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  • Things to Do in the Bay Area

35 Things to Do in the Bay Area from Events to Tours to Attractions

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler   •

Updated: February 12, 2024

The San Francisco Bay Area offers so many fun things to do, from hiking to world-class museums to famous attractions. Some of the must-sees include the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and Muir Woods.

Other family-friendly attractions include Golden Gate Park, Fisherman's Wharf, and California Great America.

You will find my top picks in San Francisco, Marin County, Monterey, Oakland, and other places all around the SF Bay Area.

Things to do in the Bay Area

Disclaimer : I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.

1. Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge connects San Francisco to Marin County. It is a popular stop for tourists from around the world.

It's one of the best things to do in the Bay Area, and you will not want to miss it!

You can drive, walk or bike across to check out this fantastic structure. It's 1.7 miles across and is free for those on foot or two wheels. My favorite part of visiting is soaking in the skyline of San Francisco. It's an amazing view from the bridge.

After visiting the Golden Gate Bridge, check out the exhibits on the San Francisco side. They talk more about how the Golden Gate Bridge was built, some of those that helped create this magnificent structure, and some fun facts about it.

>> Find out more about visiting the Golden Gate Bridge

>> Get some tips to prepare before you walk across

2. Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore is a stunning tourist destination that gives you the best of California. With an excellent combination of ocean breakers hitting the rocky Pacific coast, fabulous beaches, and fantastic grassland housing diverse wildlife, this place is like no other.

A rich cultural history is here to be explored, and the many different peoples who have inhabited the land here are a story waiting to be told.

With many miles of glorious beaches and unspoiled landscapes, this is a place where I love to hike on its many trails and enjoy the wonders of the wild.

Seasoned hikers take a thirteen-mile round trip to see the glorious Alamere Falls. It's a fascinating coastal waterfall that I've been on many times. It's tough, but well worth the trek.

From December to May, you can spot migrating whales from the Lighthouse and Chimney Rock, a sight to be cherished.

>> More free things to do around the SF Bay Area

3. Muir Woods

Hiking Trail in Muir Woods National Monument

One of the unique things to do in the Bay Area is to explore some of our gorgeous Coastal Redwoods, and one of the best places to see them is Muir Woods.

About 45 minutes north of San Francisco, this Marin County gem features historic redwood trees up to 800 years old. I enjoy strolling along their flat, easy-to-use trails, which allow you to slowly walk through them and imagine everything that's happened worldwide since these gigantic trees started growing.

They are green and lush all year, so you can visit them no matter the season.

This tour offers you the chance to get here from San Francisco quickly.

>> Learn more about visiting Muir Woods

>> Find my tips on how to get here from San Francisco

More Great Muir Woods Tours

4. tilden regional park.

Tilden Regional Park is one of the most beautiful parks in the East Bay area. A wonderful family day out with a varied selection of attractions, this green space is popular with locals and visitors.

The superbly presented vintage carousel - complete with painted wooden animals - is a delight. The miniature steam train attracts children and adults for a stunning park tour.

The Botanic Garden houses the most extensive collection of native Californian plants in the world, some of which are rare and endangered. The Lake Anza Swim Beach, which plays a large part in the lives of the local youths entertainment, is excellent.

Fishing on the lake is year-round! There are camping facilities too, and with almost forty miles of impressive trails for walking, biking, and horse riding, Tilden Park has something for everyone.

5. Alcatraz Island

Old water tower and buildings around Alcatraz Island

Another fantastic stop in San Francisco is Alcatraz Island. This former military and federal prison sits on an island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay and is open daily for visitors.

This adventure starts with a 25-minute ferry to the island and a chance to walk through the central prison with a self-guided audio tour. My favorite part is spending some time after the tour to explore other open parts of island on my own. 

On my visits, it's fascinating to learn about some of its most famous prisoners, including Al Capone , Machine Gun Kelly, and Robert "The Birdman" Stroud . I'm sure you've heard about all of them in the past, but it's a surreal experience to be there and think about how these three famous men spent their time here. 

It's a great way to look into the Bay Area's past.

>> Find out more about taking a tour of Alcatraz Island

Great Alcatraz Combo Tickets

6. stinson beach.

The beautiful sands of Stinson Beach are accessed by a steep and winding road that leads to the car parking area. This famous beach is an ideal place to get away from the frantic activity of the city.

Located within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area , the beach is popular with families who come here to relax and enjoy the sun, sand, and the Pacific Ocean waves.

While there are no provisions for camping on or near the beach, many exciting trails for hikers and mountain bikes allow visitors to explore the park's delights.

Fishing is a popular beach activity, and surfers and windsurfers come here to enjoy the perfect waves.

It is recommended that visitors get to Stinson Beach before midday as car parking is limited as the spaces fill up quickly. There are few better tourist destinations for relaxing in the sun than Stinson Beach.

7. Safari West

One of the most exciting attractions in the Bay Area is Safari West, which brings the Serengeti to Sonoma! This fabulous tourist attraction allows visitors to take a day safari or to stay in one of the great glamping units.

They also offer wine and dining events where you can enjoy California's best wines with an African theme. With close to 900 animals and more than 90 species within the park, you will see wildebeests in herds, fascinating giraffes, zebra, cheetahs, and many exotic species native to Africa.

The whole family will be thrilled when taken on safari by a knowledgeable guide. Family favorites include the cute ring-tailed lemurs, the fearsome rhinoceros, a wide variety of birds, antelopes, and the curious fennec fox with oversized ears!

A popular attraction, booking in advance is recommended.

>> Visit their official site to learn more

8. Lombard Street

Slow morning at Lombard Street in San Francisco

A visit to San Francisco would only be complete with spending some time on the crooked section of Lombard Street. This free attraction includes eight hairpin turns and is one of the most crooked streets in the world.

You can drive down this brick road or, what I typically do, walk down one of the two stairs on either side. In the Spring, Summer, and Fall, you can also admire the gorgeous flowers and gardens inside each hairpin turn.

I recommend taking one of the excellent guided tours of Lombard Street if you want to learn even more about this interesting attraction. 

>> Find out more about visiting Lombard Street

9. California's Great America

California's Great America is the premier amusement park in the Bay Area, with more than 60 rides and plenty to keep a family entertained for many hours. Admission also grants South Bay Shores Waterpark access, which adds to the variety.

With many places to eat, we recommend setting aside a whole day if you wish to enjoy Great America. RailBlazer is among the main attractions, being an unusual and exciting single-rail rollercoaster.

There are rides suitable for small children among those that will attract the thrill-seekers in the family! Take in an entertaining show and regular special events.

The park caters to groups, so if there are many of you attending, book a group, especially in advance. This amusement park packs everything in, so plan and decide which rides you want to enjoy in advance.

>> Visit their site for more information

10. Palace of Fine Arts

Dome on the Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco is the only historic building still standing from the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition. Its enormous dome structure and detailed columns give you a feel for what it must have been like to attend this important event.

Today, you can walk along the path to see the Palace of Fine Arts close-up. I recommend heading over to its great dome to stand underneath it and check out its intricate details.

I love grabbing some lunch along Chestnut Street and having picnics here too.

This free attraction sits in this Marina District near the waterfront. It only takes about 30 minutes to visit, and I think it's worth every minute!

>> Find out more about visiting

11. Winchester Mystery House

The fascinating Winchester Mystery House is among the more unusual and exciting attractions in the Bay Area. Stories abound of paranormal activity in the building, which was constantly added to by the equally mysterious owner, Sarah Winchester.

Winchester died in 1922 and left behind a house that has been frequently visited. It is regularly seen in the top 10 'haunted houses.'

What is the truth?

That's a question nobody can answer, yet stories of hauntings by old Wild West characters, and the remarkable life of an eccentric and wealthy woman, continue to keep the legend alive.

This is a must-see tourist destination for lovers of folklore and the house, which is an architectural wonder. There may not be another house that boasts 10,000 windows, 2,000 doors, and 47 staircases!

A truly unique experience, the Winchester Mystery House is a surprisingly enjoyable place to visit, so go ahead and explore.

>> More about visiting this Bay Area gem

12. Santana Row

San Jose's showpiece retail outlet in Santana Row is a place where all kinds of shops come together in one location. Boasting top-brand stores and a fantastic choice of dining options, this is a shopper's delight, yet there's more here to keep you interested.

Santana Row is home to frequent events, pop-up stores, and other entertainment. It's worth checking the website to see what is happening when you visit. I like the 'Sip and Stroll' offer, where you get a cocktail from one of many bars and then take a walk down the Row.

Kids are catered for various activities, so it's a family-friendly place where everyone can get involved. Festive celebrations are especially impressive at Santana Row, and I recommend you spend some time while visiting the Bay Area.

13. Golden Gate Park

Rock at the entrance to Golden Gate Park

Another gem in San Francisco is on the city's western edge and borders the Pacific Ocean. Golden Gate Park is a 1,000+ acre man-made park with museums, hiking trails, and plenty of outdoor fun.

Some top attractions include the Japanese Tea Garden, the de Young Museum, and the Botanical Garden. You can also grab some lunch at the Beach Chalet and check out the Conservatory of Flowers.

>> Find out more about visiting Golden Gate Park

14. Oakland Zoo

Established 100 years ago, Oakland Zoo remains one of the longest-established institutions in San Francisco. The zoo is vital to animal conservation and a popular family attraction.

With more than 850 animals - some native to the USA, others more exotic - this is a family day out that will thrill, educate, and inform. The magnificent African Elephant is a favorite, as are the beautiful African Lions.

Other mammals include the American Bison and Black Bear, the amusing and entertaining Chimpanzee, and many more spectacular creatures. The collection of birds includes Macaws, Condors, and Eagles, while visitors will be fascinated by snakes, tortoises, lizards, and reptiles.

Don't forget the invertebrates and amphibians, often overlooked but equally enjoyable. This is one of the greatest family-friendly attractions. Make some time for Oakland Zoo!

15. Sports Teams

Baseball SF Giants Bay Area

The SF Bay Area is home to more than half a dozen professional sports teams. Here you will find the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park, the Golden State Warriors at the Chase Center, and the Oakland A's.

You will also find the San Francisco 49ers, who play south in Santa Clara at Levi's Stadium, and both the Sharks and Earthquakes in San Jose.

In addition to our professional teams, you will also find some semi-pro and college teams.

>> Find out more about all of our top local sports teams

16. Rosie the Riveter Park

The famous image of Rosie the Riveter represents the many women who gave their time during World War II to work in the shipyards of the USA. Rosie, the Riveter Park, honors and celebrates this vital and historic contribution with a wonderfully evocative dedicated memorial.

Visit the excellent Education Center and Theatre, where you can take in films showing these dedicated women's importance.

Go aboard the SS Red Oak Victory, the last ship built in the Kaiser Shipyard, which has been restored and preserved over the years.

Rosie, the Riveter Park, is an entertaining and moving experience that history lovers, like me, will especially appreciate.

17. Sausalito

downtown Sausalito

The cute waterfront town of Sausalito is another one of the fun things to do in the Bay Area. I typically do a little shopping, taste some local wines, or grab lunch along the waterfront for sweeping views of downtown San Francisco and around the SF Bay Area.

It's easy to take the ferry or the bus from San Francisco to get here. The town is small, so most people spend the morning or the afternoon here.

It's also a great trip with a visit to Muir Woods. This combo trip is an excellent option for those staying in San Francisco .

>> Find a list of the best things to do in Sausalito

18. Theater Performances Around the Bay Area

If you want to check out a theater performance, you will find dozens of options around the Bay Area. San Francisco and San Jose offer performances by traveling Broadway theater companies throughout the year.

Smaller theaters in San Francisco, Marin County, Berkeley, and Oakland offer local and international performances.

No matter what time of year you visit, you will find a variety of performances on stage.

>> Find a full list of upcoming theater performances around the Bay Area

19. Napa Valley

Vines in Napa Valley

Visiting Napa Valley is a treat for wine lovers! This world-renowned wine region is about an hour north of the Bay Area.

What I love to do more here is sample various wines, tour wine-making facilities, and learn about this famed region.

Don't like wine? You'll still find a ton of fun activities in wine country, including scenic hikes, delicious food, and both boutique and outlet shopping.

It's easy to get here either by car or with a guided tour. I love recommending tours for those visiting for the first time, as you can sample as much as you want and leave the driving to someone else!

>> Check out this great one day tour

>> Find out more about visiting Napa Valley

More Great Napa Valley Tours

20. silicon valley.

Silicon Valley is famous as it's home to several well-known technology companies. It's where you will find the headquarters of Facebook, Google, and Apple.

In recent years, it's become a hot spot for techie-loving travelers!

While most companies don't allow you to step on campus, you can take a self-guided audio tour that will enable you to drive past them or a guided tour from San Francisco.

Both offer you the chance to see where the campuses are located, learn a little more about these companies, and get a feel for what it's like to work there.

>> Find out more about the self-guided audio tour

21. Fisherman's Wharf

Sealions at Pier 39 in Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf is one of the most popular districts to visit in San Francisco. It's home to Pier 39, Ghirardelli Square, Hyde Street Pier, and the Aquarium of the Bay.

It's one of our most touristy districts, but I always find something fun and new to do each time I visit.

Other activities in this small but fun area include bay cruises, whale-watching experiences, and many shops and restaurants.

You can also sip on Irish Coffee at the famed Buena Vista Cafe or grab a bowl of clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl at Boudin Bakery.

It's also a popular place to stay when visiting San Francisco since there is so much to see and do here.

>> Find out more about what there is to see and do in Fisherman's Wharf

>> Find a list of some of the best places to stay here

More Fun Things to Do in Fisherman's Wharf

22. downtown berkeley.

The wonderfully lively and exciting vibe of Downtown Berkeley offers visitors an incredible experience. This cultural hub combines art installations, fine dining, and fun alongside excellent shops and many visitor attractions.

Famous for its selection of international cuisine, great bars, theatres, and other entertainment centers, Downtown Berkeley is the place to be for a great night out, a romantic meal, or to wander and take in the eclectic selection of retailers.

Friendly and lively bars sit alongside relaxed and welcoming cafes. The Adventure Playground will keep kids entertained for many hours!

Other things to see and do include the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Also, the wonderful Tilden Park is a nod to conservation and nature in the city.

A great family destination and a place where couples can spend quality time together,

Berkeley is worth a visit!

23. Sonoma County

Sonoma Alexander Valley

Sonoma County is another fantastic place to sample local wines. This county is home to several wine regions, including Dry Creek, Russian River, and Alexander Valley.

There are more than 400 wineries in Sonoma County, producing a wide variety of wines, including Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir. You'll also find some fantastic producers of Chardonnay, Syrah, and sparkling wines.

It sits to the west of Napa and is a great alternative when visiting Northern California wine country.

>> Find a list of some of my favorite Sonoma County wineries

24. Angel Island

Angel Island State Park occupies the second largest island in San Francisco Bay Area. The island's historical importance is highlighted throughout the park, a popular tourist attraction.

Once home to the Coast Miwok indigenous people, the park is now largely grassland and coastal wash. It is a fascinating place to visit!

The island boasts its unique species of mole - the Angel Island Mole - and is home to a controlled herd of deer, which visitors are keen to spot. Angel Island is one of the treasures of the entire Bay area and was once an immigration checkpoint for mainly Asian Immigrants.

The history of this period of the island and its military usage is outlined in the visitor center and a few museums on the island.

It's also a fun place to hike and photograph the surrounding area.

Access is by ferry, which runs to and from the island daily.

>> Tips to visit

25. Festivals and Street Fairs

Carnaval SF May

Our Bay Area festivals and street fairs also attract people from around the world. From film festivals to large outdoor music events, you will find amazing picks all year long.

Some of the largest in San Francisco include Outside Lands, the International Film Festival, and the Chinese New Year Parade and Festival. Others throughout the Bay Area include Bottlerock in Napa, the Monterey Jazz Festival, and Passport to Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma.

>> Find a calendar of upcoming festivals and street fairs

26. Marin Headlands

Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the Marin Headlands is another one of the fun things to do in the Bay Area. It features the Point Bonita Lighthouse, relaxing beaches, and several fantastic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and downtown San Francisco.

What I do when I visit is explore its hiking trails, check out some of its old military batteries, and soak in the views all around SF Bay.

It's open for visitors all year long and is one of the best outdoor activities in the Bay Area.

27. Livermore Valley Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting Three Steves in Livermore Valley

In addition to Napa and Sonoma, the Bay Area is also home to a few lesser-known wine-tasting regions. One of my favorites is Livermore Valley!

This region sits about an hour east of downtown San Francisco. Its rolling hills and lush landscape offer a serene place to sample wines.

Many of the tasting rooms are small and personal. The last time I tasted here, the owner of 3 Steves and his son offered us a tour of their facility and the chance to sample some of their tasty wines.

The exciting thing is that some of these facilities have been around for decades, as Wente started production in this region in 1883!

They are more than just the oldest facility in Livermore Valley. They are "the oldest continuously operating, family-owned winery in the United States."

>> Find a list of some of my favorite Livermore Valley Wineries

28. Additional Bay Area Hiking Options

In addition to Muir Woods and Point Reyes National Seashore, you will find hundreds of unique places to go hiking. They range from short urban hikes, such as to the top of Twin Peaks, to longer hikes, such as those in Tilden Regional Park near Berkeley.

You'll find both flat hikes, such as the hike along Crissy Field in San Francisco, to some with steep inclines, such as the Dipsea Trail in Marin County.

My favorites include the walk along Lands End, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, and in and around Mt. Diablo.

>> Find some of my favorite urban hikes around San Francisco

29. Ano Nuevo State Park

Ano Nuevo Elephant Seals

Visiting Ano Nuevo State Park is one of the more unique things to do in the Bay Area. The park's beaches are a favorite spot for elephant seals!

Every year, they return to this area for breeding and then later for molting. The one- to three-year-old elephant seals also use it to rest as they grow. It's called the "Fall Juvenile Haul Out."

Throughout the year, they offer guided tours to allow you to find and learn more about these magnificent creatures. The breeding season is the busiest time of the year, and you usually need to have a tour reservation before you arrive to see them.

You'll find this beach in Pescadero, about an hour south of San Francisco and about 30 minutes north of Santa Cruz.

30. Shoreline Amphitheatre

One of the best places for live music in the Bay Area is the Shoreline Amphitheater. This open-air concert venue brings in big names every year. You'll find a variety of genres, from pop to country to jazz.

Located in Mountain View, this venue offers more than 22,000 seats. About a third of these are reserved seating, with most tickets for general admission on the lawn. Their season runs from around late May to October every year.

>> More great live music options around SF and the Bay Area

31. San Francisco Bay Area Museums

Fine Arts Piece in the de Young

The San Francisco Bay Area is also home to dozens of world-class museums. In San Francisco, you will find the Fine Arts Museums, including the de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor.

You will also find the California Academy of Sciences, the Asian Art Museum, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Others include the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito, the San Jose Museum of Art, and the Oakland Museum of California.

>> Find a full list of museums in San Francisco

>> Great list of free SF Bay Area Museums

32. Painted Ladies

Alamo Square Painted Ladies on Steiner

You can only have a list of the best things to do in the Bay Area by talking about our historic Victorians, also known as our Painted Ladies.

Built in the mid to late 1800s, these historic buildings survived several large earthquakes and are featured in numerous TV shows and movies.

The most famous set is along Alamo Square Park. It's a set of six identical houses with one larger, unique home at the end, where the builder lived.

They are referred to as the Seven Sisters and Postcard Row.

Painted Ladies refers to any historic Victorian with three or more colors, so you'll find dozens of Painted Ladies around the neighborhoods west of Van Ness Street.

>> Find out more about San Francisco's Painted Ladies

>> Find out more about visiting Alamo Square

33. Alameda

Alameda City is primarily located on Alameda Island and includes several smaller islands within SF Bay. Historically notable, the former Neptune Beach resort is famous for being where the popsicle was first sold!

Attractions today include the Art Deco Alameda Theatre, a wonderful building that must be seen, and the city also hosts a 4th of July parade believed to be one of the oldest and longest-running in the USA.

Festivals for your diary include the Park Street Spring Festival in May, the Art and Wine Fayre - which attracts more the 100,000 people - in July, and the Park Street Classic Car Show, which is among the biggest in the USA with over 400 exhibits.

Visitors to Alameda Island can take in museums and other establishments that tell the important story of this beautiful island and its part in establishing San Francisco as one of the world's great cities.

34. Ferry Building

Ferry Building Entrance

You will find the Ferry Building on the east side of San Francisco. Opened in 1898, this building initially served as the main ferry building for those commuting into San Francisco from the East Bay.

Over the years, it fell into disrepair as more and more people used cars to get into the city. However, in 2002 the city decided to rehab this beauty and return it to its former glory.

Today, the Ferry Building receives hundreds of ferry passengers from East Bay and Marin County daily. It's also full of gourmet shops, high-end restaurants, and some offices on its upper level.

It's a fun place to grab some lunch, sample some local ice cream, or have dinner outdoors near the waterfront.

>> Find out more about what there is to see and do in the Ferry Building

35. Mt. Diablo

The towering image of Mount Diablo is visible from afar, with its multiple peaks high in the mountain range. Mount Diablo State Park is one of the many wonders of this glorious slice of Northern California and is a must for visitors.

The mountain is entirely within the Park, which also encompasses many protected reserves, and is popular with hikers, mountain bikers, and sightseers.

The views from the summit are impressive! The Sierra Nevada range is visible on clear days, as are no fewer than eight bridges, including the Bay Bridge and the world-famous iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

The mountain is one of the essential historic sites in US history and overlooks the legendary Gold Rush region. It is still used as a reference point for surveys of this part of California.

A genuinely fantastic tourist destination that you cannot miss!

Pinterest Pin for Things to Do in the Bay Area

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Where's Janice

33 BEST Places To Visit In The Bay Area (By A Local!) 2024

Are you staring at a map of the San Francisco Bay Area and feeling overwhelmed about which places to visit? I’ve had so much fun adventuring around the bay as a local, and here’s my insider’s guide to the top spots for your next trip.

When I first visited San Francisco as a tourist, I assumed that most of the Bay Area was just one big suburb. Now that I live here, I’m constantly finding new and fun places to explore.

Besides San Francisco, the Bay Area is known for having lots of natural spaces like hiking trails and beaches. You’ll also find the famous Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) running along the coast. This takes you to several charming beach towns within the Bay Area which are totally underrated.

Whether you’re drawn to the vibrant city atmosphere in San Francisco, eager to hit the trails, or looking to indulge in the finest wines from renowned wineries, there’s something special waiting for you in the Bay Area.

In this article, I’ll be sharing the best places to visit in the Bay Area , including many free and unique spots.

10. The Mystery Spot

27. berkeley, 33. henry cowell redwoods state park, munis in san francisco, ride-sharing and ride-hailing (uber, lyft, or waymo), what part of bay area is most walkable.

This article uses affiliate links where I make a small commission if you make a purchase through my links, at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

33 BEST Places To Visit In The Bay Area

If you’re in a rush, here are my top picks for the best places to visit in the Bay Area.

Napa Valley Map

Visit Napa Valley Wineries

  • Premium destination with amazing scenery
  • World-class wineries
  • Gourmet dining

Alcatraz Island

Classic Alcatraz Island Tour

  • World’s most secure prison…?
  • Tales of daring escapes
  • American Indian history

Muir Woods

See Redwood Trees At Muir Woods

  • Peaceful forest hikes
  • > 250-feet tall trees
  • Almost 1,000 years old

You can also click the image below for my saved map with all the places mentioned in this article.

tourist bay area

The Bay Area can be split into 5 geographical regions, intuitively named:

  • San Francisco

People also sometimes include Santa Cruz because of its popularity and location just 1.5 hours away from San Francisco.

San Francisco Pier 39

1. Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf

If there’s one place you must go in San Francisco, that’s the quintessential Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf area.

This bustling waterfront is packed with shops and restaurants with a lively atmosphere that lifts your mood. It might be on the more touristy side, but it truly captures the vibrant spirit of the City by the Bay.

