Visit The Vibrator Museum
In my opinion, this is one of San Francisco’s most unusual museums. The Antique Vibrator Museum offers a history of vibrators from the late 1800s up until the 1970s.
You’ll learn about its origins, how it was created, and how its advanced over the year. The museum is small and will only take about 30 minutes to walk through, but it’s an interesting visit.
You can also learn more on their monthly free docent tour. It’s led by Sexologist and Museum Curator, Dr. Carol Queen. The tour is every 3rd Sunday at 3 pm. You must call for reservations at least 72 hours in advance at 345-0400.
This museum is inside Good Vibrations at 1620 Polk Street in the Nob Hill District.
The San Francisco Zoo
This 100-acre zoo in the southwest corner of San Francisco near Lake Merced is home to more than 2,000 exotic and endangered animals. It is open year-round and is one of the most popular family-friendly San Francisco attractions.
On top of the regular exhibits, there are special events, zookeeper talks, guided tours, and a beautiful vintage carousel . Check out my guide to getting discounted San Francisco Zoo tickets.
San Francisco + Beyond
86. Head to Yosemite National Park for some of Californias best scenery
87. Venture to Berkeley for dollar days at the horse racing track
88. Go for a hike in the
89. Take the ferry out to Angel Island
90. Spend the day spotting whales off the coast in Pacifica
92. Spend a long weekend at the grand Lake Tahoe
93. Go wine tasting in the unpretentious Sonoma town of Healdsburg
94. Take a road trip on down the Pacific Coast Highway
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Spend The Night Painting
Sacramento is a pretty city. Theres old buildings, that picturesque river, and a lot of creative people here who try encapsulate it all in their art. Its pretty cool and makes the city one thats more than just its history. To really FEEL that side of the city, for something unique to do in Sacramento at night join Yaymaker for an evening of painting.
Its set in a bar, which is even better. Go by yourself and make friends, go with a partner, or go with mates. Whatever you do, you get to take home your masterpiece at the end. Ah, drinking and painting Just like a real artist.
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.
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Drink An Irish Coffee 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. Its not just the quantity thats 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. Dont get worried if you become a little addicted to this drink because you can learn to make Irish Coffee the Buena Vista way at home.
Nighttime Tour Of The Tenderloin
The Tenderloin is a rough neighborhood located just west of the fancy shops at Union Square. It has a rich history in jazz and blues music, theater and civil rights activism. It also has a lot of down-on-their-luck residents and a homeless problem. The Tenderloin Museum offers a history of the neighborhood through their exhibits and they also have a history tour, which has to be one of the least touristy things to do in San Francisco. The tour will take you to some interesting spots, giving you an unvarnished look at SF, far away from the pretty shiny stuff. You can read more about offbeat SF and the Tenderloin museum in this piece by Passport & Plates.
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See The World In Miniature At The San Diego Model Railroad Museum
Not just for train lovers or children obsessed with trains, the San Diego Model Railroad Museum also fills the void for anybody who loves things in miniature. We mean, who doesnt? You dont have to be a super nerd to like mini things. Theyre cute, is what.
One of our favourite off the beaten track things to do in San Diego, this model railroad museum was set up in 1982 and is actually the largest indoor model railroad collection on this planet. Its amazing. Theres detailed landscape, in-depth intricacies, and other subtle hidden gems that spark the imagination. There are mini pools one has a shark in it . A tiny, awesome world.
Grab A Bite To Eat At Off The Grid
One of the best family-friendly things to do in San Francisco is grabbing a bite to eat at Off the Grid. Off the Grid is the ultimate food truck experience in San Francisco that happens all over the city.
Their Presidio Picnics on the weekends are probably the most famous food truck event that they offer, but they have a couple of evening food truck extravaganzas on offer as well.
Theres one on Friday nights at Fort Mason from 5 pm 10 pm, and another one on Thursday nights in the Presidio from 5 pm 9 pm.
You can find out more about the food truck events here.
Note: Off the Grid doesnt run in the winter months.
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Go To Fishermans Wharf
Fishermans Wharf is a waterfront neighborhood in San Francisco that includes Pier 39, a well-known tourist hotspot for food and entertainment. I recommend strolling around here during the daytime so you can better enjoy the view. I would avoid eating dinner here as prices can be costly and the food isnt always the best quality.
