Things to Do in San Francisco in the Summer 2016

Southern California may get a lot of hype, but if you are looking to have some summer fun, Northern Cali definitely has its share of top notch destinations as well.

While it’s a beautiful city to visit year round, summer in San Francisco is arguably the best time to visit. This is when you’ll find the city at its warmest, its most festive, and, arguably, its most fun.

There are tons of street festivals, events, races, attractions, tours, museums, and more that are either only available during the summer or feature special exhibits and other attractions just for the summer months.

So, if you’re planning a visit and looking for things to do in San Francisco in the summer, check out our list of the top attractions and activities going on this year, including…

  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  • Escape from the Rock Cruise
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • California Wine Country Tour
  • and more…

Heading to the area to celebrate Independence Day? Then check out our post on things to do in San Francisco 4th of July Weekend.

In the Bay area towards the end of summer? Here are a few fun things to do in San Francisco during Labor Day Weekend.

Save on Attraction Admission

Regular admission to a number of of these popular San Francisco activities are included on the Go San Francisco® Card.

Choose as you go from dozens of top attractions and save up to 55% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.

See all available passes, attractions & prices – Learn more.

Please note, the special summer events taking place at these attractions may be separately ticketed and not included on the Go San Francisco Card.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

SFMOMA-3Recently reopened in 2016 the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s three-year-long expansion project has turned this already must-see art destination into the largest museum of its kind in the entire country.

The new SFMOMA is full of iconic and truly inspiring works of art from Paul Klee to Alexander Calder and more.

Because of the popularity of this reopened attraction, the best times to visit will be afternoons, weekdays, and Thursday evenings.

Escape from the Rock Cruise


A great way to really get the blood pumping this summer is by taking the Escape From the Rock tour.

This 90-minute tour will teach you about what it was like for inmates of the Alcatraz to spend a life behind bars and will also give you some great opportunities to take photos of the infamous island.

Each Escape From the Rock tour features sound effects and stories about famous inmates like Al Capone, Billy Cook the Killer and Clyde Johnson.

Children between the ages of 5-11 will receive a free pair of Blue & Gold Fleet souvenir binoculars.

Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise

golden-gate-bridgeCruises in San Francisco are often the most pleasant things to do in the summer.

The Bridge 2 Bridge cruise is a popular favorite among visitors, bringing you from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Bay Bridge and showing you all the sights in between and all around. It’s the perfect sightseeing opportunity for first-time visitors.

Declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World, the art deco-style suspension bridge is known around the world as the symbol of San Francisco.

Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge from the water is an incredible and unique experience. On this cruise, you’ll sail right under the 742-foot tall Bridge, providing ample opportunities for interesting photographs – the perfect souvenir!

You’ll also see numerous other San Francisco landmarks. Thanks to a personal headphone audio narration offered in 16 different languages, you’ll also learn about the fascinating history of the Golden Gate City’s many landmarks.

Fisherman’s Wharf

Go San Francisco Card

Fisherman’s Wharf; photography by J. O’Neill

This eclectic waterfront neighborhood is a prime destination for visitors and locals alike who are looking for some fun and entertainment.

Although this is one wharf technically called Fisherman’s Wharf, the neighborhood itself is technically comprised of an entire waterfront district filled with attractions.

Some of the exciting and entertaining attractions you’ll find in this destination include Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, the Musée Méchanique, a famed Sea Lion colony, seafood markets, and much more.

Aquarium of the Bay

san-francisco-aquarium-of-the-bayIf you prefer sealife to still life, the Aquarium of the Bay (conveniently located on Fisherman’s Wharf) is where you’ll have some of the most fun this summer in San Fran.

With its exclusive focus on the marine life of the San Francisco Bay, this regional aquarium is the perfect destination for those of you looking to learn more about the environment and its inhabitants.

Tour of AT&T Park

AT&T Park tour image2Baseball season is in full swing during the summer months, and what better place to catch a game or a AT&T stadium tour than the home of the multiple-pennant-winning San Francisco Giants?

Located right on the waterfront, the views from this newer stadium are simply stunning, and the infrastructure and architecture of the stadium itself as equally charming.

Grab a hotdog and a brew and sit back and enjoy the game.

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park - Conservatory of FlowersThere’s no better place in the city than Golden Gate Park to enjoy the great outdoors.