You can enjoy fresh seafood at Fog Harbor Fish House and watch the playful sea lions lounging on the dock nearby. Don’t forget to grab a classic sourdough bread bowl filled with clam chowder !

If you want to be in the heart of this bustling side of San Francisco, consider booking your stay at Marriott Vacation Club .

Overall, Fisherman’s Wharf is a safe area to stay in San Francisco because of its proximity to many tourist attractions.

  • Parking : Pier 39 Parking Garage ($10-12/hour or $20-25/day by reservation , driving not recommended)
  • Location: San Francisco
  • Where to stay (top pick): Marriott Vacation Club – Check prices on Booking.com | Expedia | Agoda

Alcatraz Island

2. Alcatraz Island

Stepping foot on Alcatraz Island feels like stepping back in time to the days when this infamous prison housed some of America’s most notorious criminals.

You can go on either a day or night tour, with an audio guide that will take you through the cellblocks. On this tour, you’ll learn about the living conditions and hear stories of the daring escape attempts . The exhibits are very engaging and you can imagine what it was like for the prisoners.

For example, we pretended to talk to each other via a glass screen, and stood in a dark cell while playing a game of flipping buttons. There’s a sense of intrigue and mystery surrounding this iconic landmark, and it’s definitely worth visiting.

For the best way to experience San Francisco and Alcatraz in one day, you can opt for combo tour that includes both a San Francisco tour and the audio walking tour in Alcatraz . Alternatively, enjoy the best of Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz with this tour .

  • Parking : SP+ Parking ($30, driving not recommended)
  • Where to stay (top pick): Omni San Francisco – Check on Booking.com | Expedia | Agoda

Muir Woods

3. Muir Woods National Monument

Looking for some big redwood trees without having to drive hours away from the San Francisco Bay Area? Muir Woods National Monument is the perfect place to visit to immerse yourself in the tranquility of the lush forest.

It is home to towering redwood trees that have stood for centuries – one of the rare old-growth forests untouched by the prolific logging activity in the past. There are multiple trails to explore depending on how adventurous you’re feeling.

If you’re visiting for the first time, the Main Trail is an accessible trail that is very popular for most visitors. It features gorgeous bridges and gentle walking paths that are wheelchair-friendly.

Do note that you will need to make reservations for parking. From our experience, the morning time slots get snatched up quite quickly in summer.

Alternatively, sign up for a half-day tour that includes exploring both Muir Woods and Sausalito , a charming seaside town.

  • Parking: Muir Woods Overflow Parking Lot ($9.50, reservations required)
  • Entrance fee: $15 per adult
  • Location: North Bay

4. Napa Valley

Feeling fancy? Raise a glass to a retreat to Napa Valley , where you’ll find rolling vineyards and world-class wineries.

It’s also a great place to visit for dining at Michelin-starred restaurants, including the French Laundry in Yountville. You can also check out the luxurious Napa Valley Wine Train for a culinary and wine journey across the landscape.

Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or simply appreciate the finer things in life, there’s something magical about sipping wine against the backdrop of sun-kissed hillsides. You can also shop at Oxbow Market , explore Castello di Amaros , and enjoy the Calistoga Hot Springs .

I recommend staying overnight in Napa Valley so that you can enjoy wine tasting without the need to drive back.

Alternatively, book a tour that takes care of transportation, like this one that includes 3 winery visits and a picnic lunch. If you’re looking for a way to celebrate a special occasion, Napa Valley might be the best choice.

  • Location : North Bay
  • Where to stay (top pick): Hotel Napa Valley – Check on Booking.com | Expedia | Agoda

Sonoma Map

Just next door to Napa and slightly closer to San Francisco, Sonoma offers its own unique blend of wine country charm and laid back travel style. Hotels in Sonoma are also more affordable to Napa Valley.

Sonoma is the perfect destination for those looking for a more intimate and laid back wine-tasting experience. You can explore boutique wineries, stroll through the town square, and indulging in farm-to-table cuisine that showcases the region’s rich agriculture.

To enjoy the best of Sonoma, join a walking tour that includes 6 spots for food and wine tastings while learning about the local culture and history. The best part about this tour is that there are no additional wine tasting fees.

You can also go wine tasting experience via the Open Air Wine Trolley Tour which draws inspiration from San Francisco’s Cable Cars.

  • Where to stay (top pick): Cinnamon Bear Creekside Inn – Check on Booking.com | Expedia | Agoda

mount diablo summit drive

6. Mount Diablo State Park

Believe it or not, Mount Diablo was once submerged underwater and got pushed up to its current peaks due to tectonic activity over the years.

Rising majestically over the East Bay, Mount Diablo offers sweeping panoramic views and you can see up to the Sierra Nevada and the Golden Gate Bridge on clear days.

You can hike up to the summit in the cooler seasons, explore waterfalls, or simply enjoy a scenic drive up to the peak where the Visitor Center is located.

Juniper Campground also offers a great spot for watching the sunset over the Bay Area. It’s defeinitely a great choice for winter camping in Northern California .

  • Parking: Upper Summit Parking Lot
  • Location: East Bay
  • Entrance fee: $10 per vehicle

7. Livermore

Livermore is a local hidden gem known for its thriving wine scene in a small town setting. It also has a vibrant downtown area full of boutique shops, cafes, and restaurants. If you enjoy shopping, be sure to check out the San Francisco Premium Outlets .

It is also connected to the rest of the Bay Area via train, making it easy to visit. With about 50 wineries in Livermore, it’s a great destination for wine tasting. There’s even a Livermore Wine Trolley experience too.

8. Computer History Museum

If you’re a tech geek, you need to visit the Computer History Museum when you’re in the Bay Area. It is located in Mountain View , the heart of Silicon Valley . This is where major tech companies are headquartered including Google .

The Computer History Museum has exhibits about the early computing machines to modern-day developments. It showcases how technology has evolved to impact society through its interactive displays.

You’ll also find iconic artifacts like the ancient abacus , and a demonstration of the IBM 1401 mainframe that processed punch-cards.

Whether you’re a tech professional or simply curious about the digital revolution, the Computer History Museum is a fun and educational stop. It also has a cafe, a gift store, and free parking.

  • Location: Peninsula
  • Entrance fee: $19.50 per adult
  • Opening hours: 10 am to 5 pm (Wednesday to Sunday)
  • Where to stay (top pick): Ameswell Hotel – Check on Booking.com | Expedia | Agoda

Gilroy is known as the Garlic Capital of the World, a charming agricultural town within the Santa Clara Valley in the South Bay.

Every time we drive past Gilroy there’s a distinct smell of garlic, and it’s no surprise that Gilroy embraces its culinary heritage with pride. You’ll find plenty of garlic-infused cuisine and lively festivals celebrating it too.

You can also indulge in a shopping spree in Gilroy Premium Outlets , which was where I scored an incredible Lululemon deal. In addition, Gilroy Gardens is a family-friendly themed park which also features some strange trees called the Circus Trees , and gorgeous gardens to enjoy.

  • Location: South Bay

If you love quirky things, prepare to have your mind blown at the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz. Located in the redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains , it seems like gravity has gone wacky here. Although I haven’t figured out why there are so-called gravitational anomalies , I believe most of it are just optical illusions.

On the guided tours, you’ll find yourself standing at crazy angles and see balls rolling uphill . It probably makes you feel a deep need to solve this mystery while you’re there.

Whether you’re a skeptic or a fan of conspiracy theories, the Mystery Spot is a fun place to visit in the Bay Area. Don’t forget to take lots of pictures and pick up a bumper sticker.

  • Location: Santa Cruz
  • Entrance fee: $10 per person + $5 parking fee per vehicle

tourist bay area

Need more road trip ideas? Get my FREE Northern California Bucket List!

Start planning your most memorable California road trip with this list – full of popular destinations and hidden gems !

Free Places To Visit In The Bay Area

The best part about adventuring in the Bay Area is that there’s so many free things to do and places to visit. Aside from paying for car rental and parking fees, you can fit in as many activities and destinations as you want without increasing your travel expenses.

Mini waterfall in Golden Gate Park

11. Golden Gate Park

Switch up your San Francisco experience by immersing yourself in the lush greenery of the Golden Gate Park . It is a huge sprawling oasis in the city that’s almost impossible to cover in one day. There are plenty of outdoor spaces to relax, and sometimes even concerts and festivals happening through the year.

One of the best free things to do here is to take a leisurely walk at Stow Lake , to see the mini waterfall , and also to visit the Japanese Tea Garden nearby.

There are several paid tourist attractions within Golden Gate Park too, including de Young Museum , California Academy of Science and the Botanical Garden .

  • Parking: Mostly roadside parking – we’ve previously parked at Martin Luther King Jr Dr
  • Where to stay (top pick): Stanyan Park Hotel – Check on Booking.com | Expedia | Agoda

12. Chinatown

San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest and largest Chinatown in North America, featuring temples, bustling markets and traditional tea shops. One of the popular stores to check out is the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory where you can see various shapes and sizes of fortune cookies which also smell so good.

If you’re a fan of Asian cuisine you’ll love stepping into this gem where Hong Kong Clay Pot , Delicious Dim Sum , and Boba shops are just a few minutes away from each other.

Overall, it’s worth a visit to immerse yourself in this atmosphere and to get a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the city. It truly feels like you’re in Asia, and you might even be able to get some discounted souvenirs too.

  • Parking: Chinatown Parking Garage ($7/hour, driving not recommended)
  • Where to stay (top pick): Omni San Francisco Hotel – Check on Booking.com | Expedia | Agoda

tourist bay area

13. Lands End

One of the first places I visited in San Francisco was Lands End , because I was drawn to the natural beauty of the rugged coast and the Golden Gate Bridge . It is tucked away from the rest of the city on the northwest corner of San Francisco, showcasing the incredible diversity of the city’s attractions.

You can hike from the Sutro Bath ruins at Lands End all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge Overlook , via the Coastal Trail and then along the Batteries to Bluffs Trail . This way, you’ll pass by several beaches including Seal Rocks Beach , Mile Rock Beach , China Beach , Baker Beach , and Marshalls Beach .

With its close proximity to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, it’s the perfect spot for the ultimate postcard-worthy shot of San Francisco’s most famous landmark.

  • Parking: Lands End Main Parking Lot

tourist bay area

14. Andy Goldsworthy’s Wood Line

Hidden away in the Presidio of San Francisco, Andy Goldsworthy’s Wood Line is a creative outdoor art installation that uses natural elements.

It was created by a renowned British artist, Andy Goldsworthy, featuring a winding pathway framed by eucalyptus branches that blend seamlessly into the surrounding landscape.

As you meander along the trail, you’ll be surrounded by the sights and sounds of the forest, and be treated to a peaceful and eye-catching landscape. This could be a nice place for a short walk after lunch, or to take a break from the busy city streets.

  • Parking: Small trailhead parking at (37.792115, -122.448651), driving not recommended

tourist bay area

15. Treasure Island

Venture eastward across the Bay Bridge and discover Treasure Island , a man-made island with panoramic views of San Francisco and the surrounding bay.

It was originally built for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition, before becoming a Naval Base during the war, and is now owned by the city of San Francisco.

It has a scenic waterfront view looking toward San Francisco, a great spot for admiring the city skyline at night or watching fireworks. You can also take a ferry here to visit Gold Bar Whiskey Distillery Tasting Room , or dine at Mersea Restaurant .

Treasure Island is still developing its new housing and recreational spaces areas, so it’s a great chance to be the first to experience any new hidden gem spots.

tourist bay area

16. Battery Spencer

The best views of Golden Gate Bridge are arguably at Battery Spencer , as you’ll be looking at it from the Marin Headlands across San Francisco. Perched high on a bluff overlooking the bridge, you can see the city skyline and Alcatraz Island .

You’ll have to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge to get here, and though there’s a toll to pay for driving back south to San Francisco, it is completely free to visit. One of the best times to come here is during sunset, when the bridge is lit up by the sun’s golden hues.

The route to Battery Spencer follows a one-way road with only a small parking area. If you see that it might be crowded, consider stopping earlier at the Golden Gate Observation Deck or Golden Gate View Point to avoid having to leave due to lack of parking space.

  • Parking: (37.829631, -122.483482)

tourist bay area

17. Mount Tamalpais

If you’re a hiking enthusiast, you should definitely check out Mount Tamalpais in the North Bay. Here is where you’ll find some of the best hikes in the Bay Area.

This includes seeing the impressive Cataract Falls especially in spring, and hiking from Stinson Beach up to the Panoramic Highway . There are even Mount Tamalpais hikes that connects you to Muir Woods , a convenient way to experience the incredible landscape.

Driving along the Panoramic Highway in Mount Tamalpais, you’ll come across some of the best sunset viewing spots on this side of the Bay Area. Some of my favorite places are Trojan Point and Ballou Point .

Although you don’t need to pay to visit Mount Tamalpais, you can enhance your visit by booking a stay at Steep Ravine cabins . This requires planning in advance because of how popular these cabins are and booking is done via a lottery system.

Alternatively, stay at the nearby Mill Valley Inn or Mountain Home Inn for a getaway from the city.

  • Where to stay (top pick): Mill Valley Inn – Check on Booking.com | Expedia | Agoda

tourist bay area

18. Pacifica

Pacifica is a located just south of San Francisco, and offers the perfect blend of natural beauty and small-town charm. With its rugged coastline, beaches, and dramatic cliffs, Pacifica is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and beach lovers.

You can catch the waves at Pacific State Beach , walk along the Pacifica Pier , or walk along the scenic trails of Mori Point . If you’re looking for more hiking trails, consider Pedro Point , Devil’s Bunker , and Montara Mountain .

One of my favorite memories of Pacifica was having lunch at the Taco Bell on the beach , and then heading over to Soul Grind Coffee Roasters for a pick-me-up. I’ll definitely return to do some work at this cafe as I love the laid-back atmosphere at the coast.

  • Location: Peninsula (coast)
  • Where to stay (top pick): Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott San Francisco Pacifica – Check on Booking.com | Expedia | Agoda

tourist bay area

19. J V Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

If you’ve always wanted to get a glimpse into the rich diversity of marine life, visit J V Fitzgerald Marine Reserve ‘s tide pools at low tide. It is a protected area along the coast of Moss Beach , with a stunning beach scenery that is gorgeous at sunset.

You don’t even need to venture far to encounter intertidal tide pools where you’ll see plenty of anemone, small fish, shrimp, and mussels . I’ve never been able to see any octopus or starfish , but you might have a chance.

You can also walk along the top of the Bluff Trail to admire the coastal scenery under the Eucalyptus canopy. Try to see if you can spot the towering sea stacks in the distance as you watch the ocean from the Cypress Point Lookout . You might even see harbor seal pups from May to June as they come ashore with their moms to rest.

  • Parking: Fitzgerald Marine Ranger Station & Parking

tourist bay area

20. Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay is just slightly south of Pacifica, and is a quaint coastal town that is popular among locals. With miles of beaches and a vibrant downtown, it’s worth taking a day trip from San Francisco , or even staying overnight here.

One of the most popular places to eat is at Sam’s Chowder , and I think you’ll really enjoy the oysters, clam chowder, and lobster rolls. For a more hearty and simple lunch, Dad’s Luncheonette makes amazing sandwiches from a train caboose.

Other free things to do in Half Moon Bay include walking along the Coastal Trail to explore the various beaches.

Whether you’re exploring the historic Main Street shops, indulging in fresh seafood at a waterfront restaurant, or simply watching the sunset from the beach, Half Moon Bay is one of the best coastal retreats in the Bay Area.

  • Where to stay (top pick): Quality Inn – Miramar Beach – Check on Booking.com | Expedia | Agoda

Palo Alto HP Garage

21. Palo Alto

Palo Alto is known as the birthplace of Silicon Valley, with a charming downtown area and gorgeous tree-lined residential neighbourhoods. It is easily reached via Caltrain and is easy to explore on foot or by bicycle.

Some of my favorite things to do in Palo Alto include visiting the famous HP Garage , grabbing coffee at Blue Bottle Coffee while relaxing in the courtyard, and having Salt & Straw ice cream. In addition, you’ll also find Ramen Nagi downtown, arguably one of the best ramen restaurants in the Bay Area.

If getting lost in a book store if your thing, Bell’s Books is a must-visit. It has a huge selection of classic books and a wide range of genres across its two floors. You could also drop by the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve to watch birds and enjoy a quiet time at the marshland.

Stanford campus

22. Stanford

The Stanford campus is huge and is a tourist attraction on its own, with museums, sculptures and gardens to explore. Besides being one of the world’s leading research institutions, Stanford also has a rich history as well as stunning architecture.

Some of the iconic landmarks to look out for are the Hoover Tower , the Memorial Church , and the Cantor Arts Center . The most impressive path to walk down is Palm Drive which is lined with the iconic Date Palms.

You can also choose to hop on the free Marguerite shuttle that takes you from the Palo Alto Caltrain station straight into the campus.

Stanford is like one big garden where students are very much used to visitors taking pictures at the Oval while they make their way to class.

There is also plenty of space to lay out in the grass to enjoy a warm sunny day if you want to. If you want to get some Stanford merchandise, pop by the Bookstore as your last stop.

  • Parking: Visitor paid parking between 8am and 4pm from Monday to Friday ($4.46/hour or $35.68 daily)
  • Where to stay (top pick): Creekside Inn – Check on Booking.com | Expedia | Agoda

Windy Hill Sunset Views - Places to visit in the Bay Area

23. Windy Hill Open Space Preserve

There are many outdoor and hiking spaces in the Peninsula, and the Windy Hill Open Space Preserve stands out with its effortless vista views along Skyline Boulevard .

It’s perfect for a quick drive up to the Windy Hill Summit where you can take a short walk along Anniversary Trail and enjoy the view from a bench overlooking the Bay Area. If you look westward, you can even see the sea on a fog-free day, which makes for the perfect sunset views.

If you’re making a stop at either Palo Alto or Stanford and have some time to spare, consider taking a drive up to see it for yourself.

  • Parking: Upper Spring Ridge Roadside Parking

Mission Peak pole after reaching the summit

24. Mission Peak

Looking for a challenge? The Mission Peak hike is one of the most iconic and rewarding hikes in the Bay Area.

It is located in Fremont and is a popular local trail that offers views of the entire Bay Area, including Mount Diablo , Mount Tamalpais and even Sierra Nevada . There’s also the iconic Mission Peak pole that people take pictures with as proof that they’ve reached the top.

The trail is a 6-mile loop that takes about 4 to 4.5 hours to complete. It felt moderately challenging to me because of the relatively steep incline all the way to the top, but was enjoyable as I took regular breaks along the way.

You’ll be accompanied by cows grazing on the rolling hills, so just make sure to avoid getting too close to any calfs. With 2,152 feet of elevation gain , the best time to hike here is during winter or spring when the sun isn’t making you want to quit.

  • Parking: Stanford Avenue Staging Area

Saratoga Halloween Decorations

25. Saratoga

Saratoga is a picture-perfect town in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains , with beautiful homes and a wide variety of eateries. There’s a relaxing atmosphere here that’s perfect for spending a day at the cafe or visiting some gardens.

They take pride in celebrating events such as Halloween, and there were decorations all practically every single store I walked past on Big Basin Way . Saratoga is known for its Mountain Winery and the peaceful Hakone Estate and Gardens .

One of the best free things to do here is to hike up to the Villa Montalvo Lookout Point for a view of the South Bay. There are motivational quotes displayed along the way, making it an uplifting journey to the viewpoint. It is near the Montalvo Art Center , a non-profit that serves the community through regular events and activities.

Natural Bridges State Beach - beyond SF

26. Santa Cruz

Although Santa Cruz is not technically within the San Francisco Bay Area, it is still worth visiting since it is fairly close by. There are lots of free things to do in Santa Cruz for those who like outdoorsy activities.

Santa Cruz is known for its surf culture since the early days and you’ll definitely see locals surfing here. Head to West Cliff Drive to check out the world-famous surf spot, Steamer Lane .

While you’re here, drop by Shrine Coffee for some pastries and coffee. If you want to take the opportunity to learn surfing, check out this beginner’s class .

You can also stroll along the iconic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and the amusement park, and check out the shops at the Santa Cruz Wharf .

Don’t forget to also check out Natural Bridges State Beach which has a natural arch bridge that is especially photogenic at sunset, with excellent tide pooling opportunities along the rocks at low tide.

  • Where to stay (top pick): Marea Sol Hotel – Check Booking.com | Expedia | Agoda
  • Recommended surf lesson: Beginner Surf Lesson in Santa Cruz

Whether you’re an art enthusiast or a foodie looking for the next delicious meal, Berkeley has you covered.

Start your visit at the UC Berkeley campus, and admire historic landmarks like Sather Gate along with the beautiful botanical gardens. After that, you can explore more of the city’s vibrant arts scene by checking out the Berkeley Art Museum or catching a show at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre .

Berkeley is also well known for its wide array of dining options for all kinds of cravings, from cozy cafes to international cuisine. With its highly walkable streets and welcoming atmosphere, Berkeley is the perfect place to spend a day exploring this dynamic city.

Overall, Berkeley is also a great place to stay if you prefer to be outside San Francisco. It’s also more convenient for starting your California road trip to Lake Tahoe or Yosemite National Park .

  • Where to stay (top pick): Hotel Shattuck Plaza – Check on Booking.com | Expedia | Agoda

Unique Places To Visit In The Bay Area

For more hidden gems in the Bay Area, check out these unique places. Not many tourists (and sometimes even locals) know about these, so make plans to visit before they get too popular.

Point Reyes National Seashore

28. Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore stands out with its rugged coastlines and untouched beauty, just north of San Francisco. There are a myriad of hiking trails with wildlife sighting opportunities and amazing coastal views.

You can look forward to seeing various wildlife like deer, elk, whales, elephant seals , and more. Point Reyes Lighthouse is a must-see here, and is one of the best whale watching spots near San Francisco.

If you enjoy taking pictures of cool things, drop by the Cypress Tree Tunnel nearby. Don’t miss South Beach Overlook to see miles of an almost straight coastline.

Popular hikes in Point Reyes include the Tomales Point Trail , Chimney Rock Trail with a detour to the Elephant Seal Overlook , and the long hike to Alamere Falls . There are lots of things to do in Point Reyes , so make sure to bring lots of water and snacks along.

  • Where to stay (top pick): Limantour Lodge (formerly Hostel Point Reyes)- Check on Booking.com | Expedia | Agoda

Places to visit in the Bay Area - see the beaches at Pescadero

29. Pescadero

Pescadero is a quaint agricultural community located along the coast between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz with small town charm.

You can explore the historic downtown area , which surprisingly has good food at Duarte’s Tavern and coffee at Downtown Local . Artichoke is the main agricultural product here, and Artichoke bread is one of the highlights at the Arcangeli Grocery .

You can also visit the Harley Farms Goat Dairy and book a tour to meet the baby goats in spring, cows, peacocks, and other animals. Outside of downtown Pescadero, you can relax at the pristine beaches or indulge in local treats from Pie Ranch.

There’s also a lovely glamping site at KOA Costanoa to spend the night while visiting both Half Moon Bay and Pescadero .

30. Filoli Historic House & Garden

Filoli Historic House & Garden is a stunning estate located in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. With its lush gardens, picturesque architecture, and rich history, Filoli offers a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of California’s early 20th-century elite.

Whether you’re wandering through the manicured grounds, admiring the period furnishings inside the historic mansion, or simply enjoying a leisurely stroll through the formal gardens, Filoli is a timeless treasure that’s perfect for a relaxing day.

Here’s a fun fact – President Biden and President Xi Jinping had a diplomatic meeting in Filoli back in November 2023. There’s got to be something special about this place, right?

  • Entrance fee: $36 per adult

Google Visitor Experience, a Silicon Valley must-see

31. Google Visitor Experience

One of the newest additions to the vibrant Silicon Valley scene is the Google Visitor Experience . It was open in October 2023 and hosts free events for the local community.

