Updated: Oct 17, 2019
Are you new to San Francisco or just visiting? Here's a list of things to do in San Francisco put together by a Bay Area native.
Welcome to San Francisco!
New to San Francisco? First let me congratulate you on being able to afford to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. If you are just visiting on a vacation for a few days, I also welcome you to the Bay Area.
Regardless of your situation, you are probably searching for some good information on things to do in San Francisco. I was born in the Bay Area and have lived here for most of my adult life, minus my youth, which was spent being a military brat and moving around. I also spent a few years in the military and when it was time to get out, I moved back home.
Below you'll find things to do and eat during your stay in San Francisco!
Ferry Building Marketplace
Go to the Ferry Building Marketplace on Saturday mornings (8am to 2pm) to take advantage of the Farmer's Market they have right outside the building in addition to the cool stores they have inside the building. Start your morning off with a cup of Blue Bottle Coffee, or even a glass of wine or bottled craft beer at the Wine Merchant (there's a bottle opener and they will provide a brown paper bag to keep your beverage discreet). Then work your way towards the Farmer's Market to grab some fresh fruits and veggies.
Stop by the RoliRoti food truck, if you are hungry. I highly recommend grabbing a mouth-watering porchetta sandwich with brussels sprouts or fingerling potatoes (the fat from the pork drips onto both!). If you have dogs like me, I also l like to take home a pork knuckle so they can enjoy too.
AT&T Park - San Francisco Giants
If you are a baseball fan and you're in the City during the San Francisco Giants baseball season, you must buy a ticket and go to the best baseball park in America. Trust me, I've been to baseball parks across America (New York, Miami, Arizona, Seattle, Texas + more) and AT&T Park is hands-down the absolute best layout and experience. I recommend that you walk around the entire baseball stadium to include looking out and into McCovey Cove. I've sat in the bleachers, nosebleeds, down on the field and even the suites - no matter where you sit, the views are always good! Oh yeah, the food options are great too. Look for the food trucks behind the bleachers.
Book a Segway Tour
Even as a Bay Area local, I recently tried out a Segway tour in San Francisco when I had some in-laws visiting. It was such a fun experience and you get to knock out a lot of sightseeing within a few hours. If you use Google, you'll find many Segway tour companies, but the one I booked with was called, San Francisco Electric Tour Company.
The staff is very knowledgeable and very laid back. If you book with them, you'll have a few Segway tour choices. I took the 2.5 hour Advanced Hills & Crooked Street tour. You'll be able to check out Aquatic Park, Municipal Pier, Russian Hill, Coit Tower, the Cable Car Museum and most exciting of all - cruise down the world's crookedest street: Lombard Street with a photo-op. It's worth it.
Food, food and food
San Francisco is home to many, many restaurants. As a matter of fact, there are so many restaurants in San Francisco that you wouldn't be able to eat at all of them in your lifetime. These are some of my favorites:
Fisherman's Wharf, is where you should eat EVERYTHING. That's no joke especially if you love seafood. If you don't like seafood, then you are really missing out because San Francisco is home to some of the best seafood on Earth. All you need to do is order a bowl of clam chowder, clam strips and chilled lobster, dungeness crab or shrimp. You can't go wrong.
Mymy, is a place where the locals go for breakfast. Yes, there are more popular places, but if you don't want to stand in line for an hour plus, I think you should make your way to Mymy. They have everything you would want from a San Francisco breakfast restaurant which means they offer the classics with local ingredients.
House of Prime Rib, just as the name states, this is where you can happily gorge yourself with prime rib. Make sure you read the menu closely because you can actually get a free slice with the right order. Use the valet parking service to save you the hassle of trying to find parking on Van Ness Street.
Tommy's Joynt, is located just down Van Ness Street from House of Prime Rib. If you love cheap comfort food (think turkey legs, oxtail, spareribs, pulled pork, etc...), then you'll love this historic dive-bar. When I took my dad last year, he didn't think it was still open. He used to come here when he was in the Navy and he said it still looked the same inside and outside. That's a great sign of a good restaurant!
