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Things to do in
San Francisco

Experience a patchwork of unique neighborhoods and bold metropolitan beauty rich in cultural delights.

Our most recommended things to do in San Francisco

San Francisco: Skip-the-Line 1-Hour Bay Cruise by Boat

1. San Francisco: Skip-the-Line 1-Hour Bay Cruise by Boat

Enjoy a 1-hour journey along San Francisco's historic waterfront and experience the thrilling history of the San Francisco Bay, with all the sound and glory it deserves. The 1-hour non-stop Bay Cruise takes you past the famous PIER 39 sea lions and along San Francisco’s historic waterfront, revealing the city’s fascinating skyline. Relax in comfort, with both indoor and outdoor seating, and enjoy a full narration describing major landmarks as you sail by. See sights like the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the iconic San Francisco skyline as you go. Whether it’s your first time to San Francisco, or your 10th visit, the Bay Cruise is something you should experience at least once in your life. You will get a complimentary souvenir map, which is available in nine languages, and if you get hungry, there’s a full-service snack bar on board with food and drink available to purchase.

San Francisco: Golden Gate Bay Cruise

2. San Francisco: Golden Gate Bay Cruise

Cruise around the Golden Gate Bay on a boat tour. Enjoy informative commentary, see sights like Alcatraz Island, and purchase food and drink from the onboard bar. Launched in 1939 as part of the Golden Gate International Exposition, this 1-hour cruise has been a highlight of any visit to San Francisco for over 75 years. With 8-14 departures daily from Fisherman's Wharf, you will sail along San Francisco's breathtaking waterfront, under the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, and close to the notorious Alcatraz Island. Discover San Francisco's fascinating history, brought to life through audio commentary broadcast in 16 languages via personal audioguides. Look out for wildlife along the way, including pelicans, sea lions, and even dolphins and whales. Sail past the lively neighborhood of North Beach, the famous swimming clubs of Aquatic Park, the historic vessels at Hyde Street Pier, and San Francisco Maritime National Park, before heading west towards Golden Gate Bridge. Enjoy views of Crissy Field and the lush hillsides of the Presidio, before cruising under Golden Gate Bridge. Steam back into the Bay, traveling past the wildlife reserves of the Marin Headlands, and the legendary town of Sausalito, once home to the 1960s’ flower generation. With Angel Island State Park to your left, cruise around the infamous Alcatraz. After a full hour of exciting sights, the barking sea lions at Pier 39 welcome you back to Pier 43 1/2. A full bar with drinks, snacks, and merchandise, including logo wear, is available at reasonable prices on board the iconic Red and White vessels. Join us on our 5:30 departure for the "Happiest Hour on The Bay" enjoy discounted pricing on cocktails, beer, wine and non-alcoholic drinks. Finish your day or start your evening with Red and White for the best views on board a piece of San Francisco history.

San Francisco: Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Tour

3. San Francisco: Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Tour

Experience the best that the City by the Bay has to offer with the Big Bus San Francisco Hop-on Hop-off tour. This digitally-narrated tour takes you to the city's must-see landmarks and iconic attractions, providing a comprehensive and immersive experience of San Francisco. Hop aboard the bus and prepare to be captivated by the beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge, a true San Francisco icon. As you cross the bridge, take in the breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz Island, and the surrounding hills. This is a photo-opportunity not to be missed! As the tour continues, venture into the heart of the city and visit Union Square, the bustling shopping district. Here, you'll find an array of designer boutiques, high-end department stores, and trendy restaurants. Union Square is also home to the famous cable car turnaround, where you'll see the iconic cable cars in action. The tour also takes you through the historic Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, the birthplace of the hippie movement. As you walk through the streets, you'll be transported back to the 1960s, with colorful Victorian houses, vintage clothing stores, and murals celebrating the Summer of Love. No trip to San Francisco is complete without a visit to Fisherman’s Wharf. Take in the sights and sounds of this famous waterfront district, where you can sample fresh seafood, browse local shops, and watch the sea lions basking in the sun. From here, you can also catch a ferry to Alcatraz Island or take a cruise around the bay. With the Big Bus tour, you have the flexibility to hop on and off at any of the 20 stops along the route, allowing you to explore the city at your own pace. And with buses running every 10-15 minutes, you won’t have to wait long to continue your adventure. So whether you want to spend more time shopping in Union Square or exploring the Golden Gate Park, the Big Bus tour has got you covered. Complete your SF experience with a half-day guided bus tour to Muir Woods. See the redwoods up close and personal, cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and explore the seaside town of Sausalito on the way back.

