16 Free Things to Do in San Francisco

December 6, 2023

16 Free Things to Do in San Francisco

Hey San Franciscans! Ready to explore your own city without breaking the bank? 2024 is ripe with opportunities to rediscover the charm of San Francisco, and the best part? It's all free! Whether you're a Golden Gate guru or a newbie to the City by the Bay, there's always something new and exciting to check out. From strolling across our world-famous bridge to uncovering hidden gems in our vibrant neighborhoods, this guide is your ticket to experiencing the diverse flavors of San Francisco without spending a single dime. So, lace up your walking shoes, grab your camera, and let's dive into the treasure trove of free activities that our city has to offer!


Enjoy the Art at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

When: First Thursday of the Month

Where: 151 3rd Street

SFMOMA offers free public access to its ground-floor galleries. Here, art enthusiasts can enjoy a range of contemporary artworks, installations, and sculptures. Details on free access to SFMOMA's public spaces are available here.


Attend a Free Festival

When: February-August

Where: Various Locations

San Francisco hosts various free festivals and events throughout the year. Notable ones include the North Beach Festival, Fillmore Jazz Festival, Stern Grove Festival, and the Chinese New Year Parade. These events showcase the city’s diverse culture and community spirit.


Attend Free Museum Days

When: Weekly and Monthly

Where: Various Museums

Many of San Francisco’s museums offer free admission days. Check the schedules of museums like the de Young Museum, the Legion of Honor, and the Asian Art Museum for these opportunities.


Japanese Tea Garden

When: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday Mornings

Where: Golden Gate Park

While there’s usually an admission fee, the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park offers free entry if you visit early on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday mornings. It’s a tranquil spot featuring classic Japanese landscaping. Check out the details here.


Visit the Cable Car Museum

When: 10am-4pm Weekdays, 10am-5pm Weekends, closed on Mondays

Where: 1201 Mason Street

Delve into the history of San Francisco’s iconic cable cars at the Cable Car Museum. This free museum showcases historical cable cars, mechanical displays, and a glimpse into the cable-pulling mechanisms that power the current system. Information about visiting the Cable Car Museum for free can be found here.


Visit the Golden Gate Bridge and Park

When: Anytime

Where: Golden Gate Park 

The Golden Gate Bridge, an engineering marvel and one of the most photographed structures in the world, is a must-visit. Walking or biking across the bridge provides breathtaking views of the city and bay. Nearby, Golden Gate Park, one of the largest urban parks in the world, offers a haven for nature lovers with its expansive gardens, walking trails, and picturesque lakes. You can find more about free activities in Golden Gate Park here.


Stroll through Chinatown

When: Anytime

Where: Chinatown

San Francisco's Chinatown, the oldest in North America, is a vibrant hub of culture, food, and historic architecture. Strolling through its bustling streets, visitors can admire colorful buildings, temples, and street markets without spending a penny. Learn more about exploring Chinatown here.


Hike at Lands End

When: Anytime

Where: 680 Point Lobos Ave

For outdoor enthusiasts, Lands End offers scenic trails with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the Golden Gate. The trails lead to historic sites, including the ruins of the Sutro Baths and a labyrinth. For information on hiking at Lands End, visit here.


Explore the Mission District Murals

When: Anytime

Where: Various Locations

The Mission District is famous for its vibrant street art and murals, particularly around Balmy Alley and Clarion Alley. These colorful artworks reflect the area’s rich cultural heritage and social commentary. An explorer's guide to the Mission District murals can be found here.


Relax at Baker Beach

When: Anytime

Where: 12 25th Ave

Baker Beach, located near the Golden Gate Bridge, offers spectacular views and a chance to relax by the Pacific Ocean. It’s a perfect spot for picnics, beachcombing, and photography. Details about visiting Baker Beach for free are available here.


Stroll the Ferry Building Marketplace

When: Anytime

Where: At The Ferry Plaza

The historic Ferry Building Marketplace is a culinary delight, even if you're just window shopping. Wander through the market to experience the vibrant atmosphere and view the array of local produce and artisan goods. Start planning your visit to the historic Ferry Building Marketplace here.


Visit the Presidio National Park

When: Anytime

Where: The Presidio National Park 

The Presidio, a former military base turned national park, offers miles of hiking trails, stunning vistas, and historic buildings. It’s a great place for history buffs and nature lovers alike. Take a look at the Presidio National Park map here and begin to plan your visit.


Take a Self-Guided Walking Tour

When: Anytime

Where: All Over the City 

San Francisco is a walkable city with distinct neighborhoods, each with its unique character. Self-guided walking tours can take you through historic areas like Haight-Ashbury, known for its role in the 1960s counterculture movement, or the Castro, known for its vibrant LGBTQ+ community. Depending on your mood, there's a route you can explore, check out the maps here.


Enjoy the Views from Coit Tower

When: Anytime

Where: Coit Tower

While there's a fee to go up the tower, the base of Coit Tower offers some of the best panoramic views of the city. The area surrounding the tower, Pioneer Park, is a lovely spot for a leisurely walk. Plan your trip here.


Visit the Yerba Buena Gardens

When: Anytime

Where: Downtown

Located in the heart of downtown, Yerba Buena Gardens is a peaceful urban oasis. The gardens offer a mix of art installations, open green spaces, and often host free concerts and cultural events. You can find more information here.


Walk Along the Embarcadero

When: Anytime

Where: The Embarcadero

The Embarcadero, a waterfront area along San Francisco Bay, provides a scenic walk with views of the Bay Bridge, historic piers, and the bustling Ferry Building. A number of attractions are along this street and it is a popular place for strolling, details here.


San Francisco, with its mix of cultural, historic, and natural attractions, provides a wealth of experiences that don’t require a wallet. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a longtime resident, there’s always something new and exciting to explore in this dynamic city.


Brought to you by the top San Francisco real estate agents at Pacific Edge Real Estate Group


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