Free Things to Do in San Francisco
San Francisco is a lovely city and a great destination for all kinds of travelers, but it is also an expensive place and many people who travel on a strict budget tend to feel overwhelmed when planning their trip to this Californian urban beauty. However, besides being filled with prices things to do and to see, the city has also many iconic sights that can be enjoyed without paying a dime.
Whether you are interested in art and architecture, you love good music and dancing, or you are a history and culture aficionado San Francisco has something exciting and budget-friendly to offer you. All you have to do is plan your trip correctly and make a list of the best and the most affordable or free things to do in the city or around it. To help you prepare for a fantastic vacation, here are some of the free stuff you can do while you are in SF:
Explore the City While Enjoying a Walking Tour of San Francisco
San Francisco is a magnificent city, and it can be easily explored by foot, as long as you have comfortable shoes. Walking around the charming streets of this city is a fantastic thing to do, and it is entirely free of charge. A walking tour is definitely the best way to see, understand and feel the city. You can grab a map and wander around seeing different spots that interest you or you can forget all about maps and let the city surprise you. And it definitely will.
There are also many free tours available, but you might need and also want to leave a tip to your guide. Whatever you choose, a walking tour is an excellent manner to begin exploring SF, and it is also something everybody can afford. Make sure you rest the night properly before, you are dressed well because SF tends to be chilly even during the summer and you have very comfy shoes.
Relax and Explore the Beaches around SanFran
Even though everybody knows the water is cold no matter the season, going to the beach is a must for every traveler, who visits SF. Whether you choose to go to Baker Beach and admire the view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Ocean Beach and watch the adventurous surfers or any other beach in the area, you will ultimately relax and get in touch with the locals while staring at the big waves.
If you feel adventurous yourself you can also try surfing though, as mentioned, the water is cold, and the temperatures outside are not as high as many expect. So, if you don’t want to catch a cold that will keep you inside, choose to watch the surfers instead of joining them. It might not be as exciting as getting in the water but it keeps you safe, and it allows you to keep exploring San Francisco for the rest of your holiday.
Get Closer to San Francisco’s Artistic Part: Visiting the Free Art Galleries
San Francisco is one of those places that scream art through its galleries and fantastic art shows, and the best part is that many of them are free of charge. You might not find too many during the week, but the weekends are always filled with art events so, if you are an art aficionado you will have plenty of free things to do on Saturdays and Sundays.
Wander Around the City and Discover the Beautiful Street Art of San Francisco
Besides having an amalgam of excellent art galleries and shows, San Francisco surprises travelers who love art with its embellished walls, gates and garages. Yes, street art is everywhere, but the best parts of the city are the Mission and North Beach districts.
Wandering around the streets of these neighborhoods, discovering hidden gems and admiring the graffiti and street art can make art enthusiasts from all over the world extremely happy. This also a great thing to do for families who travel with kids because the activity might make them feel like real urban explorers.
Unwind in a Green Paradise: Golden Gate Park
This charming Californian city might not be famous for having an impressive number of parks, but the Golden Gate Park is definitely a great place for locals and a fantastic touristic attraction for people eager to discover San Francisco without paying anything.
Golden Gate Park is a large manmade park, and it surprises newcomers with its lakes, gardens, and even museums. Even if some of the gardens and all the museums have an entry fee, there are plenty of things you can enjoy here without also opening your wallet. The only thing you might want to spend money on is food. Having a picnic on the soft, green grass while admiring the people passing by is a great way to relax and get in touch with the city and its inhabitants.
SF’s Iconic Landmark: Golden Gate Bridge
Everybody heard about the Golden Gate Bridge because it is probably the most famous thing to see in San Francisco. Therefore, no visitor should leave the city without crossing the bridge. Whether you choose to ride a bike or walk across the world’s most beautiful bridge, you need to dress appropriately because it tends to be really windy and Golden Gate has 1.7 miles. Just keep in mind that, before going to the bridge you need to check the website for opening hours because it is not open to pedestrians 24 hours.
Adventure Yourself into Taking a Hike
Another great thing to do if you are traveling on a budget and hunting for free activities is hiking. There are a few great hike trails you can choose from, and one of them gets you to the top of Twin Peaks where you can admire the most incredible views of the city. And if you want to feel like in a fairytale, adventure yourself and hike through the forestry of the Mt. Sutro Open Space Reserve. Whatever you choose make sure you are dressed well, and you wear proper hiking shoes to avoid any kind of inconvenience.
Check Out the Ferry Building and the Charming Farmers’ Markets
Even though in the past the Ferry Building used to be just a walkthrough to get to the docks, it recently became an amazing destination filled with local farmers selling of everything from coffee and cookware to chocolate and cheese. If you are going to be in SF on a Tuesday or a Saturday, you must check out this amazing Farmers’ Market. You don’t have to buy anything if you don’t want to spend your money but having this vibrant experience is mandatory to get closer to the soul of the city. Also, there are many cooking demos and other market happenings that are free of charge.
Let the Beautiful Gardens Amaze Your Eyes
San Francisco has a few fantastic gardens that must be seen. They are not always free of charge, but there are certain days when you can explore their natural beauty without paying a fee. For instance, The Conservatory of Flowers is free to admire on the first Tuesday of the month while the Japanese Tea Garden is free to explore on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays if you get there before 10 AM. Also, if you are a morning person, and you can get to the
The San Francisco Botanical Garden before 9 AM you can enter for free no matter what day you choose for getting in touch with nature.
Have Fun with the Locals at the Street Festivals
Another fantastic thing about SF is that it hosts a significant number of street festivals and unique parades. Whether you love jazz, electronic music, wild parties or you want to get in the middle of a gay parade, this is the place you need to go to. What can be better than attending a party together with the locals without paying an entry fee? You will probably spend some money on whatever you choose to drink or it, but you can always eat well before and drink as much as you can afford.
See the Cables Spinning at the Cable Car Museum (http://www.cablecarmuseum.org/)
Even though one of the most popular activity to do in San Francisco is riding the famous cable cars up and down its hilly streets, not many visitors know there is also a very interesting Cable Car Museum, and it is also free of charge. This is an excellent place for both adults and children so, if you are traveling with your little ones and they seem to be getting bored, take them to this museum, and they will feel happy instantly.
Address: 1201 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108
Hours: Opens 10 AM
Phone: (415) 474-1887
Get Lost in the Colorful Chinatown
The Chinatown in Sf is the oldest and the most famous one in the United States and visiting it is one of the most exciting things you can do while being in this lovely city. The bustling streets of Chinatown, the smells, the loud people and the overall atmosphere will amaze your eyes and fill your soul.
Chinatown is a city within a city, and you will need more than a couple of hours to explore it properly, learn about its history and get closer to the daily lives of its current residents.
Don’t Miss the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company
Visiting the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company is a great thing to do, especially if you are traveling with kids or if you are a young soul trapped in an adult’s body. You will see how the cookies are made from the beginning until the insertion of the small paper fortunes. It is an excellent activity for the curious minds who travel on a budget but want to get close to the city and Chinese American culture in San Francisco.
As you can see, even if SF is an expensive destination there are plenty of free things you can do to see and understand the city. The list can continue but if you want an authentic experience you need to save some time for the things you discover while wandering around the lovely streets of the city.