Visiting the City by the Bay and looking for the best things to do in San Francisco? I’ve got you covered – lots of iconic touristy spots, hip local jaunts, and stunning vista points coming right up!
SF is known for its finicky foggy weather (we even named him Karl), famous overstuffed Mission burritos, and the crimson cutie that is the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s wonderfully quirky and funky, an impressive melting pot of start-up founders (Tesla-driving techies), first-wave gentrifiers, immigrants, and entrepreneurs. So, grab a jacket, as microclimates are in full swing over here, some comfy boots, those hills are something else, and start crossing things off this San Francisco bucket list.
I recently celebrated 5 years of living in the San Francisco Bay Area (yes, a #win due to the fact that it’s just so crazy expensive), and besides the fact we’ll be paying off our mortgage until the end of time, there’s no place we’d rather be.
The last time I updated this bucket list was just a few short months after moving here (so, urm, 4 ½ years ago?!), and boy, a lot has changed! Not only have I discovered tons more green spaces for ice cream picnics, boozy brunch spots, and places to stuff my face (okay, so I like food, okay?!), but I’ve crossed so many off my old list as well! Time for a new, much more in-depth list of things to do in San Francisco? I think yes. For me, and for you.
Sure the city is a mere 7×7 miles, but it sure packs a punch! And with its diverse neighborhoods, you can grab an egg tart on one block and climb 300 steps to a panoramic view of the city from another. And better yet, we experience Indian summers, meaning summer lasts and lasts and lasts, well into the fall. Meaning just more time in the day to conquer this SF bucket list.
And just FYI, (in case you were wondering), the best way to piss off a local: calling San Francisco “San Fran” or even worse, “Frisco”. Just don’t do it. The only acceptable nicknames are SF and “the city”. I don’t mean to be harsh, but I cringe anytime I hear it (I’ll never forgive that time I saw Usher live and he called us San Fran… ugh shiver).
So, let’s get to it: I present, the ultimate list of things to do in San Francisco. Whether you’ve lived here for a while and are looking for new things to do in San Francisco, or are just visiting for a few days, strengthen those calves (climbing the hills are something else) and wander around. It may come to now surprise, but SF really is one of my favorite cities in the states… although I may be a bit biased since I did choose to move here and all, but shh..
The Best Things to do in San Francisco (in my opinion, at least)
I’ve compiled this list by neighborhood, as it just makes more sense to me when you’re out exploring to check off more things in one area and not circle on back.
1. Have a picnic in Mission Dolores Park: Sunny day in SF? You’ll find everyone and their mother flocking to Dolores Park to spend the afternoon. Expect to find people playing frisbee/handball, jamming out, laying out on blankets, playing with their pups, and just enjoying the spectacular views of the city’s skyline (and yes, we have palm trees in northern California). There’s even a public bathroom here – a rarity in SF! Grab some treats and an iced coffee from Tartine (the ultimate pastry heaven) and head to Dolores for great people watching ops!
2. Brave the line at Bi-Rite: Yes, there will be lines, but this San Francisco institution has one of my favorite ice creams in all of the city – salted caramel in a cone (malted vanilla with peanut brittle, meyer lemon, and honey lavender are great choices too). We always stop at Bi-Rite Creamery for some homemade organic ice cream before/after a little lounge in the park (located right next door). ✓
3. Slide down the Seward Street Slides: Concrete slides hidden in a neighborhood park? Yes, please! Just an FYI: bring your own cardboard (there may or may not be some at the bottom) to avoid ripping your pants. Unleash your inner child; even my dad had an absolute blast on these during his last visit to San Francisco. Just be careful – they’re super steep. ✓
4. Get too many tacos from a local taqueria: Is there a thing as too many tacos? I don’t think so. You’ll find taquerias on every corner of the Mission, with favorites being Taqueria Cancun, El Metate (one of my faves), and El Farolito. Just save some room for a burrito… ✓
5. Devour a Mission Burrito: What’s a Mission Burrito and why’s it so special? Well for starters, it’s absolutely gigantic and always bursting at its seams (aka I always have leftovers). And besides it’s size, you’ll find extra ingredients within – the perfect combo of rice, beans (always whole, never refried), avocado, sour cream, pico de gallo, and of course some grilled meat. It’s still around after being invented sometime in the 60’s, so I guess SF’s got a thing for it. There are numerous spots in the Mission to devour one of these larger-than-life burritos, but La Taqueria, Pancho Villa, and El Farolito take the cake, err guacamole. You can never go wrong with some carnitas or carne asada. ✓
6. Stop by Dandelion Chocolate for some samples: This small-batch bean-to-bar chocolatier offers numerous chocolate making/tasting classes and tours of their newly-opened factory. If you don’t have time for a class, stop in for some hot chocolate, giant marshmallows included. And don’t miss out on the samples. ✓
7. Stumble upon street art in Balmy Alley + Clarion Alley: You just cannot visit the Mission without stumbling upon its colorful, mural-filled alleyways. Every single surface is painted (sides of houses, fences, garage doors, etc). And they’re not just intricate works of art – the pieces have meaning, teaching the viewer about gentrification of the area, modern politics, and the immigrant experience in SF. How’s that for a history lesson, anyone? They’re thought-provoking, heart-breaking, and downright touching. Don’t miss the Women’s Building nearby, completely covered by the MaestraPeace mural, and the Santana Mural on 19th. ✓
8. Drive down Vermont Street: Take your wheels down the curviest street in SF, and nope, it’s not Lombard like everyone thinks! Vermont Street, snaking its way down Potrero Hill, has a whopping 14.3 percent grade with five full turns and two half turns. And since it’s not well known (at all, compared to the ever-so-popular Lombard), it’s free of tourists and you’ll never have to wait to drive down! ✓
9. See the sunset from the top of Twin Peaks: (you can drive up here, don’t worry), bring a jacket, it’s usually pretty windy up here, endless photo opps, has gotten a bit seedy in recent years, so keep your belongings on you, you can see every iconic bridge, building, and the bay from up here. My favorite time of day to go – at sunset, as long as there’s no fog limiting the view. ✓
10. Grab a fancy cup of drip coffee from Four Barrel: Coffee lovers, unite! This Mission cafe is great for a mid-morning pick me up, with its trendy exposed beams and high ceilings. Opt for an almond milk latte, pour over coffee, and a tasty pastry. And plus, they even have classes for those looking to learn how to brew that perfect cup.
11. Have fancy high tea at The Rotunda: Yes, this department-store cafe is located within Neiman Marcus, but after one look, you won’t even notice (and plus, Neiman Marcus is next level gorgeous, with a stained glass ceiling and all). Come for the afternoon tea, complete with mini tea sandwiches, scones, strawberry butter, and some tea and/or bubbly. It sure is pricey, but those popovers… mmmm. Be sure to book in advance as prime lunch/dinner spots are taken quickly!
12. Admire modern art at the SFMOMA: Short for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, this space is full of 7 floors of highlights including works by Frida Khalo and Andy Warhol, and even the largest living wall in all of the US – it’s pretty cool. The Rodin sculpture garden is a must visit. With both permanent collections and rotating exhibitions, you can go multiple times and never get bored.
