Best 30 Places To Visit In San Francisco, California - Updated 2024

best places to visit in san francisco
Elah Angelica
Elah Angelica 
Contributing Writer
Updated
| 15 min read

Situated along the coast, with rolling hills and the famous Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco is one of the most prominent cities in the United States. Northern California’s most-prized treasure, the city is full of wonders that await your arrival. The city features captivating neighborhoods, white sandy beaches, historic museums, and a whole lot of entertainment options and things to do. Some of its famous attractions are Pier 39 and Union Square, but there’s so much more to this remarkable city. One excellent example is San Francisco’s Presidio, where you’ll get to enjoy panoramic views. For an exciting adventure, hop on to one of the historic cable cars and explore the city. Discover all the attractions when in the big city by checking out our list of the best places to visit in San Francisco, California.

1. Alcatraz Island (from USD 160.0)

Situated in San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz Island is one of the most striking islands in the city worthy to explore. It’s a small island featuring historic spots, including the federal and military prisons. There are two options to explore the island- you can join a tour or do a self-tour. If you want the full experience, it’s ideal for you to join a guided tour to get the best of everything the destination has to offer. One of the things you’ll notice upon riding the ferry is the towering lighthouse of the island, even from a distance. In case you decide to take a trip here, make sure to bring your cameras with you for amazing shots of the beauty of the reef.

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Combo Tour: Alcatraz Island and San Francisco Grand City Tour

Duration: 6 hours 30 minutes

2212 reviews

2. San Francisco Chinatown (from USD 59.0)

One of the most established and oldest Chinatowns in the country, the Chinatown of San Francisco is a maze of vibrant streets and alleys brimming with dim sum food stalls and all authentic eateries. Whether you’re after food or culture- there’s no better place than Chinatown when it comes to food lovers and history enthusiasts. One of the best things about Chinatown is that upon setting foot in its boundary, you’ll feel like you’re in a different world. From classic and traditional styling of temples to graffiti perfect for taking pictures, you can even get tokens ideal to take home from the different souvenir shops around the district.

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San Francisco Chinatown Walking Tour

Duration: 2 hours

735 reviews

3. Presidio of San Francisco

Aerial view - Presidio-whole
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Robert Campbell used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Some of you may not know it, but before there’s San Francisco, there’s the Presidio. Encompassing the north end of the city, Presidio is a broad mass of land that’s part of the fascinating Golden Gate National Recreation area. An excellent destination for history buffs, outdoor enthusiasts, and families looking for the best spot to relax near the edge of one of the most stunning bays in the world. The best part? From this place, you’ll be able to see the Golden Gate Bridge and the Crissy Field, which are both worthy of a visit.

Presidio of San Francisco

Address: Presidio of San FranciscoSan Francisco, CA, USA

Website: Presidio of San Francisco

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4. Ferry Building (from USD 90.0)

Situated on The Embarcadero of San Francisco, Ferry Building is not only a terminal for ferries that travel across the scenic San Francisco Bay; it’s also an office building and a food hall perfect for food junkies. One thing that sets this destination apart from the city’s other iconic attractions is that it’s both a historical landmark and a home to the city’s outstanding culinary scene. Located inside the Ferry Building is its marketplace, which is the best spot for local food and products. There are a lot of things you can enjoy while inside, apart from food trips, such as wine-tasting and window shopping.

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San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers Market Food Tour

Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes

88 reviews

5. Twin Peaks (from USD 54.0)

best places to visit in san francisco | twin peaks

Named for its pair of 922-ft summits (281 m), Twin Peaks is a residential neighborhood along the winding streets of San Francisco. If you want to witness something magical, Twin Peaks is the place to hike. Showcasing spectacular panoramic views of the city, you’ll be able to see some of the famous landmarks around the place, including the scenic Golden Gate Bridge, the charming Alcatraz Island, and downtown skyscrapers. Although you’ll have to walk through some steep and unlevelled walkways to get to the top, you’ll find the views from above worth the hike. Stretch your legs and enjoy watching the sunrise at Twin Peaks.

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San Francisco 3-Hour Castro & Twin Peaks Urban Hiking Tour

Duration: 3.0 hour

6. Palace of Fine Arts

Palace of Fine Arts SF CA
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Kevin Cole used under CC BY 2.0

Inspired by Roman architecture, the Palace of Fine Arts of San Francisco is a marvelous palace boasting modern renaissance piece and is home to the city’s center of fine arts and science. It’s one of the oldest buildings constructed during the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition that still exists up to this day. Over the years, the Palace of Fine Arts underwent a lot of changes and development for a variety of purposes, including housing several tennis courts and serving as a storage for military trucks. If you’re someone who has a passion for photography, you might find this place ideal for its stunning landscapes.

