Attractions

San Francisco Alcatraz

Alcatraz   – Everything you need to know about venturing to the island.

AT&T Park -The home stadium of the SF Giants is open for tours, events, oh! and baseball games.

Bay Bridge –  View current and historic info about the bridge born in 1935, a year before the GG Bridge and a time lapse video of the construction of its new span.

Chinatown – The official site which informs you about the culture, attractions, and events.

City Lights Bookstore – Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s bookstore, open for browsing and poetry readings since 1953 at 261 Columbus Ave in North Beach.

San Francisco Coit Tower

Coit Tower (Tour #2 in my book) This 210 ft. tower built in 1933 atop Telegraph Hill offers great views of SF & the East Bay. Learn about its namesake, Lillie Hitchcock Coit who led an unconventional life on a plaque outside. Inside the tower, there are depression era murals of California (not to be missed) and for $3 you can ride an elevator to the observation deck at the top. Parking is often non-existent at the tower’s lot so consider walking up the Greenwich steps from North Beach (see Tour #2) or the Filbert Steps from Montgomery.

The Crooked Street – Lombard: To walk it or drive it or take the cable car down it, go to Hyde Street and turn down onto Lombard St.

Golden Gate Bridge – Site informs you where to bike or walk across the bridge, pick up souvenirs, and take photos as well pay tolls and any current restrictions. It also posts upcoming runs and other events on the bridge and contains an extensive list of FAQs on the bridge’s history and statistics.

Golden Gate Park  – All the park’s features plus maps, sports, tours, and where to find the buffaloes.

Japanese Tea Garden  – Info on Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park.

Murals at the Rincon Center –  Enjoy these once controversial WPA murals, now a designated National Landmark at 101 Spear St. in the Mission near the Embarcadero.

Pier 39 (at Beach and Embarcadero) has its own website advertising its shops, restaurants, and street performers. Tip: go around back to the docks where harbor seals flop – up to 1300 at times. At other times, none are to be seen until they re-appear just as they mysteriously disappeared.

San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts

Palace of Fine Arts  -Directions to the iconic building and info on upcoming events in its auditorium.

Slides in Castro Area  – Near the corner of Douglas and Seward Streets, (5-6 blocks SW of Market St and Castro) is a petit park with giant concrete slides. Sit on a cardboard box (usually on hand) and slide on down!

Travel discounts  – Site provides discounts on hotels, tours, and more as well as event info and a free newsletter.

Outdoor Recreation

Golden Gate National Recreation Area – Site which exclaims “Parks For The People” informs you of Bay Area parks, beaches, dog walking spots, water and land sports as well as ranger-led programs as well as CA history.

Presidio – Go here for info on the latest to see and do at the Presidio, a young and evolving national park.

Tiled steps – A tiled staircase composed of 163 mosaic panels completed by community effort in 2005 is a source of beauty and local pride on Moraga Street between 15th and 16th Avenues.

Yerba Buena Gardens – a public space – has something – free and fee – for young and old alike: A Children’s Creativity Museum, restored carousel, gardens, sculptures, a Martin Luther King Memorial waterfall, an ice skating rink, bowling, movie theatres, and an arts center.

Events

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival  – A free annual fall festival in Golden Gate Park featuring over 100 musical artists on 7 stages.

Prelinger library – Rick Prelinger wields a mighty library and archive of films on SF which he projects at bi-annual events at the Castro Theatre of SF past where he invites the packed house to comment.

Stern Grove Festival – Free. If you’re visiting in summer (late June through late August), definitely look up a city classic: the Stern Grove Festival’s calendar of free concerts (from opera to pop) on Sundays that’s taken place for three quarters of a century thanks to a generous endowment.

History Apps and Websites

Cable car history – Fun place to learn all about cable cars, their history, and how they work using an interactive cable car.

Cliff House photos  – Photos of Mayor and mining engineer Adolph Sutro’s Victorian Cliff House through in its various incarnations.

Found SF – Your place to discover and shape San Francisco history!

Historic photos -A lot of interesting historical images. Especially good coverage of the Cliff House, the 1894 and 1915 World Fairs, and the 1906 earthquake.

