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100 Best Free Things to Do in the San Francisco Bay Area

The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the most beautiful and diverse regions in the world and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. From the towering redwoods of Muir Woods to the bustling streets of downtown San Francisco, there is something for everyone to enjoy. And best of all, many of the area’s most popular attractions can be enjoyed for free. With so much to see and do, it can be hard to know where to start. That’s why I’ve put together this list of 100 best free things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area! Whether you’re a local or just visiting for a few days, you are sure to find something on this list that piques your interest. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and explore!

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1. The Golden Gate Bridge

Towering majestically over the San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the United States. And it’s not just a pretty face – at nearly 2 miles long, the bridge is also one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. Best of all, visiting the Golden Gate Bridge is completely free! There are several ways to enjoy the bridge, from strolling or biking along the pedestrian walkway to taking a scenic drive across it. No matter how you choose to experience it, the Golden Gate Bridge is sure to take your breath away!

2. Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park is one of the most beloved attractions in the San Francisco Bay Area. Spanning more than 1,000 acres, the park is an urban oasis that is home to a wide variety of plants and animals. Visitors can explore miles of hiking and biking trails, picnic areas in serene meadows, and rowboat on peaceful lakes. The park also features several world-class museums, including the California Academy of Sciences and the de Young Museum. Best of all, admission to Golden Gate Park is free! Whether you’re a local or a visitor, spending a day at Golden Gate Park is a great way to experience all that the Bay Area has to offer.

Visit the Japanese Tea Garden

They offer free admission for anyone that enters between 9 am and 10 am on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings.

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Visit San Francisco Botanical Garden

It’s free to enter for anyone that enters through the main gate between 7:30 am and 9 am daily.

Visit the Conservatory of Flowers

This beautiful Victorian greenhouse is home to an extraordinary collection of rare and exotic plants. The Conservatory is free to all visitors on the first Tuesday of every month.

Tip: See the Conservatory of Flowers burst with vibrant and luminous displays during the holiday season

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Conservatory of Flowers during the holiday season!

Visit de Young Museum

Every Saturday the de Young offers free general admission to all bay area residents of the nine Bay Area counties. Also, general admission is free on the first Tuesday of every month. If you are not in the mood to enter the galleries in De Young, head up to the Hamon Education Tower Observation Deck, which you can access for free. The views from the observation deck are breathtaking. You can see all of San Francisco, Golden Gate Park, and even Marin Headlands! It is such an amazing spot to take in 360-degree panoramic scenery with your significant other or kids on family day trips. Also, don’t miss seeing the beautiful sculpture garden beside the cafe at De Young Museum.

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Beautiful sculpture garden at De Young Museum.

Spreckels Temple of Music in the Music Concourse 

Whether you’re a music lover or simply looking for a unique experience, Spreckels Temple of Music is well worth a visit. Enjoy live music on Sundays.

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Spreckels Temple of Music in the Music Concourse 

Stow Lake and Strawberry Hill

One great spot for a nature break is Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park. This man-made lake is a beautiful oasis in the heart of the city, and it’s perfect for a leisurely stroll or rowboat ride. Just be sure to keep an eye out for the resident peacocks! Strawberry Hill is another must-see spot in Golden Gate Park. This lush hilltop offers stunning views of the city and bay, and it’s a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch.

3. Fisherman’s Wharf

San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city. And it’s no wonder why – there’s so much to see and do! Here are just a few of the many things you can do for free at Fisherman’s Wharf:

Explore the historic waterfront area – Take a stroll down the wharf and take in the sights and sounds of this historic area. Don’t forget to check out the famous San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park while you’re here. There are also a number of restaurants and cafes lining the wharf, so you can grab a bite to eat while you’re exploring.

Visit Pier 39 – This is one of the most popular attractions at Fisherman’s Wharf. Pier 39 is home to a variety of shops, restaurants, and entertainment options. And of course, you can’t visit Pier 39 without checking out the sea lions! They are sure to make you smile.

Take a ferry ride – Ferry rides are a great way to see San Francisco from the water. And luckily, there are a number of ferry rides that depart from Fisherman’s Wharf. Best of all, many of these ferry rides are free!

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Giant crab statue, pier 39

4.Truhlsen-Marmor Museum of the Eye, San Francisco

The Truhlsen-Marmor Museum of the Eye is a hidden gem in the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood of San Francisco. This free, public museum is dedicated to the fascinating science of sight, and it houses a comprehensive collection of ophthalmic instruments and artwork. Visitors can learn about the history of eye care, explore different types of vision disorders, and see firsthand how modern technology is changing the field of ophthalmology. The Museum also offers educational programs for all ages, making it a great resource for families and school groups. Whether you’re interested in learning more about the human eye or simply want to spend an afternoon at a unique museum, the Truhlsen-Marmor Museum of the Eye is sure to be a memorable experience. This is the world’s only free, public museum dedicated to the fascinating science of sight.

5. Lombard Street

The San Francisco Bay Area is a mecca for free activities. From world-renowned landmarks to hidden gems, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Lombard Street is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, and it is easy to see why. The winding road, lined with beautiful flowers, offers breathtaking views of the bay. And the best part is, there is no charge to walk or drive down Lombard Street. Whether you are visiting the Bay Area for the first time or you are a local looking for a fun activity, be sure to add Lombard Street to your list.

6. Union Square 

Union Square is one of the most popular tourist destinations in San Francisco, and for good reason. The area is home to a wealth of shopping, dining, and entertainment options. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll through the nearby Embarcadero Center, or catch one of SF’s iconic cable cars, up to Nob Hill. With its central location, Union Square is also a great starting point for exploring the rest of the city. And best of all, many of the attractions in the area are completely free. TheSFMurals Arts Walking Tour offers a self-guided tour of more than 50 murals in the area, while the Museum of Ice Cream features rotating exhibitions of sweet treats from around the world. For a truly unique experience, head to 21 Post Street and catch a glimpse of the world’s smallest police station.

7. Mission District and Mission Murals

The Mission District in San Francisco is renowned for its vibrant street art, with colorful murals adorning buildings on almost every block. But there’s more to this neighborhood than just art – it’s also home to some of the best Mexican food in the city, as well as live music and nightlife. And best of all, many of the district’s attractions can be enjoyed for free. For a taste of the local flavor, start with a stroll down Valencia Street, where you’ll find plenty of independent shops and cafes. Then head to one of the area’s many parks, such as Dolores Park or Precita Park, where you can relax in the sunshine or explore the surrounding neighborhood. If you’re looking for something a little more active, consider taking a free guided tour of the Mission District’s murals, led by a local artist.

100 Free things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, Travel Realizations, The Women’s Building is home to one of San Francisco’s largest and best-known murals - The MaestraPeace Mural
The Women’s Building is home to one of San Francisco’s largest and best-known murals – The Maestra Peace Mural

8. Twin Peaks

Located in the midst of San Francisco, Twin Peaks provides stunning 360-degree views of the cityscape. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and even across the bay to Oakland. The best way to experience Twin Peaks is to take a hike up one of the hills. There are two main hiking trails, each about a mile long, that wind through the grassy meadows and woods. Along the way, you’ll be treated to some of the most incredible views in all of San Francisco. And the best part is that it’s completely free! So whether you’re a local looking for a new place to explore or a visitor wanting to make the most of your time in San Francisco, be sure to add Twin Peaks to your list.

