Save the tourist traps like Pier 39 for your second visit – a first trip to San Francisco should blow your mind.

San Francisco Golden Gate

Your first time visiting the foggy city? It’s your lucky day.

We’ve designed a guide to show you some of the best, most classic adventures for first timers to San Francisco, California – from a local’s perspective. You won’t find an itinerary like this in a tour package.

Land's End San Francsico

NATURE

Check out Land’s End for a vista of the end of the continent. Catch classic views of the bay all along the coast as you explore through groves of cypress trees towering high overhead and icicle plants blooming in various colors along the cliffs. Surrounded by coast, in San Francisco you’re never too far from the crashing waves of the ocean.

Urban Exploration

URBAN EXPLORATION

ABANDONED RUINS & MILITARY FORTS

San Francisco is absolutely full of abandoned places and fascinating ruins, all across the city, often hidden amongst the nature that is trying to reclaim it.

From the Sutro Baths ruins right on the beach, to Fort Baker stationed high up on the hills, to the Marin Headlands & Land’s End’s scenic forts & batteries – there are endless places to explore.

Keep an eye out for classic signs that you’ve made it to the best spots – they’ll be usually completely covered in colorful graffiti. Some of the best exploration in the city is in discovering places that have been long forgotten.

San Francisco Beach Sunrise

WALK IN THE PARK

 

To see another side of San Francisco, take your pick of the nearly endless options of classic city parks.

Check out the Palace of Fine Arts, a incredible architectural monument – the surreal structures are perfect for what feels like a mystical walk through time.

Lose yourself in the endless nature of Golden Gate Park, with activities like hiking, biking, & exploring the gardens, lakes, museums & historic buildings.

Visit the top of Twin Peaks, or the iconic scene at Alamo Square Park, or any of the numerous viewpoints throughout the city for scenic vistas of San Francisco.

San Francisco Sunrise

BEACH

Explore Ocean Beach at nearly any location along the Great Highway to find a wide stretch of coastline that extends out to the horizon and beyond. During certain times, immense waves crash along the shore, making this a great place to spot surfers. On a stormy day, scour the shore for sand-dollars and seashells.

For a beach with an unforgettable city view, check out any of the beaches on the coast below the Golden Gate Bridge – China Beach, Baker Beach, or Marshall Beach, all with equally stunning views. From the Marin Headland’s side, visit Kirby Cove’s beach, accessible after a short hike from the headlands down to sea level, for seclusion and city beach views.

Muir Woods

FOREST

MUIR WOODS – A first time adventure to SF demands a visit to the Redwood trees, one of California’s amazing natural phenomenon. Stroll under the canopies of silent, ancient giants alongside the river. Listen to the minute sounds of chirping birds and wind rustling through branches high overhead. These trees have stood for generations on top of generations – and they’re still standing, as big and beautiful as ever.

This redwood grove is located just above San Francisco in a protected valley beside the coast. Walk along pathways that wind between groves of costal redwood trees that are thousands of years old, and taller than the Statue of Liberty. Redwood trees are truly epic, and authentically California.

FOOD

San Francisco is a city that loves food – any dish you try will be a new experience worth having, especially if you venture to try something new – a particular dish or place.

Famous for excellent seafood, order something fresh at one of the many restaurants along the bay for a meal beside the ocean – a classic San Francisco experience.

When better to try the famous clam chowder bread bowls than your first visit to San Francisco? Around Fisherman’s Wharf, you’ll find a vast, almost daunting array of selections. Grab some fresh clam chowder in a classic sourdough bread bowl and enjoy it right beside the bay.

Chinatown is known for delicious, authentically San Francisco-Chinese style cuisine you won’t find anywhere else.

In San Francisco, there are unlimited options!

SF Golden Gate

SUNSET

GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE – End the perfect first day in San Francisco by watching the sunset behind the Golden Gate Bridge. There are so many amazing view points – wherever you choose to watch the day’s last light fade away, if you’re looking at the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll have an amazing time. We suggest the Marin Headlands for an unbeatable view of the city skyline just behind the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, or anywhere along Land’s End, the Torpedo Wharf, or the Krissy Field picnic area.

Bay Bridge Night

CITY LIGHTS

TREASURE ISLAND – For the best view of downtown, head over to Treasure Island after night falls and watch the whole bay sparkle. The Bay Bridge illuminates the water, creating colorful reflections – and good luck finding a better view of the San Francisco skyline anywhere else. There are incredible city views all along the shore, but to find the best views on Treasure Island, you’re going to have to do a little adventuring.

Adventure San Francisco

What are your favorite places to explore in San Francisco? Let us know down in the comments!