Top 10 Things To Do in San Francisco

Posted on December 17, 2018 |

Filter through over 6,000 attractions and restaurants with these picks for the top 10 things to do in San Francisco.

In a city with over 4,000 restaurants and more than 2,600 tours and activities on TripAdvisor it’s easy to become overwhelmed when trying to plan things to do in San Francisco.

We try to assist with trip planning by creating helpful guides on everything from  exploring San Francisco with toddlers to finding the best hotels in Fisherman’s Wharf.

Whether you’re traveling with kids, friends or celebrating a honeymoon, here are our picks for the best 10 things to see in San Francisco.

Keep reading to find restaurants with the best views, unique to SF attractions and places to hike in our guide to the top 10 things to do in San Francisco.

1) Ride the California Cable Car to the top of Nob Hill for dinner in San Francisco

San Francisco Top 10 Things To Do | Dylan's Tours

Take the cable car less traveled for one of top 10 things to do in San Francisco.

Most guidebooks will tell you catch the Powell-Hyde Cable Car to see Lombard Street, the infamous Crooked Street.

What the guidebooks don’t tell you is that on the weekends and holidays, the line to catch the Powell-Hyde Cable Car can be just as long as some rides at Disneyland.

Instead, take the road less traveled.

Not too far from the Ferry Building is the intersection of California and Drumm. This is where you’ll find the cable car turnaround for the California Line.

Or, you can catch the California Line from the much quieter end of the line near Polk St, shown in the video below.

The California Line *will not* take you to Lombard Street, or Fisherman’s Wharf or even to the popular Union Square shopping district. But it will take you up the steep incline of California Street — past the red paper lanterns hanging in Chinatown — to the very top of Nob Hill.

From the peak of Nob Hill, the views looking south are spectacular because of just how high up you are.

The view gets even better if you head to the upper level of the Mark Hopkins Hotel. Top of the Mark sits on the top floor of the hotel with floor-to-ceiling windows, the highest place in San Francisco to get a drink.

Plan your reservation for about an hour before sunset to snag a seat at one of the windows for one of the best places to watch the sunset in San Francisco.

2) Enjoy a dinner cruise on the San Francisco Bay

One of the best ways to really take in the grandeur of San Francisco is by viewing the city skyline from the waters of the San Francisco Bay. We’re big fans of the Hornblower’s Dinner Cruise on their majestic ship, The California Hornblower.

This San Francisco dinner cruise departs from their conveniently located pier next to the Ferry Building and sails over to the Golden Gate Bridge and circles around for photos.

Afterwards the California Hornblower makes its way over to McCovey Cove in the water behind  AT&T Park where the Giants baseball team play. This cove is often pictured during home games because you’ll find eager locals waiting in boats for fly balls to land in Bay!

If you’re lucky, your cruise will coincide with a game so you can see this unique San Francisco sight! Making this one of the most  fun things to do in the Bay Area.

3) Ride a pedal boat in Golden Gate Park

Most travelers usually find themselves in Golden Gate Park to explore our natural history museum, California Academy of Sciences (their Thursday Nightlife events are considered one of the top fun things to do in San Francisco at night).

What many  travelers don’t know, is that just around the corner from the museums in Golden Gate Park is a lake with a three story tall waterfall, redwood trees and a Chinese pagoda that you can boat around in a row boat or pedal boat.

Visiting the Stow Lake Boathouse is well worth the time for anyone looking for unique things to do in San Francisco.

4) Bike the Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco bike rentals are great for people who only have 24 hours in San Francisco

Choose-your-own-adventure with San Francisco electric rentals to get you across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Ask anyone who has visited this city for fun things to do in San Francisco, and they’ll tell you to bike the Golden Gate Bridge. As locals, we can guarantee — it is worth it because of the incredible views of San Francisco and Alcatraz.

Here’s how to bike the Golden Gate Bridge: San Francisco bike rentals or San Francisco bike tours.

If you’re just trying to mark this experience off your bucket list, you can easily find bike rentals in San Francisco, either 7-speed bike or fun Pedego e-bikes, and follow the coastline to the Golden Gate Bridge.

