Fun Things to Do in San Francisco

From the plane, we could see the lights from the Golden Gate Bridge shimmering in the San Francisco Bay.  We were excited to spend a couple days in this vibrant city and discover our favorite places to stay, dine and where to go.

fun things to do in san francisco

Photo c/o The Palace Hotel

When we arrived to SFO Airport, we were whisked away by our chauffeured driver from NVT & Transportation who punctually met us at arrivals, and before we knew it we were downtown to our hotel – seamless transfer!

After checking into The Palace Hotel, we asked our Concierge for recommendations on what to do in 48 hours, and here are a dozen things to do.

Courtesy of The Palace Hotel in San Francisco

Explore San Francisco in all its glory from the convenience of our downtown San Francisco location.  The Palace Hotel is conveniently located near the top things to do in San Francisco.  Just minutes away from our lobby you’ll find such iconic San Francisco attractions as Union Square, the Embarcadero Ferry Building, Chinatown, cable cars, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and much more!

Sharing our recommendations on where to stay, dine and where to go….

For more inspiration, check out our Instagram account, click here

12 Things to Do in San Francisco

Union Square

Up first on our list of top spots in San Francisco! The Palace Hotel is conveniently located within walking distance to Union Square in downtown San Francisco.  Here you’ll find hundreds of shops and restaurants, as well as performing arts theatres, clubs and lounges, and the actual Union Square where San Francisco locals and visitors from around the world gather in the open air for special events and seasonal attractions.

Westfield San Francisco Centre

Located two blocks from Union Square in downtown San Francisco, Westfield San Francisco Centre offers a premier shopping experience.  The shopping mall features over 170 stores and boutiques, including the nation’s second largest Nordstrom and the largest Bloomingdale’s on the West Coast.  Westfield San Francisco Centre also offers dining and a multi-screen cinema.

San Francisco Financial District

The Palace Hotel is located in San Francisco’s Financial District and is the central area for major business operations in San Francisco.  Sometimes referred to as the West Coast Wall Street, the San Francisco Financial District is home to major international companies, financial institutions, law firms, and is the corporate headquarters for such companies as Gap, VISA, and Wells Fargo.  The 12th District United States Federal Reserve is also located here.

San Francisco Cable Cars

We knew we had to include this next one in our list of San Francisco top things to do! Experience a thrilling ride aboard a San Francisco cable car.  An official historic landmark, San Francisco cable cars offer a nostalgic glimpse into life in the City by the Bay.  Cable car stops are located throughout San Francisco.  Enjoy a scenic tour along the main Powel Street route that starts at Market Street near Union Square and ends at Fisherman’s Wharf.  Single and multi-use ride passes are available. Your whole family is sure to enjoy the ride!

Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the top San Francisco tourist attractions.  Not only is Fisherman’s Wharf rich in history, but it offers dozens of fun things to do in San Francisco, including souvenir shopping at Pier 39, nightlife, Ghirardelli Square, Aquarium of the Bay, or stroll the promenade with a famous San Francisco sourdough bread bowl of steaming clam chowder.

Golden Gate Bridge

This is an obvious must on our list of  San Francisco top things to do. A visit to the gateway to San Francisco – the Golden Gate Bridge.  Whether you admire the towering structure from a bayside vantage point or brave the elements and walk or bike the 1.7-mile span of the bridge, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of this world-recognized San Francisco attraction.

fun things to do in san francisco

Photo c/o The Palace Hotel

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island, most famous for its infamous high-security federal penitentiary, is one of the top things to do in San Francisco for visitors.  Tours of the prison are offered through the National Parks Service, while outside offers great viewing opportunities for bird watchers and nature lovers.  Access to Alcatraz Island is by private ferry only and advance reservations are highly recommended.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Explore the worlds of modern and contemporary art at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in downtown San Francisco.  The museum houses a permanent collection of more than 25,000 pieces representing photography, sculpture, media arts, painting, and architecture and design.  Known throughout San Francisco as MOMA, the museum also features a regular schedule of traveling exhibits, lectures, presentations and public events.  MOMA is closed on Wednesday.

