San Francisco area - suggestions for visitors
(updated November 2023)

Visitors often ask for suggestions on what do see in the San Francisco Area.  Here are some of our favorites, in no particular order. 

COVID notice - some of these places may be closed temporarily or permanently as a result of COVID.  Some may have restrictions.  Check before you go.  If you discover something is permanently closed, or have something fun to add, please contact me, Sue Kayton,

CAUTION - car break-ins are very common in the city of San Francisco, but not a problem in the surrounding cities.  If you park a car where it is within view of the public in the city of San Francisco, do not leave any valuables in sight.  If it is identifiable as a rental car, do not leave ANYTHING in the car, not even the registration or rental contract.  For rental cars, leave the doors unlocked, or a thief will smash the windows to steal possible valuables from the trunk.  Most San Francisco residents who park their cars on the street leave them empty and unlocked at all times to prevent broken windows.

WEATHER -The Bay Area has many micro-climates.  In the city of San Francisco itself, it's often cold, windy and foggy, especially in the summer.  Mark Twain famously quipped, "The coldest winter I ever spent was the summer in San Francisco."  The tourist areas sell a lot of sweatshirts, warm hats and gloves to tourists who show up in shorts and T-shirts.  The weather in San Francisco is most pleasant in the fall when the heavy fog and wind tend to moderate.  While it's 52 degrees and windy in downtown San Francisco, just a few miles inland, it can be over 100 degrees.  Dress in layers and be prepared for anything.  It almost never rains from late April through mid-November.  Rain is infrequent even from November-April. 

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION - All Bay Area public transit uses the Clipper Card.  You can use a physical plastic Clipper Card, you can use GooglePay or Apple Pay on your smartphone.  It works on BART (the subway), Caltrain (commuter rail), buses, cable cars, light rail, SMART, and other mass transit throughout the entire area.  Note that it does not work on Amtrak.

TOLL ROADS and TOLL BRIDGES.  If you are driving, you may want to get a FasTrak transponder to pay for bridge tolls and highway toll lanes.  Note that the bridges no longer have human toll-takers.  You either pay with FasTrak, stop at a kiosk before crossing the bridge, or get a very expensive bill from the rental car company.   FasTrak also works in Southern California, but neither region accepts the incompatible EZPass in common use on the east coast.  You can use the carpool lanes on the freeways with a FasTrak transponder - free with the minimum number of passengers, or pay if you have fewer people.  Taxis are almost non-existent except at the airports.

Atlas Obscura has this list of unusual things to see and do in the area. 

The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper has this top-20 list.  (May be behind a paywall)


In no particular order:

1)  Año Nuevo State Beach.  Elephant seals you can walk up close enough to smell.  Awesome.  Only there certain times of the year, generally Dec - April.  Reservations for naturalist-guided walks essential.  One hour south of San Francisco (or one hour from my house) on the coast, halfway to Santa Cruz. 

2) Alcatraz tours.  Site of the infamous former island prison and equally-infamous Native American occupation.  You need to take a ferry to get there and must book several weeks in advance since the ferries sell out. Allow about 3-4 hours.  The Alcatraz ferry leaves from the Fisherman's Wharf area, which is fun since there are lots of sidewalk stands selling fresh fish, crab, etc.  There are also a lot of tourist-oriented souvenir shops and the tacky Ripley Believe it or Not Museum.  Next to Fisherman's Wharf is Pier 39, chockablock with souvenir stores, Earthquake Experience (okay) and Underwater World (skip it).  Don’t miss the sea lions on the west side of the far end of Pier 39. You can take the San Francisco Water Taxi along the waterfront from the Hyde Street Fishing Pier all the way south to the Ferry Building (next to the Bay Bridge) and sometimes as far south as Oracle Park, home to the San Francisco Giants baseball team. 

3)  Golden Gate Bridge.  You can walk across or just park at the north end and walk out a little way to enjoy the view (if there's no fog).  Definitely plan to stop in the parking lot at the south end and see the cross-section of the cable supporting the bridge.  Fort Point is an old Civil-War era fort that is underneath the south end of the bridge.  Fort Point has a cannon-loading demonstration where they will teach kids how to load a cannon, done by appointment for groups off-season or scheduled times during tourist season. You cannot pay the bridge toll in cash, so pay in advance, especially if using a rental car, or use FasTrak.  The vista point at the north side of the bridge is a must-see, but sometimes closes on busy weekends when it's full and there's no place to park.  It's usually very windy, foggy and COLD on the bridge, so dress accordingly. 

