The top 5 things to do in San Francisco

Your guide to the Golden City.
Golden gate bridge between trees

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Few places brandish the might of nature as spectacularly as Yellowstone.

Drawing power from the vast super volcano hidden under its surface, the United States’ first national park is home to almost 2.2 million acres of kaleidoscopic beauty and immense wilderness.

Of course, the explosive nature of its big-ticket attractions is worth the visit alone, but step away from the swarms of tourists jostling for a peek at Old Faithful, and you’ll find a land of cascades, canyons, and critters big and small. Inimitable in every sense of the word.

Take a walk on the wild side.

Welcome to Yellowstone National Park.

5 things you can’t miss in San Francisco

Check out the Golden Gate from every angle

Golden gate bridge

Arguably the most famous bridge in the world, The Golden Gate is a San Francisco icon. 1.7 miles long, 227 meters high, and infinitely beautiful, it’s known the world over as a marvel of engineering.

Visiting the bridge can take several forms. If you’re looking for a quick snap with the best angles, Hawk Hill takes the cake. The entire bridge is on show, along with Downtown San Francisco, making for an epic photo-op. Getting up close via Marshall Beach lets you grasp the scale of the bridge and offers a unique perspective from the cliffs below. It’s also a little better for crowd dodging (although sunset is always gonna be tough).

If you’re interested in the history of the record-breaking bridge, there are several tours available. Free tours run Thursdays and Sundays, while a host of paid options are available too. It’s an incredible structure, and a guide will have you bursting with future trivia night-winning tidbits by the end of your visit.

Escape Alcatraz Prison

Alcatraz Prison

Floating ominously in San Francisco’s bay, the lonely rock known as Alcatraz Prison draws millions of tourists a year – and for a good reason. The storied history of one of the most famous penitentiaries is legendary.

Al Capone, Whitey Bulger, and Robert Shroud are just a few of the famous criminals to have been locked within its walls. But its history is even more interesting. It’s been functioning in some capacity since the Civil War but gained notoriety after its conversion into a maximum security prison, inspiring books, movies, and other lore.

Nowadays, it makes an amazing day out. It’s now part of the National Park system, costing around $25, including the ferry from Downtown. It’s a mainly self-guided tour highlighting the history of “The Rock,” but there are often special exhibits based on the time of year. You can also grab a tour guide for a more in-depth experience.

Night tours are a great way to make things a little more exciting. A guided boat tour around the island is part of this experience, as well as a little sunset on the bay before you get to exploring the prison itself.

Learn something new

San Francisco palace of fine arts

San Francisco is home to a dizzying array of museums and art galleries, some of which are comfortably in the echelons of other world-class attractions.

For the artistically inclined, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is a go-to. Packed with household names, this massive museum could grapple you into an entire day. Make sure to carve out a good chunk of time if you’re a Warhol nut. The Legion of Honor museum is another cracker featuring the likes of Rodin, Monet, and Picasso.

The California Academy of Sciences goes in a different direction, offering an immersive day out for the family. Experience an earthquake, explore a recreated rainforest, and marvel at some of the live animals that call the academy home.

The massive Asian presence in San Francisco is typically celebrated in the restaurants of Chinatown, but a trip to the Asian Art museum adds new depth to that aspect of the City’s culture. Spanning the entire Asian continent, visitors can check out an astonishing number of exhibits. It’s also free on the first Sunday of the month.

Relive your favorite movies

painted ladies houses san francisco

Many a famous films and tv series have used San Francisco as their background. You could spend the whole day exploring the sites that appears in some of the most iconic shots. 

Visit the The Painted Ladies and reenact the Full House theme song. 

Then pop over to Grove High School (which is unbelievably just a huge house) to have your Princess Diaries moment. 

Lastly, make your way over to Chinatown to see where The OA and Pursuit of Happyness filmed some of their most impactful scenes. While you’re there, grab a bite at James Beard Foundation winner Mister Jiu’s or have some dim sum at City View. 

Ride the streets

Lombard street san francisco

As the second hilliest city in the world, it’s good to get creative with how you explore the Golden City.

Of course, you must take a ride in one of San Francisco’s iconic cable cars

We recommend taking a short ride on the Hyde Street cable car and getting dropped off at the top of the infamous curvy road that is Lombard Street. (Just be sure to avoid the 300 block.)

Though the winding route of Lombard Street is truly an experience to drive down, it’s just as exciting to wind your way down the path on foot. Zig-zag your way down to the bottom and then don’t forget to take in the mansion lined street from the bottom. 

Want to uncover the best of San Francisco?

Check out Next Stop: San Francisco for the best places to stay, eat, and explore in San Francisco!

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