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San Francisco

Top Things To Do In San Francisco

Save 49% on admission to the top San Francisco attractions plus unlimited cable car rides with CityPASS.

As the shimmering "City by the Bay," San Francisco’s distinctive terrain – water on one side, hills on the other – leads to spectacular views and experiences that could only happen here. The city’s wide array of attractions, activities, and personality-infused neighborhoods appeal to visitors of all ages.


California Academy of Sciences

Reopened in 2008 as "the greenest museum on the planet" and the world's only aquarium-planetarium-rainforest-living museum, the California Academy of Sciences is a one-of-a-kind attraction.

What to Do
Catch a show at the Morrison Planetarium with its amazing 75-foot dome displays. This planetarium boasts to have one of the most accurate digital Universes in the world. If you're traveling with just adults, don't miss out on NightLife. You'll be able to enjoy music, drinks, and more without the kids running around. If you do have the kids with you, take them over to "Earthquake: Life on a Dynamic Planet" where they can walk through a model of the earth and brave the infamous Shake House.

What to See
The living roof that covers 87% of the Academy's rooftop is something you have to see to believe. Not only is it beautiful to look at, it also has multiple weather stations to monitor changes in temperature to inform the building's automated systems so the interior stays nice and cool. Inside the California Academy of Sciences make sure to take time to see "Color of Life," an exhibit that shows the role that colors play in the natural world across a wide spectrum of species.

>> Learn more about the California Academy of Sciences.

Ride the Cable Cars

Nothing says San Francisco like the world-famous cable cars that are part of the city's Muni system. The cable cars are so iconic to San Francisco that they have been designated as the city's only moving historic landmarks.

What to Do
Ride them! Currently the cable cars run on three lines: the Powell-Hyde Line, the Powell-Mason Line and the California Street Line. The Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason lines both begin near Union Square, but Powell-Hyde ends up at Ghiradelli Square and Powell-Mason will take you down to Fisherman's Wharf. The California Street Line runs between the Financial District and Van Ness Avenue.

What to See
Observe how tourists and locals alike rely on this historic means of transportation to get from one side of the city to another. As you can imagine, riding the cable cars is one of the most popular things to do in San Francisco. And yes, you really can hang off the sides if you like, but be careful.

>> Learn more about Riding Cable Cars.

Aquarium of the Bay

Located right on the waterfront at Pier 39, Aquarium of the Bay is focused on the animals native to the San Francisco Bay and neighboring waters. Opening in 1996, the Aquarium is home to sharks, jellies, and many other forms of marine life.

What to Do
Get up close and personal with sharks, bat rays and skates, thanks to 300 feet (91.4 meters) of clear acrylic tunnels. In the first two tunnels you'll get to see a dynamic near-shore habitat full of different shark species, rockfish, and Giant Pacific Octopuses. In another tunnel you'll get a better look at the deeper waters of the bay and the sharks and rays that call it home. "Under the Bay" lets you get a scuba diver's view without having to wear all that heavy gear.

What to See
More than 20,000 aquatic animals, which frolic in 700,000 gallons (2,650 cubic meters) of filtered bay water, represent the diversity of the area’s aquatic life and ecosystems. Since Aquarium of the Bay is a nursery ground for many species you'll likely be able to see plenty of newly hatched Skates, perch, and other fishes.

>> Learn more about the Aquarium of the Bay.

Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise

For a fresh take on San Francisco, see it from the water. On a Blue & Gold Fleet ship you'll get the best panoramic views of the Bay while you enjoy a one-hour narrated tour. Don't forget to bring your camera!

What to Do
Blue & Gold offers two great ways to see the San Francisco Bay: a one-hour narrated tour or a much faster view on the RocketBoat. On RocketBoat you'll fly across the Bay in 30 minutes and get a great adrenaline rush while doing so. Note: RocketBoat runs seasonally, May through October.

What to See
A novel perspective on the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the PIER 39 sea lions, Sausalito and the city skyline itself. There really is not better way to see the City by the Bay than from the deck of a Blue & Gold ship.

>> Learn more about Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise.

Alcatraz

Known simply as "the Rock," Alcatraz Island was — during its operation as a federal penitentiary from 1934 to 1963 — home to some of the nation’s most infamous criminals. Some of the more famous inmates include Al Capone, George "Machine Gun" Kelly, and Robert Stroud "The Birdman of Alcatraz."

