Southern California may get a lot of hype, but if you are looking to have some summer fun, don’t count Northern Cali out either – there’s plenty to do!
While it’s a beautiful city to visit year round, summer in San Francisco is the best time to plan a trip. Summer in San Francisco is the warmest, most festive and arguably most fun time of year in the Bay Area.
There are tons of special street festivals, events, races, attractions, tours, museums, and more that happen all summer in San Fran.
So, if you’re planning a visit and looking for things to do in San Francisco for summer 2018, 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 45% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.
Please note, some of these special summer events may be separately ticketed and not included on the Go San Francisco Card.
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 works 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 special exhibition The Fifth Season: René Magritte, on display through the fall. Magritte is most famous for his contribution and work with surrealism. This exhibit boasts 70 different pieces in nine immersive galleries by the famed painter.
Getting In: SFMOMA tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card. Fifth Season: René Magritte is a separately ticketed exhibition and is not included with the Go San Francisco Card.
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 to Alcatraz – voted the #1 Landmark in the US by TripAdvisor.
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 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.
Make sure you don’t leave your camera behind, the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most gorgeous Modern Wonders of the World. This iconic suspension bridge is certainly a sight to behold (and snap photos of)!
The Bay Bridge, while less famous, is no less visually compelling. All in all, you’re in for a relaxing day full of gorgeous views.
Getting In: Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.
If 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.
During the summer, the Exploratorium offers a ton of great events and specials. Every Thursday, adults 18+ can enjoy After Dark Thursdays from 6-10pm and every Friday, visitors of all ages can enjoy the extended hours as well from 5-9pm. For more information and specific event offerings, visit their website – you’re sure to find something you’d like to partake in from the list of festivals and shows.
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.
Madame Tussauds San Francisco
Hoping for some celebrity sightings during your visit to California? Head to Madame Tussauds, right in Fisherman’s Wharf, and ‘meet’ all your favorite stars.
Explore the museum’s themed exhibit halls and pose with legends from the silver screen, football field, San Francisco history, and beyond. You’ll get to see tons of life-like celebrity wax figures, from Audry Hepburn to Mark Zuckerberg.
One of Madame Tussauds San Francisco’s highlights is the Spirit of San Francisco exhibit – a totally fun and interactive way to get to know the Bay Area. Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge or up the zig-zag Lombard Street.
Getting In: Madame Tussauds San Francisco tickets are included on the Go San Francisco Card.
San Francisco Dungeon
Explore San Francisco’s more sinister side of history at the San Francisco Dungeon, a fun, campy experience that emphasizes San Francisco’s dark past with hilariously spooky historical context.
The experience starts with a thrill ride that gives you a feel for what life in Alcatraz prison was like and whether or not you have what it takes to escape the rock and survive a plunge into the depths of San Francisco’s underground.
Getting In: San Francisco Dungeon tickets are included with the Go San Francisco® Card.
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 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’s iconic Pier 39) 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 looking to learn more about the environment and its inhabitants.
Enjoy visiting exhibits like Discover the Bay, Go With the Flow, Under the Bay and more – all full of colorful jellies, fish and aquatic animals.
Getting In: Aquarium of the Bay tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.
Golden Gate Park
There’s no better place to be on a sunny day than Golden Gate Park.
It’s filled with dozens of gardens, playgrounds, trails, recreation areas, picnic areas, monuments, and much 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 San Francisco sunshine.
One of our favorites is the de Young Musuem, another premier art institution. The museum is one of the most visited in the country and is home to over 1,000 pieces of fine art, including sculptures, paintings and more.
Getting In: Golden Gate Park is free to explore. de Young Museum tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.
California Academy of Sciences
Also located in Golden Gate Park, this premier institution of science, learning, and entertainment is a must 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.
From the splashing penguins in African Hall to the awe-inspiring reef ecosystem, there are plenty of habitats and exhibits to explore. And this summer, make sure to check out their new exhibit Giants of Land and Sea opening June 15th, 2018. Allow science to take over all your senses as you feel your way through a fog room, keep your balance in the earthquake simulator and ascend to the top of a towering Redwood.
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. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, it’s a can’t-miss attraction.
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 like to stay for a game, you can opt to purchase tickets to any of their amazing summer series dates.
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’re hoping to get out of the city for a day and relax, look no further – a Wine Country Tour is exactly what you need.
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 a knowledgeable tour guide. You’ll enjoy visiting the Madonna Estate, Sutter Home Winery, and the Sebastiani Vineyards, three of the most beautiful and delicious vineyards in the area.
San Francisco (and California as a whole) is known for its abundance of vineyards and impeccable local wines, so we know you’ll really enjoy this one.
Getting In: Weekday Napa & Sonoma Wine Country Tour tickets are available with the Build Your Own Pass – San Francisco.
Union Street Festival
Union Street between Gough and Steiner
June 2nd & 3rd, 2018
Get your summer started this June with the Union Street Festival, one of the first street fest of the season, now in its 42nd year.
One of the city’s most enjoyable and well-known free arts festivals, the Union Street Festival is 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, it’s easy to see why it has gained such popularity.
See over 20 live bands perform and explore the five entertainment areas that showcase Jazz, Blues, Country, Bluegrass and Local Bands! Then peruse the sponsor tents, Arts & Crafts exhibitors, food vendors and more.
Getting In: The Union Street Festival is free to attend.
North Beach Festival
Near Washington Square Park
June 16th & 17th, 2018
The North Beach Festival, on its 64th year, is considered one of the oldest and original fairs in the country. You’ll find a wide variety of activities, entertainment, and objects for purchase, including the area’s best arts and crafts.
Known to locals as San Francisco’s Little Italy, the North Beach area is the perfect place to spend a day perusing all the booths and local vendor options. There are also activities like face painting and more for children to enjoy.
With over 125 options packed with paintings, vintage knick-knacks, and gourmet food and two stages for live entertainment, it’s sure to be a summer day well spent.
Getting In: The North Beach Festival is free to attend.
San Francisco Jazz Festival 36
SF Jazz Center
Select dates, June 6th – June 17th, 2018
Celebrating its 36th year, the San Francisco Jazz Festival will take place two weekends in a row this summer.
Music, specifically jazz, is a great part of the Bay Areas culture and the SF Jazz Center is a hub of some of the best performers and artists in town. Don’t miss a chance to see legends like Ahmad Jamal, Chester Thompson Quartet and Irma Thomas perform at this eclectic music festival.
Getting in: the San Francisco Jazz Festival is separately ticketed and not included on the Go San Francisco Card.
SFJAZZ Summer Sessions
SF Jazz Center
July 12th – August 19th, 2018
Now in its 23rd year, the San Francisco Jazz Fest Summer Sessions are 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 throughout the summer.
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 Summer Sessions are separately ticketed and are not included with the Go San Francisco Card.
San Francisco Frozen Film Festival
Mission District @ the Roxie Theatre
July 19th – 22nd, 2018
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.
Films being screened will include short documentaries, short films, animations, experimental films, music videos and more.
Getting In: SFFFF is free to attend.
Nihonmachi Street Fair
August 4th & 5th, 2018
Come join San Francisco as they celebrate the rich Asian heritage at this delightful long-standing event, now in its 45th 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 during the summer of 2018.
A number of these attractions are available on the Go San Francisco Card, where you can save up to 45% off admission vs paying at the gate. 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.