13. Ride a cable car: There’s nothing more iconic San Francisco than hanging off the side of a moving trolley. Sure, that $7 one-way cable car ticket seems quite steep, so make the most of it and ride the whole way. For the best views in the city, you’ll wanna take the Powell-Hyde line; jump on board near Market and Powell (you can’t miss it), take in the SF Bay and Alcatraz, and it’ll end near Ghirardelli Square. ✓
14. Watch free performances at the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival: With more than 75 world-class performances, ranging from music and dance to theatre and cultural programs on the Esplanade (the expansive lawn), you’ll always find something going on here in the summer (the festival runs from May to October). And if you don’t feel like taking part in the fun, there’s tons of park benches/grassy areas to lie around on → prime people watching opportunities here, FYI. My favorite – reading a book on the grassy knoll, then heading upstairs to Samovar for some tea!
15. Ice skate at Christmas time: Lace up your skates and head out on the ice at the Holiday Ice Rink in the heart of Union Square. The rink typically opens in early November and closes at the end of January, with skating sessions lasting for 90 minutes. Definitely one of the most festive things to do in San Francisco during the holiday season, so don’t miss it if you’re visiting during this time!
16. Order Swedish pancakes from Sears Fine Food: Don’t miss their signature menu item – silver dollar swedish pancakes (they do have a reputation for them and all). Skip the boozy brunch and opt for this vintage 1930s breakfast one morning instead.
17. St. Francis Hotel glass elevators to the top of Union Square: Get ready to soar up 32 floors high for a great vantage point of San Francisco – my recommendation: hold the railing and stand facing the glass. What was once a classic free SF experience, is now only available for paying hotel guests (since 2019). So if you’re by chance staying at the Westin St. Francis, be sure to take advantage!
18. Grab a slice of Sicilian at Golden Boy Pizza: All the pies are great at this funky joint, from classic cheese and pepperoni to veggie pesto, clam & garlic, and Italian sausage. After growing up in NY, I never thought I’d find pizza I actually enjoy in SF, but this place fits the bill (each and every time). FYI – cash only, and not many seats. ✓
19. Nosh on focaccia from Liguria Bakery: Imagine handmade green onion, rosemary garlic, cinnamon raisin, and pizza focaccia coming out of 107-year-old oven. And now imagine how that must smell outside this charming Italian bakery. Line up by 8am to get your focaccia of choice, as they typically run out really fast.
20. Order a sandwich from Molinari’s Delicatessen: This old-school Italian deli’s been in the area since the 1890s, and was actually a favorite of Joe DiMaggio when he lived around there. You’ll find huge sandwiches of artisanal meats and cheeses on freshly baked breads, as well as meatballs, fresh mozzarella, and their famous prosciutto.
21. Drive down Lombard Street: While not actually the crookedest street in the world, or even the city for that matter, this is by far one of the most touristy things to do in San Francisco. And it’s crowded to boot (the city may actually start charging visitors $10 per car to drive down due to issues caused by local residents). Lombard Street is all steep turns (27 degree slants!), sharp curves (8 switchbacks), blooming flowers, and colorful houses (yes, people live along the street, so please oh please be respectful).
22. Browse through City Lights Bookstore: Find your favorite book at this independent bookstore, specializing in world lit, the arts, and progressive politics (my kinda place). Not only is there an extensive amount of books (3 floors worth!), but the building is historical and full of character. And plus, what other bookstores are open until midnight every day?!
23. See the views and Diego Rivera murals at Coit Tower: This white, slender 210-foot concrete tower is an emblem of San Francisco’s skyline. Head up to the observation deck for panoramic views of the city and the bay – it’s one of my favorite views in all of SF! If you don’t feel like shelling out some money, at least check out the lobby murals and outside areas – they’re free! ✓
24. Search for the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill: Yes, you read that right – while you typically find parrots out in the jungle, we have about 300 flying around San Francisco. How to find them: Take the Filbert street Steps or Greenwich street steps from Coit tower (to the East of the tower) down to Levi Plaza for your greatest chances to see these colorful squawking birds (no guarantees). And be sure to listen up- you may hear them before you see them! ✓
25. Have brunch at Mama’s on Washington Square: Please oh please, just get the chocolate cinnamon french toast; it’s perfectly sweet and fluffy, and basically famous. Many brunchers come for the more unique items, such as dungeness crab/bay shrimp eggs and pancetta prosciutto benedicts. Plan to arrive as early as humanly possible, as this adorable little spot gets busy, and fast, especially on the weekend.
26. Stroll down Grant Ave: Yes, this is the picturesque tourist street with lots of tourist shops, Chinese lamp posts, buildings with Chinese-style decorations, and a bunch of red lanterns. Also be sure to linger onto the more authentic side streets and they little alleys, including Stockton Street for the produce market and where the residents actually shop. Don’t miss the Chinatown Dragon Gate (the official entrance into Chinatown) decorated with koi fish, two stone lions, and auspicious looking dragons. ✓
27. Stand on line for egg tarts from Golden Gate Bakery: With a buttery, delicate crust and perfectly eggy custard, these are the best egg tarts you’re gonna find in the area. I promise. They’re flaky, fluffy, creamy, and custardy. But this Chinese bakery is oh so popular they don’t need regular hours – (and shut down for weeks at a time with little to no notice), so if you manage to find them open, stand in line! Their egg tarts are in such high demand that a fan even created a website solely dedicated to whether Golden Gate is open (with social media accounts to follow – facebook and twitter). I’ve lived here for 5 years and finallllyyy got my hands on one just recently (I needed to go for research to compare to the egg tarts in Hong Kong and Lisbon, obviously), so good luck! Make sure to try out their mooncakes as well, filled with things like pineapple, coconut, red-bean, and lotus seed. ✓
28. Get Chinese Mai Tais at LiPo Cocktail Lounge: You’ll walk past and not even realize you did. It’s a cocktail dive bar at it’s best, selling their signature Chinese mai tais – part sweet, part dark/light/151 rum and chinese liqueur. Let’s just say it’s easy to throw a few back, although not as easy on the wallet. Expect a line, a weird and tacky atmosphere (in the best way possible), and lots of 90s music in the basement. And plus, Anthony Bourdain featured LiPo on his travel show, so it must be good, right?! ✓
29. See how fortunes are made at Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory: You can even watch the assembly line of ladies who fold and fill the cookies (yes, thousands per day, each by hand), and if you’re nice, they may even throw you a sample. There’s not much room inside, but still worth a quick stop.
30. Watch the sea lions at Pier 39: When I’ve got visitors coming to visit me in SF, one of the most common requests is to see the lions (I guess it is kinda iconic San Francisco afterall). You can watch the wild sea lions sunbathe on the piers, commonly piled up on top of each other. And they’re noisy – you’ll probably hear them before you see them. While they’re around all year, many leave the docks to breed in June and July (meaning less chances of one doing something silly). If you haven’t had enough of their strange barking sounds, you can even watch them on webcam! ✓
31. Slurp up clam chowder from Boudin Bakery: And make sure you order it in a bread bowl. In all honesty, the clam chowder from Boudin probably tastes the same as other versions on pier, but the sourdough just can’t be beat. My rec: share a bowl, and order some other apps as well: there’s mini crab cakes, fried risotto balls, and pesto chicken sandwiches to pick from. Don’t miss the short self-guided bakery tour.
