Dinosaur at the California Academy of Sciences
California Academy of Sciences is great for all ages, especially for young families.

Top 20 Attractions
in San Francisco

Explore the most popular attractions in San Francisco based on data collected from visitors. #1 will surprise you.

When a person thinks of San Francisco, a giant International Orange-colored bridge, a park spanning more than 1,000 acres, or a city where contemporary art and culture collide often come to mind. While these mainstays never lose their luster, the reasons to visit San Francisco are even more numerous. Where most visitors go might surprise you. Based on data collected from visitors, here are the top 20 things to do in San Francisco.

Golden Gate Bridge

Once called "the bridge that couldn't be built," today the Golden Gate Bridge is one the seven wonders of the modern world. This magnificent bridge, perhaps San Francisco's most famous landmark, opened in 1937 after a four-year struggle against relentless winds, fog, rocks, and treacherous tides. Spanning 1.7 miles from San Francisco to the Marin Headlands, the bridge’s sidewalks are open during the day to pedestrians, including wheelchair users and bicyclists.

The Golden Gate Bridge at sunset with a multicolored sky and the San Francisco Bay in the foreground.


From amazing views and a sea of sea lions to chowder bread bowls and California wines, your visit to San Francisco starts at PIER 39. PIER 39, the most visited destination in San Francisco, offers two levels of dining, entertainment, shopping, and attractions, all surrounded by unbeatable views of the city and the bay. Located along the historic San Francisco waterfront, PIER 39’s location provides the picture-perfect backdrop for postcard views of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, Alcatraz, Angel Island, and the city skyline. Aquarium of the Bay at the entrance of The PIER offers an astonishing view of aquatic life teeming under the surface of San Francisco Bay. Be treated to an unforgettable San Francisco experience and discover why a visit to San Francisco starts at The PIER. PIER 39 is located in San Francisco’s Fisherman's Wharf, at Beach Street and The Embarcadero. Parking is conveniently available in the PIER 39 Garage located directly across from the Entrance Plaza or ride in style on San Francisco's historic F Line streetcar to PIER 39.

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Sea Lions rest on PIER 39's K Dock at Sunset

Golden Gate Park

More than 24 million visitors put Golden Gate Park on their San Francisco bucket list. The park is home to some of San Francisco's most-visited attractions, including the Japanese Tea Garden, the San Francisco Botanical Garden, the de Young Museum, and the California Academy of Sciences. With miles of hidden pathways, green lawns, bridle paths, lakes, and 7,000 plant species right in the heart of San Francisco, Golden Gate Park is the third most-visited city park in the United States. Get around the park by foot, bike, or take a guided Segway tour.  

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Japanese Tea Garden

Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square is a must-visit historical attraction in San Francisco, offering a fascinating blend of the old and new. Originally a chocolate factory established in 1852 by Domenico Ghirardelli, this square has transformed into a destination that beautifully preserves its iconic past. Today, visitors can learn about the rich history of the factory while indulging in chocolate desserts at the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. The square also hosts a variety of boutique shops, art galleries, and restaurants, making it a perfect place for a stroll. Ghirardelli also sits right next to Aquatic Park, a picturesque waterfront location on the Bay, great for recreation and relaxation. 

A chocolate sundae sits in the foreground with Ghirardelli Square in the background.

The Presidio

Formerly a military post, the Presidio is now a national park site and recreational paradise featuring spectacular vistas, beautiful trails, and historic and architectural treasures. The much-anticipated Presidio Tunnel Tops, sloping gently over Highway 101, opened in 2022. It has quickly become a favorite outdoor spot for both residents and visitors alike. Kids of all ages love the OUTPOST, a jaw-dropping children's play area open year-round. When you get hungry, stop at one of the mobile food vendors for tasty cuisine, refreshments, or ice cream. The Tunnel Tops hosts the First Sunday Afternoons series in summer and fall on the Community Stage located behind the Presidio Visitor Center. Come for a hike, a walking tour, a picnic, or to view an exhibit at the Walt Disney Family Museum, or take a stroll back in time.

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Aerial of the Walt Disney Family Museum with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background

The Ferry Building

The San Francisco Ferry Building, an iconic landmark of the city, holds a rich history and is a must-visit attraction. Initially built in 1898, it was the central transportation hub for ferries crossing the San Francisco Bay. Today, the beautifully restored building also houses a marketplace filled with artisanal food stalls, restaurants, and other shops. The food scene here is renowned, offering visitors critically acclaimed restaurants like the Slanted Door and Hog Island Oyster Company. With stunning bay views, the ferry building is still a starting point for exploring waterfront attractions.

Bike leaning against a rail with the Ferry Building in the background.

Lombard Street

Often called the “crookedest” street in the world, this scenic road on Russian Hill features tight turns, fragrant gardens, and beautiful views of the bay, Alcatraz, and Coit Tower. Take a spectacular photo at the bottom of Lombard Street looking up or enjoy the breathtaking view from the top looking out onto the San Francisco Bay, the Bay Bridge and Coit Tower.

Aerial of Lombard Street at dusk

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz was the site of the first lighthouse in the Western United States but became a federal penitentiary from 1934 to 1963, housing famous convicts such as Al Capone and George "Machine Gun" Kelly. Now, this once infamous prison island is part of the Bay Area’s 80,000-acre Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Located one-and-a-half miles from Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz is one of the city's most popular attractions. A visit to the island includes a tour of the cell house where visitors can see where the prisoners lived. 