What to Do
Today, visitors can roam the island freely. A great way to enhance your experience is to take the Cellhouse Audio Tour, which brings Alcatraz to life with actual voices of the correctional officers and inmates who lived on the island. Alcatraz is definitely one of the most interesting places to visit in San Francisco.

What to See
Take in the cellblock and the gardens that were once maintained by well-behaved prisoners. Surprisingly, gardening became a welcome pastime on Alcatraz for the inmates. Alcatraz is home to many rare flowers and plants, and many of the plants in the gardens survived after the prison closed in 1963.

>> Learn more about Alcatraz.

Exploratorium

This iconic San Francisco discovery destination had a brand-new home at Pier 15 on San Francisco's historic Embarcadero waterfront. With more than 600 exhibits, the Exploratorium is more than just a museum: it's an experience that people of all ages can enjoy.

What to Do
Take time to visit all six main galleries in the Exploratorium. Each is focused on a different area of exploration and are aptly named Tinkering, Living Systems, Human Phenomena, Seeing and Listening, Outdoor Exhibits, and Observing Landscapes. There is plenty to do in each gallery. Check their website for upcoming events and series.

What to See
Now that the Exploratorium is right on the San Francisco Bay, you can enjoy amazing views of the city and bay from the new Bay Observatory. Watch for the Aeolian Harp, a 27-foot-tall harp that is strummed by the wind. It sings the most around two or three o'clock in the afternoon when the wind picks up.

>> Learn more about the Exploratorium.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Folks won’t want to miss the gorgeous coastal community of Monterey, just south of San Francisco. Rated the #1 aquarium in the world by TripAdvisor, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is well-worth the drive from San Francisco.

What to Do
Visit the "otterly" delightful sea otters, dipping, diving and twirling about at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Visit the Kelp Forest, one of the tallest aquarium exhibits in the world. In the Forest you'll see sardines, leopard sharks, wolf-eels and more swimming through the kelp just like they do in the wild.

What to See
Watch tuna and sharks swim past the aquarium's largest exhibit, a 90-foot window looking into the million-gallon Open Sea. Kids will love Splash Zone, where they can have fun playing in interactive exhibits built for kids and get a close look at some African blackfooted penguins.

>> Learn more about the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

de Young Museum

The de Young Museum was founded in 1895, making it an integral part of San Francisco's art scene for over 100 years. In 2005 the museum reopened with a new facility. The museum is the sixth-most-visited art museum in North America, so make sure to add it to your must-see list while you're in San Francisco.

What to Do
Spend time browsing the significant collection of American, international and textile arts. de Young's collection includes more than 27,000 works of art from the Americas, Africa, and Oceania. Stop by and see the largest group of Teotihuacan murals outside of Mexico or the collection of Indonesian carvings.

What to See
Its dramatic architecture – complete with a public observation deck atop a 144-foot (44 meters) tower – calls attention to its natural surroundings. The building was constructed with natural materials including copper, stone, wood and glass to help the museum blend into it's natural surroundings.

>> Learn more about the de Young Museum.

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge first opened in 1937 and is perhaps San Francisco’s most recognized landmark. The bridge is so iconic that it has been named one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

What to Do
Be a part of the more than 9 million visitors that annually cross the 1.7-mile (2,737 meters) bridge in cars, by bike, or on foot.

What to See
Take in the views from the bridge that dominates the city’s skyline. The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most photographed bridges in the world, so make sure you get some good pictures of the different views of the bridge from both sides of the channel.

>> Learn more about the Golden Gate Bridge.

Golden Gate Park

This great urban park – the third-most-visited in the United States (behind New York’s Central Park and Chicago’s Lincoln Park) – beckons with many offerings. The park is home to various gardens, lakes, playgrounds, trails, and more.

What to Do
Rent a boat, stroll along the walking and biking paths, or find one of the many ideal locations for a quiet picnic or nap. Golden Gate Park is also home to several top San Francisco attractions such as the de Young Museum and California Academy of Sciences.

What to See
The Japanese Tea Garden, historic windmills, and a flower conservatory. At 1,017 acres there is something for everyone to see in Golden Gate Park. Make sure to check their online calendar before visiting and you might catch a movie in the park or other fun events.

>> Learn more about Golden Gate Park.

Fisherman's Wharf

As the historic center of the city’s fishing industry, Fisherman’s Wharf is a working neighborhood and commercial area. Looking for some good seafood? Then this is your place to visit.