32. Devour an ice cream sundae at Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory: Sure, the line may be long, but on a warm afternoon day, there’s not much better than a gigantic hot fudge sundae from Ghirardelli. Psst – too cold for ice cream? Grab a hot chocolate instead. Plan to wander throughout the renovated factory buildings within the square, complete with more restaurants, shops, and galleries. ✓
33. Sip an Irish Coffee at Buena Vista Cafe: Signature Irish coffee right in the middle of Fisherman’s Wharf – what more can I say? It’s comprised of coffee, whiskey, sugar, and cream, and absolutely perfect on a chilly San Francisco day.
34. Watch the Blue Angels soar overhead: It took us 4 years of living in the Bay Area to finally watch these jaw-droppingly impressive flight demonstrations, but boy oh boy, the show did not disappoint. Fleet Week occurs every October, bringing some of the most elite pilots from the Navy and Marines to town, filling up the bay with military ships and choreographed jets soaring overhead. We watched on the lawn near the Aquatic Park area, and despite intense crowds (over a million people come out to watch), it was tons of fun. Definitely one of the most iconic (and crowded) things to do in San Francisco, for sure! Let’s just say watching fighter planes zip by the Golden Gate is not something you’ll quickly forget. ✓
35. Get spooked at Alcatraz: Being the inspiration behind countless urban legends, television shows, and movies, Alcatraz is most definitely one of the most famous things to do in San Francisco. Once the home to the state’s most dangerous criminals, Alcatraz is now open to the public for guided tours and is sure to send a shiver down your spine (especially on the extra dark night tour!). Keep your eyes peeled, as many believe this notorious prison is haunted by past wardens and felons… But really, the audio tour is absolutely intriguing and the views are top notch, so don’t miss it! ✓
36. Go hiking on Angel Island State Park: Not technically in Fisherman’s Wharf, but this is where the ferry leaves from. Take the ferry over for picturesque views of the San Francisco skyline via the Perimeter Trail (a 5.5 mile loop around the island) or the top of Mt. Livermore (a much more strenuous hike). Don’t miss the US Immigration Station, where immigrants entered the US from 19010 to 1940; there’s a reason Angel Island is known as “Ellis Island of the West”. And if you’re really looking for an adventure, you can even camp out there on the island!
37. Nibble on R-rated treats at Hot Cookie: Satisfy your sweet tooth with a cheeky treat from this unique bakery. Titillate your taste buds with ooey-gooey peanut butter, crunchy snickerdoodle, classic chocolate chip, or one of their many, many flavors – and get this, most of the cookies are phallic-shaped, so maaaaybe not the best place to bring your mother. :p
38. Be loud and proud in the San Francisco Pride Parade: Grab your rainbow flag and march in one of the oldest and largest pride parades in the world! At the end of June every year, San Francisco holds its world-renowned festival in support of the local thriving LGBT+ community, with the famous parade being held on the Sunday morning. Whether you’re a member of the LGBT+ community, or an ally, this tremendous celebration is one of the most exciting and feel-good things to do in San Francisco.
39. Watch a film at the Castro Theatre: Catching a flick at this iconic single-screen theatre should definitely be one for your San Francisco bucket list. First opened in 1922, the baroque-styled Castro Theatre runs a tightly packed schedule full of cinematic masterpieces, including lively sing-a-longs – but, if you hear someone belting out music from the back of the theatre, it ain’t me, promise! Be sure to turn up early to give yourself enough time to explore the nearby luscious gardens.
40. Celebrate Queer History at the Harvey Milk Museum: Otherwise known as the GLBT Historical Society Museum, this monumental instutition is one of the best places to visit in San Francisco that celebrates gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender history – being the first stand-alone museum of its kind to do so. Their most popular exhibit “queer past becomes present” demonstrates how queer history has influenced modern day-to-day life, with exhibits including Harvey Milk’s personal belongings (the USA’s first openly gay elected offical) and publications relating to famous lesbian activists Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon.
41. Dance the night away in the Castro: Put on your dancing shoes and fully immerse yourself in the Castro’s notorious nightlife. Swing on by the historical Twin Peaks Tavern (an iconic gay bar and Castro landmark), dance your way into 440 Castro (notoriously known for beards and booze), shimmy on down to the Badlands (one of San Francisco’s most popular gay bars), or attend one of Toad Hall’s well known drag and karaoke nights. Better yet, make a night out of it, and hit as many clubs as you can!
Presidio and Nearby
42. Walk/bike over the Golden Gate Bridge: There is absolutely no way a San Francisco bucket list would be complete without a trip to the Golden Gate Bridge (obviously – best views over here)! This impressive structure is one of the most famous attractions on the west coast, and with its stunning views and intricate infrastructure it’s not hard to see why. Rent bikes and head across, or walk part-way – just remember the bridge is 2 miles long, each way. Before/after you make your way across, plan to spend some time in nearby Crissy Field. ✓
43. Have a picnic at Crissy Field: Seeing the bridge is easily the most requested thing to do in San Francisco whenever we have visitors in town. And Crissy Field provides just that and more (and plus, there’s easy parking nearby which is suuuuch a relief). You’ll see locals and visitors hanging out on the grassy fields, walking their dogs, playing tag football, and having picnics. Grab a cup of coffee from the warming hut if it’s a tad chilly!
44. Enjoy the acoustic sounds of the Wave Organ: Found perched on the shore of San Francisco bay, this wave-activated acoustic sculpture amplifies the sounds of nearby waves. Developed by Peter Richards in 1986, the metal pipes generate liquid music as waves roll in, creating low notes that match the restless movement of the tide (how cool is this?!). The wallowy sounds emitted are truly unique, like nothing you have ever heard before. One of the most unique things to do in San Francisco for sure!
45. Trek down to Marshall’s Beach: If you’re on the lookout for a wondrous view of the Golden Gate bridge, you’re in luck at this at this secluded shorefront spot. To reach the beach, you’ll need to trek along the Marshall Beach Coastal Trail; but watch your footing and be careful! Many don’t bother with the journey (although it’s really not allll that difficult or scary), meaning you may have the beach mostly to yourself! Be aware, as you may see a bit more than just the Golden Gate Bridge, since Marshall’s Beach is known to be a nude beach and attract those without much clothing.
46. Admire European art at the Legion of Honor: If you’re an art-lover and wondering what to do in San Francisco, then consider spending a long afternoon appreciating the astonishing artwork hidden within the Legion of Honour. Perched atop a gorgeous grassy hilltop, this European-focused fine art gallery is home to an array of permanent and rotating exhibitions – including many world-famous masterpieces, such as: Le Grande Canal by Calude Monet, The Kiss by Auguste Rodin, and Sunflowers along the Seine by Gustave Caillebotte.
47. Marvel at the architecture of the Palace of Fine Arts: Originally constructed in 1915, this monumental construction is one of the only surviving structures from the Panama-Pacific Exposition. But enough about history! Take a moment to wander around the tranquil palace and appreciate its enchanting aura, where a luxurious, domed structure is surrounded by glassy, reflective waters. If you have the chance, visit the palace during sunset (my favorite time of day to visit), where golden lights reflect off the water and transforms the area into something truly magical.
