There’s just no city in the world that does “quirky” and “cultural” as well as San Francisco. You may know it as startup central. But San Francisco was around long before the venture capitalists ever landed.
Even though the city’s identity is crammed within 49 square miles, this urban destination is a haven for those who want to venture off the beaten path. You’ve probably compiled a standard collection of things to do in San Francisco, including iconic experiences like Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, and the Golden Gate. But if you’re looking for something a little different, add any of these seven things to do in San Francisco to your list.
Experience a Different Kind of Coastal Trail
The journey to the Coastal Trail is itself a journey that can take you through multiple worthy destinations.
First, head to Cliff House. Here, you’ll find the Camera Obscura. It’s a large-scale, building-sized replica of the — you guessed it! — DaVinci-designed camera obscura. Look through, and you’ll be able to see Seal Rocks. It’s a nifty spot on the Bay that seems to attract seals, chilling after a day of swimming.
Before you follow the signs out to the Coastal Trail, walk a short distance away from Cliff House.
You’ll encounter the Sutro Bath ruins which give Instagrammers plenty of fun shots. They are the remains of privately-owned public swimming baths built by Adolph Sutro in 1896.
Now, it’s time to head to the Coastal Trail. It just happens to be one of the best spots to get the most stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
If you have time, look over the edge at the point where you hit Golden Gate Bridge/Fort Point. You’ll see Baker Beach. Keep in mind that the northern end is a nudist beach.
At the end of the Coastal Trail is the weird and wacky Lands End Labyrinth. It’s a maze-like creation crafted from stone and put together by volunteers.
Hang Glide Over Fort Funston
If you’re a bit of a daredevil or a bit of a hiker — or both! — check out Fort Funston. Here, sandy bluffs and coastal views, seabirds, and bay breezes offer the very best that San Francisco has for hikers. And if you’re daring, you can also go hang gliding from above the 200-foot high bluffs.
Fort Funston is located on the city’s southern edge. It is far enough away that you can feel like you’re away from the actual city.
Take the 16th Avenue Stairview to Stunning Views
Do the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps, a series of 163 mosaic-tiled steps in the Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco, look kind of familiar?
That’s because they’re inspired by the famous Selaron Steps. The original Selaron Steps are located in Rio De Janeiro, where one of the neighborhood’s residents, Jessie Audette, used to live.
Along with fellow Sunset neighborhood resident Alice Yee Xavier, Audette decided to commission artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher to design the mosaic in 2003 on a staircase that had been around since 1926.
It was finished in 2005. For the completion, 300 community members came together to participate in tile-decorating workshops.
And what about the design of the staircase itself? Well, that remains to be seen by you, but here’s a hint. It depicts many of San Francisco’s most elemental charms.
Curious? Lace up your running shoes!
Visit the Audium for a Unique Aural Experience
Looking for another only-in-San Francisco experience? What about an audio one?
The Audium is a sound theater set up with 176 speakers. They’re known as “sound sculptures.” The result is really trippy — like hearing a didgeridoo for the very first time, where you feel the music and the actual movement of sound. Word on the street is that you’ll need to book in advance so don’t get left out!
Get a Little Museum Time in with the Legion of Honor
No list of things to do in San Francisco can be truly complete without at least one museum.
At the Legion of Honor, a building so beautiful and stately it deserves its own tour, the collection spans nearly 6,000 years of art history. Don’t miss the impressive collection of Rodin sculptures including The Thinker, amongst with other works of ancient and European art.
Check Out the Point Bonita Lighthouse
Once you’ve scoped out the city and zipped around on the BART, drive north to Point Bonita, where a picturesque lighthouse awaits.
There are beautiful coastal views of the Bay and the surrounding walks to explore.
If you can get in, great! It’s open at odd hours, so make sure to check before you leave. And, if you miss it, Sausalito and Tiburon are short drives from the lighthouse, perfect for a day trip.
Take a Precita Eyes Mural Walk
In the Mission district, you’ll find colorful murals splashed across the walls of the buildings along Balmy Alley, Clarion Alley, and the Women’s Building.
These vibrant murals have left an indelible mark on both the physical structures and the communities they’re now a part of.
Ranging from cultural motifs to social and political critiques, the ideas expressed by the murals are relevant even today. They are now a part of the San Francisco zeitgeist.
There are three tours that the Precita Eyes Muralists Association and the Cultural Center offer. There’s a Classic Mission Mural Walk, the Mission Trail Mural Walk, and the Precita Park Tour.
But book in advance. These guided tours go fast!
There are way more things to do in San Francisco than there is actually time available to do them.
While guidebooks will give you the standard attractions, add these seven things to do in San Francisco for a memorable trip.