San Francisco Bucket List: 100 of the Best Things to Do Your First Time in San Francisco

View of the Painted Ladies in San Francisco, California.

Are you looking for things to do your first time in San Francisco? This San Francisco bucket list is perfect for the first-time tourist, listing 100  of the best things to do on your trip to San Francisco—suggested by a local. I love my city and want you to love it, too! I'm sharing my favorite places to eat and drink in San Francisco, along with the best San Francisco sights and day trips. This bucket list just skims the surface of everything the city by the bay has to offer, but it's a great starting point for San Francisco first-timers.

A local's san francisco bucket list for first-timers

  1. Walk by Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf—if you insist—and then quickly leave and explore the rest of this list. | Fisherman's Wharf
     
  2. Rent a bike and escape the hell that is Pier 39. Ride your rented bike across the Golden Gate Bridge—a tourist activity that is well worth your time. | Fisherman's Wharf
     
  3. Stop for a world-famous Irish coffee at the Buena Vista Cafe. It's incredibly touristy, but as a local I'm even willing to fight the crowds to get one once or twice a year. | Fisherman's Wharf
     
  4. Grab a slice to-go at Golden Boy Pizza in North Beach. | North Beach
     
  5. Head around the corner for a drink at Maggie McGarry's—they have live music every Friday and Saturday night. | North Beach
     
  6. Browse through City Lights Bookstore, which has been a San Francisco favorite since 1953. | North Beach
     
  7. Enjoy fresh focaccia from Liguria Bakery. But beware, they close shop everyday whenever they sell out—so go early! | North Beach
     
  8. Eat one of the city's best sandwiches at Molinari Delicatessen, an old-school Italian deli with a to-die-for selection of cured meats. | North Beach
     
  9. Visit the iconic Ferry Building. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are best if you'd like to experience the Farmers Market. | Embarcadero
     
  10. Ride the historic F-Line streetcar along the Embarcadero, or up Market Street into the Castro—a great alternative to avoid the long lines for the Powell Street cablecar. | Embarcadero
     
  11. Snack on fresh oysters with a gorgeous view of the bay at Waterbar's $1.05 oyster happy hour, everyday from 11:30AM-5:30PM. | Embarcadero
     
  12. Photograph the Bay Bridge lit up at night from the Embarcadero. | Embarcadero
     
  13. Check out the view from the (free) public rooftop space at One Kearny. Enter the building at 23 Geary Street and tell the guard you want to visit the roof. Take the elevator to the 11th floor. | Financial District
     
  14. Eat lunch at Super Duper Burgers on Kearny Street. If not this specific location, be sure to eat at one of the other six locations throughout the city. BEST BURGER EVER.Financial District
     
  15. If ground beef isn't your thing, head over to The Bird—a simple, yet delicious, fried chicken sandwich joint created by the same genius behind Super Duper Burgers. | Financial District
     
  16. Grab a drink at House of Shields—a former gentlemen's club that functioned as an actual speakeasy during prohibition. | Financial District
     
  17. If it's baseball season, catch a Giants game at AT&T park. Eat the famous garlic fries while you're there. Pack a breath mint. | SoMa
     
  18. For a pregame meal and beverage, head to the sort-of hidden Victory Hall & Parlor. The bar serves food from neighboring Little Skillet, which is exponentially better than the more obvious selection of restaurants surrounding the ballpark. | SoMa
     
  19. Get your caffeine fix at Philz Coffee on Berry Street near the ballpark. While Philz Coffee is now starting to be seen outside of the city, it started as a local SF coffeeshop. Try the mint mojito iced coffee. | SoMa, Mission Bay
     
  20. Take a break at Yerba Buena Gardens. If the weather is nice, take your Super Duper Burger out to the lawn where you can sit down, dine and people-watch. | SoMa
     
  21. Enjoy a beer tasting flight at Cellarmaker Brewing Company. (Arguably the best brewery in the city)SoMa
     
  22. Have an art-filled afternoon at the newly-renovated SFMOMA. | SoMa
     
  23. Walk through Union Square so you can say you did it. A lot like Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf—overly crowded and filled with tourist traps—so you should limit your time here. There's so much more to see! | Union Square
     
  24. You probably want to ride the cablecar, but you can get stuck wasting hours in that line. See what the wait is like. If it's not bad, go for it. If it's hours long, there's usually a parked cablecar about 50 yards up Powell Street that you can pose for a photo with. | Union Square
     