San Francisco: California Sunset Boat Cruise

4. San Francisco: California Sunset Boat Cruise

Enjoy sunset views as you sail on beautiful San Francisco Bay. See important landmarks, including Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. In the winter months, take in the serene twilight views instead. Along the way, view numerous National Historic landmarks and San Francisco sights, including Coit Tower, the Transamerica Pyramid, St. Peter, Paul's Church, and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. As the sun begins to set over the Marin Headlands, cruise past Alcatraz, Angel Island, and the shorelines of Tiburon, Belvedere, and Sausalito. Watch the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean, as you sail west towards the Golden Gate. On your way back to Fisherman’s Wharf, see many more famous sights, including the Presidio, the Marina District, and Fort Mason.

San Francisco: Inside Alcatraz Tour with Bay Cruise

5. San Francisco: Inside Alcatraz Tour with Bay Cruise

You will explore INSIDE the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary on Alcatraz Island with America’s most ruthless criminals, including Al Capone. The ferry will leave on time at the specific time you booked. You have to arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled departure time at Pier 33. Walk, bike, take public transportation, or drive (as a last resort as it can be challenging to find parking), with easy access from anywhere around the Bay! On the island follow the Cellhouse audio tour “Doing Time” 45 minutes available in Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Also included is an amazing 1 hour SF Bay Cruise. Sail past the famous PIER 39 sea lions and along San Francisco’s historic waterfront, revealing the city’s fascinating skyline.You have the flexibility to go on your cruise on any day at any available departure. You will receive the schedule. Those are 2 separates tours.

San Francisco: Alcatraz with San Francisco Bay Cruise

6. San Francisco: Alcatraz with San Francisco Bay Cruise

Explore the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary on Alcatraz Island to learn about America’s most ruthless criminals, including Al Capone and George "Machine Gun" Kelly. Enjoy a ferry transfer from San Francisco and an admission ticket to the famous prison. Embark on a scenic 1-hour cruise of San Francisco Bay before or after your visit. Board the ferry and arrive on Alcatraz Island to begin your visit. Take advantage of an insightful and award-winning audio guide in multiple languages to immerse yourself in the dark history of Alcatraz and learn all about its old inmates and the many fateful escape attempts. Spend as much time as you'd like before taking the ferry back to the pier. Additionally, enjoy a 1-hour narrated sightseeing cruise of San Francisco Bay in a comfortable boat with both indoor and outdoor seating. Take in the scenic views and sail past famous San Francisco landmarks, such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, the Bay Bridge and much more. Sail along the historic waterfront, past the famous Pier 39 sea lions and take in the city’s fascinating skyline from the unique vantage point of the San Francisco Bay.

San Francisco: California Academy of Sciences Entry Ticket

7. San Francisco: California Academy of Sciences Entry Ticket

Discover the California Academy of Sciences located in the heart of Golden Gate Park where you can experience the only place on Earth with an aquarium, planetarium, rainforest, and natural history museum all in one day. With hands-on exhibitions, shows, and public programs, you’re in for an action-packed science adventure. Plunge into the world’s deepest living indoor coral reef, home to nearly 60,000 live animals, representing more than 1,000 unique species. Meet the newest African penguin chicks, Pogo and Ozzie, and the rest of the colony of playful penguins in African Hall. Then pay a visit to the iconic alligator with albinism, Claude. Catch the latest immersive show in the 75-foot planetarium, taking you on a spectacular journey to the far reaches of the universe, featuring different themes at varying times throughout the day. Step inside a lush, four-story rainforest teeming with life – from free-flying birds to exotic reptiles, amphibians, and more. Investigate hundreds of specimens and dabble in hands-on activities for children and adults alike in the Naturalist Center. The adventure continues outside with unique rooftop views on the 2.5 acre living roof. Then, take an opportunity to activate your child’s curiosity about the natural world in our outdoor nature play and exploration space, Wander Woods. Plus, now - Apr 28 experience Spring in the Garden! Make your own boat with Riveropolis, catch a puppet show, watch four super-sized animatronic insects come to life in Bugtopia, and more.