For example, I attended a wreath-making workshop during the Christmas season – and it was free!

There’s a spacious cafe with relatively affordable prices just next door, a pop-up store , and a big Google store to get to know the latest products. Outside, you’ll find their iconic colorful bicycles in various parking spots which you’re free to use.

One of my favorite things about the Google Visitor Experience are the outdoor art installations . They were designed by the same people who created pieces for Burning Man, which are known to be impressive and eye-catching.

  • Parking: Google Visitor Experience Parking – Alta Garage

A rare Hikers Hut in the Bay Area near SF

32. Ollie Mayer Hiker’s Hut

Did you know that you can hike to a hut in the Bay Area? The Ollie Mayer Hiker’s Hut is one of the coolest things I’ve come across while living here, and we went to check it out on a hike.

It was built in 1877 and can hold up to 8 people in this rustic cabin which is currently run by the Sierra Club .

Despite how it looks on the outside, the interior is very well maintained and it even has a complete kitchen . If you want to stay here, you’ll need to make reservations up to 3 months in advance.

You can also hike the Heritage Grove Loop Trail and make a slight detour to see this cool hut.

  • Parking: Heritage Grove trailhead parking

Fall Creek Unit in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is probably the best place to see huge redwoods trees near the South Bay.

Unlike most of the coastal redwoods you see in the Bay Area, there is a grove of old-growth trees that have been protected here. It was even visited by former Presidents Benjamin Harrison and Theodore Roosevelt, and remains a popular attraction today.

This state park is split into the northern (Fall Creek Unit) and southern sections. I highly recommend hiking the Fall Creek to Lime Kilns Trail .

This is a lovely trail that takes you through the lush forests and along the bubbling creek. You’ll also get to see remnants of the lime kilns which were used to process limestone in the past.

To see the big trees, head over to the southern section where you’ll find the Redwood Old Growth Loop . It is a flat and accessible trail that is really easy for people to enjoy. You can read more about my favorite hikes here .

Getting Around The Bay Area

There are just so many things to do in the Bay Area since it is so large. You probably can’t see them all in one trip, but you can optimize your travel route for convenience. Besides that, you can also consider your mode of transportation based on cost and safety.

Driving (Renting a car)

The most convenient but also most expensive way of getting around is by driving. Renting a car may cost almost $70 a day depending on vehicle type and insurance coverage.

It’s worth renting a car if you’re visiting places that are hard to reach by train or ride share.

For example, if you’re planning to visit Point Reyes, the most reliable way of getting there and back is by driving. That’s because it will be challenging to get a ride back when you don’t have any cell reception.

However, do be prepared for parking fees, crowded parking areas, and tolls when you’re crossing bridges. I don’t recommend driving if you’re only planning to be within San Francisco, as it creates unnecessary worry about car break-ins.

tourist bay area

Public Transit (Getting around the Bay Area without a car)

The Bay Area Rapid Transit ( BART ) is a convenient and efficient way to get around the Bay Area.

With stations located throughout the city and beyond, BART offers quick and easy access to popular destinations.

This includes downtown San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and the San Francisco International Airport.

Are BARTs safe?

Tourists tend to be surprised by how “unsafe” BART rides feel when they first make their way to the city. After a few times, they get used to it and learn to figure out if anything dodgy is going on.

I’ve definitely felt that way when I first arrived here, but have never witnessed anything unsafe going on. If this is a concern for you, consider taking ride share or driving.

If you’re planning to cover larger distances, such as from South Bay to San Francisco, Caltrain is a viable option especially during rush hour.

However, the train frequency is quite low, especially for the “baby bullet” that are much faster, so you’ll need to plan your schedule well. Compared to BART, Caltrains are more expensive but they feel more comfortable and safer.

Within San Francisco, the best way to get around is by bus, cable car, and muni metros. No matter which mode of public transit you choose, using a Clipper card is the best way to tap in and out.

If you want to learn more about how to get to San Francisco without a car, here’s another article that might be useful.

If you’re just arriving with your suitcases from the airport and want to get to your accommodation quickly, it might be worth booking a ride-share for convenience.

Since there are lots of hills and slopes in San Francisco, I also recommend booking a ride to take you back to your hotel if you get too tired.

Ride-hailing via Waymo is a self-driving service that’s available in San Francisco – and yes, that means there’s no driver! Take this at your own risk, or if it’s a cool thing you must try.

The cost of ride-sharing in the Peninsula and South Bay is not much higher than taking Caltrains. Sometimes it makes sense to take an Uber or Lyft when you’re shuttling between the suburban neighbourhoods.

Best spring views in SF Bay Area - wildflowers by the coast

FAQs About The Bay Area

Still unsure what to do? Perhaps you’re even curious about where you might want to live in future if you move to the Bay Area?

Here are some additional questions that I think you might have about the places to visit in the Bay Area.

What is the nicest part of the Bay Area?

The coast in the Peninsula, particularly Half Moon Bay and Pacifica, offers stunning ocean views, charming coastal towns, and a laid-back vibe that makes it a favorite among locals and visitors alike.

Palo Alto is also highly regarded for its livability, with tree-lined streets, and plenty of hiking trails a short drive away.

Where to take tourists in the Bay Area?

You should definitely take tourists to Napa Valley or Sonoma wine country .

While San Francisco is undoubtedly the top destination for tourists in the Bay Area, experiencing these scenic and culturally rich destinations will enrich your trip.

Where is the most scenic place in the Bay Area?

The most scenic place in the Bay Area is the coastal Highway 1 drive. It takes you to the beach towns – Pacifica, Half Moon Bay, and Pescadero. It’s truly worlds apart from the busy city atmosphere in San Francisco.

The coastal scenery in the Bay Area is hard to beat – whether you’re just taking a drive, or hanging out at one of the beach towns. It’s no wonder the Ritz-Carlton decided to position itself right on these Half Moon Bay bluffs overlooking the sea.

Berkeley is often cited as one of the most walkable neighborhoods in the Bay Area, with its pedestrian-friendly streets. You can easily explore the bustling downtown area and stroll through the historic neighborhoods like the Elmwood district.

Conclusion: You’ll love the SF Bay Area

It’s clear that there are a ton of treasures waiting to be explored in the Bay Area. You have places like the iconic Pier 39, the serene Muir Woods and the rolling vineyards of Napa Valley. Each destination offers a different experience, and you don’t have to follow a cookie-cutter itinerary.

There are also a ton of free and unique places to visit in the Bay Area. That includes the lush Golden Gate Park in San Francisco or the rugged coasts of Point Reyes National Seashore.

I always recommend my friends to drive down Highway 1 towards Pacifica, Half Moon Bay, or Pescadero. California sunsets at the coast are spectacular and I hope you’ll have memories that keep you coming back for more.

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Janice, a California-based travel writer from Singapore, discovered her love for hiking and camping during her studies in Los Angeles. Through her blog, she now shares detailed itineraries for adventures in California, Asia, and beyond. She also talks about gear recommendations and tips for beginners, hoping to inspire them to explore the great outdoors with confidence.

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San Francisco   Travel Guide

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30 Top-Rated Things to Do in San Francisco

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Crissy Field & The Presidio Tunnel Tops Crissy Field & The Presidio Tunnel Tops free

Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Presidio Tunnel Tops is the nation’s newest national park space and reconnects the city to the bay. The 14-acre park, which was designed by James Corner Field Operations (the same team behind NYC ’s High Line ) bridges over the newly tunneled Presidio Parkway. The parkway (formerly Doyle Drive) separated the historic Main Post from the waterfront. Connecting pathways, bluff landscapes and overlooks have made the park a gathering place for locals and visitors alike. 

One of the park’s largest areas, the Golden Gate Meadow, is a popular spot for families for picnics, kite-flying and other outdoor activities. Gardens and accessible cliff walks border the meadow, which also offers views of the Golden Gate Bridge , the bay and the Marin Headlands. A 2-acre play space called the Outpost features huge play structures built from fallen tree trunks, boulders and other things inspired by nature, allowing children to swing, crawl and climb. 

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Golden Gate Park Golden Gate Park free

If California had a Central Park equivalent, Golden Gate Park would undoubtedly be it. Though Golden Gate Park sees a small fraction of the visitors its New York counterpart does (Central Park welcomes more than 42 million, while Golden Gate sees more than 24 million yearly), it's about 174 acres bigger (Central Park is 843 acres). The park offers so much to see and do, it could take an entire day to experience all that it has to offer. Trails, picturesque picnic spaces, playgrounds, sports courts, gardens, museums and more can be found within its evergreen borders. With so many options available, it's best to map out what you want to do ahead of time, though some attractions warrant a visit, regardless of traveler taste.

The Japanese Tea Garden is one of those standout sites. This attraction is one of a kind, serving as the oldest Japanese garden in the U.S. It features 5 acres of manicured gardens outfitted with cherry trees, bamboo-lined pathways, koi ponds, a five-story pagoda, a Zen garden and a tea house, among other features. There's also the Conservatory of Flowers, the oldest existing public conservatory in the Western Hemisphere. The conservatory offers visitors a look at a plethora of vibrantly colored blooms and a chance to learn more about the nearly 2,000 species of plants that call the conservatory home. 

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Coit Tower Coit Tower

Rising from its position on the peak of Telegraph Hill in Pioneer Park, Coit Tower serves as a vantage point to take in the northwest corner of San Francisco. Visitors might think the 210-foot-tall tower was designed to resemble a fire hose nozzle. While Lillie Hitchcock Coit commissioned the tower as a monument to volunteer firefighters, the concrete pillar's nozzle-like appearance is coincidental. The tower was completed in 1933, while artists painted the murals around its base (and repainted them due to some illustrations containing communist imagery) in 1934. The Coit Tower currently resides on the list of San Francisco Designated Landmarks and the National Register of Historic Places.

Recent travelers enjoyed the murals and 360-degree views of San Francisco from the top of the tower, but have complained about paying to climb stairs. The easiest way to access the Coit Tower is via the N line of the Muni. From downtown, you can take either the No. 30 or No. 45 line to Washington Square, located at the corners of Union & Columbus and transfer to the No. 39 Coit Tower bus.

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Popular Tours

Alcatraz with San Francisco Bay Cruise

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from $ 125.10

San Francisco: Yosemite National Park and Giant Sequoia Day Tour

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Napa and Sonoma Wine Country Full-Day Tour from San Francisco

Napa and Sonoma Wine Country Full-Day Tour from San Francisco

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Lands End Lands End free

One of the top places in San Francisco to catch the sunset, Lands End offers whimsical, winding trails through rocky cliffs. Located in the northwestern corner of San Francisco, the park sits inside of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The park encompasses multiple historic sites, monuments, multiple trails and a shoreline labyrinth with excellent views of the Golden Gate Bridge .

Visitors often rave about the park’s trails and the views of the Golden Gate Bridge and other San Francisco landmarks. Many have appreciated the historic ruins of the Sutro Baths, which San Franciscans used as a recreational swimming facility from 1898 to 1964. The baths were demolished in 1964, then further destroyed by a fire in 1966, leaving the structure that travelers can visit today. Similarly, the park's iconic Cliff House was destroyed twice by fire, but it was rebuilt each time.

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Golden Gate Bridge Golden Gate Bridge free

The Golden Gate Bridge's vaulting, orange arches amidst the rocky seascape of the San Francisco Bay have made it one of the West Coast's most enduring symbols and the city's most popular tourist attraction. The bridge's name, "Golden Gate," actually refers to the body of water it spans (the Golden Gate Strait that connects the Pacific Ocean with the San Francisco Bay), and was built to make travel between San Francisco and Marin County an easier feat. 

There are plenty of great spots to capture a snap of the majestic bridge. But if you want a truly postcard-worthy shot, head to the Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point, situated high on a hill overlooking San Francisco. If you have extra time, make sure to explore the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The actual span of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area encompasses multiple places in San Mateo (south of San Francisco), San Francisco and Marin counties ( Alcatraz and Muir Woods included), but notable parts of this recreation area can be found just a stroll away from the Golden Gate. From the bridge, travelers will find some scenic, bayside trails, some of which lead to secluded beaches, including Kirby Cove and Black Sands Beach. If you really want a trek, journey to the Point Bonita Lighthouse for sweeping views of the bay, found at the very tip of the Golden Gate Strait.

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Ferry Building Marketplace Ferry Building Marketplace free

Attention all foodies: this delectable attraction needs to be at the top of your San Francisco to-do list. The Ferry Building Marketplace is a public food market that features a variety of food stalls that act as small restaurants, snack stops and grocery stores. Here you can find everything from staples, such as seafood, burgers, Mexican food and plenty of coffee, to a Japanese delicatessen, empanada stand, a honey shop and an organic bagel shop.

Many travelers who stopped by the Ferry Building Marketplace enjoyed the lively atmosphere and were impressed with the amount, variety and overall quality of eats available on-site. The Saturday farmers market was a standout for many. Though there are formal restaurants available, some visitors say the best strategy is to pick up a to-go meal and enjoy it along the scenic waterfront. And if you're not one for lines, don't come on the weekends. For a different perspective of the marketplace, view it from the water on a narrated boat tour . Some of the best San Francisco food tours also make stops here.

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Alcatraz Alcatraz

U.S. News Insider Tip: Depending on what time of year you visit, tours to Alcatraz can sell out months in advance. Play it safe by not waiting until the last minute to reserve your spot. – Alissa Grisler, Associate Editor

While riding a cable car and getting a snap of the Golden Gate Bridge is a must when visiting San Francisco, both visitors and travel experts tend to argue the same for Alcatraz. This is because Alcatraz is rich with history. Sitting on a small, rocky island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz is best known as being a former federal prison that housed some of society's biggest offenders, the most famous of which was Prohibition-era mob boss Al Capone. Before that, it was a military prison that housed prisoners from the Spanish-American War and Civil War, as well as the site of the West Coast's first operating lighthouse. The prison closed down both times due to high operating costs and was handed over to the National Park Service in 1972 after the island experienced a short occupation from Native American activists. Today, the attraction welcomes more than one million visitors per year. 

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California Academy of Sciences California Academy of Sciences

Attention, families: recent visitors said this is the perfect place to bring kids in San Francisco. The California Academy of Sciences brims with plenty of things to see, including an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum and even a rainforest. 

The Steinhart Aquarium is home to about 40,000 animals representing more than 900 different species, including a penguin colony from Africa, a swamp with an albino alligator, a shark lagoon and a separate 100,000-gallon tank that mirrors the ecosystem of the California coast. Meanwhile, the Osher Rainforest houses more than 1,600 animals, including 250 free-flying birds and butterflies, and about 100 reptiles and amphibians in its four-story complex. The Morrison Planetarium is known for its 75-foot-diameter screen, which plays "Tour of the Universe" shows daily. And the Kimball Natural History Museum boasts dinosaur fossils, an interactive science exhibit and a unique earthquake simulator. 

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Muir Woods & Sausalito Half-Day Tour (Return by Bus or Ferry from Sausalito)

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Big Bus SF: Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing Tour by Open-top Bus

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Small-Group Tour: SF, Muir Woods, Sausalito w/ Optional Alcatraz

Small-Group Tour: SF, Muir Woods, Sausalito w/ Optional Alcatraz

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Palace of Fine Arts Palace of Fine Arts free

The only remaining structure from an early 20th-century world’s fair that helped put San Francisco on the international map, the Palace of Fine Arts is a faux palace surrounded by a lagoon frequented by snow-white swans. That setting combined with the building’s neoclassical design makes the Palace of Fine Arts one of the most popular spots in the city for wedding photos and Instagram shots. 

Described as a Beaux-Arts wonder, the palace was restored in the early 1960s, duplicating the original with a towering colonnade, bas-relief urns and a domed ceiling with allegorical paintings.

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Hayes Valley Hayes Valley free

One of the best areas for shopping, eating, and people-watching, Hayes Valley is a cool, revitalized neighborhood located in the heart of the city. The main commercial strip, along Hayes Street between Laguna and Franklin, teems with stylish and unique home decor shops and clothing boutiques interspersed with charming outdoor cafes, dessert spots and a wide array of well-established restaurants and trendy watering holes. The neighborhood also features beautifully restored Victorians, a community garden and an art park.

Past visitors enjoyed the eclectic, European feel of the neighborhood and the quintessentially San Francisco experiences they've had there. These include customizing your own bag at the original Timbuk2 store , grabbing a coffee at Blue Bottle Coffee 's first brick-and-mortar tucked into a garage or enjoying a made-to-order ice cream at Smitten's kiosk overlooking the lively urban park, Patricia's Green .

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Dolores Park Dolores Park free

On the western edge of The Mission , this 16-acre park is billed as one of the city’s most popular – because of its views of the San Francisco skyline and beyond, as well its ample green space. On sunny days, the park is a favorite among families who flock here to picnic on the grassy lawns that are shaded by palm trees. There’s also a playground and two off-leash dog play areas, as well as several sports courts. If you’re hoping to bring a picnic to enjoy at the park, experts suggest stopping by Tartine Bakery, Rhea’s Market & Deli and Nopalito.

Interestingly, the park is situated on land that was once a Jewish cemetery. In 1905, the city purchased the land and created the park. A year later, it became a refugee camp for hundreds of residents who became homeless after the historic 1906 earthquake and fire. 

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The Mission The Mission free

U.S. News Insider Tip: Walk along Valencia Street between 20th and 22nd streets for unique and creative shops and affordable restaurants. Check out local favorites like sustainable bag brand Baggu, Dog Eared Books and Paxton Gate. – Lili Weigert

The Mission has attracted San Francisco's young bohemian crowd in the past decade, but its history is rooted in Hispanic heritage. After all, its namesake is the city’s oldest building, Mission Dolores. This is the place that introduced the burrito to the wider world, so be sure to check out Latinx-owned businesses like La Taqueria, Taqueria La Cumbre and El Farolito for some tasty eats loved by both locals and travelers alike. The Mission is also a great neighborhood for getting away from the heavily visited tourist attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman's Wharf , plus it's a popular stop on many of the city's best walking tours .

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San Francisco's Chinatown San Francisco's Chinatown free

U.S. News Insider Tip: Did you know that fortune cookies were invented in San Francisco? While in Chinatown, stop by the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory where you can watch the cookies being made and sample different flavors and toppings. – Lili Weigert

While New York City 's Chinatown tends to take center stage in the U.S., San Francisco's Chinatown is just as much of a star. San Francisco's Chinatown hosts one of the largest Asian communities outside of Asia, and is considered one of the oldest in North America. Chinese immigrants first started coming to California in search of fortune during the Gold Rush. After being driven out of the gold mines due to discrimination and restrictive legislation against Chinese immigrants, the Chinese moved to build businesses of their own in the area that is now Chinatown – one of the city's most visited neighborhoods. 

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Inside Alcatraz Tour Including Fisherman's Wharf Lunch Credit

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Golden Gate Bay Cruise

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Haight-Ashbury Haight-Ashbury free

Named for the intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets, this neighborhood is best known as the center of the 1960s counterculture movement. Remnants of the long gone hippie culture endure, including the former Grateful Dead house at 710 Ashbury St., and the Jefferson Airplane house at 2400 Fulton St. Both are private residences, but remain perennial attractions. 

These days, trendy has replaced hippy. Colorful Victorian homes line the hillsides and restaurants and boutiques crowd the streets. Along Upper Haight, you’ll find flamboyant clothing shops, piercing and tattoo parlors, and hip restaurants. Downhill on Haight Street, you’ll find dive bars, consignment stores and music shops. 

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Ocean Beach Ocean Beach free

U.S. News Insider Tip: After a walk along the beach, cross the Great Highway for brunch or happy hour at The Beach Chalet. Enjoy the ocean view from the spacious dining room or head around back to the Parc Chalet for outdoor seating and a more relaxed atmosphere. – Lili Weigert

Located in the northwestern corner of San Francisco, Ocean Beach separates attractions like the San Francisco Zoo and Golden Gate Park from the Pacific Ocean. This 3 ½-mile stretch of sand is a welcome respite from the city's bustling downtown. Visitors and locals can walk the beach, while experienced surfers brave the frigid water in search of the perfect wave.

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Muir Woods National Monument Muir Woods National Monument

U.S. News Insider Tip: You won't find great cell service here, so download anything you need before you enter the park. – Leilani Osmundson, Digital Producer

What better exemplifies California's dramatic landscape than sky-high redwood trees? That's what you'll find at Muir Woods, the beautiful and expansive national monument just 16 miles north of San Francisco. This attraction is a must-see for anyone looking to get up close and personal with some of California's most famous topography, not to mention a nice break from the bustle of the city. The largest redwood tree in Muir Woods measures about 258 feet tall. To give you a better visual, imagine 45 six-foot-tall individuals stacked on top of each other. And if that wasn't enough to impress, the average age of redwoods in Muir Woods is 600 to 800 years, and that's not even some of the oldest in the park at the moment.

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Japantown Japantown free

U.S. News Insider Tip: Navigating this part of town can be hectic, so if you drive, the best place to park is the Japan Center Garage. As an added convenience, the garage's website shows the number of spaces available in real time. – Lili Weigert

There are only three Japantowns left in the country, and San Francisco's is both the largest and the oldest, dating back to 1906. It's a vibrant and colorful community where you can immerse yourself in Japanese culture and experiences. The neighborhood offers a huge variety of Japanese items calling out to be purchased or consumed, including plenty of affordable options for the budget traveler.

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Cable Cars Cable Cars

Chances are, you've seen a television show, movie, postcard or some type of San Francisco memorabilia emblazoned with the city's iconic cable car or trolley. So, of course, to fully experience San Francisco's charm, you should hop on board. San Francisco's cable car system is the last of its kind in the United States, given the title of a National Historic Landmark in 1964. The cable car was conceived after Andrew Smith Hallidie, an immigrant from England, witnessed an accident involving a horse-drawn buggy trying to climb a steep San Francisco hill and failing. His father had a patent for wire rope in England and he used that to design a transportation system that relied on just that. Thus, cable cars were born in the late 1800s. 

Though cable cars are seldom used by locals (due in part to their small travel network and high fare), tourists flock to them in droves. More than 9 million visitors ride the cable cars each year, and according to recent travelers, it's easy to see why. Tourists had a blast riding the cable cars up and down San Francisco's vibrant streets. Even though some said they encountered long lines to board, the majority of visitors believe the wait to be worth the experience and a must-do in San Francisco. Though if you're not one for long lines, some say to board at one of the stops along the line instead at the beginning. 

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Official Alcatraz Island Prison Tour and San Francisco Bay Cruise

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San Francisco Bay Sunset Cruise

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Inside Alcatraz and Golden Gate Bridge Bay Cruise

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Presidio Heights Presidio Heights free

U.S. News Insider Tip: This is a great neighborhood for consignment stores. Sprinkled among the many high-end fashionable boutiques, check out local favorites Goodbyes and The Designer Consigner. – Lili Weigert

Presidio Heights is an elegant and immaculate neighborhood known for its stunning views and beautiful homes. It also includes the Sacramento Street Shopping District, which stretches over seven blocks and is where you'll find some of San Francisco's most established and sophisticated design shops and fashion boutiques. Whether you're looking for gifts, keepsakes, ideas or inspiration, it's a lovely area to explore away from the hustle and bustle of the city's other shopping districts.

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Oracle Park Oracle Park

The San Francisco Giants have been calling this stadium home since 2000, playing host to multiple World Series games. Oracle Park is regarded as one of the most scenic baseball parks in the United States for its picturesque placement along the San Francisco Bay. The majority of attendees are afforded prime views of the glittering water from their seats all the while being able to enjoy one of America's greatest pastimes. 

Although baseball season runs from April to October, the stadium holds tours year-round (except on game days), providing a behind-the-scenes look at the field, dugout, the press box, luxury suites and more. Make sure to catch a glimpse of the World Series trophies and rings, which are on display on the Promenade Level behind home plate. 