9. Alamo Square Park

Alamo Square Park is one of the most popular parks in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it’s easy to see why. The park offers sweeping views of the city, and it’s a great place to relax or take a leisurely stroll. Best of all, admission is free. The park is located in the Western Addition neighborhood of San Francisco, and it’s easily accessible by public transportation. Visitors can also take advantage of the nearby restaurants and cafes, making Alamo Square Park the perfect place to spend a day in the city.

10. Coit Tower

Coit Tower is one of the most recognizable landmarks in San Francisco. Situated atop Telegraph Hill in the city’s North Beach neighborhood, the tower offers stunning 360-degree views of the Bay Area. Best of all, admission to the tower’s ground floor is free for everyone. This is where most of the murals are located. Visitors can take the elevator to the top of the tower for panoramic views of the city and bay. On a clear day, you can even see all the way to Oakland and across the Golden Gate Bridge. If you’re feeling energetic, you can also hike up to the top of Telegraph Hill for an even more sweeping view. Either way, a visit to Coit Tower is a great way to get a bird’s-eye view of San Francisco.

11. The Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts is a beautiful example of classical architecture, and it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Built-in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, the Palace of Fine Arts is now a popular spot for weddings and other events. Visitors can enjoy the peaceful setting, take a stroll through the grounds, or rent a paddleboat to explore the lagoon. Best of all, admission to the Palace of Fine Arts is free. So whether you’re looking for a place to enjoy a quiet moment or capture some great photos, be sure to add the Palace of Fine Arts to your list of must-see places in the Bay Area.

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The Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco

12. Treasure Island

Treasure Island in San Francisco is a must-see for anyone visiting the Bay Area. This man-made island offers incredible views of the city skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz Island. Even better, there are plenty of free things to do on Treasure Island. Visitors can stroll along the waterfront promenade, picnic in one of the many parks, or simply enjoy the stunning views. You can also visit Treasure Island Museum. The exhibits here are free and accessible to the public on weekdays from 9 am to 5 pm. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day trip or a way to explore San Francisco on a budget, Treasure Island is definitely worth a visit.

13. Angel Island

A taste of wilderness in the midst of the urban Bay Area and some of the most breathtaking views in the Bay Area can be found on Angel Island. This state park is only a short ferry ride from San Francisco and well worth the trip. Once on the island, visitors can hike or bike along the many trails, picnic in one of the scenic spots, or simply enjoy the best views. Whether you’re looking for a challenging hike or just a place to enjoy the view, Angel Island is well worth a visit.

14. Sutro Baths

The tiny stretch of coastal forest known as Land’s End is located in the northwest part of San Francisco. The Lands’ End Trail is a short walk or stroll that takes you to Sutro Baths, the Labyrinth, and Eagle Point. When you reach the ruins of Sutro Baths, one of the historic sites in San Francisco, you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported back in time. The millionaire Adolph Sutro built the Sutro Baths in 1894.

15. The Randall Museum 

This is a magical little museum tucked away in the middle of Corona Heights. With a focus on hands-on, interactive exhibits about nature, the Randall is perfect for kids who want to touch and feel everything. The museum has live animals, gardens, art classes, and rotating exhibitions in addition to its permanent collection. There’s also a quaint little cafe And best of all, admission is free! There’s also a quaint little cafe.

16. Ferry Building

Located on the Embarcadero, where Market Street meets the water, the Ferry Building has been an iconic fixture of the San Francisco skyline since it was completed in 1898. Today, it is home to a variety of shops and restaurants, as well as a weekly farmers’ market. Visitors can also take a self-guided tour of the building, which offers spectacular views of the Bay Bridge and San Francisco Bay. Whether you’re looking to do some shopping, grab a bite to eat, or simply soak up the sights and sounds of this historic city, the Ferry Building is a must-see for any visitor to the Bay Area.

17. Free Museum Days in San Francisco for museums that are not free

SF MoMA

Free days:  SFMOMA offers regularly scheduled free days and free evenings, and guests 18 and younger always enjoy free admission to the museum. Check upcoming free dates and activities.

Asian Art Museum

Free days: The Asian Art Museum offers free or reduced admission to its collection galleries and special exhibitions. Check upcoming free dates and activities.

Contemporary Jewish Museum

Free days: Visit the CJM with free admission on the first Friday of each month! Free First Fridays are open to all visitors. Check upcoming free dates and activities.

Exploratorium

Free days: Exploratorium offers free days just four to five times a year. Check the dates.

de Young Museum

Free days: The de Young offers several programs for free or reduced admission to permanent galleries and special exhibitions. Check all the programs before you go.

18. Salesforce Park

Salesforce Park is a verdant oasis that rests 70 feet above the street atop the Salesforce Transit Center. The park is completely free and open for the public to visit at any time. It features a wide variety of plant life, including trees, shrubs, and flowers. There are also several walking paths, a children’s play area, and a performance lawn. This Floating Park is a paradise amid SF’s Skyscrapers and is the perfect place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy some peace and quiet.

19. Plugas Water Temple in Redwood City

Plugas water temple is a hidden gem in the Bay Area. It is a small piece of Europe in the heart of Silicon Valley. A great destination for a relaxing walk or a family picnic. This is open only during the weekdays. The best part is, there is no entrance fee and the parking is free too.

20. Free Coastal Access at Ritz Carlton, Half Moon Bay

One hidden gem is the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay. While the hotel itself is quite pricy, visitors can enjoy stunning coastal views from the property’s blufftop location. There is also a small beach access point where people can relax and take in the scenery. Additionally, the Ritz Carlton offers complimentary walking and biking trails that wind through picturesque gardens and along the coast. With so much to explore, the Ritz Carlton is a great option for those looking to experience the best of the Bay Area without breaking the bank.

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Ritz Carlton, Half Moon Bay

21. Stanford University Campus

Stanford University is one of the world’s leading research and teaching institutions, and its campus is a National Historic Landmark. Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Stanford offers a unique blend of academic and technological resources. Visitors can explore the university’s beautiful grounds, visit the Cantor Arts Center, or take a tour of the campus. Stanford also offers a variety of public lectures and events that are open to the community. Best of all, admission to Stanford University is absolutely free. So whether you’re looking to learn more about the latest research or just enjoy a day in one of the Bay Area’s most beautiful settings, be sure to add Stanford University to your list of 100 free things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area.

22. Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford

The Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford is one of the most incredible places to see art in the Bay Area. Not only is admission free, but the collection is diverse and impressive, ranging from ancient sculptures to contemporary paintings. The center also frequently hosts special exhibitions, many of which are free to the public. Whether you’re a die-hard art lover or simply looking for a fun way to spend an afternoon, the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts is definitely worth a visit. Undoubtedly, this is one of the best free museums in the Bay Area.

23. Hewlett Packard Garage

The Birthplace of Silicon Valley is a 12′ by 18′, detached garage in which technology pioneers Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard began their now Fortune 500 company. The Historic Site doesn’t offer tours but you can take pictures standing near where history was made. This place brings a lot of inspiration and motivation. It is hard to believe that such a small space could have given birth to one of the most influential companies in the world.

