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San Francisco at Night: The Best Things to Do With Family

San Francisco, one of the most beautiful cities in the United States, is known for its amazing attractions and activities. But what can you do when the sun goes down? Do you know, San Francisco at night is even more spectacular! Check out my top picks for the best things to do in San Francisco at night with the family. From watching the sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge to taking a cruise around the bay, there is something for everyone in this gorgeous city. Whether you’re looking for a fun activity or a romantic evening out, I’ve got you covered!

San Francisco at Night: The Best Things to Do With Family, Travel Realizations
Pic by Ryan Fitzsimons

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1. Sail Away into the Sunset in San Francisco

Exploring the beauty of San Francisco through a cruise during the sunset is the perfect way to spend an evening! As the sun sets, the sky turns into a beautiful array of colors, and the city lights come on, creating a spectacular sight. You can choose from various evening cruises that offer different views of this amazing city. A dinner cruise is my personal favorite! Sail around Alcatraz Island, go under the Golden Gate Bridge, or see the city skyline from the water – whichever cruise you choose, you’re sure to be impressed by San Francisco’s beauty.

San Francisco at Night: The Best Things to Do With Family, Travel Realizations
Create experiences that will leave you in awe, for these will be the highlights of your life 💖

2. Treat yourself to a night of beautiful music with San Francisco Symphony

Enjoy an evening out in the world-renowned city’s culture and arts scene. Spend an evening at Davies Symphony Hall with the San Francisco Symphony, and let the music wash over you. There is something special about an evening filled with music. The air seems to crackle with energy, and the world feels alive. Let the music fills you up. Let it sweep you away. Let it take you to places you’ve never been before. And when the last note has faded away, take a moment to appreciate the power of music. Then close your eyes and let the memory of that special evening linger in your heart.

3. Take a walk down Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Bay

Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 are great places to visit during the day, but they are also a lot of fun at night. The sights and sounds of the Bay in the evening from Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 in San Francisco are beautiful. The sky is deep, dark blue, and the stars shine brightly. The boats in the harbor are lit up, and the reflections on the water are mesmerizing. You can hear the waves crashing against the pier, and the sound of the seagulls is soothing. Make time to visit Ghirardelli Square, the National Maritime Museum, Anchorage Square, Hyde Street Pier, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, Madame Tussauds wax museum, Ferry Building, and other attractions.

Tip: Savour delicious ice cream from the Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop, which closes at 10 pm.

San Francisco at Night: The Best Things to Do With Family, Travel Realizations
An evening at Hyde St.Pier

4. Ride a cable car at night in San Francisco

San Francisco is a city unlike any other, and there is no better way to experience its unique charm than by riding San Francisco cable cars at night. The views are incredible, and all the famous landmarks will be lit up. As the last manually operated cable car system in the world, San Francisco’s cable cars are an icon of the city. Only three lines remain from the original 23, but each one offers riders breathtaking views of the cityscape. The two routes from downtown (close to Union Square) to Fisherman’s Wharf are particularly popular with tourists as they provide stunning views of San Francisco Bay. The third line runs along California Street and offers riders a different perspective on the city. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, riding a San Francisco cable car at night is an experience you won’t soon forget.

Tip: If you want to know more about cable cars, I recommend visiting The Cable Car Museum – One of the 100 free things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area.

San Francisco at Night: The Best Things to Do With Family, Travel Realizations
 Pic by Dennis Huey

5. Watch a show at the San Francisco Ballet

There’s something special about watching a live performance of the ballet. The dancers possess incredible energy and vitality that is truly contagious. The music and rhythm create a palpable sense of excitement that is simply irresistible. You will love watching the grace and elegance of the dancers and how they defy gravity, moving with otherworldly grace. Watching ballet is one of the best things to do with the family in San Francisco at night. Whether you’re a seasoned dance fan or just appreciating the art form for the first time, watching a performance at the San Francisco ballet is an unforgettable experience

San Francisco at Night: The Best Things to Do With Family, Travel Realizations
Mathilde Froustey and Angelo Greco in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote. (© Erik Tomasson)

6. Experience the many moods of Alcatraz Island with an Alcatraz night tour

San Francisco at Night: The Best Things to Do With Family, Travel Realizations
Alcatraz Island 

One of the most popular attractions is Alcatraz in San Francisco. Alcatraz was once a notorious federal prison located on a small island in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Today, it’s a National Historic Landmark and a popular tourist destination. And one of the best ways to experience Alcatraz is to take a night tour. Experience the many moods of Alcatraz Island with an evening visit. During the day, Alcatraz is bustling with tourists from all over the world. But at night, the island takes on a whole different feeling. As you take the ferry out to Alcatraz, you’ll get unparalleled views of the city skyline. Once you arrive on the island, you’ll be guided through the cellblock, past the isolation cells, and out onto the yard. The entire experience is both educational and haunting, and it will leave a lasting impression. So if you’re looking for something unique to do in San Francisco at night, be sure to take an Alcatraz night tour.

