Top 10 Things To Do | San Francisco, California

Today is my birthday and I wanted to do a special ‘Top 10’ for one of my very favorite cities, San Francisco!

I have been lucky enough to visit many big cities, but my heart always seems to go back to this city.  I feel like San Francisco replenishes my soul in a weirdly awesome way.  It definitely brings out my creativity and sets my mind ablaze with energy, ideas, and optimism.

There are hundreds of little gems in San Francisco, but if it is your first visit, or you simply want to hit the classics, this guide is a great place to start.

  1.  Visit the Mission District

The Mission is one of my favorite areas in the city.  The Mexican food is epic (try a taqueria!) and the street art is vibrant.  It is also home to Mission Dolores, the oldest building in the city.

2.  Take a Ferry to Alcatraz

Alcatraz island features a fascinating tour, and the ferry ride over gives you beautiful views of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge.  There is a great audio tour of the island and you can stay as long as you’d like with regular ferries leaving all day.

Tip:  Get tickets in advance, they sell out quickly!

3.  Shop at Union Square

Union Square is tourist central, but that’s not a bad thing.  There are lots of great hotels and shopping here, so it is the perfect place to call home base.

4.  Chow Down in Chinatown

Chinatown has a plethora of amazing restaurants and colorful shops.  I recommend going for lunch and exploring the stores filled with everything under the sun, including rows of dried spices and unique ingredients.

5.  Take the Trolley from Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 to the Ferry Building

Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 aren’t my favorite areas in the city, but they are definitely worth a visit.  In the early morning you can see the sea lions from the end of the pier, and it is much less crowded.  This is a great time to check out the area.  After that, I highly recommend taking a trolley down the pier to the Ferry Building which is a great food destination with tons of shops in one place.  On the weekends, it is also home to a large farmer’s market.

Tip:  Try the ‘Secret Breakfast’ ice cream at Humphry Slocombe.  It is bourbon ice cream with corn flakes, and it is amazing.

6.  Explore North Beach and Coit Tower 

North Beach is an Italian neighborhood that is home to Washington Square Park, Telegraph Hill, and Coit Tower.  Come for the Italian food, cute cafes, and Victorian homes.  From Coit Tower you can see sweeping views of the city, including Lombard Street.

7.  Explore Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate park features over 1,000 acres of land that include the de Young Museum, the California Academy of the Sciences, and the San Francisco Botanical Garden.

8.  Stop By Haight/Ashbury

The famed intersection of Haight and Ashbury is where the hippie culture started in the 1960’s.  Today you can check out quirky shops including boutiques, vintage clothing stores, and cafes.  Nearby Cole Valley is a quieter area of the city, with great restaurants filled with mostly locals.

9.  Have a Picnic at Alamo Square Park 

Do you want Full House views?  This park faces the Painted Ladies (row of famous Victorian homes) and locals love to hang out with their dogs, a six pack, and food.  This is one of my favorite spots in the city because of the laid back vibe and incredible views.

10.  See the Golden Gate Bridge

From high up in Twin Peaks or Coit Tower, or closer at the Presidio or Baker Beach, it is a marvel to take in views of the Golden Gate Bridge.  It is such a beautiful symbol of the city and an iconic DO.

I hope you enjoy San Francisco as much as I do!  Feel free to check out all of my San Francisco posts for greater details.

This entry was posted in california, city guides, san francisco, top 10, united states.
  • Rachel Gault

    Happy birthday!! SF is a great place to visit! I've been twice and really enjoy the Alcatraz tour, Lombard Street, and of course, Fisherman's Wharf! So bummed I still haven't made it to the Painted Ladies to check out the Full House house but next time for sure!

  • The Siberian American

    Happy birthday, Ashley! I love San Francisco too-definitey one of those cities I love to visit over & over again!

  • Christine

    Makes me miss San Francisco!

  • Ashley R

    You are so sweet, thank you! I completely agree with you. It never gets old!

  • Ashley R

    I am pretty sure I'm in a perpetual state of missing this city. haha!