What you need to know!
This was a fascinating tour!! We had 3 more days in town, so we started with it in order to get the lay of the land. Our guide, Kevin, was so incredibly knowledgeable & was a perfect fit for what we wanted to accomplish. We traveled to & learned about places that we never would have thought of to check out. I can’t say enough about this great city & tour guide. It completely exceeded our expectations!!!
This tour was great! I wish we did it on our first day in SF instead of our last day, because our tour guide, Kevin, gave us so many suggestions for dinners & things to check out. I loved how we were able to take all the different forms of transit and see so many different things that you wouldn’t normally, if you were exploring on your own.
THE REAL DEAL
Our tour with Kevin was GREAT! He is a fabulous tour guide & shared all sorts of fun facts & hidden SF favorites. He didn’t rush us, but made sure the tour ran smoothly. His personality was extremely engaging & made the group feel like old friends. The tour was strategically designed to cover maximum highlights & built in breaks when we took public transit. This tour could not be any better!
BEST TOUR OF OUR USA TRIP
Tour is amazing. Our guide, Kevin, was knowledgeable, friendly, courteous & fun. He knows the insider tricks to get the best out of SF – from hidden stairwells, to lost tunnels, to the best street art. Also free fortune cookies :-). We got to ride historic cable cars, MUNI & BART. We got amazing views of the bay, hills, Golden Gate Bridge & many must-see sights, from unique vantage points beyond the reach of a bus tour. This tour is really good value – all transport is included.
15 Things to Do in San Francisco
Guests ask us all the time for our recommendations of the best things to do in San Francisco (other than our tours of course), so here’s our list of must-do attractions. We also produce a list of the 10 Best Things to Do in SF every month on our blog here – The San Francisco Scoop – with information on all kinds of events, such as screenings, festivals, exhibitions and concerts, that are taking place in and around the city that month. Be sure to check that when you’re in San Francisco, or shortly before you arrive, for ideas on activities to make the most of your stay.
1. ALCATRAZ ISLAND (TOP PHOTO)
This has to be at, or near, the top of your list of things to do in San Francisco - and why not? It's almost certainly one of the top three things that pops into your mind when you think of San Francisco - the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and cable-cars (we'll cover them all here :-). Alcatraz Island gets its name from the Pelicans that used to live on the Island ("alcatraz" in old Spanish, now it's "pelicanos") and was, for many years, one of the highest security prisons in the U.S. You can spend a whole day here, exploring the island and its facilities. It's a must-do.
2. GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
Again, a must-do for most visitors to San Francisco. There are many places with views of the bridge - Alcatraz for one - but, if you can, make a point of actually visiting the bridge itself. It really is awe inspiring.
3. GOLDEN GATE PARK
A fantastic park, with some fascinating - and often hidden - parts that are well worth exploring. There's a Botanical Garden, a Japanese Tea Garden and a great art museum (the De Young Museum) to visit. There's a reason why this is the third most-visited urban park in the U.S.
We explore the park, including some beautiful hidden spots, on our Golden Gate Park to the Haight tour.
The birthplace of the 1960's Hippie Movement, the Haight is still well worth a visit. Protestors against the Vietnam War and other Bohemians and artists first moved here due to the abundance of vacant properties and low rents, primarily because a freeway was planned to run through the area. However, the new residents, through legal action and demonstrations, were able to get the freeway project axed, and so the neighborhood has retained that counter-cultural vibe. It was the first place where you could legally buy LSD in the U.S., and while that's not possible anymore, there are many other attractions in the neighborhood.
5. THE CASTRO
Another socially important San Francisco neighborhood, the Castro has a very important role in LGBTQ history. Partly because of "White Flight" in the 1960's properties in the area became much cheaper and, allied with the Hippie movement (with its preaching of free love etc) becoming established in nearby Haight-Ashbury, the Castro became one of the first "gay neighborhoods" in the U.S. during that time. It's still a vibrant inner-city neighborhood with a ton of great bars and restaurants.
Our Castro to the Mission tour starts here and is a great way to learn about and experience this fascinating and historic neighborhood.
6. MISSION DISTRICT
This is effectively where San Francisco began in 1776 with the Mission San Francisco de Asis. Of course Original Americans already lived here, but the arrival of Spanish Colonialists ended the Ohlone People's largely peaceful and successful existence. Now it's a lively, fun neighborhood with a significant Latin American and artistic flavor.
One of the most interesting things to see in the Mission District are the many street murals in the area, we take guests to some of the best on our Castro to the Mission tour.
7. DOWNTOWN SAN FRANCISCO
Downtown San Francisco is cool, it's as simple as that. From its picturesque, historic neighborhoods, like Jackson Square, Chinatown and North Beach (Little Italy), to the cafes and restaurants of the Ferry Terminal and Fisherman's Wharf, to the gondolas of Salesforce Park, to the famed cable-cars rattling through the streets, downtown has something for everyone. You can easily - and definitely should if you have the time - spend two or three days exploring it.
8. MUIR WOODS
California redwood trees are amongst the largest living organisms on the planet and you can see them just across the Bay from San Francisco at the Muir Woods National Park, in Marin County, where they're watered by the Redwood Creek. Take the opportunity to cross the Golden Gate Bridge to visit these awesome, beautiful, California inhabitants, you'll be glad you did.
9. SAN FRANCISCO MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
Was seeing some art on your list of things to do in San Francisco? If not make a point of adding it, because SF MOMA has a great collection of modern art, including important pieces by Georgia O'Keefe, Henri Matisse and Frida Kahlo (amongst many others) and it's handily located, right in the heart of downtown.
10. COIT TOWER
Coit Tower has been a beacon for San Francisco ever since it was completed, in 1933, but many people don't realize that they can actually take an elevator to the top and enjoy its fine views of the city and Bay, from above famed Telegraph Hill.
11. A NIGHT AT THE OPERA
Why not enjoy some "high art" while in San Francisco? San Francisco Opera is one of the biggest Opera companies in the U.S. and the War Memorial Opera House is one of its most beautiful venues. If your timing is right, they may be doing a simulcast while you're visiting, at Oracle Park, meaning you can watch the opera at the San Francisco Giants Stadium. Something else you can do is check if you can catch a game while you're in S.F.
12. SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL
San Francisco City Hall quickly became a symbol of the city's rebirth after the devastating earthquake and fire of 1906. It's a beautiful, neo-classical building - that you may recognize from Raiders of the Lost Ark, when it stood in for Congress - and is well-worth a visit. If you do, be sure to find time to walk over to Hayes Valley, a neighborhood a few blocks away that's full of nice cafe's, bars and restaurants.
13. ANGEL ISLAND
After going to Alcatraz, how about visiting another island in San Francisco Bay? This one's sure to be way less crowded. Boasting some great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, there are plenty of things to do on Angel Island, including touring the Immigration Station (the west coast version of Ellis Island), hiking and hanging out in some great little cafes and restaurants.
14. PRESIDIO OF SAN FRANCISCO
This park sits on the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, so it has some of the best views of the structure (which is great for those Instagram photos :-), but it has plenty of other attractions and things to do including Chrissy Field, the Presidio itself and Baker Beach.
Home of the oldest campus in the University of California, Berkeley has the feel of a College Town in many ways, with a vibrant scene of great bars, restaurants and cafes. It also has some great cultural offerings, such as the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), so there are plenty of reasons to visit. If you're staying in San Francisco itself you can take the ferry over from the Ferry Terminal to Richmond and walk or take the bus from the wharf.
If you have any feedback on our recommendations of things to do in San Francisco, or if you have some recommendations of your own, please email us and let us know. We’ll be sure to take it into account.
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