California, the Golden State. The state is home to beautiful beaches and mountains, as well as tantalizing attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Hollywood sign. California is also where the best cities to travel to are, such as Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose. But standing out above the rest is the Northern California city of San Francisco, the Golden Gate City. There are several things to do in San Francisco if you plan on traveling here.
Famously beautiful, this amazing city in California is dubbed as one of the most filmed, photographed, and Instagrammed places anywhere in the world. And things are even better in real-life. Founded in 1776, San Francisco is a commercial, financial, and cultural hub in Northern California. From visiting the renowned Golden Gate Bridge to experiencing Asian culture at the Chinatown Alleyways, the things to do in San Francisco have so much to offer, and we are going to uncover them right now.
Uncovering The Best Things To Do In San Francisco
Without further ado, we present the best and the most unforgettable things to do in San Francisco.
1. Witness The Magic Of The Golden Gate Bridge
Other suspension bridges across the globe are impressive engineering marvels, no doubt – think of Hong Kong’s Tsing Ma Bridge or New York’s Brooklyn Bridge – but San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge tops them all for all those glitters.
You may ask why this true American icon keeps its radiant glow, and we’re serious, everything about this glow is credited to the painters who literally reapply around 1,000 gallons of International Orange paint every week.
If you want to see for yourself, you can inspect their work by ducking under the bridge into Fort Point, head to the roof, and look up – you’ll notice that even on the bridge’s underbelly, nothing is allowed to get rusty.
The bridge’s name actually refers to the body of water it spans, the Golden Gate Strait that converges the Pacific Ocean with the San Francisco Bay. Golden Gate Bridge was built to make travel between San Francisco and Marin County hassle-free.
Its radiant and vaulting orange arches that stand out amidst the bay’s rocky seascape are some of the reasons why it is one of the most enduring symbols of the country’s West Coast. Be sure to cherish the memories by taking photographs with the Golden Gate Bridge.
2. Revisit The 1960s Era Along Haight Street
Haight Street was once the setting of the Summer of Love social movement that happened during the summer of 1967, when hundreds of thousands of people, mostly the youth donning hippie fashion styles and sporting hippie behaviors, gathered in the neighborhood of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco to, what else, express themselves. The 1960s are a turning point in history, and you can revisit this decade here at Haight Street.
Obviously, this neighborhood is best known as the center of the counterculture movement of that decade. If you’re here, you’ll realize that the remnants of the bygone hippie culture era still endure. There are so many things to do in San Francisco when you are here. Colorful Victorian homes line the hillsides, restaurants and boutiques crowd the streets, and piercing and tattoo parlors are everywhere. Downhill, you’ll even find drive bars and music shops, among others.
3. Visit The Japanese Tea Garden At Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park is California’s version of New York City’s Central Park. The park offers so much things to do in San Francisco that many say it could take a full day to experience everything that it has to offer. Within its evergreen borders, you’ll find picturesque picnic areas, trails, playground, gardens, museums, sports courts, and more.
But if you’re here at the Golden Gate Park, don’t forget to visit the Japanese Tea Garden. It is the oldest Japanese garden in the United States, featuring manicured gardens adorned with cherry trees, koi ponds, bamboo-lined pathways, a pagoda, a tea house, and a Zen garden, among others. You can also visit the Conservatory of Flowers, the oldest existing public conservatory not just across the country but across the Western Hemisphere.
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4. Get Introduced To Asian-American Culture At San Francisco’s Chinatown, The Oldest Chinatown In North America
The United States has cradled several Asian communities for so many years, particularly the Chinese. They migrate to this country to seek a greener pasture, or to flee their country because of wars. According to statistics from Migration Policy Institute, the Chinese diaspora in America comprises about 5.4 million people who were born in China, Macau or Hong Kong, or reported Chinese ancestry or race. And you can bear witness to this through the Chinatowns across the United States, such as in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
San Francisco’s Chinatown hosts one of the largest Asian communities outside Asia, and is considered as one of the oldest in North America. It is also the largest Chinatown off the Asian continent.
Here’s the backstory. Chinese immigrants first started moving to California in search of fortune during the Gold Rush. After being driven out of the gold mines – because of discrimination and strict laws against these Chinese immigrants – these people decided to establish their own businesses in the area that is now San Francisco’s Chinatown. This is one of the not-to-miss things to do in San Francisco.
5. Feel Some Arkham Vibes At Alcatraz
If you are a Batman fan, you’re in great luck because here in San Francisco, there’s a place that can let you feel some Arkham Asylum vibes, and that is in the persona of Alcatraz.
Regarded as the notorious former prison, Alcatraz is situated on an island of the same name right in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Some of the country’s most well-known criminals were incarcerated here. You’ve perhaps heard about stories of criminals who attempted to escape from “The Rock,” the other name of Alcatraz, and you also know they did not succeed.
