20 Of The Best Alternative Things To Do In San Francisco


When we think about San Francisco, we think of trams, the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf. Those are all great tourist attractions, but what about the other hidden gems that the city has to offer?

If you think you’ve already done all there is to do in San Francisco, then think again. Our list of 20 Of The Best Alternative Things To Do In San Francisco will show you a different side to the city…


1. Relax in the Golden Gate Park

The Golden Gate Park, located right on the coast, is a hidden treasure amongst the tall, San Francisco buildings. You can rent a pedal boat on the lake, or take a segway tour of the grounds; whatever your chosen mode of transport, you will love taking in the gorgeous scenery.

Price: Free entry


2. Watch the sea play the Wave Organ

Sat in the San Francisco Bay, you can find the Wave Organ. The organ itself is made up of 25 PVC pipes and concrete, and is activated by the waves hitting the back of the pipes. The organ’s sounds are fairly quiet, so you can tune into the sounds of nature as well, making for an ambient experience.

You can visit at any time of day, but for the best tunes, visit at high tide.

Price: Free


3. Take a night tour of Alcatraz

Alcatraz Prison is one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist attractions, but not many people go at night.

The tour itself starts of on the ferry, where you will be given a brief history of the prison. Once you disembark at Alcatraz Island, you will be given a tour of the prison (cells and all!) that was once to home to notorious Al ‘Scarface’ Capone.

Taking the night tour will give your experience a little bit of extra spook, so it’s definitely worthwhile. But only if you think you can handle it.

Price: $42.50

4. Shoot down the Seward Street Slides

The Seward Mini Park is home to two concrete slides – but they’re not built for the queasy among us, nor are they suitable for small children.

Built in 1973, and now showing their age, they’re not your average slides – in fact, they’re more like small roller coasters, accumulating a surprising speed. If you want to fly down these chutes, bring a large piece of cardboard to sit on and hold onto your hats!

Price: Free


5. Visit the Defenestration building

You can’t miss Defenestration, where a series of furniture appears to be crawling out of the windows of a four-story building.

Brian Goggin, along with 100 volunteers, created the masterpiece that depicts the economic difficulties that the surrounding neighbourhood has faced. This quirky building is a must-see attraction for art lovers.

Price: Free

6. Get educated at the Exploratorium

The Exploratorium is an educational museum and exhibition where visitors of all ages can learn through fun. Full of exciting exhibits and activities, you can get yourself clued up on topics ranging from the mind and optical illusions to the Earth, ocean and atmosphere.

Price: $29.95 for adults, $19.95 for children


7. Browse the Museum of Modern Art

San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art is one of the biggest museums in the USA, at 170,000sq ft. But it’s not size that matters, it’s quality and you certainly won’t be disappointed. The museum is packed full of fascinating modern art works from both world renowned and up and coming artists.

Having recently been reopened after a huge expansion project, there’s no better time to visit the Museum of Modern Art, so don’t miss out.

Price: $25 for adults, $19 for young adults, children are admitted free of charge
 

8. Pay your respects at San Francisco’s Pet Cemetery

There is no end to the bond between pet and owner, and San Francisco’s Pet Cemetery is proof. In The Presidio, a former U.S. Military base and now a park, lies the cemetery and it is home to the many graves of the pets of army men.

The cemetery is believed to have begun in the 1950s and the majority of the graves are filled by dogs and cats, but also amongst the buried are goldfish, hamsters and lizards.

Price: Free
 

9. Watch a show at The Fillmore

The Fillmore is one of the most relevant music venues in San Francisco, having hosted legends including The Cure, Tom Jones and The White Stripes. Yes, the venue has an impressive history, but it’s now in its prime and is being graced by some of the biggest names in music, so don’t miss out on this alternative attraction.

Price: Ticket prices vary
 

10. Explore Berkeley University

Universities always have a lively atmosphere and, whilst in San Francisco, you can walk the grounds of Berkeley University, amongst the academics.

You can even try to scope out the graduation pictures of famous alumni including Steve Wozniak, Aaron Rodgers and Chris Pine whilst you’re there.