  25. For a drink near Union Square, head to Johnny Foley's, one of SF's popular Irish pubs. Visit after 9PM to experience the dueling pianos downstairs—so much fun! | Union Square
     
  26. Or you could enjoy an (expensive) drink with an amazing view at the iconic Top Of The Mark. Don't let the expensive part deter you. Treat yourself! | Nob Hill
     
  27. Across the street you'll find another San Francisco institution hidden within the Fairmont Hotel—the Tonga Room. You need to stop by for at least one of their potent umbrella-clad cocktails. | Nob Hill
     
  28. Since you'll only be one block away, walk over to Grace Cathedral and admire its breathtaking beauty. | Nob Hill
     
  29. House of Prime Rib has a cult following in the SF Bay Area, and for good reason. Go here if you are willing to spend a little on a nice dinner. You deserve it. | Nob Hill
     
  30. For a cheaper meal in the area, head to Hot Sauce and Panko—serving some of the city's best chicken wings. | Nob Hill
     
  31. Eat a pork bun—and whatever else looks good—at Good Mong Kok bakery. The line moves quickly and everything is incredibly cheap. | Chinatown
     
  32. Walk down Grant Avenue through the heart of Chinatown. After all, SF does have one of the oldest Chinatowns in the country. It's also a good street for SF souvenirs, if you're interested in that kind of stuff. | Chinatown
     
  33. Stop at Eastern Bakery. Ask if they have any coconut bread. Eat it if they do. You'll know you're in the right place if you see a photo montage of President Bill Clinton's visit on the wall. | Chinatown
     
  34. Drink a Chinese Mai Tai at Li Po Cocktail Lounge. The bar dates back to 1937 and it shows. It's dark, kind of dirty, very dive-y. It's great, embrace it. | Chinatown
     
  35. Dine on one of the city's cheapest (but delicious) meals at the no-frills Saigon Sandwich. Sandwiches run around $4. Tenderloin
     
  36. Chambers eat & drink is just a few steps away and will help you quickly forget that you aren't in the nicest part of town. It's located in the extremely hip Phoenix Hotel where many musicians and celebrities have stayed over the last 60 years. You'll love the mid-century modern vibes. | Tenderloin
     
  37. Take a peek inside San Francisco City Hall. It's one of the most beautiful city halls you'll ever see. | Civic Center
     
  38. For one of the best gyros outside of Athens, check out Souvla. The salads are delicious, too. | Hayes Valley
     
  39. It's hard to find outdoor drinking establishments in San Francisco, but Biergarten is a local favorite. | Hayes Valley
     
  40. Take a walk down Hayes Street and browse the local boutique shops. | Hayes Valley
     
  41. The view from Alamo Square is one of the cliche tourist spots that's worth your time. The Painted Ladies in front of the city skyline—it's a postcard worthy view.  Full Hours lovers, rejoice! | Alamo Square
     
  42. A tiki bar with a pirate-themed twist is what you'll find at Smuggler's Cove. This must-visit bar offers the largest rum selection in the U.S. along with a tasty cocktail menu. It opens every day at 5PM and the space is on the small side, so a line quickly starts to form out front. Arrive early. | Fillmore
     
  43. Check the schedule online and try to catch a concert at The Fillmore. The venue is legendary and full of so much history. Plus they usually give a free custom concert poster to guests at each show. | Fillmore
     
  44. Snag a late-night snack at Tommy's Joynt, known for serving freshly-carved meat sandwiches and plates for over 60 years. It's all about the corned beef sandwich! | Fillmore, Western Addition
     
  45. Explore the streets of San Francisco's Japantown, one of only three Japantowns remaining in the U.S. | Japantown, Western Addition
     
  46. Burn off all of the calories you've been consuming by climbing the Lyon Street Steps. The view is amazing, so bring your camera! | Pacific Heights, Marina
     
  47. Hungry again? You're not far from another one of the city's best sandwiches at Lucca Delicatessen. Marina
     
  48. If the sun is out, take your sandwich to the lawn at Fort Mason and have picnic. Locals flock here when the weather is good. | Marina
     
