24 Incredible Things to do in San Francisco

It’s the city of Dungeness crab, sourdough bread and, of course, the breathtaking Golden Gate Bridge. Some people have even left their hearts here. San Francisco is on most travelers “Things to do” list and for very good reason. ,Whether your a first-time visitor, a local, or enjoying an experience gift from IfOnly, The City in Northern California has something to offer for everyone and here’s just a little taste.

More cool experiences to add to your bucket list. Yipee.

Buena Vista Irish Coffee in San Francisco Buena Vista Irish Coffee in San Francisco

1. Drink an Irish Coffeee at the Buena Vista 

Famous bartender Larry Nolan serves up thousands of Irish coffees a day at The Buena Vista, using a recipe that was perfected in 1952. It’s not just the quantity that’s impressive, but the technique too. On a busy night a couple dozen stemmed glasses will be lined up in a row and strategically filled in a low-tech assembly line fashion. Also, if you sit at the bar with Larry, he might possibly blow your mind with fun magic tricks while you drink your Irish coffee. Bonus.

The Buena Vista | 2765 Hyde St (@ Beach), San Francisco | Website | Map

Read > Make Irish Coffee the Buena Vista Way

Bucket List: Climb the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps in San Francisco  Bucket List: Climb the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps in San Francisco

Bucket List: Climb the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps in San Francisco

2. Climb the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps

The 16th avenue steps are a neighborhood project to create beautiful mosaic artwork on a set of 163 stairs. The steps are a colorful display featuring waves of turquoise, bright birds and vibrant sea animals of all kinds. Make your way to the top, stopping to marvel at the fascinating artwork along the way and to catch your breath because the stairs are pretty steep! 

This splashy “Things to do in San Francisco” attraction is situated in a quiet residential area, with limited tourists and plenty of parking. There were only six other people when we went for a visit, two were a newly married couple taking their wedding photographs.

16th Avenue Tiled Steps | Moraga Street Between 15th and 16th Avenue | Website | Map

Atelier Crenn Molecular Gastronomy restaurant in San Francisco

3. Eat a Molecular Gastronomy Meal

Molecular gastronomy is a study of scientific principles where chefs explore the physical and chemical transformations of ingredients. Think powdered food, deconstructed dishes and delectable foams. Atelier Crenn restaurant in San Francisco is a master at creating a bucket list worthy “cutting-edge” tasting menu. It will be pricy, $220 for the 18-course tasting menu, but it will also be one meal that your taste buds and eyes will never forget. A meal fit for your Couples Bucket List{photo by InnerSpirit}

Bonus: If “eating at a Michelin starred restaurant” is on your bucket list, this one has two.

Atelier Crenn | 3127 Fillmore St, San Francisco | Website | Map

Read > Watch Atelier Crenn’s Tasting Menu in Only 60 Seconds
Read > Dominique Crenn: The Chef That Puts Poetry on a Plate
Read > You Don’t Have to Tip at Atelier Crenn Anymore

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco Callifornia

4. Bicycle Across the Golden Gate

Even though it happens often, driving over the Golden Gate bridge still impresses me. But, what is even more thrilling is taking a bicycle ride across this famous San Francisco structure. You can bring your own bike or easily rent one nearby. Blazing Saddles is a reputable company that will take you on an 8 mile guided bike tour that includes a ride across the bridge or choose to do a self-guided trip. Just be sure to abide by the laws of the bridge for bikes and pedestrians. 

Read > Bike Across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

Things to do before you die: Play the Real Escape Game

5. Escape from a Trapped Room

The Real Escape Game is a live puzzle where the idea is to solve puzzles and riddles in order to find your way out of a locked room in a limited amount of time. This challenging game was brought to San Francisco from Japan, which is not at all surprising since the Japanese are experts at creating quirky experiences, like Tokyo’s Cat Cafe or the Alcatraz ER themed restaurant. {Photo by Real Escape Game}

1746 Post Street, San Francisco | WEBSITE | Tickets

Read > Play the Real Escape Logic Game. San Francisco.

Bucket List: Play Trampoline Dodgeball

6. Play Trampoline Dodge Ball

With over 8,000 square feet of trampoline space, House of Air provides the perfect space for a jumpy game of dodgeball. You can join one of their weekly leagues or hop into the hourly dodgeball sessions during Open Jump. {Photo by House of Air}

House of Air | 926 Old Mason St, San Francisco, Northern California | Dodgeball League | Website | Map

Green Goddess Salad at Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco

7. Eat a Green Goddess Salad

Green Goddess is a mayonnaise-based salad dressing that originated at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel in 1923. Luckily, Wayfare Tavern has revived the original recipe of this creamy dressing seasoned with anchovy and tarragon. Plus, if you sit at the chef’s counter you may catch them constructing the dish right before your eyes.