In addition to shopping, attractions in the area include Madame Tussauds, the Aquarium of the Bay and the ability to board the USS Pampanito, a WWII submarine.
See An Opera At The Opera House
I think everyone should go to the Opera at least once in their lives. So, look no further than the San Francisco Opera House. They feature both innovative and classical operas for a total of nine different operas annually. The building itself is rich in heritage, and has been dedicated to American war heroes, as the War Memorial Opera House. For decades legendary figures in the world of Opera have donned the stage here. Come and see why opera has never gone out of style!
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Hang Out With The Sea Lions At Pier 39
Following an earthquake back in the winter of January 1990, sea lions started taking over the West Marina at Pier 39 and have been there ever since. Depending on the time of year, there can be anywhere from 300 to 900 sea lions sunning on the docks and flopping around looking for a delicious feed of fish.
Watching these fascinating creatures go about their daily activities is one of the best things to do in downtown San Francisco between July and May.
Take A Hike In Glen Canyon
Glen Canyon is an urban forest tucked away in a little visited outpost of southern SF. The three mile round trip stroll follows Islais creek through riparian habitat populated by great horned owls and red-tailed hawks with opportunities for bouldering.
Tips for visiting: Get there via the Glen Park BART stop.
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The Walt Disney Family Museum
Diehard Disney® fans will love visiting this special San Francisco museum dedicated to the life of Walt Disney, his career, his creations, and the inspiration behind them.
Two of the highlights of the tour are the tale of how Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs almost didnt make it onto the screen and the results of Disneys project with Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali which never went anywhere.
There are regularly rotating exhibits featuring Disneys early cartoons and music, and lots of opportunities to learn more about how Disney magic comes to life.
Visit Chinatown With A Local And A Dim Sum Lunch
Its easy enough to visit Chinatown on your own, but if you want to get more inside information about the history, businesses and people that lived in this large tract of land in downtown San Francisco then taking a tour with Wok Wiz Chinatown tours is a good option. Most of their guides have lived and grown up in the Chinatown district and have intimate knowledge about the history and fascinating stories of the early immigrants that settled in the area along with a visit to many unique and fascinating businesses that support the community and are also unusual to experience as an outsider. A fun add on after the tour is a lunch experience at a local Chinese restaurant which includes many local favorites and dim sum with your newly acquainted friends from the tour. To get more details and tour information, you can visit the Wok Wiz website here.
Tip: Dim Sum is a very popular thing to do in Chinatown with nice small tasty bites to try good or bad . Make sure you get a chance to try some of the take away Dim Sum or drop into the many eateries you may find along the way.
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Experience China In North Americas Oldest Chinatown
Not just the oldest, but one of the largest, too San Franciscos Chinatown is a feast for the senses, filled with vibrant colors, delicious food, and plenty of noise.
Discover the culinary delights of Chinatowns tiny alleys on a walking tour, where you can watch master fortune cookie makers and learn traditional Chinese cooking techniques.
Depending on your itinerary, you can combine your tour with an exploration of North Beach, downtown, or even Alcatraz. Just be warned of the crowds Chinatown gets more visitors each year than the Golden Gate Bridge, so its best to join a tour to avoid the tourist traps and head to the real gems.
Eat Your Way Through The Ferry Building Marketplace
Originally, the Ferry Building was a central point in transportation for those arriving to San Francisco, and especially during the Gold Rush its importance as an arrival point for the ferryboat was integral. By 1950s, Ferry Building was barely used for transportation, however, and in early 2000s it went through a restoration and reopened as a food market. Theres plenty to discover as you eat your way through the marketplace, but here are some stops you got to take during your food tour: Vive La Tarte, Hog Island Oyster Bar, Boulettes Larder, Out the Door, Fort Point Beer Co. and Cowgirl Creamery. And dont let the exterior of the former ferry building fool youthis marketplace houses some of the tastiest restaurants with the most talented chefs in all of San Francisco.
FYI: The Farmers Market & Ferry Building Food Tour will give you a sampling of the best artisanal foods.
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Relax At Golden Gate Park
Each year 13 million visitors visit Golden Gate Park and explore one of San Franciscos most amazing places. This picturesque space spans 1,017 acres and has many places to explore and relax. You can discover the lakes, picnic areas, monuments, playgrounds and gardens.
