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.
A whiff of vanilla leads you to this cramped shotgun space. Workers deftly pull warm, golden discs off the spinning machines, then flip and fold them into fortune cookies.
On this narrow street branching east from Union Square, chic boutiques close ranks. The highlight, though, is the Xanadu Gallery’s Frank Lloyd Wright building (140 Maiden Lane). Its stern brick façade conceals a graceful interior with a Guggenheim-esque spiral staircase.
More eclectic and accessible than Design Within Reach just a few doors down, the independently owned Zinc Details has been selling contemporary furniture, lighting, and objects—from Normann Copenhagen’s Grass Vase to Blue Dot’s Buttercup Rocker—since 1991.
In a space flanked by unfinished wood panels and a hanging rope ceiling, patrons enjoy mason jars filled with Churchill’s custom cocktails. The Cape Daquiri’s mix of rum, rooibos syrup, lime, angostura and orange peel, especially, suits the setting.
In this glossy, tranquil shop, lift the lids from dozens of canisters to sniff the teas within. The staff enthusiastically describes everything from delicate oolong to smoky black teas; they’ll also steep tasting samples.
So what if riding a cable car brands you a tourist? The snub-nosed icons are terrific fun to ride, with their bay views from the north side of Nob Hill. Two lines have a terminus just below Union Square, where cable cars sedately spin on a turntable before starting back up the hill again.
Nest is a kooky but cultivated mix of precious objects. Little shoes are on display next to dragonfly plates, locally made note cards and lotions disguised as elixirs.
No beige money belts or quick-drying underwear here. Flight 001 approaches travel with a future-forward style. Their selection of brightly colored suitcases, cheeky luggage tags, and indulgent grooming products brightens up the business of getting somewhere.
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.