Things to Do in San Francisco, CA

Things to Do in San Francisco, CA

Do you have a list of places you really want to see before you die?  Like a bucket list for travel?

I do.  I love to travel, every time I go someplace new, I gain some sort of new perspective {It’s all very deep and meaningful.  Ha.}, and  each new place gives me chance to experience life in a different way without having to put my house up for sale.

San Francisco, CA.  If you haven’t been, I seriously recommend it.

It is an eclectic city {huge understatement} with tons of cool stuff the see and do.  Parts of the city make you appreciate home, but the minute you grab a cable car and head to the sites, you feel like you are part of a huge real-life movie.

china town san francisco market

China Town is quite literally like stepping into a bustling city in China.  It’s essentially a neighborhood where Asian immigrants can retain their culture, religion, customs, etc, but it has become a huge tourist attraction.  There are tons of stores, and if you time it right, festivals, complete with music, fireworks and dragons dancing in the street.

banana split

Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory is in San Francisco as well.  It’s all part of Ghirardelli Square, which boasts restaurants, wine tasting events, etc.  I think the MUST NOT MISS attraction is the ice cream shop.  Bring a friend {or eight} and order an ice cream sundae.  They are huge–and decadant, and delicious, and magical.

Oh, sorry, are you still there?  I got a little carried away.  You can also see the original chocolate making equipment in the ice cream parlor.  While you are there, you can check out the stores around the square.  It has tons of specialty shops, which I love, because it’s stuff you can’t get find at big box stores.  You know, the one of a kind items that makes your travel experience unique?

lombard street san francisco

Lombard Street is that street you see in the movies.  It’s the epitome of San Francisco style.  It is a long steep street with 8 sharp turns.  You can drive it or walk it if  you like, or just stand at the bottom and watch the cars slowly navigate the turn.  In spring, the street is lined with tons of flowers–making it even more charming.

san francisco boudin bakery

Fisherman’s Wharf is the place to be if you head to San Francisco.  It is still an operating wharf, where the fleets come in with their daily catches.  Commerce, street performers, and events have sprung up all around the wharf, though, making it a day long experience.  There is an aquarium, several museums, and the infamous Pier 39, which is home to several restaurants where you can eat some of the freshest seafood of your life. Boudin Bakery is my favorite!

golden gate bridge

Last but not least, you have to take a drive over the Golden Gate Bridge.  From the bridge,  you can see Alcatraz {the famous, now non-operating prison}.  If you are so inclined, you can also schedule a tour of Alcatraz.  Make sure to plan ahead on that one, though, as the tours tend to fill up fast.

There is seriously so much more to do in San Francisco, but those are the highlights.

Have you been to San Francisco? What are some of your favorite things to do there?

Happy Travels,


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  1. Elise says

    We live 10 miles north of this fair City (the City around here), and I LOVE it. Hubby and I lived there for a few years until our first born was 1.5, then we moved to the ‘burbs. He still works there, and I did until almost 2 years ago. We still take the kids (now age 7 and 4.5) in a few times a year, more and more now that they’re both more mobile. Just yesterday (Columbus day, no school) we went in on the ferry from Larkspur, and they took the SUBWAY for the first time up to Union Square for lunch with papa. We do an annual December/early January trip as a family on the ferry and then the California Street cable car to the top of Nob Hill and spend a few hours as tourists looking at the fancy hotel decorations. My birthday is in December, and I just LOVE that time of year. No snow here, but they make it beautiful and special all the same. The California Street cable car is a hidden gem – all the tourists use the Powell, not realizing that the California one goes up (and down) a VERY steep hill too, and almost always has NO line. None. The Powell and California lines cross near the top of Nob Hill.
    You touched most everything else – clam chowder in a bread bowl is my favorite meal EVER, and I even make room for it in my diet when I go to the wharf (which isn’t that often). All gazilion calories of it, because there’s NO WAY I’m leaving any of that bread on the plate :) Believe it or not, Macy’s in Union Square has a really good food court – no hot-dog-on-a-stick there! There’s a Boudin’s (with chowder in a a bread bowl too), a sushi place, another place that I don’t remember the details of but I think it’s Wolfgang Puck, and a tiny Mexican place by Rick Bayliss. That’s my new go-to, even though I can’t remember the name.

    Hm. I’ve tried living other places, but I’ve always bounced back here. Seattle and San Diego are just about the only other places we would consider living, but we’re settled here now for sure. :)

    • Elise says

      PS – I was Totally bummed when I realized that you had come to visit the City and I didn’t know in advance. I would have loved to show you around a little, which I realize is a little scary-stalker-ish, but so true!