4)  The Exploratorium is a must-see for kids ages 9-18  It is a hands-on science museum that will knock your socks off.  Most kids want to stay for an entire day.  Located on the Embarcadero.  Old-style science - magnetos, generators, light spectra, etc.  Open 9-5.  They have a great gift shop, and you can watch the ferries and pleasure boats from their windows.  If you are not a claustrophobe, make a reservation for the Tactile Dome.  There are many more things to do and see nearby on the Embarcadero as listed here including the trendy Ferry Building marketplace.  If the weather is fine, stroll along the Embarcadero to enjoy the view of the Bay and the city.

5)  Redwood trees - Muir Woods   (one hour north of the Golden Gate) or Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park (an hour south of San Francisco along route 17 just north of Santa Cruz).  Henry Cowell also has a steam train that runs weekends and has a short 1/4 mile loop trail through the huge trees, and a small visitors center.  Watch the steam train pull in but the train ride is long and boring.   Muir Woods' parking lot fills up early during weekends and summers, so arrive early or take the shuttle bus from Sausalito. You must make a reservation to use the Muir Woods shuttle or parking lot.

6)  Santa Cruz boardwalk roller coasters, bumper cars, etc. on the beach in Santa Cruz. $$$,   During Monarch butterfly season, visit the butterfly grove at Natural Bridges State Beach where thousands of Monarch butterflies overwinter in the trees.

7)  Paramount's Great America in Santa Clara.  Roller coasters, water flume rides, bumper cars, junk food, etc.  Near San Jose airport.  Open summers and occasional weekends during the year.  Scheduled to close in late 2023 forever.  Or visit the Six Flags theme park in Vallejo, one hour northeast of SF.  Roller coasters, and some trained animal acts (they are in the process of phasing out the animals).  Very expensive.  The Intel Museum (item #15) is just a few blocks away. 

8) Chinatown area.  Fun to window-shop and look at the weird produce, traditional medicines, and other items for sale.  Very difficult to park, except in the underground lot at Washington Park.  2 miles south of Fisherman's Wharf, 1/2 mile north of Union Square.  Great food in the restaurants, of course.  See item #37 for dim sum ideas.  While in Chinatown, don't miss the Cable Car Museum, which explains history of cable cars and see the huge motors and drums that make the system work.  Of course, you'll want to ride a cable car, too.  There are long lines (one hour) on weekends and in summer to board the cable cars at the stops at Fishermans' Wharf and Union Square, but there aren't lines weekdays in the winter or in the middle of the routes.  If you have more than 2 people, boarding in the middle of a route won't be practical in the summer since there won't be enough empty seats, or room to hang on the side of the car. 

9)  Walt Disney Family Museum.  In the Presidio, a former Army base.  His life, his characters, and his vision.  Multi-media exhibits.  Located in the Presidio, near the southern side of the Golden Gate Bridge.  The Presidio has numerous hiking and biking trails.

10)  Outdoor things to do in the city of San Francisco.  List compiled by the camping company REI.  Mostly hiking trails.  Their list includes San Francisco Botanical Garden, Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve, Glen Canyon Park, Fort Funston, San Francisco Bay Trail, the Radhaus at Fort Mason, Buena Vista park, San Bruno Mountain park with a great view of planes taking off from SFO, Hawk Hill with its view of the Golden Gate and hundreds of hawks per hour in migration season, Greenwich Steps, Tank Hill, Laurel Hill playground, and Angel Island state park including its immigration museum.

11)  Los Trancos open space preserve earthquake hike that straddles the San Andreas fault.  Print out a brochure so you know what geological features you are looking at, at each numbered sign.  Watch out for poison oak!!  It grows everywhere and can give you a nasty rash. See photo on the link above and remember that it looks similar to blackberry and grows in similar habitats.  So beware before berry-picking.  If you stay in the center of the trail and don't brush against the vegetation, you'll be fine.  Don't even brush against bare, dead twigs or branches - you can get a rash from them, too.

