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10 budget-friendly things in San Francisco

San Francisco is one of the most iconic cities in the world, known for its stunning scenery, vibrant culture, and innovative spirit. From its iconic landmarks to its diverse neighborhoods, there is something for everyone in San Francisco. Whether you’re looking for a cultural adventure, a culinary journey, or simply a chance to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature, San Francisco has something to offer you.

Here are just a few of the many things to do in San Francisco:

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10 budget-friendly things to do in San Francisco

1. Explore Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island, San Francisco

Alcatraz Island is a former federal prison located in the San Francisco Bay, and is now a popular tourist destination. Visitors can take a ferry to the island and explore its fascinating history and culture. The Alcatraz Island tour includes a boat ride to and from the island, and a self-guided audio tour of the cellhouses and common areas, providing insights into the lives of the inmates who were once incarcerated there. Visitors can also learn about the island’s history as a military prison and a civil war fort. Tickets are around $53 USD per person (as of October 2023) and they have daily tours starting at 8:40 am. The tour takes around 3 hours total. I recommend booking your tour a few weeks in advance, and bringing comfortable shoes and a jacket since it gets chilly even in the summer.

2. Be your boujee self at a winery

Sonoma winery

Going to a winery while in San Francisco is a great way to experience the world-famous Napa Valley and Sonoma County wine regions without having to travel too far from the city. There are dozens of wineries to choose from, each with its own unique character and charm. There are also quite a few wineries located within the city limits, and many more wine tasting rooms. No matter which winery experience you choose, you are sure to have a great time. Just be sure to book your reservation in advance, especially during the summer season. Here are a few options you might enjoy:

  • RD Winery – Enjoy 5 wine tasting flights for $30-80 USD per person in Napa, around 1 hour away from SF, starting at 10 am.
  • Viansa – Enjoy 4 wine tasting flights for $35 USD per person in Sonoma, around 1 hour away from SF, starting at 10 am. You can make a reservation or just walk in.

3. Cross the Golden Gate Bridge and visit a few view points

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

No trip to San Francisco is complete without visiting the Golden Gate Bridge. This iconic landmark is one of the most recognizable bridges in the world, and it offers stunning views of the city and the bay. There are many different ways to experience the Golden Gate Bridge. You can walk, bike, or drive across the bridge, or you can take a ferry to Alcatraz Island for a closer look. If you’re looking for a great viewpoint, try Battery Spencer. This clifftop artillery battery offers panoramic views of the city and the bay, and it’s a great place to watch the bridge from. A few other great viewpoints are Fort Point National Historic Site, Baker Beach, and Crissy Field.

4. Drive down Lombard Street

Lombard Street from the bottom

Lombard Street is known as the “crookedest street in the world.” This winding street is lined with Victorian houses and gardens, and it’s a popular spot for tourists and locals alike. You can explore this crooked street by driving down (it’s only one-way) the 8 sharp turns or by foot. You can get on this section of Lombard Street from Hyde St, down to Leavenworth St.

5. Explore Pier 39 in Fisherman’s Wharf

Inside Pier 39 in San Francisco

Pier 39 is a popular tourist destination in Fisherman’s Wharf. This pier is home to a variety of shops, restaurants, and attractions, including Ghirardelli Square, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Pier 39 is also a great place to see sea lions. These playful creatures can often be seen sunbathing on the docks or swimming in the bay.

6. Ride a cable car

San Francisco cable cars

Cable cars are one of the most iconic symbols of San Francisco. These historic streetcars are a great way to get around the city and see some of its most popular attractions. You can catch a cable car at one of the many stops throughout the city. The most popular route runs from Fisherman’s Wharf to Union Square. Tickets start at $8 USD per person.

7. Visit the Painted Ladies

Views of the Painted Ladies, San Francisco

The Painted Ladies are a row of Victorian houses that are painted in pastel colors. These houses are located in Alamo Square, and they’re one of the most popular tourist destinations in San Francisco. They have appeared in many movies and TV shows, most prominently as part of the opening credits of the 90s TV show Full House. The Painted Ladies are best viewed from Alamo Square across the street, but you can also walk up and take a closer look.

8. Check out Ferry Building Marketplace

Ferry Building Marketplaces, San Francisco

The Ferry Building Marketplace is a public market located in the Embarcadero neighborhood. This market is home to a variety of food vendors, shops, and restaurants. The Ferry Building Marketplace is a great place to sample some of the best food that San Francisco has to offer. You can also find a variety of unique souvenirs and gifts.

9. Catch a game in Oracle Park

Oracle Park Stadium

Oracle Park is home to the San Francisco Giants baseball team. This ballpark is located in the Mission Bay neighborhood and offers stunning views of the city skyline. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, Oracle Park is a great place to visit. You can take a tour of the ballpark, simply walk around and enjoy the views, or catch a game during baseball season.

10. Take the Hop-on hop-off bus tour

San Francisco streets

The Hop-on hop-off bus tour is a great way to see all that San Francisco has to offer, especially if you want to see a lot of the city in one day. This bus takes you to all of the city’s most popular attractions, and you can get off and on at any time. The bus runs from 10 am to 6 pm and stops at Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, Fisherman’s Wharf, Ferry Building, Painted Ladies, Union Square, Civic Center, Golden Gate Park, and more. Tickets start at $66 USD per person (as on October 2023).

These are just a few of the many things you can do in San Francisco. With its vibrant culture and stunning scenery, San Francisco is a city that has something to offer everyone.

If you need help booking your perfect San Francisco vacation, on a budget, read my blog about the best websites to book affordable travel. Or check out my services and let me personally help you!

Heads up: As a way to earn passive income, this post may contain affiliate links. This means that if you buy something through one of those links, I might get a commission at NO extra cost to you. I appreciate your support! 💕

Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach

October 26, 2023

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