The Coolest Guided Tours to Take in San Francisco

|July 2, 2019

Sure, every city has a story to tell, but our hometown has millions. Whether it’s the story of Alcatraz, the legends of ghosts in Downtown San Francisco, the origins of our city’s best restaurants, or the recipes behind its best craft beer, every single one is worth hearing. By foot, by bike, by ferry and by magic bus, these tours explore all of that and more!

Keep reading to find the best guided tours of San Francisco complete with cocktails, food, history, ghosts, street art, craft beer and even whales!

Alcatraz Cruises

Alcatraz cruises guided tours in San Francisco

Photo courtesy of Alcatraz Cruises

Alcatraz Cruises is the authority on touring Alcatraz Island. Their lineup includes day trips, spooky night tours, and the Alcatraz Behind The Scenes Tour, which explores areas previously unavailable to the public like underground jails, secret tunnels and hidden gardens. To learn more about the history of the island, check out The 25 Essential Historic Landmarks Around San Francisco, Mapped.


Avital is a food tour company like no other. Built by locals for locals, their San Francisco tours take guests behind the scenes, into kitchens to speak with chefs, owners and culinary experts while they create unique food and alcohol pairings. Along the way, you’ll also learn about the neighborhood you’re exploring! Each map begins with an introduction to the neighborhood’s culinary history and continues with an appetizer, an iconic landmark, another appetizer, a neighborhood story, the entree and dessert. Options include a Mission District food tour, a North Beach food tour, a Tendernob food tour and a Union Square cocktail tour. To see all the options, click here.

Dandyhorse Bike Tours

The city’s only small, independent bike tour company, Dandyhorse is a true San Francisco original. Atop custom-built adventure bikes, explore the routes designed to see the city while avoiding the major hills. Plus, there’s a Golden Gate Bridge option on every outing! Their pre-designed tours include the 12-mile Essential SF Bike Tour and the eight-mile Essential SF Night Bike Tour, but they also offer a customizable option so you can choose your most important landmarks and sights. To learn more about their tours, click here.

Incredible Adventures

Incredible Adventures is an outdoor travel company that specializes in small group tours both in San Francisco and beyond. Available adventures include food tours through San Francisco neighborhoods, Alcatraz tours and cruises, inside looks at Silicon Valley, trips to Yosemite, Muir Woods and Napa, and even whitewater rafting excursions. In addition to these otherworldly expeditions, Incredible Adventures promotes green business practices and sustainability by using eco-friendly renewable alternative biofuels!

Magic Bus

A program of Antenna Theater in Sausalito, the Magic Bus is a one-of-a-kind tour that is uniquely San Franciscan. The Magic Bus Experience begins with their psychedelic bus transforming into a traveling movie theater, light show and rocket ship while riders travel back in time to the Summer of Love. Over the course of about two hours, the bus takes off from Union Square, travels through Chinatown, North Beach, the Financial District, the Fillmore and, of course, Haight-Ashbury. You can get more details and buy your tickets here.

San Francisco City Guides

San Francisco City Guides is a team of local volunteers who love our city and its rich history. Their regularly scheduled tours are completely free and open to the public as long as your group is fewer than eight guests. To see the full list of tours, click here. It includes year-round options like Alfred Hitchcock’s San Francisco, American History in Golden Gate Park, 1906: Earthquake And Fire, and more.

San Francisco Love Tours

San Francisco Love Tours explore our city in the true spirit of the 1960s: inside an iconic VW bus! Complete with blue seats, beaded curtains and shag carpet, these deluxe, vintage buses can take you on the two-hour Love Tour, the illuminated Night Tour, private tours, and even the Holiday Lights Tour during the holiday season.

San Francisco Whale Tours

Whale Tours guided tours in San Francisco

These exciting tours venture from the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean and into the protected sanctuary of the Farallon Islands so guests can see the natural habitat of Blue, Humpback and Gray Whales. Along the way, you can take in iconic San Francisco sights from atop water—like the Golden Gate Bridge—then venture further into some of the most beautiful waters of the Bay Area.

SF on Tap

If you prefer your city tours with a side of craft beer, SF on Tap is the ideal choice. These walking craft beer tours step inside some of the city’s best bars and breweries in Haight-Ashbury, SoMa, Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach. Each excursion includes insights into each neighborhood as well as beer tastings and a mini brewery tour! To get details on each option, click here.

Streets of San Francisco Bike Tours

The team at Streets of San Francisco Bike Tours is made up of professional bicycle guides, world travelers, adventurous backpackers, bicycle tourists and culinary connoisseurs. These locals build tours that explore our city and avoid its hills, so you can enjoy your ride to the fullest. In addition to classic pedal bike tours, they also offer longer rides on electric bikes—full of easy pedaling, compelling stories, essential neighborhoods and jaw-dropping views. To learn more about each option, click here.

Wild SF Walking Tours

Wild SF Walking Tours offers some of the city’s best and most interesting experiences exploring some of the things we love most about our city. Their guided tours include the Haunted San Francisco Ghost Tour, the Mission Brunch Tour, Food Crawl through Chinatown and Little Italy, the Street Art Tour, and the Free SF Tour, which is a free guided tour that takes off every day at 10 a.m.

Which tour is your favorite?

If you have a favorite San Francisco tour—whether it’s on our list or not—tell us about it in the comments below!

Category Community Guides, San Francisco

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McGuire Real Estate

McGuire Real Estate

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