48. Snag views of the Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Point: Not only can you experience unforgettable panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge from this impressive vantage point, but you’ll also be standing atop a key element of San Francisco history. During the Californian gold rush in World War II, Fort Point defended San Francisco and its residents against hostile warships. With both grand historical value, and stunning views, visiting Fort Point should definitely be on your San Francisco bucket list.
49. Admire the views at Baker Beach: Baker Beach is one of the most popular beaches in San Francisco, and with its stunning views of the grand Golden Gate bridge, it’s oh so easy to see why. While you can’t swim at Baker Beach (unless you want to brave the frigid waters), there are plenty of other ways to waste the day away, including fishing and clothing-optional sunbathing. Yup, we’re not afraid to let it all out over here in SF.
50. Stroll down Lover’s Lane: If you’re a nature lover, or just a lover of love, exploring this scenic trail is one of the best things to do in San Francisco. Grab your bf/gf/significant other/bff, and go for a romantic wander. Once you approach the east side of the trail, you’ll stumble upon the one-of-a-kind Andy Goldsworthy art installation “Wood Line” hidden away within a lush eucalyptus forest. Here you’ll encounter fallen trunks laid end-to-end, creating a unique zig-zag pattern that you even walk atop of…
51. Find your favorite food truck at Picnic on the Presidio: Throwing down a picnic blanket and grubbing out on the local community’s diverse food selection is perhaps one of the most fun things to do in San Francisco. Just come hungry – I warned you. Held every Sunday, from late March to late October, Picnic on the Presidio (also known as Off the Grid) is one giant food truck party that you just don’t wanna miss. Juicy fried chicken, gooey doughnuts, fresh lemonade, bursting burritos, super syrupy waffles – there’s something for everyone and anyone at this scrumptious event…
52. Unleash your inner child at the Walt Disney Museum: Everybody loves Disney, it’s a fact of life. We try to deny it as we get older, but it’s just so hard not to love the iconic and adorable characters on our TV screens. The Walt Disney Museum is the perfect place to geek out to all your favorite Disney movies, and relish in the feeling of sweet childhood nostalgia. Exhibits focus on Disney’s rise to fame, featuring many influential characters from throughout the years, and even has a film screen that continuously plays Disney classics.
53. Be inspired by Inspiration Point at the Presidio: This famous lookout point is hidden on the Arguello Boulevard, and is one of Presidio’s more spectacular secret spots. On a clear, sunny day you’ll be able to spot some of San Francisco’s most popular attractions on the horizon – from the eerie Alcatraz and the spectacular Palace of Fine Arts, to the astonishing Angel Island and East Bay. If not for the overgrown bushels of eucalyptus trees, you’d also be able to gaze at the Golden Gate Bridge, but nope, not here!
54. Hike the Batteries to Bluffs Trail: This rugged route has an odd charm to it, with an abundance of wild flowers and spectacular ocean views. Follow the scenic pedestrian pathway along the shoreline, where daunting bluffs will make you feel tiny in comparison. If you’re not done exploring, you can follow a side trail and continue onto Marshall’s Beach (just remember – you may encounter some nudes, so keep an open mind should you reach the beach).
55. Share the crawfish beignets at Brenda’s French Soul Food: All the food at Brenda’s is clearly made with love (and lots of flavor) – especially the luscious crawfish beignets (spiced with intoxicating cayenne, scallions, and cheddar). If you’re not in the mood for crawfish, the chicken and waffles are to die for (or the pulled pork sandwich, or oysters, or honestly anything on the menu – it’s ALL scrumptious)… Be sure to turn up early though, as the line is always ridiculously long by 11am.
56. Wait on line for Cronuts at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse: Croissant + donut, anyone?! This darling bakery is one of the best places in San Francisco to get your fill on fresh pastries, and you cannot visit this thriving city without giving their sugary cronuts a try. Just be sure to head down after 9am, as they don’t serve the first warm batch until then. Along with your cronuts, why not try the cinnamon churro croissant, the crunchy cornflake cookie, or the pineapple caramel sticky bun (or just the entire menu)…
57. Get an in-depth look at TL culture at the Tenderloin Museum: San Francisco’s Tenderloin district is one of the most socially misunderstood ones in the city, with a thriving population of immigrants, iconoclasts, artists, and activists. The Tenderloin Museum aims to educate by sharing stories of the local people, such as: emphasizing the struggles immigrants face, exploring the historical issue of police brutality against the LGBT+ community, and celebrating Tenderloin’s current loud and proud community. You’re sure to leave this fascinating museum wiser, and more aware of current topics than you were before. Super high on my SF bucket list.
58. Slurp up ramen at Marufuku: This popular ramen restaurant and it’s scrumptious noodles will have you coming back for seconds, so loosen your belt and get ready to dig in! You’ll not only find ramen at the notorious Marufuku, but also delicious, steaming rice bowls and traditional sake. If you’re not in the mood to wait all day for your noodles, there are plenty of other great restaurants in Japantown, including Waraku and Hinodeya Ramen Bar (both A+++ rated spots in my book).
59. Take silly photos at Pika Pika’s photo booths: Imagine your typical photo booth. Now imagine a photo booth decked out in all kinds of ridiculousness. That’s Pika Pika for ya – next level Japanese photo booths just waiting to capture pics of you and your friends. With a whole of backgrounds, endless choices of filters, and the ability to litter your photo in shiny stickers, you’ll leave with a handful of silly photos from these photo sticker booths. If you’ve never done Pika Pika before, don’tchu worry – the directions are straight forward (and on all of the machines), although many are in Japanese (it just adds to the fun).
60. Get your fill of Anime and Manga: If you’re a fan of anime and manga, look no further than Japantown, as this thriving neighborhood is crawling with authentic shops for you to explore. Peruse through the endless options at Kinokuniya, or flick through a few mangas at Mission. If you’re a lover of cosplay and conventions, put on your best costume and head on over to the annual anime festival (held in June), where large crowds of people come together to celebrate Japanese pop culture. I was merely a spectator once and it was so fun just watching everyone in character!
61. Indulge your gluttonous self in Japanese treats: Japantown is littered with some of the tastiest food you’ll encounter in the entire city, and indulging yourself in delicious Japanese cuisine is one of the most satisfying things to do in San Francisco (just maybe climb the Lyon Street Steps afterwards). Sip away at a sweet potato latte from YakiniQ Cafe, satisfy your sweet tooth with a Geishi Float from Belly Good Cafe, eat your weight in black sesame taiyaki ice cream from Uji Time (always get the mochi), munch on crunchy spring rolls from Kui Shin Bo, or slurp on kim chi from Daeho Kalbijjim.
62. Get samples at the Ferry Building Marketplace: And not just any old samples, but artisan cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, freshly baked bread from Acme Bread Company, and salted pig parts from Boccalone. Don’t miss sampling some olive oil from Stonehouse – my favorite. Still hungry? Slurp up some oysters (with a view) at Hog Island Oyster Company, or grab some Vietnamese cuisine from the Slanted Door. And what’s a meal without dessert? I can’t leave the Ferry Building without a scoop (or two) of Secret Breakfast from Humphry Slocombe. If you’re eating outside, watch out for the seagulls – they love to steal food! And if you’re around on Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday (before 2pm), go check out this bustling farmers market (it’s downright huge!).
