San Francisco is located in Northern California, just below the region of Sonoma and Napa Valley wine country. It’s a perfect jumping-off point to numerous destinations up and down the coast while also being a hotspot for the arts, culture, adventure, history, and cuisine in its own right.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Unique San Francisco Bucket List Ideas for Locals
- Must-Do San Francisco Bucket List Ideas for Visitors
- San Francisco Bucket List Activities That Are Outdoors
- Bucket List Foods and Restaurants in San Francisco
San Francisco begs a visit if you’ve never been to the Bay Area. You’ll be glad you decided to stop and see the unique mix of culture, cuisine, and things to do. There’s something for every member of your traveling party in San Francisco, and we promise you’ll want to go back.
Unique San Francisco Bucket List Ideas for Locals
Are you a San Fran local that wants to create a stay-cation instead of a travel bucket list? We’re happy to tell you that there’s plenty to do right where you are. Check out these unique to-dos you might not have known before.
1. Go on a sunset cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge
When you’re a local, the places that wow visitors can become normal and humdrum when you see them time and time again. The Golden Gate Bridge is one of these places. Reignite your sense of awe and wonder over this incredible feat of engineering by taking a sunset cruise under the bridge. Get up close and personal, be inspired by new views, and enjoy this landmark all over again.
2. Visit the oldest Japanese Tea Garden in the US
The Japanese Tea Garden is the oldest in the US and is well worth visiting. Not only can you spend time in the garden quietly strolling to your heart’s content, but you can also enjoy steaming cups of tea at the Tea House. If you’ve never been to the Japanese Tea Garden and you live in San Fran, it’s time to check out this gem for yourself.
Pro tip: Ask about the history of the fortune cookie — it has connections to the tea garden!
3. Check out SF’s Treasure Island
Did you know San Francisco has its very own Treasure Island? The island is man-made and is located smack dab in the middle of the bay. Not only is the view astonishing, but you can enjoy a treasure hunt at the monthly TreasureFest flea market held on the island.
4. Catch a show at The Fillmore
The Fillmore is a historic venue that first opened in 1912 and has hosted some of the most well-known names in the music industry, such as Aretha Franklin, The Who, and Santana. Shows play regularly, and you can purchase tickets well ahead online.
Pro tip: Check out the poster room before the show, and take an apple once the show concludes.
5. Get in on a free music festival (or two)
San Francisco is known for its arts and culture, and there are plenty of free music concerts and festivals that pop up throughout the year. One of the best is Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. It’s a three-day festival in Golden Gate Park where you’ll hear a variety of bluegrass and contemporary artists.
Must-Do San Francisco Bucket List Ideas for Visitors
Whether you’re visiting for the first time or the seventh, these are things you’ll want on your bucket list if you haven’t crossed them off already.
6. Tour Alcatraz
When you’re standing at Pier 33 on Fisherman’s Wharf, you can look out across the water and see a shadowy island that once housed some of the most notorious criminals who ever lived. The prison operated from 1934 to 1963. Today, you can tour the cells, learn about the inmates who lived there, and get an idea of what life was like on “The Rock.”
7. Catch a Giant’s game at Oracle Park
It’s hard to get more San Francisco than going to a Giant’s game. Cheer on the local favorites and sample the delicious ballpark fare. Want even more baseball fun? Book a guided tour and go behind the scenes to the dugout, indoor batting cage, clubhouse, press box, and the Giant Vault.
8. Wander through Fisherman’s Wharf
The entire area known as Fisherman’s Wharf deserves a mention and at least a day of sightseeing. This area is chock full of exciting places, fun activities, tasty food, and delightful sights and sounds. From Ghirardelli’s Chocolate Factory and Boudin Bakery to places where you can crack open oysters and find stunning pearls, visiting this area is an absolute must.
Pro tip: Park in a parking garage, then ride the trolly from one end to the other. If you want to see things a bit more up close, choose a man-powered bike-and-carriage setup instead! Just make sure you give the carriage drier a nice tip for all the hard work.
9. Drive down Lombard Street
This one is not for the faint of heart! Lombard Street is otherwise known as the “most crooked street in the world,” and driving it will test your mettle. Eight hairpin turns make up the one-block stretch or road.
Pro tip: Don’t feel like driving? You can also walk it.
10. Ride a cable car
Rather than walking or climbing the steep hills that San Fransisco is famous for, hop aboard a cable car for a fun ride around. These cars are iconic and can take you from one side of the city to the other.