Interesting fact: Al Capone, one of the most notorious gangsters in American history, served time at Alcatraz

7. Things to do in Golden Gate Park at night

Golden Gate Park is one of the most beloved attractions in the San Francisco Bay Area, spanning over 1,000 acres; the park is an urban oasis. The park also features several world-class museums, including the California Academy of Sciences and the de Young Museum.

San Francisco at Night: The Best Things to Do With Family, Travel Realizations
Music Concourse at night

8. Drive through the iconic Golden Gate Bridge at sunset in San Francisco

Drive through the iconic Golden Gate Bridge at sunset in San Francisco. It is a sight to behold in the golden hour of the day. At sunset, the bridge glimmers in the light as the sky turn deep orange. The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most photographed landmarks in the world. This 1.7-mile-long suspension bridge is an icon of American engineering. Also, see the bridge at night, illuminated against the darkness, and enjoy the dramatic views of San Francisco with its skyscrapers in the background. You can visit Marin Headlands, Fort Point National Historic Site, Baker Beach, Crissy Field, or Marshall’s Beach to get the best view.

The iconic Golden Gate Bridge at sunset

9. Go for a nighttime stroll at the Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts, located in the Marina district, is one of the most beautiful places in San Francisco. It is known for its stunning architecture and beautiful grounds. while the daytime offers plenty of opportunities to appreciate the Palace’s beauty, the nighttime is when it comes alive. After the sun goes down, the Palace is illuminated by hundreds of twinkling lights, creating a magical atmosphere perfect for a stroll with your loved ones. Inside the building, you will also find a theater. The theater has several shows throughout the year, ranging from drama to comedy. You may choose to watch a show here!

San Francisco at Night: The Best Things to Do With Family, Travel Realizations
Source: Photo by John Deng

10. Take the Big Bus tour and enjoy the sights and sounds of San Francisco at night

The Big Bus tour is a great way to see the sights and sounds of San Francisco at night with the family. The live commentary during the tour provides a unique perspective on the city, and you’ll get to see neighborhoods like Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, and the Financial District. You’ll also see the Golden Gate Bridge, Grace Cathedral, Presidio, and Treasure Island, lit up at night.

11. Explore 600 interactive exhibits in Exploratorium after dark

Not everyone knows that the Exploratorium, a world-renowned museum of science, art, and human perception in San Francisco, is open for evening visits every Thursday night from 6 pm to 10 pm. Exploratorium After Dark is an event for inquisitive adults to explore the 600 interactive exhibits without elbowing their way past hordes of school kids during the daytime. Even better, with a cash bar and live music in the mix, it feels more like a party than an educational outing. So if you’re looking for something quirky and unusual to do on a Thursday night, why not check out the Exploratorium After Dark? You might just learn something new.

Tip: Lose yourself in a sudden, swirling mass of fog while walking on the fog bridge on Thursday evenings at 7 pm. In a city notorious for fog, this immense artwork by Fujiko Nakaya intermittently shrouds a pedestrian bridge spanning Piers 15 and 17 with clouds of mist, enveloping all in its gauzy embrace.

San Francisco at Night: The Best Things to Do With Family, Travel Realizations
Buckyball an exhibit at Exploratorium

12. Immerse yourself in art at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)


SFMOMA is one of the best places for art lovers in San Francisco. Immerse yourself in the world of contemporary art with exciting exhibitions featuring the work of leading artists from around the globe. Enjoy SFMOMA’s galleries filled with lively and inspiring art. This event is free for all residents of the nine Bay Area counties. And don’t forget to stop by the museum store for a souvenir to remember your visit. On the first Thursday of every month, SFMOMA remains open from 4-8 pm, so if you’re looking for a unique and memorable experience for your family, be sure to check it out!