63. Explore the Exploratorium after dark: Yes, the Exploratorum is great for kids, with it’s 650 hands on interactive exhibits, but raise your hand if you’d rather wander through the science museum sans kids? I mean, everythings better with a cup of the good stuff in hand, right (and yes, they serve booze after hours). Plan to attend the adults-only After Dark events on a Thursday night, complete with a pitch-black dome, a large scale kaleidoscope, dazzling light displays, and mind-bending mirrors.
64. Cruise around the SF Bay: Nothing says iconic San Francisco attraction quite like a bay cruise; you’ll sail underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, past the sea lions on Pier 39, and along the waterfront. We took a SF Bay Cruise with Blue and Gold Fleet and despite how touristy it was, loved every second of it. I think I wanna take a sunset cruise next!
65. Frolic on the promenade around Rincon Park: San Francisco has no shortage of waterfront parks, and Rincon Park is another (between Piers 14 and 22 ½)! Here you’ll find stunning Bay Bridge views (especially during sunrise → don’t ask me why I was there at 4:30am…) and a giant bow and arrow sculpture, affectionately known as Cupid’s Span. Locals are known to hang around here during their lunch hour on the groomed patches of grass along the promenade. Another prime spot for people watching (and here in SF you’ll find lots of interesting characters, #truestory). → picture of cupids span and sunrise on Bay Bridge from the promenade
66. Order off the Secret Menu at Swan Oyster Depot: An essential institution in SF, with the freshest of the fresh seafood, an 18-seat counter, and regular menu items consisting of chowder, Louie salads, seafood cocktails, and fresh oysters. There’s nothing wrong with any of that (there’s a reason this place has been around for 100+ years), but those in the know can order crab fat dressing, Sicilian sashimi, The Maverick ($$$), a “dozen eggs” (raw scallops), and crabsanthemum (the holy grail of crab legs). You know it’s good when Anthony Bourdain ate here every time he visited San Francisco.
67. Drink expensive martinis (with a view) at Top of the Mark: Sure, the cocktails are expensive (this is SF we’re talking about), but the 360 degree panoramic views from the nineteenth floor can’t be beat. And better yet, the hotel even hosts a weekly movie night! One of the most quintessential things to do in San Francisco – I mean, an iconic high-end cocktail bar penthouse style of the Mark Hopkins Hotel? I think yes (and even locals come here, so you know it’s good). Top tip: go before 8:30pm to beat the cover charge for live music on the weekends.
68. Get your “Ohm” on during Yoga at Grace Cathedral: Calling all you yogis out there – add Yoga on the Labyrinth to your list of things to do in San Francisco. Imagine practicing your poses underneath Gothic arches and stained glass windows, while listening to soothing and enchanting live music. And plus it’s free, meaning it’s exceptionally popular, with 200-300 people on a typical day (so get there early). Class is held every Tuesday at 6:15pm, but plan to arrive no later than 6.
69. Chow down on a huge-ass donut from Bob’s: Come hungry (or plan to share), because the donuts here are larger than your head (no joke). This 24/7 mom and pop hole-in-the-wall kinda place has my name written all over it, and is popular with folks drinking on Polk Street. They’ve now expanded to another spot in NoPa, so you can grab your gigantic donuts from another area in the city. And don’t worry, they’ve got normal sized donuts for all you non-gluttons out there, but what would be the fun in that?!
70. Learn about SF’s public transport at the Cable Car Museum: Vintage cable cars. Mechanical displays. Antique parts. Not only are there explanatory exhibits (providing history, technology, and tons of extra info), but you get to see the engine room and how the cables run through the sheaves. Plus, the whole museum only takes about 10 minutes to walk through, and it’s FREE – meaning there’s no excuse not to go, especially if you’re already in the area.
71. Have a standout meal at Liholiho Yacht Club: Technically in the Tendernob (Lower Nob Hill/borderline Tenderloin area), this buzzy spot is just really good for a meal out with friends. Just go and eat all the Hawaiian-inspired Californian flavors- take my word for it. And no, it’s not a yacht club (I was kinda confused at first, haha).
72. Gawk at the 25-foot Gingerbread House: Located in the Fairmont Hotel, this ginormous gingerbread house has been an SF holiday tradition for over a century, amazing both kids and adults every christmas season. The house in 2018 was over 25 feet high, with 10,000+ gingerbread bricks, 1,650 pounds of candy, and 3,300 pounds of royal icing (yup, they’re always outdoing themselves). And since you’re already over here at the Fairmont, grab a tiki-themed cocktail at the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar, with pacific rim cuisine and tropical decor (complete with indoor rain storms and live entertainment).
The Marina/Pac Heights
73. Feel like a Parisian at Le Marais Bakery: Come for the food, stay for the gleaming marble and tempting pastry case. Menu items include avocado toast, croque madames, and even duck confit and prime rib (classic French cuisine at it’s finest). But whatever you do, add a croissant to your meal. They’re perfectly buttery, flaky, and exactly what the doctor ordered. This artisanal bakery has done so well there’s now additional locations in Ghirardelli and the Castro, although the original (and my favorite) remains in The Marina.
74. Fly a kite at Marina Green: What better to do on a grassy promenade? Or bring a picnic, go on a bike ride, play some soccer, go for a run with your cute pup… anything active (or foodie related) works here. Always a good time on the weekends, as it’s very busy when the sun’s out and about!
75. Grab a boozy brunch with friends: Gather up your friends and make a weekend res at The Dorian. In all honesty, their food is typically so-so (although my truffle ricotta pancakes were outta this world and I could eat them every Sunday morning). People come for the ambiance (quite posh and quite rambunctious all at the same time) and the brunch beverages (so much yes – skittle frose, anyone?). Don’t miss the free photo booth and lips mural around the block.
76. Get your veggies at Greens: One of the best vegetarian restaurants in San Francisco, with inventive and sustainable vegetarian dishes that’ll actually leave you full (think white bean hummus, porcini rotini, red curry, and blackened tofu). Their desserts sound divine as well – my picks being persimmon-coconut tapioca pudding and goat cheese cheesecake with figs. Located at Fort Mason Center, this farm-to-table spot is kinda expensive for veggies, but we are talking about SF. Plus, the restaurant boasts great panoramic views of the Bay and Golden Gate, so we can’t really complain, can we? Ask for a window seat!
77. Climb the Lyon Street Steps: One of my all-time favorite spots in San Francisco, on a clear, sunny day (and the nearby neighborhood is absolutely gorgeous). With over 300 steps, this hefty climb is a strenuous workout that’ll leave your legs aching and heart racing. Once you’ve reached the summit, however, your hard work will be rewarded with the most marvelous city views. From up top you can spot some of San Francisco’s most beautiful attractions, so keep an eye out for the Palace of Fine Arts and the Presidio Forest! Forget about any views on foggy days though. Psst – you can also see the view from the top without doing all the hard work: just start on Broadway instead!
78. Spend an afternoon on Chestnut Street: Sure, the Marina in general gets a bad rep for juice guzzling pilate lovers and marketing exec bros (post-college frat culture if you will), but this just adds to the overall energy of this buzzing neighborhood. This stylish street has tons of day drinking opportunities (favorites being The Tipsy Pig, The Dorian, and Del Mar – one block over), endless amounts of food trucks (at Off the Grid), a fun brunch culture (check out Causwells, Le Marais, and Delarosa), and funky shopping (including Marine Layer, Two Skirts, and Toss Designs).
