9 Must See San Francisco Spots For Visitors.

9 Must See San Francisco Spots For Visitors.

After getting a bunch of emails from readers and friends with upcoming trips to San Francisco, I realized I’ve been slacking in the blogging department about my favorite places around the city. I’ve been lucky enough to have quite had quite a few visitors since moving out to the west coast and it’s been fun to play tour guide and show people around my new city – I’m a big believer in skipping the typical tourist attractions and instead focus things that are unique to SF and give a little peek into what it’s like living in this magical little city.

In collaboration with Expedia.com here are some of my all-time favorite spots I’d recommend for anyone visiting San Francisco:

9 Must See San Francisco Spots For Visitors.

1. Baker Beach: You can’t have a trip to SF without soaking in the beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge and Baker Beach has my absolute favorite views of the iconic landmark. I love heading to Baker Beach in the evening hours to walk along the beach and sit and relax in the sand for amazing views of the bridge from the ocean side that are even better just before sunset during the golden hour. Skip the swimsuit and dress warm though – it’s always very chilly at the beach in SF! Visit Expedia.com to see more of Baker Beach.

9 Must See San Francisco Spots For Visitors.

2. Dolores Park: There’s no place better to people watch and spend a sunny day than Dolores Park in SF’s Mission neighborhood. Grab a blanket and stop by Bi-Rite Market for picnic supplies or at Papalote for the best burrito of your life and soak up some sunshine while surrounded by an eclectic mix of people you’ll only find in San Francisco.

9 Must See San Francisco Spots For Visitors.

3. The Ferry Building: If you’re visiting over a weekend then the Saturday morning farmer’s market at the Ferry Building cannot be missed. Come hungry and spend an hour or so browsing the insane variety of fresh local produce, meats, cheese and flowers all produced within driving distance of SF and grab coffee and a bite to eat at the pop up locations of some of the city’s best restaurants. Favorites include Sightglass Coffee, Wise Sons Delicatessen, Hog Island Oyster and Humphry Slocombe ice cream.

9 Must See San Francisco Spots For Visitors.9 Must See San Francisco Spots For Visitors.

4. Hayes Valley: Consider me slightly biased since I used to live here but Hayes Valley is one of SF’s best neighborhoods and the perfect place for visitors to explore, do some shopping or grab a bite to eat or cocktails. Start at the intersection of Hayes & Octavia and walk around the neighborhood checking out the stores and restaurants along Hayes Street. Don’t miss Souvla for quick Greek food, Brass Tacks for cocktails, Ritual Coffee, Project Juice for smoothies or acai bowls and Little Gem for some healthy, gluten free food options.

9 Must See San Francisco Spots For Visitors.

5. Corona Heights: With SF’s hilly landscape comes some amazing views of the city and Corona Heights is a perfect spot to soak it all in. The park is a bit of a hidden gem within the Castro neighborhood and with just a short walk up to the top, visitors are able to see 360-degree views of the city (perfect for snapping an amazing photo for Instagram!)

9 Must See San Francisco Spots For Visitors.

6. Chinatown: San Francisco’s Chinatown neighborhood is the largest Chinatown area outside of Asia and the oldest in North America. Known for its bright red gate entrance and hanging lanterns overhead, it’s a great place to soak in some culture, pick up cheap souvenirs and try some seriously amazing Chinese eats. Don’t miss Z&Y Restaurant, Golden Gate Bakery and R&G Lounge.

9 Must See San Francisco Spots For Visitors.

7. Lands End & Sutro Baths: The ultimate spot to watch the sunset or take on an oceanfront hike right within the city! Sutro Baths is the ruins site of the world’s largest indoor swimming pool establishment opened in 1896 that later fell into disrepair and eventually burnt down in 1966. Start at Sutro Baths (there’s typically plenty of parking) and hike the Lands End trail for a pretty easy hike with gorgeous views of the Pacific.

9 Must See San Francisco Spots For Visitors.

8. North Beach: North Beach is San Francisco’s version of Little Italy and is full of character and delicious eats. Get a great view of the skyline’s iconic Transamerica Pyramid and grab dinner at Tony’s Pizza (or Park Tavern if you’re looking for something a bit fancier), followed by cocktails at Comstock Saloon.

9 Must See San Francisco Spots For Visitors.

9. Golden Gate Park: At over 1,000 acres of public ground, Golden Gate Park has something for everyone and even after living in SF for almost three years; I’ve still only yet scratched the surface of the park. Check out the Conservatory of Flowers for some beautiful blooms, spend a grey day inside the Academy of Sciences (they have an albino alligator named Claude!) or just enjoy some quiet time in some of the park’s garden areas.

What are some of your favorite spots around San Francisco? Have you been to any of the places on my list?

Photos by Aimee Rancer

  • All the wanderlust is happening in my heart right now haha. I’ve been dying to travel more and San Fran is high up on my list of places to visit here in the US. It looks so inviting and adventurous. I need to get there!