13. Explore downtown San Francisco with a self-guided walking tour

San Francisco’s downtown is a bustling metropolis with iconic neighborhoods and historical landmarks. With this self-guided, smartphone-based walking tour, you can explore downtown at your own pace and learn the stories behind some of the city’s most popular attractions. Simply download the easy-to-use app and get started. You’ll be able to easily navigate between locations and listen to tales of Chinatown, Market Street, North Beach, Union Square, and Westin St. Francis, one of the oldest hotels in San Francisco. Plus, you can stop, skip, or re-start the tour whenever and wherever you like. So whether you’re a first-time visitor or a long-time resident, this tour is a great way to gain a new perspective on downtown San Francisco.

San Francisco at Night: The Best Things to Do With Family, Travel Realizations
The Embarcadero & Ferry Building

14. Get to know the city with a self-guided photo scavenger hunt

Scavenger hunts are a great way to discover a city. When hunting for photos of a specific landmark or item, you never know what you’ll find. Plus, getting to know your surroundings and learning new facts about the city is fun. Walk to all the best landmarks and hidden gems, answer trivia questions, solve challenges and create memorable experiences with scavenger hunts. They’re a fun way to see the city and learn about all the different nooks and crannies. It’s also a great way to bond with friends or family. I love spending an afternoon or evening playing scavenger hunt with my children. This is one of their favorite fun activities. Check out these tours below if you want to spend some fun time with your family in San Francisco at night.

  • Along Fisherman’s Wharf is a self-guided photo scavenger hunt using a smartphone-based app.  A few highlights of the scavenger hunt include Lombard Street, Hyde Street Pier, and Coit Tower.
  • Check out Crazy Dash, a relaxed scavenger hunt. Using a specially designed app, you’ll be given a list of objects to find around the city. You can choose to do the hunt in any order you like, and there are fun challenges for extra points. Plus, you can see how your score compares to other players around the country. The best part about Crazy Dash is that it has a remote host via chat to help you along the way. So spend your time with family on this unique and fun experience!
  • San Francisco Embarcadero Scavenger Hunt Walking Tour and Game. The Embarcadero is one of the most scenic and interesting parts of San Francisco. And what better way to explore it than by taking part in a fun and interactive walking tour? Enjoy a guided walking tour of beautiful and interesting parts of San Francisco’s Embarcadero while following clues on your smartphone and solving interesting puzzles along the tour. And best of all, it’s a great way to spend time with family or friends. So why not give it a try? You’re sure to have a blast!

15. Visit the Asian Art Museum for an enriching cultural experience

The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco is a prime destination for art lovers and history buffs. With its expansive collection of art from Asia, the museum offers visitors a unique opportunity to explore the continent’s vast and varied artistic traditions. From paintings and sculptures to textiles and ceramics, the museum’s collection will surely delight and engage anyone interested in Asian art. In addition to its impressive collection, the museum also offers a range of engaging educational programs and events, making it the perfect place to learn more about the amazing art of Asia. If you’re looking for a fascinating and enlightening cultural experience, visit the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. It remains open on Thursdays till 8 pm.

San Francisco at Night: The Best Things to Do With Family, Travel Realizations

An architectural gem inside the  Asian Art Museum

16. Explore San Francisco Neighborhoods

San Francisco is home to many unique neighborhoods, each with its own distinct culture and charm. The Mission District is known for its vibrant Latin American community. The Castro is known for its lively nightlife and the LGBTQ+ community. North Beach is famous for its Italian heritage, while Chinatown is the largest Chinese neighborhood in North America. Other popular neighborhoods include Haight-Ashbury, Nob Hill, and the Financial District. No matter what neighborhood you visit in San Francisco, you’re sure to find something special about it.

North Beach Neighborhood

North Beach is known as San Francisco’s Little Italy. This neighborhood is home to many Italian restaurants, cafes, and bakeries. It’s also home to the city’s largest Italian American community. If you’re looking for a taste of authentic Italian culture, North Beach is the place to be. You can listen to live music, watch street performers, and enjoy delicious cuisine. Whether you’re a local or just visiting San Francisco, check out North Beach.

  • City Lights Bookstore – An epicenter for progressive thought, is a must-visit for any book lover visiting San Francisco. It was founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and is the world’s first all-paperback bookstore. The store is also home to the world’s largest collection of Beat literature. If you’re looking for a unique and interesting bookstore to explore while in San Francisco, City Lights Bookstore is it.
  • Look up Broadway and Columbus Ave to see “Language of the Birds.”. These illuminated books flying overhead are a permanent public art installation by Brian Goggin and Dorka Keehn.
  • Beat Museum is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the Beat Generation. This museum traces the history of the Beats, from their early days in San Francisco to their influence on American culture. It’s a fascinating look at a unique moment in history, and it’s a great way to learn more about the city of San Francisco. It remains open till 7 pm.
  •  Grab a coffee and spend a little time at Washington Square Park. Grab a coffee and spend a little time at Washington Square Park. Street performers often play music or juggle, and the park is popular for people-watching.