12)  The Fisherman's Wharf area of San Francisco has many things to visit.  Sidewalk vendors sell take-out crab and shrimp cocktails and their signature clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.  The wharf area is home to a dozen historic naval vessels.  Separate admission fees for the USS Jeremiah O'Brien, the last Liberty Ship left afloat, and the USS Pompanito submarine.  The wooden ships are located at the Hyde Street Pier.  The Maritime Museum tells the history of fishing and sailing in the area. Don't miss the Musee Mechanique which has antique wooden old-fashioned coin-operated games, all in working condition. (Like the fortune-telling machine Zoltan from the movie Big). These are mechanical, not electronic games. Pop quarters into the slots and have fun operating the wooden and cast-iron machines, or watch for free.  Lots of T-shirt shops, a wax museum, Ripley's Believe It or Not museum, and other tacky tourist tat.

13)  A short walk west from Fisherman's Wharf is Ghirardelli Square - Formerly a chocolate factory, now a tourist trap with art galleries and trendy clothes for sale.  Their gift shop sells Ghirardelli chocolate candy, milkshakes and chocolate-themed gifts.  Even if you don't plan to eat, go inside the restaurant/soda shop to see the chocolate making equipment at the rear and it explains how chocolate is made.  There is an interesting woodcarving shop on the lower level toward the beach. 

14) If you like garlic, eat at The Stinking Rose restaurant  on Columbus near Chinatown.  Garlic ice cream, garlic cheesecake, 12-clove garlic chicken, etc.  You can smell it two blocks away.  For even more garlic, see item #56. 

15)  Intel Museum in Santa Clara near San Jose Airport.  9-5 Mon-Fri only.  Free.  Teaches how integrated circuits are made.  Recently expanded so, if you haven’t been there in a while, you should visit again. 

16)  The Tech museum of Innovation in downtown San Jose.  Great for adults as well as kids.  Allow 4-5 hours.  Exhibits, many hands-on about high tech.  Also has IMAX theater, for which you often need to reserve tickets in advance during peak times, or if a school group is visiting.  While in downtown, the quilt and textile museum is one block away.  During Christmas season, the street in front of the Tech houses outdoor exhibits and Christmas in the Park during much of December.  Two miles north of downtown on North Fourth Street is my favorite BBQ restaurant, the Smoking Pig.  Eat in or take out. 

17)  Enjoy a “transit day” using as many modes of public transit as you can.  Take Caltrain, BART, cable car, ferry, bus, light rail, bicycle, Segway, pedicab, the San Francisco Water Taxi, and Muni bus.  If you will do this, get a Clipper Card which works on all the public transit, but not the private methods.

18)  Lombard Street between Fisherman's wharf and Chinatown.  Billed as the crookedest street in the world.  Remember the scene from movie the Love Bug?  Drive down or walk down.  You cannot turn left from southbound Hyde onto Lombard.  The easiest access is from northbound Hyde, turning right onto Lombard.  If there is too long of a line, drop passengers to have them walk down, then drive around to the bottom and collect them.  The city is considering prohibiting cars, putting a reservation system, or selling tickets, so check before going.

19)  The Zeum in the south-of-Market area is a new "high-tech" modern-art museum that most people consider a waste of time.  Also skip the Sony Metreon, just a bunch of movie theaters, fast food joints and video arcades. You don't need to come to San Francisco to see either of these.

20)  Oakland Zoo.  smaller than the San Francisco Zoo, but may be more convenient from your location.  Two sections of the zoo are separated by a cable car ride.  Great view from the cable car. 

21)  Facebook world headquarters (now known as Meta) at the corner of Willow Road and Bayfront Expressway (at the west end of the Dumbarton Bridge) in Menlo Park is a popular place for tourists to pose for a photo opportunity with their sign.  The buildings are not open to the public. 

22)  Union Square. home to the second-largest Macy's department store, bookstores, boutiques, etc.  Many art galleries a block or two west of Union Square, and David's Delicatessen (the best New York-style deli in SF), and the art gallery district.   Go into the Sir Francis Drake Hotel (west side) and take the glass elevator to the top, enjoy the view, and come back down.  Everyone else does it, so don't be bashful.

