San Francisco is a city that is packed with things to see and do, from iconic landmarks to hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re new to the area and looking to buy a home in San Francisco or rent an apartment in the area, we compiled a bucket list of must-see attractions and experiences to get to know this vibrant and dynamic city. From exploring the city’s murals to riding a cable car up and down its steep hills, there is so much adventure, culture, and excitement to be had while living in San Francisco. So grab your pen and paper, and get ready to check off some stops on this ultimate San Francisco bucket list.
Bucket list activities in San Francisco
Visit San Francisco’s only outdoor minigolf course
“Take an interactive journey as you ‘putt’ through the city’s history. Parklab Gardens hosts Stagecoach Greens, San Francisco’s only outdoor minigolf course. Just a few steps away are local, family-owned food trucks that offer traditional cuisines from around the globe as well as American favorites, ensuring there’s always something for everyone,” recommends food truck park, beer & sangria garden, and event space SPARK Social SF.
Check out SF Camerawork
“Be sure to visit SF Camerawork, a nonprofit art gallery focused on photography,” shares local Janet Delaney Photography. “Established in 1974, they have consistently shown cutting-edge work before museums even know about it. Now in Fort Mason, you’ll enjoy the whole experience of finding the gallery and seeing the fabulous views from the water’s edge.”
Ride a cable car up and down the city’s steep hills
Riding a cable car up and down San Francisco’s steep hills is a thrilling and exciting way to see San Francisco’s many neighborhoods and landmarks, and to experience the city’s famous hills in a way that is not possible by car or foot. The cable cars are also historic to the city, dating back to the late 19th century. While the cable cars can be crowded, especially during peak tourist season, they offer a convenient and efficient way to get around the city, with stops at many of San Francisco’s most popular attractions.
Root on your favorite San Francisco teams
The Golden State Warriors and San Francisco Giants are professional sports teams based in San Francisco. They are beloved sports franchises in the Bay Area and have a rich history of success and tradition.
Parklab Gardens, which offers food trucks, mini golf, and a beer garden in San Francisco says, “Be sure to cheer on the Golden State Warriors or the San Francisco Giants. Join in and be a part of the buzzing crowd in support of two of the nation’s most famous teams. You’ll watch bay area history unfold in front of your very own eyes while exploring two iconic landmarks – the Chase Center and Oracle Park.”
Kayak or paddle board on the San Francisco Bay
The San Francisco Bay is a large estuary and is surrounded by several cities, including San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, San Mateo, and several smaller towns and communities. To get an up-close and in-person experience, “Consider exploring the famed San Francisco Bay from the calm and protected waters of Crane Cove,” recommends local kayak and stand-up paddle board tour company Dogpatch Paddle. “You may encounter seals, sea lions, porpoises, herons, pelicans, and other wildlife with amazing vistas of the city skyline. There are also services that offer classes for every level, from beginners to advanced, for paddle boarders and kayakers alike.”
Go on a night hike to Corona Heights
Corona Heights is a hilltop park that offers stunning panoramic views of the city, and is home to a variety of hiking trails and recreational activities. Visitors to Corona Heights can enjoy a peaceful and serene escape from the city while taking in the breathtaking beauty of San Francisco.
“During one of our rare warm nights, the fairly easy hike up to Corona Heights shows off the beauty of our city with spectacular views, from the glow of the Castro Theatre marquee, all the way downtown and across the Bay. Cap it off with a cocktail at one of the great Castro gay bars,” recommends Nate Bourg, Co-Founder of The Academy.
Check out vintage neon signs around the city
“The best way to save historic neon in San Francisco is to support legacy businesses with vintage neon signs, says San Francisco Neon. Here is a short list of favorite places with neon signs: The Wok Shop on Grant Ave, Green Apple Books on Clement Street, Tony’s Cable Car on Geary Blvd, and The Roxie Theater on 16th Street.”
You can even take a neon walking tour to learn the history of neon and discover more quintessential San Francisco businesses with vintage neon signs.
Hike the Lands End trail
Lands End is a stunning coastal park located at the northwest corner of San Francisco. The park offers breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Pacific Ocean, and the rugged coastline, making it a favorite destination for hikers, nature lovers, and photographers.
“This short trail hugs the coast of San Francisco,” shares fine art photographer Torrey Fox. “You get great views of the Ocean and Golden Gate Bridge. If you are an art lover, the trail ends at the Legion of Honor.”
Walk the Cross Town Trail
The Cross Town Trail is a hiking and biking trail that crosses San Francisco from southeast to northwest. It connects several neighborhoods and parks along its route, including Bayview, Glen Park, Twin Peaks, Golden Gate Park, and Lands End.