History podcasts  – Entertaining San Francisco history podcasts.

Museum of the City of San Francisco – a virtual museum about the city’s history.

Photos then & now  –  Composite-then-and-now-photos-of-the-1906-san-francisco-earthquake/ Photos post the 1906 quake converge with photos post 2012 to create trippy portraits of then and now.

SF then & now app   – This free iPhone app, lets you compare the SF of today to the SF of 100 years ago. Includes many photos and a map of the past and present. You can upload images to make your own Time Pix, or transitions between past and present.

Streetcar history   – Learn about the current cars running up the Embarcadero and much more.

Museums

Art Museums

Asian Art Museum  – All you need to know to visit the Asian Art Museum which is housed in an appealing makeover of the expansive, former city library along with an excellent cafeteria.

Cartoon Art Museum – The Cartoon Art Museum takes on comics, anime, graphic novels, and more in five galleries and a research library. Pay-what-you-wish every first Tuesday of every month.

San Francisco de Young Museum

de Young Museum – The de Young, SF’s main art museum, is located in Golden Gate Park across the plaza from the CA Academy of Sciences Museum (see Science Museums below). Free on the first Tuesday of every month.

Legion of Honor  – Famed for its Rodin sculptures, the Legion of Honor Fine Arts Museum has a dramatic view of the bay through cypress trees and a holocaust memorial on the grounds as well as superlative, changing exhibits. Free on the first Tuesday of every month.

Museum of Modern Art – Closed for construction until 2016.

Yerba Buena Gardens – a public space – has something – free and fee – for young and old alike: A Children’s Creativity Museum, restored carousel, gardens, sculptures, a Martin Luther King Memorial waterfall, an ice skating rink, bowling, movie theatres, and an arts center.

Children’s Museums

Children’s Creativity Museum  – Exhibits, labs, and studios: This innovative museum is part of Yerba Buena Gardens and abounds with activities for both visiting kids and locals.

Randall Museum  – Free. Art and science for kids from toddlers on up with live animals and art classes.

History Museums

Contemporary Jewish Museum

Haas-Lilienthal House  – Visit a Victorian house near Marina district that Wikipedia claims is SF’s “only intact Victorian era home…regularly as a museum, complete with authentic furniture and artifacts.”

San Francisco Presideo

Presidio – Go here for info on the latest to see and do at the Presidio, a young and evolving national park.

SF Center for the Book – A non-profit organization that “fosters the joy of books and bookmaking, the history, artistry.”

SF History Museum  – SF History Museum and Historical Society site with news of tours and events.

Wells Fargo Museum – Free. Located in the bank’s world headquarters at 400 Montgomery St. in the financial district, the Wells Fargo Museum features their stagecoach, naturally, as well as letters and other artifacts from Gold Rush times.

Science Museums

CA Academy of Sciences Museum  – Allow plenty of time for this new natural history museum in Golden Gate Park.

Exploratorium – Extensive interactive and up-to-date exhibits for kids and adults alike on the Embarcadero.

Transportation Museums

Cable Car Museum  – Fascinating and free, the Cable Car Museum has cables running right through it and a cable car stop right in front.

San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts

Streetcar Museum  – Everything you wanted to know about the streetcars with full size replicas you can step into.

Restaurants

Top restaurants  according to the SF Chronicle’s food critic who updates his list annually.

Theatres

American Conservatory Theatre  puts on the latest and greatest plays and musicals.

Beach Blanket Babylon – With giant headgear, Beach Blanket Babylon, a musical revue, has been cracking up audiences with an ever changing set of acts that skewer SF, pop culture, and celebrities since 1974.

Marsh theatre – A small theatre in the Mission district, the Marsh is known for its outstanding one-person shows.

SHN presents current hits from Broadway, pre-Broadway premieres and one-of-a-kind events

Theatre guide – Independent guide to top shows, plays, musicals, family shows, stand-up, and concerts.

Tours

AT&T Park – The home stadium of the SF Giants National League Baseball team is open for tours, events when the team isn’t playing.