When it comes to bike tours, there’s no shortage of them in San Francisco. Our Original City Loop E-Bike Tour of San Francisco is one of our most popular neighborhood tours.

But there’s only one bike tour that allows travelers to drop off their bike north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito so you can catch a private shuttle to the redwood forest at Muir Woods!

Dylan’s Bike the Bridge & Muir Woods Shuttle is perfect for travelers who want to bike the bridge, but don’t want to worry about how to take the public Muir Woods Shuttle and is one of the best ways of getting to Muir Woods without a car.

Snag 10% off bike rentals and bike tours with promo code FUNSF at checkout!

5) Plan a picnic at the top of Mission Dolores Park

Top 10 Things to do in San Francisco | Dylan's Tours

Plan a picnic and people watching at Mission Dolores Park.

Our San Francisco e-bike rentals make biking to the Mission a breeze because the discreet batteries on our Pedego bikes are powerful enough to tackle the steep hills.

Before you head over to, arguably, one of the best parks in San Francisco, make your way over to Taqueria La Cumbre, the Birthplace of the Mission Style Burrito.

We’re surprised at how few people recognize the name Mission Style Burrito. Yet, people instantly know the brand Chipotle.

Before the creator of Chipotle opened his first Mexican Grill in Colorado he was working as a line cook in San Francisco and Mission style burritos were a staple on his way to-from work.

Chipotle burritos are essentially the commercialized version of a Mission Style  Burrito.

A typical Mission Style Burrito is about the size of your forearm. When they first hit the streets of San Francisco no tortilla factories were making tortillas big enough for all the ingredients in these burritos.

La Cumbre was the first taqueria to hire a full-time tortilla maker to create these giant sized tortillas.

Carlos Santana’s big brother was a tortilla maker at La Cumbre and was known to play his guitar out front while his big brother was working!

Don’t forget dessert! On the corner of Dolores Park, at 18th and Dolores, is BiRite Creamery.

7×7 Magazine ranked BiRite as one of Top 100 Foods You Must Eat in San Francisco Before you Die — so it has a bit of a reputation.

Lines to BiRite can snake around the corner onto Dolores. But what most people (even locals) don’t know is that you can skip the line at BiRite Creamery and head inside to grab a pre-packaged pint!

Once you have your entire picnic, head across the street into the park and head to the very top corner at 20th & Church to enjoy sweeping views of downtown San Francisco’s skyline.

From the top of the hill at Dolores Park you’ll be able to people watch locals doing cool things in San Francisco; from breathing fire, to slack lining and local vendors selling their own “special” treats.

6) Explore one of San Francisco’s only chocolate factories

When most people think of a famous San Francisco chocolate factory, there’s one that comes to mind.

Ghirardelli Chocolate, the second oldest chocolate maker in America.

Ghirardelli is so iconic that the old Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory (now known as Ghirardelli Square) remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city.

What most people don’t know, is that Ghirardelli stopped producing their chocolates in San Francisco *decades* ago. (And they’re now owned by Hershey Chocolate, the oldest chocolate company in America).

There are still a couple of chocolate makers in San Francisco, both of whom are located in the heart of the cities most notorious foodie neighborhood, the Mission District.

Dandelion Chocolate Factory is situated on trendy Valencia Street and offers factory tours for only $5, Making this one of the most affordable and cool things to do in San Francisco.

So, it books up fast.

No worries though, you can still take a dessert tour through the Mission District as a fun substitute! This tour also helps you discover the murals of the Mission District. Alternatively, this San Francisco Craft Food and Design Bike Tour also allows you to sample some delicious chocolate and coffee all over SF. 

If you’re looking for fun stuff to do in San Francisco it doesn’t get much more fun than a tour of desserts!

7) Discover 2,000 year old redwood trees at Muir Woods

Top 10 Fun Things to do in San Francisco | Dylan's Tours

Venture north of the Golden Gate Bridge to Muir Woods for one of the top 10 things to do in San Francisco.

Dylan’s Famous Tour of San Francisco, as well as the previously mentioned Bike the Bridge & Muir Woods Shuttle, are our most popular tours that stop at Muir Woods.