23)  Lawrence Hall of Science up the hill from the Berkeley campus. Not as interesting as Exploratorium or The Tech, but worth a visit if you have enough time.  While on the Berkeley campus, check out the happenings in Sproul Plaza, the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement.  There are almost always student activists or musicians doing something interesting.  Take a walk down Telegraph Avenue to watch the crazy street people.  You can park at Lawrence Hall of Science, but parking on the Berkeley campus is very difficult to find, so I recommend arriving at the convenient Berkeley BART station

24)  Stanford University.  Take the elevator up Hoover Tower for a nice view (small fee).  While in the tower, check out the mini-museum to former President Herbert Hoover, a Stanford graduate (free).  Walk through the outdoor  New Guinea Sculpture Garden.   Enjoy the outdoor Rodin Sculpture Garden adjacent to the free Cantor Arts Center (formerly called the Stanford Museum).  Walk into the main quad and go inside the magnificent Memorial Church, built from native redwood trees around 1900.  Print out a campus map  before you go.  Take the free Marguerite shuttle bus from the Palo Alto Caltrain station or bring quarters to pay for the parking meters and park near The Oval, near the Cantor Center, or Tressider Union.  Stanford has many art and music performances and even more athletic events.  Want a nice view?  Hike up to The Dish on one of Stanford's many hiking trails open to the public.  There is a little-known side entrance to The Dish off Alpine Road where it's usually easier to park.  Skip the Stanford visitors center since it offers little except a short video and a paper map.

25)  Hiller Aviation Museum.  Historical aircraft, in San Carlos.  Did you know that the first airplane to land onboard a ship happened right here in San Francisco Bay?  Don't miss thier extensive bookstore/gift shop.  You can eat lunch across the runway in the airport, watch the planes taking off and landing from your window seat at the airport restaurant / coffee shop and chat with the pilots.  The food isn't great, but it's an interesting experience.  Kids love the gift shop adjacent to the coffee/sandwich shop.  It sells a wide variety of model airplanes in addition to aviation maps.

26)  There are many places you can hike.  The Stanford Dish hike is very popular (start on Junipero Serra at the corner of Stanford or on Alpine Road about 1/4 mile north of I-280).  or there are many parks in the Peninsula Open Space District.    If you prefer a flat hike, visit the Palo Alto Baylands or Shoreline Park in Mountain View, or take one of the many trails at Point Reyes National Seashore about an hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge.  I can recommend the Los Trancos earthquake walk (item #11) and the flat trail through the redwoods along the creek bottom in Huddart County Park.  If you go to Huddart, after passing the ranger station, make your first right turn and drive to the bottom of the hill.  This gives you easy, flat access to the creek trail, without having to climb up and down the steep mountainside.  Watch out for poison oak in the hills (see item #11)

27) Filoli mansion and gardens.  Huge elegant old house with formal gardens.  Reservations recommended in summer, and essential on summer weekends.  The house is beautifully decorated during the Christamas season.  They have an earthquake hiking trail where you can see an offset fence.

28)  Lots of hiking in the local hills and mountains including the Los Trancos Earthquake Walk, which takes about 2 hours and crosses the San Andreas Fault several times.  Very interesting way to have fun and learn about the impact of the earthquakes on the landscape.  There are many other hikes in various sections of the Peninsula Open Space Preserves.  Read warning about poison oak under item #11.

29)  Winchester Mystery House.  Huge mansion built by a crazy lady who thought that, as long as she kept adding on, she would never die.  A tourist trap, but many people like it.  Near San Jose Airport. 

30)  Santa Cruz Mystery Spot.  Definitely don't bother with this.  A house built deliberately at a crazy angle to make you feel that gravity is tilted.  They put bumper stickers on your car without your permission to advertise their tourist trap.

31)  Science at NASA Ames Research Center.  Near San Jose airport.  Their Visitors Center includes a space museum (free) with Gemini capsule, moon rock.  Their enormous wind tunnel is not open to the public.  Occasional drop-ins of exotic aircraft.  Home to the Moffett Field Historical Museum.  The Air National Guard (by appointment) will take groups of kids around the base, let them climb in the smoke-jumping planes and talk about planes.  Admire the skeleton of Hangar One, built for blimps and being renovated.  The US Geological Survey is in the process of relocating here.  Once they finish moving in, you will be able to purchase topographical maps, educational materials, and get information from their visitors center, including materials from their Earthquake Science Center

