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Amazing Things to Do in San Francisco

Amazing Things to Do in San Francisco

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If you are looking for amazing things to do in San Francisco, then you are in the right place!

San Francisco is brimming with great food, an artsy culture, and beautiful landscapes. One visit, and you will see why it is on so many people’s couple’s bucket list!

San Francisco surrounds you with picturesque landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Alcatraz Island while immersing you in a unique melting pot of cultures.

The San Francisco Bay is a mecca for foodies, sports lovers, and techies all coming together to create a vibrant and exciting city.

Whether spending all your time in the famous Fisherman’s Wharf or exploring cool places like Haight-Ashbury and the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, San Francisco has something for everyone!

One visit, and you will understand why San Francisco is one of the best California weekend getaways!

Whether you are doing a San Francisco to Seattle Drive or a stellar California road trip, be sure that San Francisco is on your list!

Taking our cues from this 4-Day San Francisco Itinerary, we knew we still had so much to see in this fabulous city!

*This post contains affiliate links.  By purchasing through these links, we get a small commission at no additional cost.  That Texas Couple also participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.  As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

Things to Do in San Francisco, California

1. Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

Oh, The Golden Gate Bridge, the iconic symbol of San Francisco and definitely something on everyone’s San Francisco bucket list.

Everyone dreams of getting the perfect shot of the Golden Gate Bridge, possibly the most photographed bridge in the United States, and definitely making everyone’s guide to San Francisco. 

Be sure to research because there are so many places to get the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Golden Gate Bridge is an 80-year-old bridge that was an engineering marvel at its inception and still stands tall today, connecting San Francisco to the Marlin headlands.

While no trip to San Francisco would be complete without seeing The Golden Gate, don’t be shocked if she is covered in a fog most of the time. 

During both of our trips to San Francisco (one in July and one in October), we were only lucky enough to have a clear view of the Golden Gate Bridge for a couple of days, but it was covered in fog the other days.

Funny fact, the fog that surrounds the Golden Gate Bridge has a name.  The locals call the fog Karl.  Karl even has a social media following!

While you must pay a fee if you cross San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in a vehicle, you can walk or bike across for free.  Biking the Golden Gate Bridge is a very popular activity to do in the San Francisco Bay area. 

If you’re interested in biking across the bridge, consider this Guided Bike Tour Across the Golden Gate that also takes you down to the charming town of Sausalito.

2. Fisherman’s Wharf & Pier 39

Planning a trip to San Francisco? Check out our list of the top attractions and tours in San Francisco so that you can make the most of your time here. #sanfrancisco #visitsanfrancisco #sanfranciscoattractions #whattodoinsanfrancisco

The Fisherman’s Wharf was originally a place for Italian immigrants to sell their treasures from the sea. 

Today, San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf is brimming with souvenir shops, restaurants, and plenty of tourists, making it one of the best family-friendly activities in San Francisco.

Despite the crowds of people, you have to experience the Wharf. 

In this area, you will find the Boudin Bakery, Pier 39, Pier 45, Ghiradelli Chocolate, and more! (More information on each of these is below.)

3. Boudin Bakery

Visit the stalls selling fresh clam chowder and seafood before entering San Francisco’s famous Boudin Bakery.

The Boudin Bakery, known for its incredible sourdough bread, is a true treat.

After standing outside the huge glass windows watching the masterful bakers create cute animals out of the bread, you can head upstairs and learn more about the bakery in their museum.  

Once you have learned about the “mother dough,” you must taste some. Lucky for you, there are two restaurants in the Boudin Bakery to choose from!

For years, the Boudin Bakery has been a staple in the San Francisco Bay community. Be sure and add it to your list of things to do in San Francisco!

4. Pier 39

Planning a trip to San Francisco? Check out our list of the top attractions and tours in San Francisco so that you can make the most of your time here. #sanfrancisco #visitsanfrancisco #sanfranciscoattractions #whattodoinsanfrancisco

While at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, make your way to Pier 39.

Pier 39, seemingly always crowded, bustles with activity day and night.  Stop out front to enjoy some street performers before heading to the Pier’s main attraction, the sea lions. 

