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Things to do in San Francisco

San Francisco is at the tip of a peninsula between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific coast.

It is a small city, stretching only 11 kms (7 miles), and yet it packs quite a punch as far as tourist attractions are concerned.

San Francisco’s outstanding characteristics are its steep rolling hills, water on three sides, summer fogs, Victorian architecture, and cable cars.

During your San Francisco holiday, hop on one of the historic cable cars and tour the city.

Discover the top tourist attractions in this historic city with our list of the things to do in San Francisco.

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island tours
Chris Szwedo / Getty Images

Alcatraz Island is a rocky island 2 Kms (1.5 Miles) from the San Francisco shore, and from 1934 to 1963, it served as a federal prison. The Alcatraz prison and island grounds are open to the public. Visitors must board the Alcatraz Island tour ferries from Pier 33.

Last minute Alcatraz

Alcatraz tour tickets last minute
Image: Jake

Alcatraz tour tickets are available for booking from the official website 90 days in advance. But since Alcatraz is on the itinerary of every tourist visiting San Francisco, last-minute Alcatraz tickets are in high demand.

Alcatraz night tour

Night tour of Alcatraz Island
CelsoDiniz / Getty Images

The Alcatraz night tour is a unique activity limited to just a few hundred tourists per evening and includes special activities and presentations not offered during the day. The night tour is slightly costlier but an exclusive experience.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium
Image: Visitcalifornia.com

Located on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is home to thousands of marine animals and plants. A lot of tourists come all the way from cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc. to visit this non-profit public aquarium.

SFMoMA

SFMOMA
Image: Sfmoma.org

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA) is the largest museum of modern art in the United States. SFMoMA has about 170,000 square feet of galleries featuring artists such as Picasso, Henry Matisse, Chuck Close, Jeff Koons, Frida Kahlo,  Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein etc.

Cal Academy

California Academy of Sciences
Image: Calacademy.org

California Academy of Sciences is one of San Francisco’s must-see destinations. Since it is home to the Steinhart Aquarium, Morrison Planetarium, and Kimball Natural History Museum it is a perfect family outing. It is often also referred to as Cal Academy.

San Francisco Aquarium

San Francisco aquarium
Jeanne Mai / Aquariumofthebay.org

Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39, San Francisco, is home to more than 20,000 local marine animals and showcases the beauty and diversity of Northern California aquatic life. It is also known as the San Francisco aquarium. 

San Francisco Zoo

San Francisco Zoo
Image: It Must be F/8

The 100 acres San Francisco Zoo is home to 2000+ exotic, endangered, and rescued animals. Visitors also love the steam train, the carousel, themed play zone for kids, etc. The zoo has been entertaining both locals and tourists for more than 90 years.

Exploratorium

Exploratorium in San Francisco
Image: Ehdd.com

San Francisco’s Exploratorium is an educational experience with more than 650 hands-on exhibits designed to challenge your mind. This world of science, art, and human perception is a perfect outing for everybody – both kids and adults!

De Young Museum

De Young Museum, San Francisco
Image: Famsf.org

De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park is one of the largest public arts institutions in San Francisco. It is home to painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century, from Africa, the Americas, and Oceania.

Bus tours of the city

San Francisco HOHO bus tours
Image: Getyourguide.com

The best way to explore San Francisco is by hopping on a double-decker, open-topped bus with a human guide. These hop on hop off San Francisco bus tours give you the flexibility of seeing the best city attractions and landmarks for as long (or as short) as you like.

Helicopter tour in SFO

Helicopter tour of San Francisco
Lisa-Blue / Getty

San Francisco offers fantastic vistas for those who are willing to strap on the seatbelt and go up on a helicopter tour. To best explore landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and the Bay Area, book a helicopter tour of San Francisco

Valentine’s Day in San Francisco

Couples in San Francisco
Encrier / Getty Images

Few cities can be as romantic as San Francisco, for it offers sweeping ocean views, exciting landmarks, fascinating wine country, and elegant historic city streets. If you prefer moments of romance and intimacy, you will love to celebrate Valentine’s Day in San Francisco.