Price: Free


11. Live like a local at Green Apple Books

There’s no better way to get a real feel for a city than to experience it like a local. So, ditch the tacky souvenir shops and browse the highstreet like a real San Franciscan. As one of the city’s most popular book shops, Green Apple Books is the perfect place for you to geek out if you’re a lover of literature.

It’s quiet, it’s intimate and it’s full of character, so get your head stuck into a book and blend into the city.

Price: Free entry

12. Explore the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers

Tucked away inside Golden Gate Park, you can find the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers. Resembling a large greenhouse, this attraction is the oldest wood and glass conservatory in North America and you can find an impressive collection of plants and flowers if you take a look inside.

This is one of the best attractions in San Francisco if you want a break from the city life and have some time to yourself.

Price: $8 for adults, $6 for youths, $2 for children
 

13. Take a tour of AT&T Park

Home of the San Francisco Giants, AT&T park is the monumental San Francisco attraction for sports lovers. Not only is it arguably one of America’s best baseball fields, but the views of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge from the Park are spectacular.

As well as being able to watch the San Francisco Giants play world class baseball at AT&T Park, you can also go on a tour of the grounds, with highlights including: the press box and the field warning track.

Price: $22
 

14. Go to the top of Coit Tower

Iconic in the Telegraph Hill neighbourhood of San Francisco, Coit Tower, also known as Lillie Coit Memorial Tower, was built in 1933. It was paid for by the eccentric Lillie Coit as one of her final wishes was for San Francisco to be made beautiful.

Since then, it has become a hit with tourists and residents alike. At the top of the tower, you will be able to get an amazing 360° view of San Francisco, different again from that of at the top of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Price: Free entrance, $8 for a tour

15. Go to the Sigmund Stern Recreation Grove Festival

2017 will present the 80th annual Stern Grove Festival, situated in the Stern Grove amphitheatre. The festival is free of charge and prides itself on bringing its guests high-quality and varied performing arts acts.

You can take a picnic or eat from the many food stalls, but whatever you decide to do, this attraction is suitable for groups of friends, families or the individual.

Price: Free, but donations are welcome

16. Walk the Labyrinth at Grace Cathedral

If you’re looking for a place to relax in the city, we have just the place for you. There are two labyrinths in Grace Cathedral and both are used as a walking form of meditation and mindfulness. There are monthly candlelit labyrinth walking events featuring live music to aid the calming atmosphere.

Both labyrinths are open every day; the one indoors is accessible during the Cathedral's opening hours and the outdoor labyrinth is accessible at any time of day.

Price: Free


17. Get breakfast at Mama’s

American’s are known for their food, especially their breakfasts. And, in true American style, Mama’s is rumored to serve the best breakfast in the whole of San Francisco. Pancakes, French toast, or eggs cooked any way, start your day of tourism with a hearty meal.

With breakfast being served all day, you shouldn’t miss out on this restaurant. But remember, if you go on the weekend; arrive early because the whole city is going to want a breakfast fit for a king.

Price: $5+


18. Go to a roller disco at Church of 8 Wheels

Have you ever been roller-skating in a church? Well now’s your chance! Every weekend, the Church of 8 Wheels takes us back to the 80s by hosting a roller disco. With an on-site DJ, you can skate the night away in true San Fran style: fun, quirky and inclusive.

Don’t fret if you don’t know how to skate, skating lessons are also put on for beginners.

Price: $15.00 (including skate rental)

19. Tour the Napa Valley in a hot air balloon

Just outside of San Francisco is the stunning Napa Valley, and why not see it in style with a once in a lifetime experience - a hot air balloon ride. Before you take off, you can enjoy a breakfast of coffee and pastries with your fellow passengers, all included in the price.

You will take off at sunrise, enjoying breathtaking views and a new appreciation for San Francisco’s surrounding areas.

Price: $199

20. Eat at Foreign Cinema


This restaurant-come-cinema is a must-do attraction for any foreign film lovers. The food is renowned for being of the best quality, cooked by owners and chefs Gayle Pirie and John Clark, and the ever-changing menu is sure to keep you on your toes.

While you dine, you can enjoy the latest foreign films, but you don’t have to worry about noisy diners distracting you, because all of the films are mute, accompanied by subtitles.

Price: $30+