Chinatown Neighborhood

Chinatown is the largest Chinese neighborhood in North America, and it’s a must-see for anyone visiting San Francisco. The neighborhood is home to some of the city’s best Chinese restaurants and several interesting historical sites.

  • One of the most popular attractions in San Francisco’s Chinatown is the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company, which offers free tours of its manufacturing facility. Timings: Mon – Fri, 9 am to 6:30 pm and Sat-Sun, 9 am to 7 pm.
  • Visit Grant Avenue in San Francisco’s Chinatown, take in the sights, fill up at local eateries, and check out the wares available. Also, don’t miss seeing the Dragon’s Gate.
  • Look at the neighborhood’s many still-existing neon lights. Neon lights create a unique and vibrant atmosphere that is particularly appealing at night. They add a touch of glamour and excitement to the cityscape and can be seen as a symbol of San Francisco’s vibrant culture. They are integral to the city’s identity and contribute to its unique character.

Nob Hill Neighborhood

Nob Hill is a historic San Francisco neighborhood home to some of the city’s most affluent residents. The neighborhood is named for the Nob Hill area, once the site of the city’s most prestigious homes. These days, Nob Hill is known for its upscale shops and restaurants and its stunning Victorian architecture. Visitors to Nob Hill can enjoy walking along its beautiful streets, admiring the grandiose homes and businesses that line them.

  • If you’re looking for a unique and unforgettable experience in San Francisco with family at night, The Top of the Mark is a great place in beautiful Nob Hill. The Top of the Mark is a world-famous bar and lounge atop the Mark Hopkins Hotel in Nob Hill, San Francisco. It offers stunning panoramic views of the city and the Bay Area, making it a must-visit destination for tourists and locals alike. The bar is open until 12:30 from Friday to Saturday, so you can enjoy the views well into the night. The Top of the Mark is also home to one of San Francisco’s most iconic cocktails, the Mint Julep.
  • Visit the Cable Car Museum
  • Explore the beautiful Grace Cathedral
  • One of the fun things to do in Nob Hill San Francisco is to grab a drink at the Tonga Room. This historic bar is located inside the Fairmont. It features island-themed cocktails and dishes. The best feature is the large lake in the center, with a boat. If you visit at the perfect time, you may even witness rain!
  • Take a stroll in Huntington Park, a quiet place with the historic Flood Fountain, a playground for kids, and plenty of benches to kick back on.
  • If you love live music, then watch a show at the Masonic Center

17. Enjoy the dazzling San Francisco city lights

Look at the beautiful constellation of city lights in San Francisco. Look up, and the sky is awash in a sea of stars. Look down, and the twinkling lights of the city beckon. It’s no wonder that San Francisco is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

Some great places to enjoy beautiful views at night in San Francisco are Twin Peaks, Coit Tower, and the Ferry Building. At Twin Peaks, you can see all of downtown San Francisco lit up at night, and the view is especially stunning on a clear evening. No wonder it is home to many iconic car commercials. Coit Tower offers panoramic views of the city and the Bay Area. The Ferry Building has lovely nighttime views of the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. Take a look at the Bay Bridge lights from San Francisco’s waterfront. The “Bay Lights” is an iconic San Francisco light sculpture that surely can’t be missed!

San Francisco at Night: The Best Things to Do With Family, Travel Realizations
Bay Bridge, San Francisco


The city hall is beautiful at night because all the lights are on. Seeing all the different colors shining on the building is pretty.

San Francisco at Night: The Best Things to Do With Family, Travel Realizations
The City Hall, San Francisco

If you’re lucky enough to visit the big city on a clear night with family, make time for a sunset stroll through Grandview Park. This small but scenic spot provides a breathtaking view of the cityscape. Also, don’t miss the opportunity to see the city lights come alive – it’s an unforgettable experience.

Tip: It’s the perfect place to unwind, and you can even enjoy a hot beverage from one of the nearby cafes while taking in the view.