A visit to Alcatraz today is fascinating. Don’t worry because the prison has already been closed since the 1960s. You can avail of the recorded cell-house tours wherein you can learn about the prison as you explore Alcatraz’s buildings and grounds.
6. Go On A San Francisco Bay Twilight Or Sunset Cruise
Whenever there are waters, you know there are opportunities for cruising. And here at San Francisco Bay, you can go on a cruise during some of the most dramatic parts of the day, during twilight or sunset – certainly one of the things to do in San Francisco that you should partake in.
This cruise takes you across San Francisco Bay, treating you to unparalleled views of the city’s skyline, Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay Bridge, and Alcatraz Island. Relax as the background music sets the tone. During winter months, a twilight cruise is offered.
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7. Discover Your Superpowers At The Exploratorium
Oftentimes, some people ask you, “If you could have a superpower, what would it be?” Well, here in San Francisco, you can turn this dream into a reality, well, almost, when you head over to the Exploratorium.
Exploratorium is San Francisco’s hands-on laboratory of science, art, and human perception, where you can discover your superhuman abilities you never knew you had, such as stopping time, sculpting fog, and making sand sing.
This place is for both kids and adults, but if you are not bringing children during your trip, the Exploratorium offers kid-free hours every Thursday where there are mad-scientist cocktails, technology-assisted sing-alongs, and themed exhibits only for an 18-year-old-and-above crowd.
8. Play With Sea Lions At PIER 39
PIER 39 is located within Fisherman’s Wharf, a place in the city which many tourists say is your one-stop location for all things San Francisco. Don’t miss the many things to do in San Francisco here.
PIER 39 is a festive waterfront marketplace considered as one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist attractions. One of the activities here is to watch the antics of the sea lions that have taken up residence in PIER 39 Marina’s docks. This spectacle produces long queues.
After your PIER 39 experience, you can take a short walk to nearby attractions such as Madame Tussauds and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum. Perfect for the whole family. You can also avail of delectable food in the area, such as walk-away crab and shrimp cocktails.
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9. Watch The Illuminate SF Festival Of Light Art Show
If you’re yearning for more spectacular things to do in San Francisco, you can head over to Illuminate SF. Illuminate SF is an ongoing festival of light art show that presents over 40 installations scattered throughout the city’s neighborhoods. Admire light art on buildings, restaurants, cars, sidewalks, and more.
Plus, during winter nights in San Francisco, the SF Festival of Light unveils site-specific temporary installations designed for the season. This festival kicks off the day after Thanksgiving, and runs throughout January.
10. Shop ‘Til You Drop At Union Square
Union Square is situated at the heart of downtown San Francisco’s hustle and bustle. There are also so many things to do in San Francisco here. Both travelers and locals love this area for its uplifting vibe and energy.
This place is dotted with towering buildings – some of which are displayed with Times Square-size ads – and busy streets. Did you know that here, you can literally street right in the middle and enjoy the atmosphere without the risk of getting hit by a car?
Union Square also acts as a park with small grassy spaces and palm trees. You can also find artworks around the area.
It is also a shopper’s paradise. Several department stores and the most luxurious designer boutiques are found in this location. For instance, the Westfield San Francisco Shopping Centre houses the biggest Bloomingdale’s outside New York and the second-largest Nordstrom in the United States.
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Things To Do In San Francisco: Airlines That Fly To This California City
When traveling to any destination in the world, not just to San Francisco, you’ll have to think about a lot of things. You have to plan your itinerary, your budget, the place where you’ll sleep for the night, your personal stuff, and whatnot. But above all, you need to book your flight. With so many airlines that fly to San Francisco, you’ve got to single out the most suitable for you. So, to have your things to do in San Francisco the smoothest they can be, it is just right that you know which airlines fly to this California city. Here are the top five airlines flying to San Francisco.
- Alaska Airlines
- Sun Country Air
- American Airlines
Always San Francisco
Tourism is the backbone of San Francisco’s economy, as the city drew more than 26 million visitors before the pandemic. It may relatively be a small city, but it’s packed with several things to do in San Francisco that will surely please wanderers of all types, such as outdoorsy people, art lovers, and foodies.
The Golden Gate Bridge is a must-visit landmark, and a tour around Alcatraz Island and its now closed maximum-security federal prison should be on your bucket list. Aside from spending time at Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square, you can also discover the city’s more authentic side by taking a walking tour around the eclectic Castro or North Beach neighborhoods, and grabbing some delicious food at the Ferry Building Marketplace.
And whether it’s climbing to the top of Coit Tower or Twin Peaks, strolling around Mission Dolores Park, or being amazed by Muir Woods, everybody will love it here in San Francisco.