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Don’t Miss These 39 Free Things to Do in San Francisco

Don't Miss These 39 Free Things to Do in San Francisco

World-class culture, natural beauty, and that unmistakable California vibe—San Francisco is a treasure trove of free, fun, and fascinating activities. Whether you’re on a tight budget or simply looking to explore the city from a local’s perspective, here’s your ultimate guide to enjoying San Francisco without spending a penny.


Major sites and amazing experiences in SF

The Golden Gate Bridge

Why you should visit: It’s the city’s crown jewel. Walking across this marvel offers unmatched views of the Bay.

What you will see or experience: The magnificent structure itself, and panoramic views of San Francisco, Alcatraz, and Angel Island.

Fun fact: When it was completed in 1937, it was the longest suspension bridge span in the world.

San Francisco Cable Car Museum

Why you should visit: A dive into the unique transit system that defined the city.

What you will see or experience: The history and mechanics behind the iconic cable cars.

Fun fact: The museum is housed in the cable car barn and powerhouse.

Address: Corner of Mason and Washington Streets.

Website: Cable Car Museum


Why you should visit: To immerse yourself in the oldest Chinatown in North America.

What you will see or experience: Vibrant streets, shops, and authentic Chinese cuisine.

Fun fact: This Chinatown is the largest Chinese enclave outside Asia.

Palace of Fine Arts

Why you should visit: For its breathtaking architecture and serene surroundings.

What you will see or experience: The stunning rotunda, the peaceful lagoon, and beautiful friezes.

Fun fact: It’s the only structure left from the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Expo.

PIER 39 and Sea Lions

Why you should visit: A bustling spot to enjoy performances and sea views.

What you will see or experience: Shops, dining, and the famous sea lions lounging on the docks.

Fun fact: The sea lions began arriving in droves after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Location: Beach St & The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94133.

Open: Daily from 10 am to 10 pm.

Ghirardelli Square

Why you should visit: For a taste of San Francisco’s chocolate history and waterfront views.

What you will see or experience: The historic factory site turned into a bustling square with shops and eateries.

Fun fact: Ghirardelli has been a part of San Francisco since 1852.

San Francisco City Hall

Why you should visit: To witness the grandeur of its architecture and perhaps a wedding!

What you will see or experience: The impressive dome and beautiful interior.

Fun fact: Its dome is taller than that of the U.S. Capitol.

Free tours: Offered Fridays at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.


Hike – or bike – across the city via the Crosstown Trail

Why you should visit: For an adventure across San Francisco, the Crosstown Trail offers a unique way to see the city from various angles. Whether you’re on foot or pedaling, this trail takes you through hidden gems and scenic vistas.

What you will see or experience: Spanning 17 miles and connecting various neighborhoods, parks, and viewpoints, you’ll traverse community gardens, hidden trails, and public parks. The journey offers a mix of urban and natural landscapes, showcasing the city’s diversity.

Fun fact: There’s no official signage, making the downloadable trail app or website maps essential for navigation. The trail was brought to life by passionate volunteers, aiming to connect the city’s green spaces.

Website: Crosstown Trail

The Presidio

Why you should visit: This sprawling national park site was once a military base, and now it’s a haven for nature lovers, history buffs, and outdoor enthusiasts right in the city.

What you will see or experience: Hiking trails weave through historic buildings, offering views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. The recently added Presidio Tunnel Tops area provides breathtaking views and a connection to the park’s varied landscapes.

Fun fact: The Presidio offers a free shuttle service, making it accessible to all without a car.

Website: The Presidio

Twin Peaks

Why you should visit: For panoramic views of the entire Bay Area, a trip up to Twin Peaks is essential. The clear days offer visibility for miles in every direction.

What you will see or experience: The twin summits provide a unique perspective on the city and its surroundings, from downtown skyscrapers to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Fun fact: The native Ohlone people called Twin Peaks “Los Pechos de la Chola” or “Breasts of the Indian Maiden.”

Address: 501 Twin Peaks Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94114

Golden Gate Park

Why You Should Visit: Golden Gate Park is an oasis of tranquility and greenery in the heart of San Francisco. It’s a place where visitors can enjoy a wide array of activities without spending a dime.

What You Will See or Experience: From its open fields, enchanting gardens, and serene lakes to the Dutch Windmill and Buffalo Paddock, the park is a testament to urban planning and natural beauty. Whether you’re interested in a leisurely stroll, a picnic, or simply observing local wildlife, Golden Gate Park has something for everyone.

