San Francisco has plenty to do and there won’t be a boring moment! From touristy stuff, to playing the foodie, to being adventurous, and to just relax & enjoy the city. Since it was our first time in San Francisco we decided to combine all of these together. Below are our top 8 things to do in San Francisco.
1. Union Square
The first thing we did when we arrived in San Francisco was walk to the oh-so-famous Union Square. The vibe here is fun & lively and there’s always something going on. It also has plenty of shops around it for if you’re into shopping. Beware that the restaurants & shops around here tend to be a bit more expensive, because of the high influx of tourists.
2. Cable Car
If you walk down from the Union Square, you will bump into the Cable Car turn at Powell Street. Riding the iconic Cable Car is a must do when in San Francisco. Tip: if possible go early in the morning on a week day. The line will be a bit shorter compared to if you go later in the day or in the weekend. We went on a Saturday and stood about 1,5 hour in line before we could get on.
When it’s your turn to enter try to get a seat in the front, you’ll have a better view of the ride. And if you’re with two people make sure one of you sit and the other stand, otherwise you’ll risk a total stranger standing in front of you and obstructing your view.
3. Biking the Golden Gate Bridge
We rented bikes from Blazing Saddles for 24-hours. We didn’t use it for the full 24-hours, but decided to bike the Golden Gate Bridge and did not regret it.. ok, maybe a little bit. These bikes are not the same types we’re used to from living in the Netherlands, but nonetheless they served their purpose…once we got used to them. One thing we did realize: the hills in San Francisco are quite steep!! (Who would’ve guessed right?!) But once on the Golden Gate bridge itself it was quite doable, the way up was the most difficult part. When you reach the “end” of the bridge continue biking in to the neighbouring town called Sausalito where you can take the ferry back to San Francisco. It’s a very quaint & beautiful town with a bunch of restaurants & shops where you can sit, relax and enjoy lunch/dinner before heading back to San Francisco. There are set times when the ferry leaves and the fare is $12.
We’ve basically spent a whole day exploring museums in San Francisco. We didn’t exactly plan it like this, but in the end we didn’t mind. It was a very educative day.
- Legion of Honour: we spent about an hour here and it has mostly old pre-war art
- California Academy of Sciences: we spent the most amount of hours we’ve ever spent in a museum here, more than 3 hours! This was by far the most educative and fun of them all. From learning all about earthquakes, dinosaurs and meteors to watching an albino alligator slowly move around in the water. One bonus point, on Thursdays they have adult night where you can basically explore the museum, drunk! California Academy of Sciences is also located in the middle of the Golden Gate Park, which can be compared to New York’s central park and hosts many activities & events.
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: here it was all about, you guessed it, Modern Art. There were some arts that we absolutely didn’t understand, but others that we found quite interesting. Especially the music room where you can see “real life” artists playing music together in different rooms.
5. Hop on – hop off kind of tour
Since we had the Go San Francisco Card we also decided to do the big bus tour which took us to the main touristy sights in San Francisco. We got out of the bus at the Painted Ladies, the houses featured in the opening credit of Full House. There’s a park in front of the houses where you can chill & hang out if you want. But if you just want to see the houses, bear in mind that you’ll be done in 5 min. Other than admiring the houses from outside there’s nothing else you can do there, you can’t enter them.
Fun fact, even though the houses are used in the opening credits of Full House, the series was filmed in a different house in San Francisco where the owner is considering to open it up for the public.
6. Lombard Street
If you don’t know Lombard Street, I would suggest you to google it. Or just visit San Francisco so you can see it with your own eyes. It’s the worlds most crooked street with its sharp turns. It would be fun to go down while driving, but be prepared to stand in traffic for a long while. All cars should adhere to a very slow speed and there are a lot of cars that want to go down. If you prefer to walk on this street, keep in mind that to get to the Lombard Street it’s a very very steep walk up hill. It’s also packed with other tourists. We wonder how the residents of the Lombard Street can manage with all this craziness.
7. Baseball Game
Of course, what’s a visit to San Francisco without attending a baseball game at the AT&T Park. Even though the Giants lost the night we went, it didn’t matter: we had the time of our lives! It all started with field passes that we got from the batting coach Hensley Meulens. He’s arranged for us to be there for the batting practice prior to the start of the game. That was so overwhelming and cool!
The game itself was exciting and it was everything we expected…and more. From hotdogs to popcorn to singing “take me back to the ball game”, to the kiss cam and the dance off. What a night! One tip though, it is still San Francisco and the temperature drops quickly. Go prepared!
8. Ghirardelli square – market place
Last but not least, is the Ghirardelli square. Apparently one of the best places for ice-cream & chocolate in San Francisco, because the waiting line was up to an hour. We skipped it, but loved hanging around here. It was great with a bustling vibe. Families out, food an wine tasting available, street musicians impressing people, what else do you want?
We couldn’t choose only a top 8 things to do in San Francisco. The below are also memorable things to do:
- Palace of fine arts: On the way to the Golden Gate Bridge we made a detour and stopped at the Palace of Arts. It’s massive but a sight for the eyes. This is one of the most famous places for weddings in San Francisco
- Pier 39: Pier 39 offers a great array of activities, from watching the sea lions sunbathe to having food and enjoying a carousel. It also hosts the Bay Aquarium and has an overall very relaxed an fun vibe to it
- San Francisco Go Card: To make exploring San Francisco easier we bought the Go San Francisco Card that’s valid for 3 days. We paid $122 for the Go Card and made use of 5 attractions, which turned out to be quite cost efficient
- Food picks: for our top 5 picks of places to eat, check out our post on this
Overall, we absolutely loved San Francisco and we will definitely visit again!