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Alcatraz seen by boat

SkyStar Wheel

The Skystar Wheel is a great way to see breathtaking city and bay views. Located in Golden Gate Park adjacent to the Academy of Sciences and DeYoung Museum, the Skystar Wheel stands tall at a height of 150 feet and features 36 climate-controlled gondolas, providing visitors with a visually-stunning and comfortable experience. 

Golden Gate Park Skywheel

Legion of Honor

Built to commemorate Californian soldiers who died in World War I, the Legion of Honor displays a collection of more than 4,000 years of ancient and European art and houses the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts in a neoclassic building overlooking Lincoln Park and the Golden Gate Bridge. Multilingual tours available.

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Legion of Honor

The Exploratorium

Located on Pier 15 on the Embarcadero, at the heart of the waterfront, the Exploratorium is a home-grown, hands-on museum igniting curiosity and inspiring creativity in people of all ages. Explore more than 600 hands-on exhibits, including 150 new experiences, and enjoy breathtaking views of the city and bay in the spectacular glass-and-steel Bay Observatory.

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Kids playing outside of the Exploratorium

Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD)

Founded in 2005 and located in the St. Regis Hotel, the museum offers a unique, enriching experience that celebrates black culture and stimulates challenging conversations. With thought-provoking exhibits, interactive displays, and engaging programs, the museum inspires learning through the global lens of the African Diaspora. Walk-in tickets are welcome and available. 

A large-scale mural is on view in an exhibit room of the Museum of the African Diaspora. San Francisco, California.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

Founded in 1935 as the first West Coast museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art, a transformed SFMOMA reopened in 2016. The Snohetta-designed expansion includes 170,000 square feet of new and renovated galleries, enabling SFMOMA to display more than 32,000 modern and contemporary artworks, with an entire floor dedicated solely to photography. 

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The Bay Lights

The Bay Lights are a site-specific light sculpture on the Western Span of the Bay Bridge. The lights were installed in 2013 when Leo Villareal, a renowned artist specializing in light installations, was commissioned to create a dazzling display on the western span of the Bay Bridge for its 75th anniversary. Using over 25,000 individually programmed LED lights, Villareal crafted an art installation that illuminates the bridge's cables with various patterns and colors.

The Bay Lights are currently dark, but will return again soon!

The Bay Bridge at night, showcasing the Bay Lights installation by artist Leo Villareal.

Yerba Buena Gardens

An award-winning public facility at the heart of San Francisco’s downtown cultural district, Yerba Buena Gardens features a children’s garden, public art, museums, a historic carousel, ice-skating and bowling centers.

Yerba Buena Gardens

City Hall

Described as the "Peoples Palace," San Francisco's City Hall is a great historical stop near Civic Center and Hayes Valley. Built in 1915 and designed in the Beaux-Arts style, San Francisco's City Hall is an architectural wonder. With its beautiful grand staircase, interior dome, and light courts, City Hall is the perfect place to take a relaxing tour and an excellent backdrop for your special dinner or celebration.

City Hall at Sunset

San Francisco Zoo and Gardens

The San Francisco Zoo and Gardens is an historic treasure with 1,000 endangered and rescued animals representing 250 species in 100 acres of lovely, peaceful gardens nestled against the Pacific Ocean. Their mission is to connect visitors with wildlife, inspire caring for nature and advance conservation action. The Zoo offers educational programs, keeper talks, fun rides and exciting events for children of all ages.

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San Francisco Zoo

de Young Museum

Located in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, the de Young showcases American art from the 17th through 21st centuries, modern and contemporary art, photography, international textiles and costumes, and art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. The ninth-floor Observation Level of the de Young's Hamon Tower offers breathtaking 360-degree views of San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean.

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couple at the de Young Museum

Coit Tower

Situated in the neighborhood North Beach, Coit Tower was built in 1933 as a tribute to the city's firefighters. A slim building constructed from white concrete, the uniquely designed monument sits atop the Telegraph Hill offering 360-degree views of the city and the bay. The same firm that built San Francisoc's City Hall created the iconic tower, which houses beautiful murals in its interior base. 


San Francisco's Coit Tower, framed by trees in the foreground.

Salesforce Park

Salesforce Park is an excellent spot for nature enthusiasts and urban explorers in San Francisco. This green oasis, located above the Salesforce Transit Center, offers an escape from the city's hustle and bustle downtown. You can take an elevator to the park from the Salesforce transit center or ride a free gondola to the park entrance. The park features a variety of attractions, such as vibrant gardens showcasing native and non-native flora, a walking trail, and outdoor art installations. You can also find seating areas perfect for a quiet picnic or a relaxed afternoon with friends. 

An aerial view of San Francisco's Salesforce Park.
Dan Rosenbaum Headshot
Dan Rosenbaum

Dan is the Vice President, Global Marketing, at San Francisco Travel. San Francisco has been his home for over a decade (that makes him a local, right?). On the weekends, you can find him with a cup of craft coffee in hand, a playlist of good vibes, a growing list of books to read, or out at the city's hottest new restaurant or bar.

The Golden Gate Bridge at sunset with a multicolored sky and the San Francisco Bay in the foreground.
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