Wayfare Tavern | 558 Sacramento St., San Francisco | Website | Map 

Read > The Palace’s Original Green Goddess Salad Dressing

Annette White at the Crookedest Street in San Francisco Crookedest Street San Francisco

8. Walk Down The “Crookedest Street”

Lombard Street has eight hairpin turns that has made it famously known as the “Crookedest Street in San Francisco”, though there is some debate that it isn’t actually the most ziggedy-zaggedy. But, with up to 350 cars an hour driving down, it’s definitely the most well-known. Traditionally, tourists will slowly drive down the short switchbacks, but what is even better is walking down this steep 600 foot long road. On foot you are able to fully see not only the red bricked road, but also the beautiful homes that line it.

Lombard St, San Francisco | Map

Read > Lombard Crooked Street – San Francisco

Balmy Street Murals San Francisco

Balmy Street Murals San Francisco

9. See the Balmy Alley Murals 

Balmy Alley is located in the Mission district of San Francisco and has the most concentrated selection of murals in the city. The artwork on this block long alley began in the mid-80’s to voice outrage over political injustices and human rights issues in Central America. Today, it is a colorful collection of murals that depicts the artists’ interpretation of world issues.

Balmy Alley Murals | Balmy Alley, between 24th & 25th Streets, San Francisco | WebsiteMap
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Things to do in San Francisco: Ride a Cable Car Annette White on a San Francisco Cable Car

10. Take a Cable Car Ride

Would a Things to Do in San Francisco list actually be complete without having “Take a Cable Car Ride” on it? The cable car is a San Francisco icon, carrying countless tourists up and down the steep hills. Though it is one of the cities most popular attractions, it is also a handy form of transportation taking folks to many attractions around town.

You can even follow up your ride with with a visit to the Cable Car Museum.

San Francisco Cable Cars | Website | Routes 

Read > San Francisco Cable Cars – The Guide

The Crispy Quail at State Bird Provisions

11. Eat the California State Bird

Eating the California State bird? Isn’t that illegal? You’re not even allowed to pick the state’s poppy flower, are you? Technically, neither action is against the law, but there is something so wrong about consuming your home state bird. Yet, at San Francisco’s State Bird Provisions, there is also something so deliciously right.

State Bird Provisions is a dim sum style restaurant that each evening serves 12-15 creative plates that servers peddle on push carts and trays. Though the CA State Bird, the quail, with Provisions is a permanent fixture on their menu. As well as it should be.

Read > Eat the California State Bird in San Francisco

Annette & Peter White at the Painted Ladies in San Francisco Painted Ladies in San Francisco

12. Pose With the Painted Ladies

The Painted Ladies are the set of Victorian rowhouses that are located across from Alamo Park. Also known as “Postcard Row”, they frequently appear in the media, including the well-known sitcom “Full House”.  

Painted Ladies | Steiner St, San Francisco | Map

Alcatraz San Francisco

13. Explore Alcatraz at Night

Alcatraz is a former military prison located on an island one and a half miles from the mainland. With approximately 1.5 million visitors a year, a visit to “The Rock” is a must for your San Francisco bucket list. But, add more excitement to your adventure by taking an evening tour. If visiting this jail isn’t spooky enough during the day, by night it will send a chill down your spine. Make sure to book a couple months early, spots fill up fast. {photo by Jennifer Boyer}

Alcatraz Night Tours | Website 

Read > Welcome to Alcatraz – Alcatraz History

Wilson & Wilson Speakeasy in San Francisco

14. Drink at a Secret Speakeasy

When you make an ‘appointment’ (not a reservation) at Wilson & Wilson, you are given a password with your confirmation. This password gets you into the secret speakeasy, located behind a nondescript door of the 1920s style bar Bourbon & Branch. Once inside the dimly lit drinking establishment, you can do a 3 cocktail coursing that includes an apertif, main and digestif. An expert mixologist will guide you with the perfect selections for your palate.

Wilson & Wilson | 505 Jones St, San Francisco | Website | Map

Lindy in the Park Swing Dancing in San Francisco

15. Take a Free Swing Dance Lesson in the Park

Swing dancing is a lively group of dances that originated in the “swing era”, from the 1920s-1950s. This couples dance often features dancers spinning, flipping and lifting their partners through the air. Every Sunday at noon in Golden Gate Park you can be a part of the action by learning basic swing dance moves at the appropriately named event “Lindy in the Park”. {photo by Euan}

Lindy in the Park | Golden Gate Park, San Francisco | Website | Map

Off the Grid Food Trucks in San Francisco

16. Eat at a Food Truck

San Francisco has a growing food truck scene which is very evident by the bustle of people who go Off the Grid every Friday night at Fort Mason. This weekly Northern California food party, that draws 6-9,000 eaters, has over 32 vendors featuring food and drink from around the world. Not only can you get a sensory overload of smells, but also partake in fun games like tabletop shuffleboard and Whack-a-Mole. {photo by Kārlis Dambrāns}