Address: 📍367 Addison Avenue, Palo Alto, California

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Hewlett Packard Garage

24. Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden

Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden is a public garden. You’ll be happy and calm in no time as you enjoy walking through this beautiful garden. The home was closed when I went, but the gardens impressed me with how carefully and meticulously they are kept. All the plants from far away places live in harmony and continue to delight plant and flower lovers. It’s the perfect place to go on a sunny afternoon after lunch. You’ll be glad you did.

Address: 📍 1431 Waverley St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

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25. Palo Alto Art Center

The Palo Alto Art Center is a great place to see some art, take a class, or participate in an event. The center has a variety of artwork on display, as well as a sculpture garden. Admission to the art center is free, and there are often free events and programs taking place. Whether you’re an artist yourself or just enjoy viewing art, the Palo Alto Art Center is worth a visit.

Address: 📍 1313 Newell Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94303

26. The Museum of American Heritage


The Museum of American Heritage is a great place to learn about the history of technology. The museum features displays of early telephones, telegraphs, computers, and more. Admission to the museum is free, and there are often free events and programs taking place. If you’re interested in learning about the history of technology, the Museum of American Heritage is a great place to start. This is a fascinating little museum.

27. Fossil exhibits at the Valley Life Sciences Building, University of California, Berkeley

The Valley Life Sciences Building at the University of California, Berkeley is home to a number of fascinating fossil exhibits. One of the most popular is the exhibit on Tyrannosaurus rex, which features a full-size replica of the dinosaur’s skull. Visitors can also learn about the geology of the region and how fossils are formed. Other exhibits focus on early human history and the evolution of plants and animals. No matter what your interests are, you’re sure to find something to appreciate at the Valley Life Sciences Building fossil exhibits.

28. Santa Cruz Boardwalk

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a mile-long beachfront amusement park. It is the oldest amusement park in California and one of the last seaside amusement parks on the west coast of the United States. The Santa Cruz Boardwalk is still a popular spot for Northern California families. The Boardwalk’s attractions include the Giant Dipper roller coaster and Looff Carousel, both of which are National Historic Landmarks as well as a California Historic Landmark. And the good news is that admission to the Boardwalk is free.

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Santa Cruz Boardwalk

29. Capitola

The seaside village of Capitola is a popular destination for visitors to the San Francisco Bay Area. Nestled between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Monterey Bay, Capitola offers a beautiful setting for a variety of activities. Visitors can enjoy strolling down historic Capitola Avenue, browsing the unique shops, and stopping for a bite to eat at one of the local cafes. Capitola Beach is perfect for sunbathing, swimming, surfing, and kayaking, and there are also several hiking trails in the area. For those looking for a more relaxed experience, the New Brighton State Beach offers a serene setting for picnicking and beachcombing. With so many free things to do, Capitola is the perfect place to spend some time.

30. West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz

West Cliff Drive is a scenic, 3-mile promenade and undoubtedly it is an easy day trip from San Francisco. While walking the path I stop often to take in the refreshing views of Monterey Bay. Soak up the sun and do some people watching before heading to the Natural Bridges State Park.

 

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West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz

31. Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz

Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz is an excellent place for viewing shorebirds, migrating whales, as well as seals, and otters playing offshore. This state park is also well known as a hotspot to see monarch butterfly migrations. The Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve is home to up to 150,000 monarch butterflies from October through early February. Explore this place to your heart’s content and let the wonders attract the child in you. 

32. Neary Lagoon in Santa Cruz

Neary Lagoon is a nature lover’s paradise, located in the heart of Santa Cruz. The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including ducks, geese, swans, egrets, and herons. There are also numerous trees and shrubs, providing shelter and food for the animals. The highlight of the park is its boardwalk, which winds through the lagoon and provides excellent views of the wildlife. In addition to the boardwalk, there are also several floating bridges, which provide a more intimate experience with the lagoon’s inhabitants. Whether you’re looking for a place to relax or an opportunity to learn about nature, Neary Lagoon Park is a great choice.

33. Santa Cruz Surfing Museum 

The Santa Cruz surfing museum is a must-see for anyone interested in the history of surfing. The museum tells the story of Santa Cruz’s surfing culture through a collection of photographs, surfboards, and other memorabilia. The exhibits trace the origins of surfing in Santa Cruz to the present day and provide a fascinating look at the evolution of the sport. Whether you’re a surfing enthusiast or simply curious about the history of the sport, the Santa Cruz surfing museum is worth a visit. And the best thing is, admission is completely free.

34. Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt

The Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the San Francisco Bay Area. And it’s no wonder why – the garden is home to over 150 beautiful bonsai trees, ranging in age from 100 to 1,000 years old. Don’t miss Daimyo Oak, the oldest bonsai tree in the U.S. It was brought to the US in 1867. Visitors can stroll through the gardens at their leisure, admiring the intricate shapes and sizes of the trees. Best of all, admission to the garden is free! So if you’re looking for a peaceful and relaxing place to spend an afternoon, be sure to check out the Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt.

Address: 📍 650 Bellevue Ave., Oakland, CA 94610

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35. Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland

The Cathedral of Christ the Light is a stunning piece of architecture located in Oakland, California. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful stained glass windows and intricate woodwork inside the cathedral, or take a walk around the grounds to admire the building from all angles. Best of all, admission to the cathedral is free, making it a great activity for budget-minded travelers. The cathedral is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, and mass is held several times throughout the week. Visitors are welcome to attend mass, or simply explore the cathedral at their own pace. With its beautiful setting and rich history, the Cathedral of Christ the Light is a must-see for anyone visiting the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland

36. Oakland California Temple

The Oakland California Temple is one of the most beautiful buildings in the San Francisco Bay Area. Located in Oakland, this temple is always a place where you can feel at peace. The visitor center is open to the public, and parking is free. The best time to visit the temple is during the holidays when the grounds are decorated with lights and there is a special atmosphere of peace and joy. The Oakland California Temple is also a great place to get a panoramic view of downtown Oakland and San Francisco.

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Oakland California Temple

37. Lake Merritt

One popular tourist attraction in the San Francisco Bay Area is Lake Merritt and 140 acres of parkland. Lake Merritt is a unique urban space in the heart of America’s most diverse city, Oakland. This tidal lagoon is a great place to enjoy the outdoors. You can go for a walk or jog around the lake. Enjoy the views while you listen to live music from local performers or rent a boat and go for a paddle. There are also several restaurants and cafes located around the lake, so you can grab a bite to eat after your stroll.

38. African American Museum and Library

This is a hidden gem in Oakland that not many people know about. The African American Museum and Library is a great place to learn about the history and culture of African Americans in the United States. The museum features exhibits on topics such as the Civil Rights Movement, Black History Month, and more. The library has a collection of books, magazines, and newspapers that focus on African American history and culture. Admission to the museum and library is free, making it a great activity for budget-minded travelers. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, and the library is open Monday through Friday.

