Things to Do in San Francisco - page 2
What began as the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory in the 1890s is now a multilevel retail square across the street from San Francisco’s Aquatic Park. The red brick structure is recognizable by its clock tower and large “Ghirardelli” sign, which make excellent photo backdrops for visitors who come to shop, dine, and eat ice cream.
One of San Francisco’s prettiest neighborhoods, the Marina District enjoys a prime perch on San Francisco Bay with pastel-colored, low-rise architecture, stylish shops, and upscale restaurants. Surrounded on three sides by either green space or water, the area draws active locals who enjoy walking, running, and biking with bay views.
Closely associated with LGBTQ culture, San Francisco’s vibrant, brash Castro district is a lively neighborhood of shops, bars, rainbow flags, and hilly streets lined with impressively restored Victorian homes. Harvey Milk—California’s first openly gay elected official—was a famous Castro resident, honored here with Harvey Milk Plaza.
San Francisco's Man-made Treasure Island was created for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition and then became home to a naval training station and other military sites. In recent years, the small isle has become a trendy destination for its urban wineries, a monthly festival, and unbeatable views of downtown San Francisco and the bay.
Sitting just below the massive Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point is a National Historic Site that once served to defend the entrance to San Francisco Bay. The brick fort can still be explored on foot today, with the opportunity to learn about the area’s history and the fort’s former military use.
The fort was in operation from the Gold Rush era through World War II, a fascinating time in San Francisco’s history. A visit to the site offers extraordinary, close-up views of San Francisco’s most famous landmark — the Golden Gate Bridge. It is one of only three third-system brick forts on the west coast of the United States. Due to its location and protection of the coastline, it is also known as the “Gibraltar of the West.”
Visitors have the chance to explore Civil War era uniforms, weaponry, and historic photographs on display. With its many floors and wide brick arches, it stands as an excellent example of American military architecture.
One of the United States' premier science and natural history museums, the California Academy of Sciences holds a fascinating collection of 38,000 natural wonders. With its Morrison Planetarium, Steinhart Aquarium, four-story rain forest dome, and open-air, green "living roof," the academy is a highlight for many visitors to San Francisco.
Home to San Francisco’s main governmental offices, Civic Center is a central gathering spot for visitors to major museums and performing arts venues. The tree-lined UN Plaza leads to the impressive gold-leaf dome of City Hall while surrounding Beaux Arts-style buildings invite you to stroll around the square or buy tickets to a show.
Visitors flock to Coit Tower to take in views of downtown San Francisco, Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate Bridge, and other landmarks. With its perch in Pioneer Park atop Telegraph Hill, the 210-foot-high (64-meter-high) tower, built in 1933, offers some of the best panoramic photo ops in the city.
Rising more than 900 feet (274 meters) above San Francisco, Twin Peaks provides a panoramic view of the city and beyond. On clear days, from these two hills you can see for miles, taking in the Golden Gate Bridge, the Presidio, Alcatraz Island, downtown San Francisco, and Berkeley, Oakland, and Sausalito across San Francisco Bay.
Enjoy a day at the San Francisco Zoo, home to hundreds of animals from around the world. Highlights include the African Savanna exhibit, dual-level Primate Discovery Center, and boundary-free South American Tropical Rainforest. Kids can pet animals in the Children’s Zoo, and kids of all ages like the daily Keeper Talks and animal feedings.
More Things to Do in San Francisco
The home to San Francisco’s hipster scene and the hub of the city’s Latin community, the Mission District is one of the city’s most interesting neighborhoods. It’s known for its outstanding and diverse food scene, buzzing nightlife hot spots, and a scenic park that’s a popular weekend hangout for locals.
The Transamerica Pyramid was the eighth-tallest building in the world when it was finished in 1972. But no matter its ranking, this 853-foot (260-meter) office building continues to be a symbol of the city. With its distinctive shape and white quartz exterior, the Transamerica Pyramid is a special part of the San Francisco Skyline.
One of San Francisco’s original Seven Hills, Nob Hill is the historic and present-day home of the city’s upper crust. This area features luxury apartments and mansions, elite hotels, and towering Grace Cathedral. A short but steep walk from Union Square, Nob Hill gives visitors a look at how the other half lives in San Francisco.
Madame Tussauds around the world are famously home to wax recreations of famous figures, including celebrities, politicians, and athletes. Modeled after the original Madame Tussauds in London, the San Francisco Wax Museum was converted in the 17th Madame Tussauds worldwide in 2014. Life-size wax versions of Tiger Woods, Muhammed Ali, Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jackson, and Marilyn Monroe can be found here, among many others. Contemporary figures such as Barack Obama and Lady Gaga are also brought to life.
Madame Tussauds San Francisco is home in particular to an area called “The Spirit of San Francisco,” which celebrates local artists, politicians, and activists that have played a role in the city’s history. It is a chance to specifically see icons of the Bay Area in one place. The figures are set against realistic backdrops, making them all the more lifelike!
With wide views looking out over San Francisco Bay, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is the perfect place to revisit the maritime past of the West Coast. The park includes a maritime museum, research facility, visitors center, and a fleet of historic ships.
Docked at Hyde Street Pier, the many vessels include Balcultha, a rigged sailing ship from 1886, as well as five more historic schooners, ferries, and tugboats. The vessels are well-preserved and offer some of the best views of the bay from onboard their decks. Some of the boats have historic cars and other vintage goods. Each of the ships tells the story of a period of time in maritime history.
At the nearby museum housed in the historic Bathhouse Building, curated exhibits tell the story of San Francisco’s long history as a port. The displays give great context to nearby ships with information on the culture and history of the maritime industry.
Fort Mason’s use as a military site dates to 1864, but it’s now part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The 13-acre (5-hectare) site houses art spaces, a bar, restaurant, and coffee shop and is also known as the Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture. Its Great Meadow is a favorite for a warm-weather picnic.
If de Young Museum’s Herzog & de Meuron architectural design doesn’t capture your attention, the bird’s-eye view of Golden Gate Park from the observation tower will. Wander the collections of Oceanic and American art, as well as galleries of impressive textiles and decorative arts.
San Francisco’s Cow Hollow neighborhood caters to young professionals with its hip shops and vibrant nightlife. Once an open valley where cows grazed (hence its name) and fishermen lived (due to its proximity to the Bay), it’s now filled with high-end boutiques, trendy restaurants, and bars.
Dotted with Buddha statues, dwarf trees, and koi ponds, the Japanese Tea Garden (or Hagiwara Tea Garden) is a tranquil place amidst the urbanity of San Francisco. Experience the beauty and harmony of a traditional, Japanese-style garden, enjoy a cup of tea at the teahouse, and experience other aspects of Japanese culture in the heart of Golden Gate Park.
When outdoorsy San Franciscans need a nature fix, they head to the Marin Headlands, a wildlife haven on the coast known for its hiking trails, Pacific Ocean views, and historic sites. Part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the headlands sit just across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County.
The San Francisco Legion of Honor museum houses a broad collection of ancient and European art. Best known for Auguste Rodin’s statuteThe Thinker in its front courtyard, the Legion, as it is called by locals, is equally impressive for the jaw-dropping views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Pacific Ocean visible from nearly every window.
Running for 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers) along San Francisco’s Pacific coast, Ocean Beach marks the western edge of the city. The wide shoreline attracts both locals and visitors for picnics, walks, beach bonfires, and beautiful sunsets. Though swimming isn’t common here (the water is cold), surfing is popular.
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