Has the following happened to you? You’ve lived in a city for years but have never seen its main attractions. This editor has lived in New York for three years but has never visited the Statue of Liberty—unless, you count sailing by it on the Hudson or admiring it from a telescope at the Ritz-Carlton Battery Park. Not the same, right? Didn’t think so. Or maybe you’ve lived in Los Angeles, err, almost your whole life (also this editor) but have never been to The Getty. Yet you’ve been to The Louvre, The Vatican, Tate Modern, the Anne Frank House, heck, even the Jade Museum, and Gold Museum in Costa Rica (which were awesome, by the way).
The point we’re getting at is oftentimes we neglect to consider the attractions and activities that are closest to us as worth our time—but they are. So whether you live in San Francisco or you're just visiting the Bay Area city, make note of our top 10 things to do in this great city. We didn’t include the obvious must-dos like twist and turn your way down Lombard Street, ride a cable car, eat Dungeness crab at Fisherman’s Wharf, and try ice cream at Ghirardelli’s original chocolate manufactory in Ghirardelli Square. (If you haven’t done those things, add them to the list below and adventure out ASAP. Trust us, you need to experience Ghirardelli’s signature sundae made with two scoops of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, almonds, and whip cream.) Keep reading to see 10 of the best things to do San Francisco.
Dine at State Bird
You’re more likely to get a verified badge on Instagram than a reservation here, but if you can wait for over an hour, it’s 100% worth it. The menu at State Bird Provisions is constantly changing—believe us you can’t go wrong with any of the options. A few items are fixtures on the menu, including a perennial favorite: CA State Bird with Provisions, it’s buttermilk-marinated, fried quail on a bed of lemon-rosemary onions topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano.
1529 Fillmore Street, San Francisco
Bike or Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge
From one side of the bridge to the other is about a two-mile distance. Be sure to bring your own bike because renting one at the bridge is not an option. Once you’ve crossed the bridge, stay for a bite in Sausalito. Visit Cibo for an espresso, fruit cup, or avocado toast, or check out Sushi Ran for bento box lunches, sushi, sashimi, and more. PS: Also visit Sausalito Stationary, which is nearby. If you don't want to walk that far, (it can get pretty windy up there), we recommend strolling along the path at Crissy Field where there are gorgeous views of the city and an up-close view of the bridge.
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Check Out the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Check out the ongoing collections, including Approaching Abstraction Minimalism and Pop, Minimal, and Figurative Art, at one the world’s largest modern art museums. And don't miss the Matisse/Diebenkorn exhibition before it closes on May 29.
If you love art, make a day of it and check out the de Young Museum after you finish touring SFMOMA. Founded in 1895 in Golden Gate Park, the de Young is a SF institution that features incredible modern design and houses really great educational programs as well as innovative exhibits. Or head to the Legion of Honor, which sits right at the edge of the cliffs overlooking the bay onto the Golden Gate in an old Spreckels family landmark.
151 3rd St., San Francisco, sfmoma.org
See the Sights From the Hilltops
If you’re looking to sightsee, Twin Peaks would be the place to do it. It's the second tallest point in San Francisco (Mount Davidson is higher) but offers one of the best views of the city. Drive, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, hike or walk the stairs. Another awesome location to visit is the Lyon Street Steps where Presidio Heights meets Pacific Heights. Aside from gorgeous views, it's also a really fun area to check out the most expensive real estate in the city, where beautiful homes abound.
Or go to Coit Tower at night when it'll be a little less crowded than normal and thoroughly romantic with the city below all lit up. If you want to get a taste for a local neighborhood, you can also catch great views from Dolores Park in the Mission, where you can hang out with some yummy sandwiches from Tartine Bakery or Bi-Rite Market. The Sutro Baths are also awesome and have a really fascinating history. Oh, and Bernal Hill!
501 Twin Peaks Blvd., San Francisco
Drink Tea at The Tea House
Choose from teas including matcha, jasmine, and iced green tea at this Japanese tea garden nestled inside the Golden Gate Park. Also order a fortune cookie because according to local legend, this is where they began.
75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, japaneseteagardensf.com
Visit Spark Food Truck Park
Spark, located in the Mission Bay neighborhood, works with more than 150 food trucks. The vendors are, of course, on rotation. The daily schedule for lunch and dinner is posted here. If you're a true food truck aficionado, you can't miss another food truck market, Off the Grid, which just reopened and has a few different locations throughout the summer. On Friday nights, it's located in Fort Mason.
601 Mission Bay Blvd. North, San Francisco, sparksocialsf.com
Visit the Conservatory of Flowers
This Victorian greenhouse is a national historic landmark. In 2003, it underwent a multi-million dollar renovation and preservation. The Conservatory of Flowers houses over 1700 plant species, currently has the exhibition Butterflies and Blooms, and has ongoing complimentary demonstrations on topics like how coffee or chocolate is made.
Golden Gate Park, 100 John F. Kennedy Drive, San Francisco
Catch a Giants Game at AT&T Park
Raise your hand if you love hot dogs and pretzels served at sporting events. Guilty. Now through October catch a Giants game at AT&T Park. Added bonus: views of the Bay Area.
24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, giants.mlb.com/sf/ballpark
Grab Dim Sum at Yank Sing
Grab traditional dim sum from passing carts at this popular San Francisco spot. Choose from dumplings, steam buns, Peking duck by the slice, and more, including vegetarian options. A great new dim sum restaurant called City View just opened in Chinatown, too, so if you love Yank Sing, it's worth checking out.
101 Spear Street (Rincon Center); 49 Stephenson Street, San Francisco, yanksing.com
Shop at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
Shop local every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at this farmers market in San Francisco’s Ferry Building. There is also a food court, which includes Blue Bottle Coffee, Hog Island Oyster Company, Cow Girl Creamery, Acme Bread, and Gotts.
And for more shopping of a different kind, you should definitely peruse the aisles of City Lights Books, which is a Beatnik historian must-see, as well as Torso Vintages for a shop full of designer pieces hand-curated by celebrity stylists.
1 Ferry Building, #50, San Francisco
We’re curious: If you live in San Francisco, how many of the places on our list have you been to? Any others you recommend?