San Francisco is a fun and vibrant city, but it can get expensive. I lived there for 6 months and scoped out a few cool (and free!) things to do in the city. Here are my suggestions for free things to do in San Francisco.
Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is probably the first thing most people think of when they think of San Francisco. And rightly so! The bridge is iconic for it’s red/orange color and is a must-see for any visit to the city. Crossing the bridge in your car can be a little pricy as far as tolls go (7 bucks!). However, crossing it on foot is completely free! Similar to other popular bridges, there is a pedestrian section on the sides of the bridge that allows anyone to have an amazing view of San Francisco.
If you’re one that is just interested in snapping a pic with the bridge and continuing on your way, there are also plenty of parking lots before you cross the bridge where you can pull off (9 to be exact). There is a fun welcome center there as well. That’s where most people get their picture with the Golden Gate Bridge. It can get pretty foggy in San Francisco (it is called the Foggy City after all) so I recommend checking the weather before heading out there if you want a clear view.
Note: Some parking lots require you to pay a fee to park while others are free.
Golden Gate Park
While up near Golden Gate Park, why not check out Golden Gate Park? Golden Gate Park is free to visitors and is so worth the visit. Depending on how much time you have and how adventurous you’re feeling, you might opt for a tour. Some companies offer fun Segway tours that can give you all the stats on the park and take you through some fun spots. Obviously, these tours are not free which is why I recommend exploring the park yourself.
There are loads of hiking trails all through the park that lead to some amazing views. I would suggest checking one of them out. My favorite trek is the one up to Strawberry hill. It has a great view of the park and, on a clear day, you can even catch a glimpse of Golden Gate Bridge.
There are also a few “attractions” inside of Golden Gate Park like the Japanese Tea Garden, Academy of Sciences, and Botanical Garden.
Japanese Tea Garden
The Japanese Tea Garden is a beautiful set of gardens that offer a good place to meditate and enjoy the tranquility of Japanese gardens. It opens every day at 9 am and has free admission when you enter the garden before 10 am on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Any other day and time, the gardens cost about $12 and under per person.
Academy of Sciences
The California Academy of Sciences offers many different attractions for people of all ages. It has an aquarium, planetarium, rainforest, and more. It offers free and reduced admission, but only for certain individuals. Check this website to see their admission rates.
The Botanical Garden is unique in that on top of the greenery it offers, there are often events that happen here as well. Similar to the Japanese Tea Gardens, if you go between 7:30-9 am, you get free admission. As well, they usually offer free tours around 1:30 pm each day.
The Painted Ladies
The set of houses deemed “The Painted Ladies” is a must-see when in San Francisco. You can see them easily from the street, but the best view is from Alamo Square Park. This park is somewhat on a hill and gives you a great view of The Painted Ladies and downtown San Francisco in the background. It’s a beautiful view for anyone!
Fisherman’s Wharf is a lot of fun to explore. Restaurants and all kinds of entertainment line the boardwalk to give you a rich experience of San Francisco. It’s difficult not to spend money here, but there are plenty of free sights to see. I suggest taking some time to explore this area, but especially Ghirardelli Square. You won’t regret any time spent here.
Lastly, the famous Lombard Street is a must. You can walk beside the road or drive it yourself! Usually, the area can be pretty busy so be warned. Parking close by is sometimes an issue as well, but you’ll find that problem everywhere in San Francisco.
I hope these tips can be of use to you! I’m excited to write more about my time living in San Francisco so be on the look-out for more posts if you’re planning a trip there.
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Check out my last post for tips on things to do in New York City!