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 Zoo Admission Ticket

1. San Francisco Zoo Admission Ticket

Visit the San Francisco Zoo, home to over 2,000 animals and 250 species of plants. Your full-day admission ticket includes access to the 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, home to the largest colony of Magellanic penguins outside of the wild. Admire the Zoo's gorillas in the Jones Family Gorilla Preserve. Feed and pet the farm animals in the Fisher Family Children's Zoo. Find the historic 1921 Dentzel Carousel and 1904 miniature Little Puffer Steam Train. Learn about the fun rides, educational programs, and exciting events for children.

San Francisco: Golden Gate Bay Cruise

2. San Francisco: Golden Gate Bay Cruise

Cruise around the Golden Gate Bay on a boat tour. Enjoy informative commentary, see sights like Alcatraz Island, and purchase food and drink from the onboard bar. 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 Fisherman's Wharf, 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 Golden Gate Bridge. Steam back into the Bay, traveling past the wildlife reserves of the Marin Headlands, and the legendary town of Sausalito, once home to the 1960s’ flower generation. With Angel Island State Park to your left, cruise around infamous Alcatraz. After a full hour of exciting sights, the barking sea lions at Pier 39 welcome you back to Pier 43 1/2. A full bar with drinks, snacks and merchandise, including logo wear, is available at reasonable prices on board the iconic red and blue sea vessels.

San Francisco: 1-Hour Bay Cruise by Boat

3. 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 non-stop 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. See sights like the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the iconic San Francisco skyline as you go. Whether it’s your first time to San Francisco, or your 10th visit, the Bay Cruise is something you should 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 with food and drink available to purchase.

San Francisco: Escape from The Rock Bay Cruise

4. San Francisco: Escape from The Rock Bay Cruise

Hop on board a boat and cruise around Alcatraz Island and other sights of San Francisco Bay on this round trip journey. Benefit from a straight-to-the-gate access ticket and informative commentary as you go. Cruise San Francisco Bay and sail under the Golden Gate Bridge on a 90-minute narrated tour by boat around Alcatraz Island. Skip the box office line and go straight to the gate with your ticket. See Alcatraz island from the water while listening to accounts of the chilling escape attempts and the notorious criminals that called Alcatraz prison home. Enjoy a cruise with food and drink available to purchase onboard. Cruise full circle around Alcatraz Island, allowing you to view every angle of this mysterious island, which housed famous inmates such as Al Capone, Billy Cook the Killer, and Clyde Johnson, whose escape attempt is legendary. Gain a clear picture of what life in this maximum-security prison was like when it was the most feared institution in the American penal system.

San Francisco: California Sunset Boat Cruise

5. San Francisco: California Sunset Boat Cruise

Enjoy sunset views as you sail on beautiful San Francisco Bay. See important landmarks, including Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. In the winter months, take in the serene twilight views instead. Along the way, view numerous National Historic landmarks and San Francisco sights, including Coit Tower, the Transamerica Pyramid, St. Peter, Paul's Church, and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. As the sun begins to set over the Marin Headlands, cruise past Alcatraz, Angel Island, and the shorelines of Tiburon, Belvedere, and Sausalito. Watch the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean, as you sail west towards the Golden Gate. On your way back to Fisherman’s Wharf, see many more famous sights, including the Presidio, the Marina District, and Fort Mason.

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 on a single boat tour 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 round trip 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 Francisco by the sea.

San Francisco: Half-Day Wine Country Excursion with Tastings

7. San Francisco: Half-Day Wine Country Excursion with Tastings

Discover some of San Francisco's best wines on this half-day outing. Visit 2 wineries and 3 to 5 tastings. Enjoy scenic views from your comfortable coach. Start your day in the afternoon, as you head north to the Golden Gate Bridge. Enjoy a scenic drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and marvel at the San Francisco skyline in the distance. Next, drive through the beautiful town of Sausalito, a seaside Mediterranean-like village harbored across the San Francisco Bay and famous for its sweeping views. As the vine-covered hillsides come into view, you will visit 2 favorite wineries of the region for wine tastings and an exclusive estate tour. Experience the inner workings of the wineries and their family history in Napa and Sonoma Valley as an expert wine host walks you through the fermentation process, barrel-aging, bottling, and, of course, tastings of some award-winning varietals. At each winery, enjoy up to 3-5 tastings of their signature blends. Your day concludes with a scenic drive back over the Golden Gate Bridge and into San Francisco as the sun slowly starts to set into the Pacific Ocean.

San Francisco: Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Bus Ticket

8. San Francisco: Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Bus Ticket

Hop aboard a sightseeing bus for a tour of the 'City by the Bay' and delve into the fascinating history of San Francisco and its legendary sites, such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman's Wharf. The hop-on-hop-off route stops at key points of interest all around San Francisco. Experience the diverse culture, beautiful parks, stunning architecture, and picturesque views from the top of an open-air sightseeing bus. Hop off and back on at your leisure to create your own customized itinerary around the city. Explore 3 routes depending on your ticket purchase. San Francisco City Hop-On Hop-Off Tour Explore San Francisco’s famous landmarks on a hop-on hop-off sightseeing tour. Sit back and enjoy the ride as you cruise through the city on an open-top bus and learn about San Francisco's unique history Panoramic Night Tour Board the bus at Pier 41 at the end of Powell St in Fisherman's Wharf to explore the dazzling city of San Francisco at night. Climb up the historic Nob Hill for a stunning close-up view of the magnificent Grace Cathedral. Then, make your way across the grand Bay Bridge for picturesque views of the city skyline from Treasure Island, the site of the 1939’s World Fair. Heading back into the city, continue along the Embarcadero to view the glittering lights on the Port of San Francisco.

