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 enjoyable destinations as well. Here are a few suggestions about events to visit, attractions to see this summer in San Francisco.
While it’s a beautiful city to visit year round, summer is arguably the best time to visit San Francisco. This is when you’ll find the city at its warmest (which is still, honestly, not that warm), 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.
When you’re considering your travel plans for this season, consider a trip to the City by the Bay. If you plan on visiting a lot of attractions while you’re in town, pick up a Go San Francisco® Card and save up to 55% on combined attraction visits – leaving you plenty of dough to buy souvenirs with!
Festivals & Free Events
Union Street Festival – Union Street between Gough and Steiner
June 6 – 7, 2015
Get your summer started this June on Saturday June 6th with the Union Street Festival, one of the first street fest of the season, in its 39th 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 13 -14, 2015
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
June 9 – 21, 2015
Now in its 20th 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 17 – 20, 2015
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 1 -2, 2015
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.”
Baseball season is in full swing during the summer months, and what better place to catch a game or a 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
There’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.”
Visit the Japanese Tea Garden for a touch of Asian-inspired culture, or the Conservatory of Flowers to immerse yourself in the blossoms of the world. You can even play Frisbee golf on their specially-designed course!
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.
Golden Gate Bridge Cruise tours
Cruises in San Francisco are often the most pleasant in the summer. While you’ll still get a bit of a chill off the water (and will definitely still need a sweater or light jacket), it’s going to be a fun and relaxing experience the whole family will enjoy.
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 attractions. 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.
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.
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Consider addeing a stop at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom to your itinerary. This park is family-friendly, but that doesn’t mean its rides are boring – not by a long shot! Thrill-seekers will probably want to take a ride on one of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom’s newest rides, SUPERMAN: Ultimate Flight.
The first DC-themed attraction at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, SUPERMAN is a 15-story, 863-foot-long ride that gets up to 62 mph. A “launch coaster” that uses electromagnetic propulsion, SUPERMAN features two upside-down twists and two vertical rolls.
UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens
Another must-see outdoor destination in the summer is the Botanical Garden at the UC Berkeley campus. This 34-acre garden features over 1200 species of plant from around the world, most of them representing wild species. They’re particularly known for plants from the Mediterranean or Mediterranean climates (including parts of California!)
California Wine Country Tours
If 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 the best 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.
Museums & Aquariums
California Academy of Arts & Sciences
Located 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
If 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.
Aquarium of the Bay
If you prefer sealife to still life, the Aquarium of the Bay (conveniently located on Fisherman’s Wharf) is where you’ll have the most fun this summer. 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.
When you’re planning your summer trips, don’t forget to think about including San Francisco on your must-see list. And remember, you can save big with the Go San Francisco® Card.
Summer is a great time to visit because the weather is actually cooler than in many parts of the country—while still warm enough to enjoy the beautiful landscape of Northern California.