In and around Golden Gate Park
79. Sip some tea at the Japanese Tea Garden: I do love me a good cup of tea (especially in the chillier months), and you aren’t going to find a better cup than at the Japanese Tea Gardens. Wander the fruitful gardens, with glistening ponds, bushy green trees, and traditional Japanese architecture. When you’ve thoroughly explored the gardens, take a seat in the tea house and sip away on tasty concoctions to your heart’s content. ✓
80. Smell the flowers at the Conservatory of Flowers: This grand greenhouse and expansive botanical garden is one of the most floral San Francisco attractions you’ll encounter, and is filled to the brim with an array of rare and endangered plants. Being the oldest building in Golden Gate Park, the conservatory offers an up close and personal experience with plants you may not be able to find anywhere else in the world. During the summer, the conservatory even offers you the chance to lounge in a unique beer garden while surrounded by tropical wildlife (sounds like my kinda afternoon). ✓
81. Learn something new at the California Academy of Science: If you have an academic mind and are wondering what to do in San Francisco, spending an entire day learning about the world around us at the California Academy should definitely be on your bucket list. Put on your thinking cap, as the academy is home to a perplexing planetarium, four-story living rain forest, an aquarium with a delicate coral reef, and a fascinating natural history museum – all packed under one roof! And get this- every Thursday, the museum hosts themed 21+ nightlife events, such as “feel the force” Star Wars themed evenings, neuroscience focused “brain and body” nights, and silent disco yoga in the aquarium.
82. Frolic in the flowers at the Dutch windmill: Originally used to pump water to nearby areas, this 75m tall windmill is now one of the greatest San Francisco attractions in Golden Gate Park. The best time to visit this Dutch-inspired structure would definitely be Spring, especially in February and March, as this is when the tulips are in full bloom. Hundreds, if not thousands, of delicate tulips take over the surrounding area and fill it with vivid color – it’s a sight that will leave you searching for tickets to Amsterdam’s Tulip Festival! ✓
83. Say hi to the Bison paddock in Golden Gate Park: Say hi to the big, fluffy bison that hang around Golden Gate Park, and watch them wander around in their natural habitat. While there, you can also explore the beautiful Conservatory of Flowers and the impressive Japanese Tea Garden. ✓
84. Go paddle boating on Stow Lake: I’m no pro at paddle boating, but maybe you are?! Hidden away in a quiet corner of Golden Gate Park, Stow Lake stretches 12 acres – easily making it one of the most scenic places to visit in San Francisco. You can easily lose track of time and spend an afternoon discovering everything this lakey area has to offer: hike Strawberry Hill and marvel at the impressive Huntington Falls (yup, there’s even a waterfall over here in the middle of the city), relax in the Chinese Pavilion with a picnic, or even rent a boat and explore the endless waters yourself – just don’t fall in like I would (that waters cold!).
85. Search for treasures at the Inner Sunset Flea Market: If you’re around on the second Sunday of the month (seasonal from April through November), you’re in for a real treat. Wander through the tables, full of fascinating flea market treasures (antique jewelry, vintage coats, local crafts, you name it). It’s not like your regular flea market with the same booths full of the same stuff over and over – each table is unique and you’re bound to find something of your liking. Don’t leave Irving without stopping into Honey Creme for some honeycomb ice cream – my favorite (it’s right along the market).
86. Dance the day away at Outside Lands: If you happen to be in the city during August, dancing until your feet are tired at this lively music festival is one of the most fun things to do in San Francisco within Golden Gate Park. Stars such as Childish Gambino, Twenty One Pilots, Hozier, Blink-182 and Kacey Musgraves have previously taken the stage and sent crowds wild. So slap on your most eccentric clothing, sling on a bum bag (fanny pack), and fully immerse yourself in San Francisco festival culture – featuring a wide-ranging musical line-up, world-class art, mouth-watering food, and an intoxicating selection of wine.
87. Venture to the top floor of the De Young Museum: Art-lover and wondering what to do in San Francisco? Look no further than the city’s most prestigious fine art museum. With exhibits encompassing American, African and Oceanic art, the De Young aims to spark a conversation regarding culture, perspectives, and time periods. At the very top of this eye-opening museum, you’ll find the Hamon observation tower (which is 100% free to the public, even those without tickets, FYI), which provides an unforgettable panoramic view of downtown San Francisco. ✓
88. Catch a sunset at Grand View Park: Nicknamed Turtle Hill by locals, this secluded spot provides breathtaking, sweeping vistas of the bay. If you’re looking to sweep someone off their feet, I must say the panoramic views from up top are pretty romantic (I think they’re quite swoon-worthy, at least). To reach the summit, take the artsy 16th avenue tiled steps to 15th avenue, then march up the wooden staircase and prepare to be blown away by the view that awaits you.
89. Walk the artistic path of the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps: Put on some comfy shoes and be prepared to climb, as hiking up these eccentric stairs is one of the most artsy and unique things to do in San Francisco. Crafted from vivid tiles, stained class, and pieces of shattered mirror, the mosaic stairway has a sea-to-sky design that’ll leave your mind blown. Along your journey upwards you’ll stumble upon intricate fish, turtles, shells, birds, and – at the very top – the sun. And since you’re already over here, don’t miss the Hidden Garden Steps a block away and usually less crowded. ✓
90. See the remnants of the Sutro Baths: Found on the most the most western point of Lands End, the Sutro Baths hold a vast amount of history within their waters. Originally built in 1896, the baths used to be a privately-owned, salt-water swimming pool complex, and were at one point the world’s largest indoor swimming pool (whoaaaa). However, the structure was ruined in a fire, and now all that is left are stone walls, accessible stairways, and deep tunnels, which visitors can explore. ✓
91. Feast on BBQ pork buns on Clement Street: Otherwise known as New Chinatown, this notorious San Francisco street is the place to be for scrumptious food. You won’t just find BBQ pork buns from the bountiful Asain bakeries, but you can also indulge in mouth-watering Swedish Princess Cake and delicious crepes – my stomach is rumbling just thinking about it… Make the most of your time on Clement Street and watch a flick at the Four Star Theatre, pick up a pre-loved novel at Green Apple Books, or gander at stunning sea creatures at the 6th Avenue Aquarium.