The Pier 39 sea lions started arriving here after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.  Surrounded by abundant herring and a protected environment in the San Francisco Bay, the number of sea lions grew, and in the winter, approaches over 300!

While the smell can be much, it’s worth it to snap photos of these cute creatures that always seem ready to pose.  Don’t leave Pier 39 before visiting the other attractions, including the aquarium, a fun carousel, and numerous shops and restaurants. 

3. Hyde Street Historic Ship Collection at Pier 45

At San Francisco’s Pier 45, you will find the Hyde Street Historic Ship Collection

The Hyde Street Ship Collection houses submarines, World War II warships, and the three-mast Balclutha, constructed in 1886. 

Please note that the ships rotate in and out for maintenance, so check their website for updates.

I have to be honest; Marty and I didn’t realize that the piers in San Francisco were public property, so you can stroll down any way you choose. 

We would have never ventured down Pier 45 had it not been for the walking tour that we participated in.

4. Ghirardelli Square

Purchased by Domenico Ghirardelli for the home of his famous chocolate company, this plot of land has undergone some major changes since its inception in 1893.  Had it not been for some innovative thinking by the Roth family, Ghirardelli Square as we know it today would not exist.

The Roth family purchased the original plot of land after it had been sold and would be made into apartment buildings. 

The Roths hired a landscape architect to repurpose the historic building, thus creating the first adaptive reuse project in the United States.

Now a historic landmark, Ghirardelli Square is the protected home of Ghirardelli retail stores and several restaurants, bars, and a hotel.

While here, be sure to check out the Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop to view the chocolate manufacturing equipment. 

Don’t be surprised if the smells overtake you and force you to buy an incredible ice cream sundae or a decadent salted caramel hot chocolate! 

Pro Tip: Be sure to go into all the retail stores, as they give you a free sample every time you walk in.  Who doesn’t love free chocolate?!

If you’re a true chocolate lover like me, sign up for the San Francisco Ultra Chocolate Tour.  This adults-only tour will take you on a 3-hour journey through chocolate heaven as you sample amazing chocolate paired with wine, beer, and artisanal cocktails. 

I mean, cocktails and chocolate, pinch me!!

5. Union Square

20 Texas Christmas (pink) 20 Texas Christmas (blue) San Francisco

Union Square is a shopper’s dream so, therefore, it had to be included in our guide to San Francisco.  You will find designer stores lining the sidewalks in this area.

I tried to convince Marty to buy me everything from Tiffany and Co., but he just wasn’t having it this trip.  LOL!

The actual square, which faces Macy’s, is a great place to take a break from all this shopping. 

The first time we visited San Francisco, there was a huge art display set up in Union Square, and this time it looked as if they were preparing to install their holiday ice skating rink! 

You can find a complete list of Union Square events here.

6. Chinatown

20 Texas Christmas (pink) 20 Texas Christmas (blue) San Francisco

Just up the street from Union Square, you will feel like you have been transported to another world when you enter San Francisco’s famous Chinatown. 

Walking up to Chinatown’s famous Dragon’s Gate, stop for the infamous selfie before journeying into this San Francisco treasure.

San Francisco’s Chinatown is the second-largest Chinese community in the United States.  Be sure to visit during the day when all the shops are open, and the area is bustling with life. 

Head to the fortune cookie factory on Ross to see the birthplace of these yummy crunchy treats.

She contributed it to the tea?!

Also, check out one of the great tea rooms in this area.  Marty and I had a great time sampling and learning about tea from a beautiful Chinese lady who told us she was in her 70s but didn’t look a day over 30. 

7. North Beach

For an incredible Italian meal, just pick any restaurant in North Beach, San Francisco’s Little Italy. 

North Beach is lined with checkered tablecloth ristorantes, cafes, delis, and lively nightclubs and bars. 

Originally part of the Barbary Coast, North Beach is brimming with history as well.  The main street, Grant Avenue is the oldest street in San Francisco, and the North Point docks once welcomed thousands of immigrants to America.

