San Francisco Attractions you shouldn’t miss! And they’re FREE !

A view of Alcatraz Prison

A view of Alcatraz Prison

It doesn’t matter if you’ve visited San Francisco before or never have, some attractions don’t always make the “top 10” list, but should. It’s so easy to concentrate on the famous destinations, like Alcatraz Island or Pier 39 for a bowl of clam chowder and a glass of wine. But what about the sites lower down the list that are excellent places to visit, and best of all, free?


After all, you’ve done your homework already and secured a great rate on your hotel, so why not continue and visit some of San Francisco’s best “on the cheap”? At the same time, you can enjoy some peace and quiet, exercise on some, and no crowds? You also can get some great photo’s on that new camera or “smart phone” to show friends and family back home.

Whether you have seen them in a movie, travel show or the old “Rice-A-Roni” commercials, the cable car has a place in history, especially here in San Francisco. When visiting the World Famous Fisherman’s Warf in San Francisco, you need to catch a historic ride on the F-Line cable car that runs from there through the Embarcadero and up Market Street to the top of the Castro District.


The Rice-a Roni Express

The Rice-a Roni Express


Photo Hint: Take a “selfie” on the cable car for friends, family and the world!


Staying on the “cable car” theme, another often overlooked attraction, and definitely one for families is the Cable Car Museum, which is located in the historic district of downtown San Francisco. This museum is located in the Washington-Mason Powerhouse up on Nob Hill. You can spend some time roaming about the massive wheels and engines that hauled the cable cars up San Francisco hills many moons ago. Take a photo or two in front of the three 1880’s cable cars on view as your thoughts wander to days gone by.


Pack yourself a picnic lunch, complete with perhaps a bottle of California’s wine and head off to stroll the Presidio, the old military post, now a National Park. This beautiful park is a splendid place to spend some time appreciating the architectural treasures throughout the park as well as its beautiful trails. However, you can enhance your visit and picnic site by heading to Crissy Field in the northern section of the park along the water. Here you can spread a blanket or use one of the picnic tables and barbeque set-ups while enjoying views of the bay and San Francisco Bridge.


While there: See if there’s a walking tour while you’re there, they are free.


Another outstanding adventure is located on the waterfront at Pier 15, in the Embarcadero. This attraction is so much fun for adults as well as families traveling with small children. This is a “hands on” museum, housing some 600 hands-on curious exhibits will entertain you for hours. Besides the exhibits another reason to visit is the magnificent glass and steel “Bay Observatory” offering some of the best views of San Francisco and the bay.


"Caution"! 5 mph!

“Caution”! 5 mph!


A visit to Lombard Street, considered to many to be the “crookedest street” in San Francisco, and possibly the world is just a “kick”. You have two choices when visiting this famous street, driving or walking, each quite the experience in their own way. The draw over the years to this street is of course the eight zigzag turns that cover one block of San Francisco hills. Driving this road down a “bobsled type drop” at or below the posted 5 mph (8 km/h) is an experience only for the brave and any passenger that enjoys screaming on roller coasters.


A much better way to visit in a relaxed fashion and gain the advantage of exercise before that big meal is taking the Powel-Hyde Cable Car. This will pick you up in Union Square or Ghirardelli Square and let you off the car at the top of Lombard Street. If you are in the best of shape or want to be, the walk up the street can be quite an adventure in itself as well as a gourmet adventure. You might decide to take those much-needed breaks along the way for an Irish coffee at the Buena Vista Café or a chocolate at Ghirardelli Chocolates.



Photo hint: For your “trophy photo” take it looking up the street at Leavenworth Street.


Not the "Painted Ladies" you were expecting?

Not the “Painted Ladies” you were expecting?

Finally lets take a look at visiting some of the most famous example of early American architecture in San Francisco, and one to brighten your day. The Painted Ladies of San Francisco sounds like a visit to a “red light district”, but in fact are seven Victorian-style homes built between 1892 and 1896. These incredible homes are located on Steiner Street, and are survivors of this style of homes destroyed by the great San Francisco Earthquake in 1906. Bring your camera and capture the splendor of designs found in these homes that look exactly as they did back in the day.

Vacation Tip!  Whenever we travel, its always a good idea to find the best rates on our hotels, and give our wallets some heft for fun and activities. Visit

About storiesbygary

I am a Freelance Writer / Photographer, writing travel related articles for international magazines, blogs and websites and my own published books.
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