39. Morcom Rose Garden

The Morcom Rose Garden in Oakland is a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike. Opened in the late 1920s, this eight-acre municipal rose garden features more than 6,000 rose bushes of all varieties. It has thousands of exotic roses that are in bloom from Mother’s Day in May through October 31st. The fragrant blooms are a welcome sight after a long winter. In addition to the roses, the garden features a variety of other flowers, trees, and shrubs. Visitors can stroll along the winding paths, relax on the benches, and take in the stunning views. The Morcom Rose Garden is a hidden gem in the Bay Area, and it’s a great place to enjoy a sunny day.

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Morcom Rose Garden – Amphitheatre of Roses

40. Bay Area’s Best Redwood Hikes

Bay Area’s Redwood forests are beautiful and are a photographer’s and hiker’s paradise. A hike among the giants is the most pleasing way for getting up close and personal with them. There are plenty of options in the San Francisco Bay Area to experience nature at its finest amidst the redwood forests.

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Bay Area’s Best Redwood Hikes

41. The Wave Organ

One of the most unique activities in the San Francisco Bay Area is visiting the Wave Organ, a delightful sculpture that harnesses the ebb and flow of water in order to create haunting music. In addition to exploring this fascinating water feature, visitors can take in beautiful views of the bay from below and watch as seals swim by silently from above. So if you’re looking for an enchanting day out in San Francisco (or surrounding areas), make sure to add a visit to the Wave Organ to your itinerary!

42. Coyote Point Recreation Area

Coyote Point Recreation Area is a great place to enjoy the outdoors in San Francisco Bay. There are several miles of trails for hiking and biking, as well as a golf course, tennis courts, and a playground. The best part of Coyote Point is that it offers stunning views of San Francisco Bay. You can see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and the city skyline. Admission to the recreation area is free, making it a great activity for budget-minded travelers. Coyote Point is open daily from sunrise to sunset.

43. The Butterfly House

This quirky Butterfly House in Pacific Grove is a true gem. This private residence is home to hundreds of colorful butterfly sculptures. This House is the creative labor of J Jackson, for his wife Sonja.

44. Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary

Monarch butterflies overwinter in Pacific Grove every year from November through mid-February. They cluster together on pine, cypress, and eucalyptus trees in the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary. It’s an amazing sight, and it’s perfectly free. So if you find yourself in the Bay Area this winter, be sure to add Pacific Grove to your itinerary. The Monarchs will be happy to welcome you.

Address:📍 250 Ridge Rd, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

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This vibrant mural at the entrance of the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary is beautiful!

If you are interested to know more, you may choose to visit the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History.

45. Perkins Park

Pacific Grove, the small town is beautiful all year-long. But the magic carpet or the blooming ice plant that graces Pacific Grove’s shoreline at Perkins Park during the spring makes it one of the perfect destinations for spring break.

100 Free things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, Travel Realizations, Perkins Park
Magic carpet at Perkins Park

46. Almaden Quicksilver County Park

Located in South San Jose, Almaden Quicksilver County Park is a sprawling park that covers over 4,163 acres and is home to miles of hiking and biking trails, as well as opportunities for camping, fishing, and horseback riding. Additionally, this popular park features several historical sites, including the remains of the New Almaden mercury mine. During early spring, the park offers one of the most spectacular wildflower displays in the region. This park is a popular destination for hikers and nature lovers, thanks to its beautiful scenery and abundance of wildlife.

Tip: Choose the Hacienda entrance to the park. It features the iconic New Almaden bell tower and outdoor mining museum in the parking lot of the Hacienda Entrance. Also, don’t miss seeing St. Anthony Church, located within a minute of walking distance. It is one of the oldest churches in San Jose and features beautiful architecture.

47. Seal Cove Cypress Tree Tunnel in Moss Beach

Seal Cove Cypress Tree Tunnel in Moss Beach is a hidden gem. During the pandemic, I often visited here and heaved a sigh of relief. It was a beautiful escape from the monotony of quarantined life. A magical canopy of cypress trees here creates a 1/2 mile-long tunnel on one side with beautiful ocean views on the other side. When I laid my eyes on the coast far into the distance, I saw a herd of seals happily sunbathing on the beach. This place is a short 30 mins drive from San Francisco and offers a break from the humdrum of city life. Officially, this is part of the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.

48. The Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

Located just a few miles north of downtown San Francisco, this popular marine park spans over 70 acres and features tide pools filled with an abundance of sea life. Here, visitors can observe everything from colorful anemones and crabs to eels and starfish. Best of all, this pristine coastal sanctuary comes at absolutely no cost.

49. Santana Row

Santana Row, a lively urban district in San Jose is home to shops, restaurants, and bars, as well as a variety of events and activities. On any given day, you can enjoy live music, watch a street performance, or take part in a yoga class. There’s also a farmer’s market every Wednesday, where you can buy fresh local produce. And if you’re looking for some relaxation, there’s no better place than The Plazas at Santana Row. These beautiful outdoor spaces are perfect for people-watching or enjoying the Bay Area’s mild weather.

Beautiful Christmas Tree at Santana Row

50. 17 Mile Scenic Drive

17 Mile Drive is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Bay Area, and it’s easy to see why. This scenic drive takes you along the coastline, offering up stunning views of the ocean, towering cliffs, rocky beaches, marine animals, birds, exclusive homes, and famous golf courses. There are also a number of iconic landmarks along the way, including the world-famous Pebble Beach Golf Course and the Lone Cypress Tree. Whether you’re a local looking for a new place to explore or a visitor searching for something unique to do, 17 Mile Drive is sure to please.

The Lone Cypress Tree

Tip: The entrance fee into Pebble Beach Resorts and 17-Mile Drive is $11.25 per vehicle. You will receive a helpful brochure detailing the many scenic and historical points of interest along the route, serving as a perfect souvenir. After the long drive, if you visit any restaurants for some snacks/lunch/dinner at the Pebble Beach Lodge, the entrance fee will be adjusted.

51. San Jose Municipal Rose Garden

Municipal Rose Garden in San Jose, named, “America’s Best Rose Garden”, is one of my favorites and truly an urban refuge. Lush green rolling lawns, a variety of roses in different colors, and a beautiful fountain at the center of the garden enhance the mood almost instantly. There is nothing like strolling the garden while smelling sweet and majestic roses. This is an oasis in the heart of silicon valley. The best time to visit this garden is from the end of April to early May.

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A garden fulfills our need for quiet, contemplation, and calm!

52. Triton Museum of Art

The Triton Museum of Art, located across the street from the Santa Clara Civic Center, houses and exhibits contemporary and historical pieces that are focused on artists from the greater Bay Area. Admission and parking are free.

53. The de Saisset Museum

The de Saisset Museum is a free museum of art and history in the South Bay area. The de Saisset has a wide and accessible variety of exhibitions and educational programs that explore the art and history of the San Francisco Bay Area as well as the local Santa Clara Valley. Galleries are open Tuesday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the academic year. 

54. Montalvo Arts Center

Montalvo, an oasis of arts and nature in the heart of bustling Silicon Valley is nestled in the foothills above Saratoga with 175 acres of woodland hiking trails and gardens. On the grounds, visitors are welcome to enjoy a picnic on the spacious great lawn, tour beautiful gardens, and see both temporary and permanent outdoor art installations. It is accessible to the public 365 days a year and free of charge.