Take a break and watch all of the dogs frolic in Washington Square Park before visiting the church where Marilyn Monroes ‘staged’ her wedding to Joe DiMaggio, Sts. Peter and Paul Church (they just took pics outside of the church after actually marrying at City Hall).

For the ultimate food experience, you have to take the Little Italy and North Beach Walking Tour.  Not only will you learn about the fascinating history of this neighborhood, but you will also get to taste so much amazing food!

8. Lombard Street

20 Texas Christmas (pink) 20 Texas Christmas (blue) San Francisco

After eating through North Beach, visit the world-famous Lombard Street, that famous zig-zag road in San Francisco, to work off some of the calories you have consumed. 

Lombard Street, “the most crooked street in the world,” definitely lives up to its name.  When we visited during the day, the street was lined with other tourists snapping photos and watching the cars navigate the hairpin turns. 

We noticed a line of cars stretching as far as we could see, waiting to drive the crooked part of the street.  A lady on the BigBus Tour told us that it wasn’t uncommon for people to wait 2-3 hours for a chance to drive this section of Lombard!

I loved the beautiful houses that lined Lombard, all with their unique style and charm.  I do wonder though, if the people can ever get out of their driveway?!

Of course, the real estate on this street is worth a pretty penny, as is most real estate in San Francisco. If you live in San Francisco and are interested in selling, you can sell your home fast in San Francisco with HomeLight!

You could take the Advanced Lombard Street Segway Tour if you’re feeling adventurous!

I have to be honest, we saw people doing this one, but I wasn’t brave enough.  Well, I didn’t have the segway skills anyway!  LOL!

9. Palace of Fine Arts

Planning a trip to San Francisco? Check out our list of the top attractions and tours in San Francisco so that you can make the most of your time here. #sanfrancisco #visitsanfrancisco #sanfranciscoattractions #whattodoinsanfrancisco

The Palace of Fine Arts was initially constructed for the Panama-Pacific exposition in 1915. 

It was built to show the world that San Francisco had recovered from the 1906 earthquake that devastated the city.

Today it’s primarily used for weddings and photoshoots.  Take time to stroll this beautiful area.  We couldn’t believe the size of the columns, and I loved the gorgeous swan lake.

It’s said that the palace’s design inspired Steven Spielberg to create the famous Star Wars character R2D2.  I can see the resemblance!

10. Alamo Square and the Painted Ladies

Planning a trip to San Francisco? Check out our list of the top attractions and tours in San Francisco so that you can make the most of your time here. #sanfrancisco #visitsanfrancisco #sanfranciscoattractions #whattodoinsanfrancisco

The colorful row homes known as the “Painted Ladies” sit between 710 and 720 Steiner Street at the corner of Hayes Street.

These colorful houses, made famous by the popular tv show, Full House, are a tourist draw and should definitely be on your list of things to do in San Francisco!

The homes are privately owned, so you can’t go inside, but you can catch a great view of them from the park across the street.

11. Mission District

One of San Francisco’s hippest neighborhoods, the Mission District is hot real estate in San Francisco!

Lined with vibrant street art and delicious food, the Mission District deserves a visit. 

Head to Dolores Park for a fantastic city view before embarking on your Flavors and Murals of the Mission District Tour

Take in all the beautiful murals and learn about the history of this great area, including how this fire hydrant saved the neighborhood.

12. Golden Gate Park

Planning a trip to San Francisco? Check out our list of the top attractions and tours in San Francisco so that you can make the most of your time here. #sanfrancisco #visitsanfrancisco #sanfranciscoattractions #whattodoinsanfrancisco

You can spend an entire day exploring Golden Gate Park and still not see it all. 

Golden Gate Park houses a Japanese Tea Garden, the San Francisco Arboretum, numerous trails, playgrounds, and picnic areas on its 1,017 acres.

You might notice that all the statues are hard to see in this park because its designer hated statues.  When the city erected one of him for the park, he stole it and buried it in his backyard! 

13. Alcatraz Island

One of America’s most famous (and highest security) prisons is definitely Alcatraz Island.

