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Best Places in San Francisco

San Francisco is home to some of the world’s iconic attractions. One of the top tourist states in the United States is San Francisco. That is known for its steep rolling hills and eclectic mix of architecture. It is also known for its cool summers, fog, and landmarks. 

It may only stretch across 7 miles to travel, but it’s packed with activities that please outdoorsy types, art lovers, foodies, and curious wanderers of all ages. Therefore, you need a list of the best places in San Francisco. 

Most of the best places in San Francisco are within walking distance or a short ride away. It makes this city a delight to visit because of the most tourism places.

Please continue reading below for all the top attractions of San Francisco, our top picks of the best places in San Francisco.

Let’s dive in!

1. Alcatraz Island

2. Golden Gate Bridge

3. Golden Gate Park

4. Pier 39

5. The Exploratorium

6. Twin Peaks

7. Cable Cars

8. Ferry Building Marketplace

9. Lombard Street

10. Lands End

11. Presidio Tunnel Tops

1. Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz reveals stories of American incarceration, justice, and humanity. It was once a fort, a military prison, and a maximum security federal penitentiary. The prison was closed in 1963, and the island is now a major tourist attraction.

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

Sitting on a small, rocky island in San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz is best known as a former federal prison that housed some of society’s biggest offenders, the most famous was Prohibition-era mob boss Al Capone.

Today, the attraction welcomes more than one million visitors per year. In addition, visitors can also peruse exhibits about the history of mass incarceration in the United States and the occupation of the island by Native American activists.

2. Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

It is a suspension bridge spanning with the Golden Gate. The bridge is one of San Francisco’s internationally recognized symbols. Today the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

The Golden Gate Bridge brought San Francisco and Marin counties closer together. It became one of the most driven sections of historic U.S. Route 101. This route stretches from Los Angeles north to San Francisco and beyond.

It’s equally popular with hikers and cyclists. It is the main attraction for runners participating in our many local annual foot races.

In daylight hours, pedestrians, including wheelchair users and cyclists, can travel along the bridge’s sidewalks. There are vista points on the bridge’s north and south sides. Vista points have parking lots.

3. Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park

Rumors are true. The Golden Gate Park is as they say gorgeous. It would take a full day to see everything in the park. People can find trails, scenic picnic spaces, playgrounds, sports courts, gardens, museums, and more within its evergreen boundaries.

With so many options available, it’s best to map out what you want to do beforehand. However, some attractions warrant a visit, regardless of the traveler’s taste. The Japanese Tea Garden is one of those standout sites. This attraction is unique, serving as the oldest Japanese garden in the U.S.

There’s also the Conservatory of Flowers, the oldest public conservatory in the Western Hemisphere. Another big standout in the park is the California Academy of Sciences. This unusual attraction features an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum, and the Osher Rainforest. It is a 90-foot-tall dome-shaped facility that houses 1,600 live animals.

Golden Gate Park is located on San Francisco’s northwestern edge. Muni Metro light rail and several bus lines service the park.

4. PIER 39

PIER 39

It is the most visited destination in San Francisco. PIER 39 offers two levels of dining, shopping, entertainment, and attractions. Unbeatable views of the city and the bay surround it.

The aquarium of the BayOpens through a new window at the entrance of The PIER 39. That offers an astonishing view of aquatic life teeming under San Francisco Bay. 

It is a popular tourist destination because of its proximity to the Golden Gate Bridge. At PIER 39, stop to see the world-renowned sea lions that have called this area home for years.

In addition, PIER 39 offers family-friendly fun with arcades and the Aquarium of the Bay. PIER 39 is part of the greater Fisherman’s Wharf area, a great place to stay if you are visiting San Francisco with your family.

5. The Exploratorium

The Exploratorium

The Exploratorium offers 600 hands-on engineering, psychology, geography, and biology exhibits. The museum spreads its knowledge over six main galleries, each with its standout interactive offerings. 

Visitors can feel what it’s like to be inside a tornado. They can 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 designed for kids, travelers say it’s a great attraction for all ages. Adults report feeling as excited and amazed at galleries and exhibits as kids. 

Regardless of the time you arrive, travelers say there is so much to see and do that you could easily spend a whole day there. And though the high admission price might turn some off, many agree that the experience is worth the price.

You can find The Exploratorium on Pier 15 along the Embarcadero on Green Street. The attraction is open. On-site amenities include several eateries and a gift shop. 

6. Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks

If you want to see the best view of San Francisco, go to Twin Peaks.

This is one of the best spots in San Francisco to see the city and its surroundings from Twin Peaks. The two peaks, Twin Peaks West and Twin Peaks East sit at 922 feet and offer stunning views of the San Francisco skyline. On a clear day, you can see across San Francisco Bay and Marin County.

The park is also home to the Mission Blue Butterfly, an endangered species. In 2009, 22 pregnant Mission Blue butterflies were released in the city, and Twin Peaks is the only place to find them. The butterflies are light blue and about the size of a quarter.

Twin Peaks is a popular spot, so arrive early to avoid crowds. In addition, if you’re feeling energetic, you can hike up one of the peaks for an even better view. You need to hike 1.2 miles to climb The Creek to Peaks Trail from Twin Peaks to Glen Canyon Park.