55. Presidio, San Francisco

San Francisco’s Presidio is a must-visit for anyone looking to enjoy the great outdoors. The Lover’s Lane trail is a beautiful, easy hike that takes you through the eucalyptus forest. The Wood Line, an art installation by Andy Goldsworthy, is located just east of the trail and is definitely worth a visit. If you’re looking for a more challenging hike, I highly recommend checking out the Batteries to Bluffs Trail. It’s a bit longer and has some great views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay. Either way, you’re sure to have a great time exploring the Presidio!

The Wood Line, an art installation by Andy Goldsworthy

56. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Among all of California’s 280 state parks, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve has often been called the “crown jewel of the State Park System”. Select a sunny day and go for a hike. It offers a wild, majestic landscape laced with 14 meandering trails. If you choose a trail along the shoreline as I did, you will get to see innumerable seabirds along the way. The soothing serenity here will nourish the painter, poet, or photographer in you. If you want to spice up the day with some adventure, then go for scuba diving. The sea near Point Lobos is considered to be one of the richest underwater habitats in the world. Don’t miss seeing the Whalers cove, a small cabin built by Chinese fishermen which is now a cultural history museum. Whether you are a nature lover, an adrenaline junkie looking for a thrilling adventure, or just looking for some peaceful solitude surrounded by vibrant beauty, there’s something for everyone at this incredible natural reserve.

bay area day trips, Whale bones, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
Whale bones, Point Lobos State Park

57. Carmel-by-the-Sea Galleries

In this small town by the Pacific ocean, you will find an architectural mishmash of storybook English cottages and Swiss Alpine chalets, a distinctly European feel that will transport you to the old continent for a while. It is best to explore this small town by walking. You will love seeing all the beautiful paintings in the galleries and can definitely collect some for your home. Stroll, ponder and reach the beach for a quintessential California view – a sandy beach and the rugged Pacific coastline.  

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Art galleries are omnipresent in Carmel-by-the-Sea

58. Civic Center of San Francisco

The Civic Center of San Francisco is a public space that occupies about 8.4 acres in the heart of the city. This sprawling urban park was built on the site of an old city cemetery, offering visitors a unique combination of green space and historical landmarks. One can find everything from old churches, museums, and performing arts centers to community gardens and native plant landscapes. The park is also home to a number of special events throughout the year, including outdoor concerts, art festivals, and parades. Whether you are seeking relaxation or entertainment, the Civic Center San Francisco has something for everyone. So why not take some time out of your busy schedule to visit this beautiful urban oasis? It will be well worth your time!

59. University of California, Berkeley Campus

Situated in the heart of bustling Berkeley, California, the University of California, Berkeley campus is a dynamic and vibrant place. With its many sprawling green spaces, state-of-the-art architecture, and diverse student population, UCB has something for everyone. Whether you are interested in exploring cutting-edge research or simply want to hang out with friends in the sun and enjoy a picnic on Sproul Plaza, this university has everything you could ever need. From the moment you step onto campus, you can feel the energy and excitement that makes UCB such a special place.

60. Jack London Square, Oakland

Jack London Square is a popular destination in Oakland, California. It is known for its vibrant culture and thriving food scene. Whether you are looking for a delicious meal at one of the many restaurants and cafes, a relaxing stroll along the waterfront boardwalk, or the chance to shop til you drop at one of the area’s many boutique stores, there is no shortage of activities to enjoy in this bustling, lively community. If you are looking for an unforgettable experience in Oakland, look no further than Jack London Square. Discover all that this unique district has to offer today!

61. Scenic drive through Marin Headlands

The Marin Headlands offer a stunning view of the San Francisco Bay Area. The drive through the headlands is about 10 miles long and takes you past a variety of landscapes, from rocky cliffs to sandy beaches. Along the way, you’ll also get a glimpse of some of the area’s wildlife, including seals, dolphins, and seabirds. And if you’re lucky, you might even see a whale breaching offshore. The Marin Headlands are also home to a number of historical sites, including Fort Cronkhite, an old military base that was used during World War II. If you’re looking for a scenic drive with plenty to see and do, the Marin Headlands is a great option.

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Scenic drive through Marin Headlands

62. Scenic drive through Silverado Trail, Napa Valley

Drive along the beautiful Silverado Trail, a bucolic, parallel counterpart to busier State Highway 29. The Silverado Trail is dotted with beautiful vineyards and wineries. If you plan to visit Napa Valley, follow this scenic route. Along the way, I stopped at several wineries and vineyards. Here is the map of a few wineries where I spent time visiting.

63. Scenic Drive through Panoramic Highway

If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience, Panoramic Highway is an incredible option.  The Panoramic Highway is an approximately 11-mile route bordering the Mount Tamalpais State Park, just north of San Francisco. This scenic drive winds through lush forests and dales with breathtaking vistas of the surrounding terrain. Featuring winding twists, dramatic elevation changes, and breathtaking overlooks, this is truly a one-of-a-kind driving route that is not to be missed. Whether you’re an avid outdoors enthusiast or simply looking for the perfect photo op, Panoramic Highway offers something for everyone. Experience it for yourself today!

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Scenic Drive through Panoramic Highway

64. The Museum of International Propaganda, San Rafael

The Museum of International Propaganda is a unique institution that offers visitors a glimpse into the world of propaganda and its impact on history. The museum is located in San Rafael, California, and is open to the public free of charge. The museum features a wide variety of propagandist materials from around the world, spanning multiple centuries and covering a wide range of topics. The collection includes items such as political posters, wartime propaganda, and even children’s toys. Visitors can explore the different ways that propaganda has been used to influence public opinion and shape history. The Museum of International Propaganda is an enlightening experience that is well worth a visit for anyone interested in learning more about this fascinating topic.

65. Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Fremont

The Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum is a must-see for any film buff or history lover. Located in the town of Niles, California, the museum is housed in an old movie theater that was once used by Essanay Studios. Essanay was one of the most important silent film studios of the early 20th century, and it produced some of the most iconic films of the era, including Charlie Chaplin’s The Tramp. Today, the museum houses a collection of Essanay memorabilia, as well as a working replica of an early movie camera. Visitors can also watch screenings of silent films, many of which are rare and have never been seen before. The Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum is a unique and fascinating glimpse into Hollywood’s past.

66. Intel Museum, San Jose

If you’re looking for things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area, look no further than the Intel Museum in San Jose. This unique little museum is dedicated to showcasing cutting-edge technology and innovation. Whether you’re an enthusiast of tech and science or just someone who likes to learn new things, you’ll find plenty to pique your interest at this fascinating little museum. Some highlights include virtual reality exhibits and interactive displays that give you a glimpse into what it’s like inside a computer chip factory. So if you’re looking for an engaging and fun way to spend an afternoon, be sure to check out the Intel Museum in San Jose!

67. Mission Santa Clara

Founded in 1777, Mission Santa Clara de Asis is the eighth of 21 California Missions. The mission was named for Saint Clare of Assisi, the foundress of the Poor Clares order of nuns. The mission today is part of Santa Clara University and is open to the public daily. Visitors can tour the grounds and learn about the mission’s history and the people who lived and worked there. Download the self-guided walking tour map.