The site originally housed a lighthouse station before transforming into a military prison in 1870.

Surrounded by the freezing cold waters of the San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz, or “The Rock” as it was commonly referred to, was reserved for America’s most hardened criminals.

After boarding a ferry to the island, get ready to tour one of the United States’ most famous prisons.  The Cellhouse Audio Tour is included in your admission price but also check the daily schedule for special programs and guest speakers.

We found the island to be fascinating.  We enjoyed learning about the prison, and I loved hearing about the rest of the island’s history, including its stint as a military base and now a bird sanctuary. 

Take my advice; you need to book your Alcatraz ticket well in advance.  They are known to sell out 3-4 months in advance, so don’t delay.

We did the BigBus and Alcatraz Combo Ticket for our visit and booked it 45 days before our trip.

Alcatraz is definitely worth your time and money.

14. Haight-Ashbury

Named for the streets that intersect this neighborhood, Haight and Ashbury, this fun and funky neighborhood are like stepping back in time!

In the 1960s, this area was flooded with young hipsters who decided mainstream America wasn’t what they wanted. 

Today, their legacy is in this infamous street’s cool bookstores, record shops, and vintage clothes stores. 

It’s as if you can still feel the energy of famous musicians like The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin still roaming the streets.

I loved visiting the retro-clothing shops and seeing all the street art in this area. The independent thrift stores and coffee shops are like hidden gems beckoning you to enter.

Be on the lookout for “Those famous legs” I mean, they are one of the San Francisco Instagram-worthy spots!

15. Take a Cable Car

You know you want that Rice-A-Roni moment of you hanging off the cable car’s side.  Go ahead; everyone is doing it, making it a fun addition to our guide to San Francisco.

Just don’t wait in line in Ghiradelli Square for the cable car.  Get on the cable car faster at Mason or Bay Street. 

For the ultimate thrill ride, get on the California line where California intersects Market to experience one of the big hills of the city.

16. Twin Peaks

For some awesome city views, take a hike at Twin Peaks.

These famous grassy peaks are the second-highest spots in town, second to Mount Davidson, so you know you are in for a treat.

The peaks are open from 5 am until midnight, and the views are well worth the effort of getting to the top.

17. Ferry Building Marketplace

At first glance, you might think that San Francisco’s Ferry Building is just a place to catch the ferry.

While it’s true that you can catch the ferry from here, this building is home to much more than just that.

The San Francisco Ferry Building is also home to some of the best cuisines that you will find in the San Francisco Bay!

The public food market inside of the Ferry Building is a food lover’s dream. Here you can find everything from fresh produce to delicious Japanese delicacies.

Take time to explore the various shops and vendors, sampling your way through their incredible products.

If you find yourself in the area on a Saturday, then be sure and check out the Saturday farmer’s market for an extra special treat!


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Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight:

We love using CheapOAir, Kayak, and Kiwi to search for the best prices on flights. We love using these search engines because they search the web for airlines all over the world to ensure you get the best deal! In addition to flights, you can also find great hotel prices on Kayak and Kiwi.

Book Your Vacation Package:

If you want to book an entire vacation package, then we suggest using Expedia. We love how easy Expedia is to use and we always find good deals on entire vacation packages on their site.

Another great site for vacation packages is BookVIP. BookVIP offers super cheap vacation packages to incredible destinations. You are sure to save money using their site!

For full guided vacations including hotels, some meals, transportation, and guides, then we book with Trafalgar. Trafalgar is a trusted tour company that will meet all of your needs while ensuring that you have a great experience. allows you to book flights, hotels, train tickets, rental cars, airport transfers, tours, and more all on one site. Owned by the parent company that also owns Skyscanner, this is a trusted resource for travel booking and a great “one-stop-shop.”

Book Your Accommodations:

We always begin our search by checking out the honest review on hotels at TripAdvisor. This allows us to narrow our search for specific properties once we are ready to book. Of course, you can also book directly on the TripAdvisor site as well!

There are several accommodation sites that we like to use. One of our favorites is because it gives you a wide variety of hotels and guesthouses at a good price.

