Things to do in San Francisco
San Francisco is an amazing city to visit and the surrounding Bay Area, which includes Oakland, San Jose, Silicon Valley and more. Visitors will be greeted with a plethora of exciting attractions, events and things to see, some which are unique to the area. For first time visitors, joining one of the many San Francisco tours is highly recommended if you want to make the most of your time in the city and get a chance to see many amazing landmarks that the Bay Area is known for.
The items that you add to your itinerary are going to depend on the time of year, especially if you are looking for great events. From massive pub crawls to amazing music festivals, San Francisco has some great annual events that bring people from all over the nation to party in the City by the Bay. Some of the best annual events include:
Outside Lands Music Festival: Northern California’s largest music festival, Outside Lands has been going strong since 2008, attracting over 200,000 people every year. The event takes place in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and features over 60 musical acts playing on six stages, art installations, vendor booths, great food and a wine tasting area.
Bay to Breakers: This truly unique San Francisco event once set a Guinness World Record as the Worlds Largest Footrace (1986) and has become the perfect combination of a running event and a massive outdoor party. While it started as a small event in 1912 to further the city’s healing process after the 1906 earthquake, the race continued every year and grew to over 100,000 participants at its highest point. But what really sets Bay to Breakers apart is the fact that the majority of participants dress up in crazy costumes and most of them don’t really do any running. There are a number of people that race competitively, but most people just walk a few miles of the course and party with their friends and, up until 2009 when the organizers added new regulations on drinking, you could see thousands of participants drinking and dancing along many creative floats with DJs, full bars and more. While it isn’t quite as crazy as it had been in the past, it is still a very fun and unique experience you should see at least one time.
San Francisco Halloween Pub Crawl: There are all kinds of Halloween events in San Francisco, but if you really want to have a good time on the Holiday, The Crawloween Pub Crawl is the way to go. One of the largest pub crawls in the nation, more than 7,000 participants dress up in creative costumes and enjoy drink specials at over 25 bars, live DJs, party bus rides and more.
Other great annual event options are SF Sketchfest, Bottlerock Music Festival, The San Francisco Marathon, The St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl, Fleet Week and more.
If you are a first time visitor, you will probably be interested in seeing some of the famous attractions in the San Francisco Bay Area. The good thing is most of the top attractions are open all year long due to the moderate climate in Northern California, however if you are visiting during the busy season, you may need to plan in advance. Top attractions in the San Francisco Bay Area include:
Alcatraz: San Francisco’s busiest tourist attraction, The former Federal Penitentiary sees almost 1.5 million visitors per year. Since Alcatraz is an island in the San Francisco Bay, you will need to take the Alcatraz Cruises Ferry, which leaves daily from Pier 39 in Fisherman’s Wharf. Take a tour of the prison, which used to house inmates like Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and check out the cellblocks, dining hall, recreation yard and more with a free self-guided audio tour.
Pier 39: Located on the waterfront in the Fisherman’s Wharf District, Pier 39 is a busy tourist attraction filled with tons of great shops, restaurants, bars and more. At the end of the pier is a unique two-story carousel, which is a popular attraction for kids. If you go to Pier 39, make sure you check out the sea lions that took over most of the docks next door after the 1989 earthquake.
The Golden Gate Bridge: Probably the most recognizable landmark in San Francisco, The Golden Gate Bridge connects SF with Marin County, crossing over a one mile section where the Pacific Ocean meets the Bay. Officially opened in 1933, the suspension bridge is one of the most photographed things in San Francisco and is an amazing sight to see. You can drive across the the bridge yourself or, for a even cooler experience, you can bike across or walk across and enjoy amazing panoramic views of the city and the bay.
Other must see attractions in San Francisco include the Ferry Building, Coit Tower, Muir Woods, Union Square, Haight-Ashbury, The Painted Ladies, Cable Cars, The Sutro Baths and more.