32)  Monterey Bay Aquarium, two hours south of SF.  Fantastic if you like fish, otters, jellyfish, penguins, etc.  $$$ but there's an Auto Club discount.  Allow an entire day or two since there's lot of stuff to do in Monterey While in Monterey, go sea kayaking  to see seals and sea otters up close and personal. Or see them from a motorboat if you don't need the exercise.  Not for people who get motion sick easily.  At certain times of the year, you may see whales on a whale-watching trip.  Walk around historic downtown Monterey, the former capital of California under Mexican rule.  Drive or bike along 17-mile drive (toll road) for breathtaking views of the Pacific.  If you have children under 12, check out the unusual (but dated) Dennis the Menace Park in downtown Monterey with unusual climbing structures.  A few minutes south of Monterey is the quaint touristy town of Carmel-by-the-Sea with a pretty walk along the beach, swanky boutiques, trendy restaurants and many wineries in the surrounding area that offer wine-tasting.  The 18-th century Carmel mission is a short walk (or drive) south of the city of Carmel, and will re-open to the public once their renovation is complete.  The Monterey harbor has numerous seafood and fish restaurants, many with harbor views. 

35)  Downtown San Jose features the San Jose Giants  minor-league baseball team.  Much more fun than major league baseball, you’re right on top of the action, the price is right, and Turkey Mike's BBQ has fabulous ribs and grilled chicken.  They play in San Jose Municipal Stadium, convenient to the 280 freeway.  They do silly games and stunts between innings.  Check out the soon-to-be major leaguers before they become famous. The sun can be brutal so get a seat that will have shade later in the day (first base side, higher up) and bring a hat and sunscreen.  Their fourth of July fireworks game usually sells out, but other games usually have plentiful seats available.

36)  While you’re in downtown San Jose, just a few steps from the stadium are the San Jose Historical Park and (for little kids) the intimate Happy Hollow Zoo.  The Historical Park has a collection of old Victorian houses (most are furnished) that were moved from their original locations into the park to preserve them.  Two miles north of downtown San Jose on North Fourth Street is my favorite BBQ restaurant, the Smoking Pig.  Eat in or take out. 

37)  Eat dim sum (Chinese dumplings and small plates) - like tapas, only Chinese.  The most interesting are the places that have the little carts rolling around at lunchtime so you can see a wide variety and choose what you want form the carts. Here's a guide to dim sum for beginners.  Chinatown has several. Yank Sing has two locations in downtown San Francisco.  Their Rincon Center location has a parking garage.  They have a take-out window around the corner from their Stevenson sit-down location .  Or Koi Palace in Daly City,  Fu Lam Mum in Mountain View (outdoor seating available), New Port in Cupertino.  All of these places can be noisy and crowded, with waits of up to an hour for a table at peak times on weekends.  Try to make a reservation or get there early.  Or save money and get the more popular items from the limited number of items at the take-out-only Delicious Dim Sum in Chinatown.  If you can find a place to park, eat them a picnic table in Washington Square Park while you people-watch the Chinese grandfathers visiting with each other.  Or save even more money with a large selection at the hot food counter at 99 Ranch Market (several locations) during the middle of the day  It's cheap, but nowhere near as good as restaurant dim sum.  While at 99 Ranch, walk up and down the aisle to see the unusual items for sale, like red bean ice cream, cod tongues, dried jellyfish, preserved duck eggs, and an amazing selection of live fish and seafood.  If you're in the Palo Alto area, you can buy very inexpensive dim sum, frozen and ready to take home and cook, from Dumpling City

38)  California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.  Go early in the day to avoid crowds.  Aimed at kids ages 5-12 but adults like it, too.  It has an immersive earthquake experience so you can feel the ground shake, a walk-through butterfly garden, and the extensive Steinhart Aquarium with tons of fish and penguins.  While in Golden Gate Park, also visit the buffalo paddock, tulip garden and the adjacent windmills, Shakespeare Garden, and Japanese Tea Garden.  Rent paddleboats on Stowe Lake, or use the Koret playground at the east end.  The DeYoung art museum shares the underground parking lot with the Academy of Sciences.  Its extensive collection includes much ethnic art.  This parking lot usually fills up on weekends and during peak tourist season in the summer.  Wikipedia provides more info about this enormous park.  The DeYoung museum shares its admission ticket (last time I checked) with the Palace of the Legion of Honor art museum several miles away.  Some pretty hiking trails with excellent ocean views take off from the area near the Legion of Honor museum.  Many roads in Golden Gate Park are closed to cars in the summer to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to enjoy them.  You can rent bikes in the park.  At Stowe Lake, cross the short pedestrian bridge to enjoy the view of the city and the waterfall on Strawberry Hill in the middle of Stowe Lake in Golden Gate Park. 

