Must Sees in San Francisco California
More than 16 million people come to visit San Francisco every year to see the city’s world-famous attractions and experience the City by the Bay. From historic sites, to acclaimed museums, to top theaters and entertainment, to national parks, it’s no wonder San Francisco has become a top global destination.
Some of the most recognized landmarks include:
- The Golden Gate Bridge
- Fisherman’s Wharf
- Alcatraz, Angel Island
- The Palace of Fine Arts
- Coit Tower
- Lombard Street
and several others. A complete listing of landmarks and activities can be found on the San Francisco Travel Association website at https://www.sftravel.com.
Parks & Open Spaces
San Francisco boasts a variety of parks to support those with an active lifestyle whether it be sport or leisure activities. The largest is Golden Gate Park, which covers over 1,000 acres. The park is also home to the California Academy of Sciences, the Japanese Tea Gardens and the Conservatory of Flowers, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and home to the oldest glass and wood Victorian greenhouse in the U.S.
Presidio National Park served as an army post for three nations for 218 years. Today, this national park invites visitors to take advantage of more than 25 miles of hiking trails and 14 miles of paved roads perfect for cyclists. Crissy Field borders a first-class boating area while nearby rocks and pier are ample for fishing and crabbing opportunities. A golf course, bowling alley, the trampoline park House of Air, tennis courts and athletic fields can be found here as well. Presidio National Park also features a number of historic and significant architecture sites, museums, nature areas and scenic views.
Must sees in San Francisco include Buena Vista Park, Candlestick Point State Recreation Area and Washington Square Park. Scattered throughout the Bay Area and outside the city are countless parks and numerous beaches to choose from. No matter where you go the perfect open space awaits you for walking, bicycling or simply taking in the breathtaking scenery.
Arts & Entertainment
San Francisco is a city bursting at the seams with art. With an emphasis on art in numerous museums, creative specialty boutiques and even murals, the city’s art community is arguably one of the most creative and artistic throughout the country.
San Francisco is home to several world-renowned art and science museums. The Asian Art Museum is one of the largest museums in the western world devoted exclusively to Asian art and culture. The Legion of Honor displays a collection of 4,000 years of ancient and European art and antiques. The Exploratorium, San Francisco’s museum of science, art and human perception, recently opened at its new waterfront location on Pier 15.
The city’s main art and science attraction are conveniently located right inside Golden Gate Park. The California Academy of Sciences has made recent cutting-edge renovations and serves as one of the largest, innovative and most eco-friendly natural history museums in the world. Right across the California Academy of Sciences is the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, which showcases American art from the 17th through the 21st centuries, international contemporary art, textiles and costumes, and art from the Americas, the Pacific and Africa.
Art can be and is seen everywhere in San Francisco. The city boasts over 600 murals; the most famous can be found in the Mission district on Balmy Ally and Clarion Alley. In an effort to bring public art throughout the city the San Francisco Arts Commission has created a Civic Art Collection. This contains over 3,500 objects including monuments and statues in the parks, murals in public buildings, paintings, sculptures, installations and other media, all which are submitted by the artists.
Annual Events & Festivals
Thousands of events are held each year in San Francisco, from concerts, athletic events, food and wine festivals to historical and holiday celebrations, there is always something to celebrate here. Among many of the popular events include: the San Francisco International Film Festival (the longest-running film festival in the country, held April – May), the San Francisco Marathon (one of the largest in the world, held in June), Fourth of July Celebrations (which include a spectacular fireworks show held at Pier 39), the Outside Lands Music Festival (held in August), the three-day Blues Festival (the largest outdoor blues festival on the West Coast, held in September), Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (held in October) and many, many more! Visitors and residents can also get swept away in the number of different street fairs, parades and farmers’ markets. For a full listing of events and festival visit https://www.sftravel.com.
San Francisco is an ideal place to live, work and play.
The city offers a vibrant economy, unique neighborhoods and close proximity to world-class museums, universities, national landmarks and natural landscapes. San Francisco was recently named America’s Best City in Bloomberg Businessweek.com’s best places to live ranking. The city also continues to rank among the top cities to visit in the Condé Nast Traveler magazine Reader’s Choice Survey. Whether you’re planning a visit, thinking of moving, or already live in San Francisco, the following guide will help connect you with information and resources to make the most of your San Francisco experience.
San Francisco Neighborhoods
Easily reached by the historic F-Line street car, the Castro encompasses Eureka Valley and much of the Upper Market neighborhood. The Castro is the first, largest and best-known gay neighborhood in the nation and one of the most prominent symbols of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activism around the globe. Offering many amenities such as pedestrian-friendly streets, an array of stores and cafés, as well as a vibrant nightlife, the Castro is a popular destination for residents and visitors alike.