This seven hour tour is one of the most comprehensive one day tours of San Francisco. Dylan’s makes your experience comfortable in their roomy minibuses fully loaded with granola bars and bottled waters.

Your personal San Francisco expert will stop for photos throughout the day to explore the murals of the Mission District, views from Twin Peaks, the hippie hangout at Haight-Ashbury, mansions of  Billionaires Row, the Golden Gate Bridge, lunch in Sausalito and over an hour for hiking in Muir Woods.

Still not quite sure how you want to get to Muir Woods? Be sure to check out the best (and worst) ways of getting to Muir Woods.

Snag 10% off your tour with promo code FUNSF at checkout!

8) Discover a culinary paradise inside the San Francisco Ferry Building

Top 10 Things to do in San Francisco | Dylan's Tours

Explore the San Francisco Ferry Building to discover some of the local vendors.

The San Francisco Ferry Building has been an enduring legacy on the waterfront since it was completed in 1898.  

The Port of San Francisco is still an active ferry terminal for commuters offering scenic transportation from Oakland, Alameda, Sausalito and Tiburon.

However, the beloved marketplace on the ground level is a relatively recent addition.

Remodeling began in 2002 and transformed the former baggage area into a massive marketplace supporting local vendors. Farmers Markets every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday double the amount of small local businesses and farmers that can be found at the Ferry Building.

Use our guide for a DIY San Francisco Tour of the Ferry Building or join a guided Ferry Building tour. Better yet, bundle Alcatraz tickets with your tour of the Ferry Building for one of the best Alcatraz tours around!

9) Catch a showing of the longest running musical revue in the world

In the heart of North Beach, San Francisco’s Little Italy, sits Club Fugazi. Home to one of the most San Francisco fun things to do you’ve probably never heard of — Beach Blanket Babylon.

There’s nothing more quintessentially San Francisco as cable cars and extravagant hats at Beach Blanket Babylon.

What originally started off as a drag show has evolved into a kind of extremely campy SNL. With big hats.

It’s similar to SNL in that the show is always changing to address current events with “guest appearances” from real-life figures, like; Donald Trump & Kim K. But it keeps true to its drag show origins with their opulent hats that require special rigging on performers and in their theatre at Club Fugazi.

Make a night out of your Club Fugazi experience Beach Blanket Babylon with dinner at any of the best North Beach Italian restaurants in San Francisco.

20) Take a hike to the hidden Labyrinth at Lands End

Top 10 Things to do in San Francisco | Dylan's Tours

The best hidden view of Golden Gate Bridge makes our list for the top 10 things to do in San Francisco.

On the far western edge of San Francisco you’ll find the ruins of what was once the grandest indoor bathhouse of the Victorian Era — Sutro Baths.

The most scenic way to this three story bathhouse with pools fed from the Pacific Ocean was via a steam powered train car line that traveled along the rocky cliffs of the San Francisco Headlands (now known as Lands End).

After a series of truly unfortunate events, from a mudslide that sent the train tracks  into the Pacific to the Great Depression, attendance and interest in this once magnificent attraction disappeared.

In the 60s the Sutro Baths mysteriously caught fire in the dead of night. Leaving behind the faint outline of building’s foundation.

The Sutro Bath Ruins were purchased by the city and following the closure of the Presidio Army Base, became a part of the 1,500 acre National Park, the Presidio of San Francisco.

There a miles and miles of trails to explore within the Presidio. But only one trail has a hidden labyrinth on a rocky overhang with incredibly expansive views, most notably the Golden Gate Bridge.

How to get to the Lands End Labyrinth

From Sutro Baths, follow the Coastal Trail towards the Golden Gate Bridge. The stairwell that leads to Mile Rock Beach is easy to miss, so keep a lookout for it to your left.

From there, you’ll quite literally need to go off the beaten path to find the rocky outcrop overlooking the Pacific Ocean with sweeping views of Golden Gate Bridge. Be sure to check out our guide to hiking in San Francisco for more ideas and tips on hikes in the city.

If you’d rather join a group and go on a walking tour around Lands End – we recommend checking this one out.

Still looking for more things to do around SF?

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Cocktails created in Francisco and where to try them

Fun things to do in San Francisco: Musee Mecanique

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