Palace of Fine Arts

Address: 3601 Lyon St, San Francisco, CA 94123, United States

Website: Palace of Fine Arts

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7. Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop at Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Infratec~commonswiki used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Tucked in San Francisco’s shopping district of Ghirardelli Square is the most-favorite ice cream shop of both locals and travelers, The Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop. When exploring Ghirardelli Square, especially during the summer season, it’s only natural to find yourself looking for something to help you feel refreshed. What’s the best way other than indulging in sweet ice cream to beat the summer heat. And if you want some treats to bring home, there are a lot of chocolates to choose from that will surely delight whoever is going to eat them. It’s truly the home of sweet tooths.

Ghirardelli

Address: 900 North Point St #52, San Francisco, CA 94109, United States

Website: Ghirardelli

Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 9am - 11pm; Fri - Sat: 9am - 12pm

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8. Japanese Tea Garden

Japanese Tea Garden (San Francisco) - DSC00167
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Daderot used under CC0

It’s a known fact that there are a lot of exciting destinations in San Francisco to indulge in, one of the attractions you shouldn’t miss is its most-loved Japanese Tea Garden. Located in the heart of the city’s Golden Gate Park, this tea garden is the oldest Japanese garden outside of Japan, which is open to the public since the early 90s. Its intricate style and surrounding nature is the perfect relaxation for travelers looking for an escape from the busy streets of the big apple. If you plan to drop by, we have a tip for you that not everyone knows about. To get free admission to the Japanese Tea Garden, make sure to arrive before 10 in the morning every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Japanese Tea Garden

Address: 75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118, United States

Website: Japanese Tea Garden

Opening hours: 9am - 4:45pm (daily)

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9. Aquarium of the Bay (from USD 32.0)

Found in the scenic Pier 39, Aquarium of the Bay offers families and group travelers a fun time exploring marine life within proximity. There are three floors inside that will give you a lot of options on which level to explore first. One of its best features is its walkways, where guests can enjoy viewing many shark species. Two of the major exhibits you have to see are the Octopus Exhibit and the Docent, which focus on showcasing tricks and such.

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San Francisco Aquarium of the Bay General Admission Ticket

Duration: 2 hours

262 reviews

10. Conservatory of Flowers

SF Conservatory of Flowers 3
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user WolfmanSF used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Known as the oldest surviving municipal wood and glass greenhouse in the country, Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco held its first opening to the public during the late 70s. Open from Tuesday to Sunday, visitors will have plenty of time to fully appreciate the conservatory. For free admission, you might like to visit every first Tuesday of the month. If you’re someone who has a passion for planting, there are a lot of rare and unique floras inside the conservatory. It’s ideal to visit this botanical garden since there are a lot of nearby attractions you can also drop by after touring it.

Conservatory of Flowers

Address: 100 John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118, United States

Website: Conservatory of Flowers

Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 10am - 4pm (closed on Mon)

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11. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

Ships at SF Maritime National Historic Park
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user BrokenSphere used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Situated in the serene neighborhood of Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park offers travelers scenic sights and tales about the Pacific Coast maritime history. It’s an ideal spot for families, especially for the little kids since the park offers year-round educational programs. If you plan to visit during the summer season, the park has a week-long summer camp program wherein you can experience all the different exciting activities the park has to offer. Experience the famous San Francisco Bay through the eyes of a ship captain by visiting San Francisco Maritime National Park.

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

Address: San Francisco, CA 94109, United States

Website: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

Opening hours: 12am - 12pm (daily)

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12. Musée Mécanique

Musée Mécanique 003
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Piotrus used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Bring out the inner kid in you by walking down the memory lane at Musée Mécanique. A combination of museum and carnival, Musée Mécanique is home to both kids and adults, whose idea of fun is playing coin-operated arcade games, self-playing musical instruments, and mechanical whatchamacallits. Relive all your childhood memories by indulging in some of the traditional arcade games, including arm-wrestling a masked robot and competing for the high score on a vintage game. There’s more- the museum has no admission fee. However, if you want to activate a certain portion of the arcade, such as the fortune teller machine, you’ll have to spend a few coins for it.