“If you want to see the depth, variety, and beauty of San Francisco, walk the Cross Town Trail and take in the incredible diversity of the city’s neighborhoods and catch stunning, rare views of the city and Pacific coastline from a multiplicity of hilly city parks,” recommends local malt company Admiral Maltings. “Afterwards taste the best of craft beer in San Francisco by visiting Anchor Public Taps, Harmonic Brewing, Olfactory Brewing and Blending, and Standard Deviant Brewing.”
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Bucket list locations in San Francisco
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Explore the Mission District
The Mission District is known for its colorful murals, vibrant street life, and rich history. It’s characterized by its narrow streets, historic Victorian and Edwardian buildings, and an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, and bars.
“My must-do activities in the Mission District are going to the Women’s Building to admire the glorious mural that covers the entire building which celebrates motherhood and the maternal spirit and going to Four Barrel Coffee for the best drip coffee in town,” shares Martin Hsu, a local artist.
Catch a ferry to Angel Island
Angel Island is a beautiful and historic island located in the San Francisco Bay. Once used as a military base, it is now a state park that offers breathtaking views of the Bay Area, hiking and biking trails, and a glimpse into California’s fascinating past.
“At Fisherman’s Wharf, you can catch a ferry to Angel Island, with stunning SF views, great hiking, and historic buildings dating back to 1910. This is truly one of San Francisco’s best-hidden gems,” says San Francisco-based Laotian restaurant Lao Table.
Climb to the top of Twin Peaks
Located at the center of San Francisco, Twin Peaks are two adjacent hills that rise almost 1000 feet above the city. “The hills offer tourists a 360-degree view of San Francisco from which tourists can see most of the city’s iconic landmarks. While you can obviously get better visibility of its landmarks if you visit Twin Peaks during the day, San Francisco takes on an almost magical quality at night, when it’s lit up by its city lights,” notes local Christos Nicolaou of Dive In, which reviews outdoor gear.
Check out Hayes Valley
Hayes Valley is a cool, artsy neighborhood full of independent home and fashion boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and watering holes. Bay Area Made, which features locally sourced goods recommends checking out MMclay Ceramics which makes earthy tableware for some of San Francisco’s best restaurants, including The Progress and Nightbird. Be sure to visit their showroom/studio and Airstream Trailer retail pop-up.
Soak in the views of The Embarcadero
The Embarcadero is a famous waterfront roadway in San Francisco, California. It’s located along the eastern edge of the city, stretching from Oracle Park in the south to Pier 45 in the north.
“There is no love more sincere than the love of good food. While you are soaking in the views of the ocean from the iconic Embarcadero, stop by a local restaurant for a quick bite, warm coffee, or a cozy dinner. It’s the people and the businesses that define the culture and breathe life into the best cities around the world after all,” shares local restaurant The Socialite.
Have a picnic in Dolores Park
Dolores Park is one of San Francisco’s most beloved public spaces, and it’s not hard to see why. With stunning views of the city, plenty of green space, and a vibrant atmosphere, the park is the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon in San Francisco. Having a picnic in Dolores Park is a wonderful way to take in the sights and sounds of the city while enjoying some delicious food and drinks. The park is just a short walk from some of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods, including the Mission and Castro districts.
Visit the Wood Line
Be sure to check out the Wood Line recommends Building 180, a full-service art production and consulting agency.
Created by artist Andy Goldsworthy, the Wood Line consists of a snaking line of eucalyptus logs that winds its way through the Presidio, one of the city’s most beautiful parks. The installation is a testament to Goldsworthy’s unique vision and artistic skill, and it offers a fascinating contrast to the natural beauty of the park.
Bring your dog to Rincon Hill Dog Park
Rincon Hill Dog Park is a must-do activity for visitors looking to experience San Francisco with their dogs. This unique off-leash park offers a stunning view of the Bay Bridge, ample space for dogs to play, and a separate area for small dogs. Be sure to check out our dog-friendly neighbor, The Hi Dive Bar, for their famous fish and chips.
Roam around Fort Mason Park
Fort Mason is a historic former military base that has been transformed into a vibrant cultural center in San Francisco. The center hosts a wide variety of cultural events, including art exhibitions, concerts, and performances, as well as a weekly farmers market.
“Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from all the typical touristy places, and that’s what the park at Fort Mason is great for,” notes Stephanie Hopkins Photography. “It has beautiful views of the Bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge, and is dog and picnic friendly. I also love how spacious it is. It leaves room for plenty of people without feeling crowded.”
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Hopkins Photography
Trek through Fort Funston
San Francisco-based noodle truck MOMO noodle says, “As nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, we’d recommend adding Fort Funston to the San Francisco bucket list. It’s located on the western edge of San Francisco, and offers a variety of activities such as hiking, beachcombing, hang gliding, and wildlife watching. You can see hang gliders launch from the cliffs and soar above the Pacific Ocean, and see local wildlife like dolphins, whales, and sea lions.”