San Francisco Bucket List Activities That Are Outdoors
Though winter can be chilly, spring and summer are often gorgeous and perfect for outdoor activities like these.
Pro tip: Always keep the seasons in mind when making a travel bucket list.
11. Stroll across the Golden Gate Bridge
Neither golden nor a gate, this bridge is an iconic San Fran landmark that is often featured everywhere, from postcards and T-shirts to TV commercials and major action movies. It’s a gorgeous bridge, is incredibly photogenic, and you can walk, bike, or drive across it.
I recommend walking or biking for the whole on-the-ground experience. And try looking out over the water, take a picture or two, and enjoy the hustle and bustle of those around you.
Pro tip: The weather in San Fran can be a bit hit-or-miss. You could get a gorgeous sunny day, or you could find the bridge completely enveloped in fog. Go expecting this and allow the weather you encounter to be part of the experience.
12. Walk up the 16th Ave Tiled Steps to Grandview Park
Take a saunter up the 16th Avenue Steps if you want a low-key activity. Each step is inlaid with mosaics that form a beautiful scene. Walk to the top, and you’ll reach Grandview Park, where you will experience panoramic views of San Francisco.
Pro tip: Take your camera!
13. Explore all the hiking trails
San Francisco is home to over 30 miles of hiking trails, all of which offer gorgeous views and stunning scenery. A few of our favorites are:
- Lands End Trail
- Mount Sutro
- Golden Gate Park Trails
- Mount Davidson Park
14. Enjoy the Golden Gate Park
The Golden Gate Park is larger than NYC’s Central Park and might be even more impressive. It’s home to the Japanese Tea Garden, the DeYoung Museum, the Conservatory of Flowers, Dutch Windmills, Stow Lake, and bison. Yes, you read that right. There are real, live bison to see at Golden Gate Park.
15. Wander through Chinatown
San Francisco is home to the largest Chinese community in the world outside of China itself. Wander this area for authentic Chinese handicrafts and some of the best Chinese food you’ll ever eat, from dim sum to mochi and everything in between.
Bucket List Foods and Restaurants in San Francisco
16. Sample a variety of cuisines at the SOMA Streat Food Park
Hungry for a little bit of everything? SOMA Streat Food Park is the place to be. The park has space for 12 food trucks, and vendors change daily. You can find artisan burgers, delicious street food, world flavors, and craft delights on any given day. If you’re lucky, you’ll also catch live music!
Pro tip: The park is open for lunch and dinner from 11 am to 5 pm Sunday and Monday, and 11 am to 9 pm Tuesday through Saturday.
17. Slurp up a bowl of ramen in Japantown
If you want a ramen fix, there’s no better place to get it than in Japantown. While many places vie for the title of “best ramen,” two restaurants, in particular, stand out.
Marfuku is where to go for authentic Hakata-style Tonkotsu ramen, while Hinodeya Ramen features Dashi-style ramen. You can’t go wrong with either one.
18. Chow down on dumplings in the Sunset District
Dumplings are some of the best Asian comfort food there is, and you can enjoy them to your heart’s content in the Sunset District. Just like ramen in Japantown, every restaurant vies for “the best dumpling” award, but there are a few stand-outs.
Kingdom of Dumpling and Dumpling Kitchen each serve up fantastic, fresh, and authentic dumplings. Try dumplings from both places to get an idea of the different types offered.
19. Enjoy a baked good at Tartine Bakery
Tartine Bakery is the place to go for fresh-baked bread and delicious pastries made the old-fashioned way. Just one step inside and you’ll be transported to bread heaven. You might never want to leave.
Pro tip: Pastries and bread are made fresh daily. Want it just out of the oven? Go around 4 pm for their afternoon batch!
20. Get a chowder bread bowl at Boudin Bakery on Fisherman’s Wharf
There’s nothing quite like steaming hot clam chowder served inside a fresh-baked sourdough bread bowl from Boudin Bakery. Take your bread bowl to the patio where you can enjoy it and watch all the tourists come and go.
San Francisco is a Trip You’ll Always Remember
San Francisco practically begs visitors to drive across its Golden Gate Bridge and stay for a while. With all the concerts, museums, fun attractions, and outdoor adventures to be had, you might find yourself returning time and time again. What experience from this list are you looking forward to the most?