Fun Fact: The park is larger than New York’s Central Park, making it one of the largest urban parks in the United States.

Address: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA 94117

Fort Point

Why You Should Visit: Located just beneath the southern anchorage of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point offers a unique perspective on San Francisco’s history and unparalleled views of the bridge.

What You Will See or Experience: This Civil War-era brick fortification provides a glimpse into military life in the 19th century, with cannon demonstrations and historical exhibits. The view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Point is unmatched, offering a unique vantage point for photographers and sightseers alike.

Fun Fact: Alfred Hitchcock’s famous movie “Vertigo” features a scene at Fort Point.

Address: Long Ave & Marine Dr, San Francisco, CA 94129

Land’s End and the Sutro Baths

Why you should visit: For dramatic ocean views and a slice of San Francisco history, the Land’s End area, including the ruins of the Sutro Baths, is a must-see.

What you will see or experience: Coastal trails offer stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, rocky shores, and historic landmarks. The Sutro Baths’ ruins evoke the grandeur of a bygone era.

Fun fact: The Sutro Baths once housed six saltwater swimming pools and one freshwater pool, making it the world’s largest indoor swimming establishment in its heyday.

Address: 1004 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

Alamo Square Park and Painted Ladies

Why you should visit: Alamo Square Park offers one of the most iconic views of San Francisco, with the Painted Ladies in the foreground and the city skyline behind.

What you will see or experience: Besides the famous view, the park is a lovely spot for a picnic or just to relax and watch the world go by.

Fun fact: The Painted Ladies have appeared in over 70 movies, ads, and TV shows, including the opening credits of “Full House.” Address: Steiner St & Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94117

Dolores Park

Why you should visit: Dolores Park is a vibrant gathering place with stunning views of the city, making it a perfect spot for people-watching or enjoying the sun.

What you will see or experience: This popular park features a mix of locals and tourists, sprawling lawns, and a modern playground, reflecting the diverse spirit of the city.

Fun fact: Dolores Park served as a refugee camp for survivors of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Address: Dolores St & 19th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Clarion Alley Murals – Mission District

Why you should visit: This alley offers a constantly evolving canvas of street art, showcasing the vibrant and diverse cultural fabric of San Francisco.

What you will see or experience: Walking through Clarion Alley, you’ll be treated to a variety of murals ranging from political statements to abstract art, all created by local artists.

Fun fact: The Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) has been curating and preserving street art here since 1992.

Address: Clarion Alley, San Francisco, CA 94110

Mount Davidson

Why You Should Visit: For those looking for an urban escape, Mount Davidson provides a unique blend of natural beauty and serene atmosphere. As the highest peak in San Francisco, it offers panoramic views of the city and the bay, making it a perfect spot for photographers and nature lovers.

What You Will See or Experience: A lush forest of eucalyptus and pine trees envelops the paths leading to the summit, where you’ll find a large cross commemorating the Armenian Genocide. The trails are relatively easy, making it accessible for most visitors.

Fun Fact: Mount Davidson has been a popular filming location, most notably featured in the 1971 movie “Dirty Harry.”

Address: Dalewood Way & Myra Way, San Francisco, CA 94127

Salesforce Park

Why You Should Visit: Salesforce Park is a futuristic urban oasis located above the bustling streets of San Francisco. It’s a perfect example of how modern cities can integrate nature and public spaces into their design.

What You Will See or Experience: The park features a variety of plant life, walking paths, and art installations. It’s a great place to relax, enjoy a picnic, or simply take in the views of the city skyline. The park’s design and location make it a unique addition to San Francisco’s landscape.

Fun Fact: The park is elevated 70 feet above the street and offers a free gondola ride to the top.

Address: 425 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94105

Palace of Fine Arts 

Why You Should Visit: This architectural marvel, reminiscent of ancient Roman and Greek structures, offers a tranquil escape in the city.

What You Will See or Experience: Explore the elegant rotunda and colonnades, set against a picturesque lagoon, a popular spot for photography and leisurely walks.

Fun Fact: The Palace of Fine Arts is the only remaining structure from the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, originally intended to be a temporary structure.

Address: 3301 Lyon St, San Francisco, CA 94123


Quirky, Fun, or Off the Beaten Track

Take a ride down these neighborhood slides

Why you should visit: For a fun, off-the-beaten-path experience, the neighborhood slides offer a quick thrill and a glimpse into San Francisco’s community spirit.

What you will see or experience: The Seward Street Slides and Esmeralda Slide Park offer not just a ride but also beautiful views and a community-designed garden.