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Baker Beach Baker Beach free

While San Francisco isn't known for being a beach town, the city's Baker Beach is often considered one of the best in California . Located in the northwestern area of San Francisco in the Presidio, Baker Beach is primarily known for its sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the neighboring Marin Headlands. The mile-long beach offers travelers plenty of room to spread their legs and features picnic areas and access to nearby Presidio trails. Travelers flock here to snap photos of the bridge, however, if you're looking to catch some rays or get your feet wet, you should go elsewhere: Swimming at Baker Beach is dangerous due to large waves, undertow and rip currents, and the city's fickle weather means it's not always warm enough for sunbathing.

Travelers strongly recommend bringing an extra layer, no matter what time of year you visit. Reviewers also stress that those traveling with families should stick to the south side of the beach: North Baker Beach is clothing optional, and it's definitely practiced. 

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Yerba Buena Gardens Yerba Buena Gardens free

After a day of hasty sightseeing, the Yerba Buena Gardens provide travelers with an opportunity to wind down and enjoy San Francisco's weather and unique culture. The gardens include 5 acres of landscaped lawns complete with flowers, trees, water features and public art. The Cho-En Butterfly Garden attracts native San Francisco butterflies with plants (also native) that encourage butterfly growth from eggs to adults. Meanwhile, the Reflection Garden serves as a tribute to the Ohlone Indians as well as a performance area for various oral traditions. The Upper Terrace Garden and the Sister City Gardens, which include plants from San Francisco's 18 sister cities from around the world, are where visitors will find the area's cafes and most of its seating. Additionally, the East Garden houses a variety of sculptures and water features. There are also three spaces designed specifically for kids, including a children’s garden and two playgrounds. 

What's more, attractions like the Children's Creativity Museum and the Yerba Buena Ice Skating + Bowling Center flank the Yerba Buena Gardens, so travelers could feasibly spend an entire day exploring this area of San Francisco. Due to the number of restaurants that also surround the gardens, many past travelers recommend stopping by the Yerba Buena Gardens after grabbing lunch or snacks nearby. They also find the park a great location to relax and enjoy the landscape.

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Twin Peaks Twin Peaks free

If you want the best views of San Francisco, take a hike to Twin Peaks. These famous grassy peaks rise 922 feet in elevation, making them the second highest point in the city (after Mount Davidson). From the top, travelers can view multiple San Francisco landmarks, including the Bay Bridge and the downtown skyscrapers. Whether you decide to go during the day or night (some say you should do both), numerous visitors agree that the views are stunning and worth the trek. But make sure to bring a jacket: many recent visitors said it can get windier (and subsequently chillier) up top than at sea level.

The Castro Street station is the nearest Muni Metro stop and the Crestline Drive stop on the No. 37 is the best bus route (picks up from Market Street). The most common way that travelers visit the area is by walking or biking to the north peak parking lot. Many guided tours also stop here. If you’re up for a little more exploration, hike the nearly mile-long trail that ascends the two peaks. There are also more trails that meander along the southern and eastern slopes of the 64-acre park. Be sure to stay on marked trails, as poison ivy can be found in the area.

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Muir Woods, Golden Gate Bridge + Sausalito with Optional Alcatraz

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San Francisco Super Saver: Muir Woods & Wine Country w/ optional Gourmet Lunch

San Francisco Super Saver: Muir Woods & Wine Country w/ optional Gourmet Lunch

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Small-Group Wine Country Tour from San Francisco with Tastings

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North Beach North Beach free

Don’t let the name of this neighborhood in northeastern San Francisco fool you: There’s no actual beach at North Beach. The name is more of a geographical marker for the neighborhood’s location on the bay. It’s better known as San Francisco’s Little Italy and remains home to a vibrant Italian-American community, with streets lined with restaurants and cafes. Among the neighborhood staples is Original Joe’s , which has been serving San Francisco residents for nearly a century. If you want a little help navigating the neighborhood’s delectable dining scene, consider signing up for one of the best San Francisco tours ; many of the companies featured lead guided food tours throughout North Beach.

In addition to its Italian restaurants, North Beach also gained fame as the preferred neighborhood for the post-World War II Beat Generation, which included authors Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady and Gregory Corso, among others. You can still see remnants of the Beat Generation in the City Lights bookstore and Vesuvio Cafe, which draws chess players, artists, poets and literary tourists. 

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Union Square Union Square free

Situated a couple blocks north of Market Street and southwest of the city's Financial District, Union Square sits at the heart of downtown San Francisco's hustle and bustle. This area is loved by travelers and locals alike for its awesome location and incredible energy. Union Square Park is flanked by tall buildings (some of which are adorned with Times Square -size ads) and busy streets, offering people the unique opportunity to sit in the middle of a busy city and enjoy the atmosphere without the risk of getting hit by a car. The square also acts as a park, outfitted with small grassy spaces and palm trees. There are also multiple seating areas and works of art dotted across the square. The most recognized are the tall Dewey monument, situated in the center of the square, and the regularly photographed Hearts in San Francisco sculpture found at the base of the square. From late November to mid-January, an outdoor ice-skating rink is set up in Union Square Plaza.

Travelers appreciated the abundance of amenities that surround Union Square. There are plenty of hotels as well as dining options left and right. Union Square is pretty well-known, however, for its shopping, with many calling the area a "shopper’s paradise." Just blocks away, travelers will find everything from Neiman Marcus to Sephora. Getting to Union Square via public transportation is much easier than driving. The attraction sits just blocks from Market Street, a hub for all types of public transportation including the bus, Muni Metro and BART. Union Square is only two blocks from the Market St. & 3rd St. Muni Station and about four blocks from the Powell Street BART Station. Union Square can be visited all hours of the day and night for free. For more information on Union Square, visit the attraction's website .

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Japanese Tea Garden Japanese Tea Garden

Located in Golden Gate Park , the Japanese Tea Garden offers visitors a slice of tranquility in a busy city. The garden, originally created as a "Japanese Village" for an international exposition in 1894, is the oldest continuously maintained public Japanese garden outside of Japan. 

The 5 - acre site features classic elements of a Japanese garden, including an arched drum bridge, pagodas, stone lanterns, stepping stone paths, native Japanese plants, serene koi ponds, a five-story pagoda and a Zen garden. You’ll want to plan your visit foo March or April when the garden’s cherry blossom trees are in full bloom. The garden is also home to a 9,000-pound Lantern of Peace, a gift given to the United States by Japan after World War II and meant to symbolize friendship between the two countries. 

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Angel Island State Park Angel Island State Park

Angel Island State Park is situated in the San Francisco Bay and provides an abundance of outdoor activities for anyone willing to trek across the water by ferry. Some consider it the less famous (and thus, less crowded) sibling to the bay’s other well-known island, Alcatraz . Before the government converted the storied island into a park, it served as a hunting location, a cattle ranch, an immigration station and even a missile base. You can learn more about the island’s role as the West Coast’s Ellis Island with a visit to the Immigration Station, which tells the important story of the Chinese immigrant experience. 

Recent travelers say visitors should allot extra time to hike the roughly 6-mile perimeter loop, which offers excellent views of the water and is relatively easy. In addition to restroom facilities, bike rentals and tram tours, there is also a cafe on the island (though most recent visitors advised packing a lunch).

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Fisherman's Wharf Fisherman's Wharf free

U.S. News Insider Tip:  For a sweet treat, grab some delicious beignets at Frankie's Pier 43. – Leilani Osmundson, Digital Producer

Fisherman's Wharf is so tourist-laden that some travelers might prefer the quieter, more authentic attractions nearby (like the Castro or Presidio Tunnel Tops ). But if you're looking to explore all of San Francisco – from its alternative underbelly to its mainstream attractions – Fisherman's Wharf really is a must-see. This waterfront neighborhood features a laundry list of things to do, as well as a few popular San Francisco sites. One of these is Pier 39. The Pier features plenty of shopping and restaurant options for tourists and is also famous for offering sweeping views of the bay, as well as the can't-miss attractions that call it home, including Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge . Though while you're there, don't miss an opportunity to snap a photo of the sea lions who have a habit of sunbathing on buoys near the docks.

tourist bay area

San Francisco Love Tour

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from $ 85.00

San Francisco Bay Sunset Catamaran Cruise

San Francisco Bay Sunset Catamaran Cruise

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Monterey, Carmel and 17-Mile Drive: Full Day Tour from SF

Monterey, Carmel and 17-Mile Drive: Full Day Tour from SF

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from $ 127.00

tourist bay area

Ghirardelli Square Ghirardelli Square free

Named after the famous purveyor of chocolate, Ghirardelli Square sits on the site of the company’s original factory. Framed by stately brick buildings, the square draws lots of tourists, thanks to its proximity to Fisherman’s Wharf and other landmarks. The square is home to shops, galleries, restaurants and, of course, the Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop. You can even hang your hat here: the Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square  sits within the complex.

Recent travelers were impressed by the views of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge , as well as the variety of shopping, and the chocolate.

tourist bay area

The Exploratorium The Exploratorium

This museum, or as it refers to itself, "a learning laboratory," features 600 hands-on exhibits that cover a plethora of subject matter, such as engineering, psychology, geography and biology. The museum spreads its knowledge over six main galleries, each with its own standout interactive offerings. Here, visitors can feel what it’s like to be inside a tornado, walk on an outdoor fog bridge, gaze at a bacteria terrarium, swim through the air with an anti-gravity mirror and more.

Though the Exploratorium appears as if it's designed for kids, travelers say it's a great attraction for all ages. Adults report feeling just as excited and amazed at the galleries and exhibits as kids. Though if you prefer to experience The Exploratorium without having to deal with kiddos running around, a few visitors suggested stopping by on a Thursday evening, when the attraction is open only to visitors 18 years and older. Regardless, travelers say there is so much to see and do, you could easily spend a whole day there. And though the high price of admission might turn some off, many agree that the experience is worth the price. 

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A Couple Walking at Kirby Cove Overlooking Golden Gate Bridge

The best things to do in the Bay Area

Explore the wonders beyond spectacular San Francisco with our pick of the best things to do in the Bay Area

Photograph: Shutterstock

Clara Hogan

How do you sum up the Bay Area? With so much to offer—from some of the best food and wine in the world, to hugely diverse and stunning scenery, and endless cultural attractions—it’s not an easy task, but we’ll try.  

First: what constitutes the “Bay Area,” exactly? Well, that’s a debate that could take up a whole other article, but for the sake of simplicity: it includes San Francisco proper, the East Bay ( Oakland , Berkeley , and so on), the South Bay (Silicon Valley and surroundings) and the North Bay ( Wine Country and farmland.)  

Each of these regions is unique in its own way, but most important thing to know: there is something for everyone here. Nature lover? Hike the Marin headlands, walk through the redwoods, or hit up the beach. Foodie? From cheap eats to Michelin-starred experiences , there’s no shortage of life-changing meals to be had. Techie? Gawk at the Google headquarters or nerd out at the Computer History Museum. The list goes on—music, theater, museums, wineries , dispensaries , history, architecture. Oh, and don’t forget that beautiful bridge.  

To help you make the most of your explorations, we’ve rounded the absolute best things to do the Bay Area. Don’t forget to wear your layers.

RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in San Francisco

Been there, done that? Think again, my friend.

Best things to do in the Bay Area

1.  stroll around golden gate park.

  • Things to do
  • Golden Gate Park

Stroll around Golden Gate Park

A lush, 1,017-acre greenbelt that teems with nature, recreation, and cutting-edge museums, Golden Gate Park is San Francisco’s satisfying answer to NYC’s Central Park, but even bigger. Stretching over 50 blocks, the park encompasses picnic grounds, lakes, and cultural hubs such as the  California Academy of Sciences ,  de Young  art museum, and the  San Francisco Botanical Gardens . Every August, the park serves as a venue for the mega music-and-food fest Outside Lands. Note that the most common accessory isn’t a picnic basket but a fleece jacket, as this section of the city is often chillier than expected.

2.  Bike the Golden Gate Bridge

Bike the Golden Gate Bridge

This is just one of many shops that can get you geared up to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge , into the quaint coastal town of Sausalito, and return via a ferry ride across San Francisco Bay. The popular, paved bike route serves as a greatest hits of Bay Area landmarks. Along the way, you’ll pass famed destinations such as The  Palace of Fine Arts ,  Crissy Field , and, of course, the region’s celebrity bridge. Stop for a seaside lunch in Sausalito before enjoying a scenic ferry ride to San Francisco’s Ferry Building, passing  Alcatraz Island  as you do.

3.  Hike Mount Tam

Hike Mount Tam

Mount Tamalpais (Mount Tam to those in the know) is a 25,000-acre, nature-filled state park offering exceptional trails, breathtaking vistas, and a few hidden surprises. Put simply, the 2,571-foot behemoth is the Bay Area’s favorite outdoor playground. To sample the diverse landscape, follow the Matt Davis trail to Stinson Beach, and return via the forested Steep Ravine Trail. You can also marvel at a thundering waterfall along the namesake Cascade Falls trail and survey the entire Bay Area from the East Peak Visitors Center. On the second Sunday of each month, from May through October, in-the-know hikers are rewarded with a pancake breakfast and sweeping views of the region at the remote West Point Inn, which is only accessible via trails.

4.  Admire the art at SFMOMA

  • Art and design
  • Yerba Buena

Admire the art at SFMOMA

Founded in 1935, SFMOMA is an ever-evolving museum that is still the best place to enjoy modern and contemporary art in the Bay Area. Highlights among the seven floors include an Insta-worthy living wall, a new media collection, and an observation deck overlooking downtown SF. 

5.  Go on a Fruitvale taco crawl

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Looking for an epic, salsa-soaked taco crawl in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood? You are in luck. Some of the Bay Area’s best street food is found along this taco-lined stretch of East Oakland. Start with carne asada and carnitas tacos at Mi Grullense before heading to Aguachiles El Tamarindo for avocado-topped ceviche tostadas. Next, try the lengua tacos at Tacos Sinaloa and the flavorful barbacoa tacos at the Pipirin food stand. Save room for a crispy, sugar, and cinnamon-dusted treat from Churros Mexicanos.

6.  Bayside dining at Tiburon's Bungalow Kitchen

Bayside dining at Tiburon's Bungalow Kitchen

Looking for a waterfront dining experience in the Bay? Look no further than the Bungalow Kitchen  in Tiburon, a quaint town across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin that checks all the boxes: coastal vibes, delicious food, solid cocktails and sweeping views of the city, Alcatraz and the Bay. The 12,000-square-foot, two-story restaurant comes from San Francisco–based celebrity chef and icon Michael Mina. The menu stays true to its locale, honoring Bay Area ingredients. Don't miss the mouthwatering tuna tartare (mixed with Asian pear, pine nuts, and a habanero sesame oil), or the impeccable jalapeno lobster toast. Want to make the whole affair even more memorable? Book a ferry here from the city. 

7.  Sample the bounty on the Sonoma Farm Trails

Sample the bounty on the Sonoma Farm Trails

No matter your oenophile status, this drivable series of small farms and producers are brilliant for sampling the bounty—and stunning beauty—of Sonoma County . Get ready to swap staid winery tasting rooms for an inspiring countryside of picturesque properties dishing up epicurean delights. Highlights include goat cheese at Redwood Hill Farm, pasture-raised meats and eggs at Tara Firma Farms, and organic craft cider in the garden at Horse & Plow. Visit during spring when Sonoma’s verdant hills rival Ireland or during fall when apple picking and pumpkin patches abound.

8.  Paddle with River’s Edge Kayak & Canoe Trips

Paddle with River’s Edge Kayak & Canoe Trips

While the area surrounding the Russian River has blossomed into a renowned wine region, its namesake river shouldn’t be overlooked. Pack a cooler and paddle the gentle current through lush surroundings, pausing to dip into swimming holes and picnic along its banks. The staff at River’s Edge will set you up for a serene paddle along the bucolic Russian River, shuttling you to the put-in point, where you can lazily drift back to your starting point.

9.  Eat oysters at The Marshall Store

Eat oysters at The Marshall Store

At The Marshall Store , you’ll feel transported to New England at this charming seafood shack dishing up local crustaceans and mollusks on the banks of Tomales Bay. A line forms early for a simple menu of local oysters—don’t miss the BBQ oysters with chorizo butter—with a side of buttery garlic bread. Grab a bottle of rosé from the cold case and head to the communal tables lining the oyster shell-dotted shoreline.

10.  Visit Muir Woods

Visit Muir Woods

Dedicated in 1908 to "the father of the national parks," John Muir, this redwood forest is located just north of San Francisco in Marin. Muir Woods' old-growth coastal redwoods make an easy day trip from the city and will make you feel tiny as you walk among the giants. The park attracts more than one million visitors a year and recently switched to a reservation system to limit overcrowding, so make sure to book your time slot in advance.

11.  Fairy house spotting in Point Richmond

Tucked on a peninsula in the East Bay, you'll find the charming and quirky neighborhood of Point Richmond. Packed with eccentricities, local art galleries, local eateries and mom and pop shops, you could spend a whole day exploring here — not to mention the near by Miller Knox Park and Keller Beach. But one street in particular makes a great urban street: Washington Ave. Doted along this road are a variety of intricately crafted, adorable fairy houses, made by a local artist to the joy of local children (and adults). Peek at the tiny "School of Magic," fairy-size post office and library, and make a wish at the wishing well. 

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12.  Taste wine at Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch

Taste wine at Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch

Wine tasting in Napa is an absolute must, but where to begin amidst nearly 500 properties? On one bucolic plot of land in St. Helena, Long Meadow Ranch offers a tasting room to sample the label’s wine and olive oil, a seasonal farmers market, and a bustling, indoor-outdoor restaurant.

13.  Pet a goat at Harley Farms

Pet a goat at Harley Farms

Harley Farms is an achingly quaint farm with adorable goats and delicious cheeses. The undeveloped coastal land south of Half Moon Bay features some of the most breathtaking scenery in the state, and Harley Farms immerses visitors in this pastoral paradise while offering samples of their just-made chèvre and an assortment of other dairy products. Bring a picnic basket, and linger on the farm’s scenic grounds.

14.  Step back in time in Port Costa

Port Costa is unique, an atmospheric, time-warp village with modern and retro delights along the shores of the Carquinez Strait. Brunch at the Bull Valley Roadhouse , shop vintage-inspired paper artwork at the Theatre of Dreams , and drink with a (stuffed) polar bear at the cavernous, bric-a-brac-adorned Warehouse Cafe .

15.  Explore downtown Berkeley

Explore downtown Berkeley

Berkeley is notorious for a reason (or two). Home to the Free Speech Movement in the 1960s and the site of many other social justice protests throughout the years, it stands as a symbol of progressive idealism. It is also home to the oldest school in the University of California system. Spend a day walking the lovely campus, which runs up against the downtown area, packed with quirky shops, local restaurants and theaters. 

16.  Explore San Francisco’s Chinatown

Explore San Francisco’s Chinatown

Chinatown  is a visually striking destination brims with lantern-strung streets, colorful buildings, and delicious snacks. Needless to say, this vibrant neighborhood is a joy to wander. Stray from touristy Grant Street to explore side streets and narrow alleyways where you can poke your head into a joss paper shop to marvel at paper replicas of material goods burned at funerals. For snacks, choose from an assortment of takeaway dim sum at  Good Mong Kok Bakery . While daytime bustles with vivid colors, nighttime is aglow with vintage neon signs and lively nightlife. Experience it via a pub crawl covering  Cold Drinks ,  Moongate Lounge ,  Li Po , and  Buddha Lounge .

Discover more  things to do in Chinatown 

17.  Tour the Googleplex

Tour the Googleplex

Unlike other big-name Silicon Valley firms, the Google campus is open to the public. Offices are restricted to employees and guests, but you’ll find plenty of photo-worthy spots throughout its sprawling complex. Seek out the company’s unofficial mascot Stan, a life-size T-Rex sculpture adorned with pink flamingos, and wander a sculpture garden filled with colorful, oversized Android figures and sweet treats. If you’re feeling lucky, ask an employee to let you into the company’s museum.

18.  Relax at the spa at Cavallo Point

Relax at the spa at Cavallo Point

Cavallo Point is a modern daytime spa offers exceptional body treatments in a stunning indoor-outdoor facility in an exceedingly peaceful setting within the Marin Headlands. Spend a day soaking in the outdoor meditation pool, sipping tea around the fireplace, and lounging amidst natural surroundings. After your treatment, double down on the relaxation with a cocktail at the resort’s bar overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.

19.  Cheer on the Warriors at Chase Center

Cheer on the Warriors at Chase Center

The sleek home of the Golden State Warriors, Chase Center isn't only a chance to see the former world champs play ball, as the arena is a popular spot on itineraries for major touring acts of all genres. Plus, you’ll eat and drink well with food from local faves such as  Dumpling Time  and  Gott’s Roadside , while drinks come from the cocktail superstars at  Trick Dog .

20.  Pack a picnic to Mountain View Cemetery

Pack a picnic to Mountain View Cemetery

Mountain View Cemetery , a historic, park-like property that offers sweeping views of the region, also serves as the final resting spot for a litany of Bay Area luminaries. A brochure will lead you to the graves of famed architect Bernard Maybeck, civil war veterans, and even “Trader” Vic Bergeron, the inventor of the Mai Tai. Don’t miss Millionaire’s Row, with apartment-sized mausoleums for former moguls like Southern Pacific Railroad founder Charles Crocker. For bonus points, wander the exquisite indoor-outdoor Chapel of the Chimes designed by Julia Morgan, the famed architect of Hearst Castle, who is also interned at Mountain View.

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23 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in San Francisco

Written by Lisa Alexander and Lana Law Updated Dec 25, 2023 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

Set along the ocean, with rolling hills and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the United States and the jewel of Northern California. The city is full of history, great neighborhoods, parks , beaches , museums, entertainment options, and an astounding variety of restaurants.

Some of the most famous attractions are Alcatraz Island and Fisherman's Wharf, but the sightseeing possibilities here are extensive. San Francisco's Chinatown is the largest of its kind in North America and definitely worth visiting. For an exciting experience, hop on one of the historic cable cars and tour the city.

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

1. Golden Gate Bridge

2. alcatraz island, 3. fisherman's wharf, 4. ride the cable cars, 5. golden gate park, 6. chinatown, 7. legion of honor fine arts museum of san francisco, 8. palace of fine arts, 9. california academy of sciences, 10. san francisco museum of modern art, 11. de young fine arts museum of san francisco, 12. twin peaks, 13. asian art museum, 14. exploratorium, 15. golden gate national recreation area, 16. oracle park, 17. day trip to napa valley, 18. hike and picnic on angel island state park, 19. ghirardelli square, 20. high tea at a historic hotel, 21. walt disney family museum, 22. muir woods national monument, 23. coit tower, where to stay in san francisco for sightseeing, tips and tours: how to make the most of your visit to san francisco, san francisco, ca - climate chart.

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge appears even more beautiful and impressive in real life than it looks in photos. It is the most photographed site in the city, with the orange structure backed by blue water, or in many cases, peaking through a dense layer of coastal fog. At night, the flood-lit structure is equally striking.

Connecting San Francisco with Marin County and other districts further north, the Golden Gate Bridge was, at one time, designated the greatest man-made sight in the United States by the U.S. Travel Service. Opened on May 28th, 1937, the bridge took four years to build and at the time of its completion, was the longest suspension bridge in the world, measuring approximately two miles in length.

If you want to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, the road is US Hwy 101 , or SR 1. On the east side of the bridge, a sidewalk is open to pedestrians. Bicycle access is allowed on both sides of the bridge.

The walk across the bridge begins at the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center (near the Presidio GO shuttle bus drop-off point) and ends in Marin County with a panoramic viewpoint of San Francisco's cityscape.

Many locals enjoy biking across the bridge to the nearby waterfront town of Sausalito .

For a great view of the bridge, or for anyone interested in photographing the bridge, there are a number of ideal vantage points. From the San Francisco side, Nob Hill , an area known for its posh old mansions, offers some beautiful views over the bridge.

On the opposite side of the bridge, in Marin County, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is another good place to visit. Also, if you take a tour of Alcatraz Island, you will enjoy completely open views of the Golden Gate Bridge from the boat and island.

