San Francisco, a hilly city located on a peninsula surrounded by the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, is best known for its year-round fog, colorful Victorian houses, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and its cable cars. A visit to the city by the bay will provide you with numerous exciting places to explore and many fascinating activities in which to take part.
Look over the following list, pick a couple activities that interest you, and get ready to enjoy your next day trip to San Francisco. If you find you can’t fit all the activities you want into one day, you just might have to plan more than one trip.
Day Trip Ideas in San Francisco
During a quick trip to San Francisco, you just might have time to explore more than one of the following. Look over the list and choose those activities you think you’ll enjoy the most.
Golden Gate Park
With its 1,017 beautiful acres, Golden Gate Park could be called the big green heart of San Francisco. It also has more than enough to keep you busy the whole day, so you might even want to pack a picnic. It’s a popular destination that was carved out of the ancient sand dunes located in the area by park engineer William Hammond Hall and master gardener John McLaren.
Visit one of the park’s many lush gardens, the Conservatory of Flowers (see more on the Conservatory below), the San Francisco Botanical Garden (also discussed below), Oak Woodlands Natural Areas, the Japanese Tea Garden (the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States), a Dutch Windmill, Stow Lake, the California Academy of Sciences and so much more.
While there, you might be able to catch a concert at the Music Concourse, a landscaped basin between the de Young Museum (more on the museum below) and the California Academy of Sciences. Free concerts are hosted on Sundays during the summer. The area also serves as a year-round picnic spot.
The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers
Located inside Golden Gate Park, the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers has enchanted and captivated visitors for more than a 100 years by offering an intimate and up-close experience with many rare and endangered plants. The oldest public wood and glass conservatory in North America, this historical landmark and its Victorian architecture, continues to be one of the most beloved and photographed attractions in San Francisco. The Conservatory houses more than 2,000 species of plants and flowers. Check out their exhibits & events page to see if an upcoming exhibit or event would be of particular interest to you.
The San Francisco Botanical Garden
Also located in Golden Gate Park, the San Francisco Botanical Garden, considered by some to be a living museum, has 55 acres of both open spaces and landscaped gardens, showcasing more than 8,500 different kinds of plants from around the world. Come relax in and explore this urban garden’s unique beauty, a place to enjoy a wide range of plants that exist in few other botanical gardens in the world. You can even enjoy plants that can no longer be found in their native habitats. Check out their calendar of events to schedule your visit around an activity in which you have a particular interest.
The de Young Museum
Located in Golden Gate Park, the de Young museum combines the old and the new. After earthquakes deemed the old museum unsafe, a new copper-sheathed building was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron and opened its doors to the public in 2005. Outdoor landscaping incorporates elements from the old museum with new features, including the Pool of Enchantment and sphinx sculptures from the old while adding a new sculpture garden and a new children’s garden. Inside the museum, you can still enjoy a wide variety of paintings, sculptures and decorative arts from around the world. While there, be sure to visit the public observation floor at the top to catch panoramic views of Golden Gate Park, San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. Some exhibits are permanent, while others are traveling. Click here to see what is currently featured at the de Young.
The Asian Art Museum
Dedicated to Asian art in the United States, the Asian Art Museum is strategically located on the Pacific Rim and in San Francisco to serve as a bridge of understanding between the United States and the various diverse cultures of Asia. There are many permanent exhibits at the Museum which house approximately 12,000 pieces of art including exhibits dedicated to China which includes the highly praised Avery Brundage Collection, South Asia and the role of religion in South Asian art, the Persian World and West Asian art, Southeast Asia and the strong influence of religion in ancient Southeast Asian art and others.
Dine at the Garden Court in the Palace Hotel – recognized as one of the most beautiful rooms in the world. The sun-filled room, covered by a glass dome atrium and hung with shimmering Austrian crystal chandeliers, offers a relaxed, elegant and unforgettable dining experience, serving breakfast, lunch, signature tea and city brunch.
San Francisco’s Historic Ferry Building
Enjoy the unique ambiance of the historic Ferry Building, one of San Francisco’s most famous landmarks. Inside the building, the Marketplace provides you access to local members of the artisan food community as they hawk their wares in a food market situated along an “indoor street” known as the Nave. Learn more about the Ferry Building in our blog post, Support Local Artists as you Enjoy the Ambiance of San Francisco’s Historic Ferry Building.
With attractions like the amazing Aquarium of the Bay and free daily shows by local street performers at the Smartwater Stage, events, dining paired with fine California wines and stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay and shopping at stores featuring clothing, jewelry, body care and specialty items, Pier 39 never lacks for things to do to keep you busy. The Pier has so much to offer that it could be a dedicated day trip all by itself. Be sure to check out their offers page to see if you can save a little money as you enjoy all that Pier 39 makes available.
How about a visit to the Presidio, a military installation from 1776 until 1994? It’s now a national park with almost 1,500 acres of trails, gorgeous beaches and stunning views. Begin at the visitor’s center, then move on to the Officers’ Club – a museum and cultural center.
Need a place to eat? Check out Arguello, a Mexican restaurant located in The Presidio, giving you a place to enjoy food prepared by award-winning chef Traci Des Jardins.
Visit the Presidio’s events calendar to learn more about the park’s many free events which include outdoor festivals, live music and hikes.
Take in a Little Fishing
Do you enjoy fishing? If so, visit our blog post, Top Places to Fish Near San Francisco & Health Fresh Fish Recipes, to learn more about fishing opportunities in the area including San Francisco Bay, Fisherman’s Wharf and Bon Tempe Lake. Grab a couple fishing buddies and enjoy a peaceful day reeling them in.
Finishing Up an Enjoyable Day Trip to San Francisco
As you wrap up your day and pack up the car, there’s no better place to go than back to your home at Lake Park, a beautifully maintained retirement community located in downtown Oakland, just a short drive south of San Francisco. Lake Park’s convenient location is rich in both culture and activity. But, location is just one of the many reasons active seniors chose Lake Park. Contact us today to learn more. We would love to answer any questions you may have and look forward to welcoming you into the Lake Park family.