  49. From March-October, you can check out Off The Grid: Fort Mason Center, a weekly outdoor collection of the Bay Area's tastiest food trucks and vendors. If you can't make it to Fort Mason, look up Off The Grid's schedule for additional locations throughout the Bay Area. | Marina
     
  50. Walk around and take pictures at the Palace of Fine Arts. It's stunning. | Marina
     
  51. Take even more photos at nearby Crissy Field, where you'll have one of the best possible views of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. It's also a great place for a picnic. | Marina
     
  52. Have a delicious Puerto Rican meal at Parada 22. | The Haight
     
  53. Sneak next door to Cha Cha Cha and share a pitcher of sangria with your friends. Or don't share it—that's cool, too.  | The Haight
     
  54. Browse the vast selection of music at Amoeba. The original location is located in Berkeley, if you happen to find yourself on that side of the bay. | The Haight
     
  55. Take a walk down quirky Haight Street and imagine what it was like in the 1960s. Take a selfie at the corner of Haight & Ashbury underneath the street signs. You know you want to. | The Haight
     
  56. Choose from over 40 beers on tap at Toronado—a straight-forward and unpretentious local favorite. | Lower Haight
     
  57. Eat some post-beer chicken wings and fries at Wing Wings. The signature Wing Wing sauce is where it's at. | Lower Haight
     
  58. Go skating at a roller rink in an abandoned church. Sound crazy? Even more of a reason to check out The Church of 8 Wheels. | Lower Haight
     
  59. Pick up a loaf of bread at Tartine Manufactory; stay for lunch if you have time. Tartine Bakery, the original, is a city favorite for its bread and baked goods. | Mission
     
  60. Stroll down Clarion Alley, a one-stop shop for some of the city's best street art. | Mission
     
  61. Have a drink at Elixir, one of San Francisco's oldest bars. They've been serving booze there since 1858. | Mission
     
  62. There are plenty of opinions on where to get the best burrito in San Francisco. Try El Farolito and La Taqueria and you can decide for yourself. | Mission
     
  63. Enjoy a round of miniature golf on the most intricate, artistic indoor course you'll ever see, at Urban Putt. | Mission
     
  64. Grab a cocktail at El Techo, one of San Francisco's only rooftop bars. | Mission
     
  65. Sit and enjoy one of the best views of the San Francisco skyline, overlooking Dolores park from the bench at the corner of Church & 20th. Mission
     
  66. Visit San Francisco's only Portuguese cafe, Cafe St. Jorge, and try their wide variety of baked treats, as well as Portuguese-inspired dishes. | Mission, Bernal Heights
     
  67. Get a taste of Southern hospitality and get your brunch on at The Front Porch. Mission, Bernal Heights
     
  68. If you're interested in fresh seafood, Anchor Oyster Bar is a MUST. | Castro
     
  69. Classic movies, Disney sing-a-longs, the Castro Theatre has it all! Check the schedule online, because anything here is bound to be a fun time. | Castro
     
  70. Catch a game in a fun environment with delicious cocktails at Hi Tops, San Francisco's first gay sports bar. | Castro
     
  71. Sip on a classic martini and enjoy the music at Martuni's. | Castro
     
  72. Watch the sunset over the Bay Area from the top of Twin Peaks. | Twin Peaks
     
  73. Explore the adorable, lesser-known neighborhood of West Portal and eat at Submarine Center while you're there. | West Portal
     
  74. Recharge at Andytown Coffee Roasters with coffee and one of their baked goods. | Sunset
     
  75. There's a debate over who has the best xiao long bao (Chinese soup dumplings) in San Francisco— it's all about Dumpling Kitchen. | Sunset
     
  76. Break a quick sweat climbing (and posing for pictures) on the 16th Avenue tiled steps. Sunset
     
  77. Have an affordable, yet delicious, bowl of hand-pulled noodles with a beef roll pancake at House of Pancakes—not be confused with IHOP. | Sunset
     
  78. If you're visiting San Francisco during the summer months, catch a free Sunday concert at Stern Grove. | Sunset
     
  79. Grad a midday snack at Arizmendi Bakery. The bread, cookies, pastries and pizza are all excellent. | Sunset
     
  80. Pack a picnic and hang with the locals in Golden Gate Park. | Sunset/Richmond
     
  81. Visit the Academy of Sciences nightlife, a one-night event each week where adult beverages are served while you explore and learn. | Golden Gate Park
     