Alcatraz Island

The former federal penitentiary, located on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay, was one of America's most infamous prisons. It operated for almost thirty years, closing in 1963 and re-opening as a tourist attraction in 1973.

Some of America's most well-known criminals were incarcerated here, including Al Capone, "Machine-Gun" Kelly, and the "Birdman," who would later form the basis for the fictional movie The Birdman of Alcatraz .

In the course of its 30-year existence, the penitentiary received a total of 1,576 convicts. There were never more than 250 at any one time, even though therewere 450 cells measuring about 10ft by 4ft. At times the number of guards and staff was greater than the number of convicts. Alcatraz Island is also home to migrating birds.

You can visit Alcatraz on a guided tour (which includes round-trip ferry transportation from Pier 33). Choose from a daytime tour or an evening tour.

At the Alcatraz prison site, you are provided with an exceptional audio recording that offers a glimpse into life in the cellhouse, rather than just a historical list of the facts. The narration is even voiced by former inmates and guards of Alcatraz.

If you have just one day to explore San Francisco, try a combined Alcatraz and San Francisco City Tour which covers Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Alcatraz regularly sells out, so booking in advance is strongly advised.

Fisherman's Wharf

Locals call it a tourist trap, but visitors can't seem to resist. Fisherman's Wharf ranks as one of San Francisco's most popular tourist spots. The picturesque waterfront scenery and old-fashioned Italian fishing boats ( feluccas ), not to mention the fresh-caught Dungeness crab, make quite an impression!

Originally the "Little Italy" district of San Francisco, Fisherman's Wharf is known for its shops, restaurants, and spectacular setting. Italian immigrants began to arrive in San Francisco in the 1860s and brought the waterfront to life with seafood commerce.

Some of the best seafood is served in the bay-view dining room of Scoma's restaurant. It's a great place for a gourmet dining experience. Or you could sample the local specialty of seafood stew at Cioppino's Restaurant just steps away from the waterfront.

Pier 39 is a hub of activity at Fisherman's Wharf. Be sure to go for a stroll here and check out the dozens of boutiques and eateries. The shops are very touristy (T-shirts, souvenirs, pretzels, chocolate-chip cookies), but the seafood restaurants give you a true taste of the city. You can also find authentic local sourdough bread at Boudin Bakery .

Tourists are not the only crowds you'll encounter at Pier 39. Local sea lions love this waterfront spot and are often found lounging on the Pier 39 docks. There's a viewing area where you can check them out. It's easy to find. You'll hear the sea lions barking from quite a distance!

From Pier 39, you can take a sightseeing cruise for spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay. You might also want to organize a fishing charter boat trip or hop on a whale-watching tour.

Some of the main attractions of Fisherman's Wharf are Madame Tussauds Wax Museum , the Musée Mécanique , Ripley's Believe it or Not! , and Ghirardelli Square . Restored 19th- and 20th-century ships line the waterfront at the Hyde Street Pier , which is now the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park .

San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf - Layout map

  • Fisherman's Wharf
  • Ghirardelli Square
  • The Cannery
  • National Maritme Museum
  • Maritime State Historic Park
  • USS Pampanito
  • Art Institute
  • Telegraph Hill
  • Coit Memorial Tower
  • St Peters and Paul

Cable Cars

Cable cars were introduced in 1873 to spare the horses from the city's grueling hills. Today, the few remaining cable cars are mainly a tourist attraction rather than a mode of transportation for local residents. Since 1964, these tram-like vehicles have had the unique distinction of being the only public transport system to be declared a National Historic Landmark .

Riding a cable car is an unforgettable tourist experience in San Francisco. It's an exhilarating way to take in the scenery. If you're standing on the open-air deck of a cable car, you'll feel the wind on your face. Anywhere you sit on a cable car, the noise of the brakes will surprise you.

Three sets of brakes are required to stop a cable car: A red lever operates the main brakes, a foot pedal controls the front brakes, and a really loud crank puts the rear brakes in action.

The Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde are the most scenic routes. These cable car lines will get you to tourist attractions such as Fisherman's Wharf , Ghirardelli Square , the Ferry Building , Nob Hill , and Lombard Street . The California line runs through the Financial District, Chinatown, and Nob Hill.

You can wait for a Powell-Mason or Powell-Hyde cable car at the cable car turntable (departure point), either at Powell & Market Street near Union Square or on Hyde Street near Aquatic Park, Ghirardelli Square, and Fisherman's Wharf. You can catch the California cable car at the Market & Drumm turntable in the Financial District.

Alternatively, you can hop on a cable car at any of the stops. Tickets can be purchased onboard the cable car.

If you are planning on more than a couple of rides or are going to be sightseeing for a few days, consider buying a pass.

Author's Tip: The Powell & Market and California Street cable car turntables (departure points) are in downtown San Francisco, in areas that could be described as gritty. You should be aware of your surroundings and watch your wallet/purse while in these areas.

You may want to avoid taking public transportation if you are going to the Powell & Market turntable. Some consider the Powell Street BART station to be San Francisco's worst example of a station (in a close tie with the Civic Center station). The Embarcadero BART station, near the Market & Drumm turntable, is cleaner and less gritty.

Official site: http://www.sfcablecar.com/

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park, home to gardens and museums, is a fabulous green space in the heart of San Francisco. Before development began in 1871, this was an area of arid dunes.

Today, the park has a network of walking trails and cycling paths, more than 5,000 different kinds of plants and dozens of species of trees, several lakes, bridle paths, and a buffalo paddock.

The main attractions include the de Young Fine Arts Museum, the California Academy of Sciences which houses a planetarium, rainforest, and the Steinhart Aquarium, the Japanese Tea Garden , and the San Francisco Botanical Garden .

Japanese Tea Garden

Other favorite spots include Stow Lake where you can enjoy boating and picnics, the Conservatory of Flowers which dates to the Victorian era, and the Koret Children's Quarter which has an old-fashioned Herschell-Spillman carousel.

You could easily spend a couple of hours at Golden Gate Park or visit several times over a couple of days. The park is too large to cover it all on foot. If you want to see all of the highlights of Golden Gate Park, you will need a car or a bicycle to get around.

Bike rentals are available, and this can be a good way to explore the park, rather than trying to do everything on foot. Parkwide Bike Rentals offers bicycle rentals at two locations in Golden Gate Park (near the Music Concourse and at the corner of Stanyan & Haight streets); the bicycles are rented out for a full day of use. The company also leads guided bike tours.

Alternatively, try an organized 2.5-hour Segway Tour with a local guide, and hit all the major highlights.


You may have been to Chinatown in other cities, but San Francisco's Chinatown is a whole other realm. It is both the largest and oldest Chinatown in North America. Almost completely destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, Chinatown was rebuilt entirely in the Chinese style and was soon even more attractive than before the disaster.

Chinatown gives you a glimpse of Chinese immigrant culture in San Francisco, an important part of the local heritage. In this compact area (San Francisco's most densely populated neighborhood), you'll find traditional green tile-roofed buildings filled with small businesses, restaurants, dim sum places, houses of worship, herbal shops, tea houses, and boutiques that sell jade jewels, antiques, and souvenirs.

For delicious and authentic Chinese cuisine, try the award-winning Z & Y Restaurant (655 Jackson Street). This Michelin Bib Gourmand -rated restaurant has served two Chinese presidents and several Foreign Ministers as well as other distinguished guests (such as President Obama).

If you are traveling through San Francisco during an important Chinese holiday or event, you can expect to see an elaborate celebration. Chinese New Year celebrations are often considered the best in North America. The main street in Chinatown for tourists is Grant Avenue , with the Chinatown Gateway at Grant Avenue and Bush Street.

San Francisco City Guides offers guided walking tours of Chinatown led by knowledgeable locals, free of charge (donations recommended). The Chinatown tour takes you beyond the main street into the neighborhood's hidden alleyways, to visit a Taoist temple, a fortune cookie factory, and a park where you'll see Chinatown residents practicing tai chi and playing chess outside.

If you don't mind a little exercise, you can do your own walking tour beginning in Chinatown with the help of our San Francisco Walking Tour .

Legion of Honor

Discover an exquisite fine arts collection, displayed in a beautiful location: a dramatic Neoclassical building surrounded by a woodsy parkland near the ocean. Just outside the museum, you'll find a walking path with perfect outlooks onto the Golden Gate Bridge.

For a scenic hike, continue on the walking path until reaching the Land's End Trail . This winding cliffside trail in a wild, rugged terrain offers sweeping Pacific Ocean views.

The Legion of Honor was the gift of the socialite, philanthropist, and patron of the arts Alma de Bretteville Spreckels. Because of her love for all things Parisian, the museum was designed as a replica of the Palais de la Légion d'Honneur in Paris.

This museum is one of the top cultural attractions in San Francisco. The Legion of Honor 's permanent collection includes European decorative arts, sculptures, and paintings, along with antiquities from the Mediterranean and Near East. Admission to the Legion of Honor Fine Arts Museum also gives you same-day admission to the de Young Fine Arts Museum.

Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco is the last remaining structure from the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition . Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this Neoclassical building is beautifully situated on a lagoon that reflects the mirror image on the surface of the calm water, while ducks and geese drift by.

The palace has been restored, along with the grounds, and today hosts art exhibitions and cultural events. The Palace of Fine Arts Theatre primarily presents comedy performances.

Address: 3301 Lyon Street, San Francisco

Roof of the California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences , in Golden Gate Park , is an architectural marvel as well as a multifaceted museum. The exhibition space is voluminous and bright, thanks to walls that are largely made of glass allowing for natural light.

This state-of-the-art building features an eco-friendly design. The 2.5-acre Living Roof is covered with native plants, grassy fields, and seven "rolling hills" to match the natural surroundings. The roof also has solar panels to generate electricity, and the soil acts as natural insulation.

Inside is an incredible natural history museum, planetarium, aquarium, rainforest, gift shop, café, and restaurant. Both the café and restaurant offer plant-based options and California cuisine specialties prepared from local ingredients.

The Steinhart Aquarium includes some 60,000 live specimens and a 25-foot-deep coral reef. You can descend in a glass elevator to arrive at the aquarium. When you exit the elevator, look up through an acrylic tunnel to see fish swimming overhead in the freshwater mangrove forest.

The four-story-high Osher Rainforest houses tropical flora and fauna (birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects) within a temperature-regulated environment, beneath an enormous glass dome. The temperature is kept at 82 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. With the humidity, heat, and butterflies fluttering about, you might think you're walking through a real tropical rainforest. Look out for the poison-dart frogs and golden-silk orb-weaver spiders!

The Kimball Natural History Museum has skeletons of a T. rex and a blue whale, along with an exhibit of brilliant gems and minerals and exhibits about earthquakes, coastal fog, local marine mammals, and ancient redwood forests.

Little kids love the Natural History Museum's Tusher African Hall because it houses a colony of African penguins , part of a program to protect endangered species. It's fun to watch these small penguins waddle and splash about in their glass-enclosed area (which replicates their natural habitat). From time to time, the penguins jump or slide into a refreshing pool of water.

Address: 55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

If you love modern art, be sure to visit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) in the SoMa District. SoMa is in downtown San Francisco next to Union Square and the Financial District.

The museum focuses on 20th-century art, in all forms, and the innovative and interesting exhibits are constantly changing. You will have plenty to admire during your visit, as the museum displays thousands of artworks within 170,000 square feet of exhibition space spread across 10 floors.

You can visit one section of the museum free of charge . This area includes 45,000 square feet of space. Here you'll find a Diego Riviera mural and an exhibit of paintings and sculptures dating from the early 20th century to the present. Some of the museum's highlights (such as Femme au chapeau by Henri Matisse, Frieda and Diego Rivera by Frida Kahlo, Lake George by Georgia O'Keeffe, and Mark Rothko's No. 14 ) are in the free-of-charge section. The rest of the museum requires a ticket.

The museum is housed in a modern, architecturally stunning building that was extensively renovated and expanded in 2016. The light and airy building is a pleasure to wander about.

Should you work up an appetite, you can stop for a bite to eat. A lunch menu is available at the museum's casual restaurant and at Café 5 in the museum's Sculpture Garden which features fabulous city views. There's also a coffee shop that serves coffee, tea, pastries, and desserts.

About the neighborhood: SoMa is a happening urban area but unfortunately has recently experienced some of San Francisco's urban issues. Still, you should visit the museum and the attractions near the SFMOMA: the Contemporary Jewish Museum , the Yerba Buena Gardens , the Metreon shopping center (which has a movie theater, restaurants, and casual eateries), and the Children's Creativity Museum , but there's no need to explore SoMa much further.

Address: 151 Third Street, San Francisco

de Young Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

While visiting Golden Gate Park, set aside some time to explore the de Young . This fine arts museum is one of the top cultural attractions in San Francisco. The collection covers a wide variety of exhibits from Mayan antiquities to 19th-century Hudson River landscape paintings.

While art and period interiors from North America feature strongly in the collection, many other exhibits from Egypt, Greece, Rome, and the Near East are of note. British art and folk art from Africa, America, and the Pacific Islands, are also well represented.

Admission to the de Young Fine Arts Museum includes free same-day admission to the Legion of Honor .

Address: 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

The view from Twin Peaks at sunrise

These two uninhabited hills, more than 900 feet high, have one of the finest views out over the city and bay. Access is easy - you can drive to the north peak parking area, park your car, and soak up the amazing vista.

If you're outdoorsy, take a hike along trails over the north and south peaks. This is some of the best hiking in San Francisco . While up here, you may be forgiven for thinking these are the highest of San Francisco's 43 hills; however, that lofty distinction belongs to Mount Davidson, which is 33 feet higher.

The Twin Peaks are the only hills in San Francisco not to have been built over and remain in their original state. The Spaniards called them " Los pechos de la Chola " or the Breasts of the Indian Maiden. Even on warm days, strong, cool breezes blow in from the Pacific, especially in the late afternoon.

Asian Art Museum

The Asian Art Museum is unquestionably one of the most important museums in San Francisco. The museum opened in 1966, with the basis of the collection coming from art collector Avery Brundage.

Brundage built up a private collection, which in 1959 he offered to the city of San Francisco "to bridge the gap between East and West." The museum building was constructed, and on his death in 1975 at the age of 88, the museum also received the rest of his collection of works of art in the form of a legacy.

Building on this, the museum has continued to amass various pieces and now contains an extensive collection of sculptures, paintings, bronzes, ceramics, jade carvings, and architectural fragments from Japan, Korea, China, India, Iran, and other Asian cultures. The works span more than 6,000 years.

Author's Tip: Try to avoid taking public transportation to the Civic Center BART station or walking around the Civic Center area, as this is a rough neighborhood of San Francisco.

Address: 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco, California


If you are traveling with children or you are young at heart, you must visit the Exploratorium . This incredibly popular science museum is one of the most popular things to do with kids in San Francisco . It displays fascinating interactive science exhibits. Kids enjoy the hands-on learning experiences, which educate and entertain at the same time.

Children tend to rate this museum very highly because the exhibits are so much fun to check out. Adults also rave about the Exploratorium whether or not they have kids.

For a top-notch dining experience, try the museum's Seaglass Restaurant which serves seasonal cuisine prepared from local organic ingredients. The sleek modern dining room looks out onto the San Francisco Bay, the Bay Bridge, and Treasure Island. You may also enjoy your meal outside on the bay-view patio.

Address: Pier 15, San Francisco, California

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Golden Gate National Recreation Area , not to be confused with Golden Gate Park, is a huge natural area located across the Golden Gate Bridge from downtown San Francisco. This 600-square-mile park in Marin County is a UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserve and a recreational area. It is also simply a beautiful place to enjoy nature and relax.

The park has walking trails, campgrounds, picnic areas, and beautiful beach areas. Some of the beaches have fabulous views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The park is home to the historic Fort Baker , a former US Army post from the early 20th century.

Oracle Park

Home of the San Francisco Giants, Oracle Park is a fun place to take in a baseball game while visiting the city. If you want to gaze out over the ballpark to the sublime view of the ocean, buy tickets along the 1st base or 3rd baselines or behind home plate.

If you don't have time to see a game, consider taking a 90-minute Oracle Park Ballpark Tour for a behind-the-scenes look at places off-limits to most people. You can step onto the field, sit in the dugout, check out the clubhouse, and learn about the historic moments that have taken place at the ballpark.

Address: 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco

Hot air balloons over the Napa Valley

About a 1.5-hour drive from San Francisco are two gorgeous rural destinations: Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. These are the two best-known and largest grape-growing areas in California. Many people day trip to this area to enjoy the scenery and stop in at some of the sites along the way.

Top tourist attractions include the quaint town of Yountville , which has many excellent French restaurants, the historic town of Sonoma , and the spa destination of Calistoga where you can see Old Faithful Geyser. In Sonoma, be sure to visit the Sonoma State Historic Park which is partly in the downtown near the Plaza and also includes the historic Mission that was founded in 1823.

Many people visit Napa or Sonoma as a day trip or for a relaxing weekend getaway. You'll find many lovely resorts in the Napa Valley.

Both Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley are renowned for gastronomy. You'll find fine dining establishments as well as casual gourmet restaurants. Napa Valley is home to the Culinary Institute of America where you can take cooking classes and the famous three Michelin-starred restaurant The French Laundry in Yountville.

Napa Valley Map - Tourist Attractions

If you are looking for a non-touristy thing to do in San Francisco, take a 25-minute ferry ride from San Francisco to Angel Island State Park for a refreshing escape to nature. The largest natural island in the San Francisco Bay, Angel Island affords panoramic views of the surrounding bay.

You can enjoy the lovely scenery while hiking or biking on the well-groomed trails. It's possible to hike up to the island's summit, Mount Caroline Livermore , at 788 feet, where the views are sensational.

Relaxation is another reason to visit. The island has picnic areas, campsites, and several sandy beaches ideal for taking a walk or sunbathing. If you enjoy guided sightseeing tours, take a tram tour to see the island from an open-air vehicle. Tram tours include audio guides that share interesting commentary about the island.

Angel Island served as an Immigration Station from 1910 until 1940. You can visit the Angel Island Immigration Museum to learn more about the island's history and to see the barracks where immigrants were detained for weeks or months during an interrogation process.

Well designed for visitors, the island has day-use boat docks, bicycle rentals, and a café that is open daily during the high season and from Wednesday through Sunday during the low season. The café sells snacks, sandwiches, salads, and beverages.

To reach Angel Island , you can take the ferry from San Francisco Ferry Terminal. The Golden Gate Ferry company provides service daily year-round. Keep in mind that it can be expensive to park in this area of San Francisco, so it's best to get a taxi or ride to the San Francisco Ferry Terminal.

Alternatively, you can get to Angel Island from Marin County (north of San Francisco). The Angel Island Tiburon Ferry company runs ferries from Tiburon to Angel Island daily from early March through October; service is limited from November through February.

If you are traveling with a car, you could combine a visit to Angel Island with a trip across the Golden Gate Bridge and a stop in Tiburon. This takes longer if you are based in San Francisco, but it's an incredibly scenic drive and you avoid the hassle and the crowds taking the ferry from the San Francisco Ferry Terminal.

For a full-day outing, add Tiburon to your itinerary. This bayfront town has a charming downtown and an idyllic seaside setting. It's definitely worth visiting, especially if you want to have a meal at a waterfront restaurant with views. The vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco across the bay are spectacular.

Ghirardelli Square

When visiting the Fisherman's Wharf area, you must visit Ghirardelli Square . Overlooking the bay, this quaint shopping and dining complex occupies historic brick buildings: a former chocolate factory, a woolen mill, and a mustard company. The square was inaugurated in 1964 and is listed on the National Historic Register .

Today, Ghirardelli Square appeals to chocolate lovers and anyone with a sweet tooth. The main tourist attraction of the square is the Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop . Here, you can indulge in a decadent hot fudge sundae or shop for Ghirardelli chocolate bars and candies.

Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop

Besides chocolate and ice cream, Ghirardelli Square offers an inviting ambiance, with its fountains and flowers, and splendid bay views. Take a stroll around the square as you browse the boutiques. On sunny days, you'll want to spend some time sitting on the outdoor terraces.

The dining options at Ghirardelli Square include an excellent dim sum restaurant, Palette Tea House (which requires advanced reservations), and McCormick & Kuleto's, an old-timey restaurant that specializes in seafood and steaks. If you're looking for stunning bay views, McCormick & Kuleto's does not disappoint. The dining room has floor-to-ceiling windows that look out to the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.

Steps away from Ghirardelli Square near the Hyde Street cable car turntable, you will find Aquatic Park Cove where there is a small beach. Aquatic Parc Cove is also home to the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

High Tea at the Garden Court in the Palace Hotel

Enjoy afternoon tea at one of San Francisco's landmark hotels, and you'll experience the refinement of another era.

Opened in 1907, the Fairmont San Francisco on Nob Hill delights guests with its opulent lobby and elegant ambiance. The Fairmont offers afternoon tea service on Saturday afternoons, in the lovely Neoclassical Laurel Court dining room. You will be treated to a choice of organic tea, house-made scones with clotted cream, gourmet finger sandwiches, macarons, and other desserts.

The Palace Hotel , in the downtown area near Market Street, is famous for its fancy afternoon tea service. This Gilded Age landmark has a magnificent glass-domed reception area, the Garden Court , where you may enjoy the Signature Tea on Saturday afternoons. It's a sophisticated affair, complete with fine china, sterling silver, and haute cuisine afternoon tea specialties.

Walt Disney Family Museum

If you love the original Disney cartoons or you're traveling with kids who love Disney stories, then make a beeline for the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. This unique museum is dedicated to chronicling the life and works of Walt Disney.

Exhibits showcase drawings, cartoons, and films created by Walt Disney and describe his worldwide business empire. Also on display are the numerous awards he won over his career, along with priceless sketches of Mickey Mouse.

The Walt Disney Family Museum is located in the Presidio National Park , which has picnic areas, a children's playground, beaches, hiking trails, and scenic overlooks including views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Giant redwoods in Muir Woods National Monument

Take a 45-minute drive north of San Francisco to marvel over the magnificent ancient redwood forest at Muir Woods National Monument . At this serene and shady nature site, meandering paths wind their way alongside a babbling creek and beneath enormous old-growth redwood trees, some of which are nearly 260 feet high.

Until you visit, it's hard to appreciate the incredible sight of these stoic sentinels that have been living quietly in the forest for almost a thousand years.

To get a deeper understanding and to make the most of your visit, check out the Visitor Center , where you'll find fascinating exhibits and displays along with park staff who are happy to answer any questions you may have.

Note that to visit the park, you will need to reserve your parking space or shuttle tickets in advance. Plan ahead to secure a spot in this popular tourist attraction.

View of Coit Tower and downtown San Francisco

As you look up Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, you may notice the cylindrical tower that looks a little like the Leaning Tower of Pisa (without the lean). This is the Coit Tower. Completed in 1933, the tower stands 210 feet high and is one of the best places for panoramic views of the city.

From the top of the tower, the sights that lie before you include Lombard Street, Pier 39, the downtown skyscrapers, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz.

Inside the tower are wonderful murals painted in the early 1930s depicting views of daily life during the Depression. The tower is named after its benefactor, Lillie Hitchcock Coit, who was a wealthy and somewhat eccentric lady.

Nestled within charming gardens in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood, Coit Tower is open daily year-round except for a few holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and January 1st). Groups of four or more people may arrange to take a guided tour, for an additional fee, to learn about the murals.

Address: 1 Telegraph Hill Boulevard, San Francisco

If you'd like to visit the key tourist attractions on foot, the best place to stay is near Union Square or in the Nob Hill neighborhood, a short uphill walk from Union Square. You'll find plenty of upscale shops, restaurants, galleries, theaters, and hotels here. San Francisco's famous Chinatown and North Beach ("Little Italy"), with its bustling Italian restaurants and cafés, are just steps away from Union Square.

Union Square is a major transport hub, so it's easy to venture further afield to other attractions via cable car, bus, BART, or taxi.