Musée Mécanique

Address: Pier 45, Fishermans Wharf, San Francisco, CA 94133, United States

Website: Musée Mécanique

Opening hours: 10am - 8pm (daily)

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13. Transamerica Pyramid

Transamerica Pyramid (16870350723)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Tony Webster used under CC BY 2.0

Built way back in the 70s, Transamerica Pyramid is one of the historic spots in San Francisco famous for its unique silhouette. With a height of 853 ft (260 m), the building towers over the rest of the city. Although there are a lot of citizens against the building of this pyramid, the authorities soon found a way to address the concern of the people, hence, the reason behind its shape. Transamerica Pyramid is no longer accessible to the public after the tragic events of 9/11, but you can still check out its 48th floor via a live camera feed in its visitor center.

Transamerica Pyramid

Address: 600 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94111, United States

Website: Transamerica Pyramid

Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 8am - 5pm (closed on Sat & Sun)

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14. Cable Car Museum

San Francisco Cable Car Museum IMG 20180409 150224
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Alexander Migl used under CC BY-SA 4.0

One of the most popular things to do when in San Francisco is to ride one of the iconic cable cars, but getting to explore these cars up close is another story. The Cable Car in Nob Hill is a museum housing cable cars from the 70s, including the last living from the Clay Street Hill Railroad. The museum will not only allow you to see the history of cable cars, but it will also show you the giant mechanisms that supply power to the system’s cables of today. One fun fact you’ll love about this museum- admission is free. It’s the perfect thrill for both kids and adults who have a great interest in how the cable car system works without using money.

Cable Car Museum

Address: 1201 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108, United States

Website: Cable Car Museum

Opening hours: 10am - 5pm (daily)

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15. Crissy Field

Old Crissy Field Coast Guard Station in the fog (December 2015)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Frank Schulenburg used under CC BY-SA 4.0

One of the most popular destinations in San Francisco, Crissy Field used to be an Army Airfield back in the 1920s. A combo beach, wetland, park and picnic area, Crissy Field is a place where outdoor thrills never stop. Joggers and bicyclists enjoy cruising along the water’s edge of San Francisco Bay. Families and group travelers can indulge in picnics on the grassy lawns of the field while the kids can enjoy flying colorful kites. One exciting fact about Crissy Field: its location will give you amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Crissy Field

Address: 1199 E Beach, San Francisco, CA 94129, United States

Website: Crissy Field

Opening hours: 12am - 12pm (daily)

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16. Golden Gate Bridge (from USD 38.0)

golden gate bridge

One of the most iconic spots in San Francisco is the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Travelers from different cities always make it a top to their list of destinations to stop by at Golden Gate Bridge whenever in the city. With towers soaring hundreds of meters into the sky, Golden Gate Bridge is quite astonishing, especially with its bright red-orange painted frame. Exploring this iconic bridge is easy enough, you can choose to walk around while breathing in the sea breeze or take a scenic drive with the wind brushing your face. Joining a cruise around this landmark is one of the best experiences you can indulge in, especially during the late afternoon when the sun is slowly descending from the horizon.

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San Francisco: Golden Gate Bay Cruise

Duration: 1.0 hour

2427 reviews

17. de Young Museum (from USD 20.0)

A fine arts museum located in San Francisco’s Golden State Park, whose name is after the city’ newspaperman M. H. de Young. Everything about the museum reflects not only artistic crafts but also all the important events of the past. It’s a public space open to everyone who wants to see unique objects that mirror the earliest life, talk about the present, and shape the future. If it’s the world you want to know, be ready to enter a whole new one at de Young Museum. There are a lot of events inside the museum you can join in, apart from tours, including day talks, hip hop lectures, free play studio for the kids, and so much more. All art collections inside range from American to African art, which is reflective of the active communication among cultures, perceptions, and periods.

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San Francisco de Young Museum Admission Ticket

Duration: 2 to 4 hours

77 reviews

18. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (from USD 30.0)

First opened on May 14, 2016, San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art features an enhanced gallery, education purposes, and public spaces ideal for art enthusiasts. All the arts and crafts showcased inside the museum are pieces of contemporary art that reflect the story of the generation of today. One of the main goals of keeping the museum alive despite some of the criticism it faced is to pave way for young artists to show their stories to the masses, especially now that art becoming more vital to our everyday life. Although only modern art is available inside, they are unique works of both professional and aspiring young artists.

