26 Fun Places to Visit in San Francisco | 2024 (with Photos)
If you are headed to sunny California on your vacation, you will want to know all about the best places to visit in San Francisco and the surrounding area.
San Francisco offers a great mix of picturesque landmarks and historic tourist attractions. From iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island to educational pitstops like the California Academy of Sciences, the Asian Art Museum, and the Japanese Tea Garden, San Francisco is the city that has it all.
So, let's delve into this list of the 26 best places to visit in San Francisco for a great vacation.
Most Recommended Thing to Do
Golden Gate Bridge
Top Choice Hotel
The St. Regis San Francisco
Our Top Choice Restaurant
The Slanted Door
Our Top Choice Bar for Nightlife
Top Choice Bar For Nightlife in San Francisco: DNA Lounge
Best Time to Visit
Clear skies, mild temps, iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
Mild weather, ranging from 50 to 70 degrees.
Buses, trams, bikes, scooters, rideshares – San Francisco's transportation.
Average Cost ($, $$, $$$)
My Top Recommendation
When it comes to immersing yourself in the vibrant culture and breathtaking sights of San Francisco, there are two key experiences I highly recommend. First, take a stroll along the iconic Golden Gate Bridge at sunset. As you marvel at the stunning views of the city skyline and the glistening waters of the bay, you can't help but feel a deep sense of connection to this place. The gentle ocean breeze, the sound of passing ships, and the rustle of the bridge cables create a truly memorable moment that will stay with you long after your visit.
Second, venture into the eclectic neighborhoods of the city, such as Haight-Ashbury and North Beach. These vibrant areas are brimming with history, art, and a diverse range of culinary delights. Spend an afternoon exploring the colorful streets, browsing through quirky vintage boutiques, and soaking in the bohemian atmosphere. Be sure to stop by the famous City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in North Beach, a historical landmark that played a crucial role in the Beat Generation literary movement. From the fascinating murals of the Mission District to the charming Victorian houses of Alamo Square, every corner of San Francisco has its own unique charm waiting to be discovered.
What You'll Need to Bring
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Warm clothing (layers are recommended)
- Umbrella or rain jacket
- Travel adapter (if necessary)
- Camera or smartphone for capturing memories
- Guidebook or map
- Reusable water bottle
- Portable charger for your electronic devices
Table of Contents
1. Alcatraz, Alcatraz Island, San Francisco Bay
Once a notorious prison for some of the world's deadliest criminals and now one of the most popular places to visit in San Francisco, Alcatraz is located in the Pacific Ocean.
Alcatraz prison can be found on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. You can reach the island via a short ferry ride. On a clear day, you'll get views of Fisherman's Wharf and Angel Island State Park.
The prison itself is an incredible experience. You can tour the cells with an audio guide that features the voice of a former prisoner. The island is a popular San Francisco tourist attraction and a historic site. It is operated by the National Park Service.
2. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Of course, no list of places to visit in San Francisco would be complete without a mention of the Golden Gate Bridge. As one of the most iconic images of the West Coast, the Golden Gate Bridge is the gem of San Francisco.
You can walk, bike, or drive across the Golden Gate Bridge while enjoying spectacular views of Angel Island State Park and sunbathing with sea lions. The bridge connects San Francisco with Marin County.
On the south side of the Golden Gate Bridge lies Fort Point National Historic Site. This is a masonry seacoast fortification located at the entrance to San Francisco Bay.
San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge provides a perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural beauty and cultural richness of San Francisco.
3. Fisherman's Wharf
Fisherman's Wharf is one of San Francisco's most popular tourist attractions and is not far from the Golden Gate Bridge. Located on the waterfront of San Francisco Bay and bathed in the smell of the Pacific Ocean, this is one of the most scenic places to visit in San Francisco.
The bustling neighborhood of Fisherman's Wharf offers a glimpse into San Francisco's maritime history, with plenty of seafood restaurants, souvenir shops, and street performers.
Tourists in Fisherman's Wharf can watch sea lions basking in the sun, or hop on a boat tour to explore the bay of San Francisco, as well as Alcatraz and Angel Island, with its Mount Caroline Livermore in the Pacific Ocean.
