The City is Chock Full of Free Stuff
Written By: Nicole Fera 40 Free Things to do in San Francisco
Exploring a brand new city can be some of the best experiences you have in your life. Unfortunately, that can also come at a cost, and in San Francisco that cost can be high. Luckily, there are plenty of free things to do in San Francisco, and they’ll all have you falling in love with the Bay without kissing your money goodbye.
Hike the Presidio
The Presidio offers many different hikes, including one that leads you straight to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Stroll Through Golden Gate Park
Just strolling through this park makes for the perfect day outside and there’s always something new to discover.
Watch the Pride Parade
San Francisco’s Pride Parade is one of the biggest celebrations of the year and will be happening June 23, 2018 this year.
Visit City Hall
Not only is San Fran’s City Hall the location of Harvey Milk’s Assassination in 1978, but it holds a lot of other hidden historic treasures inside.
Hike to Twin Peaks
The views from the top of Twin Peaks are unlike any other in the city. From 922 feet you can see a perfectly painted picture of the Bay and everything built around it.
Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge
Take a stroll over one of the most beautiful bridges in the world and get an up-close view of this impressive landmark.
Check out the Cable Cars
You don’t have to ride the infamous cable cars to appreciate their nostalgia and long time history with the city.
Lay Out in McLaren Park
This park is the second largest in the city and offers seven miles of trails that weave their way through 312 acres of land.
Visit Ghirardelli Square
Down at Fisherman’s Wharf you’ll find some of the world’s most beloved chocolate in Ghiradelli Square. Take a walk around to see how the magic happens. (Hint: find the free samples.)
Attend the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival
This music festival takes place in Golden Gate Park and is free to all who want to attend. It usually takes place the first weekend of October.
Find Your Zen at the Japanese Tea Garden
The Japanese Tea Garden inside Golden Gate Park is the oldest public garden in the US and is just as serene as you would imagine. Enter before 10 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday or Friday and it’s free!
Smell the Roses at the Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens is home to over 8, 000 different kinds of plants over 55 acres of land. Admission is free everyday from 7:30-9:00 a.m.
Stoke a Fire at the Ocean Beach Fire Pits
Visit Ocean Beach between stairwells 15 and 20 and you’ll find fire pits set up on the beach for your enjoyment.
Wander through Prelinger Library
The Prelinger Library is open to the public and home to some extremely interesting works that have been collected over the years.
Visit 16th Avenue and Its Tiled Steps
On Moraga Street between 15th and 16th Ave you will discover something pretty amazing and unusual about the staircase here. This project is the result of the locals that wanted to transform 163 steps into something truly amazing, which they did.
Visit the Cable Car Museum
The cable cars of San Fran are a huge part of its history and something tourists look forward to seeing when they visit. Take a walk around the museum and discover more about this SF staple.
Venture to a National Park
There are tons of National Parks and historic areas to visit in the Bay, but why not do it on a day when entrance fees are free? Visit this website to find out all of these dates and when visits to each park are best.
Bike Around Crissy Field
Crissy Field is a former military airfield that was transformed into an environmental showcase back in 2001. It is now the perfect place to walk around, bike, hike and enjoy the breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Savor the Murals of Balmy Alley
Located in the Inner Mission District between 24th St and Garfield Square is Balmy Alley, which boasts the most concentrated collection of murals that the city has to offer. The murals celebrate Chicano and Mexican heritage in the US.
Stop by the Renegade Craft Fair
This well-known craft fair happens twice a year in only a few select cities, and the beautiful Bay just happens to be one of them.
Enjoy a Free Shows at Amoeba
Visiting Amoeba Music is not only a must-do to browse around their amazing collection of vinyl, but there are often free shows, too.
Hang Out with the Sea Lions at Pier 39
Head over to Pier 39 and hang out with the Sea Lions that call this spot their home. They started showing up in 1990, and in 2009 there were over 1, 000 sea lions hanging around and enjoying the sun in the bay.
Go to the Top of the Westin St Francis
Although you can’t stay at this historic hotel for free, you can head in and take their glass elevators to the very top for some pretty epic views.
People Watch at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market
Anytime there’s a farmer’s market, you know what that means. Free Samples!
Walk the Wharf
Fisherman’s Wharf is a must-do when visiting San Francisco. You’ll catch some great views, soak up the sun and enjoy some live entertainment.
Have a Beach Day
When you think San Fran you might not think of a beach day, but there are plenty of great beaches and places to work on your tan. One of our favorites is Baker Beach, which is right down by the Presidio District.
Enjoy the Views at Russian Hill
After visiting Lombard Street, head one block over towards the Alice Marble Tennis Courts, and discover some pretty sweet views.
Scale Up or Down Lombard Street
Whether you drive down or simply get a good look at Lombard Street, it’s one of the coolest sights in the city.
Feel the Music at the Stern Grove Festival
There’s nothing better than free musical concerts in the summer and the Stern Grove Festival has got you covered. This year they have Janelle Monae performing on June 17, 2018.
Brush Up on Books
San Francisco is known for many things, including their literary history. There are many historic bookstores around town that not only have some great books to check out, but host live readings and visiting authors from all sorts of backgrounds and genres. Check out City Lights Bookstore to start.
If you’re planning a visit to the Bay area, you might want to plan it for the beginning of October this year. Not only is it a beautiful time to visit, but you just might meet a handsome sailor in your travels during fleet week!
Take a Walking Tour
Local volunteers along with the city of San Fran and the public library teamed up to offer free tours! These are the people who know and love SF. For a little bit of cash too, you could use the Detour app as your guide.
Have a Picnic at the Palace of Fine Arts
This is one of the most iconic and beautiful buildings in the city and a great photo opportunity on your trip!
People Watch at Dolores Park
You’ll be feeling like a local for sure.
Post on Instagram in Clarion Alley
It’s a small street in SF, located between Mission and Valencia and 17th and 18th, that packs a big punch with their colorful murals.
Break Bread at the Boudin Bakery & Museum
Head to the wharf and check out how Boudin’s delicious sourdough bread is made fresh everyday during one of their free tours.
Take the Kids to the Randall Museum
The Randall Museum is free, and it’s a great place to take the kids for a family outing. They have live animal exhibits and lots of hands-on workshops.
Catch a Flick
Although movies have become one of the more expensive things to do on a night out, the great city of SF offers tons of free movie screenings in the summer. These can be found in Union Square, Washington Park, Dolores Park and other spots around the area.
Catch a bit of a Giant’s Game
Normally seeing a professional baseball game can cost you a pretty penny, but there is a way to catch a bit of the San Fran Giant’s on their home turf. You can watch the game for free from the archway along the Waterfront Promenade, which is on the eastside of the park. To the locals, this is known as the McCovey Cove side of things, so ask around.
Listen to the Wave Organ
The Wave Organ is a unique, interesting and incredible piece of installation art that is built on a jetty in the SF Bay. Basically, as the tide comes in and waves crash against the pipes built there it creates a music all it’s own. You have to experience this.
Nicole is a New Jersey native who studied English and Journalism at Monmouth University, Long Branch. She moved to sunny San Diego to enjoy all that it has to offer, including the beach, the music scene and the opportunity to share her love of Journalism with others. She hopes to continue writing by making a career of her first true love: words.