Fisherman's Wharf is also a popular place to stay, with lively vacation vibes and picturesque bayfront scenery – especially for families who might prefer being in a safer neighborhood than the Union Square/downtown area. Below are some of the best places to stay in San Francisco for sightseeing.

Luxury Hotels:

  • The five-star Four Season Hotel San Francisco at Embarcadero is a sleek contemporary-style property on the top floors of a 48-story building. The plush guest rooms and suites feature incredible views of San Francisco Bay and the city skyline.
  • A short walk from Union Square, the Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco on Market Street in the SoMa neighborhood provides exceptional service and amenities. The hotel has recently renovated guest rooms and a trendy lounge/restaurant that specializes in California cuisine.
  • Consider The Ritz-Carlton for posh accommodation on Nob Hill, the most exclusive neighborhood in San Francisco. Housed in a colonnaded Neoclassical building, this five-star hotel blends old-world elegance with modern amenities including a fitness center, concierge, sun terrace, and an award-winning restaurant.
  • Chic contemporary style defines The St. Regis San Francisco , right in the heart of downtown San Francisco in the vibrant SoMa District. This five-star hotel boasts recently redecorated guest rooms, an up-to-date fitness center, a yoga & meditation room, and a fine-dining restaurant that serves seasonal cuisine. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is steps away, and the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) is next door.

Mid-Range Hotels:

  • Chancellor Hotel on Union Square offers excellent value in the heart of Union Square and treats guests to complimentary tea and cookies. This three-star hotel occupies a historic building that has been updated for today's travelers. The cable car runs right past the front of the hotel.
  • The boutique three-star Cornell Hotel de France exudes Parisian style in a convenient location between Union Square and Nob Hill. The hotel dates from 1910 and is on the Register of Historic Places. The hotel has a restaurant on the premises which is renowned for its cozy ambiance and traditional French cuisine.
  • In a salt-tinged setting by the water, the three-star Courtyard by Marriott San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf boasts a fantastic location. This hotel is a good choice for families seeking accommodations near Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman's Wharf.

Budget Hotels:

  • If you're on a budget, try The Herbert Hotel in the heart of downtown. This two-star hotel offers excellent value a short walk from Union Square.
  • Between Fisherman's Wharf and Union Square, the Castle Inn provides good value for the price, along with wonderful views. You can walk to Fisherman's Wharf in about 25 minutes and Union Square in 30 minutes.

Several interesting tours in San Francisco make exploring the city easy and hassle-free. Since San Francisco is a large city built on hills, with many uphill climbs and stairs, tours are an especially good idea for anyone with mobility issues.

Tours are also ideal if you have only a couple of days and want to see as much of the city as possible without the challenges of driving or trying to find parking. The following tours are some excellent options for saving time, seeing the sights, and exploring some of the areas outside the city. These also guarantee the lowest prices.

See the Sights :

  • The best explore-at-your-own-pace sightseeing tour is the Big Bus San Francisco Hop-On Hop-Off Tour. This double-decker bus tour, with guided narration, allows you to get on and off at the major tourist spots and is a great way to get acquainted with the city while learning a little history and seeing the highlights.
  • To add a splash of fun to your sightseeing and save your legs some extra walking, book a San Francisco Waterfront Segway Tour and cruise around Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, and other popular areas.

Cruise the Bay :

  • To get out on the water and enjoy the city skyline in the evening, hop on a San Francisco Bay Sunset Catamaran Cruise . This 1.5-hour cruise sails past Alcatraz Island and under the Golden Gate Bridge while the sun sets and the city lights begin to glow.

Get Out of the City :

  • San Francisco lies within easy striking distance of some fantastic scenery. The Monterey, Carmel, 17-Mile Drive Tour treats you to an action-packed day. You will see the fabulous coastline, shop at Monterey's Cannery Row, see the charming seaside town of Carmel, and drive along the oceanfront 17-Mile Drive.
  • Another very popular trip, offering a chance to see one of America's great national treasures, is a Tour to Yosemite National Park . This is a must for nature lovers who want to see the famous sites of El Capitan and Half Dome and walk among the Giant Sequoias of Sequoia Grove. This tour includes pick-up and drop-off from some San Francisco hotels.
  • For a half-day tour that covers a little of everything, the Muir Woods & Sausalito Half-Day Trip is a good mix of nature, sightseeing, and shopping. This tour is available in the morning or afternoon.

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com


More on San Francisco: Plan out a free walking tour beginning in Chinatown with the help of our San Francisco Walking Tour . For families looking for activities to entertain children, see our article on San Francisco with Kids: Top Things to Do . If you're interested in some healthy dining options, have a read through our list of the best vegan and vegetarian restaurants in San Francisco .


Exploring Northern California: San Francisco is the gateway to some of California's most amazing sites. In three or four hours you can be exploring the sites of Yosemite National Park or gazing out at Lake Tahoe . If you don't want to go that far, have a look at our top-rated day trips from San Francisco to see where you can get to in even less time.

San Francisco Map - Tourist Attractions

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The Boutique Adventurer: Luxury Adventure Travel Blog focussed on Emerging Destinations for those over 35

32 Best Places To Visit in Bay Area You’ll Love

By: Author Amanda OBrien

Posted on Last updated: 16/02/2024

Reaching across America’s West Coast, San Francisco’s Bay Area provides stunning views and top-tier cuisine from various vibrant cultures to tantalise your tastebuds. The city of  San Francisco  is home to quite a few famous landmarks and popular tourist attractions such as the  Golden Gate Bridge .

San Francisco’s Bay Area is simply bursting with adventures, foodie delights and sights to behold. Take your time looking over the list down below to discover your favorite San Francisco Bay Area spots. There are so many things to do in the Bay Area.

Things to Book Before You Leave Home Few things are more frustrating on vacation than missing out on that amazing hotel or tour because it is sold out. Here are our top things to book before your vacation. 🍷 Most Popular Tours in San Francisco: 1.  Alcatraz Island Inside and Golden Gate Bay Cruise  -my top pick – Alcatraz always sells out 2.  Napa and Sonoma Day Tour  – 3 Boutique Winery Visits  3.  Big Red Bus Hop On/Hop Off tour  -my favorite way to get a feel for a new city 🛏️ Where to Stay in San Francisco: 1.  Hotel G  -stylish boutique hotel 2 minutes walk from Union Square 2.  The Inn at the Presidio  – California style with a military flavor and Golden Gate Bridge Views

sonoma farm trails

32 Best Places to Visit in Bay Area

Whether you fancy a hike or a relaxing day at the beach, the San Francisco Bay Area has you covered. Here is a list of exciting spots to check out the next time you find yourself in this beautiful and bustling neck of the woods.

1.    Port Costa

If you require some fresh air and breathtaking views, then Port Costa is certainly the perfect escape. With a population of only 190 residents, this village creates the feeling of stepping back in time.

Porta Costa Bay Area

Whether you are a foodie or an art fanatic, Port Costa has something for every type of traveler. And here you will certainly be able to reset and rewind in the quaint, calming environment.

2.    Golden Gate Bridge

This impressive suspension  bridges  the water between San Francisco Peninsula and the Marin Headlands and is one of the most iconic bridges in the world. Ideally, you want to be able to say that you’ve crossed the length of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge by foot (which could take roughly 30 minutes). So, why not tick it off the list and hit your step goal while you’re at it.

golden gate bridge

If you do not fancy the walk then renting a bicycle to cross this red giant might be ideal. Take your time soaking up the magnificent views while marvelling at the engineering feat that is this bridge. And be sure to keep your eyes peeled for seals frolicking in the water down below.

➡️ Book Your Golden Gate Bridge Experience

golden gate bridge

3.    Sonoma County

Feeling parched? Sonoma County is the region of the Sonoma Valley Wine Production. Sonoma is ideal for  wine  lovers on the hunt for a picturesque adventure and some delectable vino. If sipping crisp wines does not tickle your fancy then fear not; there are plenty of riveting escapades to be had here.

sonoma county vineyards

If you are not afraid of heights, then a zipline through the coastal Redwood trees might just be for you. If you fancy a day trip, take a drive more toward Marin County to Point Reyes Lighthouse on the Pacific Coast. Don’t leave without visiting the Cowgirl Creamery so you can sample some delicious cheeses. Sonoma is a great  weekend trip from San Francisco  and one of the best wine regions to visit in California.

➡️ Book Your Sonoma Wine Tour

sonoma county vineyards

4.    Fruitvale

Just like the name suggests, this is the location to add to your itinerary if you identify as a foodie. Allow your meal to settle while you embark on a mural-viewing walk along Rue de Merde and get the opportunity to explore more of this vibrant town.


Fruitvale is known for its Hispanic festivals and delectable dishes. Tac-hopping is recommended if you are eager to sample all the tacos and food trucks during your visit.

5.    Sonoma Farm Trails

If you delight in picking your own produce, then the Sonoma Farm Trails awaits. This farm was conceptualized by farmers who wanted to give people the option to experience and learn more about farming and agricultural practices.

sonoma farm trails

This outing will not only be unique and informative but an interactive experience for kids that promises to deliver heaps of excitement. Sonoma also offers various insightful workshops and interesting tours to choose from. So grab your trail shoes and get ready for an exciting outdoor adventure.

6.    Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley is conveniently located in the Bay Area for the tech-wizards with a keen interest in all things innovation. There are various cities within the Valley, of which San Jose is the largest.

silicon valley

It is well worth visiting the birthplace of so many major technological names. You are not permitted to view this impressive space inside the building, and there are no official tours but the grounds are open for roaming and taking photos.

➡️ Book Your Silicon Valley Tech Tour

7.    Sausalito

Located on the Northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito is a postcard-quality city in Marin County. It offers everything from quality seafood restaurants, to beaches and beautiful parks.


Be sure to pay the marine animals a visit at the non-profit Mammal Centre. Known for its breathtaking views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge,  a Sausalito tour  offers exciting views and activities. This area provides a chance to slow down a little while breathing in the fresh ocean air along the boardwalk.

8.    Mount Tamalpais

Fancy a horse-back ride or a mountain hike? Mount Tam is the symbolic landmark of Marin County and a highly recommended spot for you to do all your walking, hiking and outdoor activities while in the Bay Area.

Mount Tamalpais

Part of the  California  Coast Ranges, Mount Tam is overflowing with trails and towering Redwood trees while providing you with the most spectacular views of the Bay Area. Whether you intend to run, trot, or stop and paint this beautiful area, this region is a must-see.

9.    SFMoMA

The  San Francisco  Museum of Modern Art shouldn’t be missed. It’s one of the biggest contemporary art museums in the world, hosting over 33 000 pieces. It boasts everything from media arts and sculptures, to beautiful paintings, and even impressive architecture.

museum of modern art san francisco

If you are hungry for art then this is right up your alley. Look forward to famous artworks by big names like Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol and Frida Kahlo.  Join a t our  for this cultural experience and be prepared to stand mesmerised. All seven floors of this architectural and artistic institution will thoroughly impress its visitors.

10.                  Calistoga

Nestled within California’s Napa Valley, this region is the perfect spot to visit if you fancy a  luxury spa retreat  or a  cycling wine tour . Here you can experience a volcanic ash mud bath treatment, and head off to a winery thereafter. If you are more inclined to go on a walkabout, then you cannot miss out on sight-seeing all the Mediaeval-style buildings and castles in this area.

things to do in napa valley

Be sure to add  Petrified Forest  and  Faithful Old Geyser  to your travel itinerary. This geyser earned its name by regularly erupting for all its spectators and is a truly unique sight to behold.  Calistoga  is also brimming with breweries, wineries, ideal picnic spots, and tranquil rolling hills. A visit here sounds like a no-brainer to me.

downtown Calistoga

11.                  Lombard Street

Fancy experiencing the most crooked street in the world? What a peculiar attraction this road is. This street makes cars appear to be driving at unusual angles – certainly one of those experiences you must see for yourself to fully appreciate.

lombard street

The word is, the sharp angles were added for increased pedestrian safety and to combat the steep nature of the road. Lombard Street, and all eight of its hairpin turns, eagerly await you and your camera.

12.                  Fisherman’s Wharf

This is the ideal spot for a romantic sunset stroll with your partner. Here, you can grab a delicious bite at one of the many indoor or outdoor establishments. You can also opt to enjoy a unique shopping excursion, marvel at some museums, or take an exciting bay cruise.

pier 39

You can also purchase your own fresh crab, or sample a bowl of clam chowder at one of the many seafood restaurants along the way. Lined with attractions, shops and restaurants, the Wharf has plenty for you to see and do. This is also the place where you can experience the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co from the film  Forrest Gump , in all its fame and glory.

➡️ Book Your Fisherman’s Wharf Experience

san francisco seals

13.                  Half Moon Bay

This Bay is the ideal spot to experience small-town charm and hospitality while enjoying a plethora of adventures, surf and scenery. Half Moon Bay is located near the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which means you will have tons of marine and wildlife biodiversity to view.

half moon bay

This area also offers some of the biggest surf spots, as well as majestic Redwood trees that line the coast. If you tire of walking you can experience the views from the water by mounting a kayak or stand-up paddleboard for something different. Be sure not to leave without visiting the famous crescent-shaped harbour that lies just north of this culturally-diverse town.

14.                  Tiburon

Tiburon is a historical sea-faring town within Marin County  California  that boasts diverse boutiques and various shops just waiting to be browsed. Spend the weekend here and soak up all the beautiful history the town holds.

tiburon california

Fancy a little more rockface and wildflowers? The Tiburon Uplands Nature Preserve is the perfect place for hiking through the splendid Californian trees while getting in some leisurely exercise.

Be sure to catch a ride on the Tiburon Ferry to Angel Island and visit Angel Island State Park, known as the “Jewel of San Francisco Bay”. A bay cruise is a great way to learn more about San Francisco and its landmarks.

15.                  The Palace of Fine Arts

Located in San Francisco’s Marina District, the Palace of Fine Arts has been described as one of the best spots in the Bay Area. Here, you can spend an afternoon relaxing and feeding the ducks.

The serene gardens around the area are the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic while soaking up the sights. the Roman architecture of this palace could be admired for hours.

The Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace is encapsulated by serene lagoon waters and an open rotunda. When visitors aren’t catching a play or exposition at this incredible venue, they are making use of this gorgeous Californian gem in other ways. These include using it as a wedding venue or as the perfect backdrop for graduation and engagement pictures.

16.                  California Academy of Sciences

This is an ideal spot for visitors of all ages and  a tour  here will leave you both riveted and informed. Be it for the Planetarium, Aquarium, Biological Sciences display, or the Natural History Museum, the  California  Academy of Sciences is guaranteed fun.

California Academy of Sciences

You and your significant other can even make this your date night spot on a Thursday evening for something unique and exciting. Every Thursday night this place comes alive with cocktails, enchanting creatures, provocative science displays, and live music for over 21’s.

17.                  Point Reyes National Seashore

This protected coastline in Marin County is filled with wildlife, amazing views, crashing waves and stretches of golden sand. Many visitors come here to soak up the serenity and visit the lighthouse that was established in 1870.

point reyes lighthouse california

The area can be explored in a day and it is recommended that you bring your hiking gear when you set out to the lighthouse as it is quite a walk from the parking area. It’s well worth the trip and provides the most idyllic location for watching the San Francisco sunsets and the grey whale migrations.

point reyes lighthouse california sunset

18.                  The Painted Ladies

The Painted Ladies are a delightful row of houses that make for a must-see tourist attraction. It is recommended that you appreciate these seven pastel-coloured sisters from various angles to get the full experience. And regardless of the time of day, the magnificent San Francisco skyline seen from this point will not disappoint either.

The Painted Ladies

These Victorian-style houses can even be seen from the park across the street, so be sure to pack a picnic basket and enjoy a relaxed afternoon on the greens of  Alamo  Square Park.

➡️ Book Your Painted Ladies Tour

The Painted Ladies

19.                  Asian Art Museum

The  Asian  Art Museum is centrally located, making it very accessible to the public. The museum is home to over 18,00 pieces of work (some dating more than 6,000 years). This is the ideal place to visit if you wish to broaden your knowledge and appreciation of Asian arts and culture.

Asian Art Museum

The museum’s cafe is perfect for enjoying a bite to eat, and the souvenir store is likened to a boutique experience. I suggest trying to purchase one of the limited Team Lab Continuity tickets in order to experience some of the more interactive and immersive exhibitions.

20.                  Castello di Amorosa

If you have an appreciation for good wine and old architecture then the  Castle of Love  should be top of your list. Castello di Amorosa is a Mediaeval-style  Tuscan  winery that produces a wide variety of  Italian  inspired wines.

Castello di Amorosa

A winery like non-other, it is worth taking a  guided tour  to learn about the history and processes of winemaking. Enjoy sitting down and testing your palate whilst enjoying some of the vinos on offer.

21.                  The Walt Disney Family Building Museum

If you are a fan of Walt Disney’s work, then this is the perfect outing for you. This family museum is thoughtfully lined with mementos and items from the start of the  Disney  journey, complete with sketches and concepts dating back to when it all began in 1923.

Walt Disney Family Museum

There are glass displays of figurines, vehicles, artefacts and plenty of educational history to soak up. Don’t forget to pop into the gift shop on your way out to grab a memorable souvenir.

22.                  Union Square

Union Square is the perfect social hub to experience San Francisco’s nightlife while being conveniently surrounded by hotels and luxury stores. Enjoy an evening here sipping cocktails at one of the local bars or trying out some authentic food from one of the many food trucks around the area.

Union Square

If you pay Union Square a visit during the holiday season will have you awe-struck at all the Christmas lights and the majestic Christmas tree. During this time there is also an ice rink which people of all ages can enjoy.

23.                  San Francisco Zoo

The San Francisco Zoo is the perfect outing for you and your children to learn more about beautiful animals in a controlled and friendly environment. Be sure to bring your cameras and comfortable walking shoes for an afternoon well spent on your feet.

San Francisco Zoo

With everything from a gorilla preserve to a  Lemur  forest, you can spend the day at this 100-acre enclosure interacting with, learning from and appreciating the diverse and brilliant creatures that call this place home.

24.                  Ghirardelli Marketplace at Ghirardelli Square

There is no shortage of  unique restaurants in San Francisco , it’s a foodies paradise. For example, this marketplace is a unique attraction that caters to chocolate fiends in every way possible. This square is also well-kitted out with all things mini golf, restaurants, shops and several charming date spots to impress your significant other.

Ghirardelli Marketplace at Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Sundae Bar is the perfect spot for anyone with a sweet tooth. If you’re a chocolate lover then you’ll find everything from delicious chocolate  ice cream  to gourmet hot chocolates here.

Not to mention, Ghirardelli gives you the opportunity to visit a real chocolate factory where you’ll gain insight into the behind-the-scenes process of making this delectable sweet treat. It’s basically Charlie and the Chocolate Factory minus the Oompa Loompas.

25.                  Golden Gate Park

If you fancy a change of scenery from bustling city life, then you should pay a visit to the breathtaking Golden Gate Park. Here you’ll find some of San Francisco’s iconic landmarks and attractions, all within the park.

Golden Gate Park

This beautiful oasis of flowers and fresh air promises you a relaxing time connecting with nature while experiencing more beautiful sights that Bay Area has to offer. Whether you want to run, bike, walk or hike, the park welcomes it all. Bring your easel and paintbrushes, your dog for some exercise, or even your boat to take across the lake.

26.                  Haight-Ashbury

This diverse district in California, “Haight”, is a mashup of dive bars, bookstores, record shops and various vibrant restaurants. Haight-Ashbury is all about commemorating and keeping alive the counterculture movement of the 1960s, with all the colourful eccentricity of the historic hippie era.


Keep your eyes peeled on Ashbury Street where Janis Joplin lived, and also pay a visit to the red house that Jimi Hendrix once occupied along Haight Street. Haight and Ashbury Street are the spots for broad-ranging boutiques and many funky shops for your pleasant perusal. Spend the day absorbing the peace, love and freedom captured in this birthplace of hippie culture.

27.                  Japanese Tea Garden

Nestled within the greenery of Golden Gate Park, this beautiful tea garden is full of rich history and culture. It is also the oldest Japanese tea garden in the USA. Read your book on a bench with a cup of matcha tea, or enjoy a leisurely stroll admiring the sculptures, art and historical writings.

japanese tea garden san francisco

Complete with a bridge and serene pond, you are guaranteed to leave here feeling totally zen. There is also the added bonus of the tea cafe and gift shop for unique souvenirs to take home.

28.                  Russian River

Just a short drive from the coast, the Russian River region invites you and the whole family for a nature-filled adventure. Whether you prefer soaking up some sun rays on the pebbles of Johnson’s Beach or hiking through the fur-clad Californian  Redwood trees , the Russian River region has something for everyone.

Russian River

The Armstrong Woods State Natural Reserve hosts various summer hiking trails. The popular ones are the Pioneer Trail and the Armstrong Natural Trail. Be sure to take your photo under the famous and majestic Colonel Armstrong, which is the oldest Redwood tree in the reserve (1400 years old).

Spend time on Goat Rock Beach where the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean. You can also opt to take a walk along its scenic shores where you may be lucky enough to encounter the resident harbour seals.

29.                  Santa Rosa

Known also as the ‘Microbrew Capital of the United States’ Santa Rosa has become the home of craft beer and microbreweries. This area is also renowned for its wines. Located in California’s famous Sonoma County (California’s famous wine region), you will have the pleasure of 300 plus top wineries and vineyards right in your backyard.

Ferryboat in santa rosa

Spend the day exploring museums and for the art enthusiasts, the Charles M. Schulz Museum should not be missed. If music is more your groove then the Luther Burbank Centre for the Arts is the prime spot for seeing your favourite musician performing live.

30.                  Little Italy

Little  Italy  has all the colourful Italian cuisine and culture you could ask for. If walking is your preferred way of sightseeing then Little Italy is perfect. Here you can walk your way through this rich area and stop at bars and restaurants along the way.

little italy

Little Italy is also home to the iconic Coit Tower which means you can park in the Little Italy area and walk to the Tower. Standing 64 metres tall and located in Pioneer Park, the Coit Tower provides the perfect birdseye panoramic view of the Bay.

Take a stroll and experience the comfort of beautiful Italian heritage throughout this North Beach neighborhood. Kick back after a day of sightseeing at one of the many authentic Italian-style eateries, such as the Vesuvio Cafe Bar or the famous Stinking Rose.

31.          Visit China Town

This region is iconic and simply a must-see destination during your visit. Enter China Town through the iconic Dragon’s Gate and take a walk around while sampling marvelous traditional foods, such as Dim sum and other baked goods.

If you are more inclined to view museums and landmarks, then Chinatown has got you covered. Visit the Tin How Temple, dedicated to the Chinese goddess of the sea, or pay a visit to the Fortune Cookie Factory where different festivals take place throughout the year.

china town

Quench your thirst at the very quirky Li Po Cocktail lounge and for a non-alcoholic beverage. You can sample quality tea from Taiwan and China, at the Red Blossom Tea Company.

➡️ Book Your Chinatown Food Tour

32.                  Take a Red Bus Tour

Overwhelmed with all your options? Buying a pass for the  Hop-On-Hop-Off Big Bus Tour  might just be the way to go. This way you can catch all the unique sights and landmarks of San Francisco, all from the viewpoint of a double-decker bus.

san francisco red bus

Depending on your pass, you can visit the mainstream attractions or exit the bus alone to spend time at any particular landmark. Once you are finished, you can return to the bus for the adventure to continue.

➡️ Book Your San Francisco Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour

33. Learn about wine at the San Francisco Wine School

Located directly across from City Hall, the  San Francisco Wine School  is housed in a beautiful sunlit space in the heart of downtown San Francisco. The school runs more than 65 different classes that will cover you no matter how much or how little experience you have when it comes to wine. This is the perfect place to learn about (and taste!) California wine. 

san francisco view

34. Explore the beautiful gardens at Filoli

Originally built in 1917,  the Filoli estate  covers 654 acres in Woodside, about a 30-minute drive from downtown San Francisco. Filoli is considered to be one of the finest remaining country estates of the 20th century. It is home to a 54,000-square-foot mansion, 16 acres of English gardens, a Gentleman’s orchard plus hundreds of acres of natural land. 