39)  USS Hornet aircraft carrier in Alameda has an onboard museum including memorabilia from its recover of the Apollo 11 moon mission and many airplanes.  They offer overnight sleep-overs for groups by advance reservation.

40)  Wine-tasting is very popular in the Napa Valley, Sonoma County and Russian River areas an hour north of San Francisco, and in the Carmel Valley area an hour south of San Jose.  All of these areas have luxury spa-type hotels that cater to upscale wine-tasters.  There's a Wine Train in the Napa Valley that stops at some of the larger wineries so you don't have to drink and drive.  Or sign up for a van or limousine tour.  If you are in the Sebastopol/ Russian River area and are interested in plants, stop at California Carnivores which has a large walk-in greenhouse that displays and sells a wide variety of carnivorous plants like Venus fly traps and pitcher plans large enough to swallow a rat.  A half-hour north of the Napa wine area is the geothermal area of Calistoga with its geyser and geothermal power plant which does tours for groups by advance reservation. 

41)  Walk along the creeping section of the Hayward earthquake fault in downtown Hayward, start at City Hall and take a loop north for a few blocks, and a block east.  Easy access from BART.  Watch for offset sidewalks and cracks in buildings.

42)  Sanchez Adobe in Pacifica.  Go on a day when they have living history re-enactments.  See the life of the Californios before the Anglos arrived. 

43)  Museum of American Heritage in Palo Alto.  Artifacts from the old days like player pianos, hand-wringer washing machines, etc.  Constantly changing exhibits so, even if you’ve been before, go again. While in Palo Alto, drive past the HP Garage, where Silicon Valley got its start.  Not open to the public, but you can wave "hello" to the garage situated behind the private home. 

44)  Safari West – open-air wild animal park in Sonoma County.  Take a Jeep tour among free-ranging animals.  You can also stay overnight on the premises.  Advance reservations strongly recommended since tours fill up during busy times.

45)  Sonoma County, an hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge, has many small family-run specialty farms that give tours and free samples. 

46)  Randall Museum (natural history, aimed at kids) in San Francisco near Twin Peaks 

47)  Computer History Museum in Mountain View.  It takes a full day to see everything in detail, or zip through in an hour.  Don't miss their excellent bookstore/gift shop.  Just a few blocks from Google's world headquarters, called the Googleplex.  Many tourists like to get their photos taken in front of one of the Google buildings.  Check out the new Google visitors center. 

48)  Children and adults will enjoy a stroll and bird-watching on the edge of the bay at the Palo Alto duck pond at the Baylands Nature Preserve.  Take Embarcadero Road from 101 toward the bay.  When it dead ends just past the airport, turn left.  Park near the duck pond or continue to the parking lot at the end of the road.  There are many flat trails suitable for strollers or bikes so you can walk along the levees and watch the tide flowing in and out.  In years past, people would bring bread to feed the ducks, but if you do that now, a park ranger will show up and scold you.  It's also a great spot to watch the small planes taking off from Palo Alto Municipal Airport, and landing right over your head.  Bring binoculars if you are a birder.

49)  Another flat area to stroll in the baylands is in Mountain View, adjacent to the Shoreline Amphitheater.  You can lunch at Michael's or the Shoreline Lake American Bistrt.  While you are in the area, walk past the GooglePlex, Google's world headquarters, to take a photo in front of their buildings or see their visitor's center  There are several photogenic buildings with whimsical structures in front.  There is no street parking in the Googleplex area, so you may need to walk in from the Shoreline parking lot.  Or drop off your passengers for a photo, then come back and get them. 