Brother's Restaurant, is a sibling owned (duh) Korean restaurant that's been in business since 1987. I've eaten here a number of times over the years and most recently this year. The Korean food is still awesome. I like to get the Korean BBQ ribs (galbi) and stir-fried glass noodles (japchae). The food is good whether you dine-in or take-out.
Cliff House Bistro, not only has a fantastic breakfast and brunch, but it also has some great views of Ocean Beach and the Pacific Ocean. I've been here countless times and it's usually in the morning or early lunch. You'll find all of your classic American dishes but with a San Francisco touch such as sourdough bread and Dungeness Crab.
PPQ Dungeness Island, is one of the best places to go eat Dungeness Crab in San Francisco. It's a Vietnamese-Chinese owned restaurant that's been in business since 2000. I always like to eat 2 or 3 crabs. If you love crab, make sure you order the Roasted Crab, Peppercorn Crab and the Drunken Crab. You also should skip the rice and order two servings of the House Garlic Noodles!
Marco Polo Italian Ice Cream, specializes in Italian style ice cream but with tropical fruit flavors. I used to drive a hour from San Jose to this tiny ice cream shop because my wife loves the durian ice cream. Luckily, they opened up another location closer to home. If you like the ice cream, you can purchase a quart to take home too.
McCormick & Kuleto's, is an excellent seafood restaurant located in Ghirardelli Square has lot's of windows that provide perfect views of the San Francisco Bay. I highly recommend the Signature Cioppino, crab cakes and oysters. You will leave very happy and full. The service is also first-class, so you should dress up a little.
Hard Knox Cafe, is one of the few Southern BBQ restaurants that come close to actually being in the South. There are two locations, but the one I recommend is in the Dogpatch neighborhood. The oxtails were exceptional, same with the fried chicken. Regardless of what you decide to order you will get some fluffy and steamy corn muffins, which alone is worth coming here to eat.
Swan Oyster Depot, is probably already on your list of places to eat in San Francisco. It's a small restaurant with only a few seats and expect to wait about 1.5 to 2 hours. Once you are inside you'll sit along the bar and you can order from the menu's on the wall. I recommend ordering almost everything since you waited so long in line! The seafood comes out fresh and cold, which is perfect.
Shop at Union Square
If you love shopping, San Francisco has got you covered from head-to-toe. Union Square has plenty of luxury shops, as well as more affordable brands. There's also the Westfield San Francisco Centre Mall, which has all your standard mall shops. Union Square also has special events that you might be able to catch on the right day. Christmas is very nice time to check out the festivities!
Clubs and bars
It's been a while since I've ventured up to San Francisco to party. For those of you that do party, there are plenty of old and new clubs and bars for you to frolick at. Starting with the legendary after-hours night club, The Endup, this small yet booming dance club has an outdoor patio in the back and even a fireplace. You'll hear electronic house music until the sun goes up.
Try this: if you are like me and more of a morning person, on a Saturday, go to The Endup at 7:00 AM when they can serve alcohol again and join in on the party, you'll feel rested and refreshed and enjoy the scene. Trust me it's worth doing at least once!
If you want a more comprehensive list of clubs, check out Thrillist's list of the best night clubs in San Francisco. Of that list, I've partied at DNA Lounge, The Grand, Infusion, Boom Boom Room, Cat Club and of course the aforementioned Endup. All are very fun, don't expect your ironed clothes to come out dry once you're done partying.
Hike Angel Island State Park
If you want some fresh air away from the busy city, I recommend taking a ferry to Angel Island State Park. Pay special attention to the ferry scheduled because it's very limited so make sure you plan accordingly. If you decide to walk the perimeter of the island you can do it in about 2 to 3 hours. It's a very refreshing walk with parts sun and shade. You can also bike the island and take a shuttle tour. There's only one place to grab food and that's the Angel Island Cafe and Cantina, so expect a little wait when you order food. You can also bring your own food and have a nice little picnic. One of the best parts of Angel Island is the view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
So there you have it. These are some of my favorite things to do in San Francisco. If you just moved or just visiting this city, you'll have some good information to help you plan your day. I hope you enjoy your time in the City by the Bay.