4. Cable Cars
San Francisco's cable cars are a beloved and iconic tourist attraction that have been in operation since the late 19th century. They are a national historic landmark in San Francisco, CA.
These vintage vehicles offer tourists and locals alike a unique mode of transportation in San Francisco and a great way to see the city of the Golden Gate.
The cable cars connect some of San Francisco's most popular attractions such as the financial district, Nob Hill, Chinatown at Grant Avenue, Little Italy, North Beach, Russian Hill, and Fisherman's Wharf.
Riding a cable car offers a scenic tour of San Francisco's vibrant neighborhoods, with stunning views of San Francisco Bay and the surrounding areas. In addition, you could visit the Cable Car Museum.
5. California Academy of Sciences
Located in the heart of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, CA, the California Academy of Sciences stands as one of the city's premier tourist attractions.
This renowned museum showcases the natural wonders of the world, from vibrant marine life in the aquarium to exotic plants and animals in the rainforest exhibit.
Visitors to the California Academy of Sciences can also marvel at the planetarium's captivating shows, exploring the mysteries of the universe.
With its commitment to sustainability, the California Academy of Sciences boasts a unique living roof covered in native plants, while the museum itself pays homage to the rich history of Marin County.
Embark on an enlightening and immersive journey through science and nature in San Francisco at the California Academy of Sciences.
6. Lombard Street
Lombard Street in San Francisco is known as the most crooked street in the world. This makes it one of the most unique and interesting places to visit in San Francisco.
The city is known for its hills and unique streets, and Lombard Street is no exception. Lombard Street offers visitors breathtaking views of San Francisco as they wind along this snakelike road.
Undoubtedly, Lombard Street is one of the best places to visit in San Francisco, CA.
7. Palace of Fine Arts
The San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts is located in Golden Gate Park. This San Francisco museum focuses mostly on art and architecture.
Designed in the Beaux-Arts __style, the Palace of Fine Arts Museum is a spectacular example of classical architecture of San Francisco and home to European decorative arts.
Moreover, you can take a stroll through nearby San Francisco attractions such as the San Francisco Botanical Garden and the Japanese Tea Garden with its tea house.
8. Coit Tower
Coit Tower is a historic landmark and one of the best places to visit in San Francisco since its completion in 1933. Coit Tower offers visitors stunning views of San Francisco from above.
Perched atop Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower offers panoramic views of San Francisco's stunning skyline and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
Moreover, don't miss the opportunity to visit Fort Point, a historic military fort located at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. Together with Coit Tower, these San Francisco attractions provide a captivating glimpse into San Francisco's rich history and picturesque surroundings.
9. The San Francisco Exploratorium
The Exploratorium in San Francisco is a distinctive science museum located near the San Francisco Bay waterfront and just a short walk from Fisherman's Wharf.
What's more, this San Francisco museum features interactive exhibits and hands-on activities that allow visitors to explore the wonders of science.
If you are visiting San Francisco, CA with kids, this is a great place to spend a couple of hours.
10. Walt Disney Family Museum
The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco is a must-visit for Disney fans of all ages. Located in Presidio, San Francisco, this museum showcases the life and legacy of Walt Disney through interactive exhibits, original artifacts, and fascinating stories.
Explore the history of animation, learn about Disney's creative process, and immerse yourself in the magic of one of the world's most beloved entertainment icons in San Francisco.
11. Golden Gate Park
Located at the heart of San Francisco City, Golden Gate Park is a must-visit destination in San Francisco, offering a wide variety of cultural, scientific, and recreational places of interest.
Comparable with New York's Central Park, San Francisco's Golden Gate Park is home to popular museums, lush gardens, rolling hills, and a fantastic expanse of open space in an otherwise bustling city.
Explore the de Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences in the park. There are also beautiful gardens like the San Francisco Botanical Garden and the Japanese Tea Garden.
Sit back at the Japanese Tea Garden and enjoy the serenity of this beautiful place in San Francisco, CA. The park reaches the waterfront of San Francisco Bay and offers a unique opportunity to watch the sea lions as they sunbathe.
12. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
In the heart of Downtown San Francisco, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art truly represents a world-renowned institution.
Just a short drive from Lombard Street, and within reach of popular attractions like Coit Tower and Union Square, the Modern Art Museum has a wide collection of modern and contemporary art.
