San Francisco Bucket List: 24 Things To Do

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.




41 Comments

  1. Andi May 21, 2015 at 7:26 am - Reply

    This post makes me miss SF sooo much! Great shots!!!

    • Annette White May 21, 2015 at 7:29 am - Reply

      Thanks Andi! I am truly fortunate to live so close to this spectacular city!

  2. Johannes May 25, 2015 at 3:29 am - Reply

    Yes have to agree tho i have never been to SF it surly makes me wana go reading this post and seeing all the lovely pics. great post !

  3. Shelly May 25, 2015 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    Geez, we felt like we covered San Francisco pretty well when we were there for several days a few months ago, but we have definitely added a few more things to do when we get back there. Thanks for the good ideas!

    • Annette White May 25, 2015 at 7:47 pm - Reply

      I don’t know if you can ever be done exploring San Francisco, there’s so much to see!

  4. maxi May 27, 2015 at 4:55 am - Reply

    Best bucket list that I ever came across. Interesting things to do in San Francisco as well involving Crookedest Street and others. Tremendous views of Golden Gate as well. Keep it up!

    • Annette White June 9, 2015 at 12:42 pm - Reply

      Thanks Maxi! I know that every list includes the Crookedest Street on it, but it is bucket list worthy!

  5. Maxi June 1, 2015 at 5:33 am - Reply

    Very informative post. I travel frequently to San Francisco and I really liked the atmosphere there. Thank

    you a lot for sharing.

  6. JB & Renee June 7, 2015 at 11:36 pm - Reply

    Good list. Those Irish coffees at Buena Vista are classic. I lived in San Francisco for 4 years and we used to ride the cable car at night all the way to Buena Vista. Good times. Did you eat at House of Nanking or Thanh Long/Crustacean as well? I miss food tripping in San Francisco, especially for dungeness crab and clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls. So so good. 🙂

    • Annette White June 9, 2015 at 12:39 pm - Reply

      I have not eaten at either of those restaurants, but I’ll put them on my list! San Francisco has so many great places to choose from.

  7. Gabriel June 11, 2015 at 12:05 am - Reply

    Thank you for this great list. I moved to Northern California about 5 years ago and have been exploring ever since. Just added a few of these to my list, as I’ve already done a few. I love the Fortune Cookie factory. That will be the first one I check out. I’ve found some pretty cool hidden places in SF, that a handful of people know about it. So it’s always cool to find new and different things from others. Keep up the great travel

    • Annette White June 11, 2015 at 12:27 pm - Reply

      There is so much exploring to do in Northern California, you are bound to discover some incredible things! If you have any other suggestions for this list, please leave them in the comments as I am sure that the readers would appreciate knowing about cool hidden places. Unless, you are trying to keep them a secret 😉

      • Gabriel June 12, 2015 at 2:38 am - Reply

        I definitely don’t mind sharing the ones I can. A few of the secret places I’ve discovered are mostly hidden beaches. They don’t have names or any signs near by. Stumbled across them while hiking in SF and being nosey. One of them has black granite marble stone, instead of grainy sand. With beautiful large granite colorful rocks all over the beach. It’s a hidden paradise. Below are some other cool places in SF that are my favorite.

        1. Concrete slide in the Castro. In a beautiful small residential neighborhood in Seward Mini Park. At the corner of Seward Street and Acme Alley. Cardboard is usually left behind. Will have you feeling like a kid again.

        2. The Wave Organ. This is a less popular attraction because of its hidden location. A bit of a walk to get to but very scenic. It was constructed by the Exploratorium back in 1986, and uses a series of pipes that interact with the waves to produce beautiful melodies. It’s hit or miss, on whether you will hear anything. The conditions have to be perfect and must be hide tide, with a bit of luck to hear anything. I’ve been twice and haven’t been able to hear anything but it’s lovely just to sit there and take in the views. Check out the mussels and baby crabs along the way as your walking along the beach. A bit hard to find but once you get there it’s easy to figure out. Once you see all the docked boats, you are in the right place.

        3.The rope swing in the Glen Park neighborhood, at Billy Goat Hill Park. This rope swing has incredible views of the city. Probably the best view you will ever experience from a swing. Please note the swing doesn’t meet any safety standards So swing at your own risk.

        4. My personal favorite is the waterfront labyrinth at Lands End, with a wonderful view of the Golden Gate. It’s about a 30 min walk/hike from Sutro Baths. It’s best to check out Sutro Baths first, then make your way up to Lands Ends. It’s a pretty flat trail. There are steep stairs to get down to it and intense stairs on the way back up but totally worth it. After you check out the labyrinth. I highly recommend walking the beach towards the left. That you will see from the top. Take lots of water with you and maybe a snack.

        5. The pet cemetery in the Presidio. It’s not as creepy as it sounds. It’s pretty fun to walk through reading the tombstones. I believe it is currently gated and closed for construction. They are renovating the entire area, to make it more accessible. I believe it should be done by the end of summer. It’s across from Crissy Fields. So you may have to park somewhere near Crissy Fields and walk over.