Visitors can explore the estate, mansion and gardens. Filoli holds events all year round, from private firepit experiences to wreath making and afternoon teas. Check the website before you go, as there is always something interesting going on. And Filoli is a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


35. Visit the City of Trees

Burlingame is a quaint town on the San Francisco Peninsula near Filoli and just a 30 minute drive from downtown San Francisco. Start your visit by heading to The Ave or Burlington Avenue. This bustling street is the heart of Burlingame and is filled with independent shops and some great restaurants and bars. 

Burlingame Avenue

The city has several tree-filled parks. Check out dog friendly Washington Park downtown or head to Bayfront Park to watch the air traffic over the bay. 

Twelvemonth Spring Rolls

Finish up your trip (or start it) with a plant-based meal at  Twelvemonth.  They are all about local farmers, waste reduction and providing creative vegetable cuisine. Stop in for a coffee or stay for the eight-course tasting menu. 

36. Go to an Olive Oil Tasting

Il Fiorello  is a family owned company that makes some amazing olive oils and balsamic reductions just 45 minutes from downtown San Francisco. The Visitor Center and Tasting Room are open daily from 11am to 5pm. However, what you really want to do is their signature Olive Oil Tasting. You will never look at olive oil in the same way after trying different types of oils matched with small tastings.

il fiorello

Olive Oil Tastings are held 3 times a day but do make sure you book ahead of time to avoid disappointment. Il Fiorello also offers cooking classes, farm tours, a back patio serving local wines and beers and snacks as well as seasonal events.

il fiorello

37. Caymus-Suisun Winery

Fairfield is the region literally next door to the Napa Valley that has some fantastic wineries nowhere near as well known as its neighbor. There are more than a dozen wineries and tasting rooms in Fairfield. When I visited I went to the beautiful  Caymus-Suisun Winery.


Caymus vineyards have been growing grapes for 50 years but they only recently created the Caymus-Suisun label. This is an absolutely stunning tasting room. The design is modern and clean and what I liked the most was how open the tasting room is to nature. The sides of the tasting room are floor to ceiling glass that is able to fully open. 


There are lovely views of the vineyards as well as the beautiful Palm Alley. And then of course there is the wine! Choose from wines by the glass or wine flights. The tasting room works as just that but it is also perfect for those who just want to pop in for a glass of wine. My personal favourite was the Mer Soleil and a bottle came back to London with me.


38. Visit the Jelly Belly Factory

I loved Jelly Bellies when I was a teenager, so I was very excited to head to One Jelly Belly Lane to see where the magic happens. The Jelly Belly team knows how to put on a good tour! The tour takes visitors along a mezzanine which offers views of the actual Jelly Belly factory as the jelly beans are being made. You’ll see the entire production process and learn about what makes Jelly Belly’s taste so good. 

jelly belly

And there is so much more Jelly Belly! Jelly Belly art, Jelly Belly interactive games, Jelly Belly photo opportunities, a chocolate and wine tasting experience, Jelly Belly train, Jelly Belly museum, Jelly Belly chorus line, Jelly Belly clothes and then, of course, best of all, the Jelly Belly Shop.

jelly belly

Not only does the Jelly Belly Shop sell every Jelly Belly flavor, it also offers factory-only specials like the Belly Flops. Belly Flops are the jelly bellies deemed not good enough to be sold but still good to eat. They are then packed in bulk bags and sold at a discount at the factory. 

jelly belly

2 Fantastic San Francisco Boutique Hotels

Hotel G  is a stylish boutique hotel with a fantastic location only one block from Union Square. The rooms have a chic Scandinavian feel, with lots of plump white duvets, sheets, and darker oak. Great value and style. 

⇒ Check Prices and Availability for Hotel G


 For amazing views and a bit of military history check out  The Inn at the Presidio . This is particularly good for runners and outdoor enthusiasts as it is located in the large park area that is the Presidio. 

The stylish design mixes with military memorabilia. My room was lovely with a very comfortable bed and a fantastic shower. And don’t miss the big European breakfast. 

⇒  Book Check Prices and Availability for The Inn at The Presidio

 If you would like to be as close as possible to the famous Golden Gate Bridge then  Cavallo Point  may be for you. This also has a military background – it was former military quarters. It is located in the charming area of Sausalito, just over the bridge from San Francisco. 

⇒  Check Prices and Availability for Cavallo Point


 For those of you who are into high tech and hip,  Hotel Zetta  could be a great choice. The hotel is super close to shopping district Union Square and has one of the hottest restaurants in town inside. You can also bring your dog.

⇒  Check Prices and Availability for Hotel Zetta

Getting to San Francisco

⇒  Flights to San Francisco  

There are some  weekends away from San Francisco  – from head south down to LA to drive around the Napa Valley. 

⇒  Deals on Car Hire  

Final Thoughts on the Things to do in the Bay Area

There you have it, folks, the top sights, and Bay area tourist attractions. Be it the furry Redwoods of Sonoma County or the peculiar zig-zags turns of Lombard Street, you are in for an adventure.

Friendly and bursting with activities, restaurants and unforgettable experiences, there are so many places to go in the Bay Area.

san francisco sunset with beach in foregound

I covered most of the costs of writing this article. I did receive some support from Bayside Peninsula and Fairfield – thanks guys. However, as always my opinions are my own.

This article on places to visit in the Bay Area includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.

IMG 2300 scaled

Amanda O’Brien is the creator and editor of The Boutique Adventurer. She has visited 80 countries and is a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers as well as the IFTWTA. She is passionate about wine had has just completed Level 3 of the WSET. Born in Australia, she lives in London.

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  • Destinations

25 Best Places to Visit in the Bay Area, California

Last Updated By VI in Romantic Getaways on June 10, 2024

25 Best Places to Visit in the Bay Area

  • Half Moon Bay
  • Sonoma County
  • Complete List & Map
  • 1. Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay

Pillar Point is home to the Mavericks surf spot, nationally known for its challenging waves reaching peaks of more than 50 feet. Map

  • 2. Sonoma County

Sonoma County

Museums throughout the region include the Pacific Coast Air Museum, the Sonoma County Museum, and the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, while historic attractions include 19th-century Spanish Mission San Francisco Solano. More than 50 state and regional parks are located throughout the county, including Jack London State Historic Park , preserving the former home and gravesite of the American author.

  • 3. Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa

The city’s downtown district features the historic Railroad Square neighborhood, which is home to a variety of shopping, dining, and nightlife options and preserved historic buildings. Outdoor activities are offered at Annadel State Park and Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve. Map

  • 4. Sausalito


A wide variety of public parks and beaches are offered throughout the city, including Vina del Mar Plaza, Dunphy Park, and Schoonmaker Beach. A municipal fishing pier, boat ramp, and ungated marina are also offered, which are accessible via ferry service from San Francisco. Map

  • 5. Yountville


Its world-famous Art Walk showcases 34 pieces of art that have been incorporated into the city’s landscape. Other attractions include the Napa Valley Museum, the Lincoln Theatre, and the Vine Trail Bike Path. Map

  • 6. Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

More than 81 miles of hiking trails are offered throughout the park, including trails linking to nearby Castle Rock State Park, Waddell Beach, and Theodore J. Hoover Natural Preserve. Abundant plant and animal life is found throughout the park, including deer, bobcats, Steller’s jays, herons, and egrets. California redwoods

  • 7. Walnut Creek

Walnut Creek

  • 8. Calistoga


A number of wineries are located a short drive from the city, including the Medieval castle-style Castello di Amorosa . Historic sites nearby include the Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park, which preserves an 1846 grist mill facility. Map

  • 9. Golden Gate National Recreational Area

Golden Gate National Recreational Area

Major tourist attractions within the park include the historic former prison at Alcatraz Island, the coastal-redwood-populated Muir Woods National Monument, and the Presidio of San Francisco military reservation. Year-round and seasonal camping is offered at a number of sites. website , Map

  • 10. Berkeley


Family-friendly attractions include the Habitot Children’s Discovery Museum, while outdoor landmarks include historic Tilden Park. The city’s major university thoroughfare, Telegraph Avenue, is filled to the brim with unique stores and cafes. Map

  • 11. Healdsburg


Wine carriage tours are available, offering tastings at local vineyards and local tours aboard picturesque horse-drawn carriages. Other area attractions include the Healdsburg Museum and Historical Society, the Hand Fan Museum, and the historic 19th-century Healdsburg Plaza town square, which hosts live music and is home to a number of boutiques, breweries, and restaurants. Map

  • 12. Mill Valley

Mill Valley

More ideas: Hot Springs in California

  • 13. Mountain View

Mountain View

Live music and theater performances are hosted at the city’s Center for the Performing Arts, and a number of annual festivals serve as major tourist draws, including an Arts and Wine Festival and an annual civic summer concert series. The 750-acre Shoreline at Mountain View Park also offers hiking trails, an 18-hole championship golf course, and an outdoor amphitheater. Map


A number of gourmet restaurants are also located within the city, including the acclaimed Morimoto restaurant by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto.

  • 15. Oakland


Major attractions include its Paramount and Fox Oakland Theaters, which host major concert tours, and its Mountain View Cemetery, designed by legendary landscaper Frederick Law Olmsted, which serves as the resting place for many famous Californians. Map

  • 16. Pacifica


Cultural organizations in the city include the Pacific Spindrift Players and Pacific Performances, which present regular musical and theatrical performances. Other area attractions include the Shelldance Orchid Gardens and the Alister MacKenzie-designed Sharp Park Golf Course. Pacifica is a romantic weekend getaway in Northern California . Map

  • 17. Petaluma


Downtown attractions include the Petaluma Historical Library and Museum, the Mystic Theatre, and the Military Antiques and Museum, the nation’s largest retail military store and museum. Wineries include Barber Cellars and Sonoma Portworks, the region’s only after-dinner winemakers. A number of world-class restaurants, galleries, and music venues are also located within the city’s West Bank region. website , Map

  • 18. Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore

More ideas: San Diego Beaches

  • 19. San Francisco

San Francisco

More ideas: Bodega Bay Beaches

  • 20. San Jose

San Jose

The San Jose Museum of Art serves as one of the country’s premiere modern art museums, while its annual Cinequest Film Festival has become one of the nation’s top independent film festivals. The SAP Center at San Jose is also one of the most active event venues in the world, hosting a wide variety of concerts and sporting events, including San Jose Sharks hockey games.

  • 21. Santa Clara

Santa Clara

Other family-friendly attractions include the Intel Museum, the Triton Museum of Art, and the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail, which offers hiking and road biking routes. Map

  • 22. Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley

Major cities in the region include San Jose, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale. A wide variety of museums are offered for visitors, including the tech-focused Computer History Museum and Tech Museum of Innovation. Annual events hosted in the valley include the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, Facebook F8, and cultural festivals such as the Palo Alto Festival of the Arts and the San Jose Jazz Festival. Map

  • 23. St. Helena for Couples

St. Helena for Couples

The city is also home to the renowned Culinary Institute of America and the sprawling 57-acre Cairdean Estate, which is filled with unique shops, galleries, tasting rooms, and wine caves. Map

  • 24. Tiburon


More ideas: Bay Area Camping Spots

  • 25. Vallejo


Tourist attractions include the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum, which explores the city’s connection to the United States Navy base at Mare Island. The San Francisco Bay Ferry and the SolTrans bus system connect the city to San Francisco. Map

More Getaways:

Resources: VisitTheUSA.com , U.S. Department of State

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Romantic Suites on a Cliff Above the Ocean at Anantara Bali Uluwatu

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Family Destinations Guide

25 Best Things to Do in The Bay Area — Top Activities & Places to Go!

By: Author Emily Appelbaum

Posted on Published: December 22, 2020  - Last updated: August 4, 2023

The Bay Area in Northern California is located in a warm-summer Mediterranean climate zone.

The Bay Area offers plenty of fun activities, from historical places to art museums.

It’s an ideal place to spend time and collect memories with your loved ones.

But with many sites available to visit in the area, planning where to go takes time and effort.

I’ve been there before.

As a parent and a seasoned travel writer, I always look for what’s best for my family.

And I’ve been exploring with my family, which led us to beautiful spots in The Bay Area.

You don’t have to worry anymore because I’ve reviewed the best things to do in The Bay Area for you.

I’ll also share tips and our experiences during our trips.

For a quick comparison, I’ve also ranked each activity based on its educational value, affordability, accessibility, fun factor, and family-friendliness.

So, worry no more and check out my in-depth reviews and tips below.

[elementor-template id=”8727″]

Best Things To Do in The Bay Area Compared 

From visiting historic sites to art museums, you have many options for the best things to do in The Bay Area.

Here’s a quick reference guide to show you our top picks.

Editor’s Choice

tourist bay area

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island is a small island found in San Francisco Bay. It was a military and a federal prison from 1934 to 1963.

  • Family-Friendliness: 5/5
  • Affordability: 4/5
  • Accessibility: 4.5/5
  • Fun Factor: 5/5
  • Educational Value: 5/5

#2nd Best Choice

tourist bay area

California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences is one of the largest museums of natural history in the world that offers epic science adventure.

  • Affordability: 4.5/5
  • Accessibility: 5/5
  • Fun Factor: 4.5/5

#3rd Best Choice

tourist bay area

San Francisco Bay Sailing Cruise

San Francisco Bay Sailing Cruise offers tourists a scenic tour on a sailboat cruise.

  • Family-Friendliness: 4.5/5
  • Educational Value: 4.5/5

Here are the top 25 things to do in The Bay Area.

1. Alcatraz Island (Editor’s Choice)

Alcatraz Island

San Francisco, CA 94123 (415) 561-4900 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Alcatraz Island is a small island found in San Francisco Bay.

It was a military and a federal prison from 1934 to 1963.

Ratings Criteria

  • Nice and knowledgeable staff
  • Self-tour audio
  •  Expensive

Why You Should Go

There are tons of spots to look at when you visit Alcatraz Island.

You can go tour around Eagle Plaza and visit the ruins of the Warden’s House and lighthouse.

You can also visit the Cellhouse to see what it was like to live as a prisoner on Alcatraz Island.

Don’t forget to visit the theater on the island.

It shows a short film that depicts the history of Alcatraz Island.

Once done, you can enjoy a trip to the gift shops and get yourself a souvenir to remember yourtime ‘in prison.’

Recommended Hotel Nearby: The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco

2. California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences

5 Music Concourse Dr San Francisco, CA 94118 (415) 379-8000 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

  • Diverse and interactive museums
  • Fun and educational experience
  •  Crowds

California Academy of Sciences is a must-go destination with your kids.

You and your kids will enjoy the aquarium, planetarium, rainforest, and natural history museum for 4-hours.

It’s an excellent place where your kids can enjoy having fun while learning. 

There’s so much to see and enjoy for the whole family, a great way to spend the day.

There are a lot of things to do when you’re at the California Academy of Sciences.

You can visit the aquarium, the rainforest, and the natural history museum.

You can also watch breathtaking shows at the planetarium. With its interactive screen next to most exhibits, you and your kids will learn a lot.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: The Fairmont Heritage Place Ghirardelli Square

Related: Best Restaurants in the Bay Area

3. San Francisco Bay Sailing Cruise

San Francisco Bay Sailing Cruise

Pier 39 Dock J San Francisco, CA 94133 (702) 648-5873 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

  • Fun experience
  • Friendly and helpful staff

San Francisco Bay Sailing Cruise is an ideal thing to do for a relaxing getaway.

You’ll get a sun-filled 1.5 relaxing sail in the San Francisco Bay.

While sailing, you’ll get amazing views of Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the city’s skyline.

It’s a perfect treat for everyone.

Also, you’ll learn the history and ecosystem of the San Francisco Bay area.

While on board, you can take in the spectacular views of the city, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

You can also look for sea lions, seals, and dolphins.

Also, take advantage of great photo ops with your family as souvenirs.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Comfort Suites Bakersfield


151 Third Street San Francisco, CA 94103 (415) 357-4000 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is a nonprofit organization with an internationally-recognized collection.

It was established in 1935.

With a vast collection of artworks, SFMoMA is an excellent alternative to the San Francisco Bay Sailing Cruise and the California Academy of Sciences.

SFMOMA has a vast collection of 33,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, design, media arts, photography, and architecture.

It is one of the largest modern and contemporary art museums in the world.

When it’s raining or cold outside, visit this downtown museum to see works from celebrated artists.

Some of the artists you’ll see here are Jackson Pollock, Frida Kahlo, and Andy Warhol.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: St. Regis San Francisco

Related: Best Beaches in The San Francisco Bay Area

5. Sonoma Farm Trails

Sonoma Farm Trails

Sebastopol, CA 95473 (707) 837-8896 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

The Sonoma Farm Trails were created by farmers in Sonoma County so that the public can meet local farmers and learn more about agriculture.

Discover more about food production and agriculture when you visit Sonoma County.

The farm trails are a great way to maximize your time, going from one farm to another.

With the map and guide on hand, you can take workshops, buy from farmer’s markets, visit nurseries, and go on different tours.

One of the activities that you can do on the farm trails is to visit a U-Pick farm.

Some farms in the trails offer you the chance to pick your own produce like fruits and vegetables.

Seasonal visits can even have you picking your own Halloween pumpkin or Christmas tree.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Fairfield Inn and Suites Santa Rosa Sebastopol

Related: Best Things to Do in Sonoma, CA

6. Mount Tam

Mount Tam

3801 Panoramic Highway Mill Valley, CA 94941 (415) 388-2070 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Mount Tamalpais in Marin County is part of the California Coast Ranges.

It has an elevation of 2,571 feet.

Mount Tam is considered by many to be symbolic of Marin County.

It’s one of the places to visit in the San Francisco Bay Area when you want to do a hike.

There are tons of trails that you can choose from.

Besides backpacking and walking hikes, you can also go road cycling, horseback riding, and even hang-gliding in Mount Tam.

Mount Tam is known for its idyllic nature views of open grassland, redwood trees, and more.

It’s also common for artists to spend a bit of time drawing or painting the sceneries during the hikes.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Mill Valley Inn

7. Long Meadow Ranch

Long Meadow Ranch

738 Main Street St. Helena, CA 94574 (707) 963-4555 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Long Meadow Ranch is a family-owned ranch known for its full-circle organic farming system and wine selection.

One of our favorite things to do in the Bay Area for couples is to sample the impressive selection of wine in the area.

Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch is an excellent place for this.

This ranch offers different wine experiences that will cater to your needs.

You can choose to pair Long Meadow ranch wines with a cheese and charcuterie board.

Or you can opt for the chef-chosen bites that match perfectly with each estate wine served.

Aside from wine, Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch is known for its healthy, organic meals made through sustainable practices.

Enjoy your date fully with a dinner of White Alba Truffles or ‘Brick Cooked’ Chicken.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Harvest Inn

8. The Marshall Store

The Marshall Store

19225 State Route 1 Marshall, CA 94940 (415) 663-1339 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

The Marshall Store is one of Tomales Bay’s iconic destinations.

When it comes to oysters and seafood dishes, foodies will adore visiting here.

The oysters served in The Marshall Store come from their family farm.

Get the most authentic experience by eating their delicious oyster dishes on the tables outside with a scenic view of the waters.

Make sure to try the different ways on how they cook their oysters.

You can always try them raw.

But barbecue, Rockefeller, and Kilpatrick are also great ways to experience this seafood favorite.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Bodega Bay Lodge

9. Googleplex


1600 Amphitheatre Parkway Mountain View, CA 94043 (650) 253-0000 Open in Google Maps

Googleplex is the corporate headquarters of Google.

It was built in July 2004 and is 2,000,000 square feet in size.

Visiting this destination should be added to your list of stuff to do in the South Bay.

While there are no Googleplex tours open to the public, you can stroll around the campus independently.

Sure, you won’t be able to go indoors without an employee with you.

But there are tons to see outside.

Visit the quirky works around the campus like the life-size T-Rex skeleton or the jumbo cartoon Android figures.

You can also ride one of the Gbikes inside the campus.

If you’re on campus during the weekend or at night, you can make use of their sports fields and tennis courts.

It’s one of the top things to do in the Bay Area tonight.

You’ll be able to tell your friends you did a workout at Google.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Crowne Plaza Cabana Hotel

Related: Best Restaurants in Mountain View

10. Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

21600 Big Basin Way Boulder Creek, CA 95006 (831) 338-8861 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Big Basin Redwoods State Park is the oldest state park in California.

It was established in 1902 with an original land area of 3,800 acres.

Currently, it is 18,000 acres big.

A walk around nature can really be relaxing for many people.

Here, at the state park, you’ll find the largest group of ancient coast redwood trees south of San Francisco.

You can also use the many trails in the park to visit other destinations like Castle Rock State Park or the Santa Cruz range.

Big Basin is home to many waterfalls, different environments, and tons of animals.

Make sure to bring your camera to capture the beautiful nature scenes all around.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Los Gatos Garden Inn Hotel

11. Port Costa

Port Costa

1 Plaza Del Hambre Port Costa, CA 94569 Open in Google Maps

Port Costa is a CDP in Contra Costa County with a population of 190.

It was founded in 1879 by the Central Pacific Railroad.

Feel like you stepped back in time when you arrive in the village of Port Costa.

The atmosphere in the area will make it seem like time stood still in this small area.

Eat a hearty brunch at Bull Valley Roadhouse or have a drink at the Warehouse Cafe if you want to stay indoors.

Feeling as if you’re in the past isn’t the only come-on of Port Costa.

Art lovers will also adore the superb selection of vintage-inspired paper artwork that can be seen in the Theatre of Dreams.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Best Western Plus Heritage Inn

12. Harley Farms

Harley Farms

205 North Street Pescadero, CA 94060 (650) 879-0480 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Harley Farms is a dairy farmstead in the peninsula known for its award-winning cheeses and goat-milk products.

Learn more about the farm life when you tour around Harley Farms.

Here you can pet their goats or have a picnic on the farm’s beautiful grounds.

A trip here is an excellent addition to your list of top things to do in the Bay Area with kids .

While you’re here, make sure to taste a sample of Harley Farm’s popular products.

Many of them are freshly made, so you’re sure to enjoy your experience.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Sheraton Palo Alto Hotel

13. Chinatown San Francisco

Chinatown San Francisco

Grant Avenue San Francisco, CA 94108 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

The Chinatown in San Francisco can be found around Grant Avenue and Stockton Street.

It is the oldest Chinatown in North America.

Enjoy walking along the lantern-adorned streets of SF’s Chinatown.

You’ll love looking at the colorful buildings and discovering what each narrow alleyway has in store for you.

A stroll around this area of San Francisco is definitely a contender for one of the best free things to do in the Bay Area.

Foodies will rejoice because Chinatown has cheap and delicious snacks for you to munch on.

From takeaway dim sum to a glass of fresh fruit shake, you’ll love eating your way through the streets.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Orchard Garden Hotel

14. Cavallo Point

Cavallo Point

601 Murray Circle Sausalito, CA 94965 (888) 651-2003 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Cavallo Point is a historic boutique hotel found at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge.

It is a well-known advocate of green living.

Spend a peaceful time in the picturesque setting of Cavallo Point.

Its spectacular views and the incredibly green fare is sure to be a hit with nature lovers.

You can even learn more about organic cooking when you join the classes found in their Cooking School.

After being busy, make time to relax in Cavallo Point’s indoor-outdoor spa.

You can soak in the mediation pool, indulge in fantastic body treatments, or even drink a cup of tea around the fireplace.

Related: Best Things to Do in Sausalito, CA

15. Russian River

Russian River

Guerneville, CA 95446 (707) 869-9000 Visit Website Open in Google Maps

The Russian River is the second largest river that flows through the Greater San Francisco Bay Area.

It is about 180-km long.

