5 Free Things to Do in San Francisco
San Francisco is a notoriously expensive city. But with a stunning setting, unique neighborhoods, and a thriving cultural scene, San Francisco offers plenty of ways to enjoy yourself without spending any money. Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.
You’ve seen it in pictures, and now you can get up close to it. On a clear day, you will have expansive views of the city of San Francisco, the East Bay, Alcatraz, and the Pacific Ocean. It can be hard to find a parking spot near the bridge, so public transportation is a better option. Golden Gate Transit and San Francisco Muni buses go to the visitors’ center at the southeast end of the bridge from many of the major tourist areas.
2. Visit San Francisco’s “Most Crooked Street.”
Lombard Street, winding down a steep hill and packed with hairpin turns, is more like an amusement park ride than a way to get from Point A to Point B. If you’re feeling brave, you can drive it. Be sure to check your brakes first! Or you can walk its zigzagging path from the top of the hill near the Presidio to the Embarcadero. Unfortunately city officials are considering placing a toll on this unique landmark, so take advantage of its free status while you can.
3. Wander through Chinatown.
The red banners hanging over the streets, the colorful signs in Chinese, the barrels of herbs outside apothecary shops, and the throngs of tourists from all over the world create a lively and exotic atmosphere. You will hear street musicians playing traditional Chinese music and shopkeepers calling to customers in Cantonese. Chinatown is an easy walk from the Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach neighborhoods. Parking is difficult in Chinatown, so walking, using rideshare services, or taking public transportation is recommended.
4. Watch the sunset at Ocean Beach.
Pack a picnic, build a bonfire, and settle in to watch the sun sink into the Pacific Ocean. Bring warm clothes! San Francisco beaches are chilly and often foggy. The months of September and October are your best bets for good sunsets and clear weather. Ocean Beach is located on the western edge of San Francisco. Unlike many San Francisco destinations, it has free parking.
5. Watch the people at Mission Dolores Park.
The Mission District reputedly enjoys the sunniest weather in San Francisco, and it’s also home to some unique people. Get out of the fog and join San Francisco’s colorful counter-cultural tribes at Mission Dolores Park. Relax on the lawn, take in the vista of the downtown skyline, and check out the interesting characters. The park is at the corner of 19th and Dolores Street. It can be reached by the Muni bus system.
Whether you enjoy nature, architecture, or exploring different cultures, you will be sure to find something fun – and free – in San Francisco.