The “Dragons Gate” is the main entrance to Chinatown, the oldest Chinatown in North America and the one of the largest Chinese communities outside Asia. This neighborhood is a city within a city and can best be explored on foot stopping in exotic shops, food markets, temples and small museums. Visitors here can buy herbal remedies, try tea samples and enjoy an authentic “dim sum” lunch.
Civic Center/Hayes Valley
Boasting galleries, antique shops and restaurants, Hayes Valley is just a short distance from the city’s Civic Center. Running right down the middle of the Civic Center is San Francisco’s widest street, Van Ness Avenue. Just beyond the Asian Art Museum’s front door, an area has been designated Little Saigon. Around 250 Vietnamese owned businesses are concentrated in this and in the nearby Tenderloin.
The Embarcadero literally is where one embarks, lined with many deep-water piers, there is so much to see and do here. The Ferry Building, at the foot of Market Street, is a vibrant public space housing a food hall, restaurants and a farmers market. Piers 4-17 offer views of the Financial District skyscrapers and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Across the bay is Treasure Island, a man-made island that was the site of the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition.
This world-famous neighborhood is one of the city’s main attractions including: fishing boats, sea lions, seafood stalls, seafood restaurants, sourdough French bread bakeries and much more. Souvenir shops and historic ships add to the atmosphere while historic F-Line street cars and two cable car lines run though the area. Sightseeing boats and boat charters link to Alcatraz, Angel Island and other points around San Francisco.
Famous for liberal activism in the 1960s, the Haight-Ashbury district (commonly known as the Haight) is world famous for its “Summer of Love” in 1967, when as many as 100,000 people converged on the neighborhood creating a cultural and political rebellion. Today, the Haight offers an array of eclectic stores, delicious cafés and a vibrant atmosphere popular among young artists, activists and professionals. The Haight’s proximity to Golden Gate Park also makes it a popular destination for visitors.
Only one of three remaining Japantowns in the U.S. and the oldest, this neighborhood was founded in 1906. Offering a small slice of Japanese life, San Francisco’s Japantown is just a few skips away from the Fillmore neighborhood, which is currently witnessing a revival of its once prominent jazz heritage. An annual open-air jazz festival takes place to celebrate that heritage. The New York Times recently named the area north of the Golden Gate Park panhandle (or NoPa) an “urban frontier,” this area has also become a late-night hot spot for foodies.
One of the city’s most scenic areas, the Marina is a bustling neighborhood that is home to many young professionals. The Marina also includes the site of the 1915 Panama – Pacific International Exposition, the Palace of Fine Arts. Nearby Cow Hollow, historically known for its dairy farms, today boasts quaint architecture and easy access to the Marina, Pacific Heights, North Beach and other areas.
Mission District/Potrero Hill/ Dog Patch
Some of the best weather in the city can be found in the Mission District, Potrero Hill and Dog Patch. While new restaurants and nightspots are a draw, Mission Dolores, the oldest structure in San Francisco, entertains visitors and locals, many of the city’s pioneers are buried in an adjacent cemetery. Buildings, fences, and walls throughout adorn murals, the largest concentration in the city. Nearby the Potrero Hill and Dogpatch neighborhoods offer growing and vibrant communities of artists, professionals and families centered around neighborhood areas of commerce.
Once home to the silver kings and railroad barons, Nob Hill is most famous as the neighborhood with Grace Cathedra, a replica of Notre Dame in Paris. The world-famous Lombard Street, “the crookedest street in the world,” is also just a few steps away while cable cars take a rest when not in service. Russian Hill, named for burial sites of Russian hunters who were active in California walers in the early 1800s, is right next door.
Adjacent to Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf and Russian Hill, North Beach is San Francisco’s Little Italy. The neighborhood is home to a sizeable Italian American population and is famous for its narrow streets, lively restaurants and nightlife and as the historic center of the city’s beatnik subculture. The neighborhood boasts amazing views and easy public transit.
Located in the large area South of Market Street, the area includes several smaller neighborhoods such as South Park, Yerba Buena and South Beach. The area is home to more than a dozen museums and includes Yerba Buena Gardens, and the largest concentration of art west of the Hudson River. AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, is nearby as well as The University of California – San Francisco, which boasts the largest biomedical university expansion in the United States.
Union Square is the central shopping, hotel and theater district that surrounds the landmark Union Square plaza in the heart of downtown San Francisco. The area is a major tourist destination as well as a center for the arts and entertainment.