Robert Redford once said, “San Franciscans are very proud of their city, and they should be. It’s the most beautiful place in the world.” Personally, we don’t think anything truer has ever been spoken.
In 2018, we’re celebrating the beauty, the history, the arts and the icons that make our city the global landmark that it is. Join us this year and see how many of these essential San Francisco activities you can check off! Then, share your own additions in the comments below.
1. Visit a museum
There’s a large chance you’ll encounter a rainy day in the city this year; on those days, we recommend heading to one of SF’s best museums. Whether you’re looking for art, history and science or out-of-this-world fun, there’s an educational spot for you and your family. For starters, we recommend de Young, California Academy of Sciences and Musée Mécanique, respectively. Then, check out The Ultimate Guide to San Francisco’s Most Impressive Art Museums and 14 of The Bay Area’s Quirkiest Museums for a few ideas!
2. Walk over the Golden Gate Bridge
How long have you been in San Francisco? Whatever your answer is, it’s about time you finished this bucket list activity. Get your bicycle and pedestrian questions answered here.
3. Stroll through the country’s oldest Chinatown
San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest in North America and the largest Chinese enclave outside Asia. In addition to its historical significance, the neighborhood is filled to the brim with must-try foods, authentic shops and stunning art.
4. Ride a cable car
If you haven’t done it yet, riding a historic SF cable car should definitely be on your 2018 bucket list. It could result in some pretty stunning Instagram shots too! Find the necessary maps, schedules and info here.
5. Dance at a concert
If you’re in San Francisco and you haven’t heard live music yet, double check that you’re actually in San Francisco. It’s everywhere, including at The Bay Area’s 7 Most Iconic Music Venues which features the city’s Great American Music Hall, The Fillmore, The Saloon, Bimbo’s 365 Club and The Warfield.
6. Eat at one of the best restaurants in the country
Photo courtesy of Zuni Café and Eric Wolfinger
In past years, San Francisco restaurants The Slanted Door, Boulevard and Zuni Café have all won the James Beard award for Outstanding Restaurant. Our city is also home to 33 Michelin starred restaurants (with 55 total in the Bay Area)! See the full 2018 map from Eater here.
7. Take a tour of Alcatraz
In our spooky guide, 15 Haunted Tours in the San Francisco Bay Area, we included the year-round Alcatraz Island Night Tour, but you don’t have to be brave to step on the old prison island. History buffs and view-seekers will enjoy the daytime tours as well!
8. Attend a street fair or festival
Honestly, you probably won’t be able to avoid them so just join the fun! Here’s a quick selection of the most popular annual events: Outside Lands, Oysterfest, SF Sketchfest, San Francisco International Beer Festival, International Film Festival, Uncorked Wine Festival, Union Street Festival, SF Jazz Fest, Haight Ashbury Street Fair. And that just scratches the surface.
9. Get lunch inside the Ferry Building
The Ferry Building Marketplace is one of the best indoor marketplaces in the country (we may be a little biased, though). Inside, you’ll find local shops like Heath Ceramics, The Gardener and beekind, quick eats from Biscuit Bender, Cowgirl Creamery’s Artisan Cheese Shop and Sōw Juice, sit down restaurants like Mijita, Hog Island Oyster Co. and Boulettes Larder, desserts from Miette Patisserie, Recchiuti Confections and Humphry Slocombe and so much more.
10. Shop at a farmers’ market
Photo courtesy of Heart of the City Farmers’ Market and Jake Alexander
Our guide to 120 Bay Area farmers’ markets includes 18 just in the city limits — and 16 are year-round! These include the always popular Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market hosted by CUESA and Heart of the City Farmers’ Market in United Nations Plaza.
11. Explore Fisherman’s Wharf
The iconic Fisherman’s Wharf is a historic waterfront neighborhood that includes shops, attractions like the Aquarium of the Bay, Madame Tussauds and Musée Mécanique, and the famous sea lions at Pier 39!
12. Hike the Presidio
Outsiders are often surprised by the sheer number (and beauty) of San Francisco’s sweeping parks and open spaces. The Presidio, the northernmost area of the city, overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge and features a hiking and biking trail network of 24 miles of trail, 25 miles of bikeway and 10 scenic overlooks and vistas. You can get information on every trail and vista here, thanks to Presidio Trust!
13. Snap a photo of the city’s famous sights
You don’t even need a filter for these Instagram-worthy shots. Here’s a quick checklist: Palace of Fine Arts Theater, Lombard Street, the Painted Ladies, Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39, Alcatraz Island, Sutro Baths and Baker Beach.
14. Eat food truck fare with Off the Grid
If you’re craving food truck fare, look no further than Off the Grid. This beloved Bay Area company hosts markets in the city, the East Bay, the South Bay, the North Bay and in the Peninsula. With multiple markets every day of the week, you’ve probably been to one already. But if you haven’t, definitely make it a priority.
15. Catch a game at AT&T Park
The home of the San Francisco Giants, this SoMa landmark offers tours, games during the season, the annual Giants Fan Fest, public events and one of the city’s most exclusive speakeasies!
16. Do everything in Golden Gate Park
It’s a good thing you have a full year, because this isn’t a short list. At three miles long by one-half mile wide, the park is home to the San Francisco Botanical Garden, California Academy of Sciences, the Conservatory of Flowers, the Japanese Tea Garden, four dog play areas, Stow Lake Boathouse, de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park Golf Course, tennis courts, a polo field, an archery range, sports fields, playgrounds, picnic areas, The Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club and even more!
17. Eat chocolate in Ghirardelli Square
It’s basically the American home of chocolate, after all. Today, it’s home to local shops, restaurants and a breathtaking waterfront view, but it was originally a chocolate factory established by Domenico “Domingo” Ghirardelli. Learn the full history here and find out what you can see on your visit here.
18. Cross the Bay Bridge
If you went to San Francisco and you didn’t explore Oakland or Berkeley, did you even go to San Francisco? There’s a lot see in the city and we get that, but if you have a little extra time we definitely recommend spending a day or two in East Bay. You’ll at least find a glamorous view of the City by the Bay.
Here are a few guides to help you make the most of it: What To Do in Oakland if You Only Have 24 Hours, What to Do in Berkeley if You Only Have 24 Hours, Explore the East Bay’s Hidden Gems in 24 Hours.
In the comments below, let us know how many of these bucket list items you’ve checked off.