From San Francisco: Muir Woods and Sausalito Half-Day Trip

8. From San Francisco: Muir Woods and Sausalito Half-Day Trip

Explore the ancient groves of coastal redwoods in Muir Woods National Monument alongside an expert guide on a half-day tour. Then discover the charming streets of Downtown Sausalito on a relaxed half-day tour. After a pick-up from a central San Francisco hotel, head north over the bridge and into the Marin Headlands. If the fog is clear, you might get a chance to stop and take some pictures of the bridge up close. When you arrive in Muir Woods, take an hour and a half to roam through this ‘living museum’ where you can glimpse the towering trees that used to dominate the west coast from Santa Barbara to Washington. Following your exploration of Muir Woods, hop back in the coach for a quick ride over to Sausalito. Enjoy a 15-20 minute, narrated in-coach tour through the beautiful seaside Mediterranean-style town, and then some free time to walk around. After about 45 minutes in Sausalito, hop back in the coach for a trip back across the Golden Gate Bridge, or opt for a ferry ride back to San Francisco. You'll be dropped back off at your pick-up point. This half-day tour is a great way to see all the highlights of the northern San Francisco Bay in a limited amount of time. 

San Francisco: Bridge to Bridge Cruise

9. San Francisco: Bridge to Bridge Cruise

See both the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on a single boat tour with personal headphone audio included. Explore San Francisco's famous landmarks, history, natural history, architecture, and Native American culture on board this unique bay cruise. During the 90-minute round trip cruise you'll depart from Fisherman's Wharf, one of the city's busiest tourist attractions. From there, sail under the Golden Gate Bridge. Completed in 1937, the Golden Gate is one of the world's most famous and beautiful bridges, and was at one point the largest suspension bridge in the world. Cruise past Alcatraz Island, once home of one of the world's most infamous prisons, and take the chance to enjoy the stunning San Francisco waterfront. The boat will pass along the harbor before heading under the colossal San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Then it's time to head back to the charming city of San Francisco by the sea. For a limited time, all San Francisco Bridge to Bridge Cruises have a Buy One, Get One (BOGO) offer for the bar! Double the delight as you sip and savor the beauty of the San Francisco Bay while toasting to memorable moments.

San Francisco: Muir Woods, Sausalito & Alcatraz Guided Tour

10. San Francisco: Muir Woods, Sausalito & Alcatraz Guided Tour

Spend a day with a San Francisco local as you embark on a boutique, small-group tour to area highlights. Enjoy a unique blend of nature and history as you stroll through ancient Redwood trees, visit Sausalito, and board a ferry to Alcatraz. Choose your route option to visit Muir Woods or Alcatraz first. Begin your tour when you meet your guide in San Francisco. Depart for your chosen first destination, Muir Woods National Monument Park or Alcatraz. Note that if you choose the 8:30am departure time, you will visit Muir Woods and Sausalito first followed by Alcatraz and if you choose the 9:10am departure time, you will visit Alcatraz first followed by Muir Woods and Sausalito. If you've chosen Muir Woods first, you will be picked up in a luxury Mercedes Sprinter van. Once you arrive in Muir Woods, admire the breathtaking majesty and fresh air of the ancient redwood forest. You will then visit the seaside community of Sausalito. Admire the Mediterranean flair and the large assortment of houseboats. You will then be dropped off at Pier 33, where you will travel by ferry to reach Alcatraz Island and enter the prison. While you explore, listen to the award-winning Cellhouse audio tour. If you've chosen to visit Alcatraz first, you will board a ferry at Pier 33 to visit the famous island prison. Wander the halls with your audio guide and explore the island. Learn about the famous criminals who were incarcerated here, like Al Capone and George "Machine Gun" Kelly. Then you will be picked up at 12:50pm in a luxury Mercedes Sprinter van to visit the Muir Woods National Monument Park and the colorful town of Sausalito.

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Top sights in San Francisco

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Frequently asked questions about San Francisco

What top attractions are a must-see in San Francisco?

What are the best day trips and excursions from San Francisco?

The best day trips and excursions from San Francisco are:

Yosemite National Park

Insider tips: Planning a trip to San Francisco

There's good reason so many people have left their hearts in San Francisco. The stunning views, rolling hills, historic culture, and more make the city one of the most exciting to visit in the United States. To help you make the most of your time in San Francisco, we've enlisted help from travel expert Cathy from Mummy Travels. Read the tips below for your next visit.

What should I do on my first trip to San Francisco?