  2. says

    Sounds exciting, but I think you need to look further abroad, how about a visit to the land of oz, here in Australia we have plenty to look at and all of it very exciting. From our native animals and birds to our natural attractions, we are friendly and love to show off our great country. Oh, and the big bonus, all of our country is open to the tourists, he he, I have friends who have travelled to America on holidays at the moment and have been disappointed to find attraction are closed due to the government disspute, very disappointing when travelling to the other side of the world. Hope you can make it down here and see for your self what a beautiful country we have.

  3. Laura says

    When you live near near SF (It is, as Elise says, The City. It’s where my father worked when I was growing up, in the days before BART, he took Greyhound from the top of our street) you tend to go to less touristy places. The SF zoo, which is at the beach, so then you visit the beach. Not to swim, no swimming at Ocean Beach. The Academy of Sciences. The Asian Art Museum has free days (as do many museums) once a month, with a terrific cafe. It is right by City Hall. China Town is a must see. It shocks most tourists by just how Chinese it is! Ghirardelli Square is just a tourist trap, as is Pier 39. The working pier areas are fun, and there is a submarine to tour, Pampanito, at Fisherman’s Wharf. Baker Beach is north of Ocean Beach, and is at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. Crossing the bridge is no big deal, but did you know you can walk across it? My mother and I would go to the city the day after Thanksgiving for years to shop. It wasn’t “the” traditional day to shop back in the 60s and early 70s.

    Some of the best places are actually outside the city. The Lawrence Hall of Science on the hill above Berkeley is an interactive math and science museum. The view of SF is unsurpassed.

    Elise? You call BART the “subway?” I have never heard anyone do that before!

    • Elise says

      No Laura, we don’t have BART where we live :( I meant the Muni subway. We take the ferry most of the time, and drive when necessary. This is the first time I’ve taken them on the subway. We’ve used the street cars (light rail) and cable cars a lot, since they are all so convenient from the Ferry Building. Ironically, we haven’t taken an actual regular BUS yet. 😕

  4. Eddie says

    Hi, Mavis The first three things I did when I went to San Francisco was 1 walk across the Golden Gate Bridge 2 walk Lombard street and 3 Eat at fisherman’s wharf. And if I ever have the chance to go to LONDON the first thing I want to do is ride the London Eye .

  5. Kristina says

    SF is our closest big city and our family visits often. One place that we love to visit is Fort Point, which is at the end of Crissy Field (another terrific destination — a park made from an old Army air field), under the South end of the Golden Gate bridge. We actually just saw a production of Macbeth there — following the actors all over the fort, while the sun went down and the fog poured in over the ramparts. It was both creepy and magical. I’ve read about a hostel on the Marin headlands (N of the City), and it’s still on my list of places to stay. I’ve heard good things, though. Christmas in the city is magical. We always go to the Dickens fair at the Cow Palace, which is transformed for a month into Dickens’ London. Ummm, Chinatown, for sure. City LIghts bookstore in North Beach is an icon of beatnik and counter-culture. Mama’s on Washington Square has a super long line, but the breakfasts there are super great and fresh. Love SF MOMA, but it is closed for remodeling. If you visit in a couple of years, you can go there. Fisherman’s wharf is sort of touristy. Look for the Bush Man by the boat dock there. He’s very funny. As a gardener, you NEED to go to the Ferry Building. There’s a great farmer’s market there on Saturdays, and terrific shops and restaurants inside. And watch a Giants game, for Pete’s sake! OK, this is getting way too long, but you can visit lots of times and not experience everything. Love San Francisco!

  6. Lachelle says

    Loved the video….I loved how you were so bold and told Daniel smoking was not good for him–multiple times! Thanks for the laughs.

  7. Patrice says

    We were lucky to visit SF this summer. The Academy of Science is truly a gem for the whole family. My son insisted we take in a SF Giants baseball game, and it so happened to be Grateful Dead tribute night with a pregame show by MoonAlice–tie dyed T-shirts for everyone!

  8. Sarah says

    Mavis! I am pretty sure I saw you in San Francisco! I live in North Beach, and you were right by Mara’s – I think you posted a picture earlier of the “Make cannoli’s, not war” window sign they have.

    There’s so much more to your list – go to the Marina and visit the Palace of Fine Arts. Gorgeous architecture! There’s also Chrissy fields, which is the perfect place to play frisbee and have a picnic. Also, let’s not forget the fantastic food: Go to the Mission to try out Ike’s, Richmond district to experience shabu (Japanese hot pot), obviously North Beach for the amazing Italian food (try Tony’s pizza!). Smitten ice cream made with liquid nitrogen in Hayes Valley, etc. The Exploratorium just opened, too!

    Let me know next time you’re in the city. I’ll take you out to one of the “hidden gems” of the city. Maybe you can have a blog meet-up in all the cities you visit!

    • Mavis Butterfield says

      Thanks Sarah! I really wanted to get a slice of pie from the pie cart {I forget which park}. I love, love, love San Fran and can’t wait to go again.

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