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 2017, 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 Summertime Activities
Regular admission to a number of these attractions are available on the Go San Francisco Card.
Choose as you go from popular attractions and save up to 55% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.
Please note, some of these special Summer events may be separately ticketed and not available on the Go San Francisco Card.Note: the below ads are not affiliated with SmartDestinations.com
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
One of San Francisco’s most beloved cultural attractions is the recently renovated San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).
Boasting stellar collections of contemporary and modern art that include everything from big names like Calder, Klee, and Pollack, to emerging Bay Area artists and more, the SFMOMA is the artistic destination in San Fran.
This summer, enjoy a number of special exhibits and programs at this fine institution, like the special exhibition “Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed.”
Getting In: SFMOMA tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card. The Edvard Munch exhibit is separately ticketed and is not included with the pass.
Escape from the Rock Cruise
One great way to go about exploring San Francisco this summer is to embark on a relaxing and informative sightseeing cruise.
One of the most popular and exciting options is the “Escape from the Rock” cruise.
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.
Insider Tip: Children between the ages of 5-11 will receive a free pair of Blue & Gold Fleet souvenir binoculars.
Getting In: Escape from the Rock Cruise tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.
Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise
Another option for exploring San Fran’s many waterfront pleasures is the Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise.
It’s a special 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.
The Golden Gate Bridge in particular is a popular subject of photography, as one of the Modern Wonders of the World. This iconic suspension bridge is certainly a sight to behold!
The Bay Bridge, while less famous, is no less visually compelling.
Getting In: Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.
ExploratoriumIf you’re traveling with kids, you can’t miss out on an afternoon spent at the awesome Exploratorium.
Fueled by creativity and curiosity, this amazing institution offers over 600 interactive exhibits for kids of all ages to engage with.
This summer, they’re also hosting an After Dark event series, which takes place from 6 pm – 10 pm every Thursday, and features adult-centric programming for a bit of a change.
Getting In: Exploratorium tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card. After Dark events are separately ticketed and are not included with the pass.
This eclectic waterfront neighborhood is a prime destination for visitors and locals alike who are looking for some fun and entertainment.
Although Fisherman’s Wharf as a term technically refers to just one particular wharf, the neighborhood itself is actually 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.
Getting In: Madame Tussauds tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.
Aquarium of the Bay
If you prefer sea life 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.
This summer, from July 7 – September 7, 2017, you’ll also be able to enjoy their special exhibit “Riveropolis,” which highlights the ways rivers connect to the San Francisco Bay watershed through fun summer events and activities.
Getting In: Aquarium of the Bay tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.
Golden Gate Park
There’s no better place in the city than Golden Gate Park to enjoy the great outdoors.
It’s filled with dozens of gardens, playgrounds, trails, recreation areas, picnic areas, monuments, and many more spread through over 1,000 acres of delightful urban green space.
There are also a number of top attractions and museums located in the park, if you’re feeling motivated to do more than lay back on the picnic blanket and enjoy rare San Francisco sunshine.
One of our favorites is the de Young Musuem, another premier art institution. Or, opt for the Conservatory of Flowers to enjoy the beauties of nature even more.
Getting In: Golden Gate Park is free to explore. de Young Museum tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card. The Conservatory of Flowers is separately ticketed and is not included with the pass.
California Academy of Sciences
Also located in Golden Gate Park, this premier institution of science, learning, and entertainment is a must-visit for visitors of all ages.
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.
Getting In: California Academy of Sciences tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.
Visit AT&T Park
Baseball season is in full swing during the summer months, and what better place to catch a game or an 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 is equally charming.
On your tour, you’ll be treated to behind-the-scenes views of many insider areas of the ballpark, and learn all kinds of fun trivia.
If you’d prefer to take in a game, you can also opt to purchase tickets to any one of their amazing summer series.
Getting In: AT&T Park Tour tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card; ball game tickets are separately priced and are not included with the pass.
Full Day California Wine Country Tour
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 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.
Getting In: Weekday Napa & Sonoma Wine Country Tour tickets are available with the Build Your Own Pass.
Union Street Festival
Union Street between Gough and Steiner
June 3-4, 2017
Get your summer started this June with the Union Street Festival, one of the first street fest of the season, now in its 41st year.
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.
Getting In: The Union Street Festival is free to attend.
North Beach Festival
Near Washington Square Park
June 17 – 18, 2017
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.
You’ll get to stroll through over 120 arts and crafts booths, sample fare from gourmet food stands, and linger in wine and beer gardens.
There will also be two stages filled with live entertainment all weekend, Italian street painting, an area for children to play with street chalk, and more.
Getting In: The North Beach Festival is free to attend.
SFJAZZ Summer Sessions
SF Jazz Center
July 13 – August 20, 2017
Now in its 22nd 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).
Getting In: The SFJAZZ Festival is separately ticketed and is not included with the Go San Francisco Card.
San Francisco Frozen Film Festival
Mission District @ the Roxie Theatre
July 20 – 23, 2017
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.
Getting In: SFFFF is free to attend.
Nihonmachi Street Fair
August 5-6, 2017
Come join San Francisco as they celebrate their rich Asian heritage at this delightful long-standing event, now in its 44th year.
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.”
Getting In: The Nihonmachi Street Fair is free to attend.
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.