With San Francisco being one of the most diverse and exciting cities I’ve been fortunate enough to live in, it is nearly impossible to narrow down the best adventures in San Francisco to just 8! There is so much to do in this City By the Bay.
But, with the goal of giving you an overview of the best of the best adventures you have to experience in San Francisco, I’ve narrowed it down to my 8 favorites.
The city’s incredible location in Northern California provides for pretty great and mild weather year-round (even if it’s usually foggy), which is perfect for explorations around the city.
Here are a few of my favorite adventures to have in San Francisco, whether it’s your first time visiting the city or you’ve lived here for years.
Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge
A staple activity for visitors and locals alike, a walk (or bike ride) across the Golden Gate Bridge will not disappoint!
The bridge spans about a mile across the mouth of the San Francisco Bay and is one of the most iconic landmarks in the whole world. It will likely take you longer than you think to make your way across due to the endless photo opportunities, history, and the great views you’ll be absorbing as you go.
Take a Tour of Alcatraz
A piece of living history that really comes to life when you take a tour, former military prison, Alcatraz is certainly a San Francisco experience you won’t forget anytime soon!
The official Alcatraz tour includes a ferry ride out and back from the island in the opening of the Bay, with a complete audio tour that lets your mind wander just enough to think, “did that cell door move or was it just my imagination?”.
To really get your money’s worth, do a night tour of the former prison. The eerie feeling and faint creaks are even more haunting when the cells are dark and there’s no more sunlight illuminating the hallways. It’s utterly spooky.
Hit the slopes San Francisco-style and Bring Your Own Big Wheel to Potrero Hill for some old-fashion fun!
This event is a SF tradition and on its 19th year now, where families, friends, strangers, hippies, hipsters, yopros, techies, and fellow commuters come together to race “big wheels,” aka plastic tricycles, down one of San Francisco’s snaking streets.
The event is free to watch but charges a small fee if you want to actually participate (which they almost guarantee will lead to an injury so – race at your own risk). The best part of this event is the costumes – most of the participants dress up both themselves and their trikes!
Swim in the Bay (Polar Bear Swim)
Have you ever swam in frigid Northern California waters?
Most people wear a wetsuit when they decide to brave the ~55℉ brisk, ocean waters. For those wanting to take it to the next level and really get a jump start to your day, hop in the bay for a polar bear swim!
Not sure what it entails? Traditionally, it means stripping down to your bathing suit and hopping into a nearly freezing body of water (think Canada or New York in the winter), usually as a fundraiser.
But no one said you can’t do the polar plunge on your own, and believe me when I say that San Francisco waters are certainly cold enough! It would be one of the most daring adventures in San Francisco for sure.
Join in the Fun at Bay to Breakers
Bay to Breakers is the city’s annual foot race that goes throughout San Francisco. It started in 1912 as a way to boost morale and reunite the city after the devastating 1906 earthquake.
Today, it is much the same as it was when it first started and has really become a city-wide, even Bay Area-wide event.
People come from all over to participate in Bay to Breakers – in one way or another. Costumes are highly encouraged if you’re in town for this event. Both runners and sideline enthusiasts alike spend weeks coming up with the best costumes – a true testament to the unique, zaney diversity of San Francisco!
Watch the Sunset from Twin Peaks
Offering one of the most incredible views in the city is Twin Peaks, the highest point in San Francisco. This spot has 360 degree views of the city and surrounding Bay Area, and is spectacular to visit at any time of the day, but especially at sunset.
Bring a warm jacket and a blanket to cozy up under (it’s windy up there!), and be mesmerized as the warm, orange or pink sky turns a darker shade of blue and the city lights get brighter and brighter.
Catch a Giants game from a Kayak
A great way to get to know a new city is to watch a beloved local sports teams play. In San Francisco’s case, that would be the Giants!
Of course getting stadium tickets is always a fun way to watch a ball game, but San Francisco has its own funny tradition when it comes to the Giants.
The stadium is located right along the Embarcadero waterfront and right next to a small cove, providing a perfect view of the jumbotron screen and a perfect spot to catch a fly ball heading out of the stadium!
Rent a few kayaks with friends and join the small crowd that gathers there for nearly every single Giants game. You can stock your kayak with a few shareables, some warm layers, and waterproof tunes for a guaranteed good time and one of the bet adventures in San Francisco.
Dinner at a Japanese Bathhouse
For a cultural adventure, enjoy an evening at a Japanese Bathhouse in San Francisco’s Japantown. These bathhouses feature beautiful communal baths where you can enjoy a long and relaxing soak before cleaning up and dressing for dinner.
This is truly a one-of-a-kind experience, and one that even many locals haven’t taken the opportunity to enjoy.
Dinners at the bathhouses usually feature a spin on traditional Japanese cuisine and drinks that will leave you wanting more (or booking another reservation immediately). Most of the bathhouses offer acupuncture and massages as well!
Don’t forget to Pin this post so you can remember all the adventures in San Francisco!
These 8 unique and classic adventures in San Francisco should give you a good idea of where to start when it comes to exploring San Francisco like a local in an adventurous way.
If you’re looking for more ideas on how to spend your time in the city, or in California as a whole, don’t forget to check out my bucket list post on the top places to visit in Northern California as well.
Author’s Bio: Mimi McFadden is a travel blogger and freelance writer. Originally from California, she has been slow traveling the world since 2013. When she’s not writing, you can probably find her sipping on a pint of craft beer, chasing waterfalls, or planning her next adventure in a foreign land.
After living abroad for five years in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Greece, and Portugal she has finally found a home in San Francisco, California. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and her blog, The Atlas Heart