Oh San Fran. How I love that city! The fog rolls in everyday, hugging the buildings in a fluffy grey sweater. The steep streets lined with houses, daring you to climb them. The energy of the place- busy, colorful, multi-cultural, and rich in California history, it’s woven into everything. San Francisco is the perfect long weekend trip- a city that beckons you to visit again and again. As soon as we leave, I mentally plan my next trip because there’s too much to explore there.
Here is my list of 5 fun free things to do in San Francisco.
- The Cable Car Museum -If you are in San Francisco you MUST visit this place. It’s amazing to see that this marvel of automation and engineering still keeps the city buzzing today. Not only is it a museum, but it houses the ENGINE of what’s running the cable cars TODAY. Make sure you go downstairs to view giant turbines and wheels spinning. Coming here will give a supreme appreciation of the underground workings of the city. Every time you step onto the cable car line in the street you can feel the rumble and heartbeat of San Francisco. Don’t forget to leave a donation! Let’s keep this place free for all to see.
2. Fortune Cookie Factory in China town -After visiting the Cable Car Museum, make your way to China Town. You’ll be transported abroad immediately when you see the red lanterns strung up between the narrow streets. The fortune cookie factory is a teeny tiny crowded box in the middle of a narrow street. The little old Asian ladies will barely look up as they quickly and skillfully fold the cookies and toss them in a pile. You can even have a personalized fortune made for a few bucks. They have giant fortune cookies, flat fortune cookies and flavored fortune cookies. I’m not sure why but I feel like the flat fortune cookies taste so much better! They’ll plow you with many free samples, especially if you buy anything- they’ll throw in a handful for free ones as well. While you’re in Chinatown, if you see a clean cardboard boxes lying around, pick it up to take on the next adventure…
3. Seward Street Slides -For every kid, or kid at heart, go play at Seward Street Slides! Okay, full disclosure- I’m not sure how these things still exist. The slides are two stories high and made of solid concrete. The slides are very vertical in nature so yah, it’s like going down a concrete roller coaster. Without a seatbelt. But hey, we played on merry go rounds and we survived right? In all seriousness, if you slide, be careful. Do not go down without cardboard, and please try not to die. There will usually be cardboard pieces lying around for you to use, if you don’t have anything. Make sure you are wearing sturdy pants or jeans when sliding. Do double check the hours and days because I hear they put gates up when its closed. We were literally the only people here, so kids and husband slid to their heart’s content. Once or twice was really enough for me! Inside tip: if you need to slow your ride- rub the cardboard (the side that will make contact with the slide) on some sandy dirt first. Try to be slick about it and do it when the kids aren’t looking. Tip 2, lean back and use your body weight to slightly slow you down so you don’t die. After getting your fill of the slides, climb uphill to Acme Alley for stunning views of downtown San Francisco and the Transamerica Building.
Where: On Seward Street, between Douglas Street and 19th Street
Transit accessible by the K, L, M, and T MUNI Metro Lines, and the 24, 33, 35, 37, and 48 MUNI bus routes. From BART, transfer to the MUNI Metro lines at Powell Street or Montgomery Street Stations or to the 48 MUNI bus line at 24th Street Station.
Open daily, 9am to 5pm.
4. Fort Point – For fantastic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and photo opportunities, stop at Fort Point. This military stronghold was completed just before the American Civil War by the United States Army, to defend San Francisco Bay against hostile warships. The brickwork, bridges and staircases are in remarkable condition. We loved it there- you could play an awesome game of hide and seek here, but I’m not saying you should do that. I’m not saying you should race down the massive hallways either. Because that would be irresponsible.
5. Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge – Now that you’ve seen the Golden Gate from the Fort, you’ve got to step foot on it! It’s only 3.7 miles across, and you don’t have to walk the whole thing. We were pressed for time so we only walked a portion of it and came back. There is nothing like being ON the bridge, feeling energy of the thousands of cars and commuters passing through!
SF is such a great city just to BE in! In addition to the above, there are many other free things to see and participate in. Check out San Francisco City Guides for a current listing of free guided tours!
Related: Visiting Hearst Castle
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