  • I love this list! I am going to save this for when we plan a trip to visit family in the area. Looks like so much fun!

  • Denay DeGuzman

    Oh my goodness – I love all of your gorgeous images! I live in Sacramento, so my husband and I often hop inside our little two-seater and head to the city. San Francisco is such a fun and delightful place to visit. There’s always something new to see and do in that fabulous city. We usually start off with Pier 39 and go from there…

  • Ahh this post makes me miss living in California. Love how colorful San Francisco is!

  • Super Millennial

    Great post, definitely will check out the few I haven’t went to next time in SF!

  • Chanel van Reenen

    My husband and I went to SF back in August of 2013 (ugh gosh, cannot believe it’s been 4 years!) and absolutely loved it! We have been wanting to go again. These photos make me miss it!

  • Lee Anne Benjamin

    These all make me want to plan a trip right now! Great recs!

    Lee Anne

  • I loved China Town and the Ferry Building. Will have to check out the other recs when we make another visit.

  • Amanda K

    I have been dying to visit San Fran! I will definitely keep these places in mind! I also want to see the golden gate bridge, and the house where Full House was filmed.

    Amanda || http://www.fortheloveofglitter.com

  • Lisa Roe

    I can’t get over the color of the water in some of these pictures, stunning. I have never been but so want to vacation there one day!

  • Ruthie Ridley

    These pictures are amazing!! We were just there last week!!

  • Patricia Conte

    Love, love your photos! San Francisco is one of my favorite cities. My husband and I have been about 100 times, but I don’t think I’ve even been to Sutro Baths with him! Thanks for the great suggestions!

    • It’s an amazing spot to watch the sun set!

  • jillconyers

    Cait, San Francisco is my all time favorite city. We visited often when we loved in So Ca. Second favorite is Chicago. Have a beautiful day!

    • Two of my favorites as well ;)

  • Great items on this list! Sutro Baths and Dolores Park are two of my favorites!

  • Nazrin Miah

    WOW! San Francisco looks AHMAAAZING. It looks like a bloggers heaven! Ive already fallen in love with from watching too many movies, this post just makes me want to catch the next flight out!


  • I’m going to San Francisco soon so I can’t wait to visit all these places! Thanks for the suggestions :)

    Adventures With A | http://aleanareyes.wixsite.com/adventureswitha

  • I REALLY want to go to San Fran! All of these spots look amazing! I am definitely pinning this so I can keep these in mind for when I do!


  • Wonderful pics. We’re looking at going with our 3 kids age 11, 13 and 17 to San Francisco in early January. Is this an OK time to visit? How cold does it get and do most of the fun spots shut down in winter?

    • The weather is very consistent year round so you don’t have to worry about cold but winters can be on the rainy side. Places are open year round though!

    • If you’re coming from a place with actual weather, San Francisco winters will probably seem pretty tame to you, but if you’re sensitive to cold like I am, bring lots and lots of layers. Even in summer, the westernmost parts of the city can be cold and quite windy! We lived in the Richmond district for several years, and the thing I was happiest to leave behind was the constant dark overcast and biting wind.

      As for whether January is a good time to visit, I think it depends on what you like to do. For me, as a San Francisco expat, I don’t like going back to visit in summer or on weekends because everything is super crowded. If you don’t mind the fog and the rain, I think you might actually enjoy visiting in January better than in summer. Most of the major museums and parks are open year-round except certain holidays, and spots Cait mentions here, like the Sutro Baths, are beautiful at any time of year.

      Most of my favorite spots in the city, like the Bison Paddock in Golden Gate Park and the windmill in the park near the beach, are free to visit at any time of year. Our favorite weekend jaunt was to walk to the paddock, continue onto the windmill, and end our journey at a cafe across from Ocean Beach, called Java Beach. Then we would hop the N Judah Muni line back home.

      Sorry for the longish comment, I hope some of my ramblings are of use to you! :) I hope your family enjoys the trip.

      • Thank you so much MaddOphelia – this is exactly what I was looking for. We’re coming from South Africa so any advice is appreciated!

  • Leigha

    Such gorgeous pictures!! I was just in SF a few weeks ago. I wish I would have seen this! We did about half of the things. The farmers market is amazing!!!

    • Isn’t it the best?! It’s one of my all-time favorite things to do here on the weekends.

  • Love Corona Heights & the baths. Myself, what I most enjoyed about living in SF was the proximity to the bison paddock in the park. The windmill and the lakes were close seconds. If you’re bookish, like me, you’ll probably want to drop in to Green Apple Books and of course City Lights.

    Three things I always tell people when they ask what to see in SF: expect big crowds, especially on weekends; dress in layers, because even on a nice day, when the wind comes tearing through the city, it can get pretty cold pretty fast; and, expect to spend a small fortune. :) It can be a big shock to out-of-towners how much they have to pay to get a hotel, ride the F line to Fisherman’s Wharf, or even just get a sandwich! :)

  • Wonderful post, I am definitely keeping this handy for my next trip to San Francisco! Thanks for sharing x