a unique performance as the wave organ transforms the sound of the tide into music - it's easy to wander along to the beach by Crissy Field and get great views of the bridge too. Set aside plenty of time to explore the Golden Gate Park - it's huge and you can spot everything from American bison to windmills, a Japanese garden, 19th-century Conservatory of Flowers, the San Francisco botanical gardens, a classic carousel, lake, and several museums.

How much time should I spend in San Francisco?

Set aside at least three days to see your top sights and do some exploring, but if you're determined to pack as much in as possible, you can happily fill a week. Realistically, it's not possible to fit everything into one trip but if you break the city down into districts, you can make the most of your time. Allow half a day for Alcatraz alone, and for any of the major attractions, but leave time to wander along the beaches, soak in the views, browse the shops and try some of the city's great food rather than filling every minute of your itinerary.

What food is San Francisco known for?

You could happily eat your way around San Francisco with great artisan food and local producers - make sure you stop for some fresh seafood at Fisherman's Wharf and try a Mission Burrito in the Mission District, as well as checking out the treats in the Ferry Building. If you're craving Chinese, Japanese and Italian food, you'll be spoiled for choice in Chinatown, Japantown, and North Beach.

What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit San Francisco?

You'll be spoiled for choice when it comes to places to stay, so it's worth considering how much you're happy to travel. Union Square is a great central spot for hotels, and if you're traveling with younger kids, Fisherman's Wharf is touristy but close to a lot of attractions. For more budget accommodation and self-catering, look at the neighborhoods outside the center but make sure they have good transport links - Noe Valley is another great option for families, as it's easy to explore from but makes a chilled out base.

What is the best way to get around San Francisco? 

San Francisco is one city where you'll find yourself using most transport to get around - there's a great public transport network, which is easiest to get across the center (and the cable cars are attractions in their own right) but if you're trying to pack a lot in, a car will come in very handy. Only the very fit would fancy cycling up the city's hills, but a bike tour over the Golden Gate Bridge is a fantastic experience. Once you've got from A to B, walking is the best way to soak up the sights and the atmosphere though.

What are the best months to visit San Francisco?

San Francisco is best in spring and autumn (fall) - May-June and September-October usually have good weather without the crowds (though the famous fog is usually around in June too) and you'll miss the worst of the rain. 

What are the best things to do with kids in San Francisco?

San Francisco is a fantastic city for families - there are quirky spots to discover like the golden fire hydrant, Seward Street and Bernal slides, and the 16th Avenue mosaic steps, along with fun sights including the twisty Lombard Street and sea lions at Pier 39. Even the tours have a unique touch: a fire truck city tour beats a bus hands down. You could climb onboard a submarine or a 19th-century ship, there are two aquariums and zoos, plus some fabulous interactive museums to explore. And that's all before you hit the beach.

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What people are saying about San Francisco

Overall rating

4.5 / 5

based on 12,245 reviews

My experience was very enjoyable, the driver was very informative and all of the places I went made me feel comfortable being there

It was great. I was provided with the proper information I needed. I will surely use this again when I return.

Our guide was great! We got to see Muir Woods without having to worry about driving or making reservations.

it was awesome - the gps takes you everywhere - and driving the car is too cool

Started off slow, but as the tour progressed it was fantastic!