You shouldn’t have to struggle to find fun things to do in San Francisco. This Northern Californian city offers so much more than the Golden Gate Bridge (though it is a pretty amazing sight). Really, if you’re figuring out what to do in San Francisco while you’re there, the only issue you’re going to struggle with is trying to fit everything in.
If You Have the Time, Spend it at Golden Gate Park
It is worth devoting a full day to Golden Gate Park, 1,017 acres of meadows and lakes with stuff for the whole family to enjoy. The park includes rose gardens, an arboretum, a music concourse, a children’s playground with a wonderfully restored carousel, and a buffalo paddock. Make sure you check out the tallest artificial waterfall in the West, at Strawberry Hill. Do not forget your camera, and take a picnic spread or packed lunch. The de Young Museum houses thousands of artifacts and art works from all over the world, while the Barbra Osher Sculpture Garden displaying a collection of contemporary pieces. Admission is free to the museum on the first Tuesday of every month.
If science is your thing, visit Golden Gate Park on the third Wednesday of the month, when admission to the California Academy of Sciences is free. This provides an interesting look behind the scenes at the Steinhart Aquarium, and now and then visitors are able to help the staff feed the fish.
Speaking of Museums in San Francisco…
San Francisco has several other museums throughout the city. Particularly worth a visit are the Cartoon Art Museum on Mission Street (on the first Tuesday of every month you decide your own admission fee), the Exploratorium inside the Marina District’s Palace of Fine Arts (free on the first Wednesday of every month) and the Wells Fargo History Museum within the city’s Financial District (free at all times). If you only have time to visit one museum, the San Francisco Cable Car Museum will not disappoint. The cable car museum is the only moving national historic landmark in America; it costs $5 to ride a cable car to the museum, where you can view antique cable cars, including the first one ever made from 1873.
How About those San Francisco Beaches?
Although Northern Californian weather is much cooler than in Southern California, the beaches of San Francisco still attract both locals and tourists. Swimming and wading are discouraged due to the dangerous undertow of the Pacific’s waves. Visit Ocean Beach, on the western edge of the city, and explore its four miles of shoreline until you reach the Cliff House, which gives magnificent views of the Pacific. The smaller China Beach is perfect for a game of volleyball or simply admiring the million-dollar homes of the Seacliff district. Baker Beach, running along the western shore of the Presidio, has an amazing view of the spectacular Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands. Avoid the northern end of the beach if you are easily offended; it is a popular spot for nude sunbathers.
You Can’t Go Wrong with Wild Life in San Francisco
The Presido National Park, once the most important military post on the West Coast, offers miles of hiking trails, signed bike routes and scenic picnic spots within its 1,491 acres. Open all day, every day, and free to enter, the park provides many opportunities to explore and look out for wild animal species. Walking tours, history tours and other events are held regularly in the park.
The world-famous San Francisco Zoo is the largest zoological park in Northern California and home to over 225 species of animals, including Sumatran tigers, penguins, lemurs, meerkats, eagles, gorillas and koalas. If you are visiting with children, take them to the Children’s Zoo, where they can meet, feed and pet a variety of barnyard animals. The Little Puffer Zoo Train is a great way for little ones to see the whole zoo without getting tired.
Don’t forget to check out the Aquarium of the Bay where you will get to see, touch, discover, and learn about all the fascinating marine life of the San Francisco Bay and its surrounding waters. There are even special activities presented for kids, such as Jellyfish mazes, sea life word searches, coloring books, and Aquarium of the Bay scavenger hunts. You and your whole family can have a memorable experience, all included in the Go San Francisco Card.
Whether your priority is culture, history, sightseeing or just relaxing on the beach, San Francisco has something to keep everyone happy. If you’ve visited San Francisco, or even if you live out there, let us know what some of your favorite things to do are in the comments!