Start by soaking up San Francisco's atmosphere - you can't miss a look at the Golden Gate Bridge, but it's fun wandering around Pier 39 to spot the sea lions, browsing at the Ferry Building, eating and enjoying street arts in the Mission District - or hop on a cable car to beat those famous hills.

What are some hidden gems to see in San Francisco?

Head out towards the yacht harbor for a unique performance as the wave organ transforms the sound of the tide into music - it's easy to wander along to the beach by Crissy Field and get great views of the bridge too. Set aside plenty of time to explore the Golden Gate Park - it's huge and you can spot everything from American bison to windmills, a Japanese garden, 19th-century Conservatory of Flowers, the San Francisco botanical gardens, a classic carousel, lake, and several museums.

How much time should I spend in San Francisco?

Set aside at least three days to see your top sights and do some exploring, but if you're determined to pack as much in as possible, you can happily fill a week. Realistically, it's not possible to fit everything into one trip but if you break the city down into districts, you can make the most of your time. Allow half a day for Alcatraz alone, and for any of the major attractions, but leave time to wander along the beaches, soak in the views, browse the shops and try some of the city's great food rather than filling every minute of your itinerary.

What food is San Francisco known for?

You could happily eat your way around San Francisco with great artisan food and local producers - make sure you stop for some fresh seafood at Fisherman's Wharf and try a Mission Burrito in the Mission District, as well as checking out the treats in the Ferry Building. If you're craving Chinese, Japanese and Italian food, you'll be spoiled for choice in Chinatown, Japantown, and North Beach.

What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit San Francisco?

You'll be spoiled for choice when it comes to places to stay, so it's worth considering how much you're happy to travel. Union Square is a great central spot for hotels, and if you're traveling with younger kids, Fisherman's Wharf is touristy but close to a lot of attractions. For more budget accommodation and self-catering, look at the neighborhoods outside the center but make sure they have good transport links - Noe Valley is another great option for families, as it's easy to explore from but makes a chilled out base.

What is the best way to get around San Francisco? 

San Francisco is one city where you'll find yourself using most transport to get around - there's a great public transport network, which is easiest to get across the center (and the cable cars are attractions in their own right) but if you're trying to pack a lot in, a car will come in very handy. Only the very fit would fancy cycling up the city's hills, but a bike tour over the Golden Gate Bridge is a fantastic experience. Once you've got from A to B, walking is the best way to soak up the sights and the atmosphere though.

What are the best months to visit San Francisco?

San Francisco is best in spring and autumn (fall) - May-June and September-October usually have good weather without the crowds (though the famous fog is usually around in June too) and you'll miss the worst of the rain. 

What are the best things to do with kids in San Francisco?

San Francisco is a fantastic city for families - there are quirky spots to discover like the golden fire hydrant, Seward Street and Bernal slides, and the 16th Avenue mosaic steps, along with fun sights including the twisty Lombard Street and sea lions at Pier 39. Even the tours have a unique touch: a fire truck city tour beats a bus hands down. You could climb onboard a submarine or a 19th-century ship, there are two aquariums and zoos, plus some fabulous interactive museums to explore. And that's all before you hit the beach.

Explore San Francisco

Read our complete guide to San Francisco, or discover the city's best experiences.

What people are saying about San Francisco

Overall rating

4.6
(18,054 reviews)

My daughter and I had so much fun! I was nervous about going up/down some of the steeper hills, but these little things have a kick. If you’re on the fence about booking, just do it! It was such an awesome experience, I’m already thinking of doing another tour before leave. The staff was super helpful and went out of their way to ensure everyone felt comfortable and knew what to expect.

Eric is amazing, funny, polite and professional guide, very dedicated to his work and he made our day in SF. He went an extra mile to adjust a tour for us and we deeply appreciate it. We saw in one day way more than we expected and I highly recommend him as a guide - SF is lucky to have him :)) Hopefully we’ll meet again!

Awesome! Jake was exceptional and has a lot of knowledge about the city and great sense of humour. It was raining on our tour but Jake accommodated our needs and there wasn’t anything we didn’t get to see. 10/10 recommend.

It's great for eSIM-enabled cell phones. I had no problems unlocking it. I had a normal SIM card in my German cell phone and have now also activated the eSIM for vacation in America. Works great. Thanks

Such a great morning in the Marin with Gerardo! Just enjoying the nature while getting a good workout. The amazing video shoot that I got of myself crossing the bridge was the cherry on top!