Throughout the calendar there are a plethora of events and activities that take place in the park. You can even hold your own wedding or special event in the beautiful gardens and take photographs with the stunning scenery as a back drop.
Explore the park by Segway: Golden Gate Park Segway Tour
Take An Alcatraz Night Tour
Alcatraz is one of the most popular attractions in San Francisco, but not that many people know that you can actually visit it at night!
Evening tours depart twice daily: 5:55 pm & 6:30 pm, Monday-Thursday.
In addition to offering guided tours from specially trained National Park Rangers, Alcatraz also hoses talks and lectures in the evenings.
Tip: The Alcatraz Night Tours tend to sell out in advance due to their limited availability, so be sure to book your spot in advance!
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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, 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.
Enjoy A Fun Family Day At The Bay Area Discovery Museum
If youre looking for something children will enjoy on a trip to San Francisco, the Bay Area Discovery Museum is where youll find a range of interactive exhibits aimed at a younger audiencethis is one of the best things to do in San Francisco with kids.
These exhibits are located both inside the facility and outside on the 7.5 acres of parkland near the Golden Gate Bridge. Lookout Cove is one of the more popular exhibits and it showcases natural features and small-scale models of some of the citys top landmarks for children to play on.
Kids can also experiment with new things and learn how many things work through a variety of other exhibits meant to stimulate their minds while they have fun.
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Sightseeing Tours At Night
There are 3 bus companies and 2 segway companies currently offering night tours of San Francisco.
Both bus tours are fairly similar in terms of the route they take and the neighborhoods they visit, but they differ slightly in regards to the duration and price.
You could also read our full blog post on San Francisco bus tours, including a section on night tours.
A live guide narration of San Francisco’s most beloved sights. The bus visits the Financial District, Chinatown, North Beach, Nob Hill, Alamo Square, and Embarcadero.
Reviews are extremely positive for this tour, with many praising both the driver and the guide.
- Cost – $31|adults and $21|Child
- Duration – 1.5 hours
Big Bus Tours
This open-top bus tour departs at Fisherman’s Wharf and ends at Union Square. Enjoy views of Grace Cathedral, Golden Gate Bridge, AT& T Park, Treasure Island, and many more sights.
Reviews are generally very positive. Many praise the guides for being funny and informative.
This 2-hour tour may be more expensive than the others, but it is sure to be an experience you wont forget.
The tour bus is a 1970s Volkswagen Bus, decked out as it would have been in the era of hippies.
The tour is a very small group of just 6 guests so youll get to know one another as you get to know the city.
Best of all, because this is a small vehicle, you will get to drive down Lombard Street, the curviest street in the world!
Night Segway Tours
Unwind And Awaken The Senses At Kabuki Springs And Spa
First opened more than 50 years ago, Kabuki Springs and Spa is one of the best spas in the city, and a visit to this luxurious facility is one of the best things to do in San Francisco.
The spa itself offers a range of treatments, such as massages and facials, inspired by herbal remedies and ancient world cultures.
The springs are a series of public bathhouses and other facilities, including a detoxifying dry sauna and steam room, a pain-relieving hot pool and a rejuvenating cold pool. Complimentary natural bath amenities are available for use in the showers, and refreshing beverages and herbal tea are served.
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Explore The Castro District
As mentioned above, the Castro District is filled with pride and it shows. Here you can walk on sunshine and rainbows across the multi-colored crosswalk or buy phallic cookies at Hot Cookie Bakery, a store where the treats are equally delicious and naughty.
You can also catch a movie at the historic Castro Theatre, one of the few remaining theaters from the 1920s that is still operational.
Spend The Day Tasting Wine In The Napa Valley
Napa Valley is already famous. It needs no introduction. With its rolling hills and wineries, this is where you can come for just about everything from scenic views, wine tasting and some truly delicious food. The journey from Sacramento to Napa Valley takes just an hour and twenty minutes if you decide to go by Greyhound bus, but if you have your own wheels? Its just an hours drive away.
Napa town itself is the place to start. Dating back to the late 18th and early 20th centuries, theres the scenic Riverfront Promenade, dotted with cafes and eateries, and a vibrant arts scene. Make sure to check out the Oxbow Public Market and pick some tasty cheese whilst youre there .
Not on a shoestring budget? Then the historic winery of Domaine Carneros is totally worth it. The tasting room here is unreal . If youre driving, maybe not a good idea take a bottle home instead.
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