68. Stroll into the past, Santa Clara City Hall

Santa Clara City Hall is a must-visit for anyone interested in the history of Santa Clara and Silicon Valley. The self-guided tour takes visitors through a series of 28 plaques that trace the city’s history from its origins as a Native American settlement to its present status as a leading center of technology innovation. The tour begins at the Santa Clara Civic Center, at the corner of Civic Center Drive and Lincoln Avenue. Along the way, visitors will learn about the city’s founding fathers, its early days as an agricultural hub and its transformation into a center of the high-tech industry. The tour is a great way to get an overview of Santa Clara’s rich history, and it’s also a perfect way to spend an afternoon if you’re looking for something to do in the city. So whether you’re a history buff or just looking for something different to do, be sure to check out Santa Clara City Hall.

69. The Sonoma County Vineyard Adventures

Sonoma County Vineyard Adventures is the perfect way to explore California’s wine country. With self-guided walks at various wineries throughout the region, you can discover the beauty of the vineyards in any season. The program is complimentary, so you can enjoy the experience without spending a fortune. The vineyards offer a unique opportunity to see how grapes are grown and harvested, and you can learn about the different types of wines produced in the region. Whether you’re a seasoned wine enthusiast or just getting started, Sonoma County Vineyard Adventures is a great way to expand your knowledge and explore the world of wine.

Wineries in Sonoma County include (from south to north):

Schug Carneros Estate (Carneros)
St. Francis Winery & Vineyards (Sonoma Valley)
Matanzas Creek Winery (Bennett Valley)
Balletto Vineyards (Russian River Valley)
La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard (Russian River Valley)
Mauritson Wines (Dry Creek Valley)
Amista Vineyards (Dry Creek Valley)

70. Sonoma County Farm Trails

Sonoma County Farm Trails is a non-profit organization that works to promote and support local agriculture. Farm Trails members open their farms and ranches to the public, offering a unique opportunity to learn about Sonoma County’s agricultural heritage. The Farm Trails map is a great way to explore the different farms and ranches in the area. Each farm listed on the map has its own unique set of activities and attractions. For example, some farms offer tours of their facilities, while others allow visitors to interact with the animals. There are also several farms that sell produce and other products made from locally grown ingredients. Whether you’re looking for a fun day trip or a chance to learn about Sonoma County’s agricultural history, Farm Trails is a great resource.

71. Winery Garden at Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery 

The Winery Garden at Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery is a five-acre plot of land that has been divided into distinct gardens in the Italian/French parterre style. This style is characterized by its use of geometric shapes to create patterns and pathways throughout the space. Visitors to the Winery Garden can enjoy meandering paths, footbridges over a rippling stream, waterfalls, fish-filled ponds, bronze sculptures by world-renowned artists, and more than 2,000 species of trees and shrubs that are each marked with identification tags. In addition to being a beautiful and relaxing space, the Winery Garden also provides an educational opportunity for those who are interested in learning more about horticulture. Whether you are a seasoned gardener or just beginning to develop an interest in plants, the Winery Garden is sure to have something to offer.

72. The rose garden at Korbel Champagne Cellars

The Korbel Gardens are a must-see for anyone visiting the Sonoma County area. Located at the Korbel Winery, the gardens feature over 150 different types of roses, as well as plum trees and other plants found in the nearby Redwood Forrest. Rose aficionados will be fascinated by the variety of roses on display. Gardens are open to the public from April through October, and visitors can enjoy a self-guided tour or take part in one of the many events hosted throughout the season. Whether you’re an experienced gardener or simply enjoy admiring nature’s beauty, the Korbel Gardens are sure to delight. So grab a glass of KORBEL and explore all that these stunning gardens have to offer! Admission is free; a garden tour is offered daily, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., Tuesday to Sunday, mid-April through mid-October.

Address: 📍13250 River Road Guerneville CA, 95446

73. Free Telescope Viewings at Chabot Space & Science Center

The Chabot Space & Science Center is a great place to learn about astronomy and stargaze. They offer free telescope viewings on Friday and Saturday nights, weather permitting. The center also has several permanent exhibits and a Planetarium. On clear nights, the views from the telescopes are stunning. You can see the craters on the Moon, the rings of Saturn, and even distant galaxies. The knowledgeable staff is always happy to answer questions and help you find your way around the sky. If you’re interested in astronomy, or just want to take in some amazing views, be sure to check out the Chabot Space & Science Center.

74. Lick Observatory

Situated atop Mount Hamilton, the Lick Observatory is one of the world’s oldest astronomical research facilities. Visitors can take a tour of the facility and learn about its history, as well as get a close-up look at some of the telescopes. Even if you’re not interested in astronomy, the views from the observatory are worth the trip alone.

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Lick Observatory

75. Mission San Rafael Arcángel

The Mission San Rafael Arcángel, founded in 1817, is a decommissioned Franciscan mission in San Rafael, California. The mission was originally established as an Asistencia, or “helper” mission, to Mission Dolores in San Francisco. It was named after St. Raphael the Archangel, the angel of bodily healing, due to its purpose of caring for the sick. Today, the mission is a popular tourist destination and is known for its beautiful gardens and historic architecture. Visitors can explore the grounds of the mission and learn about its history through a variety of exhibits. The Mission San Rafael Arcángel is a great place to learn about California’s rich history and culture and is definitely worth a visit!

Mission San Rafael Arcángel

76. Pacifica Pier

The Pacifica Pier is one of the most iconic landmarks on the California coast. Located within walking distance of downtown Pacifica, this well-loved pier stretches out over 500 feet into the Pacific Ocean, offering sweeping views and a chance to catch some fresh seafood. While many people come to the pier simply to enjoy an afternoon stroll or watch the sunset, it also serves as a hub for local boating and fishing communities. Whether you’re interested in landing your own catch or shopping for fresh fish at local restaurants, the Pacifica Pier offers something for everyone! So if you find yourself strolling along the coast with time to spare, be sure to head down and see what this historic landmark has to offer. You’ll be glad you did.

77. Montara State Beach

Montara State Beach is a great free place to enjoy the day because it offers a variety of activities for everyone to enjoy. The beach is perfect for sunbathing, strolling, or surfing, while the Montara mountain is ideal for nature lovers who want to explore the undisturbed coastal mountain habitat. In addition, the views from the bluffs are simply breathtaking. Whether you’re looking to relax or get active, Montara State Beach is the perfect destination.

78. Devils Slide Coastal Trail in Pacifica

Devils Slide is a spectacular coastal trail located in Pacifica, California. The trail offers stunning views of the ocean and coastline, as well as the opportunity to see some of the area’s wildlife up close. The trail is open to the public year-round and is free of charge.

79. Point Montara Lighthouse

Point Montara Lighthouse is a working lighthouse that has been in operation since 1875. The lighthouse is open to the public and offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and coastline. Visitors can also learn about the history of the lighthouse and see some of the original equipment that was used to operate it. ThePoint Montara Lighthouse is a great free place to visit for those who love history and the outdoors.

