Situated on the tip of a peninsula, San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities on the Western Coast, and among the popular places to visit in the USA. Known for its rich history, diverse culture, stunning landscapes, and bustling city life, San Francisco offers some of the most captivating scenery in North California. Expansive coastlines, multicultural restaurants, and immersive night scenes attract a large number of tourists every year as part of USA tour packages. With so many tourist places, it can be hard to know where to start. That’s why we’ve put together a list of some of the must-visit tourist places in San Francisco here. Be sure to check out our list here.
Golden Gate Bridge
An iconic landmark of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the world that spans 1.7 miles across the Golden Gate Strait that connects San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean. Opened in 1937, the bridge was built to make travel between San Francisco and Marin County an easier feat. The bridge was chosen by the American Civil Society of Engineers as one of the seven wonders of the modern world due to its incredible engineering feats. Known for its tall orange towers that stand at a height of 746 feet, it is the most photographed bridge in the world, and among the prime places to visit in San Francisco. The bridge’s sidewalks are open during the day to pedestrians, including wheelchair users and bicyclists.
Another important landmark of San Francisco, the Alcatraz Island is one of the most famous prisons in America and among the top places to visit in San Francisco. The island was developed in the mid-19th century with facilities for a military fortification, a military prison, and a lighthouse. Operated for 30 years till 1963, it was later opened as a tourist attraction in 1973. Surrounded by the freezing water of San Francisco Bay, this prison was once home to some of the most notorious criminals such as Al Capone and the Birdman. The island has been featured in many Hollywood films which include Sean Connery’s ‘The Rock’ and Clint Eastwood’s ‘Escape from Alcatraz’. Today, it is one of the popular tourist attractions and a historic site. Operated by the National Park Service, one can take a ferry to reach the island.
Fisherman’s Wharf is a bustling neighborhood in San Francisco that is packed with restaurants, souvenir shops, a couple of museums, historical buildings, scenic vistas, and a colony of sea lions resting nearby. The place is one of the popular tourist hotspots in San Francisco and is also the starting point for boat tours. There are many boat tours available at Fisherman’s Wharf that offer great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and San Francisco Bay. One can also explore the nearby attractions, including the North Beach and Chinatown. Besides, the place also has a lot of street performers, from musicians to magicians, and it is a fun way to spend some time and enjoy the local talent.
Golden Gate Park
Located in the heart of San Francisco, Golden Gate Park is a mammoth urban park and among the best places to visit in San Francisco. Once an area of dunes, the park development was started in 1871 and is administered by the San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department. Sprawling over an area of more than 1000 acres, the park is adorned with walking trails, cycling paths, a botanical garden containing more than 7,500 species of plants, several lakes, bridle paths, and a buffalo paddock. Among, the main highlight includes the de Young Museum, the California Academy of Science Museum with Steinhart Aquarium, the Japanese Tea Garden, and the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Besides, the park also houses several statues and even an ornate carousel. The park is also home to many sporting activities such as a polo ground and archery range.
California Academy of Sciences
Located in Golden Gate Park, the California Academy of Sciences is an architectural marvel as well as a multifaceted museum in California. Established in 1853, it is among the largest museums of natural history in the world, staggering over 46 million specimens with incredible artifacts, animals, and exhibits. The massive complex of the academy boasts an aquarium, a natural history museum, a rainforest, and a planetarium. The walls of the building are largely made of glass allowing for natural light. The Steinhart Aquarium contains some 38,000 live specimens and a 25-feet-deep coral reef whereas the Kimball Natural History Museum has skeletons of a T-Rex and blue whale, along with an array of interesting exhibits. Besides, the Osher Rainforest with four stories houses over 1,600 live animals, plants, and amphibians. It is one of the most popular and largest science museums in the world and attracts millions of visitors every year as part of San Francisco Tour Packages.
