September and October are great times to visit San Francisco. Typically, the cool summer fog is gone. And in nearby Sonoma and Napa Valley Wine Country, harvest season is in full swing. As locals, we love playing tourist for the day. The City by the Bay and surrounding areas offer so many fun things to do and see. Here are a few suggestions for visitors and locals alike:
Alcatraz and San Francisco City Tour
Take a fun Alcatraz and San Francisco City Tour. Book early because it sells out almost every day. Once an infamous Federal Penitentiary, Alcatraz (“The Rock” ) was home to Al “Scarface” Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly and Robert “The Birdman” Stroud. The Cell Block audio walking tours are fascinating. See famous waterfront views of San Francisco Bay and the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge. Visit fun local attractions, including Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, Victorian homes, North Beach… and more!
Helicopter Tour over San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge
See San Francisco as you’ve never seen it before – it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Take a Helicopter Tour and get a bird’s eye view of Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island and the SF skyline. Fly over the spectacular Pacific Coastline, Marin Headlands (offers the best vantage point of the Golden Gate Bridge), Tiburon (home to Sam’s, our favorite outdoor brunch cafe) and the quaint waterfront town of Sausalito, a “must-see” destination when visiting San Francisco.
Muir Woods – California’s Giant Redwood Trees
While visiting San Francisco, take a fun half-day trip to Muir Woods and see California’s Giant Redwood Trees. The trees are among the oldest and tallest on earth. Muir Woods is a very popular Marin attraction and it can get very crowded. If you’re driving, arrive early because the parking lots fill up quickly. We suggest that you take a leisurely tour and leave the driving and parking hassles to someone else 🙂
Champagne Brunch Cruise on San Francisco Bay
Treat your honey to a romantic Champagne Brunch Cruise. What better way to cruise the picturesque waters of San Francisco Bay than sipping on champagne and mimosas and enjoying a lavish brunch.
Segway Tour along San Francisco Waterfront
Looking to do something fun and completely different? Take an eco-friendly San Francisco Waterfront Segway Tour. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and a great way to see the city.
Guided Chinatown Walking Tour
Take a guided Walking Tour of Chinatown. It’s one of the largest Chinese communities outside of Asia. Have fun exploring Chinese markets, restaurants, theaters, herb shops, temples – and visit a fortune cookie factory too! Enjoy dinner at a popular Chinese restaurant.
Napa Valley and Sonoma Wine Country Tour
If you love wine, you won’t want to miss the chance to visit Napa Valley and Sonoma Wine Country, especially at this time of the year when harvest season is in full swing. Visit a mix of boutique and large-scale wineries, enjoy wine-tasting and learn how wines are made in California’s historic wine region. No need to worry about drinking and driving. Take a fun California Wine Country Tour from San Francisco and leave the driving to someone else. California has very tough drinking and driving enforcement. Cheers!
Little Italy and North Beach Walking Tour
Foodies love San Francisco! And one of our favorite places to eat, walk and people-watch is North Beach (SF’s Little Italy). It’s dotted with quaint little cafes and outside seating everywhere. Take a Little Italy and North Beach Walking Tour and enjoy tasting everything from great coffee, truffles, breads, olive oils, specialty meats… and more! North Beach has so many great little Italian restaurants.
Hop-On Hop-Off Double Decker Bus or Trolley Tour
Take a fun “Hop-On Hop-Off” Double Decker Bus or Trolley Tour. We like taking the double decker bus tour in most cities we visit. It’s a great way to see the city at your leisure and then you can come back and spend more time at your favorite places.
Yosemite National Park and Giant Sequoias
If you have the time, don’t miss seeing Yosemite National Park and Giant Sequoias. Yosemite Valley is one of the most naturally beautiful places on earth. See its majestic granite cliffs, giant Sequoias and spectacular flowing waterfalls. Bet you won’t want to leave.
Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Sailing Cruise
Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s one of the most amazing views you’ll see of the SF skyline, Alcatraz, Angel Island, SF Bay (usually filled with sailboats), and the Pacific Ocean. Scenic Vista Point areas are located at each end of the bridge – it’s perfect for snapping photos. If you like to sail, take a San Francisco Sailing Cruise and sail under the Golden Gate Bridge.
Golden Gate Park and Japanese Tea Gardens
San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is home to world-class museums, botanical gardens, lakes, and family-friendly biking and running trails. If you have time, be sure to visit the beautiful Japanese Tea Gardens, located next door the de Young Museum.
Academy of Sciences and de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park
Visit one of San Francisco’s fabulous museums. Our favorite is the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. It’s the only place in the world that houses one of the world’s largest Planetariums, an Aquarium and Coral Reef, a Natural History Museum, and a glass-domed Rainforest – all under the same roof! The de Young is another “must-see” museum (located opposite the California Academy of Sciences).
Ghirardelli Square and World-Famous Chocolate and Ice-Cream Parlor
Chocolate and ice-cream lovers won’t want to miss a stop at Ghirardelli Square’s world-famous Ice-Cream Parlor and Ghirardelli Marketplace. Ghirardelli Square is a fun place to visit. It offers fabulous waterfront dining, upscale art galleries, fine shops, live entertainment, and great people-watching.
San Francisco Cable Cars
Of course, no trip to San Francisco would be complete without a ride on a historic Cable Car. You can catch one opposite Ghirardelli Square, at Aquatic Park on Beach Street. Experience riding up and down San Francisco’s famous hills. Hold on tight!
Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 Sea Lions
Be sure to visit San Francisco’s historic Fisherman’s Wharf. Filled with street vendors, performing artists and seafood restaurants, it’s one of the city’s top attractions. And it’s a fun place for people-watching 🙂 Walk along the waterfront and check out the Sea Lions at Pier 39 – your kids will love ’em! Pier 39 also has fun shops, restaurants and attractions, including Aquarium of the Bay and their amazing jelly fish.
Crissy Field and Marina Green
Spend a day biking, walking, or picnicking at Crissy Field and the Marina Green. We love walking along the water. And you can’t beat the views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. FYI… there’s a big Safeway opposite the Marina Green where you can pick up a sandwich or deli items for a picnic.
Union Square Shopping
If you like to shop, head over to Union Square. It’s the Bay Area’s premier shopping destination, featuring high-end fashion boutiques, major retail stores, specialty shops, fine jewelry stores, gourmet restaurants, top hotels, theaters and art galleries. One of our favorite restaurants in Union Square (Cheesecake Factory) sits atop Macy’s. Get a table at the outdoor Sky Terrace Patio for an incredible view of Union Square and downtown San Francisco. Westfield San Francisco Center is another fun shopping destination, located near Union Square. It’s the largest urban shopping mall this side of the Mississippi and includes great restaurants, a luxury spa and a movie theater.
Lombard Street – the Crookedest Street in the World
Drive or walk down Lombard Street – the crookedest street in the world. The views from the top of Lombard Street are stunning. You can see Coit Tower and Alcatraz. The Cable Car (Powell-Hyde line) stops here to let passengers take pictures.
Ferry Building, Ferry Building Marketplace and Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market
Visit San Francisco’s historic Ferry Building, built in 1898. The popular waterfront destination includes the Ferry Building Marketplace and a bustling outdoor Farmer’s Market. On a Saturday morning, THE place to be in San Francisco is the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. It’s a “must-see” for foodies!
We hope these suggestions help narrow down what to see and do in San Francisco. There’s still a lot we haven’t mentioned, but this is a good start, especially if it’s your first visit. Whatever you do… have FUN!
Tell us about YOUR favorite things to do and see in San Francisco and the Bay Area – we’d love to hear from you.