Off the Grid | Fort Mason Center Parking Lot, Buchanan St & Marina Blvd | Website | Map

Skeeball Arcade Game

17. Take a Skeeball Tour

Skeeball is a common arcade game where fist-sized balls are rolled up a sloping ramp aimed at holes worth various point values. If this game sounds fun, then join a National Skeeball Champion, Joey the Cat, on a unique tour of skeeball venues around San Francisco. Not only will he teach you his tricks to play an expert game, but you will end up playing up to 50 games to perfect your skill. {Photo by Robin Zebrowski}

Joey the Cat | Website | Bookings: meow@joeythecat.com

Fortune Cookie Factory San Frnacisco

18. Visit a Fortune Cookie Factory

The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is a tiny hidden treasure located in the heart of San Francisco’s Chinatown. The small shop barely fits a handful of people, but it’s worth cramming your body inside just to get a whiff of the enticing aroma and a free sample of hot fortune cookies. Photos of the production facility will cost you a mere 50 cents, which seems beyond reasonable when you see these ladies working so hard.

This will probably be the quickest stop on this “Things to do in San Francisco” list (tens minutes max), but it is big on experience.

Fortune Cookie Factory | 56 Ross Alley, San Francisco | WebsiteMap

Sourdough Sandwich at Tartine in San Francisco

19. Eat the Famous San Francisco Sourdough

Sourdough bread has been a part of the San Francisco culture since the California Gold Rush when French bakers brought over expert baking techniques. There are plenty of places around the city to buy a loaf of this sour-style bread; Try the Pain au Levain at Acme, Sourdough Long Loaf at Boudin or  the Organic Sourdough Batard at Noe Valley Bakery. But, if eating a plain loaf of bread isn’t on your carb agenda head over to Tartine to indulge in the sopressata, fontina and broccoli rabe pesto sandwich made with their housemade Sourdough Country Levain. 

Tartine | 600 Guerrero Street San Francisco | WebsiteMap
Acme | 1 Ferry Building, San Francisco | Website | Map
Boudin | Multiple Locations | Website
Noe Valley Bakery | 4073 24th Street at Castro, San Francisco | Website | Map

Read > Taste Test: The Best Sourdough Bread in San Francisco

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Musee Mecanique in San Francisco

20. Play an Antique Arcade Game

Musee Mecanique is a private collection of coin-operated, antique arcade games and mechanical musical instruments. Walking through will take you on a trip down memory lane, well before home video and smart phone app games became so popular. Bring a roll of quarters to take a pony ride, battle with an arm wrestler or hear the Barbershop Quartet belt out a tune.

Musee Mecanique |Pier 45 Shed A, San Francisco | Website | Map

21. Marvel at the Outrageously Huge Beach Blanket Babylon Hats

Beach Blanket Babylon is the longest running musical revue and has rightfully been called “the real San Francisco treat”. It has been seen by over 6 million people, with more than 15,000 performances. Why? Because its spoofs on pop culture are hilarious, the headdresses are outrageously huge and the costume colorfully elaborate.

Beach Blanket Babylon | 678 Beach Blanket Babylon Boulevard, San Francisco | Website | Tickets | Map

Anchor Steam Brewery Tour in

 22. Take a Brewery Tour

Get a taste of San Francisco history with a peak into America’s first and oldest craft brewery, Anchor Brewing. Though their Steam beer is what they seem to be most known for, you will also get a glimpse into their other tasty selections and their centuries-old craft brewing techniques. Of course the best part of the tour is the samples at the end. {Photo by Jennifer Pickens}

Anchor Brewing |1705 Mariposa St, San Francisco | Website | Tours | Map

The Parrots of Telegraph Hill in San Francisco

23. Spot the Wild Parrots

There is no specific address where you can spot a flock of wild cherry-headed conure parrots roaming around San Francisco. But, your best bet would be to start at Coit Tower and then walk down the 400 Telegraph Hill steps scoping out the trees along the way. This area is where I had my first sighting and was also the inspiration for the documentary The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. {Photo by Dan_H}

Coit Tower | 1 Telegraph Hill Blvd, San Francisco | WebsiteMap

Egg Custard Tart in San Francisco

24. Eat an Egg Custard Tart

An egg custard tart features a silky egg yolk custard in a crunchy pastry shell that is traditionally found in various Asian countries. The Golden Gate Bakery in Chinatown is know to have one of the best recipes in the city, maybe the world. If you can act actually get one, you might agree. It is well known that the shop randomly closes. In fact, a “on vacation” sign is in their window so often that there is a website called “Is the Golden Gate Bakery Open Today?” dedicated to letting the consumers know when they can and can not get their beloved tart. Even if they are open, you will most likely have a long line to contend with. This all adds to the bucket list challenge. {Photo by Joey}

The Golden Gate Bakery | 1029 Grant Ave., San Francisco | Website | Map

For even more bucket list ideas see: My San Francisco Bay Area Bucket List by A Passion and a Passport.