Beach Blanket Babylon

A decades-long San Francisco tradition, Beach Blanket Babylon is also the longest running musical revue in the history of theatre productions.  Beach Blanket Babylon performs year-round at Club Fugazi in the North Beach district.  The show is a parody of current events marked by a cast in outrageous costumes.

de Young Museum

Located in Golden Gate Park, the de Young Museum is affiliated with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.  The de Young offers an extensive collection of impressive works with a heavy concentration in American art.  The museum attracts renowned traveling exhibitions, many of which make the de Young their only stop on a competitive tour schedule.  In addition to artwork, the de Young Museum is celebrated for its architecture and design.  The de Young has been an important fixture in the San Francisco art scene for over 100 years.

fun things to do in san francisco

Photo c/o The Palace Hotel

AT&T Park: San Francisco Giants

Cheer for San Francisco’s home team, the San Francisco Giants, as they round the bases at AT&T Park, the sports venue made famous by its bayside location where homerun balls sometimes end up flying out of the park and into San Francisco Bay.  In addition to its roster of exciting Major League Baseball games, AT&T Park is the premier San Francisco venue for major concerts and special events.  A variety of ballpark tours are available year-round, excluding game days. This is a family favorite on our San Francisco Top things to do list!

Ferry Building Marketplace

Browse the aisles of artisan foods and locally produced gourmet products at the Ferry Building Marketplace in the Embarcadero.  The Marketplace also features restaurants and eateries that showcase chefs’ creative use of sustainable foods.  On weekends, visitors and locals shop for fresh produce at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market.  The historic Ferry Building itself is a major transportation hub and has been an important commercial center for over a century.

fun things to do in san francisco

Photo c/o The Palace Hotel

Where to Dine?

There are a myriad of restaurants and cafes in San Francisco to please your appetite.  Here’s a list of our restaurant recommendations we want to dine at, and some we’ve already dined at.  Keep checking back since this list will continue to grow…

  • Gracias Madre – Located in the heart of the Mission District at 2211 Mission St.  Gracias Madre leads the first Plant Based Mexican Restaurant – 100% organic and 100% vegan.  Fans of Mexican sustainable eats can grab a seat at the long bar & communal tables surrounded by the blonde-wood decor.

The menus are seasonal and determined by what is currently available at their Organic farm in Pleasants Valley, California, the Be Love Farm. Their cheeses and milks are made using nuts, and their tortillas and tamales are handmade from non-GMO Organic heirloom corn, some of which is grown by them on the Be Love Farm.  Our recommendations for dinner….start with Guacamole con Totopos, Coliflor Frito, and continue with Ensalada De Betabel, and Flautas de Camote – but really everything on the menu is delicious!

  • Greens Restaurant
  • Frascati Italian
  • Zuni Cafe
  • Tartine Cafe
  • Le Marais Cafes

How to Get Around?

There are many ways to see San Francisco – bus, tram, and by foot.  But, if you are looking for a comfortable and care-free way to see the city and surrounding areas, contact NVT & Transportation, Napa Valley Tours and Transportation.  This family owned business is celebrating their 19th year in business, and they know the Bay Area well.   They offer a fleet of cars to service private to corporate clients.

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Photo c/o NVT & Transportation

President Michael Graham shares, “We hold our team to the highest standards for performance and quality.  As representatives of NVTT, they are committed to ensuring your best experience.  Our chauffeurs, tour guides, and wine educators are well trained, highly skilled individuals, licensed and insured, with years of experience.  They have an intimate knowledge of the local valleys, highways, airports, and the communities served.  They are well aware of the various current activities and events in wine country.  We are confident you will be delighted to spend the day with our courteous and polished professionals!”

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Photo c/o NVT & Transportation

Our experience with Napa Valley Tours and Transportation has been exceptional!  We highly recommend NVT & Transportation to be your chauffeur from the Napa Valley to Carmel Valley and throughout the Bay Area.

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Thanks to DK Eyewitness Travel Guides for providing us with the San Francisco & Northern California book.  Also, we would like to thank NVT & Transportation for hosting our transfers, and Gracias Madre for hosting our dinner.

More on DK Eyewitness Travel Guides:

DK Eyewitness Travel Guides will help you plan trips to more than 200 destinations around the world. Thousands of photographs, maps, and custom illustrations bring each destination into focus, and in-depth cultural and historical information ensures you know the stories behind the sights. All city guidebooks include a pull-out map with street index, transportation maps, and even more information on getting around.

When planning our trip to San Francisco, we brought along our DK Eyewitness Travel Guide – 612 photos of San Francisco, with a pull-out city map, and 131 illustrations to help us get to know this city.

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