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What are Some Tourist Attractions in San Francisco, California?

Alcatraz, a prison on an island in San Francisco Bay that has been closed since 1963.
Visitors can rent roller-skates to tour Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.
Whale watching is popular in San Francisco during migration season.
The San Francisco Zoo is home to a variety of animals.
The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most popular tourist attractions in San Francisco.
San Francisco is one of the largest cities in the country.
Article Details
  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Images By: n/a, Lusoimages, Temistocle Lucarelli, Trubble, Oleksandr Dibrova, Qingwa
  • Last Modified Date: 22 March 2014
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There are many tourist attractions in San Francisco, California. If you’re planning a trip there, consider the times of the year you plan to travel carefully. Many tourists to San Francisco go during the summer months, which are invariably foggy at least for part of the morning and in the early evening. Pack sweaters if you visit during the summer, or San Francisco natives may have a laugh at you freezing in summer shorts and tank tops. The best months to visit San Francisco are September through early November. There is generally less fog, and the many attractions are less crowded during the autumn months.

Traditional places to visit include:

  • Ghirardelli Square — lots of stores and great chocolate.
  • Fisherman’s Wharf — the perfect place to go for steamed crab and crusty french bread.
  • Pier 39 — Stores, carousels, entertainers, and the Aquarium of the Bay.
  • Chinatown — fantastic restaurants, and a number of small retailers.
  • North Beach — the place for Italian food and the beautiful St. Peter and Paul Cathedral.

From Pier 39, you can catch a cable car, which will take you into the heart of downtown San Francisco. Union Square is surrounded by a number of fine retailers. You might consider high tea at the Ritz-Carleton and walk off those calories with a visit to Grace Cathedral, one of the most beautiful churches and beloved attractions in the area.

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Don’t forget some of the most popular tourist attractions in San Francisco like Pier One, where you can hop a ferry to Sausalito, Angel Island, or Alcatraz. Consider visiting the San Francisco Mint, once a fully operational minting facility. Embarcadero Center is another worthy tourist attraction in San Francisco, featuring lots of shopping and dining.

Golden Gate Park offers an assortment of park activities. Visit the Arboretum, the beautiful Japanese Tea Garden, the Rhododendron Dell and the Child’s park with a restored carousel. You can rent roller-skates or bikes to tour different sections of the park, or a rowboat or motorboat for a trip on Stowe Lake.

Next to the Japanese Tea Garden is one of the most fabulous tourist attractions, the remodeled De Young Museum. Across the street from the De Young, you’ll find the California Academy of Sciences Museum of Natural History.

If art is your passion, you will find many art centered attractions in San Francisco. In addition to the De Young Museum, consider visits to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), and the Legion of Honor, located by the Palace of Fine Arts. The Palace of Fine Arts also plays host to the Exploratorium, a great place to take kids to have a hands on exploration of many science experiments.

Before taking your trip to San Francisco, be sure to check city guides for festivals, free concerts and Shakespeare plays in Golden Gate Park, and the schedules for the world class San Francisco Ballet, Opera and Symphony. Downtown plays host to numerous theaters which feature anything from avant-garde plays to touring Broadway productions and concerts.

Other tourist attractions include its beaches, which are usually cold, but still worth a visit. You can visit the San Francisco Marina, which opens up to the San Francisco Bay. On slightly windy days, look for people flying kites. Consider a visit to Fort Point, next to the Marina.

Take a trip to the San Francisco Zoo before visiting Ocean Beach, which opens to the Pacific. Watch the waves here, as they can be very strong. Then consider traveling north from Ocean Beach to get to the Cliff House and the remains of the Sutro Baths, once one of the largest indoor/outdoor pool complexes, set right on the ocean.

Don’t forget to visit the most recognizable landmarks in San Francisco by taking a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. It will be windy, so dress accordingly. If you can’t make the full walk, consider parking on the Marin side of the bridge and walking halfway toward San Francisco. Plan to visit the Marin Headlands, a beautiful park where you might just spot a whale or two during migration season from May to September.

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