Fun fact: The Seward Street Slides were designed by a 14-year-old girl as part of a neighborhood competition.

Addresses: Seward St & Douglass St, San Francisco, CA 94114 / Esmeralda Ave & Winfield St, San Francisco, CA 94110

6th Avenue Tiled Steps

Why you should visit: These beautifully mosaic-tiled steps are not only a work of art but also offer a rewarding view at the summit.

What you will see or experience: Climbing these steps, you’ll see intricate designs representing a journey from the sea to the stars, culminating in breathtaking views of the city from Grandview Park.

Fun fact: The project was a community effort, involving over 300 neighbors and more than 220 neighbors who sponsored handmade tiles.

Address: Moraga St between 15th Ave and 16th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122

Visit a Dutch Windmill and Queen Wilhelmina’s Tulip Garden in Golden Gate Park

Why you should visit: This little slice of the Netherlands in San Francisco offers historical charm and colorful floral displays, especially during tulip season.

What you will see or experience: The windmill itself, once used for irrigation, and the surrounding garden are picturesque spots perfect for leisurely exploration and photography.

Fun fact: The Dutch Windmill was one of two built in the early 20th century to pump groundwater for park irrigation, significantly aiding the park’s development.

Address: 1690 John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco, CA 94121

Bison at Golden Gate Park

Why You Should Visit: Witnessing a herd of American bison in the middle of San Francisco is a surreal and unique experience. The Bison Paddock in Golden Gate Park offers visitors a glimpse into the past and an opportunity to learn about these magnificent creatures.

What You Will See or Experience: The sight of bison grazing peacefully against the backdrop of the park’s lush greenery is not only photogenic but also educational. Visitors can learn about the conservation efforts that have helped recover bison populations across America.

Fun Fact: The bison have been a part of Golden Gate Park since 1891, serving as a living symbol of the West.

Address: 1237 John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco, CA 94121

Fog Bridge at the Exploratorium

Why You Should Visit: For art enthusiasts and those who appreciate innovative environmental art, the Fog Bridge at the Exploratorium is a must-see. This installation combines natural elements with technology to create a unique experience.

What You Will See or Experience: Walking through the Fog Bridge, visitors are enveloped in a misty fog, simulating the natural fog San Francisco is famous for. This interactive art piece encourages contemplation about the environment and our interaction with it.

Fun Fact: The Fog Bridge uses desalinated water, highlighting the artist’s commitment to environmental sustainability.

Address: Pier 15, San Francisco, CA 94111

Visit the Japanese Tea Garden at Just the Right Time for Free Admission

Why You Should Visit: The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park offers a serene and beautifully landscaped environment, perfect for reflection and relaxation. Visiting during the free entry times allows everyone to enjoy this cultural gem.

What You Will See or Experience: Meandering paths lead you through traditional Japanese garden elements including koi ponds, pagodas, and zen gardens. The Tea House offers a place to enjoy traditional Japanese tea and snacks amidst the tranquil surroundings.

Fun Fact: This is the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States.

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

Three Gems at the de Young Museum

Why You Should Visit: James Turrell’s “Three Gems” offers an immersive art experience in the de Young Museum’s Sculpture Garden. It’s a hidden treasure that combines nature, art, and architecture.

What You Will See or Experience: Visitors enter a dome-shaped structure to find a skyspace opening, inviting them to observe the sky in a way that intensifies the experience of light, color, and perception.

Fun Fact: “Three Gems” is part of Turrell’s larger body of work that focuses on sky and light as mediums.

Address: 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118

The Wave Organ

Why You Should Visit: The Wave Organ is an acoustic marvel, offering a unique symphony played by the bay itself. Its sounds vary with the tides, ensuring no two visits are the same.
What You Will See or Experience: Situated at the water’s edge, this installation uses the motion of the waves against PVC pipes to produce natural music. It’s a serene spot for contemplation and to enjoy the harmonious blend of art and nature.
Fun Fact: The Wave Organ was developed by Peter Richards and sculptor George Gonzales in 1986, inspired by a recording of a similar installation in Australia.
Address: 83 Marina Green Dr, San Francisco, CA 94123

Wells Fargo Museum

Why you should visit: Dive into the rich history of the California Gold Rush and early San Francisco.

What you will see or experience: Interactive exhibits including a stagecoach ride experience and historical artifacts.

Fun fact: Home to an original 1868 stagecoach.

