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San Francisco can be incredibly expensive to visit.
But, it doesn’t have to be by any means. There is SO much to see and do that won’t cost you anything!
► FREE California State Map & Official State Visitor’s Guide ◄
Check out these FREE attractions…
Start HERE by Downloading a digital version of the FREE San Francisco Visitor’s Guide.
Fisherman’s Wharf – this is one of the most popular tourist sites in all of San Francisco. There are great views of The Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the San Francisco skyline plus the best fresh seafood, ships, souvenir shops, museums and street performers. There are tons of awesome touristy photo opportunities here. Plus it’s a great place to people watch!
Hyde Street Pier – this former ferry terminal is home to the incredible 1886 Sailing Ship Balclutha among others. The pier is part of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park which also has an exhibit, Maritime Arts – At Sea and Ashore, that is open 7 days a week and is FREE.
Sea Lions at Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf – California sea lions are known for their intelligence, playfulness and noisy barking. They have been gathering at Pier 39 for years. It’s quite a site to watch and listen to the colony of sea lions. You’ll most likely find more sea lions in the winter months as they mostly migrate during the summer. Stop by the Sea Lion Center for some FREE educational programming on the natural history of California sea lions and the environmental threats they currently face.
Pier 39 – Be sure to stroll the Pier to check out it’s other offerings. There is FREE music every single day. You can stop by the California Welcome Center for FREE tour information, maps and assistance with hotel reservations. Look for street performers and don’t miss the Musical Stairs (made by the same artist as the creator of the floor piano in the Tom Hank’s movie Big).
Ghirardelli Square – This former chocolate factory is a collection of shops and restaurants on the west end of Fisherman’s Wharf. You will find a Ghirardelli shop there too that offers FREE Samples! YUM!
Print a coupon for GHIRARDELLI ON THE GO AT GHIRARDELLI SQUARE HERE
Also – See’s Candies is very near Ghirardelli Suqare on Beach Street. Stop in there for a FREE Sample or 2!
Hyde and Beach Public Transit Kiosk SFMTA – this is the end of the Powell/Hyde line that is really close to Ghirardelli Square. There’s a turn table/turn around that is manually operated to actually turn the cable car around so that it can go back in the opposite direction. Whether you are going for a ride on the cable car or not (which you probably should since you are in San Francisco), you can watch the process that has been the same for decades!
Cable Car Museum located at Mason St. and Washington St. – FREE Admission – Learn everything there is to know about cable cars. It’s located in a “cable car barn and powerhouse, the museum deck overlooks the huge engines and winding wheels that pull the cables. Downstairs is a viewing area of the large sheaves and cable line entering the building through the channel under the street.”
Walk (or Bike) the Golden Gate Bridge – there are some FREE Self-Guided tours too. This is a interesting educational tour of one of the most known landmarks in the world! There is limited FREE parking as well.
Chinatown – San Francisco Chinatown is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia as well as the oldest Chinatown in North America. Dragon Gate, marks the beginning of Chinatown, home to incredible, authentic dim sum and Chinese cuisine, detailed Chinese architecture and temples, Chinese art dealers, souvenir shops and even a Fortune Cookie Factory!
Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory – cookies are made from scratch and assembled in-store. Watch them make these delectable treats by hand. One smell and you’ll be hooked!
Take a quick FREE factory tour to see how these tasty treats are made and try a FREE sample too!
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Union Square is the retail and cultural hub of San Francisco, a great place to walk, window shop,eat and people watch!
It boasts the city’s largest collection of luxury, department and boutique shopping, making it one of the premier tourist attractions in the Western United States. A spectacular selection of hotels, art galleries, salons, and theaters also contribute to the area’s cosmopolitan, 24-hour character.
The center of the neighborhood is a landmark park bordered by Geary, Powell, Post, and Stockton streets. Built in 1850, Union Square was the gathering sight for pro-Union demonstrations on the eve of the Civil War. The historic park was named by San Francisco’s first mayor, John Geary, in remembrance of the rallies.
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View from the Twin Peaks – the peaks are 922 feet up and offer up some breath-taking views like this one below. Be sure to have your phone/camera ready!
Lombard Street is “the crookedest street in the world.” It is known for the one-way block on Russian Hill between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets, where there are eight sharp turns. It’s a fun, yet slow, drive down. On busy days you can expect to wait sometimes up to a 1/2 hour just to be able to drive through the winding sloped hairpin turns. You can also walk down. Great photo ops at the bottom.