Another “go-to” hotel booking site for us is We love their loyalty program that allows you to earn free nights, and their “secret prices” for members are fabulous deals!

HotelsCombined is another cool site. They allow you to compare all of the top travel sites with one search to ensure you are finding the best deal out there. Kayak works in this way as well.

If you are looking for a luxurious all-inclusive vacation, then consider checking out the Sandals/Beaches properties. Sandals properties are for couples only and Beaches are for families. We have visited Sandals in the past and absolutely love the attention to detail and the service they provide.

Tour Companies We Trust:

We love taking guided tours when visiting new places. Our go-to tour companies are and Get Your Guide. Both of these companies have been in business for years and provide excellent customer service. You can trust booking tours from their sites for sure!

For a guided city tour, check out City Sightseeing and BigBus Tours. These bus tours are so much fun and easy to hop on and hop off at top attractions in cities around the world.

CityPass is a great way to save money when visiting large cities. CityPass allows you to get free admission to major attractions once you buy their pass. The savings add up quickly with this pass, often saving 50% with combined admissions.

Another great pass to save money in larger cities is the Sightseeing Pass. This pass allows you to save valuable time and money by combining admissions to major attractions. They also have a handy app that keeps everything you need at your fingertips.

Looking to Save Time and Money?

Check out our resource page for all of our favorite vendors. These companies help us to save time and money on our travels!

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Michelle Snell founder of That Texas Couple and Totally Texas Travel

About The Author

Michelle Snell is a travel writer, history buff, wine lover, and enthusiast of different cultures. Michelle enjoys bringing places to life through her informative writing style on her blogs, That Texas Couple and Totally Texas Travel.  Her practical tips and suggestions help make travel dreams a reality while immersing her readers in the history, culture, and food of a region.  She is happiest sipping wine in Italy or chilling on a beach with her husband, Marty.

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    Elizabeth Hilton

    Tuesday 29th of May 2018

    I am glad that you enjoyed your trip to my hometown. I would add a few places to your list for next time. Visit the Cliff House for brunch and then hike from Sutro Baths along Lands End to China Beach. This really is a beautiful part of the city. Also visit the hipster neighborhood of Hayes Valley and hang out in the beautiful park on Octavia Street. The ferry building has a great farmer’s market. From the ferry building you can stroll along the Embarcadero to Pac Bell Park and take in the beautiful view of the Bay Bridge. Have lunch at the Ramp in China Basin for more sun and Bay views. Of course stroll in the Fillmore, on Chestnut Street and on Union Street for great shopping and amazing restaurants.


    Wednesday 30th of May 2018

    Thank you so much for the recommendations, Elizabeth. We will definitely be adding these to our list for next time!

    Danni Lawson

    Monday 28th of May 2018

    Flights for $79? You guys are great at snagging a bargain! Love that you took the time to properly explore the Chinese quarter unlike many tourists. Bit jealous that you found the sea lions at Pier 39 though, as I missed them when I was in SF. I had no idea they came because of an earthquake!


    Tuesday 29th of May 2018

    I'm so glad you enjoyed the post, Danni. Thanks for reading! We do love a good bargain. LOL!


    Sunday 27th of May 2018

    We got engaged at the Palace of the Fine Arts! Sf has a special place in my heart :)


    Sunday 27th of May 2018

    I love that, Emily! It's a beautiful setting to get engaged in :).


    Saturday 26th of May 2018

    One of my favorite cities, great list. I think my favorite place in San Francisco is Golden Gate Park. I still need to go to the Palace of Fine Arts!


    Saturday 26th of May 2018

    Thanks, Anisa. I agree Golden Gate Park is awesome. We just love the laid-back vibe in San Francisco.


    Saturday 26th of May 2018

    You covered so much in this guide! I've never been to San Fran and had no idea the fog had it's own name and social media! Too funny! And I don't think I've ever seen sea lions in real life outside the zoo so I would brave the smell to check them out :)


    Saturday 26th of May 2018

    Thanks for reading, Kristin. San Fran really is a fun, quirky city!