Grace Cathedral

Why You Should Visit: This stunning Gothic cathedral is not only an architectural wonder but also a center for vibrant community arts and music.

What You Will See or Experience: Explore its labyrinths, attend free musical performances, or simply admire the breathtaking stained glass and intricate façades.

Fun Fact: Grace Cathedral houses two labyrinths, one inside and one outside, intended for meditation and reflection.

Address: 1100 California St, San Francisco, CA 94108

The Harmon Observation Tower at the de Young Museum

Why You Should Visit: For unparalleled 360-degree views of San Francisco, the Harmon Observation Tower offers a picturesque vantage point free of charge.

What You Will See or Experience: Admire the city’s landscape from above, spotting landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.

Fun Fact: The tower’s design was initially met with skepticism, but it has since become a beloved feature of the museum, offering perspectives that blend art, architecture, and nature.

Address: 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118

Website: de Young Museum

Free Activities

Stern Grove Festival

Why You Should Visit: Experience the diversity of San Francisco’s music scene without spending a dime at this annual summer festival.

What You Will See or Experience: Enjoy a variety of musical performances ranging from classical to hip-hop, in an outdoor amphitheater surrounded by towering eucalyptus trees.

Fun Fact: The Stern Grove Festival has been a San Francisco tradition since 1938, making it one of the oldest free performing arts festivals in the United States.

Website: Stern Grove Festival

Lindy in the Park

Why You Should Visit: It’s a fun way to dive into the world of swing dancing, with a welcoming community vibe.

What You Will See or Experience: Free swing dance lessons followed by an open dance session in the park, no partner required. Embrace the joyous energy of Lindy Hop among enthusiasts of all skill levels.

Fun Fact: Lindy in the Park has been keeping San Francisco’s feet moving since 1996, making it a longstanding weekly dance event.

Address: Between John F. Kennedy Dr. and the de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA

Readings at City Lights

Why You Should Visit: City Lights is an iconic bookstore and a bastion of San Francisco’s rich literary heritage, known for its connection to the Beat movement.

What You Will See or Experience: Attend free readings by both established and emerging authors, poets, and artists, offering a vibrant glimpse into the literary world.

Fun Fact: City Lights was the nation’s first all-paperback bookstore when it opened in 1953, co-founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Address: 261 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

Website: City Lights Bookstore

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Why You Should Visit: This free festival showcases a wide array of musical talents, from bluegrass to indie, in a relaxed outdoor setting.

What You Will See or Experience: Multiple stages feature performances from local and internationally renowned artists, enveloped by the natural beauty of Golden Gate Park.

Fun Fact: Despite its name, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass welcomes genres well beyond bluegrass, reflecting the diverse musical landscape.

Website: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

City Guides Walking Tours – Free Walking Tours to Explore the City 

Why you should visit: Explore San Francisco’s rich history with knowledgeable locals.

What you will see or experience: Diverse neighborhoods and hidden gems tailored to various interests.

Fun fact: City Guides has been offering free walking tours since 1978.

Website: City Guides

Free Museum Days

Why You Should Visit: San Francisco’s rich cultural institutions open their doors for free on certain days, offering a feast for the mind without the expense.

What You Will See or Experience: From modern art and science to history and world cultures, the city’s museums cater to a wide array of interests. Plan your visit right, and you can enjoy everything from ancient artifacts at the Asian Art Museum to interactive science exhibits at the California Academy of Sciences, all for free.

Fun Fact: The tradition of offering free museum days is a testament to San Francisco’s commitment to accessible cultural education.

San Francisco is a treasure trove of experiences that don’t cost a dime. Whether you’re exploring acoustic art installations, delving into literary history, enjoying diverse music festivals, or admiring panoramic city views, the city invites you to discover its many free wonders.



Want To Explore San Francisco?

These Lucky Tuk Tuk Tours are the best way to See and Explore San Francisco
City Tour
Lucky Tuk Tuk Sightseeing Tours at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

Lucky Tuk Tuk City Tour

2 or 3 Hours
Explore beautiful San Francisco in your own private, electric Tuk Tuk! Perfect for families and groups. A personal guide for your party commandeers this modern-day rickshaw at a pace that’s right for you!
Evening Tour
Night View of Bay Bridge and Coit Tower from San Francisco

Night Private Charter San Francisco Lights Tour

2 or 3 Hours
Explore San Francisco at night in a cozy, electric Tuk Tuk! Get up close to the glittering lights and go where buses don’t dare in this modern-day rickshaw. Live commentary included!

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