7. Cable Cars

Cable Cars

San Francisco is well-known for its famous cable cars. It has been a tourist attraction for generations. Riding one of these historic cars is a must. With its winding streets and breathtaking city skyline views, downtown San Francisco can’t be experienced any other way.

Several cable car stops are around town, including the Powell-Hyde Line, which passes Lombard Street and Russian Hill. You can catch a cable car from there. There are three lines in total.

Locals seldom use cable cars (due to their small travel network and high fares), and tourists flock to them in droves. More than 9 million visitors ride cable cars each year, and according to recent travelers, it’s easy to see why. Tourists enjoyed riding cable cars up and down San Francisco’s vibrant streets.

After the ride, you can head to the Cable Car Museum at 1201 Mason Street. At the center of the Cable Car Museum is a collection of fascinating modes of transport.

8. Ferry Building Marketplace

Ferry Building Marketplace

This marketplace is a historic terminal that was built in 1898 to serve as the main port of entry for ferry traffic to San Francisco.

Today, the Ferry Building Marketplace is a popular tourist destination. For it’s shops, restaurants, and a farmers’ market. The building has several offices, including the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

You can try some of the best food in San Francisco at the Ferry Building Marketplace or pick up some souvenirs. Along with the permanent vendors, the farmers market is held thrice weekly. It’s one of the best farmers’ markets in the Bay Area. It sees over 40,000 visitors weekly.

Many travelers who stopped by the Ferry Building Marketplace enjoyed the lively atmosphere. They were impressed with the amount, variety, and overall quality of food available on-site. The Saturday farmers’ market was a big hit for many. Though formal restaurants are open, some visitors say the most beneficial strategy is to pick up a to-go meal and enjoy it along the scenic waterfront.

The Ferry Building is located on The Embarcader. Therefore, it is easily accessible by public transportation or on foot. You can find everything from here, from books to tacos, donuts, wine, and ceramics.

9. Lombard Street

Lombard Street

There’s no denying that Lombard Street is one of San Francisco’s top attractions. With its eight harrowing hairpin turns, it is often called the “world’s most crooked street.” It’s not just its hairpin turns that attract visitors, though. It’s also exceptionally manicured and beautiful, a work of art.

Lombard Street is located on U.S. Route 101, passing through the Russian Hill neighborhood. You can admire it by driving through those hairpin turns or walking up the stairs alongside the road.

Are you feeling brave? If yes, then try navigating Lombard Street on a Segway! It will take you down Lombard Street and through Russian Hill, Fisherman’s Wharf, and North Beach neighborhoods.

Travelers can walk along Lombard Street or drive down it. The top of this iconic road boasts stellar views, and travelers enjoy walking the picturesque but short street. If you experience the street on foot, be mindful of cars. 

Most recent visitors said the experience of seeing Lombard Street was unique. Still, others described it as overrated and only worthwhile if you’re already in the area.

10. Lands End

Lands End

A wild and windy trail in the northwest corner of San Francisco with stunning views. And that is Land’s End. The trails at Land’s End wind around rocky cliffs above the ocean, pass through shady stands of cypress and eucalyptus, and emerge with spectacular views of the coast, headlands, and Golden Gate.

A trip down to the trail is also a journey through Lands End’s history, offering glimpses of the past at every turn. The park encompasses historic sites, monuments, trails, and a shoreline labyrinth that has an excellent view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Visitors often rave about the park’s trails and the views of the Golden Gate Bridge. While other San Francisco landmarks. Many appreciate the historic ruins of the Sutro Baths, which San Franciscans used as a recreational swimming facility from 1898 to 1964.

The park’s iconic Cliff House was destroyed twice by fire but rebuilt each time. Cultural hounds will want to stop by the nearby Legion of Honor museum. This museum displays European paintings, European decorative arts and sculptures, and ancient art from the Mediterranean basin.

11. Presidio Tunnel Tops

Presidio Tunnel Tops

Presidio Tunnel Tops, the nation’s newest national park, connects the city with the bay. The 14-acre park, designed by James Corner Field Operations, crosses over the newly tunneled Presidio Parkway. The parkway separates the historic Main Post from the waterfront. Connecting pathways, bluff landscapes, and overlooks make the park a gathering place for locals and visitors. 

Families often picnic, kite-fly, and enjoy other outdoor activities in the park’s Golden Gate Meadow. The meadow also provides views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the bay, and the Marin Headlands. Outpost is a 2-acre play space with huge tree trunk structures and boulders. This allows children to swing, crawl and climb.

Housed in a refurbished guardhouse, the William Penn Mott, Jr. Presidio Visitor Center uses state-of-the-art technology to tell the Presidio’s story. The center also has a cafe and food trucks visit the park daily, serving various fare. Visitors can picnic on the lawn, at picnic sites, or on the Presidio benches made from fallen cypress trees.

Past visitors raved about the Presidio Tunnel Tops. Thanks to the child-friendly activities here, they said it’s an especially worthwhile stop if you’re traveling with kids. Many reviewers also recommended renting bikes to get around and explore the vast Presidio Park. 

Conclusion

Finally, San Francisco has many places to visit with friends and family. San Francisco is a great place to explore and create lasting memories, from the famous Golden Gate Bridge to the amazing museums

Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or an exciting day out with friends, there is something for everyone in San Francisco. I hope this best places in San Francisco guide will help you to explore San Francisco. Which season is right for you, you can find it here, Best Seasons to Visit in San Francisco.

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