Barbary Coast Self Tour  – Offers two types of self-guided tours (print and audio) and a person-guided tour. Or you can just follow the medallions yourself for free as they cut across multiple neighborhoods including North Beach, Chinatown, and the Marina district and pass by Ghirardelli Square. Coit tower Hyde St. Pier, and much more.

Hitchcock in SF  – Alfred Hitchcock movie tour. There are several that take you to the spots where Hitch filmed but this one is free (donation optional) and SF city guides are all excellent.

Sam Spade – Don Herron takes you on the private Dick’s trail to his bars, apartments, etc.

SF City Guides – Free walking tours of neighborhoods by knowledgeable, trained volunteers who expound on the city’s history, architecture, lore, and legend. Free but donations accepted. Highly recommended.

Transportation

Cable Car & Bus Tickets – Cable Car Tickets and MUNI Visitor Day Passes. Information about Cable Car tickets and about 1, 3, or 7 day passes on San Francisco buses and light rail systems (which include unlimited Cable Car rides).

Cable car history – Fun site where you can read all about SF famous cable cars.

Transportation Museums

Cable Car Museum – Fascinating and free, the Cable Car Museum has cables running right through it and a cable car stop right in front.

Streetcar Museum  – Everything you wanted to know about the streetcars with full size replicas you can step into.

Travel Blogs

Keith Skinner: Writer – An award-winning writer and photographer writes historical articles about SF and recounts unique outings.

Museyon Guides  – Savvy, readable books about travel, history, music, and film.

Tales Told from the Road – Dick Jordan’s travel blog about places of interest in and around SF.

Visitor Services

SF Convention and Visitor Bureau

Out of SF – Around the Bay

East Bay – Across the Bay Bridge from SF
Alameda

Pacific Pinball Museum  – The mission statement of this totally hands on museum is to “teach science, art and history through pinball, and to preserve and promote this important part of American culture.” Located in Alameda (near Oakland), the non-profit museum boasts over 400 working games dating from the 1930s until the present.

Berkeley

Berkeley – Learn about what to see and do in Berkeley as well as a bit of its history.

Oakland

Oakland  – Offers a bucket list of things to do in Oakland.

Oakland Museum  – The city’s engrossing museum.

Richmond

Rosie the Riveter Museum – Learn all about women’s role in WWII Bay Area history. Run by the NPS (National Park Service).

Lighthouse in the Bay – Take a daytrip (summer only) or stay overnight (year round) to East Brother Light Station – a lighthouse on a tiny island in the bay near Richmond.

North Bay – across the Golden Gate Bridge from SF
Mill Valley

Muir Woods – Renowned for preserved, “old growth” redwood trees, Muir Woods is a unique and special place to visit. Unfortunately everyone knows this so it is often crowded. But don’t let that deter you. Whether on a main trail or quieter side trail, the historic redwoods cast an awesome spell.

Sausalito,  A scenic city approachable by ferry, bike, car, and bus.

Sausalito Chamber of Commerce – Find out about the ferries, main sights, and restaurants.

Best Things to do in Sausalito – Learn about the town’s parks, neighborhoods, arts festival, and nearby attractions.

Bay Area Model Free. A fascinating model of the SF bay and it’s tides used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (which still runs the center) well into the 1990s when computers took over. Also an extensive display of life in Sausalito during WWII when Bechtel Corp. operated a Liberty Ship manufacturing plant and boatyard.

Floating Homes  – Sausalito’s “floating homes” (houseboats) were former hippie havens frequented by Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, and Robin Williams (who was a waiter in town for several years). Today they’re well regulated high-end homes. Access the floating homes at Gate 5 Road and Main Dock area, and at the Gate 6 Road Waldo Point Harbor area in Sausalito. If you’re lucky, you’ll hit one of the annual tours.

Tiburon

Angel Island – The “other island” in the bay, northwest of Alcatraz and much bigger, Angel Island infamously held Asians (Chinese mostly) immigrants, detaining them in barracks for no good reason for months. These structures are long gone but you can walk around the island or to the top for an unbeatable bay view or visit the Immigration Station Museum housed in an old house. All for the price of a ferry from Tiburon, a town worth walking around and dining in or SF. The NPS (National Park Service) is in charge of the island which also contains working U.S. Army buildings (off limits).