As a broke college art student studying in Sacramento, CA, San Francisco was one of the closest major cities. San Francisco would be great for day trips and often times we had to find free things to do in San Francisco. Only an hour and a half drive away, whenever we found ourselves bored in Sacramento, we would travel to the beautiful city of San Francisco and pick up being a tourist all over again.
Even though my friends and I have visited these locations often, it was always an invigorating way to escape Sacramento, especially during the summer heat. Often, I was required to come to San Francisco for school to visit a lot of the art museums, lectures, and galleries. Being the poor student I was, I always sought out free, affordable, and exciting things to do in San Francisco which bring me to my favorite FREE things to do in San Francisco.
One of my favorite things to do is take a road trip in California and drive along the coast. Visit some of the beautiful beach towns including Mendocino. Read more about things you can do in Mendocino.
Additionally, if you are looking for places to eat in San Francisco, check out this guide on Unique Eats in San Francisco.
10 free things to do in San Francisco
Free Things to do in San Francisco | Visit the Golden Gate Bridge
Who travels to San Francisco and doesn’t visit the Golden Gate Bridge? The Golden Gate Bridge is probably one of the most iconic things to see in San Francisco. It is a highly coveted bridge to gain beautiful photos and selfies. The bridge, however, isn’t golden but more of a reddish color which was to protect the bridge from corrosion. There are a ton of great things to do in San Francisco, be sure to check out this Gay Guide to San Francisco.
Walk down Lombard Street
One of the most famous streets in San Francisco. Tons of people drive down this street causing chaos with the neighbors who live nearby. Unfortunately, it is no longer free to drive down this beautiful street however, you still can enjoy it from a distance and take photos.
Fisherman’s Wharf – A popular free thing to do in San Francisco
Watch the sea lions at Pier 39 in Fisherman’s Wharf. There are plenty of local seafood places to eat here, lots of places to get touristy merchandise and a great location for kids to play and have fun. When you head down to Museu Mechanique afterward, be sure to try a crab or shrimp Louie sandwich at one of the outdoor vendors down the street in front of the Museu Mechanique.
Near Fisherman’s Wharf is the Musea Mechanique. Now this place is interesting, to say the least, and isn’t necessarily free, but it could be if you just want to see all the classic arcade games. This building is filled entirely with classic arcade games and if you have seen the movie the Princess Diaries, this is where Anne Hathaway takes Julie Andrews to arm wrestle a machine. Additionally, this is a very affordable place with just quarters to just have fun with kids.
Entering the Conservatory of Flowers is not free; however, the light show at the conservatory of the flowers is free to watch in the evening. The Conservatory of Flowers lights up the beautiful building outside during summer evenings. The show usually starts around 7 pm. This is something that is fairly new and I am not sure how long this will be available. They provided this light show to celebrate the Anniversary of the Summer of Love.
Visit the Painted Ladies from the TV Show sitcom “Full House”
Now, I don’t know about you, but Full House was one of my favorite shows as a child. With Full House having a new and updated sitcom on Netflix, this house has been brought back onto the map of things to do in San Francisco. These houses are best known for the painted ladies. However, the actual address for the house from Full House is 1709 Broderick Street.
This is a must-see and do for 48 hours in San Francisco.
San Francisco is known for its Cable Car’s running around town. They are fairly expensive to ride in; however, it feels very nostalgic to travel all over town in them. Going to the Cable Car Museum is something that provides you with free entertainment and a great photo opportunity for those who would love to see these beautiful city treasures.
Museum Day – Favorite Free Things to do in San Francisco
Museum day is on the first Tuesday of the month which is FREE! Some of the museums included are the de Young, the Asian Art Museum, Legion of Honor, Yerba Buena Center of the Arts, and Contemporary Jewish Museums. Some other museums I highly recommend are: the SF Moma and The Exploratorium, however, these two museums are only free on certain days.
This beach is relaxing and if the weather is good, you may be able to get a decent shot of the Golden Gate Bridge. I often like to visit this place just to get my feet in the water and sand. I love visiting any form of the beach even though the weather and water in San Francisco is freezing. However, this is one of the few beaches in California where you can have a bonfire. It is a pretty popular place during the late summer evenings and smells like beautiful wood fires.
Palace of the Fine Arts is an iconic building in San Francisco. Additionally, it is surrounded by beautiful water and water displays with gorgeous flowers and shrubbery. This is one of my favorite places to take a walk in and enjoy the scenery. Moreover, it would be a great place for a picnic.
Looking for more things to do in San Francisco? Check out this ultimate San Francisco Bucket List.
What are some of your favorite FREE things to do in San Francisco? Leave your comments below!
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