80. Cypress Tree Tunnel, Inverness

If you live in or around San Francisco or visiting the city, don’t miss walking under the famous Cypress tree tunnel in the Point Reyes National Seashore. While walking under this canopy, I felt the tangled branches are akin to flowing veins in our bodies. An hour and 30-minute drive from San Francisco to the Cypress Tree Tunnel in Point Reyes National Seashore is totally worth the effort. After walking through the canopy which leads to the Historic KPH Maritime Radio Receiving Station, set forth to explore the pristine wilderness of Point Reyes. Explore Point Reyes Lighthouse and the Light House visitor center. If you are a beach lover like me, visit one of the many scenic beaches in the area. My personal favorite is Drakes Beach – the expansive sand beach dotted with white sandstone cliffs and large crashing waves.

81. Carolands Chateau

Carolands Chateau is a historic mansion located in Hillsborough, California. Built-in 1918, the Chateau was designed by renowned architect Willis Polk and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can tour the mansion by appointment only, and tours typically last about an hour. Carolands Chateau is just one of many historic homes located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Other notable homes include the Winchester Mystery House, Haas-Lilienthal House, and Greystone Mansion. Whether you’re interested in architecture, history, or simply want to explore some of the area’s most beautiful homes, these tours are a great way to spend an afternoon.

82. The San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art

Nestled in downtown San Jose, the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art is a non-profit gallery that showcases the work of local, national, and international artists. Best of all, admission is free! The gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11am to 5pm, and features both solo and group exhibitions. Visitors can expect to see a wide range of art forms on display, including paintings, sculptures, installations, and more. The San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, such as artist talks, film screenings, and performance art. Whether you’re a longtime art lover or just getting started, the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art is sure to have something for everyone.

83. History Park – San Jose

For a taste of Silicon Valley history, head to History Park in San Jose. This 14-acre park is home to 32 original and reproduction homes, businesses, and landmarks, giving visitors a glimpse of Santa Clara Valley’s past. Paved streets, running trolleys, and an old-fashioned ice cream shop add to the park’s charm, and there are plenty of activities to keep everyone entertained. History buffs will enjoy exploring the buildings and learning about the valley’s rich history, while kids will love riding the trolleys and playing in the park. Best of all, admission to History Park is free, making it a great option for budget-minded travelers.

84. Rosicrucian Park

For those looking for a taste of the occult, Rosicrucian Park in San Jose is a must-see. The park is home to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, which houses an extensive collection of artifacts from ancient Egypt. Visitors can also explore the park’s Hedge Maze, take a self-guided tour of the Rosicrucian Planetarium, or simply enjoy the peaceful surroundings. Best of all, admission to the park is free. So whether you’re interested in history, religion, or just a quiet place to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, Rosicrucian Park is definitely worth a visit.

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Carved hieroglyphs can be found throughout the Rosicrucian Park

85. Apple Park Visitor Center, Cupertino

The Bay Area is home to many world-renowned tech companies, and visitors can get a behind-the-scenes look at one of them by taking a self-guided tour of the Apple Park Visitor Center in Cupertino. The Apple Park Visitor Center is the perfect place to learn about everything Apple. The Exhibition space features exhibits on the company’s history, products, and environmental initiatives. You can also check out the latest Apple products in the Store. After exploring the Exhibition and Store, relax at the Apple Cafe. The Roof Terrace offers a unique view of Apple Park and its rolling landscape. And be sure to visit the Gift Shop before you leave!

86. Seacliff State Beach, Aptos

With its dramatic cliffs, crashing waves, and miles of unspoiled coastline, Seacliff State Beach is a true hidden gem. Although it may not be as well-known as some of the other beaches in the area, it is definitely worth a visit. This popular beach attraction is known for its long, sweeping promenade that runs parallel to the rocky coast, offering breathtaking views of the sparkling water and surrounding cliffs. The beach is located just south of Santa Cruz and is known for its dramatic cliffs, beautiful scenery, and serene atmosphere. Visitors can enjoy hiking, picnicking, fishing, and swimming. There is also a shipwreck that has been preserved as a state historical landmark. Seacliff State Beach is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of the Bay Area.

87. John Muir National Historic Site

The house and grounds where John Muir lived with his family from 1890 to his death in 1914 are now a national historic site managed by the National Park Service. John Muir was America’s most famous naturalist and conservationist. He fought to protect the wild places he loved, places we can still visit today. Muir’s writings convinced the U.S. government to protect Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, and Mt. Rainier as national parks. The 14-room Victorian mansion, located in Martinez, California, is furnished much as it was when Muir lived there with his wife Louisa and their two daughters. A visit to the John Muir National Historic Site provides an opportunity to learn about the life and work of one of America’s most important naturalists and conservationists.

Address: 📍 4202 Alhambra Ave, Martinez, CA 94553

88. Berkeley Historical Society

The Berkeley Historical Society of Berkeley, California. Founded in 1986, the society has a library and archives that contain a wealth of materials on the city’s past. The society also offers educational programs and walking tours. If you want to know more about the history of Berkeley, this place is a great option and is free to the public.

89. San Francisco Art Institute

The San Francisco Art Institute is a world-renowned center for the arts, and its campus is home to a number of iconic works of art. One of the most famous is the Diego Rivera mural – The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City. The Art Institute is just one of the many reasons to visit San Francisco; it is an experience that is not to be missed.

To stand in the gallery today is to brush against a history of social critique and artistic rebellion—one that extends from the contained plaster of Rivera’s monumental wall, to the flux of new practices by SFAI’s current artists. Past and present converge here, but a spirit of iconoclasm, nonconformity, and questioning bring the work in the gallery together in shared dialogue. 

San Francisco Art Institute

Address: 📍800 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94133

90. Free Gallery Area at SF MOMA

The San Francisco Museum of Modern art offers a lot of great opportunities to view art for free. It offers 45,000 square feet of art-filled public spaces. There are several works on Floors 1 and 2 (and some surprises just outside) that provide an excellent overview of contemporary art. You can also see Diego Rivera’s Pan American Unity, a fresco that celebrates artists, artisans, architects, and inventors who use art and technology as tools to mold society. It is now on view at the Roberts Family Gallery on Floor 1 through Summer 2023 for free.

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SF MOMA

Tip: The Allegory of California is the first fresco Rivera finished in the US. You will find it adorning the grand stairwell in The City Club in downtown San Francisco.

91. San Francisco City Hall

Take a tour of the San Francisco City Hall. This Beaux-Arts-style building is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. San Francisco City Hall Docents provide guided tours to the public. The tours are about an hour long and are currently offered on Fridays at 1 pm. Most tours are free.

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San Francisco city Hall

92. Methuselah Tree

If you’re looking for something free to do in the glorious San Francisco Bay Area, look no further than Methuselah – the massive old-growth redwood tree towering above the skyline just west of Woodside, California. This ancient giant is not only the oldest and largest living tree in the Santa Cruz Mountains (outside of those found in Big Basin State Park), but it’s also one of the most awe-inspiring sights in the entire region. Whether you’re a long-time local or a visiting tourist, getting up close to Methuselah is sure to leave you speechless. And best of all, this breathtaking sight can be enjoyed absolutely free of charge! So what are you waiting for? Grab your hiking boots and head out to meet this spectacular giant today!

