San Francisco is full of excitement, and the cultural, commercial and financial heart of Northern California. My daughter’s family now calls this area home, so it was time for me to pack my bags and check out the town sometimes called Paris of the West for myself!
San Francisco’s famous iconic landmarks, like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, lure nearly 17 million visitors to the city every year. These world-renowned spots are worth visiting even if you’ve lived there for years.
But that’s not all! There is so much to see and do in the San Francisco Bay area you could easily spend weeks here trying to see everything. Don’t you wish you had that much time off? I know I do!
Even if you have just a short time to spend in San Francisco, take a look at this bucket list worthy itinerary and discover for yourself the many adventures San Francisco offers.
If you don’t want to hassle with driving in San Francisco traffic, check out these public transportation options.
Cruise San Francisco Bay
Make your way to the pier at Fisherman’s Wharf and take a sunset cruise through San Francisco Bay. This one is a no brainer, as a bay cruise is one of the favorite attractions in San Francisco.
Two-hour sunset cruises take you across San Francisco Bay with outstanding views of the city skyline, Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island and Sausalito. Enjoy a light appetizer buffet and a choice of beverages from the bar. Relax and unwind from a busy work week as you listen to the captain’s live commentary and watch the spectacular sunset or select a twilight cruise during winter months.
Take a Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge
The world’s most photographed bridge and its iconic 746-foot tall towers have watched over San Francisco Bay since 1937.
Even when shrouded in fog, the Golden Gate Bridge never fails to impress. The view is spectacular, whether you get a glimpse from the city (try Crissy Field, Fort Point and Baker Beach for best vistas), the Marin Headlands or by passing over its span – bikes and cars are permitted access across the bridge 24-hours a day while pedestrians can cross between 5:00 am – 6:30 pm.
Alcatraz Island Tour
Converted from a lighthouse station to a military prison in the 1870s, this formidable fortress sits 1.5 miles offshore in the middle of San Francisco Bay. It was home to the most notorious criminals during the early 20thcentury, such as Al Capone (Scarface) and Machine Gun Kelly.
Today, visitors travel to “The Rock” via ferry from Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing. Once there, the 45-minute, self-guided audio cell house tour is narrated by former inmates and guards and shares details of harrowing escape attempts, prison riots, and the 19-month long occupation by Native Americans who demanded reparation for broken treaties in 1969.
Watch a Baseball Game with the Giants
AT&T Park is home to the San Francisco Giants, the revered professional baseball team where the Class A affiliate Augusta Greenjackets players hope to one day play.
A classic urban ballpark with an old-time feel and amenities of a modern ballpark, the stadium sits right on San Francisco Bay. You won’t be disappointed when you head out to AT&T Park and enjoy its breathtaking views.
The San Francisco Giants were originally the New York Gotham’s before moving to San Francisco in 1958. They have won the World Series 8 times, the most recent being in 2014.
Hang Out with Sea Lions at Pier 39
After the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, animated, barking California sea lions began “hauling out” on K dock at Pier 39. It remains a mystery why they chose this location but the protected bay, teeming with an abundant food source of fish and squid that seals prefer, has kept them coming back to this spot year after year.
Watch the group, which is mostly made up of younger males, frolic all year-long from the wooden walkway behind Pier 39. Weather permitting, listen to the on-site naturalist who provides commentary and answers questions daily between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm.
While the number of sea lions at K dock rise and fall with the seasons, available food supply and natural migration patterns, the world-famous sea lions always have a home at Pier 39.
Hike the Presidio Trails
If you want to experience the area’s pristine natural spaces but don’t have enough time to explore neighboring Marin County, the Presidio is the perfect alternative.
This park is perfectly situated at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge, affording incredible views from nearly every vantage point. In addition to stunning landscapes, the Presidio features 12 scenic hiking trails that vary from easy to challenging, taking hikers through a beautiful coastal forest and the Marin Headlands.
Get Your Chocolate On
No trip to San Francisco would be complete without a visit to Ghirardelli Square. Unique shops and restaurants are housed within the old factory, combining the latest in retailing and fine cuisine with the flavor of old San Francisco. The project officially opened in November 1964.
Today, Ghirardelli delights visitors with its lively retail mix, while maintaining Ghirardelli’s tradition as a trendsetter for the rest of the world. In 1982 the owners applied for and were granted National Historic Register status, a move that ensured the preservation of Ghirardelli Square for future generations.
If you need even more suggestions of epic things to do in San Francisco, check out other terrific options here.
Have you been to San Francisco? What else should be added to this list of things to see and do? Let me know in a comment below.
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