San Francisco is one of America’s most eclectic cities. The city boasts a rich history, and yet it is now one of the most progressive cities in the United States, with Silicon Valley having a reputation as a global technology and innovation powerhouse.
Being the second-most densely populated city in the United States, San Francisco is home to liberals, immigrants, hippies, techies, and yuppies. One could say that diversity is embedded in the city’s DNA. With such a mix of different and creative personalities, it is no wonder that there is always something new and exciting going on.
Here is a suggested list of 25 weekend activities not to be missed in San Francisco:
1. Walk or cycle across the Golden Gate BridgeGolden Gate Bridge is a 2.7-kilometer (1.7-mile) long suspension bridge that serves as the only road connection between the city of San Francisco and Marin County. Not only is the bridge arguably the most internationally-renowned symbol of California, it is also said to be one of the most photographed things on Earth. This orange structure is even considered a piece of engineering art, and was declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Travelers can choose to either walk across the bridge along the pedestrian walkway or cycle on the western side. Both options guarantee a spectacular view of the San Francisco skyline and waterfront. For the curious, pop into the visitor’s center to find out more on the history of the park and interesting facts about the bridge’s construction.
2. Go to a Giants’ game at AT&T Park
3. Rent a bike and go around the city
The Fisherman’s Wharf to Golden Gate Park route is recommended; travelers can see most of what the city has to offer all in one day. This route is approximately 3-4 hours long and takes you down San Francisco’s scenic waterfront path to the Golden Gate Bridge and Land’s End, and then lets you take in the sights and sounds of the iconic Golden Gate Park.
4. Drive down the crooked Lombard Street
Lined with Victorian mansions and neatly lawned landscaping, Lombard Street is also considered one of San Francisco’s most scenic streets. It is a popular spot for photographers, as you can capture both the entire winding street from the bottom as well as the spectacular view from the top. Additionally, you can look out over the city landscape, which includes the Bay Bridge and Coit Tower.
5. Take a walk around Chinatown
Take a morning walk down this densely-packed neighborhood and you can spot street vendors setting up their stalls along the sidewalks and butchers displaying their exotic array of meats. Remember to grab a few of the best egg custard tarts from Golden Gate Bakery while you are there.
6. Tour Alcatraz IslandAlcatraz is the famed former federal prison, sitting on an island of the same name, located 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) offshore from San Francisco city. It housed some of America’s most difficult and dangerous criminals from 1934 to 1963. The prison earned itself the nickname “The Rock”, as no inmate managed to break free from it, despite attempts to do so.
Since its closure, Alcatraz has become a national landmark, welcoming over 1 million visitors a year. The informative pre-recorded audio tours are strongly recommended, as they allow you to learn about the prison as you roam the grounds at your own pace. This peculiar experience is definitely one not to be missed in San Francisco.
7. Explore Fisherman’s WharfGolden Gate Bridge, walk the decks of the tall ships at Hyde Street Pier, and watch the sea lions near Pier 39.
Needless to say, you have to make sure to grab a clam chowder and secure a spot along the wharf. Enjoy your clam chowder while people watching, or be entertained by the numerous street performers.
8. Visit San Francisco Cable Car Museum
9. Take a stroll at Clarion Alley and take in the street murals
10. Attend a concert at The Fillmore
The best thing about this concert venue is that it also doubles as a museum. The Fillmore has been home to shows of every genre since its opening in 1965, with former artists having included Metallica, Prince and B.B. King.
11. Get cultured at the Opera
12. Buy a book at City Lights
However, people are so drawn to this place due to its powerful influence on American poetry back in the day when it published Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, and also for fighting censorship. You can easily spend hours of your afternoon tucked in the charming poetry room upstairs.
13. Run up the Lyon Street steps
14. Relive the hippy scene at Haight-Ashbury
Even though the colorful Victorian homes in the district have been commercialised and turned into boutiques, vintage shops, restaurants, and cafés, the colorful Haight-Ashbury is still a fun site to take a stroll and relive the olden days.
15. Expand Your senses at the Exploratorium
The Exploratorium has been hailed by the New York Times as, “the most important science museum to have opened since the mid-20th century, an achievement attributed to ‘the nature of its exhibits, its wide-ranging influence and its sophisticated teacher training program’”. It is a museum for kids and adults alike, and you will undoubtedly benefit a lot from spending an afternoon here.
16. Take afternoon tea at Palace Hotel
Palace Hotel San Francisco
Address: 2 New Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA, USA
17. Experience Cinema Glam at Castro TheaterCastro Theatre from your itinerary. Take your movie-going experience to a whole new level at this classical old theatre. Complete with the bright neon lights of the marquee, and built in the Roaring Twenties, the Castro Theatre is one of the few motion picture palaces left in the country.
The theater offers a unique programme, ranging from classic Hollywood films to arthouse movies and independent film festivals. It also has special sing-alongs from time to time, so do check out their website and keep your eyes peeled for those.
18. Walk to the highest point of the city
19. Take a hike at Muir Woods
The forest walk is a breathtaking and spiritual experience. If you have spare time, there are a few different hiking trails of varying difficulty levels and duration, and they are all well-maintained.
20. Appreciate European ruins at the Palace of Fine Arts
The best thing about this park? Admission is free, making it the place to go to for a casual stroll, people watching, or even to have a photo shoot.
21. Browse a huge selection of records at Amoeba Music
22. Take a stroll at Lands End
The walk here is fairly easy, with stairs on all the trails making it a simple hike up the hills. The Sutro Baths and Labyrinth are also worth checking out while you are here. Be sure to stay here long enough for the spectacular sunset.
23. Enjoy cocktails in San Francisco’s oldest bars
24. Eat a burrito in The Mission
25. Hit up San Francisco’s best museums
If you are tight for time, go to the California Academy of Sciences as it houses an aquarium, a planetarium, and a national history museum. Art-lovers will not be disappointed at de Young Museum, which contains an impressive permanent collection of classic paintings and sculptures.
Spend a quality weekend, soak up San Francisco
San Francisco is a vibrant city recognized for its fog, hilly landscapes, and assorted styles of architecture. Even if you are tight for time and are only in the city for a weekend, just the simple act of exploring the varied neighborhoods and taking in the sights can be very rewarding for any traveler and will leave you wanting to go back for more.
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