Location – Methuselah is just a short walk off of Highway 35 (Skyline Boulevard) 3.3 miles north of Sky Londa and Alice’s Restaurant and 0.5 miles south of the Caltrans’ Skeggs Vista Point.

93.  Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square is a historic destination in San Francisco that has been a central hub for dining and shopping since the mid-1800s. Located just steps away from Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square is known for its inviting atmosphere and stunning architecture, with its brightly-colored buildings adorned with detailed woodwork, grand archways, and large open spaces. Today, this iconic landmark is home to dozens of popular restaurants, shops, and cafes. Whether you are looking to pick up a souvenir or enjoy a delicious meal, Ghirardelli Square is the place to be for residents and visitors alike. So if you’re in San Francisco and are looking for an exciting way to explore this beautiful city, don’t miss out on all that Ghirardelli Square has to offer!

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Ghirardelli Square

94. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival

Every year, the city of San Francisco hosts the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, a free music festival that draws thousands of visitors from across the country. Featuring some of the biggest names in bluegrass and roots music, this popular event has become a true institution and cultural landmark of the city. Whether you are a die-hard fan or simply looking for an afternoon of great music, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival is a must-see experience. Whether you are enjoying the music from up close on one of the festival’s many stages or mingling with attendees at one of the festival’s food stalls or vendor booths, there is something for everyone at this truly amazing event. So mark your calendars now and be sure to come out and experience all that Hardly Strictly Bluegrass has to offer! You won’t regret it.

95. Prelinger Library

The Prelinger Library is a private research library located in San Francisco, California. Founded in 2004 by public historian Rick Prelinger, the library contains over 60,000 books, periodicals, maps, ephemera, and audiovisual materials covering a wide range of topics. The library is open to the public by appointment only, and its collection is available for use by researchers, writers, and artists. The Prelinger Library has been described as “one of the most unusual libraries in the world” and “an invaluable resource for independent scholars and artists.”

96. Escape to a National Park

Choose wilderness whenever possible. Escape to Pinnacles National Park on one of the days in the National Parks when the entrance fees are free. A two-hour drive from San Francisco will transport you to a completely different world. You will step into silence and stillness. The Pinnacles National Park is a small national park, but it sure packs a punch with its beautiful landscape and diverse flora and fauna. Spend some time sitting beside a beautiful stream located a few miles from the east entrance visitor center. Then go for a hike. You can choose to do rock climbing or just take out your binoculars and watch beautiful birds all around. If you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the California Condor. Pick an activity that suits your mood. Also, enjoy a picnic under a tree. I have visited Pinnacles many times and loved being there every time. I love hiking to the Bear Gulch cave on the, you guessed it, Bear Gulch trail. You can choose a different trail from easy, moderate, and strenuous ones. Also, don’t forget to stop at the visitor center and buy a souvenir for your memories. A trip to Pinnacles is one of the best day trips from San Francisco to refresh in the wilderness.

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Pinnacles National Park

97.  City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco

As one of the oldest and most beloved independent bookstores in San Francisco, City Lights Bookstore is a cultural institution that is deeply intertwined with the history and heartbeat of the city. Founded in 1953 by legendary author Lawrence Ferlinghetti, City Lights quickly became known as a space where anyone from local artists and poets to tourists could find great literary works from both established and emerging authors. Today, despite growing competition from online retailers and chain bookstores, City Lights continues to live up to its reputation as a hub of creativity and knowledge. Whether they are browsing through thought-provoking journals or exploring innovative new titles, visitors can always count on finding something truly special at this beloved San Francisco landmark.

98. Yerba Buena Gardens

Nestled in the heart of the bustling city of San Francisco, Yerba Buena Gardens is a hidden oasis that offers visitors the chance to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. The park is home to a number of gardens, numerous sculptures, and other artworks. Amidst colorful gardens filled with fragrant flowers and manicured lawns, you can listen to the gentle sound of trickling water as it flows through fountains. Yerba Buena Gardens is an idyllic retreat where you can bask in the warm glow of sunshine and awaken all your senses to the beauty of nature. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful place to reflect on life or just want to take a moment out of your busy day to savor some tranquility, this urban oasis is sure to delight your senses and lift your spirits. So why not visit and experience it for yourself? After all, there’s nothing quite like hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling, and tasting the beauty of nature at Yerba Buena Gardens.

99. Wells Fargo Museum, San Francisco 

Located in the heart of San Francisco, the Wells Fargo Museum is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the history of the American West. The museum is housed within one of the city’s iconic Victorian buildings, and it chronicles countless aspects of life in those early days, from transportation to communications to banking. With numerous artifacts and interactive exhibits, the Wells Fargo Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into our past, allowing us to better understand how we got to where we are today. Whether you’re a long-time resident or a visitor from afar, this cultural landmark is well worth exploring. So why not head over to the Wells Fargo Museum today and experience all that this unique institution has to offer? You won’t be disappointed!

100. Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco

The Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco is one of the most unique museums in the city. The museum is dedicated to the art of cartoons and comics, and it houses a wide range of original artwork, including pieces by world-famous creators such as Charles Schulz and Walt Disney. The museum also has a strong focus on education, and it offers a variety of classes and workshops for both adults and children. Whether you’re a diehard fan of cartoons or simply looking for a fun and educational activity, the Cartoon Art Museum is definitely worth a visit.

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The San Francisco Bay Area is a treasure trove of natural beauty and cultural landmarks. Whether you’re looking to soak up some sun on the beach, explore world-class museums, or simply get lost in the breathtaking natural landscape, there are countless free things to do and see here. Be sure to use this guide to explore and enrich!

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Chirasree Banerjee

Hello. My name is Chirasree. I have been traveling for almost 11 years to places all over the world. I enter into a separate reality during my travels and enjoy the allure of escape from the mundane. I seek beauty through nature and human-made creations. Because beauty is powerful. I seek knowledge. I observe, absorb, and write about the places I visit and the profound realizations and inspirations that each place has to offer.

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7 Comments

  1. San Francisco has been on my DO list from the beginning. Your list has now cemented it as one of the top places to visit next. In addition to extending the time we need in the area. Such a wonderful comprehensive list thank you.

  2. Syam

    Exhaustive list at one place. Nice photos. Thanks!

  3. Oh my gosh what a list! So many new things to me even though I have visited SF several times. Thanks for the great ideas and nice work.

  4. We have been to San Francisco many times but there were still some great things on your list for a return visit. And especially great that so many are free. The Japanese Tea Garden has been on my list for awhile so good to know when to go for free. And we will definitely have to see the Conservatory of Flowers at night. The Sutro Baths were not even on my list. I have kept this for our next trip!

  5. Wow, I always thought of visiting San Fran for a weekend getaway, but this long round-up of things to do clearly tells me I might need longer. I would love to see the Golden Gate Bridge, the bridge that has inspired many copycats around world.

  6. I absolutely miss Ghirardelli! So many wonderful options on this list, the cypress tree tunnel looks lovely and so does the 17-mile scenic drive. Bookmarking this post for a future SF trip!

  7. That’s a surprising amount of variety in 100 free things! You know it’s a good place when there are many quality experiences the public can take part in and enjoy.

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