San Francisco: Alcatraz Tour w/ 2-Day Hop-On Hop-Off Ticket

9. San Francisco: Alcatraz Tour w/ 2-Day Hop-On Hop-Off Ticket

See the best of San Francisco with this combined hop-on-hop-off ticket and Alcatraz Island visit. Explore the island of Alcatraz and enjoy 2 days of sightseeing with insightful commentary from a live guide. Tour the famous prison that has played a role in jailhouse folklore and the historic evolution of the West Coast. Learn more about the 14 unsuccessful escape attempts by over 30 prisoners and their fates. Your Premium Big Bus hop-on-hop-off pass is a great way to see the sights of San Francisco. Listen to commentary by live English-speaking guides, or enjoy pre-recorded audio commentary in 10 languages. Your 2-day ticket includes a full day of unlimited hop-on-hop-off and a 1-hour panoramic night tour. Explore one of San Francisco's most fascinating neighborhoods on a fun and informative walking tour of Chinatown. The tours are offered daily, and you can ask an agent for locations and time schedules. Also included are a bonus 1-hour bike rental (with the purchase of a 1-hour rental) and Players Arcade Drink and Game Tokens. Hop-on, hop-off tour stops include: Stop 1: Corner of Jefferson & Mason StreetStop 2: Holiday Inn Northpoint b/w Jones & ColumbusStop 3: Washington Square - Columbus & Union StreetsStop 4: Embarcadero Center - Corner Clay & Battery StreetsStop 5: Ferry Building - Market St b/w Stuart & Spear StreetsStop 6: Union Square South - Geary St across from Macy’sStop 7: Hilton Hotel - Corner Mason & Ellis StreetsStop 8: Civic Center - Fulton St b/w Larkin & Hyde StreetsStop 9: Alamo Square - Corner Fell & Pierce StreetsStop 10: Haight Ashbury - Haight & Shrader StreetsStop 11: Golden Gate Park - Music Concourse Drive Golden Gate ParkStop 12: Golden Gate Bridge- North Vista PointStop 13: Palace of Fine Arts - Richardson & Francisco StreetStop 14: Marina Neighborhood - Lombard & Fillmore StreetsStop 15: Lombard Street Corridor - Lombard & Gough StreetsStop 16: Union Square North - Post & Powell StreetsStop 17: Chinatown Gate - Grant and Bush StreetsStop 18: Portsmouth Square - Kearny & Clay StreetsStop 19: Pier 35 Cruise Terminal - The EmbarcaderoStop 20: Pier 39 Fisherman’s Wharf (then return to Stop 1)

From San Francisco: Yosemite Park Guided Day Trip

10. From San Francisco: Yosemite Park Guided Day Trip

Escape the crowds of San Francisco on a full-day guided tour to Yosemite National Park. See highlights, including Yosemite Falls and Inspiration Point. Enjoy seamless travel in a bio-fueled mini-coach. Heading east across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge offers great views of the San Francisco skyline, Alcatraz Island, Fisherman's Wharf, and the Golden Gate Bridge. En route to the park the tour crosses through the Central Valley, where you will stop at a fruit stand for some local produce. Famous for its rich volcanic soil, the Central Valley is the largest agricultural region in the United States. The section the tour drives through is best known for specialty fruits and nuts such as almonds, walnuts, cherries, and strawberries. After this quick rest stop, you will enter the rolling foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. Continuing into the mountains brings you to California gold country and the gold rush town of Groveland before the tour winds its way into Yosemite National Park. On your 1.5-hour narrated coach tour of Yosemite's glaciated valley, you will see famous waterfalls and rock formations including Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America. Continue on past El Capitan, Half Dome, Bridalveil Falls, Sentinel Dome, and much more. During the tour you will see Yosemite Valley from a number of great vantage points, the best of which is perhaps Inspiration Point. After the tour, you will stop for the afternoon near the base of Yosemite Falls. If you have not already picked up picnic supplies, there are many options for getting lunch in the park. You will have 3-4 hours of free time to explore the valley as you choose. You can walk to the base of Yosemite Falls, check out the visitor center, visit the Ansel Adams Gallery, stop in at the Ahwahnee Hotel, rent a cruiser bike, or hike some of the trails that originate from the valley. Although you could easily spend 3 weeks in Yosemite, the 3 hours you get on your own is enough time to understand why Yosemite is one of America's most popular national parks.

Frequently asked questions about San Francisco

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

Which tours in San Francisco are taking additional COVID-19 precautions?

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.

Other Sightseeing Options in San Francisco

Want to discover all there is to do in San Francisco? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about San Francisco

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 12,827 reviews

Skilled and friended driver-guide showed us the sights! While one can spend weeks in Yosemite, the day trip provided a lot of highlights that brings taste for more. The three hour free time was enough to walk to lower Yosemite falls, to the Ahwahnee and back, time to spare and relax and have some snacks. 10 out of 10 denstists would recommend!

What an AWESOME day ❤️ Thank you Denise for sharing all your knowledge with us I only had 48 hour layover in San Francisco as I am a flight attendant from Germany & taking this trip made my layover definitely one to remember Thank you & best wishes for Denise - she is an outstanding tourguide Nicole

Solid tour that takes you to Muir Woods, breaks for a brief lunch in Sausalito and then drops you off at the ferry for Alcatraz. Our tour guide Charlie was great and very knowledgeable about San Francisco and the history of Muir Woods and drove those narrow and winding streets with ease!

We had a wonderful tour. I highly recommend the early morning tour when it’s less crowded. Lana was an amazing tour guide and we very much enjoyed all of the history and fun facts she shared along the way.

Had an hour to kill by myself before leaving SF. A great way to see the city, even if you're a return traveler.