Things to do in San Francisco
Visitors to the city by the bay will be hard pressed to run out of things to do in San Francisco. From the lively nightlife scene, to the multitude of delicious dining options, to the cultural wonders and outdoor attractions, it’s a hard vacation destination to top.
Beer-lovers wondering what to do in San Francisco will be delighted to learn that the metropolis boasts more microbreweries than New York City. Anchor Brewing Company is located in the city, and tours are available by appointment every Friday afternoon. Most bars serve a rotating list of craft beers from nearby breweries.
Because there are so many things to do in San Francisco, it’s wise for visitors to start their trip by taking a walking tour of the city. These tours, which are led by local volunteers well versed in the city’s history, are free and cover a wide swathe of the metropolis, from well-known landmarks to more out-of-the-way hidden gems. If you are still overwhelmed after the tour, these knowledgeable guides can help you craft a list of options for what to do in San Francisco before you leave the foggy city by the bay.
California’s first cathedral has a small but moving display of photos of turn-of-the-century Chinatown, and of the devastating aftermath of the 1906 Great Quake.
Though on the south side of Market Street, this megamall aligns with Union Square in its shopping fervor. Curving escalators wrap between department stores (Bloomingdale’s, Nordstom), boutiques, a multiplex, and a surprisingly good food court.
Want salon-grade hair without the cut? The Dry Bar specializes in blowouts only, and caters to locals and visitors alike. Its menu includes weekend-ready styles like the Mai Tai (loose curls billed as “messy, beachy hair”) and the Straight Up (sleek with a touch of body).
This standout modern design showroom stocks gold-painted piggy banks, angular Bensen furniture, and lighting options that include a paper chandelier by Moooi.
Climb up to the fourth floor to the country’s oldest Chinese temple, a shrine to Tien Hau, the Goddess of Heaven and the Sea. Fringed red lanterns throng the ceiling, and Taoists send up puffs of incense with their prayers.
The biggest and oldest (opened in 1978) of three linked Haight Street vintage shops, Held Over carries garments, hats, and shoes from the 40’s through the 90’s.
The Clay is a sweet single stream theatre, distinguished for being one of San Francisco’s oldest. It’s a mix of classic and contemporary programming in a deco setting.
When True Sake opened in 2003, it was the first wholly dedicated sake shop outside of Japan. Their most popular offering is “Nama Ginjo Genshu,” an unpasteurized sake packaged in a stylish can.
Cable cars have competition for Most Endearing Public Transit. These early-20th-century streetcars trundle along the Embarcadero. You might glimpse an orange Milanese number or the olive green “streetcar named desire” from New Orleans.
The heavily wooded, 36-acre hill makes for a quick quiet place just off the bustle of Haight Street. The interior paths of San Francisco’s first city park curl around the 589-foot incline toward an idyllic outlook typically just enjoyed by locals.
For over a century, locals have flocked to Molinari for Italian specialties: olive oil, fresh pasta, and the plump, house-made salami dangling over the counter. Take a number for a heaping sandwich on fresh focaccia.
Part of a group of Robert Redford-owned cinemas, the Kabuki location offers excellent independent and international fare. Booze is available from one of the cinema’s two bars at over 21 shows, and reserved seating saves you from having to elbow for space.