Top 10 FREE Things to Do in San Francisco

San Francisco is home to a little bit of everything. Whether you’re a first time visitor or a long-time local, there is always something to do.  Here is a list of the top 10 FREE things you can see and do.

1. Golden Gate Bridge and Park

Walking or biking across the bridge is a great experience, with incredible views from both sides.  The 1017-acre park of redwood, green meadows, and museums is an unreal setting to take in the surroundings. Stroll around Stow Lake or watch the disco roller skaters who dance around the area closed to traffic on Sundays. You can either hang out in Shakespeare’s Garden or just find a sunny patch of grass to catch some sun.
-Our book was tailor made just for us. Guidester let us take our dream trip and do it our way! - (5) 

2. Fisherman’s Wharf

San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf is proudly unique among the scenic waterfront attractions of the world.  Today, Fisherman’s Wharf rests on land created from the rubble of buildings destroyed in the earthquake and fire of 1906.  Home to world-class dining, shopping, hotels and endless entertainment opportunities, the Wharf is truly the place to start your San Francisco experience.

3. Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts is an important part of San Francisco’s rich history and is one of the first you encounter upon entering the city from the Golden Gate Bridge.  The Palace was built in 1910 for an exposition that honored the completion of the Panama Canal. It also helped send the message that San Francisco was back in business after the devastating earthquake and fire of 1906.

Built on 635 acres reclaimed from San Francisco Bay, the exposition featured 11 exhibit palaces showcasing objects from every corner of the globe. There are 1,500+ sculptures commissioned from artists all over the world, 65 acres of amusement concessions and an aviation field. When the exposition ended, the Palace Preservation League saved the Palace, and allowed to endure. The neoclassical building evokes nature, ancient mythology, and the romanticism of the early twentieth century.

4. Cable Car Museum

The Cable Car Museum was established in 1974 and is located in the historic Washington/Mason cable car barn and powerhouse. The museum houses three antique cable cars from the 1870s and display are various mechanical devices such as grips, track, cable, brake mechanisms, tools, detailed models, and a large collection of historic photographs.
san francisco cable car

5. Sea Lions at Pier 39

On October 17, 1989, the San Francisco Bay Area was hit by a major earthquake, and while the Marina sustained very little physical damage, the impact on business was immediate and devastating. Tourists, the mainstay of San Francisco’s economy, stayed away, and the local boating community focused on relief services.  Due in part to the available dock space, plentiful herring supply and the Marina’s protected environment, the sea lions soon took over the dock and became an international story.  After much debate and research, the experts from The Marine Mammal Center therefore recommended that the sea lions stay in their newfound home offering an entertaining attraction!


7. Free Guided Walking Tour

With over 90 tours to choose from—Murals and the Multi-Ethnic Mission, Castro: Tales of the Village, or Gold Rush City, to name a few—San Francisco City Guides is one of the best deals in town and provides a great experience. Best of all, most every museum in San Francisco is free on certain days of the week.

8. City Hall

Inside the mighty beaux-arts dome, the splendid rotunda of City Hall offers splendid art exhibits and free tours to the public.  Tours run Monday – Friday 10:00 am, 12:00 noon and 2:00 pm. All tours run 45 minutes to an hour.
San Francisco City Hall from east end of Civic Center Plaza

9. Twin Peaks

At 922 feet in elevation, Twin Peaks is second only to Mt. Davidson in height, and offers spectacular views of the Bay Area. Understandably so, it is a world-famous tourist attraction. These two adjacent peaks provide postcard views and a wealth of animal and plant diversity. Visitors can either drive or take a bus to Twin Peaks drive to enjoy 180-degree views of the Bay Area.

10. Farmers’ Market

Finally, we have the historic Farmer’s Market. Sample organic food, buy fresh produce from big name chefs of the Bay Area, and people watch. It is always a party and always free. Held rain or shine every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, this is one of the most interesting ways to spend time the city.

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4 thoughts on “Top 10 FREE Things to Do in San Francisco”

  1. #1 is misleading. Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park are separate places, several miles apart. They are both wonderful to see and visit but each is a separate destination.

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