San Francisco is at the heart of culture in California. From the Golden Gate Bridge to Alcatraz Island to the Japanese Tea Garden, there is something to fulfill all of your travel desires while stopping through. So, without further ado, here are 23 must-sees in San Francisco!
Did that picture just trigger a major Full House flashback? Because same. The Golden Gate Bridge is a one-mile-wide suspension bridge connecting San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. This is one of the Wonders of the Modern World and what most think of when they hear the sweet words “San Francisco.”
Alcatraz Island is an infamous island in California that President Fillmore set aside to be a US military reservation. However, perhaps what it’s most known for is the hundreds of prisoners that were housed here during the wars for 29 years. Among these prisoners were some of the most well-known criminals like Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Mickey Cohen, Robert Franklin Stroud (the “Birdman of Alcatraz”) and the inmate who served more time than anyone, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis. You can now do day tours through here and, for the more adventurous souls, there are night tours as well! Just make sure you book your tour ahead of time because these can fill up months in advance.
To read about my incredible adventures on Alcatraz Island, click here.
Fisherman’s Wharf is one of San Francisco’s busiest tourist areas. At this waterfront, you’ll have endless options of souvenirs and food that you can enjoy while watching the colony of sea lions nearby bask in the sun.
Golden Gate Park is a huge area (1,017 acres, to be exact) of public ground that’s just absolutely stuffed with things to do. It’s in here that you’ll find the Botanical Gardens, the Japanese Tea Gardens, Conservatory of Flowers, Ocean Beach, and much more. Take advantage of the free shuttle that runs through the park!
5. Union Square
Open 24 hours and located in downtown San Francisco, Union Square is a huge public plaza joined by many stores for shopping, hotels and even a theater district. It got its name from the pro-Union rallies that took place here before the Civil War.
The Presidio is a national park bordering the Golden Gate Bridge. This is definitely a must-see as it’s filled with forested areas, hiking trails, scenic outlooks and even a golf course!
Ghirardelli Square was originally a chocolate factory, hence its name. However, 3-stories-tall, it’s now filled with restaurants and shop after shop. This public square is located near Fisherman’s Wharf and also happens to be home to a 5-star hotel.
Ferry Building Marketplace is space that’s been restored from 1898 and now houses vendors for all sorts of things like cheese, coffee, candy and produce. Come here for your local food culture fix. Pro tip: Grab a mini bottle of wine to enjoy on the pier outside!
The Twin Peaks are a pair of 922-foot buildings. The easiest way to get to these landmarks from downtown is taking Market southwest until it turns into Portola. From here, take a right on Twin Peaks Boulevard and follow it until the end. If a car is not an option, you can also take public transportation or a tour bus, or do a bike rental/ hike.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is exactly what it sounds like, a modern art museum located in San Francisco. This was actually the first museum on the West Coast showcasing only 20th century pieces AND one of my all-time favorite museums that I visited in San Francisco.
11. Coit Tower
At 210 feet tall, Coit Tower offers spectacular views of the bay and surrounding city. Located in Telegraph Hill Neighborhood, this was built between 1932 and 1933 to showcase the beauty of San Francisco.
The Palace of Fine Arts was originally built in 1915 to be the Panama-Pacific Exposition. It’s hosts some of the most ornate architecture, but is now used as a venue available for galas, private events and corporate functions. Pro Tip: This is one of the best places for a gorgeous photo shoot!
13. Mount Tamalpais
Mount Tamalpais is a peak in Marin County. It got its name from the Miwok words “tamal” meaning coast or west and “pais” meaning hill. This peak is also known by many as the “Sleeping Princess” because you can see the figure of a woman in the mountain when looking at it from Sausalito. This is a great place to visit if you’re wanting to get more in touch with the nature side of California, as much of Mount Tamalpais is protected with public grounds.
The Japanese Tea Garden is the oldest public Japanese garden in the entire United States. You can find beautiful stone arch bridges, walkways, an island and, of course, a Japanese pavilion. This garden is actually free for an hour in the morning, check their website for the best times to visit! Take some time and escape to California’s version of Narnia.
15. Angel Island
Angel Island is (obviously) an island in San Francisco. This island was used as an immigration station between 1910 and 1940, where people were detained and interrogated while trying to enter the United States. You can get here by purchasing a ferry ticket, which is only $15 for an adult roundtrip. This also includes your entrance fee to the state park of Angel Island, so you really don’t have any excuses not to go check this beauty out!
16. The Bay Bridge
The Bay Bridge connects San Francisco and Oakland and is visited by about 260,000 vehicles a day. Constructed between 1933 and 1936, this bridge is a whopping 23,556 feet long. It’s beautiful during the day, but at night when it’s all lit up, it’s absolutely breathtaking.
To find out how I scored free accommodation with the view above, click here.
The Yerba Buena Gardens is really where the heart of San Francisco lies. It’s on these two blocks of public parks that you’ll fall in love with the shops, the people and–of course– the food.
18. Ocean Beach
Ocean Beach is one of the more boho neighborhoods where you can really feel the whole California-Surfer-Girl vibe. Lay out on the beach, fish off of the pier, or walk over to Newport Avenue for some shopping.
19. Oracle Park
Oracle Park is the home of the one and only San Francisco Giants. This baseball park is located in the South Beach neighborhood and should be on every baseball-fan’s bucket list. Although, since baseball is America’s favorite pastime, then I suppose it should be on everyone’s bucket list.
20. Lands End
Lands End–no, not the clothing store—is one of the most breathtaking spots in San Francisco. This lookout is situated at the mouth of the Golden Gate, showcasing the rocky shores and sparkling bay.
21. Lombard Street
Lombard Street is most famous for its eight hairpin turns that wind up the hill for a block or so. Located between The Presidio and The Embarcadero, this is definitely a sight that you can’t see just anywhere.
Note: It is actually extremely difficult to get this shot, unless you have a drone or are on a balcony nearby. However, it is still a very cool place to visit!
22. Pier 39
Pier 39 is a shopping center that is built right onto a pier. You’ll find everything from shopping & restaurants to video arcade to street performers & sea lions (not together, that is). Essentially, you can’t really be bored while at Pier 39.
The Museum of Ice Cream is probably the cutest museum to ever exist. It showcases plenty of ice cream-themed displays that are clearly Instagram-worthy. Just make sure you buy your tickets online ahead of time because you cannot do so at the door. Whether you want to cannonball into a pool of sprinkles or ride a giant animal cracker, this museum is for you.
What’s your favorite place in San Francisco? Let me know in the comments!
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