What to Do
Spend the day browsing and eating at specialty restaurants and shops. Near Fisherman's Wharf is also where you'll find great things like Alcatraz Cruises, Blue & Gold Fleet cruises, and the Aquarium of the Bay. Grab some sourdough at Boudin's or other restaurants.

What to See
The famous PIER 39 sea lions (yes, they are loud). Also, check out the USS Pampanito, a WWII submarine museum and memorial, and Ghirardelli Square.

>> Learn more about Fisherman's Wharf.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Normally part of San Francisco CityPASS, SFMOMA will be closed from June 3, 2013, through early 2016, as they undergo a major expansion. Learn more>>

What to Do
Visit the first museum on the West Coast of its kind! This museum boasts more than 26,000 works and holds fast to its mission of showcasing both established and new artists.

What to See
Don’t overlook its dynamic building – featuring a soaring turret – which is a focal point of the South of Market (SoMa) neighborhood.

>> Learn more about the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

AT&T Park

The San Francisco Giants have won more games than any other team in American baseball history, and with their current home at AT&T Park, they’ve got more to boast about than just their impressive track record. With an in-park view of the stunning McCovey Cove and Bay Bridge, unique food options, and immersive activities, a Giants game at AT&T Park is more than just a ball game.

What to Do
Fan Lot is a family-friendly attraction where kids can be entertained and adults can tap into their inner child. The life-sized classic Coca-Cola bottle is more than just a fun attraction; it’s also a slide to ride. The "Guzzler", made up of two curving slides, and the "Twist-Off", made up of two twisting slides, will have your little ones shrieking with joy. For an extra dose of fun, take the kids to Little Giants Park, a miniature replica of the entire AT&T Park designed for children to play in, just like their favorite big leaguers.

What to See
Before checking out an exciting baseball game, check out the giant (pun intended) 1927 four-fingered baseball glove in Fan Lot. This enormous mitt, which stands 26 feet high and 32 feet wide, was crafted by artists to replicate the look and feel of a real, worn-leather baseball glove. Catch the view of the game from the Fan Lot mezzanine, and also admire the beautiful Bay Bridge and San Francisco Bay.

>> Learn more about AT&T Park.

Levi's Stadium

Levi’s Stadium, home to the San Francisco 49ers, is a sustainable masterpiece on the cutting edge of eco-friendly design. Made mostly of recycled and reclaimed building products, the green stadium also features delicious concession options made with local ingredients for providing you with a fresh taste of local produce. Enjoy the sights, sounds, and tastes of an NFL football game at Levi’s stadium.

What to Do
If you’re a huge 49ers fan, the in-house 49ers museum is a must-see collection of historic films, memorabilia, and interactive exhibits. The Morabito Theatre features a 50 foot by 18 foot screen that tells the gripping story of the 49ers history. Walk through the 49ers Hall of Fame to see the greats in their signature poses or head to the "In the Game" exhibit where you have the unique opportunity to be a broadcaster calling all the plays yourself.

What to See
The red and gold spirit of the 49ers fans shines brightly in the San Francisco sun at any Levi’s Stadium game. The openness of the stadium gives fans a great view of the game or the HD video board, and if you download the Levi’s Stadium app, you can have food delivered to your seat so you don’t miss a thing.

>> Learn more about Levi's Stadium.

Muir Woods National Monument

A wondrous piece of natural history within the San Francisco Bay area, Muir Woods is home to the coastal Redwood trees that measure up to 258 feet in height and are over 500 years old. The tall, shady trees are a better sight than any towering skyscraper and are the only old Redwood trees left along the California Coast after the logging industry stripped away most of the ancient forests.

What to Do
Before you head out to explore the magnificent forest, head to the Muir Woods Visitor Center for brochures, maps, and a brief history of the park, including its role in environmental conservation. The Visitor Center features seasonal displays and dioramas relating to the park’s natural flora and wildlife. The Muir Woods Gift Shop and Café have great food, as well as sustainably made Redwood gifts and souvenirs to take home.

What to See
Strap on your hiking boots and get ready to hit the trails among the trees. Muir Woods National Monument trails give guests a first-person view of the giant Redwood beauties. Bring a camera and take pictures of the stunning canopies while you enjoy the cooling shade.

>> Learn more about Muir Woods National Monument.

