26 best things to do in San Francisco

by Jan

San Francisco is an amazing city, with so much to do for everyone.  It has wonderful scenery with great wildlife, breath-taking views and plenty of attractions.  We visited San Francisco during our recent 3-week road trip in California.

Here are some of our favourite things to do in San Francisco: –

Watch sea lions at Pier 39

There is lots to do at Fisherman’s Wharf, but one of our favourite spots was watching the sea lions at Pier 39.  There are hundreds of them and until you have been there you cannot imagine the noise (or the smell!).  It is constant.

However, you’ll soon forget as you become transfixed by the antics of the lovely sea lions fighting for the best spot on the pontoons.  There is lots of shoving and pushing by the bigger males as they assert their authority.  Who needs a circus with an act like that?

Sea Lions sunning themselves at Pier 39 in San Francisco, California
Sea Lions at Pier 39

Find our more about the other amazing animals we saw on our trip to California in this post:-

Amazing animals in California

Be entertained by street performers at Fisherman’s Wharf

Street artists are sure to amuse your little ones with their array of juggling, magic and circus tricks.

Visit the Aquarium

Jelly Fish at Monterey Aquarium, California
Jelly Fish at Monterey Aquarium, California

Aquarium of the Bay is at the edge of Pier 39 and is home to over 20,000 marine animals from the Northern Californian area.

Children will love the hands-on exhibits, which let them touch sting rays, skates and even sharks!

Savour the clam chowder

You’ll never be short of places to stop for a bowl of the famous San Francisco clam chowder.  It is like a seafood soup served in a sourdough bread roll and my boys loved it.

Hit the happy hour

Many of the bars along the way from Fisherman’s Wharf offer a happy hour.  What better way to relax than with a drink in the San Francisco sun after a hard day’s day sight-seeing?

Escape from Alcatraz

Alcatraz is the notorious prison on an island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, known as “The Rock”.  You can get there from Pier 33 using a ferry, but be warned you need to book in well in advance with Alcatraz Tickets.

We’d recommend booking well before your travel to ensure you get your preferred date and time especially in the summer. Its an absolutely awesome visit if you are in San Francisco.

a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco in California

The Golden Gate Bridge is a mighty steel suspension bridge of 1.7km spanning the strait between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

The Golden Gate Bridge is unsurprisingly the most famous bridge in the world and is definitely worth a visit, even if just to take photos.

Rent a bike

A great way to see The Golden Gate Bridge is by bike, taking in the breath-taking scenes, which was a great experience, though not a particularly unique one as we joined the many other hundreds who had chosen to do so!

For more information on cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge, read our post:-

Cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge

Trip out to Sausalito

If you cycling over the bridge from San Francisco, spend some time in the picturesque seaside town of Sausalito.

Ride a ferry

You can take a ferry to Sausalito, Tiburon or to Angel Island where you can tour the island with an audio tour to find out about its rich history.  We took the ferry back from Tiburon to San Francisco with our bikes which was a great way to finish the day.

Spot turtles at the Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts is at the the edge of the Presidio National Park.  This palace has an unusual collection of Greco-Roman buildings and structures.

It you look in the lagoon you will be able to spot some rather cute turtles. Some come out to sun themselves. The lagoon is also home to an array of birds.

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, California

Take a stroll at the Presidio

There is plenty to amuse everyone at the Presidio national park set at the South end of the Golden Gate Bridge.  It covers 1,491 acres, so it is worth checking out the Visitor Centre when you arrive.

The park is free and there are shuttle buses running to the park and around it.  A great place to go if you want a break from the hustle of San Francisco.

Wander through the Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park is a vast park on the western side of San Francisco.  It is over 3 miles long and 0.5 miles wide and spreads over 1,017 acres.  It’s worth getting a map at the entrance, so you don’t miss out on something you want to see.

It is easy to spend a day here, especially as there is plenty to do for everyone.  We started at the Conservatory of the flowers and walked down to all the way to the Ocean. Then we stopped off at the de Young Museum,  Japanese Tea Garden and Stow Lake.

We took a few moments to watch the Bison at the Bison Paddock before heading for the dutch Windmill. Afterwards, we went to the Beach Chalet Brewery for drinks at the end of our long walk.

Enjoy the Botanical Gardens

Dahlias at the Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco in California

These stunning gardens in the Golden Gate Park showcase a diverse selection of beautiful plants and flowers from around the world.

Smell the blooms at the Conservatory of Flowers

Take a look inside the Victorian-era glass green house to view the spectacular selection of rare and endangered plants.

Have a taste of Japan

The Japanese Tea Garden in the Golden Gate Park has been built in the style of a Japanese-style garden.  It is the oldest in the US.

Get that swing feeling

“It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing”.  Having accidentally stumbled across a swing dance class during our Sunday morning stroll, we made the impulsive decision to join.

It did not take long to realise the I definitely “have not got that swing”.  It was fun finding out though!

Swing dance in the Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Climb a tree

There is a great tree-climbing area near the Park Chalet restaurant of the Golden Gate Park

Spot a bison

We were rather surprised to happen across the herd of American bison who are happily grazing at one end of the Golden Gate Park.

The first one arrived in San Francisco in 1890 and they have been living in the Golden Gate Park ever since.

Ride a cable car

San Francisco Cable Car, California
San Francisco Cable Car, California

Anyone that has seen a photo of San Francisco will know that the streets can be rather steep.  What better way to get around than on one of the cable cars that network the city?

We must have taken one at rush hour, as the tram was heaving.  We were all separated.  I took my life into my own hands as I clung on the outside for the whole journey.  Definitely a memory made….

Take a tour of China town

The China Town in San Francisco is the largest one in North America and covers 24 blocks.  There is an array of colours, lights and smells as you wander round the streets exploring the shops and restaurants.

The main tourist street is Grant Avenue, but it is worth heading off some of the side streets.  This will give you a more authentic experience away from the crowds.

Look out for the fortune cookie factory and definitely find time for lunch or dinner.

Find your fortune

Whilst in San Francisco’s China town, make a visit to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.  Here you be amazed as the fortune cookies are made from scratch and assembled by hand, ready to be sent all over the world.

Stop for an ice-cream

You can buy ice-creams everywhere you turn in San Francisco.  Our favourite was the Ben & Jerry’s on Jefferson Street.

Head for the bakery

The Boudin Bakery & Café at Fisherman’s Wharf is a great stop at any time of the day.  We ate breakfast there a couple of times, but apparently the clam chowder is also great.

The bakery is full of charm and character (you can watch the bakers at work and see bread made into all sorts of shapes and sizes and cross above your head in baskets) and the sourdough was excellent.

Fresh turtle bread at Boudin Bakery in San Francisco, California

Take a selfie

There is so much to snap in San Francisco.  Of course, the wonderful Golden Gate Bridge has got to be number one.

Take time to capture some of San Francisco’s amazing scenery, nature and attractions.  It is these that make San Francisco such a vibrant and interesting city.

What are your best things to do in San Francisco?  We’d love to hear your comments below.

POST FOR LATER: 26 best things to do in San Francisco

CHIMPTRIPS - 26 best things to do in San Francisco

All rights reserved © Chimptrips. Republishing this article and/or any of its contents (text, photography, links, etc.), in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.

Related Posts


Avatar for Jan
Stefan (BerkeleySqB) 18th February 2021 - 11:48 am

Great post. San Francisco is a fabulous place to visit and I just realised that I missed out on quite a few sights.

Avatar for Jan
Jan 20th February 2021 - 8:30 am

There’s a few more that we would like to go back and see too.


Leave a Comment

* By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More