It’s filled with tons of museums, gardens, playgrounds, trails, recreation areas, picnic areas, monuments, and many more spread through over 1,000 acres of delightful urban green space.

Every Sunday, the park offers free swing dancing during “Lindy in the Park,” a weekly event near the de Young Museum. The swing dancers are out there rain or shine and on holidays too.

Another dancing option is the infamous Golden Gate Park Roller Disco Party. The event is held on most Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. in the area of the park that is affectionately referred to as “Skatin’ Place.”

California Academy of Sciences

Calif-Academy-of-Sciences-4Located in Golden Gate Park, this premier institution of science, learning, and entertainment is a must-visit for families. Where else in the world can you find such a comprehensive and amazing four-in-one experience?

That’s right, the California Academy of Sciences is actually comprised of a 4-story rainforest, a natural history museum, an aquarium, and the world’s largest all-digital planetarium.

Go to meet Claude the albino alligator and stay for the wonderful treasures you’ll find along the way.

de Young Museum

de-young-museumIf you’re a fan of the arts, the award-winning de Young Museum is the place for you.

Filled with extensive collections of art both modern and classical, their galleries are exquisitely designed and difficult to leave.

New for this summer is an exhibition of J.M.W. Turner’s paintings, an artistic renowned for his Romantic imagination, extraordinary technique, and enchanting final products.

Full Day California Wine Country Tour

Full-Day-Wine-Country-Tour-1If you want to get out of the city for a day and into the beautiful countryside, then one of the California Wine Country Tours could be closer to what you are looking for.

This full day excursion is one of the best things to do in San Francisco in the summer and certainly a great way to take in Northern California’s picturesque Wine Country.

Explore both large-scale and small-boutique wineries, and enjoy wine tastings along the way. Your driver doubles as knowledgeable tour guide.

Festivals & Free Events

Union Street Festival – Union Street between Gough and Steiner

June 4 – 5, 2016

Get your summer started this June on Saturday June 4th with the Union Street Festival, one of the first street fest of the season, in its 40th year.

The free festival is one of the largest arts festivals in the country

One of the city’s most significant free arts festivals, the Union Street Festival is really quite eclectic. Featuring not only a wide selection of arts and crafts made from sustainable materials, but an organic farmers market, gourmet food booths, and live entertainment, this festival has it all.

Some new exhibits this year include craft beer and wine tasting pavilions, Fashion World, and Health & Fitness World.

North Beach Festival – Near Washington Square Park

June 11 -12, 2016

This is actually San Francisco’s oldest street fair and it never disappoints. You’ll find a wide variety of activities, entertainment, and objects for purchase, including the area’s best arts and crafts.

There’s even a pizza toss (!), a kids fun zone with face painting, and more. This free event is fun for the whole family.

San Francisco Jazz Festival – SF Jazz Center

July 14 – August 21, 2016
san-francisco-jazz-festivalNow in its 21st year, the San Francisco Jazz Festival is a favorite among musically-inclined locals and visitors alike.

Presented at the San Francisco Jazz Center and select outdoor venues, you’ll be able to choose from more than 30 different performances.

There’s also a raffle, an album release party, and more! There are a few free events held outdoors, but most concerts are ticketed (at very modest prices)

San Francisco Frozen Film Festival – Mission District

July 21 – 24, 2016

This fun festival (which takes its name from San Francisco’s chilly summer weather) features the year’s best indie films and avant garde productions.

Film makers come by to discuss their work, too, so it’s a really interactive artistic experience.

You’ll also find local music and art performances and youth-specific activities. Although there is no cost to attend, donations are much appreciated by this non-profit organization.

Nihonmachi Street Fair – Japantown

August 6  7, 2016

Come join San Francisco as they celebrate their rich Asian heritage at this delightful long-standing event.

Called the “original melting pot” of all street fairs, you’ll literally find a bit of every Asian culture at this festive event.

Expect everything at this eclectic fair: booths with wares from talented artists and artisans, multi-cultural musical performances, food and beverage tents, local community organizations and event “Doggie World.”

Let’s Recap

So there you have it. Our picks for some of the top things to do in San Francisco in the summer.

Please note, the summer events taking place at some of these attractions may be separately ticketed and not included with the Go San Francisco Card.

Plan to visit some of these top attractions during your trip. Whether you are traveling with your family or a couple of friends, we’re sure you will have a great time.

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