50)  San Francisco Zoo  is a short distance south of the western end of Golden Gate Park.  Don't miss the children's section with its petting zoo, spider-web climbing structure and insectarium.  While near the park, see other sites (#38 on this list)

51)  The original European settlers of California were Franciscan missionaries, who founded Mission Dolores in San Francisco and Mission Santa Clara in Santa Clara, an hour drive south.  Both are working Catholic churches which are open to the public, but disappointing to visitors since they look just like any other Catholic church and lack museums.  If you drive down the California coast, you may want to visit some of the other 19 missions - some have been restored and have museums, and others are in ruins. Check before you visit since closures are common for repair and restoration of these 300 year-old buildings.

52)  Point Reyes National Seashore has pretty hiking.  The half-hour flat Earthquake hike takes you to a fence that was offset by more than 16 feet during the 1906 earthquake.  The coastal road from the Golden Gate Bridge is very winding and slow - most people take the inland route to reach Point Reyes.  The San Andreas fault dramatically separates Point Reyes from the California mainland, as you can see if aerial photos, and witnessed by Tomales Bay.  There's also an interesting offset fence on the Bear Valley visitors center in Olema, just south of Tomales Bay.  Be prepared for wind and fog. 

53)  Pinnacles National Park has bizarre rock formations left over from its volcanic past.  Hiking trails and rock climbing.  A two-hour drive south of San Francisco, near the motorcycle haven of Hollister

54)  The visitors center at Lick Observatory atop Mount Hamilton.  At the end of a very long, windy mountain road east of San Jose.  Don't even think about if it you tend to get carsick.  Amazing views from the top on a clear day.  A few days each winter we get a dusting of snow at the highest elevations, so people drive up this road to play in it.

55)  Coit Tower sits atop Telegraph Hill in downtown San Francisco.  You can pay a nominal fee to take the elevator to the top for a gorgeous view (bring a piece of cardboard to coax foreign coins off the window ledge).  If you're lucky, you'll get to meet some of the local parrots that roost in trees on the hill, as celebrated in the film The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. 

56) An hour south of San Jose (two hours south of San Francisco) along the 101 freeway is Gilroy, the garlic capital of the world.  Take a whiff when you pass Gilroy Foods garlic packing plant.  The smell will curl your hair at 1000 yards!  Many stores sell garlic wine, garlic ice cream, etc.  Gilroy also has a huge complex of outlet stores.  The city used to have an annual Garlic Festival, but it has been permanently canceled.

57)  For Apple computer fans, their Apple Park visitors' center in Cupertino has a small exhibition about the history of the company, but it's mostly just a shop selling souvenirs and tech items. 

58)  The Rosicrucian Museum and garden is unique.  Even if you don't care about their religion, they have a pretty garden and an interesting collection of Egyptian artifacts.  Several times a day they offer a guided tour of their replica Egyptian tomb.  This museum is located near the San Jose municipal rose garden which is worth a visit during the blooming season.

59)  Along Skyline Boulevard in the mid-Peninsula, there are hiking trails in Purissima Redwoods preserve and you can have a snack at Alice's Restaurant among the redwoods. 

60)  Hike along Stevens Creek downhill from the Lexington Reservoir. 

61)  Old town in Los Gatos and downtown Saratoga are pretty to walk around.  Hakone Japanese garden in downtown Saratoga is lovely. 

62)  At the east end of the Bay Bridge, Emeryville is home to the Emeryville Public Market, a gigantic food hall with dozens of fast-food ethnic eateries.  You can take a picture at the entrance to Pixar Studios, but it is not open to the public. 

63)  The Flintstone House is a very unusual private residence in Hillsborough with bizarre architecture and even more bizarre decorations in the back yard.  You can view it from the northbound 280 freeway, between exits 34 and 35. About 1/4 mile north of exit 34 (Bunker Hill Road), look off to the right as you pass over the canyon and you will see it.  Slow down, but it's not legal to stop.  There is no access to house from surface streets, and you can't see anything from the surface streets.  There are many articles online with photos of the inside and out. 


64)  Foster Museum.  Watercolor plein-air paintings.  Open by appointment or for special events only.  In Palo Alto. 


Here's a link to tips for avoiding crowds at the major SF attractions There are many commercial sites with other ideas about SF visiting.  Here is one:

San Francisco is well-known as a foodie spot.  Here is a list of landmark restaurants and eateries in San Francisco itself.  There are many other places scattered throughout the Bay Area.

Have a suggestion to add, or want to provide a correction or more detail?  Email Sue Kayton,