Home to the famous “Postcard Row”, Alamo Square is a lovely place to visit for photos, view of the city, or a picnic in the summer.
Take a trip up to Coit Tower for a view of the city, as well as a tour of its first-floor murals. If you drive, there’s usually a short wait for parking. Take pics of the murals inside and of the city/Bay outside.
Great for walking, the waterfront’s Embarcadero is highlighted by AT&T Park, the Ferry Building, Rincon Park (Cupid’s Span), and a wonderful view of the Bay Bridge. Take photos, rest by the water, meditate, grab lunch, visit the farmers’ market…
Golden Gate Bridge :
Completed in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge is synonymous with San Francisco. Walking the bridge’s span (see: photo) is a popular thing-to-do and is absolutely free. As for the vehicles going to and fro, “the Gate” annually sees 40 million. (Note: overall, the bridge is 1.7 miles long. You can also walk under it by way of Crissy Field).
Golden Gate Park :
This beautiful park is so expansive, you’ll need several days to really see it all. From the Japanese Tea Garden to the Conservatory of Flowers to the M.H. de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park offers beauty and education, not to mention a good workout without even realizing it. Along with walking, there’s also archery, lawn bowling, a children’s playground, and more. In the summertime, look for free Sunday afternoon concerts, courtesy of the Golden Gate Park Band.
If you happen to be visiting at the beginning of the month, then definitely check out a free museum day or two. These designated days fall on the first Tuesday or Wednesday of each month and with them, your admission is covered – for free.
California Historical Society | Cartoon Art Museum (pay any fee you wish) | Conservatory of Flowers | de Young Museum | Legion of Honor | Museum of Craft & Folk Art | San Francisco Museum of Modern Art | Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Exploratorium | San Francisco Zoo
The Asian Art Museum now offers free Sundays, the first Sunday of every month.
Palace of Fine Arts:
Bring your lunch here, have a picnic, and admire the view: a classical Roman-style rotunda, a lovely with swans and other waterfowl. A perfect place for some quiet reflection and photos. (Note: the Exploratorium is right next door.)
A former military base, the Presidio is now a public park that’s rich with history and activity. Biking and hiking trails call to the outdoor enthusiast, and for those wanting to take a nice walk some sunny afternoon, there’s a lot to see, including over 500 historic buildings, coastal defense fortifications, a historic airfield, and pet cemetary. Check out “Kids on Trails”, a self-guided tour that helps kids and adults learn about the Presidio’s Ecology Trail.
Yerba Buena Gardens Festival:
Each year from May to October, the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival offers a good mix of free artistic, cultural and community events. From operatic music to visual arts to spoken-word, the festival brings together a unique, diverse group of artists and performers.
For the past 25 years, San Francisco City Guides has been offering free walking tours of the city, led by volunteers who simply “love the city, it’s history, lore, and legends.” This nonprofit organization consists of more than 200 trained volunteers and offers tours of all points in San Francisco, including Chinatown, North Beach, the Embarcadero, and Haight Ashbury. (Note: As a courtesy and show of appreciation/support, it’s always nice to tip the guides at the end of the tour.)