Apart from featuring an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art offers different rotating exhibits for travelers to San Francisco, CA.
13. The Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco
The Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco is famous for being one of the main centers of the counterculture of the 1960s.
Today, visitors to San Francisco can explore the area's antique and souvenir shops and music venues. Prepare to soak up the bohemian vibe that still permeates the neighborhood.
Haight-Ashbury is adjacent to Golden Gate Park and faces the University of San Francisco.
14. Ghirardelli Square
On the waterfront of San Francisco Bay, Ghirardelli Square is one of the best attractions in San Francisco. Located by Fisherman's Wharf, this is a great place to meet friends for an afternoon of spotting sea lions.
Once the site of a chocolate factory, Ghirardelli Square is now a vibrant hub of activity in San Francisco, located between the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge.
15. Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens is a stunning urban park located in the heart of San Francisco, near popular destinations like Union Square and the Bay Bridge.
Bordering Downtown San Francisco, right next to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Yerba Buena Park features beautifully landscaped gardens, a waterfall, and public art installations.
16. San Francisco Zoo
San Francisco Zoo is a popular attraction adjacent to Lake Merced Park. One of the best attractions in San Francisco for kids, the San Francisco Zoo provides hours of family-friendly fun.
The San Francisco Zoo is home to over 2,000 animals, including exotic and endangered species. When you visit San Francisco, you should take an afternoon to explore this beautiful spot.
The San Francisco Zoo also features stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, where San Francisco's sea lions play.
Other notable family-friendly San Francisco attractions are the Walt Disney Family Museum and Angel Island State Park, both of which can be visited by families after the San Francisco Zoo.
17. De Young Museum
Nestled within San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, the De Young Museum stands as a testament to the world of fine arts. As an esteemed honor museum, it showcases a captivating collection of masterpieces spanning various artistic genres and periods.
From stunning paintings to intricate sculptures, the museum presents a diverse tapestry of creative expression.
The De Young Museum invites you to embark on a journey of artistic exploration in San Francisco and immerse yourself in the beauty of both man-made and natural wonders.
18. Ferry Building Marketplace
Right next to Exploratorium, the Ferry Building Marketplace is a transit hub turned gourmet marketplace on coastal San Francisco, CA.
The Ferry Building Marketplace is located by San Francisco Bay. Once there, you can indulge in local food and drink offerings, browse artisanal shops, and spot Angel Island and the Marin Headlands over the bay.
It is within walking distance of Fisherman's Wharf and is one of the main attractions in San Francisco.
19. The Painted Ladies of San Francisco
The Painted Ladies is the name for a collection of colorful Victorian houses near Alamo Square and Market Street in San Francisco.
The Market Street area is conveniently located almost exactly between Golden Gate Park and Union Square, near the heart of Downtown San Francisco.
These notable buildings in San Francisco are perfect for photography and, alongside the Golden Gate Bridge, are one of the most distinct San Francisco landmarks.
20. Oracle Park
Home of the San Francisco Giants, Oracle Park is a renowned baseball stadium located in San Francisco. With its picturesque San Francisco waterfront location and stunning views of the bay, Oracle Park provides a unique backdrop for baseball games.
Step inside this state-of-the-art stadium and immerse yourself in the electric atmosphere of a San Francisco Giants game. From the crack of the bat to the roar of the crowd, the energy of Oracle Park in San Francisco is palpable.
Oracle Park boasts modern amenities, a lively atmosphere, and a rich history. Whether you're cheering on the San Francisco Giants, indulging in delicious ballpark food, or simply soaking in the vibrant atmosphere, Oracle Park promises an exciting and memorable time for visitors of all ages.
Moreover, Oracle Park is easily accessible from the Fisherman's Wharf and the Natural History Museum. Add this iconic stadium to your San Francisco itinerary.
21. Twin Peaks
You may have heard the name "Twin Peaks" in popular culture. San Francisco is home to Twin Peaks, one of the popular tourist attractions known for its stunning views of San Francisco city.
Placed in the geographic center of San Francisco, Twin Peaks consists of two peaks, namely the North and South Peaks. Drive to the north peak parking area to soak in the views or hike over both peaks for a bit of adventure at San Francisco's Twin Peaks.