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SFMOMA San Francisco Museum of Modern Art General Admission

Duration: 1 to 3 hours

122 reviews

19. California Academy of Sciences (from USD 40.75)

california academy of sciences

A multidisciplinary Science museum, indoor rainforest, and world-class research facility, California Academy of Sciences is one perfect example of a state-of-the-art building in San Francisco. Containing millions of preserved specimens and thousands of live exotic animals, it’s almost close to impossible to take everything in for just a day visit. If you’re one of those travelers who plan to take advantage of everything San Francisco and only have a day to see this aquarium, we have some of the must-see attractions inside that you have to witness. One is the Steinhart Aquarium, where you’ll find species of rare fish, eels, seadragons, and other fascinating sea creatures. Another destination is the Osher Rainforest excellent for taking pictures with lush plant life surrounding the area.

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San Francisco: California Academy of Sciences Entry Ticket

499 reviews

20. The Walt Disney Family Museum (from USD 25.0)

Ever wonder the history of the most-loved Walt Disney? Want to know how this brilliance came to life? Well, we know the right place for you. Located in San Francisco is the Walt Disney Family Museum, where the life story of Walt Disney is waiting. If you’re thinking of where to bring your kids or your special someone, there’s surely something for you in this museum. Find unique animation, innovation, and inspiration as you enter a new world in this American legacy. Don’t miss out on all the wonderful exhibits inside the museum and make sure to bring your cameras with you, for artsy and Instagram-worthy pictures.

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San Francisco The Walt Disney Family Museum Admission Ticket

Duration: 2 to 3 hours

154 reviews

21. Exploratorium (from USD 39.0)

Satisfy your craving for discoveries and unparalleled visuals only at The Exploratorium’s museum of science, technology, and arts. Boasting more than 600 hands-on exhibits and daily demonstrations of almost everything from dissections to magic tricks, you’ll certainly find something to amuse yourself during your visit. Out of all these exhibits, we gathered some of the best for you to experience. One is the Sound Bite, in which you can listen with your bones. Another exhibit popular among visitors is the Bicycle-Wheel Gyro, where you’ll experience being confused as to whether it is you or the bicycle that is moving. There is a lot that awaits your arrival, and the only way to find out is to visit.

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San Francisco Exploratorium General Admission Ticket

Duration: 3 to 5 hours

126 reviews

22. Coit Tower (from USD 54.0)

When visiting San Francisco, one of the easiest attractions you can access and shouldn’t miss is the towering height of Coit Tower on the neighborhood of Telegraph Hill. Boasting 13 floors with a height of 210 ft (64 m), it’s no surprise that this is the go-to place for travelers who want to see the city. Its underground is free of admission, which will give you access to a plethora of murals to appreciate. However, if your main goal in visiting the tower is to witness panoramic views, then you’ll need to join a guided tour to access the next floors. The views up there are absolutely worth your penny.

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Coit Tower, Lombard Street, North Beach SF Urban Hiking Tour

Duration: 3 hours

11 reviews

23. Lombard Street (from USD 104.0)

Dubbed as the “Crookest Street in the World”, Lombard Street belongs to one of the most iconic destinations in San Francisco. It’s a long road tucked between The Embarcadero and the Presidio Park, where it becomes a main entryway to the Golden Gate Bridge. Famous for its small section close to the top of Russian Hill, travelers make it a top on their list to try winding down the road of Lombard Street. The sights of cars maneuvering the pave ways have become one of the famous tourist attractions in the city. If you’re up for some adventure, you can try driving on your own, but for safety measures, you can take the Powell-Hyde cable car, which will bring you right to the top without a hassle.

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San Francisco Lombard Street Advanced Small-Group Segway Tour

Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes

41 reviews

24. Union Square (from USD 75.0)

union square

Your trip to San Francisco will not be complete without visiting the iconic Union Square. Known as the fabulous center of Aberdeen, Union Square is home to some of the country’s most popular shopping hubs. Lining the streets of this exciting destination are different clothing stores, including international and local brands that will surely satisfy your inner fashionista. If you’re up for some splurging, you know the place to go. You can even take a break and make a detour to some of the food joints and cafes around the area to boost your energy.

