When a person thinks of San Francisco, a giant International Orange-colored bridge, a park spanning more than 1,000 acres or a city where contemporary art and culture collide often come to mind. While these mainstays never lose their luster, the reasons to visit San Francisco are even more numerous. Where most visitors go while here might surprise you.
Based on data collected from visitors, here are the top 20 attractions:
AQUARIUM OF THE BAY
Experience the magic of San Francisco Bay at Aquarium of the Bay. Located at the waters edge, 20,000 local sea creatures await you. See eye-to-eye with a seven gill shark, be mesmerized by moon jellies and touch a bat rays wing. Walk through crystal clear tunnels and watch San Francisco Bays most amazing animals swim overhead.
7D Experience is the most advanced 3D film attraction in the world and the first of its kind in Northern America. Using cutting edge technology developed by TrioTech of Montreal, Canada, 7D offers the thrill of a roller coaster and the excitement of an interactive laser blaster, all without leaving your seat in a state-of-the-art digital theater with surround sound, 3D effects and the newest in laser technology.
MAGOWANS INFINITE MIRROR MAZE
Experience amazing fun for the whole family at Magowans Infinite Mirror Maze! Challenge yourself to find your way through the infinite hallways, endless circles and deadends of the most fascinating maze in San Francisco.
CITYSIGHTSEEING SAN FRANCISCO
The City Sightseeing San Francisco 48-hour Downtown and Golden Gate Bridge/Sausalito Loops Pass combines two entirely live narrated, diverse tours in one incredible ticket! First, enjoy a tour of San Franciscos most famous attractions on an original Double Decker Bus throughout the Downtown area. Then, hop on the Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito tour to ride or walk across the world famous Golden Gate Bridge and ride down into Marin County to see the charming town of Sausalito where you can go for a stroll, visit art galleries or enjoy a relaxing lunch by the waterfront.
BLUE & GOLD FLEET
Bay Cruise Adventure Take in the best of the bay with this one hour joy ride. Enjoy sailing along the citys wondrous waterfront, under the Golden Gate Bridge, through Sausalito, into Angel Island and around Alcatraz.
OR BLUE & GOLD FLEET
Escape from the Rock Cruise Take a special ninety-minute cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge and twice around Alcatraz Island. A chilling soundtrack featuring stories of notorious criminals and harrowing escapes makes this an unforgettable experience of the famous prison.
PIER 39 SAVINGS FUN PACK
Get the most out of your visit with this ultimate savings package. The Fun Pack includes more than 100 coupons and discounts to many of PIER 39s stores, restaurants and attractions.
Hours fluctuate for each attraction. PIER 39 is open daily except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day. Operating hours and days may vary for individual attractions.
Once called "the bridge that couldn't be built," today it is one the seven wonders of the modern world. This magnificent span, perhaps San Francisco's most famous landmark, opened in 1937 after a four-year struggle against relentless winds, fog, rock and treacherous tides.
Crossing the strait of the Golden Gate from San Francisco to the Marin headlands for 1.7 miles is the world-renowned Golden Gate Bridge, easily identified by its International Orange color. Opened in 1937, the bridge was built at a cost of $35 million in principal and $39 million in interest and 11 workers' lives. The single-suspension span is anchored by twin towers that reach skyward 746 feet, and was once taller than any building in San Francisco. To support the suspended roadway, two cables, each more than 7,000 feet in length and both containing 80,000 miles of wire stretch over the top of the towers and are rooted in concrete anchorages on shore. More than 10 years in planning due to formidable opposition, but only four years in actual construction, the Golden Gate Bridge brought the communities of San Francisco and Marin counties closer together.
Pedestrians including wheelchair users and bicyclists can go on the sidewalks of the bridge during daylight hours but roller blades, skateboards and roller skates are not permitted. There are vista points on both north and south sides of the bridge with parking lots. For information on sidewalk closures due to construction, visit goldengatebridge.org/bikesbridge/bikes.php .
If you can't visit the bridge in person, do the virtual bridge walk and don't forget to check out the view from the top of the south tower.
The de Young Museum
A top destination while visiting San Francisco, the de Young museum showcases an extraordinary permanent collection of American art from the 17th through 21st centuries, modern and contemporary art, photography, international textiles and costumes, and art from Africa, Oceania and the Americas. The ninth-floor Observation Level of the de Young's Hamon Tower offers breathtaking 360-degree views of San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean. Open Tuesday–Sunday 9:30 a.m. – 5:15 p.m., Fridays (March–November) until 8:45 p.m. Closed most Mondays and holidays. Special exhibition tickets available for additional price. Prices, hours and programs are subject to change. deyoungmuseum.org
California Academy of Sciences
Explore an aquarium, planetarium and natural history museum all under one living roof. A four-story living rainforest and awe-inspiring coral reef ecosystem will delight visitors of all ages, while immersive planetarium shows will transport audiences through space and time for a new perspective on our planet. Dynamic daily programs - from penguin feedings to coral reef dives - offer a wealth of opportunities to dive deeper. In addition to general admission tickets, the Academy offers a variety of opportunities to enhance any visit, including daily Behind-the-Scenes Tours, weekly NightLife events and NightLife VIP Tours (ages 21+) and Penguins and Pajamas sleepovers. The museum is also available for special events of up to 3,000 guests. Let the wonder begin! calacademy.org
Conservatory of Flowers
Historic San Francisco landmark in Golden Gate Park since 1879 boasting rare tropical flowers and plants from around the world. Architectural gem with five distinct galleries. Tuesday–Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; open holidays except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Discount available for visitors with proof of San Francisco residency. conservatoryofflowers.org
San Francisco Botanical Garden
Stroll through New Zealand, the Mediterranean or Central American rain forests. The garden is a beautiful, calm oasis. Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Saturday, Sunday and holidays 10 a.m.–5 p.m.. Tours Monday–Friday 1:30 p.m., Saturday–Sunday 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. sfbg.org
Japanese Tea Garden
Constructed in 1893 for the California Midwinter International Exposition, the Japanese Tea Garden is graced with torii (gates), pagodas, a moon bridge and a 1.5-ton Buddha. Fortune cookies were first created and served here in 1914 and can still be enjoyed in the teahouse.
A pristine man-made lake located in the heart of the park where you can rent a row boat, electric boat or pedal boat from the Stow Lake Boathouse . The surrounding views and grounds are gorgeous. And the boathouse café sells food, snacks and drinks to keep you going throughout your park adventure. It's a lovely place to spend the afternoon. stowlakeboathouse.com
National Aids Memorial Grove
The National AIDS Memorial Grove is dedicated to the millions of lives AIDS has affected. This memorial signifies that the global tragedy of AIDS will never be forgotten. This dedicated space is open to the public for picnics and regularly hosts performing arts events and weddings. It is a beautiful, peaceful place to gather, remember, explore and experience.
Why visit the home on the range when you can see real buffalo roam right here in Golden Gate Park See these majestic creatures in an open, safe habitat.
Located steps from the Pacific Ocean on the west side of the park is the Beach Chalet. Stop by for a lunch, dinner or drinks. Come out for Taco Tuesday, featuring live music from 6:30–9:30 p.m., cheap tacos, handcrafted beers and half-price margaritas. The Spanish Colonial architecture and history associated with the building (formerly a changing house for beach frolickers) is worth checking out, too.
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