This post covers free things to do in San Francisco, including nighttime, family-friendly, as well as listings by month and neighborhood.
In this section, we will focus on the 10 best free things to do in San Francisco. This is one of the most unique ro in San Francisco. Full of twists and turns, this one-way street is almost like a roller coaster. The road is lined with beautiful bushes, flowers, trees, and more and can be walked or driven.
You can also get here by taking either the cable car or other public transport available in the city. Most hop-on-hop-off bus tours also provide a stop close to this notable site.
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For more details on how to get here, read our post about Lombard Street. There are several pay-what-you-wish walking tours you can take for free in San Francisco. Some of these tours focus on legends and stories from throughout the history of the city, but others will give you a close look at notable neighborhoods. We also offer both self-guided tours and GPS-led audio guides.
The city has several museums that are either always free or regularly offer free hours. Free really means pay-what-you-wish or donation. Here are a few of the more notable locations you might want to visit during your trip:. If you want to know more about each of these options and more, read our full post about free museums in San Francisco.
Anyone familiar with the hit television show Full House will want to consider a visit to the Painted Ladies. The Tanner family is depicted as living in one of these houses. These are arguably some of the most beautiful houses in all of San Francisco, and you are free to come and see them for yourself.
Daily & weekly free admissions
The San Francisco cable cars are one of the most well-known sights in the city and the city is actually home to the very first cable car system in the United States. For more details, please read our post about how to use the San Francisco Cable Car. There are a lot of fun things to see and experience here, but one of the most popular attractions is the Sea Lions that tend to show up at the pier. These funny and interesting animals have chosen this particular spot to spend their time lounging in San Francisco. Aquarium of the Bay is also located at Pier 39, so you can take your kids to see even more aquatic animals if they are interested.
Admission to this attraction is included with every San Francisco tourist pass.
There are several different ways to see the Golden Gate Bridge — boat toursbike toursbus toursand more — but you can also see it for free by simply walking across. Read our guide to walking across the Golden Gate Bridge. Or, you might us on one of our pay-what-you-wish walking tours.
Just a few blocks south of the bridge is Golden Gate Park and there are some pretty great things to see here. Golden Gate Park is also the home of the de Young Museumnoted for its fine arts and sculpture garden, as well as the California Academy of Sciencesa wonderful natural history museum with a planetarium, an aquarium, and an indoor rainforest.
For some of the best views in San Francisco, you might want to think about making the hike to Coit Tower. There are some pretty amazing and historic murals on the ground floor. For more information about what you can see and do in the area, please read our full post about visiting Coit Tower.
Tourist passes might not be free, but they can help you save so much money that you could enjoy some activities without paying a dime.
In addition to the attractions we already mentioned, the San Francisco Sightseeing Pass can also be used for a variety of guided walking tours, bike tours, cruises, and more. For information on this and other all-inclusive passes, make sure to read our full post comparing each San Francisco tourist pass. Honorable Mentions. Enjoy Great Photo Ops. There are a lot of great places to take fantastic pictures in the city by the bay. If you want to know where the best spots are, check our post about the top 10 photography locations in San Francisco.
See the Mission Murals.
The Mission District in San Francisco has several beautiful murals painted on the walls of various buildings and structures in the area. You can take a self-guided tour of the Mission Murals and enjoy all of this fantastic street art for free. Go to the Japanese Tea Garden. Experience the Wave Organ.
This art installation was developed to create sounds with the waves of the ocean. Back to top.
In this section, we will discuss some of the best things you can do for free in San Francisco after dark. Many items listed in the other sections of this post can also be experienced at night. For even more great activities, check our full post about things to do at night in San Francisco. The Golden Gate Bridge really shines during the day, but thanks to the Bay Lights installation, it also glows after dark.
This display lights up the bridge every night from dusk until dawn with over 25, LEDs. You can also take an evening cruise in San Francisco Bay to get a closer look from the water.
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The viewing area is located on the McCovey Cove side of the stadium map. It is a bit small and it only fits about people reasonably and the staff is there to make sure that visitors stay for 3 innings maximum. Many San Francisco Giants games take place after dark at about 7 pmso this could easily be a great nighttime activity. This free museum is open until 8 pm every night of the week, and there are a lot of great things to see and do here. In this museum, you will find arcade games, pinball tables, slot machines, coin-operated pianos, crane games and more from throughout the past years.
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Here are a few locations where you can enjoy a free comedy performance:. Enjoy Free Live Events. Some of these events are seasonal, but others take place on a monthly or weekly basis. For specific events, you can enjoy when you visit, make sure to check our monthly posts about things to do in San Francisco. You might also want to consider taking a trip to Treasure Island to get one of the best views of the San Francisco skyline as it lights up after dark.
Alternatively, you could also head to the Marin Headlands near Sausalito for another great vantage point of the city. The following section will focus on free activities in San Francisco that parents can enjoy with their .
Remember to check our other sections for additional family-friendly things to do. At the center of this square is a Ghirardelli chocolate store where you can actually get a free piece of chocolate just for visiting.
A variety of different fortune cookies are also available for purchase in their store. There are a lot of great public playgrounds where you can take your kids in San Francisco, and many of them are fairly close to all of the major landmarks in the city. Here are a few locations you may want to consider:.
Did you know there are actual Bison living in San Francisco? The Bison Paddock in Golden Gate Park has been around since the s, providing visitors with an opportunity to see what has sadly become a fairly rare sight around the United States.
If your kids love visiting the zoo, this is a wonderful chance for them to experience a somewhat threatened species that once roamed the land all across this country. Go to a Family-Friendly Museum.
Upcoming fun and cheap events
As we mentioned in our top 10 section, there are a lot of museums you can visit for free in San Francisco. With several modern and historic arcade games to play, this is one of the best family-friendly activities in the city.
If your kids are interested in boats and naval history, you may want to consider making a trip to the San Francisco Maritime Park. For additional information about each of these locations and more, make sure to read our full post about free museums in San Francisco. One of the more surprising things about the area around Coit Tower is the fact that it is the home of a flock of parrots.
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For the best chance to see them, head to North waterfront area. The Presidio Pet Cemetery was the burial site for several pets owned by military families when there was an army post in the area. Although most of the animals were cats and dogs, there are also some rodents, birds, and reptiles buried here. The main household used in the movie Mrs. Doubtfire can be found at Steinerjust a few blocks from the Alta Plaza Park.