  82. Head towards the coast and explore the remains of Sutro Baths. | Richmond
     
  83. Hike the Lands End trail for gorgeous views of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge. | Richmond
     
  84. Try a margarita at Tommy's, and then head a few blocks down for another margarita at Tia Margarita's—then you can argue about which one is better. | Richmond
     
  85. Instagram your colorful birthday cake latte at Home cafe. | Richmond
     
  86. Snap a few frame-worthy San Francisco tourist photos at Baker Beach with the bridge in the background. | Presidio
     
  87. Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city and walk through Lovers' Lane. | Presidio
     

  88. Run—or tag along— at Bay to Breakers, San Francisco's beloved footrace and costume party. | Third Sunday in May, annually
     

  89. Celebrate equality and the LGBTQ community at the San Francisco Pride parade and festival. | End of June, annually
     
  90. Enjoy a diverse lineup of genres, along with the Bay Area's best food and drinks, at Outside Lands Music Festival. | Second weekend of August, annually
     
  91. You can catch one of the city's favorite three-day music festivals, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, the first weekend of October in Golden Gate Park. And the best part—it's free! | First weekend of October, annually
     
  92. See thousands of people dressed as Santa fill the streets for an all-day party and pub crawl at SantaCon. It's a sight worth seeing! | Early December, annually
     
  93. Get out of the city for the day and browse around Treasure Island Flea Market. Treasure Island offers incredible views of the city! | Day Trip
     
  94. Take a drive to Napa Valley for some wine tasting. In less than an hour and half, you can be in the heart of one of the world's most famous wine regions. | Day Trip from San Francisco
     
  95. Wander the trails and awe at the beautiful, towering redwood trees at Muir Woods National Monument. | Day Trip from San Francisco
     
  96. Go for a hike in the Marin Headlands, located just north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge. The views are unreal.  | Day Trip from San Francisco
     
  97. Hop on a ferry for a day trip to Sausalito. The 15-minute ride offers amazing views of the city and Alcatraz. | Day Trip from San Francisco
     
  98. Or you could take the ferry to Alameda where you can do a tour & tasting at St. George Spirits, then have a beer next door at Faction Brewing. | Day Trip from San Francisco
     
  99. Travel down Highway 1 and grab a tasty seafood lunch at Barbara's Fishtrap while exploring Half Moon Bay. | Day Trip from San Francisco
     
  100. Ride BART from San Francisco to the East Bay. Explore Oakland and Berkeley, both of which have amazing restaurants and breweries. | Day Trip from San Francisco
Busy Saturday morning at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market in San Francisco, California.

Busy Saturday morning at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market in San Francisco, California.

Evening Giant's game at AT&T Park

Evening Giant's game at AT&T Park

Art exhibit at San Francisco MOMA

Art exhibit at San Francisco MOMA

Chicken wings at Hot Sauce and Panko in San Francisco

Chicken wings at Hot Sauce and Panko in San Francisco

Banh Mi at Saigon Sandwich in the Tenderloin

Banh Mi at Saigon Sandwich in the Tenderloin

Alamo Square Park is a popular hangout spot for locals.

Alamo Square Park is a popular hangout spot for locals.

San Francisco has one of the only remaining Japantowns in the United States.

San Francisco has one of the only remaining Japantowns in the United States.

Behind the scenes at Tartine Manufactory in San Francisco

Behind the scenes at Tartine Manufactory in San Francisco

Coffee and baked treats at Cafe St. Jorge, San Francisco's only Portuguese Cafe.

Coffee and baked treats at Cafe St. Jorge, San Francisco's only Portuguese Cafe.

Sunset view of San Francisco from Twin Peaks

Sunset view of San Francisco from Twin Peaks

Delicious Italian almond cookies at Arizmendi Bakery in San Francisco

Delicious Italian almond cookies at Arizmendi Bakery in San Francisco

Overlooking the remains of Sutro Baths in San Francisco

Overlooking the remains of Sutro Baths in San Francisco

View of the San Francisco from Treasure Island

View of the San Francisco from Treasure Island

Ride the San Francisco Bay Ferry to Sausalito for the day

Ride the San Francisco Bay Ferry to Sausalito for the day

Have you ever been to the city by the bay? What are your favorite things to do in San Francisco? Share your san francisco bucket list in the comments below!

LOVE IT? SHARE IT ON PINTEREST!