        6. If you’ve ever wanted to see a gold fire hydrant. There is one in the Mission at the corner of 20th and Church, right next to Dolores Park, and it’s a significant item in the history of SF. After the 1906 earthquake, it provided water to put out fires that destroyed much of the city. It was the only working fire hydrant in the neighborhood, and it gets repainted every year on the anniversary of the quake. On a side note, Dolores Park is a great place to lay out on a blanket and have a picnic for the day. If you have kids stay towards the bottom where the playground is. The top part of the grass area is for adults. Nothing dangerous, just a lot of adult vendors walk through with some interesting products for sale. Definitely a fun experience either way. Another great view of the city from here as well.

        Just in case you were wondering, you can do all of the places I listed in one day. If you start early in the morning around 8 or 9. With a quick lunch break in between. You will probably finish up around 5pm, depending on how long you spend at each location. My list isnt in any type of order. So if you do decide to do them all. Map them out accordingly by locatiom, cuz some are spresd out. I could go on and on with a list of things but these places are my personal favorites, in SF.

        • Annette White June 15, 2015 at 10:35 am - Reply

          Love these!! Definitely gonna go see the gold fire hydrant!

  8. Michele June 11, 2015 at 12:14 pm - Reply

    we are going to be in San Francisco in 2 weeks with our two sons I’m excited to visit some of the sites you posted. Thanks for sharing some that are not know to tourist

    • Annette White June 11, 2015 at 12:30 pm - Reply

      Have a great time Michele and eat a couple fortune cookies for me!

  9. India Tour packages June 15, 2015 at 5:09 am - Reply

    Thanks for great blog information, this is most finest travels services, in making trip advisor and showing knowledge with online. It’s truly bucket listed to Travelers in exploring for lots of attractions in San Francisco.

  10. Christan P June 18, 2015 at 3:09 am - Reply

    Thanks for the wonderful to-do list. This will be helpful when I visit my friends in SF.

  11. Same Day Agra Tours June 20, 2015 at 5:04 am - Reply

    Thanks for blog posts, It is very good traveling blogger. It is famous to improve the travelers with take knowledge in Tourism.

  12. Tina kemp June 22, 2015 at 1:23 pm - Reply

    I love reading all your adventures,, yes,, just returned from San Francisco ,, enjoyed every minute!!
    Glad you have a wonderful time also
    Love tina

    • Annette White June 22, 2015 at 1:34 pm - Reply

      I am so fortunate to call Northern California home, so San Francisco is pretty close to my city. Though, I feel like uncovering all the cool experiences in San Francisco could take a lifetime!

  13. Jay June 30, 2015 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    Hello,

    Just wanted to stop by and say these are great tips! Definitely a great read. I will definitely be sharing on Facebook!

    Keep up the good work!

  14. Bev July 2, 2015 at 5:38 am - Reply

    I am visiting San Francisco in Sept thanks for the great tips

  15. Jhon Lingkon July 12, 2015 at 7:36 am - Reply

    Going to San Francisco within next 2 month with my Wife. It will be great time hope so.

    • Annette White July 12, 2015 at 12:03 pm - Reply

      San Francisco is a great city, I’m sure it’ll be a great time!

  16. North India Tour Packages July 18, 2015 at 5:16 am - Reply

    This is top destinations of one is the famous San Franciso for the travelers bucket listed. This is superb travel journey to enjoying for there destinations………………Thanks

  17. sofia July 20, 2015 at 5:16 am - Reply

    Hi Annette White !.. This is really nice article and
    I’m really impressed by the way you’ve shared the things here. I believe Travelling as a part of our life.
    It is an adventure, and I’m sure those are not into this, are missing a whole lot in life.

  18. same day taj mahal tour by car July 22, 2015 at 11:51 pm - Reply

    Thanks for information in bucket list in san francisco trip!

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  25. Golden Triangle Tour 4 Days February 2, 2016 at 4:38 am - Reply

    Stunning Pictures!

  26. Golden Triangle Tour 3 Days February 2, 2016 at 4:40 am - Reply

    Nice travel posts, i have also planning to explore in San Francisco with include the fabulous destinations.

  27. Stef February 23, 2016 at 9:52 pm - Reply

    I’m probably going to SF in summer, so thank you very much for sharing. I will save this post for my visit!

    • Annette White February 23, 2016 at 11:44 pm - Reply

      Fun! San Francisco is in my neck of the woods, I live just 45 minutes north. It’s an incredible city!

  28. suraj January 13, 2017 at 5:41 am - Reply

    Wow Amazing pictures San Francisco is the really Awesome destination for every traveller.
    I’m planning to visit in San Francisco for 5 nights with my family I’m so excited to visit there

    And surely i’ll visit to some of the sites you’ve mentioned in this post.

  29. Noe Valley Bakery September 2, 2017 at 8:56 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the mention!

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