Expert Advice

11 Iconic Things To Do In San Francisco, From Cable Cars To Golden Gate Bridge

What to do according to a Hilton Grand Vacations Member

Raeanne V
A Hilton Grand Vacations Member in San Francisco

Welcome, fellow wanderers, to the fun-filled city of San Francisco. An unforgettable adventure — filled with iconic landmarks, cultural treasures and culinary delights — awaits at every corner. In San Francisco, the city’s vibrant energy city will surely get your adrenaline pumping.  

A Hilton Grand Vacations Member by the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

Things To Do In San Francisco

1. Golden Gate Bridge

A trip to San Francisco isn’t complete without a visit to this iconic landmark, which towers above the glistening blue waters of the bay. This scarlet red structure serves breathtaking views available from multiple viewpoints.

Some of the best photo spots of the Golden Gate Bridge include Golden Gate Overlook, Marshall’s Beach, Fort Point and Battery Spencer. I stuck around the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center

2. Fisherman’s Wharf

This waterfront neighborhood is one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist attractions. Fisherman’s Wharf provides a vibrant atmosphere, filled with the sounds of tourists bustling between souvenir shops, street performers dancing to their own beats and the occasional sea lions grunting in the distance.

Stop by the numerous seafood restaurants and eateries for clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls, Dungeness crab and fresh oysters. 

3. Alcatraz Island

This famous island is known for being a former high-security federal prison that operated from 1934–1963 but now serves as another popular tourist attraction. Take a guided tour to learn about the history of Alcatraz and explore the prison cells of some of America’s most notorious criminals. Plus, Alcatraz is only accessible via ferry, so this attraction gives you a new perspective of San Francisco.

4. Umbrella Alley

A lesser-known attraction, this artsy alleyway is perfect for colorful and Instagram-worthy photos. Umbrella Alley is adorned with murals and installations to display the talented local artists of San Francisco’s vibrant art community. 

Painted Ladies, pastel-colored houses in San Francisco

5. Painted Ladies

If you’re a 90s kid like me, you’ll recognize this famed spot from “Full House,” a timepiece of our childhood. No, you won’t run into D.J., Stephanie or Michelle Tanner — but the picturesque beauty of the houses’ pastel hues, intricate Victorian architectural details and San Francisco cityscape will make you feel like you’re in the opening credits of your own TV show

6. Mile Rock Trail

If you want a taste of Mother Nature, the Mile Rock Trail offers stunning coastal views with the red hues of the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. Though it seems far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city, this serene hiking destination is nestled within San Francisco proper. 

7. Coffee Movement

One of my favorite things to do when I visit different locations is taste test different coffee shops. Coffee Movement hits the spot with its seasonal drinks (such as the orange cream iced latte), high-quality espresso and lattes. 

A plate of oysters

8. La Mar Cebicheria Peruana

This restaurant in the Embarcadero was one of my favorite eateries in San Francisco. La Mar is a lively restaurant that serves authentic Peruvian cuisine, but its specialty is ceviche. Their fresh, high-quality dishes did not disappoint, and I can’t wait for the next time I get to go back. Make sure you reserve a table ahead of time.

9. Swan’s Oyster Depot

If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m a sucker for seafood — San Francisco is a great foodie destination. This hole in the wall is so good that the line is out the door by opening time. It’s one of the oldest family-owned seafood establishments in San Francisco, serving an assortment of oysters, crab, lobster and shrimp.   

10. Bike Or Scooter Around The City

Rent a bike or an electric scooter for a fun and efficient way to explore the city (and give your feet a break). I opted for an electric scooter to channel my inner Mia Thermopolis and live my dreams of exploring San Francisco on a scooter like in “The Princess Diaries.” 

11. Cable Car Ride

Cable cars are a San Francisco icon and a must-do when visiting the city. Cable cars are nostalgic; the city implemented them in the 19th century to traverse the hilly terrain. Enjoy the fresh air while experiencing the sights and sounds of the city. Make sure you plan ahead since the wait times tend to be long.

A Hilton Grand Vacations Member on a trolley in San Francisco

Travel Tips

As you start planning what to do in San Francisco, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Dress in layers. San Francisco can be chilly throughout the year, even during the summer.  
  • Bring comfortable shoes. If you plan to explore the city on foot, pack proper footwear. Those hills are killer
  • Research dining options ahead of time. San Francisco is a culinary hub, so make reservations at popular restaurants to ensure you get a table. 
  • Explore attractions outside of San Francisco, including Napa Valley for wine connoisseurs, Muir Woods for outdoor lovers or Sausalito for anyone craving more coastal views. 

Where To Stay In San Francisco

There are plenty of places to stay in San Francisco as a Hilton Grand Vacations Member. Kick back and relax at Club Donatello, a four-star timeshare in Union Square. Or use your HGV ClubPoints to stay with Hilton’s portfolio, including Parc 55 San Francisco, a Hilton Hotel.

Once you get through these San Francisco hits and your heart rate finally calms after walking around this hilly city, you’ll be singing “I left my heart in San Francisco.” 

Read “What To Do In San Francisco: Plan A Food Truck Tour” for an easy way to explore the city’s street food.

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Hilton Grand Vacations Owner Raeanne surfing while on vacation in Hawaii

Raeanne V

Raeanne’s been an Owner since 2019. One of her highlights of ownership was using her ClubPoints to WFH (work from Hawaii) for three nonconsecutive months. Follow Raeanne to satiate your travel bug for adventurous vacations.

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