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San Francisco: Union Square Cable Car City Tour

Duration: 3 hour

7 reviews

25. Fisherman's Wharf (from USD 75.0)

fisherman's wharf

Get your fill of the freshest seafood in town at Fisherman’s Wharf. One of the most recommended destinations to visit in the city, Fisherman’s Wharf is famous for its variety of fine-dining restaurants that serve fresh-from-the-ocean seafood dishes. Floating around the docks are numbers of weathered boats used by fishermen to capture scallops, halibut, and Dungeness crab. Besides the food trips that you can indulge in during your visit, there’s more to explore around Fisherman’s Wharf. Because of its location in Pier 39, you’ll have an exciting day ahead of you filled with entertainment and shopping.

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San Francisco City Tour: Fisherman's Wharf Cable Car

Duration: 3 hour

22 reviews

26. Painted Ladies (from USD 39.0)

painted ladies

If you’re someone who loves to take amazing pictures that you can proudly post to your Instagram account, Painted Ladies of San Francisco is the place to go. Known as one of the most photographed destinations in the city, Alamo’s Square’s charming Painted Ladies at Hayes and Steiner Streets is indeed a head-turner. Featuring a close-knit escalating formation of Victorian buildings with downtown skyscrapers as its background, it sure is a sight to see. If ever you need a place to stay at, you might consider staying in one of the several bed and breakfast inns at Painted Ladies. It will make your visit easier and convenient.

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San Francisco: Beyond the Painted Ladies Walking Tour

Duration: 3 hour

1 review

27. PIER 39 (from USD 155.0)

Whether you’re traveling solo, with a partner, or with your set of friends, the possibilities are endless when in San Francisco’s go-to destination- Pier 39. There are a lot of sights to see and things to experience; you might find it a little difficult to navigate the place, but you don’t have to worry, we have some suggestions for you. Some of the attractions in the area you should visit are the Sea Lions, local shops, and the restaurants. If you’re up for some sea adventure, you’ll enjoy taking a cruise ride on the stunning San Francisco Bay. There’s more- experience the thrill of a roller coaster ride and an interactive shooting gallery at the Art Digital Theatre without leaving your seat.

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PIER 39 Attraction Pass

Duration: 5 to 10 hours

28 reviews

28. Oracle Park (from USD 21.0)

oracle park
Source: www.viator.com

If you’re a big fan of baseball, you’ll surely love visiting San Francisco’s Oracle Park, where the games of your favorite players take place. And if it’s not the San Francisco Giants home game you’re planning to catch, there’s still a lot of things you can do and experience at Oracle Park. This award-winning waterfront complex is used all year round for different events, including concerts, performances, and races. All you have to do is pick the right moment to experience the best of Oracle Park. During baseball season, the stadium buzzes with varieties of food stalls serving savory doughnuts, authentic deep-dish pizza, pork sandwiches, and upscale bar food.

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Behind the Scenes Ballpark Tour of Oracle Park

29. Asian Art Museum (from USD 15.0)

Spend some bonding time and jumpstart your kids’ lifelong passion for art and craft at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. Home to one of the most renowned collections of Asian art around the globe, the Asian Art Museum is an impressive building containing unique artifacts that date back over 6000 years ago. There are a lot of rooms and sections to cover inside the museum if you plan to thoroughly immerse your kids with the museum’s activities and demonstrations, you might consider joining a guided tour. Or if you prefer to do it yourself, there are thematic gallery guides and toolkits, to enrich your time inside the galleries.

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Skip the Line: Asian Art Museum General Admission Ticket

Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes

30. San Francisco Zoo (from USD 25.0)

Tucked where San Francisco’s Sunset District coincides with the wide-open Pacific Ocean, San Francisco Zoo is an urban oasis to more than a thousand of endangered and rescued animals. Covering an expansive mass of land, the zoo gives visitors opportunities to get as close as possible to some of the most enchanting and fascinating creatures in the universe. It’s an ideal spot for a family trip since there are a lot of exhibits to join. Some of the activities to try are the Wild Side, Waddle to Penguin Island, Ride the Famous Little Puffer Train, and Step Into a Boundary-Free Aviary.

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San Francisco Zoo General Admission

Duration: 6 hours

162 reviews

When in San Francisco, the possibilities are endless

If you want an exciting escapade, San Francisco is the place to be. Indulge in scenic tours, food trips, and discoveries to California’s most-loved city. Enjoy a wondrous vacation in the city and take advantage of all its natural wonders.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Elah Angelica Casallos, a Psychology student, aspires to explore the world in the future. Currently, she immerses herself in writing to discover and share the world around her. In addition to her...Read more

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