92. Track Down the Camera Obscura: Found near the famous Ocean Beach, peering through this giant pinhole camera is one of the most obscure things to do in San Francisco – and, get this, it actually works! A combination of ancient technology and precisely angled mirrors projects a live, 360 degree image of the Seal Rock area into a dark room. It’s truly magical. Within the Giant Camera, you can also gander through a quirky collection of holograms. I love to take visitors here before/after hiking Lands End. ✓
93. Indulge in Burmese food at Burma Superstar: Ohhh, the tea leaf salad and garlic noodles. Fill up on healthy and wholesome Asain cuisine at the best Burmese restaurant in the Bay Area. Slurp away on creamy samusa soup, feast on scrumptious rainbow salad, and be sure to try the exquisite burma cooler. If the line is too long for your taste (what can I say, good food attracts a lot of people), head down the B Star, a Burma Superstar spin-off serving tasty food in more quaint setting. ✓
94. Find the Lands End labyrinth: Follow the winding pathway, and you’ll find Land Ends Labyrinth hiding away on a cosy cliff corner. Created by artist Eduardo Aguilera, this maze is outlined by countless rocks and overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge. An amazing photo op! ✓
95. Brunch it up at the Cliff House: Load up your plate with Joe’s special scrambled eggs, devour a traditional American breakfast, or get a taste of the restaurant’s signature Cliff House clam chowder – all while enjoying a stunning ocean view. Oh, and don’t miss out on the popovers, they’re my absolute favourite! Them alone are worth the trip… maybe I’ll venture over there this weekend for some… ✓
96. Check out the colorful homes of Sea Cliff: The houses scattered around Sea Cliff are some of the most extravagant and outlandish builds you’ll encounter in San Francisco, with gorgeous colorful designs and hefty price tags to match (we’re talking welllll into the multi-millions). While strolling around Sea Cliff, head down to Land’s End Lookout for jaw-dropping views of the shore, or spend an afternoon relaxing in the sensational Sutro Baths. ✓
97. Grab a birthday cake latte from HOME: With rainbow sprinkles, colored foam (okay, they do go a bit overboard) and cute coffee designs, it’s easy to see why the birthday cake late from HOME has become insta-famous – trust me, if you order one you’ll be tempted to take an artsy photo for your feed too. Easy on the eye and easy on the lips, this latte is pretty darn sweet if you ask me. If that’s not your kinda thing, HOME will also serve you up a cheeky cookie monster latte (with chocolate chip cookies, of course) or a sparkling iced matcha.
98. Have a Bonfire on Ocean Beach: Layer up x7 and leave your bathing suit at home, as San Francisco’s largest and most popular beach is not the sunny paradise you’d expect. With icy waters and frequent fog, you’ll not be sunbathing here anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go! Ocean Beach has so much to offer, from popular fishing spots to dining with an ocean view at the nearby Cliff House – if you’re still feeling a tad chilly, light up a bonfire and spend an afternoon nibbling on sticky smores… Pro tip: find the rings between stairwells 15 and 20, and light ‘er up!
99. Go wild at AsiaSF: This is way more than your typical Asian fusion restaurant; with drag shows during dinner! I came for a bachelorette party once, and we loved watching the gals do their thang on the stages (those splits – just wow!). There’s a downstairs lounge/dance area for those waiting for their dinner/show reservation, which we thoroughly enjoyed (tons of 90’s music down here)!
Hayes Valley/Lower Haight/Haight-Ashbury
100. Go thrift shopping in the Upper Haight: Thrifting is one of the trendiest things to do in San Francisco, and the Upper Haight is arguably one of the best places to do so. Find a high-end bargain at Crossroads Trading, browse through vintage garments at Wastelands, and find some second-hand gems on Fillmore and Valencia – make it your personal mission to piece together a fashion-forward outfit on a budget! While in Upper Haight, take a minute to admire the charming architecture of the Four Season Houses and the Grateful Dead House.
101. Snap a postcard worthy photo of the Painted Ladies: Found within Alamo Square Park, the Painted Ladies are one of the most photographed San Francisco attractions, and it’s easy to see why. Tightly-packed rows of Victorian houses litter the horizon, with a stunning collection of skyscrapers decorating the background – it’s an absolutely breathtaking view. Many think they recognize these houses from the credits of Full House, but nope- that’s over at 1709 Broderick. While in Alamo Square, be sure to visit the William Westerfield House and wander down Steiner Street (fun fact: Mrs. Doubtfire was filmed here!) for more unique architecture.
102. Run the Bay to Breakers (or just walk part of it): Be sure to throw on some sneakers (or rainbow combat boots, whatever floats your boat), sport your zaniest costume, and get ready to run (although it’s more like one giant dance party than an actual run). Shield your eyes if you’re scared of a little skin, as many runners do their thang in their birthday suit (aka nothing). The official race takes place once a year at the end of May, but even standing on the sidelines is one for the San Francisco bucket list, as you’ll see decked out unicorns, Elvis impersonators, giant dinosaurs, and every other embezzled costume item you can think of just float on by.
103. Stroll along and window shop on Haight Street: Find some unique treasures at the quirky and wonderful boutiques that are scattered along Haight Street, where you are guaranteed to find something a bit bizarre and a bit brilliant. Browse through an array of extravagant hats at Goorin Bros, live life colorfully with Love on Haight’s vivid tie-dye apparel, or bring home a spooky souvenir from Love to Death’s taxidermy range.
104. Sip some slow brewed drip coffee at the Blue Bottle Kiosk: This trendy cafe chain offers upscale coffee and yummy pastries, with their most notorious steamy drink being the signature Hayes Valley blend. Their menu is on the smaller side, but by sticking to the classics and what they do well, Blue Bottle Kiosk offers some of the best coffee in the entirety of San Francisco. If you’re not a big fan of caffeine, be sure to try one of their creamy hot chocolates instead.
105. Eat until you’re stuffed full at Nopa: Nopa is a San Francisco staple for all occasions – no matter what you’re in the mood for, Nopa will serve it to you on a platter. Munch on crunchy flatbread, drool over grilled broccoli, or unleash your inner hipster and enjoy the obviously scrumptious avocado toast (don’t be scared to be a bit #basic). Though, with good food comes big crowds, so be prepared to wait in the ever-long line. Recently, Nopa has launched the Civil Table Project, bringing people together to create a conversation about current pressing topics – previously, people have gathered to discuss the issue of American food waste, the history and economics of tipping, and how farmed fishing is bringing an end to salmon. Be sure to check out the discussion schedule on their website if you would like to get involved.
106. Snap a photo of the dangling legs above Piedmont Boutique: If you’re a fan of outlandish fashions and wondering what to do in San Francisco, than Piedmont Boutique is the place for you. Just a tip, if you can’t find it, it’s the shop with a giant pair of saucy legs hanging out of the window! With endless rows of sparkling sequins, fluffy feathers, extravagant jewelry, colorful wigs and faux fur, this eccentric shop is commonly frequented by drag queens and those who enjoy a bit of sass in their life.
107. Enjoy a breakfast spread at The Mill: This bright and simplistic cafe specializes in all things coffee and bread, making it the perfect place for breakfast or brunch. With an abundance of seasonal toast options – from Lover’s Lane honey to Gina Marie cream cheese – plus a large selection of organic coffee beans, you’ll be spoilt for choice at this cosy venue. Pizza nights are also held on most evenings, so the Mill will surely not disappoint.
108. Sip on a pint at the Magnolia Brewing Company: Known for their unique drinks and crazy flavors, this eccentric establishment should be on any beer-lovers San Francisco bucket list. With the motto “taking it further,” Magnolia has a variety of unique menu options for you to choose from: sip on a cheeky Spice Girl (a refreshing blend of strawberry and ginger), take a gulp of a Barking Pumpkin (a pumpkin flavored ale), or have a drop of a Willie Nillie (a fuse of white wine grape and tropical fruits).
109. Find your favorite record at Amoeba: Amoeba boasts plenty of LPs by Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin – so you won’t be hard pressed to find good music here. The store claims to be the largest independent music store in the world, crammed with not only vinyls, but a wide selection of CDs, tapes, books, and fanzines. The perfect place for music lovers and musicians. And get this – Amoeba was formerly a bowling alley (just another quirk of the area)!
