These unusual things to do in San Francisco will show you the hidden gems of the golden city like no other guide.
From its world-famous landmarks, winding hills, incredible food scene, and a city rich in culture, San Francisco is a top bucket list destination for travelers all around the world and one of the most romantic places in the US, if you will.
While visiting its landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge or Alcatraz Island is a must-do while exploring the City by the Bay, there is also an abundance of unusual things to do in San Francisco.
Here is my guide to all the off-the-beaten-path activities in the Golden City to help you plan the trip of a lifetime.
10 unusual things to do in San Francisco
1. Visit the Painted Ladies and Spend a Day at the Park
“Whatever happened to predictability. The milkman, the paperboy, evening tv?”
Starting in 1987, the TV show Full House stole the hearts of millions of people around the world. One of the most famous scenes that appear throughout the series, is of a street where the house resides. The Painted Ladies are a row of Victorian and Edwardian styled houses on one of San Francisco’s hills. It is also the exact street used to film that world-famous scene.
With a park right across the street and a panoramic view of the Painted Ladies, visiting the houses is one of the many unusual things to do in San Francisco. Laying out a blanket at the park is a great way to spend some time relaxing in this amazing city. Especially during the warmer months, as the weather is perfect.
Check out all the Painted Ladies Combined tours
2. Go sightseeing with GoCar
One of the highlights of my trip was seeing the city with the aid of a GoCar. It is a great way to get around the city in a fun and thrilling manner.
A GoCar is a tiny car that is rented to you along with a helmet through the tour company. It has no top and it is equipped with speakers on the headrest to tell you where to turn as you maneuver your way around the city.
Along with directions, it also fills you in on the history of each stop it brings you too.Photo
Along with more popular sights, you will also be taken to celebrity houses, the Japanese Tea Garden and so much more. A great activity for people looking to get away from all the main attractions the city offers.
Book your Go cart tour
3. Check out Baker Beach
Located on the peninsula of San Francisco, Baker Beach is a great location to go to if you are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
With incredible views of the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge, it is the perfect spot to spend your day relaxing under the California sun.
4. Check out Angel Island
With breathtaking views of the San Francisco skyline, Angel Island is one of the more unusual things to do in San Francisco.
This historical landmark is known for being previously used for military forts and an immigration inspection and detention facility.
While Angel Island is limited on things to do, some of the more popular activities is visiting the old immigration facility or venturing off on the different hiking trails it offers.
5. Climb the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps
The 16th Avenue Steps in San Francisco are a must-do activity for anyone visiting the city. With an incredible amount of 163 steps, the 16th Avenue Steps are a great way to get your steps in for the day all while enjoying the beauty of the stairs.
The mosaic stairs are well designed from start to finish and when you reach the top, you will have an incredible view of San Francisco and the ocean.
6. Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company
Have you ever wondered how fortune cookies are made? Well, now is your chance to find out. You can take a tour of the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company.
With over 10,000 cookies made by hand each day, you can see first-hand how fortune cookies are made and get to try some of the incredible flavors they offer.
It is also the perfect souvenir to bring back to your friends and family back home and one of the best places to visit in San Francisco with kids.
7. Visit the Sutro Baths
Opened in 1890, the Sutro Baths were the largest public saltwater swimming pool in the world. On June 26th, 1966 the Baths burned down under mysterious circumstances.
Now the ruins of the Sutro Baths have been turned into a historical landmark and have become an incredible sight to visit.
With sweeping views of the ocean, the Sutro Baths have become one of the greatest locations in San Francisco to watch the sunset.
8. Hike Lover’s Lane Trail
San Francisco is known around the world for being one of the best destinations for couples.
If you are traveling with your significant other, a wonderful activity that is more off the beaten path and an unusual thing to do in San Francisco is hike Lover’s Lane.
The trail difficulty is moderate and it has an exquisite forest setting which is perfect for anyone looking for a good hike in nature during your vacation.
9. Visit the Japanese Tea Garden
While this is more of a tourist spot, it is one that should not be missed on your trip to the City by the Bay. Located inside the Golden Gate Park, the Japanese Tea Garden is the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States.
Enriched in Japanese culture and history, the garden is famous for its meditative tea and other Japanese beverages.
Along with the tranquil setting, koi ponds, and curved paths, visiting the Japanese Tea Garden is a must-add to your San Francisco itinerary.
10. Do a sunset cruise
One thing I love about San Francisco is that it is a safe travel destination. So nighttime activities are one of the highlights of visiting the Golden City.
A wonderful activity that you can never go wrong with, is a sunset cruise on the ocean.
Along with breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz State Prison, and the San Francisco skyline, a sunset cruise is the ultimate excursion to go on.