The Russian River is known for its leisurely pace.

So it’s no wonder locals and visitors alike love lazing down this rolling river.

All you need is a floater, and you can kick back, relax, and let the river weave its peaceful magic.

There are tons of ways to enjoy a day in the Russian River.

You can bring your canoe and kayak to explore around and search for wildlife.

Or you can discover hidden beaches along the river and lounge on your beach blanket.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Hampton Inn Ukiah

16. Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks

501 Twin Peaks Boulevard San Francisco, CA 94114 (415) 831-2700 Visit Website Open in Google Maps

Twin Peaks is a community in the hills of San Francisco.

It was initially called Strawberry Flat in the 1860s.

The reason why many tourists like visiting Twin Peaks is because it has fantastic views.

You can see the San Francisco skyline from here.

Besides the view, you can also enjoy seeing various plants and animals around the area while making your way up top.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Bear Springs Hotel

17. Ferry Building

Ferry Building

One Ferry Building San Francisco, CA 94111 (415) 983-8030 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

The San Francisco Ferry Building can be found along the Embarcadero.

It is a terminal for ferries owned by the Port of San Francisco.

It opened in 1898.

Though still a ferry terminal, the Ferry Building is more known for its incredible food hall and marketplace.

Here you can taste a myriad of flavors.

From simple donuts to luxurious oysters, the food hall has tons of choices for you to choose from.

While you’re here, you should check out the San Francisco-themed merchandise you can get.

They’ll be great souvenirs to bring back or just have in your home.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Fairmont San Francisco

18. Lombard Street

Lombard Street

Lombard St San Francisco, CA 94133 Visit Website Open in Google Maps

Lombard Street can be found between Leavenworth Street & Hyde Street.

It is known as ‘the crookedest street in the world.’

Lombard Street is a famous San Francisco attraction because of its unique look.

You’ll enjoy watching cars going down the winding street with eight hairpin turns.

Take a picture of Lombard Street from the bottom.

The shot’s angle will make it look like the cars are driving down an impossibly sharp road.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Taj Campton Place

19. Lands End Trail

Lands End Trail

Point Lobos Avenue San Francisco, CA 94121 (415) 426-5240 Visit Website Open in Google Maps

Lands End Trail is a 5.5-km loop trail near San Francisco Bay.

It is a moderately difficult trail that kids can still enjoy.

If you want to see beautiful views of the Pacific, then a visit to Lands End Trail is a must.

Aside from pretty wildflowers and a small chance to spot sea lions, this trail offers incredible scenes of the ocean.

Idyllic and relaxing views make Lands End Trail a great spot for running or walking activities.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Stanyan Park Hotel

20. Fort Point

Fort Point

Long Avenue & Marine Drive San Francisco, CA 94129 (415) 504-2334 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Fort Point is a seacoast building found just below the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge.

It was completed in October 1970, just before the American Civil War.

History buffs will love to go on tour in Fort Point.

It was built to defend San Francisco Bay from enemy warships.

You’ll be able to walk around its courtyard and look for unique views of the Golden Gate Bridge above.

Learn more about the history of Fort Point through artifacts and films that can be found inside.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Kimpton Buchanan Hotel

21. Union Square

Union Square

291 Geary St., Ste. 200 San Francisco, CA 94102 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Union Square is a public plaza in downtown San Francisco.

It is bordered by Geary Powell Street, Post Street, and Stockton Street.

If you want to do some shopping, then Union Square is a great place to start.

For serious retail lovers, this place should be added to your list of fun things to do in the Bay Area.

From affordable brands all the way to luxury flagship stores, you’ll be in a shopper’s heaven.

After a satisfying shopping stint, you can do both indoor and outdoor dining over at Union Square.

You can also go to art galleries and other entertainment places like the Museum of Ice Cream and the San Francisco Playhouse.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: The Cartwright Hotel, Union Square BW Premier Collection

22. Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf

Jefferson Street San Francisco, CA 94133 (415) 673-3530 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Fisherman’s Wharf is a popular tourist attraction in San Francisco.

It can be found between Hyde and Powell Streets.

Fisherman’s Wharf is long.

It starts from about Ghirardelli Square all the way to Pier 35.

So you know you’ll have lots to do and see here.

Besides shopping, you can also go inside spots like Ripley’s Believe or Not, the Musee Mecanique, and the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

Seafood lovers will enjoy spending their time in Fisherman’s Wharf as there are plenty of seafood restaurants around.

Make sure to try San Francisco gems like Alioto’s.

Or if you prefer something more mainstream, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and the like are also here.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Riu Plaza Fisherman’s Wharf

Related: Best Hotels in The Bay Area

23. Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park

501 Stanyan Street San Francisco, CA 94117 (415) 831-2700 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Golden Gate Park is a 1,017-acre public urban park.

It is 20 percent larger than New York’s Central Park and opened in April 1870.

If you want to check out tons of attractions this weekend without hopping from place to place, visit this park.

The Golden Gate Park is home to many gardens like the Shakespeare Garden and Dahlia Garden.

You can also check out the Conservatory of Flowers.

Sporty visitors will also love the many fitness opportunities scattered in the park.

You can visit the Kezar Stadium, the Polo Field, or the Archery Range.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Hotel Drisco

Related: Best Things to do in San Francisco

24. Presidio of San Francisco

Presidio of San Francisco

103 Montgomery Street San Francisco, CA 94129 (415) 561-5300 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

Presidio of San Francisco is a former US Army military fort.

It was fortified in September 1776.

Bike along or take a stroll in the Presidio Promenade.

It’s a 2.1-mile trail that starts at the historic Lombard Gate all the way to the foot of the Golden Bridge.

You’ll be passing stunning views and old military architecture.

Make sure to stop by Crissy Field.

It’s the Presidio’s most popular spot that both locals and visitors love.

You can do a picnic around or jog along its waterfront paths.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Hotel Zelos San Francisco

25. The Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts

3301 Lyon Street San Francisco, CA 94123 (415) 608-2220 Visit Website Social Media Open in Google Maps

The Palace of Fine Arts can be found in the Marina District of San Francisco.

It was initially built in 1915.

However, it was completely rebuilt from 1964 to 1974.

A visit to this location is one of the best things to do in the Bay Area.

Currently, the Palace of Fine Arts is most notable because of its open rotunda with beautiful arches enclosed by a lagoon.

It’s utterly romantic, and many weddings are done there because of its scenic view.

Artists will love their trip to the Palace of Fine Arts without even stepping inside.

The recognizable landmark is a favorite subject for many artists who visit.

So draw or paint away, and you’ll find yourself with a beautiful souvenir to take back home.

Recommended Hotel Nearby: Club Quarters Hotel in San Francisco

Related: Best Things to Do in Northern California

Activity Guide 

Comparing attractions: which one is right for you.

Just like a vibrant palette full of colors, each Bay Area attraction has its unique hue. 

So, when choosing the best things to do with the family, consider the factors and preferences you’re looking for.

You must also consider its affordability, accessibility, family-friendliness, fun factor, and educational value.

For instance, Alcatraz Island has a fascinating past.

It’s not just a former prison but also an important site for Native-American activism.

With a headset tour guide,  we enjoyed the site itself.

I also loved how friendly and knowledgeable the staff was during our trip.

The only downside is, going to Alcatraz Island is costly.

On the other hand, the California Academy of Sciences is all about diversity and interaction.

My kids had a blast having fun while learning about science.

But, the place is quite popular so expect crowds during weekends.

In San Francisco Bay Sailing Cruise, we love the unique, fun experience.

Also, the entire staff is helpful and friendly, making our trip memorable.

However, it’s costly too.

We spent the best of our lives visiting The Bay Area, and my kids wanted to return.

These attractions and activities offered something special that made our vacation unforgettable.

It’s all about choosing the adventure that speaks to your heart.

How I Picked The Activities

As a parent and travel writer, my passion for exploring led me to numerous places.

And that led my family to The Bay Area for vacation.

Filled with happiness during our trip, I’ve reviewed the best things to do in The Bay Area.

And to write an honest review, I did extensive research. 

I also talked with other tourists and parents for their valuable insights.

Our Rating Method 

I rate these attractions based on the following criteria: 

  • Family-Friendliness: I use this criterion to assess the family-friendly appeal of every activity. Is it suitable for families with kids? Is it safe, engaging, and fun for children? I ask myself these questions in order to rate family-friendliness. 
  • Affordability: This is used to evaluate the attraction’s affordability. Will visitors get a lot of bang for their buck? Is it free or cheaper compared to the other options? Does it offer discounted rates, special promotions, or free entry? I consider these factors when rating affordability.
  • Accessibility: This evaluates the activity’s accessibility. Is it easily accessible by public transportation? Are there plenty of parking spaces available? Is it wheelchair accessible? I ask myself these questions when assessing the attraction’s accessibility.
  • Fun Factor: I use this to evaluate how enjoyable the attraction is for visitors. Will it create positive and memorable experiences? Is it engaging, fun, and exciting? I use these questions to evaluate this criterion. 
  • Educational Value: This assesses the educational benefits of the activity. Does it provide learning opportunities to kids? Will it teach visitors lessons in science and history? I ask myself these important questions when rating educational value. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is bay area famous for.

The Bay Area is famous for its iconic landmarks, such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island, which attract millions of visitors each year. It is also renowned for its vibrant tech industry, with Silicon Valley being the epicenter of innovation and home to numerous tech giants and startups.

Is Oakland Cheaper Than San Francisco?

Yes, Oakland is generally considered to be more affordable than San Francisco. While both cities are part of the Bay Area, Oakland tends to have lower housing costs, lower overall expenses, and a lower cost of living compared to San Francisco.

tourist bay area

These are the best things to do in The Bay Area.

As for my family vacation, we created fun and lasting memories to cherish.

And each of these things to do has something unique to offer to everyone.

Visiting the California Academy of Sciences made my little kids curious about science.

We love the fun and educational experience they offer and its diverse and interactive museums.

I was like a wide-eyed kid, totally in awe of the rainforest dome and the planetarium.

At San Francisco Bay Sailing Cruise, our sailing trip is worth the money with the fun and one-of-a-kind experience we got.

SFMoMA is an excellent alternative to the California Academy of Sciences and San Francisco Bay Sailing Cruise if it’s raining outside.

At SFMoMA, you’ll see more than 33,000 artworks from the celebrated artist.

However, we must acknowledge each of their drawbacks.

At the California Academy of Sciences, it gets crowded.

San Francisco Bay Sailing Cruise is costly.

On the other hand, SFMoMa needs better customer service.

Despite their drawbacks, these attractions keep on evolving and improving.

As for the top choice, the tour on Alcatraz Island is the best.

With its self-tour audio, you can tour at your own pace.

As my family and I stood at the entrance, I could already feel the excitement. 

Every corner of the former prison held an insightful story.

And what I love the most is their pleasant and knowledgeable staff that made our tour more fun and memorable.

Going to Alcatraz Island may be expensive, but worth all the effort and money.


© 2024 California.com All Rights Reserved


15 Bay Area Attractions You Need To See Now

15 Bay Area Attractions You Need To See Now

These are the top 15 Bay Area Attractions you need to see now, from the coolest and the lesser-known to touristy hidden gems.

Sona P.

January 08, 2022

Visiting Bay Area attractions is by no means a one-dimensional experience—it’s a blend of both the well-known as well as the unexpected. There are traditional touristy locations like the grand Golden Gate Bridge or the mysterious Alcatraz, the famous historic prison in San Francisco ; there are also Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown offering up all the gastronomical delights you can ever dream of. But amidst all this are other spots that are equally stunning, yet so off the beaten path that not a lot of people know about them. So to have the whole shebang that is the incomparable Bay Area, make sure your itinerary has a bit of everything.

These Are The Coolest Bay Area Tourist Attractions

tourist bay area

1. Baker Beach

Located below the rugged cliffs on the Presidio’s western shoreline, Baker Beach is a picnicker’s haven—you’ll find tables, restrooms, and grills dotting the whole area. Pair that with picturesque views, sandcastles, and the wind blowing through your hair and you’ve got yourself an afternoon to remember at one of the best beaches in the Bay Area .

2. De Young Museum

A fine art museum smacks dab in the middle of Golden Gate Park—what else does an art aficionado need in their life? Visit the warrior masks upstairs, explore the sculpture garden outside, and take the elevator to the de Young Museum’s free observation tower for sparkling views of the city. 

3. Golden Gate Bridge 

Arguably the most iconic Bay Area attraction, the Golden Gate Bridge graces the whole of S.F. with the most unforgettable vistas. An orange architectural marvel backed by the water of pure turquoise peeking through low-lying clouds—no wonder this is one of the most photographed sites in the Bay Area .

4. Doran Regional Park

Doran Regional Park features a wide two-mile stretch of beach tailor-fit for walking, picnicking, flying kites, and playing in the sand. As far as Bodega Bay attractions go, visiting this Bay Area park is a given, especially if you take into account the whisking views.

tourist bay area

5. Fisherman’s Wharf

If you’re visiting San Francisco and have only a day or two to see the sights, Fisherman’s Wharf is the best place to check out. This old section—once the Little Italy of San Francisco—is renowned for its shops, restaurants, and beautiful placement along the waterfront.

Bay Area Attractions for Families 

6. aquarium of the bay san francisco.

One of the most prized Bay Area attractions for families is none other than the Aquarium of Bay in San Francisco . Kids and adults of all ages flock to this aquarium in California to witness more than 20,000 species of marine animals—expect to marvel at sharks, rays, octopuses, jellyfish, river otters, and more.

tourist bay area

7. Bay Area Discovery Museum

Nestled by the waters near Sausalito, the Bay Area Discovery Museum offers a wide range of interactive, both inside and outside, activities tailored for children from six months to 10 years old. Be sure to explore Lookout Cove, a sprawling 2.5-acre outdoor playground featuring tide pools , gravel pits, fishing boats, shipwrecks, and a unique spider web installation.

8. House of Air 

Situated within a repurposed aircraft hangar, House of Air stands out as a favorite trampoline park at San Francisco's Crissy Field. Families are welcome to enjoy a variety of activities including free jump sessions on trampolines, engaging in dodgeball games, and the unique opportunity to observe Olympians during their training sessions, with the chance for a photo op.

tourist bay area

9. Coit Tower 

The towering 210-foot structure made of white concrete, perched atop Pioneer Park, is a must-visit on many Bay Area sightseeing lists, and for good reason. Visitors can take an elevator to the top for breathtaking 360-degree panoramas of the city. Insider tip: Don't miss the captivating murals inside.

10. Letterman Digital and New Media Center 

Nestled in the Presidio, the Letterman Digital and New Media Arts Center houses Lucas Film, making it a treasure trove for Star Wars enthusiasts. Children will be thrilled to discover the life-size Yoda statue; and as a fun fact, you can also find stormtrooper outfits displayed in the lobby.

Lesser-Known Bay Area Tourist Attractions

tourist bay area

11. San Gregorio State Park and Beach

When beach lovers visit this semi-hidden Bay Area attraction , San Gregorio’s uniqueness is the thing that strikes them first. With an area almost strewn with a vast array of driftwood and seashells, this state park near S.F. boasts grassy bluffs for days.

12. Pulgas Water Temple

Hailed as an engineering marvel, the Pulgas Water Temple sits in the exact spot where waters routed from the Sierra Nevada Mountains enter into the Crystal Springs Reservoir. This epic backdrop is so gorgeous it’s often used as a picturesque wedding location—you might not get hitched there, but a photo is a must.

13. Central Park

We know what you’re thinking, and no, this is not a landmark in New York City. Central Park is actually a much smaller yet still amazing destination in San Mateo. Just off the El Camino Real, this park has all the traditional amenities plus the stellar views you’ve come to expect from Bay Area attractions.

tourist bay area

14. California’s Great America 

If you have a personality type that’s overwhelmed by large crowds but still want to experience the amusement parks in the Bay Area ; we highly suggest checking out California's Great America . With fun rides, special events, musical performances, and fireworks, this is the place to leave your worries behind and spend an unforgettable, fun-filled afternoon.

15. The Exploratorium 

San Francisco is home to a plethora of iconic Art museums in California , and they are all well worth visiting. The Exploratorium , though, is different from these traditional Bay Area attractions ; it takes adventure to a whole different level. Curious young minds and adults alike revel in scientific and educational experiences—fun, fascinating, and with a refreshing hands-on approach.

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Things To Do | 7 incredible Bay Area things to do this weekend

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Things to do | child, three adults killed in alameda shooting; child’s father arrested as suspect, things to do | 7 incredible bay area things to do this weekend, july 12-14.

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Meanwhile, if you’d like to have this Weekender lineup delivered to your inbox every Thursday morning for free, just sign up at www.mercurynews.com/newsletters  or  www.eastbaytimes.com/newsletters .

1 WATCH: The pork ‘Party’ is back

Eight years ago, an R-rated animated comedy about a frankfurter with big dreams became a surprise box office hit with “Sausage Party.” Now Frank the frankfurter is back in the equally raunchy and silly sequel “Sausage Party: Foodtopia,” and we are all in.

tourist bay area

2 EAT: Crispy, buttery deliciousness

The Paris Olympics are just a couple of weeks off, which can only mean one thing: croissants! Actually, croissants are awesome at any time and for any occasion, and here are 12 great places to get them.

3 CELEBRATE: Bastille Day in the Bay

Speaking of excellent French things, Bastille Day arrives this weekend and the Bay Area is awash in celebrations. And if you’re Jonesing for an authentic Paris-style flea market, Marin has just the thing.

4 MAKE & SIP: A cocktail guru

We chatted up famed cocktail influencer Julianna McIntosh, who’s about to release a new book, “Pretty Simple Cocktails,” about her goal to make life easier and tastier for all you at-home bartenders out there.

tourist bay area

5 SEE & HEAR: Great shows are all over

From a free concert by one of the world’s top guitarists to the fun-filled annual Help is on the Way fundraiser, there are a lot of great Bay Area shows and concerts to catch this weekend and beyond.

6 SEE & HEAR: Afro-Cuban magic

In the ’90s, Buena Vista Social Club director Juan de Marcos Gonzalez helped bring Afro-Cuban music to a worldwide audience. Now he’s coming to SFJAZZ with a whole new band of musicians.

7 SEE & HEAR: Grateful Dead history

The Bay Area’s Dark Star Orchestra is a unique Grateful Dead tribute band. And it will be re-creating a very special Dead concert this weekend.

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Elephants trample tourist to death in South Africa after he left car to take photos

Police said the man's fiancée and two other women, all from Johannesburg, were also in the vehicle and unharmed.

By The Associated Press • Published July 10, 2024 • Updated on July 10, 2024 at 1:36 am

Elephants trampled to death a Spanish tourist at a South African wildlife reserve after he left his vehicle and approached a herd to take photographs, police and local government authorities said Tuesday.

The 43-year-old man was killed on Sunday at Pilanesberg National Park in North West province, about 180 kilometers (111 miles) from Johannesburg, police said.

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The elephant herd included young calves. Wildlife experts often warn that elephants are especially protective of their young and can react aggressively to a perceived threat.

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Officers kill 3 coyotes at San Francisco Botanical Garden after attack on 5-year-old girl

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Yellowstone visitors hope to catch a glimpse of rare white buffalo calf

Piet Nel, acting chief conservation officer for the North West Parks and Tourism Board, said guests at Pilanesberg are told they are not allowed to leave their vehicles while driving through the park and must sign forms showing they understand the rules.

“In some cases, people are oblivious to the dangers in the parks,” Nel said. "We must remember that you are entering a wild area.”

Elephants killed two American tourists this year in separate attacks in the southern African nation of Zambia.

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California Politics | 5 charts that explain how the Bay Area’s…

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California politics | 5 charts that explain how the bay area’s population has changed, california lost 1.2 million residents in four years.

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“Population is a pretty good indicator for the general economic health of the region,” said Jeff Bellisario, executive director of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute .

“Generally, regions struggle to grow economically if they’re also struggling to grow their population … and that’s a bit where we are right now,” he said.

1) The Bay Area’s population continues to shrink

Bay Area counties saw some of the most dramatic population drops in the state — and country — at the beginning of the pandemic, and the data shows the region’s population has continued to drop. California’s population fell 1.5% between April 2020 and July 2023. Only one Bay Area county had a population drop smaller than that — Contra Costa County, which had a nearly 1% decrease over those three years.

While each Bay Area county, and the state as a whole, saw a smaller population decrease in 2023 than the year before, San Francisco was the only county in the region that grew last year, though it is still 7% down from July 2020.

2) California lost 1.2 million people to other states since April 2020

Since the decennial census was conducted in April of 2020, California has lost over 500,000 residents in total.

Nearly 1.4 million babies were born in the Golden State from April 2020 through July 2023, according to the census. Just over a million people died, leaving the state’s so-called “natural” population change in the positive.

Meanwhile, the state gained over 300,000 residents from international migration. If the calculations stopped there, the region might still be in the positive, but nearly 1.2 million people have moved out of state since April 2020, plunging the state into the negative, and fueling a years-long narrative of an exodus from the Bay Area .

“We saw a big drop off in population at the onset of the pandemic — that was true in high-cost places around the country,” Bellisario said. But while many of those other high-cost places have seen a rebound, “we seem to be a little different.”

Bellisario points, in part, to the Bay Area’s low birth rates, which he said could have “extreme implications for the education system … and our future workforce.”

“We’ve historically brought people in internationally,” he said, but that stream of new residents from other countries has also been disrupted in recent years.

Santa Clara County lost 126,000 residents in those three years and four months, while nearly 62,000 babies were born, and about 37,000 residents died. The county gained nearly 46,000 more from international migration, but those numbers are much lower than they once were before the Trump administration and COVID disrupted the flow of international migration to Silicon Valley.

3) Hispanic population is growing faster

Nationally, the population who identifies as Hispanic of any race is growing at a rate much faster than the non-Hispanic population. In the Bay Area as a whole, the Hispanic population is shrinking. But in Contra Costa County, the Hispanic population has grown every year since the April 2020 census.

The growth of the Hispanic population in Contra Costa County is part of the reason that the county has held onto its population better than other Bay Area counties and the state.

After a huge drop from 2020 to 2021, the Hispanic population of San Francisco has rebounded, from 5% below the April 2020 level in 2021 to just 3% below in 2023. The non-Hispanic population in San Francisco has dropped over 8% in the same time.

Despite Contra Costa County’s increase, the overall decrease among the Bay Area’s Hispanic population distinguishes the region from a national trend of fast-growing Hispanic populations.

4) There are more Asian residents of the Bay Area now than in April 2020

There are actually more Asian residents living in the five-county Bay Area now than in April of 2020. The nearly 50,000 more Asian residents is an increase of just over 2%. The Asian population was the only group to grow since April 2020, bucking the overall population drop of 3.5%.

The Asian population of the five-county Bay Area had become the largest racial group in the past several years, as the region’s White population has shrunk, by nearly 10% from 2.19 million in April 2020 to 1.98 million residents in July 2023.

Despite overall drops, from 2022 to 2023 there were a few groups whose population grew: those who identify as two or more races, and the Hispanic population, though both are still below 2020 numbers across the five-county Bay Area.

5) Bay Area continues to age

Santa Clara County was and remains the youngest county in the region, with a median age of 38.3 years.

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Beryl leaves Houston area after killing 4, officials say

MATAGORDA, Tex. — Tropical Storm Beryl pulled away from Houston after pounding the city and region with intense winds and rain, but it spared the area from widespread destruction. City and state officials said that the storm killed four people — including one city employee — and that it may take several days to restore power. Beryl made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane about 4 a.m. Central time Monday near Matagorda and was downgraded to a tropical storm later Monday morning, the National Hurricane Center said. It is expected to weaken further and stop being a tropical storm Tuesday.

  • Much of the danger recedes from the Houston area
  • The worst is over for Houston as weather radar shows the core of former Hurricane Beryl...
  • Beryl hit in area seeing some of the world’s fastest rates of sea level rise

Here's what to know:

Here's what to know, live coverage contributors 22.

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