General things to do in San Francisco
110. Venture into the various neighborhoods: San Francisco is all kinds of quirky; heck, you walk one block and the scene changes from upscale and trendy to cultural and eclectic in a matter of steps. No one can officially decide how many districts there are; it’s just so damn confusing, but really, who cares?! And as you’ve seen on this list of things to do in San Francisco, there’s quite a few of them. Just wander for a while and you’re bound to run into something exciting.
111. Admire the architecture: SF is filled with painted Victorians, Queen Annes, Haciendas, and Edwardians (many in dreamy pastel colors). Walk around the different neighborhoods (you’ll find many of these beauties in the outer Sunset, Mission, Russian Hill, NOPA, and the outer Richmond), look around, and just soak in all the cool hues. Architecture enthusiasts and photography lovers will also love the Transamerica Pyramid Building (in the Financial District, FiDi to locals), with the best view/shot from the Mandarin Oriental.
112. Engage in Coffee Culture: Grab a Mint Mojito from Philz (my #1 fave), a birthday cake latte from HOME, an irish coffee from Buena Vista, take super cute photos at Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters (I’m a sucker for their pineapple wallpaper), and/or go classic at Four Barrel. Can’t you just smell the single origin small-batch coffee beans from here? You can now call yourself a San Francisco coffee snob. You’ll find speciality coffee shops all over the city, no matter the neighborhood you’re checking out, so no worries – a cup is never too far away.
113. See a Giants game at Oracle Park (formerly AT&T Park): Come for the kielbasa, stay for the game. Cheap tickets are pretty easy to find, and there’s even a free standing area (to watch up to 3 innings). Grab yourself a foot long hot dog (I’m privy to the kielbasa), slap on some face paint (orange and black), and holler every time the Giants score (or when everyone else is cheering, if you’re like me and not the best at following what’s going on). ✓
Popular Day Trips:
114. See the redwoods in Muir Woods: True San Francisican’s hardly ever make it to Muir Woods, due to the lack of public transportation and sheer crowds. But standing underneath those whopping 250 foot tall redwoods is something everyone’s gotta do at least once, no matter how touristy it may be. Do note that a parking pass/reservation is now required, so do your homework in advance if you want to spend the day stress-free at the park.
115. Relax at the beach by Santa Cruz and Capitola: A winter chill in the air in San Francisco (possible any time of year) and craving some much-needed beach time? Drive an hour south (give or take a bit) and you’ll be rewarded with a slower pace of life and plenty of areas to relax and watch the waves roll in. Here in Santa Cruz you’ll find quaint little cafes, world-class surf spots, hikes, otters and seals splashing around in the water, and local farms and markets (among many more). I can’t wait to head down this summer for some beach time and boardwalk amusement time (yes, they have a spinning roller coaster here). We recently discovered Capitola and may even love it more than Santa Cruz, if that’s even possible.
116. Berkeley: Oh, my love for Berkeley is never-ending. The city has changed quite a bit; what was once the bohemian flower-power center of the 60’s has evolved into a fine culinary and cultural scene. Sure, the area is still well-known for its quirkiness and all things weird, but now you’ll find foodie hotspots such as Ici Ice Cream, Cheeseboard and Sliver Pizza, Gregorie’s (get the potato puffs), and La Note (for some french inspired fare) dotting the area. Make sure to venture over to the Gourmet Ghetto for more of the good stuff (food, guys, we’re talking about food). Once you’re done eating, smell the flowers at the Berkeley Rose Garden, and stroll down Telegraph Ave and around the UC Berkeley campus (and head to Sather Tower for fantastic sky-high views).
117. Cross the bridge into the Marin Headlands: Looking for those postcard views of the bridge? You’ll find them over here in the Marin Headlands at both Hawk Hill or Battery Spencer. Head down to Kirby Cove as well for a different perspective, but note that you may find nudes hanging around here (this IS San Francisco we’re talking about). The Marin Headlands also boasts miles and miles of picturesque hiking trails, the Point Bonita Lighthouse, the Nike Missile Site, Fort Cronkhite, Rodeo Beach, and The Marine Mammal Center.
118. Throw back a few in Wine Country: California Wine Country includes a whole bunch of Northern vineyards and wineries, although most day-trippers head to the more popular Napa Valley and Sonoma. There are dozens of gorgeous vineyards, many with their own private wine tastings. Remember to be safe though! If you wind up needing to stay the night, I highly recommend the Andaz Napa. When you’re not touring a vineyard or stomping on your own grapes, check out downtown Napa, go olive-oil tasting, and/or get a revitalizing massage.
119. Sausalito: Either cross the Golden Gate Bridge via car or hop on the ferry from SF, and you’ll instantly feel like you’ve arrived at a chic Mediterranean coastal town. With over 500 houseboats, fantastic food, famous artisan tiles, and tons of World War II history, this easy day trip from San Francisco is worth the quick 30 minutes or so to get here. Promise me you won’t leave Sausalito without indulging in some ice cream at Lapperts (the Ube Macapuno flavor is my favorite)!
Popular Weekend Trips:
120. Big Sur: Trust me, you can easily waste an entire day driving down the coast and stopping at the astonishing sights along the way. We come to Big Sur to get away from it all – cell service is nonexistent, making it a great place to decompress, say goodbye to stress, and just enjoy nature. Be sure to stop and spend a moment at Bixby Creek Bridge and McWay Falls, two absolutely stunning locations and the most famous tourist spots along the drive.
121. Carmel/Monterey: This beach-side town is one ripped straight out of a fairy tale, with cosy cottages, cute coastlines, and extensive history. We love just wandering around and staying for sunset on Carmel Beach. If you’re looking to add a bit of wildlife sightseeing to your time on the central coast, head 10 minutes south to Point Lobos (one of my favorite spots on the coast). Monterey boasts the extensive Monterey Aquarium, as well as Cannery Row and great whale watching in the winter months!
122. Lassen Volcanic National Park: Think bubbling mud pots, sulphuric rotten-egg smells, and hydrothermal sites like that of Bumpass Hell. Lassen is actually said to be called a mini Yellowstone, so you can witness similar natural phenomena without fighting your way through the crowds (it’s not as busy over here). We enjoyed going on a short hike, gawking at all the turquoise colored lakes, and cooling off at the nearby waterfalls. Read More about Lassen National Park here.
123. Lake Tahoe: Lake Tahoe is one of the prettiest lakes you’ll see in your lifetime, I can promise you that. A 72-mile scenic drive around the lake will bring you to all my favorite spots, including Sand Harbor, Inspiration Point, and Emerald Bay, and you’ll even venture into Nevada for a hot second. Come winter, not only is there wonderful skiing at Heavenly, but there’s tons of stuff to do for you non-skiiers as well (myself included). Take the gondola up for heavenly views of the lake, stuff your face with donuts, and go for a drive around the lake.
124. Yosemite: Waterfalls, hiking, and wildlife galore! This is a place where you want to bring your comfy sneakers/hiking boots. A few must-see spots: Glacier Point (only open during the summer), Tunnel View, Mirror Lake, and Sentinel Dome. We’ve visited in both summer and winter, and highly recommend both – both stunning seasons in their own way.