You will be taken by boat out into the sea to witness the sun go down and make way for the night as it sets over the horizon.
See more tours in San Francisco
If you are short of time and you wish to squeeze in as many sites as possible, you might want to consider booking an organized tour to combine more activities in one day and make the most of your time.
Bonus tip: best day trip from San Francisco
If you are looking for a unique day trip from San Francisco, you must rent a car and visit Carmel by the Sea, the prettiest town in the entire US.
There are many incredible things to do in Carmel-by-the-sea, but if you don’t have much time, a day trip will do and it will give you time to stroll around the cute little fairy-tale-like cottages, the pretty cobblestone lanes, and trendy shops, besides basking or walking on the spectacular beach.
Definitely a magical place that you shouldn’t miss.
How to Get Around in San Francisco
San Francisco is only 46 square miles, which makes it really easy to get around since the city is so small in size. If you are wondering how to get around in San Francisco, the best way is either by public transportation or on foot.
However, since San Francisco is notorious for its steep hills, I recommend public transportation over walking. I walked up to one of the hills while I was in the city and it was definitely not an easy task to do.
Top Places to Eat in San Francisco
San Francisco is known for its world-class food scene, more specifically for its delicious seafood and bread bowls. There are a few areas of the city that are popular to enjoy a nice, mouth-watering meal. Here are the top 3 places to eat in San Francisco.
Located right on the waterfront of the bay, Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the most famous places to eat in San Francisco. Filled with an abundance of different restaurants, you can expect to find nothing but the best seafood, bread bowls, and more on Fisherman’s Wharf. Not only does Fisherman’s Wharf have good food but being seaside, you will also have sweeping views of the ocean.
If you are craving some Chinese cuisine, then heading over to China Town is a must. While every great city has one of these, San Francisco’s is actually named one of the best China Town’s in the United States.
It is also the perfect way to leave the United States without actually leaving the continent. China Town is filled with fascinating culture, delicious restaurants, and fun things to do!
Fancying some Italian food? Little Italy has got you covered. With nothing but the best and most authentic Italian food in the city, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Little Italy to enjoy nothing but the finest cuisine. I might be a little bit biased since Italian is my favorite type of food, but I found the food in Little Italy to be absolutely exquisite and one of the top places to eat in San Francisco.
Where to Stay in San Francisco
🏨 Fisherman’s Wharf area
This is probably the most popular place to stay while in San Francisco. If you are looking to be within walking distance of the pier and all the tourist activities the city has to offer, I recommend you to stay at Fisherman’s Wharf. It is also a very safe place since it is quite a busy area during all hours.
🏨 Downtown San Francisco
With an abundance of different hotels, you can’t go wrong with staying in downtown San Francisco. Not only is it one of the more popular places but it is known for its vibrant nightlife and culture.
From the Japan center, Lombard Street, to the financial district — Staying in downtown San Francisco is perfect for anyone visiting the city.
🏨 North Beach
Filled with Italian culture, North Beach is known for its lively spirit, fun bars, and experiences. There are a variety of things to do in North Beach, like the Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze, Saint Peter’s Church, and more.
One of the most wonderful things about North Beach as well is that it is only 4 minutes away from Fisherman’s Wharf and other popular areas in San Francisco.
It is extremely convenient if you are wanting to stay close to the action of the city.
What is San Francisco Best Known For?
San Francisco has made a world-famous name for itself throughout the years.
Some of the highlights that the city is known for is the world-renowned
- Golden Gate Bridge,
- Alcatraz State Prison,
- the Palace of Fine Arts,
- Lombard Street
It is also extremely famous for its liberal ways and being a city that accepts anyone regardless of who you are or where you come from.
Is San Francisco Safe at Night?
Like Los Angeles and other cities in California, San Francisco is very safe at night depending on where you stay. It is a pretty universal law that every city in the world has its dangerous neighborhoods.
All in all, San Francisco is a safe city to venture off at night but to always be on the safe side, always take precautions when wandering during the late hours.
Stay in the busier areas of towns and it goes without saying, don’t walk down creepy, dark alleys alone at night.
Book your night walking tour
How Many Days do you Need in San Francisco?
While you could easily see San Francisco in a day, to be on the safe side, and to get to see all the sites and beauty it offers, I would spend about 4-5 days in the city.
That way you will have plenty of time to explore, indulge in fun activities, and see all the world-famous landmarks the city is known for.
If for some reason after a couple of days, you have had enough of the city, there are also plenty of amazing day trips from San Francisco you could take which are only short drives away.
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About the Author
Caresa is the owner of the solo female travel blog, This Spontaneous Life. She thrives off helping people get out and explore this planet as there is so much beauty to be seen in the world. She’s always had a passion for traveling and her goal is to inspire as many people as possible.