Union Square

The most visited neighborhood in San Francisco is the bustling Union Square. A number of luxury boutiques, hotels, art galleries, restaurants, theatres, and a popular nightclub scene make Union Square a hip attraction for locals and visitors alike.

What to Do
Union Square is a San Francisco district that has something for everyone; Grant Avenue is brimming with designer brands, Maiden Lane is known for spontaneous street performances and food and wine events, and the aromas of delicious food flood your senses throughout. When you need to take a break from all the walking, rest on a Union Square bench. It’s the best place to people watch while you catch your breath.

What to See
Union Square breathes culture. Fascinating art galleries, varied musical performances at multiple taverns and restaurants within walking distance, and live theatrical performances make Union Square a sight worth seeing. Don’t forget to check out the Dewey Monument in the middle of the Square, which was named after Spanish-American War hero, Admiral George Dewey.

>> Learn more about Union Square.

Ocean Beach

In contrast to San Francisco’s crowded city-life, Ocean Beach is a quiet getaway where visitors can enjoy a cool breeze and a walk on soft beach sand. Between the soothing sounds of the ocean, the wide open space and relaxing atmosphere, Ocean Beach is a great place to unwind and let go.

What to Do
Take a break from eating out and pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on the sandy dunes of Ocean Beach. Walk along the edge of the beach while the cold water brushes against your feet. As the day disappears, set up a warm, crackling bonfire at the designated location while you enjoy the sound of the waves crashing along the shore.

What to See
No matter what you’re doing on Ocean Beach, you can’t miss the breathtaking view of the horizon above the Pacific Ocean. Keep an eye out for the local Snowy Plovers, small sea birds that feed on the beach for most of the year.

>> Learn more about Ocean Beach.

Crissy Field

For the best view of the Golden Gate Bridge, make a stop at Crissy Field. Formerly a military airfield, Crissy Field is now a scenic attraction with picnic tables, marsh overlooks, and delicious beachside cafés.

What to Do
Go fishing at Torpedo Wharf on the west side of Crissy Field or ride your bicycle along the flat path with great views. Escape the wind and enjoy savory food at the Warming Hut—you can get anything from a light fruit snack to a more filling hot dog. Work off the food at Planet Granite, a restored hangar-turned-climbing-gym.

What to See
Dip your toes in the water and watch as the ships pass underneath the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Alcatraz, Angel Island, and the Marin Headlands are silhouetted in the distance. There’s usually a cool breeze running through the field, so it’s the perfect place to fly a kite.

>> Learn more about Crissy Field.

Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral is an Episcopal church famed for its De Rosen mosaics, labyrinths, and gorgeous stained-glass windows. This city landmark is a popular attraction for believers and non-believers alike, and is an architectural masterpiece of French Gothic design.

What to Do
Labyrinths are religious imprints found all over the world. Walking the labyrinths of Grace Cathedral is a unique, meditative experience unlike any other. There are three stages of the walk including Purgation, Illumination, and Union. Purgation happens as you walk towards the labyrinth’s center, Illumination is the place of prayer and meditation in the center, and Union is returning to your daily life as you retrace your steps back to the beginning.

What to See
The French Gothic style of Grace Cathedral was inspired by the classic design of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. Within the right tower of the Cathedral is the carillon of 44 English bells. The colorful stained glass windows and the three church organs, medieval furnishings and Gates of Paradise—the main doors of the Cathedral—are architecturally stunning. Visit San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral for a truly awe-some experience.

>> Learn more about Grace Cathedral.

To visit the best attractions in San Francisco at a huge discount, use San Francisco CityPASS and save nearly half off combined admission costs. Plus, CityPASS holders avoid some ticket and entry lines, which means less time waiting and more time having fun. San Francisco CityPASS includes a 7-day Muni and Cable Car Passport, as well as prepaid admission to the California Academy of Sciences, a Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise (visitors who purchase their San Francisco CityPASS at the Alcatraz Cruises ticket office may substitute an Alcatraz Island tour), your choice between Aquarium of the Bay or Monterey Bay Aquarium, and either the de Young and Legion of Honor Fine Arts Museums or the Exploratorium. Some special exhibits are not included with the CityPASS and may require an extra fee.

CityPASS can be purchased online or at any of our participating San Francisco attractions. Use San Francisco CityPASS and discover these top places to visit and things to do in San Francisco.

AT&T Park Photo Credit
Levi's Stadium Photo Credit
Union Square Photo Credit

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