Legion of Honor
The Legion of Honor is one of the most exquisite museums lies in the beautiful Lincoln Park in San Francisco. Gifted by the famous socialite, philanthropist, and patron of arts – Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, the building is the replica of the Palais de la Legion d’Honneur in Paris. Founded in 1924, the Legion of Honor Museum houses an impressive collection of European decorative arts, sculptures, and paintings spanning over 4,000 years. Containing more than 90,000 works, some of the notable works of art include Rodin’s The Kiss, and Thinker, The Grand Canal by Claude Monet, and St. John the Baptist by El Grecko. Since the museum is built on elevated land, the museum offers some splendid views over the city’s skyline, and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Palace of Fine Arts
Located in the Marina district of San Francisco, the Palace of Fine Arts is the last remaining monumental structure from the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition. Demolished in 1964 and restored in 2010, the palace was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and today hosts art exhibitions and performances. It also houses a theater offering several shows, and musical and cultural events with a seating capacity of around 1,000 patrons. Besides, the palace is adorned with several trees around it and swans and ducks swimming around in its waters. Apart, it is also one of the popular picnic spots and a great place for weddings and wedding photographs.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is a modern and contemporary art museum with 170,000 square feet of exhibition space. Popularly known as the SFMOMA, the museum was extensively renovated and expanded in 2016. Spread across 10 floors, the museum holds an internationally recognized collection of modern and contemporary art. It was the first museum on the West Coast devoted solely to 20th-century art. With a permanent collection of 33,000 pieces, the galleries also contain digital art, industrial designs, and interactive media installations along with photos and paintings. If you are an art and history buff, then don’t miss this place during your San Francisco Trip.
Founded in 1969, the Exploratorium is one of the most famous and interesting science museums located in San Francisco, California. Popular with both kids and adults, the museum has over 600 interactive installations and hands-on exhibits, all of which are designed to educate and entertain. From light and sound to biology, engineering, and psychology, the museum offers various activities, workshops, and fun things to do.
Reaching around 900 feet in height, The Twin Peaks are a famous pair of mountains, named Eureka and Noe located in San Francisco, California. These peaks are the second highest point in the city, beaten by Mount Davidson by a mere meter. A grassy 64-acre hilltop park is a popular attraction with its hiking trails leading up to wind-swept peaks that offer panoramic views of San Francisco and San Francisco Bay. Also, one can spot the endangered Mission Blue Butterfly which is often found floating in the strong winds of the mountains. The twin peaks are easily accessible even though they are undeveloped.
Located on Grant Avenue and Stockton Street, Chinatown is the largest one outside Asia and the oldest in North America. Established in the 1840s, the area was completely destroyed during the 1906 earthquake. Later, it was restored entirely in the Chinese style which houses several temples, theaters, workshops, small businesses, stores, antique and souvenir shops, teahouses, and traditional pharmacies. Here, one can witness authentic Chinese culture, shop for Chinese souvenirs and handicrafts along with munching mouthwatering Chinese cuisines. Visiting this Chinatown is one of the top things to do while holidaying in San Francisco. Chinese New Year and the Autumn Moon Festival are some of the events celebrated annually with much fervor that attracts both tourists as well as locals.
Walt Disney Family Museum
The Walt Disney Family Museum is an American Museum located in the Presidio of San Francisco. Opened in 2009, the museum features the life and legacy of the world’s famous icon, Walt Disney. The museum houses 10 permanent galleries that take you through all the stages of his life, from childhood and breaking into Hollywood, to realizing his dream of Disneyland and subsequent death. With captivating and engaging galleries, the museum uses state-of-the-art technology and displays his comics, writings, many interesting artifacts, and of course, the priceless sketches of Mickey Mouse. Also, there is a special lobby in the museum that displays Walt’s 248 awards which he won for his various works, including his many academy awards and the unique Snow White and the Seven Dwarves Oscar trophy.
Cable Car Museum
Cable Car Museum is another popular museum located in Mason Street, San Francisco. Traces its heritage and development since 1873, the museum contains historical and explanatory exhibits on the San Francisco cable car system, including tracks, cables, and photographs of historic importance. The main highlight of the museum is the display of three antique cable cars from the very first lines back in 1870, the Sutter Street Railway’s grip car 46 and trailer 54 and Clay Street Company’s grip car 8, the only remaining car from the first cable car company. It is a great place to learn about the history and technology behind the cable car system while holidaying in San Francisco.
Alamo Square is a residential neighborhood and park located in San Francisco, California. Referred to as ‘the Painted Ladies’, the square is known for its colorful Victorian and Edwardian houses set in an iconic row. The square is surrounded by Buchanan Street on the east, Turk Street on the north, Baker Street on the west, and Page Street on the south. Also, the area is shown in more than 70 movies, ads, and television shows. Besides, one can spot the Transamerica Pyramid building and the tops of the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge from the park on a clear day.
Santhi is an avid traveler and primary contributor to the blogs at Trawell.in. She has explored most of the states in India and gained vast knowledge on tourist destinations in India and abroad. She also contributes content to other travel websites.