San Francisco Bucket List: 13 Things to Do in the City by the Bay

There’s a reason people are flocking to San Francisco, and it’s not because of the tech bubble.

The city is overflowing with exciting things to do and hidden gems. As a result, tourists come to the Bay Area with a San Francisco bucket list they’re ready to check off.

When you’re gearing up for a trip to San Francisco, make sure some or all of these bucket list activities are on your itinerary.

Add These Activities to Your San Francisco Bucket List

1. Driving Over the Golden Gate Bridge

Of course seeing the Golden Gate Bridge is on everyone’s San Francisco bucket list, but driving over it is an entirely different experience. There’s something quite moving about watching the massive burnt orange beams whisk by you while you’re surrounded by the bay and mountains.

If you want to take in the beauty of this architectural wonder (which you do), head to these prime sightseeing spots along the Bay Area.

Lower view of Golden Gate Bridge with San Francisco Bay at the side2. Escape…err, Visit Alcatraz

From ghost stories to cult-favorite movies, Alcatraz Island and the infamous prison is the center of many eerie stories and folklore. Visit the remains of the famed prison and take an audio tour to learn more about its history. You’ll discover more about iconic prisoners like Al Capone, walk through jail cells and common areas, and even have the chance to take part in special tours.

Be careful about which Alcatraz tour you book, however. The only tour that goes to the island and provides an audio tour is Alcatraz Cruises. Other tours only circle the island before returning to shore.

Entrance to the Aquarium of the Bay - San Francisco, California, USA3. Learn About Ocean Life at the Aquarium of the Bay

From adorable river otters to green moray eels, you’ll discover the natural wonders of marine life at the Aquarium of the Bay. With over 1000 aquatic animal species to see and learn about, this aquarium is the perfect addition to any San Francisco bucket list.

Many interactive opportunities can be found around the aquarium, including touch tanks. Remember to respect the marine life though! Listen to the instructions of the aquarists on duty and ask them questions about the animals.

4. Sip Your Way Through Wine Country

San Francisco’s proximity to wine country makes it the perfect place for fans of the age-old beverage. Whether you choose to visit wineries in Napa or Sonoma Valley (or both), you’ll find yourself enjoying award-winning wines in picture-worthy backdrops.

To maximize your time and travel budget, reserve your spot on a wine tasting tour. These tours begin in San Francisco, offer complimentary transportation throughout wine country, and provide behind-the-scenes experiences for guests, along with ample tasting opportunities!

5. Ride a Cable Car

Have you seen the hills in San Francisco? Do you really want to walk up those? Of course not. Instead, ride a cable car!

These historic cars have been shuttling San Francisco tourists and locals for decades. As a result, they’ve become an iconic part of the city’s culture.

Certain cable car routes are more crowded and popular than others, so take a look at a map before you haphazardly hop on one!

Group of sea lions sun bathing on docks with sea gulls at Pier 39 in San Francisco, California, USA6. Experience Pier 39

For locals, Pier 39 is a tourist trap. However, with attractions like the San Francisco carousel and the sea lions, it’s easy to see why tourists love visiting this destination. If it’s your first time visiting San Francisco, absolutely stop and explore Pier 39.

Additionally, many bay cruises depart from Pier 39.

7. Drink an Irish Coffee at Buena Vista Cafe

Did you know the Irish Coffee was allegedly invented in San Francisco? Buena Vista Cafe’s claim to fame is the invention of the coveted alcoholic coffee.

Coffee and Irish whiskey fans flock from around the world to have an Irish Coffee at Buena Vista Cafe. With a taste and reputation like that, it’s no wonder this drink is on everyone’s San Francisco bucket list!

close up of art work at MOMA Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, California USA8. Visit the SFMOMA

Are you an art fan? If so, make sure the SFMOMA is a stop during your San Francisco vacation.

Recognizing all forms of art including media, film, paint, architecture, and more, SFMOMA features works by renowned, Bay area, and upcoming artists. With a growing collection of more than 30,000 masterpieces, you don’t want to pass up an opportunity to browse these galleries.

9. Walk the Labyrinth at Land’s End

They say you find yourself in while walking a labyrinth. You can find out if that’s true at the Land’s End Labyrinth in San Francisco. This tranquil spot is a favorite among hikers and adventurers due to its serene nature and uniqueness.

Should you add the labyrinth to your San Francisco bucket list, please be respectful of the art and its surroundings. It has unfortunately been ruined and rebuilt one too many times before.

View of a walking trail inside of Muir Woods near San Francisco, California, USA10. Marvel at the Redwood Trees in Muir Woods

There’s nothing quite like the first time you see a Redwood Tree in person. You can marvel at these towering natural wonders in Muir Woods near San Francisco.

Muir Woods is a must-see destination for locals and tourists alike, meaning parking and trails can be fairly crowded at times. To ensure you make the most of your visit, reserve your spot on a Muir Woods tour.

On top of excellent tree views, you’ll take advantage of complimentary transportation, expert narration, and free snacks/water.

11. Indulge at Ghirardelli Square

Calling all chocoholics! Ghirardelli Square is a must for all San Francisco visitors. Indulge in the free sweet chocolate samples or go crazy and order a massive sundae to split amongst your group! The delicious choice is yours.

Plus, the square has so many restaurants and shops to explore. You can grab a pint at San Francisco Brewing Co or go on an adventure at GamedayVR!

Aerial view of the Ferry Building at sunset with a row of palm trees in front of it and the Golden Gate Bridge behind it in San Francisco, California, USA
photo credit: San Francisco Ferry Building via Facebook

12. Eat Your Way through the Ferry Building Marketplace

The Ferry Building Marketplace is a foodie’s dream come true. With a farmers’ market, food and product merchants, and regular events, there is so much to discover in one place.

From cheese to coffee, bread to beeswax (yes, really), there’s something to entice every traveler’s palate here!

13. Discover the Japanese Tea Gardens

The Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco is the oldest public tea garden in the United States and a top destination on everyone’s San Francisco bucket list. Located inside Golden Gate Park, this serene oasis is filled with blossoming flowers, koi ponds, stone paths, a zen garden, and breathtaking architecture.

When you need a break from the city hustle and bustle, take time to roam through the tea gardens.

Book Your San Francisco Trip Today

Ready to start checking items off your San Francisco bucket list? Book your vacation today with Tripster!

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