Things to Do in San Francisco: Top Ten Sights and Attractions

The Most Popular Things to Do in San Francisco

  • Cable Cars are often called San Francisco's moving landmark. And they're a fun way to get around, too.
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  • Chinatown expresses what early 20th Century Western architects thought Chinese buildings should look like. There's much here that's created just for the tourist, but with our hints, you can get a glimpse of the "real" Chinatown in its alleys and shops.
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  • The Exploratorium is a modern, hands-on science museum housed in The Palace of Fine Arts, a Roman-style remainder of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. The outdoor rotunda and its lagoon are some of the most-photographed San Francisco sights
  • Lombard , the "Crookedest" Street is neither the crookedest street in San Francisco nor the steepest, but it's surely the best-known. The "crooked" section is the block below Hyde Street. No car to drive down? Take the cable car to Hyde and Lombard and walk.
  • Golden Gate Park is the city's largest park. One of the most popular attractions in the park is the Japanese Tea Garden, but there's
    plenty more to see here, including the San Francisco Botanical Garden,California Academy of Sciences
    and Conservatory of Flowers.View photos

Things to do in San Francisco - Nearby

  • Sausalito , just across San Francisco Bay, has some of the best views OF San Francisco in the area. Take a ferry over, browse a few art galleries and have a meal with while enjoying the view.
    There are plenty of other things to do in San Francisco besides the ones on this list. If you're looking for more things to do, something different or perhaps a few sights that reflect the "real" San Francisco more than its tourist facade, start with the More Things to Do in San Francisco: Best of the Rest. If you are very interested in a specific things to do or activities, and you have plenty of information, don't skip them because of my recommendations. However, if
    you don't know much about it, there may be a reason why it's not listed. Research these things to do carefully before you go to be sure you spend your vacation time and money wisely.

Maybe you've visited all the top sights and attractions, perhaps your tastes are different than the "typical" tourist, or maybe you'd like to see more of San Francisco than its tourist veneer. Try a few of these sights, the "best of the rest."

If you plan to visit more than a couple of these popular sights, you can save money by getting a Go Cardor aSan Francisco CityPass. Which one is right for you will depend on how many things you want to do.

  • San Francisco Zoo:Located on the west side of town, they're very active in California condor preservation and home to about 700 animals representing almost 200 species.
  • Art Museums:
    San Francisco's premier art museums includeThe Palace of the Legion of Honor which holds an
    impressive collection of Rodin statues, including The Thinker, the M. H. de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, near the Convention Center south of Market Street.
  • North Beach is an Italian veneer laid over a half-Chinese neighborhood, and that's only the first of its many surprises and contradictions. This is the place to go for old-fashioned Italian food, people-watching in the park and interesting neighborhood shops. Nearby Coit Tower offers panoramic bay and city views from the top of Telegraph Hill and a bit of 1930s San Francisco captured in its murals.
  • Ocean Beach, Cliff House and Camera Obscura:This west-facing beach area has been a San Francisco favorite since 1863, when the first Cliff House was built. The restaurant, while popular, offers mediocre food and poor service at high prices, but that's no reason to stay away - the surroundings are much more rewarding. The small building behind the Cliff House dressed up like a giant camera is a camera obscura, its design based on a fifteenth century design by Leonardo da Vinci. Inside, views are reflected from the surrounding ocean and beach and displayed on a parabolic dish. The adjacent beach is popular for all forms of water recreation, kite flying and fishing.
  • 49-Mile Drive:Blue and white seagull signs lead you through the city, and although part of the drive is not very scenic, this is a great way to learn what ALL the city is about. The signs make popular souvenirs and often disappear, so you'll need a map to help navigate. You can also use our guide to skip the boring bits, turning it into a 20-mile tour instead. At the drive's highest point, Twin Peaks offers a panoramic view of the city of San Francisco (when it isn't foggy).
  • Victorian Houses: The "painted ladies" seem synonymous with San Francisco. Some of the best are found near Alamo Square and others are famous from films and television programs. View photos
  • Union Square:One of the city's three original parks, it's now a public space atop a multi-level underground parking garage and ringed with elegant shops and hotels. The Powell cable car line begins about a block away, and the theatre district is nearby.
  • Ferry Building Marketplace :One of the city's liveliest venues, full of local artisan food shops and restaurants, and the site of weekly farmers' markets.
  • Angel Island: Also called the Ellis Island of the West, it's rich in history and a great place for a hike or a Segway tour.
  • Bay Cruises: They're a great way to get away from the city so you can enjoy its skyline.

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