18. Go for a beach bonfire with family at Ocean Beach, San Francisco

Picture a warm summer night at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. The sun has set, and the sky is clear, with a few bright stars shining. You’re sitting around a bonfire with your family, enjoying the company and the warmth. There’s a cool breeze blowing in off the ocean, and you can hear the waves crashing on the shore. If this is something that excites you, then visit Ocean Beach! Feel the cool breezes, breathe the clean, salty air, and listen to the cries of the seagulls and the sounds of crashing surf. Ocean Beach in San Francisco is also a great place to walk when the fog is rolling in.

19. Explore Salesforce Park – A public urban park in the sky

Salesforce Park is a 5.4-acre public park located in the heart of San Francisco’s downtown SOMA district. The park is built on the Salesforce Transit Center and features many visitor amenities and activities. There are numerous gardens and open spaces, a children’s play area, an amphitheater, and a cafe. This floating park is a paradise amid SF’s Skyscrapers and is the perfect place to take a break. It is one of the top things to do if you visit San Francisco at night with your family.

20. Listen to San Francisco’s history, from Gold Rush to Golden Gate, in a Self-Guided Tour

Have you ever wanted to explore San Francisco at your own pace and listen in on the city’s colorful history? Then book a self-guided tour! Your family will love exploring all that this vibrant metropolis has to offer, from iconic landmarks like The Golden Gate Bridge or Fisherman’s Wharf down to its gritty roots as seen through Alcatraz Island.

21. Discover the spooky tales of San Francisco’s past in a ghost tour

San Francisco is not only known for its cable cars and hilly streets but also for its number of haunted locations. If you are brave at heart and up for excitement, then embark on one of these tours. It’s a tour of history, tragedy, mayhem, and ghosts.

22. Visit Madame Tussauds in San Francisco at night

San Francisco Madame Tussauds is one of the unique attractions in the city, with many awe-inspiring waxworks on display. From historical figures to movie stars, there’s something for everyone to see at this fascinating attraction. Plus, it’s a great place to take photos – you’ll feel like you’re right in the middle of your favorite movie or TV show!

23. Go for a sunset photography tour

Go for a sunset photography tour in San Francisco and capture the skyline at night. With the help of a professional photographer, you’ll be able to take truly stunning photos of your family with the gorgeous backdrop of the city that you’ll cherish forever. You won’t want to miss this experience!

San Francisco at Night: The Best Things to Do With Family, Travel Realizations
Source: Photo by John Deng

24. Watch a live show at the Presidio Theatre

Plan a mini-escape with your family at Presidio’s dreamy theatre in the park and let your cares melt away. The Presidio theatre is located in the heart of the park, and its beautiful setting is the perfect backdrop for an evening of entertainment. The theatre offers a wide variety of shows, ranging from dance and music performances to plays and films. There is also a cafe on-site, so you can enjoy a bite to eat before or after the show. Whether you’re looking for a night out on the town or a peaceful escape from your everyday routine, the Presidio Theatre is sure to provide an unforgettable experience.

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Nighttime in San Francisco is a magical experience. There are so many things to do and see that you will be hard-pressed to fit it all into one trip. Whether you’re looking to enjoy a romantic sail away into the sunset, take the family out for an evening of fun activities, or watch a show at the ballet, there’s something for everyone in this eclectic city. Luckily, with a little planning, you can experience some of the best this city offers. San Francisco has everything, whether you’re into art, music, nature, or just exploring new neighborhoods. So get your family together and explore. I hope you can experience some of these amazing activities for yourself! Which one sounds like your favorite? Let me know in the comments below.

Nighttime in San Francisco is a magical experience. Check out my top picks for the best things to see & do in San Francisco with the family. #Travel #SanFrancisco #BayArea Click To Tweet

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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. Such a great idea for a post to look at it from the night. I’ve been to SF several times, and yet you managed to show me a side I’ve rarely seen. Enjoyed it.

  2. A cable car ride at night must be beautiful. I would like to do it one day.

  3. Sue

    San Francisco Is one of my favourite US cities but I’ve not been for years. Reading this made me want to return. I have been to Alcatraz numerous times but I bet it’s a really creepy experience at night. Thanks for reminding me to return!

  4. Great ideas! I really enjoyed the night tour to Alcatraz!

  5. Thanks so much for this informative list of thing to do in San Francisco at night. This will come in super handy when trip planning.

  6. Truly magical places, not only for entertainment but for cultural enrichment as well! A wonderful guide! I’m bookmarking it for my future journies.

  7. The Alkatraz Night Tour certainly sounds interesting. It’s one of the spots stil on my SF bucket list.

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