Bucket list restaurants in San Francisco
Grab an authentic Italian meal at Montesacro
Montesacro is an authentic Italian restaurant tucked in on an alley just off of 6th Street below Market. It’s a must-visit restaurant for anyone who loves Italian cuisine. Their focus on traditional Roman dishes and their commitment to using high-quality ingredients make for an unforgettable dining experience that is sure to delight even the most discerning foodie.
Order a slice at Golden Boy Pizza
“Grab a slice of locals’ favorite Golden Boy Pizza for classic, Sicilian-style square pizza on focaccia,” shares Stellar Cassidy Co-Founder of local gluten-free brewery Otherwise Brewing. “Then, bring your slice around the corner to dine in at The Church Key and pair it with rare and local beers in a relaxed and intimate neighborhood bar setting. Lastly, end the day with a quick hike to Coit Tower to watch the sunset and enjoy some of SF’s most iconic views.”
Eat brunch at Plow
Plow is a popular brunch spot located in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. Their menu features delicious and innovative takes on classic breakfast and brunch dishes, all made with locally-sourced and organic ingredients.
“Having brunch at Plow is a weekday must-do and is the perfect way to experience Potrero Hill,” shares Detroit and Sicilian-style pizza restaurant Pizza Squared. “First, write your name on the waitlist at Plow. Then, walk up the hill to the iconic ‘photo spot’ and take a photo with the best city view. Make your way back to 18th and stop by Christopher’s Books to see an actual bookstore. Post and Parcel has the best selection of cards, and by the time you walk past Bell and Trunk for some flowers, your table for the best brunch in town should be ready.”
Grab a bite at Empress by Boon
Empress by Boon is a restaurant located in San Francisco, California, that offers a unique blend of Chinese and Californian cuisine.
“Empress by Boon is a gem in Chinatown because of its modern Cantonese-style set menu. Highlights include the crispy roast duck that you must try. Plus it has amazing city views overlooking Chinatown and North Beach,” remarks style and travel expert FashionbyAlly.
Grab a pastry at Little Jane
Jane is a popular bakery and café that is known for its freshly baked pastries, bread, and cakes, as well as its artisanal coffee and tea. The bakery’s menu features a variety of sweet and savory items, including croissants, scones, muffins, quiches, salads, and sandwiches.
“Jane has many locations, but I love Little Jane on Grant because of its cute, intimate pop-up ambiance, which features a wonderful mural by Chelsea Ryoko Wong,” notes Jessica Silverman Gallery. “Little Jane’s baked goods are always a must have, whether it’s a cookie, sourdough, scone, kouign-amann, croissant, or any of the other delicious creations they have to offer. You always end up leaving with more baked goods than you came in for, and a very happy stomach.”
Go on a food tour of North Beach
“One of my favorite neighborhoods to spend date night is North Beach,” remarks content creator and social media consultant Allie Tong. “North Beach is home to Little Italy, which has so much character and obviously delicious food. I love starting the night with dinner at Il Casaro for pizza or California Fish Market for seafood and pasta and then walking up Columbus Ave. to grab dessert at Lush Gelato.”
Taste delicious dishes at Lily
Lily is a restaurant located in the Inner Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco on Clement Street. It’s known for its modern and creative approach to Chinese cuisine, featuring a mix of classic dishes and innovative creations.
“Lily feels like a hidden gem in our neighborhood and beyond. Chef Rob is warm and hilarious, and the dishes are exciting. The garlic noodles with shrimp are my personal favorite,” shares photographer Moxie’s Daughter.
Grab a drink at Butter
Butter Bar and Restaurant is a popular eatery located in the SoMa (South of Market) neighborhood. The restaurant has a stylish and modern interior, with an open kitchen, and a full bar that offers a range of cocktails, beer, and wine.
“Be sure to check out butter, a registered SF Legacy Establishment, and an SF institution. One of the most understated claims to fame is that Butter is the original home of the Redbull Vodka cocktail. It was created and first poured right here in SF at Butter in 1999, from where it went global and is still considered one of the most popular club cocktails on planet earth. Having one at its source is absolutely a bucket list item for anyone that has enjoyed this drink over the past 24 years,” raves craft beer sports bar BuzzWorks – San Francisco.
Have some delicious Poke at Hookfish
Hookfish is a seafood restaurant located in the Marina District. The restaurant is known for its fresh, sustainable seafood.
“Eat at Hookfish near Golden Gate Park, shares Torrey Fox. “If they have it, the Poke Burrito Bowl is a favorite. Locals love this place for the fresh fish (they even share how the fish was caught) and the great atmosphere.”