1. Golden Gate Bridge
While some may think that the Golden Gate Bridge is simply a tourist trap or “just a bridge”, that doesn’t mean you should miss out on this iconic view! The Golden Gate Bridge is an astonishing suspension bridge with tons of fantastic picture spots and in my opinion, is well worth the visit.
If you traveled with your car (or a rental) to San Francisco, it is highly recommended that you take public transit, walk, or bike because of the extremely limited parking in the viewing areas. As it is one of the biggest monuments in the city, it gets crowded very quickly. We suggest visiting early in the morning as well for some unique views and photography opportunities while also managing to avoid larger crowds.
2. Muir Woods
Although it’s technically just outside of San Francisco, you can not miss out on Muir Woods. The area is known for having Redwoods reaching as tall as 258 feet as well as trails offering gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean. There are many different hikes you can choose to do, so make sure to take an afternoon to truly explore this beautiful stretch of woods.
3. Palace of the Fine Arts
The Palace of the Fine Arts is a piece of beautiful architecture that was built back in 1915. The architectural style is that of the Greeks, making it a breathtakingly beautiful structure perfect to take a picture in front of or spend an afternoon relaxing in front of. The Palace also contains a theatre which frequently hosts concerts and other live shows making for a unique experience and a great addition to an afternoon!
4. Lands End
Lands End is a historical area within San Francisco. Consisting of trails and different historic ruins, you won’t want to miss this! Additional fascinating stops include West Fort Miley and the memorial to the USS San Francisco.
One of the stranger things about this area is the ruins of the Sutro Baths. The former public saltwater swimming pool burned down in 1966 and has since become a major tourist destination for both exploring and breathtaking ocean views. This is a really fun area to explore and I highly recommend it.
5. Golden Gate Park
While their names may be deceiving, the Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park are not the same thing! While both locations are worth your time, Golden Gate Park is actually a short 5-10 minute drive from the bridge. The Golden Gate Park is a massive park consisting of roughly 1,017 acres of grounds.
The park is filled with interesting exhibits to the point that you could probably spend an entire day here! However, if you are short on time, one of the must-see sections of the park is the Japanese Tea Garden, the oldest Japanese Garden in America. In addition, you may always want to stop by the Conservatory of Flowers, which is home to nearly 2,000 species of unique plants. Both options would be a fantastic use of your time and you truly can’t go wrong with either!
6. Baker Beach
Although San Francisco isn’t quite lauded for its beaches like the rest of California, Baker Beach is absolutely worth a visit simply for its views alone. The fantastic vantage point of the Golden Gate Bridge is what draws people to this beach, however, if you would like to take advantage of the ocean waters, make sure you check the weather first as it commonly isn’t warm enough to take a nice swim.
In addition to the spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, this beach borders many trails that you can hike on, allowing you to enjoy a day of exploring both nature and the coast.
7. Fisherman’s Wharf
Fisherman’s Wharf is on the Northern waterfront and is full of marvelous things to do. You can stop at one of the many restaurants amongst the water and try some amazing seafood or you can take a risk and try to see some of California’s native sea lions that like coasting are the docks of Fisherman’s Wharf.
There are also some classic tourist attractions located in this area including Ripley’s Believe it Or Not!, Madame Tussauds, and the Aquarium of the Bay.
An iconic stop near the Fisherman’s Wharf is Ghirardelli Square, where you can stop and visit the former chocolate factory and get a mind-blowing ice cream sundae.
San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in all of America and is simply massive in scale which makes it that much more intriguing to explore. One of the coolest sights within Chinatown is surprisingly the entrance, also known as the Dragon Gate. It is a beautiful stylized gate that makes for a great picture spot!
If you like gift shops, Grant Avenue is the hot spot for you to explore. It is the more tourist-oriented section of Chinatown and is themed with Chinese decorations all along the street.
If you’d like to see where the local’s shop, stroll down Stockton Street and you’ll see the wide variety of produce and animal markets.
9. The Mission District
The Mission District is the oldest district within San Francisco and was previously home to many working-class Latinx families. However, as the years have passed, it has become more of a hub for the hipsters and younger locals.
Within the Mission District, you can stroll around and observe the murals painted on the walls, eat at some of the finest up and coming restaurants, or take a nice, relaxing trip through Dolores Park.
10. Twin Peaks
If you’re interested in getting to see 360-degree views of the Bay Area, the Twin Peaks are the perfect spot for you. With countless unique hiking trails, you could easily spend a day exploring these neighboring 925-foot peaks.
At the top of the peaks, you’ll find the home of many different species of wildlife, including an endangered species of butterfly known simply as the Mission Blue Butterfly.