11 unusual things to do in San Francisco


San Francisco is one of those iconic cities that you simply must visit at least once when traveling to the west coast of the USA. No matter what you’re planning to do in SF, you’ll need to ensure that you have a valid passport and US visa to enter the country and these can be hard to get. Luckily, visitors from 38 countries are permitted to apply for a US ESTA, which is much easier to obtain. So if you’re headed to the Golden City and are on the lookout for some unique activities whilst there, then look no further. This article has got 11 incredible things that you can only do in the Bay Area.

  • Ride a cable car

These are rarely used for public transit anymore, but the three remaining cable car lines are an iconic treat for tourists and are one of the city’s National Historic Landmarks. You can even head to the Cable Car Museum to learn about these fascinating cars.

  • Tour Alcatraz Island

This former maximum-security prison, located in the middle of San Francisco Bay, was home to the most notorious criminals of the 20th century and is famously haunted. True-crime buffs and horror fans can take a self-guided audio tour at any time of day, but for an extra spooky factor, you should go after dark.

  • Get hands-on at the Exploratorium

Here you can learn scientific principles through play and experimentation, with cool exhibits like an outdoor “fog bridge”, the toothpick diorama of San Francisco, and a sensory-deprivation crawl-through maze.

  • Sing along with the musicals at the Castro Theatre

Some of the biggest musicals from the past 100 years are played here to an audience that knows every word to the songs. At the beginning of each performance, the Castro Theatre holds a costume contest, before handing out free goodie bags with relevant props. The matinees are family-friendly, but the evening shows get a little more adult.

  • Take a fog walk

San Francisco’s fog is hardly a hidden phenomenon. In fact, Karl, as the fog is known, has its own Instagram account. However, there are certain areas that offer a better vantage point for you. Head to Land’s End, Sutro Tower, or Twin Peaks.

  • Bargain hunt at Treasure Fest

The last weekend of every month, Treasure Island hosts a fantastic flea market, filled with handcrafted and vintage items for the discerning buyer. This isn’t your average community sale, however, with live music, bars, and food trucks helping to boost the status of the event.

  • Skate through a service at the Church of 8 Wheels

If you’d like to roller skate to funky music in a beautiful setting, then this is the spot for you. Each weekend, D. Miles, Jr., the Godfather of skate, hosts the “rolliest” of services in this old church.

  • Admire the “Painted Ladies”

The beautiful, colourful Victorian and Edwardian houses at the corner of Hayes and Steiner Streets, sometimes called “Postcard Row”, have been featured in over 70 movies, ads, and TV shows, making them more famous than some of the actors that have filmed there. You can get a great photo from Alamo Square across the street. 

  • Visit Angel Island

This hidden gem, often referred to as the Ellis Island of the West, was the first location for millions of Chinese immigrants in the first half of the 20th century.  Here you can tour the US Immigration Station and learn the stories of those immigrants, some of whom were detained there for years and even carved poetry into the walls.

  • Tour the murals of the Mission District

Fans of street art will love these outdoor galleries that feature over 200 murals, reflecting the area’s Latinx heritage and commitment to social justice.

  • Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge

No article about San Francisco would be complete without mentioning the world’s most photographed bridge. This 1930’s iconic orange bridge is one of the most impressive architectural feats in the US and from it, you can see the juxtapositions between the city and the natural world. Walkers are permitted to cross the bridge (and get some great photos for Instagram) during daylight hours.

We hope that this article has given you enough inspiration to go and have a wonderful time in this fun and versatile city, but should you need more information, don’ hesitate to take a look at the SF tourist office website right here.