22. Muir Woods National Monument
This beautiful nature reserve known as Muir Woods National Monument is a serene forested area situated just outside of San Francisco, CA.
The spectacular Muir Woods National Monument is located a short drive over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Here, you can explore the beauty of nature and escape the bustle of the city.
A trip to Muir Woods National Monument can be combined with trips to other nearby attractions such as Telegraph Hill and Alcatraz Island.
23. The Mission District
The Mission District is one of the best places to visit in San Francisco. Known for its coffee shop culture and hipster vibes, this area is popular among young adults, foodies, and those seeking a taste of the eclectic and trendy culture of San Francisco.
The Mission District in San Francisco is south of Nob Hill and the Asian Art Museum.
24. Cable Car Museum
Stationed in the Nob Hill neighborhood, the Cable Car Museum offers a glimpse into the history and mechanics of San Francisco's most iconic feature: its cable cars.
Immerse yourself in the fascinating world of cable cars at the Cable Car Museum in San Francisco. Discover the intricate mechanisms that power these iconic transportation marvels and gain a deeper appreciation for their significance to the history of San Francisco.
As you delve into the museum's exhibits, you'll be captivated by the stories of the cable car system's evolution and its enduring charm. No trip to San Francisco is complete without a stop at the Cable Car Museum.
25. The Castro in San Francisco
The Castro district in San Francisco has a rich and colorful history. It is known for its LGBTQ+ community; a community that San Francisco is very proud of.
If you want to walk around the Castro, you can combine it with a trip to the Golden Gate Park, which is not too far north. Once in Eureka Valley, where the Castro is located, check out the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy.
26. Angel Island State Park
The "Ellis Island of the West", Angel Island was once an immigration station to enter into California. The immigration station is now one of the best places to visit in San Francisco to learn about the detention of Chinese migrants and other challenging issues in the history of the US.
If you loved Ellis Island in NYC, Angel Island in San Francisco is easily one of the best places to visit while you are in town. When you visit San Francisco, prepare for history, culture, and natural beauty like no other city.
FAQs About Things to Do in San Francisco, CA
Now, let's take a look at some frequently asked questions about things to do in San Francisco.
What part of San Francisco should I visit?
The things you cannot miss in San Francisco are Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, Alcatraz Island, and Angel Island. You will also love San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts, Fisherman's Wharf and its sea lions, Twin Peaks, and Union Square. These are among the best places to visit in San Francisco.
What are the two best places to visit in San Francisco?
The two best places to visit in San Francisco for nature lovers are Angel Island State Park and Fisherman's Wharf. Meanwhile, for culture enthusiasts, the two best places to visit in San Francisco are San Francisco's California Academy of Sciences and the Asian Art Museum.
If you want a quintessential experience of the attractions in San Francisco, CA, the Golden Gate Bridge and the cable cars are the best places to visit.
How can I spend 2 days visiting San Francisco?
If you have two days to spend in San Francisco, the Golden Gate Park and Golden Gate Bridge are two destinations you have to visit in San Francisco. You can spend the first day exploring Golden Gate Park and its museums and gardens, like the de Young Museum. Then, on day two, you can explore the Golden Gate Bridge, venture out of San Francisco and discover the Marin Headlands in northern California.
What are the best museums in San Francisco?
There are many amazing museums in San Francisco. The California Academy of Sciences and the Asian Art Museum are two of the best places to visit in San Francisco. The California Academy of Sciences offers a unique combination of an aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum, while the Asian Art Museum showcases one of the most complete collections of Asian art in the world.
You'll also love the Kimball Natural History Museum and the de Young Fine Arts Museum.
Summing Up: Fun Places to Visit in San Francisco
As you can see, San Francisco is a city brimming with sights and attractions, such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and the city's iconic cable cars.
Some more of the best places to visit are Fisherman's Wharf, the Palace of Fine Arts, the Walt Disney Family Museum, and the California Academy of Sciences.
As you can see, there is no shortage of amazing places to visit in San Francisco, so whether you are an art lover, an adventurer, or a history buff, you will have an unforgettable experience in San Francisco.
Take this list of attractions in San Francisco with you on your trip so you can plan the ultimate San Francisco vacation.