Even though the rent keeps rising in San Francisco, there are a surprising amount of free things to see and do while you visit. This historic city has many hidden gems, and it’s hard to beat all the ways you can save when you visit. Be sure to see these local landmarks, free of charge.
This truly unique sculpture can be enjoyed along the San Francisco Bay. This art installation isn’t just fun to watch; this sculpture utilizes the incoming waves to create music, much like a giant harmonica. This piece has been enjoyed by area residents and visitors since 1986, and it still remains a top attraction for many. Be sure to visit it at high tide when the waves produce the most amount of music. Whether you enjoy nature or art, this can be enjoyed many.
Filbert Street Steps
Chances are your calves are going to remember San Francisco better than anyone with its long, steep hills and stairs. However, it’s certainly worth the extra work out. Filbert Street Steps especially provides scenic views that are hard to beat anywhere else in the city. Be sure to see all three sections of the stairs for the most amount of sightseeing. You may be able to see the famous Parrots of Telegraph Hill! This set of steps can be accessed from three separate areas, giving you the most amounts of views in one convenient area.
Other steps and hill climbs are seemingly everywhere in the city, but Filbert Street Steps allows for more sightseeing all at once. You should probably check this landmark out first, and despite what others suggest it’s perfectly acceptable to start from the top and work your way down.
Another free offering from the local Exploratorium is a real gas, with over 800 misting nozzles across 150 feet, producing an ethereal bridge made entirely of mist.
While the Golden Gate Bridge looks dreamy in the morning fog, this permanent installation takes the romantic view into another immersive step. Located on Piers 15 and 17, this unique attraction is produced about every half hour, and can be enjoyed from a distance or from on the physical bridge it wraps around. You can enjoy the fog without waking up early all throughout the day.
Whether you plan on visiting the local science museum the Exploratorium or you plan on touring the piers, the Fog Bridge can be enjoyed by anyone. Better still is it won’t chew up a lot of your time, allowing for plenty of exploration before and afterwards.
As you can tell from the many outdoor art sculptures, San Francisco is known for its art. And while other art galleries can have expensive admission fees, 49 Geary takes a different approach. While you may not be able to find an affordable piece to take back home with you, this four story art gallery just southeast of Union Square is full of local art pieces for you to enjoy all afternoon and it costs absolutely nothing to walk in.
These galleries aren’t just limited to one form of art, either; you’ll find galleries for photography, paintings, sculptures, and more. If you run into a rainy day or simply love independent local art, 49 Geary is a great stop for you. When you’re planning on visiting the downtown districts, be sure to swing by the galleries for an impressive display of local talent.
Golden Gate Park
I’m always a big local park guy, and Golden Gate Park is one of the best out there. This Haight-Ashbury-area park stretches over 1,000 acres of public land and is available to be enjoyed 24 hours every day. This park truly has it all; you can find plenty of trees, flowers, and plants, museum offerings, biking and walking trails, and paid Segway tours.
Probably the best part of visiting Golden Gate Park is the architecture. As San Francisco has a large population of Japanese, Chinese, and other Asian cultures, many come to Golden Gate Park for the Japanese Tea Gardens. This is an inexpensive area attraction, and can be enjoyed free if you can make it to the 10 am ceremonies on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. You can enjoy Victorian-style architecture at the Conservatory of Flowers, the world’s oldest conservatory. Spanish colonial architecture can be seen at the Beach Chalet, which holds a local brewery and restaurant on the second floor and murals.
Finally, local views of Alcatraz can be seen from certain parts of the park, and Golden Gate Bridge, while not immediately visible, is less than three miles away. It’s also fairly convenient from other area hot spots such as the Financial District, 16th Avenue Tiled Steps, and Land’s End, giving you plenty of opportunities to visit multiple times and attempt to see it all. There are also other free offerings as well throughout the week, such as a free half hour dance lesson on Sundays, and the famous Hamon Observation Tower for the best views in the city.