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The 10 Best Free Activities to Do in San Francisco

Penny-pinching in one of America's most expensive cities.

Considering San Francisco has become one of America’s most expensive cities to live in, all of the free things available to do in the City by the Bay prove to be quite the lovely consolation. From strolls across historic bridges and through beloved parks, to tours of museums and factories, or wine tastings and live music – Fog City has it all for the convenient price of free 99. So before your jaw drops at some of the rental rates in SF, first check out all of the incredible adventures available to those looking for free entertainment around the city. These are The 10 Best Free Activities to Do in San Francisco!

Golden Gate Park

Stretched across 1,017 acres of public grounds, Golden Gate Park is the fifth most-visited city park in the United States and 20% bigger than Manhattan’s Central Park. On top of offering the usual public park free fare such as hikes, sports, and lakes – Golden Gate Park is also known for the De Young Museum, the Japanese Tea Garden, and carousel building. Another free event offered within the park is Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, an annual non-commercial music festival held during the first weekend of October. Golden Gate Park is also home to Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival every August.

Ghirardelli Chocolate Square

Located in the heart of San Francisco’s iconic Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Chocolate Square is a city landmark home to a variety of specialty shops and restaurants. Once home to the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, the public square remains in tact today thanks to it being listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Check out Ghirardelli Square’s main chocolate shop and the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain while there and toss some loose change into the Ghirardelli Square Fountain for good luck. Then grab a sourdough bowl of clam chowder and take in the rest of the Wharf’s sites.

Lombard Street

San Francisco’s Lombard Street, also known as “the Most Crooked Street in the World,” is a famous street featuring a one-block section containing eight hairpin turns. The 600-foot stretch of the east-west street was built in 1922 and has a suggested speed limit of 5 mph. With the popular Powell-Hyde cable car’s Hyde Street stop at the top of the block, Lombard Street has become one of the more popular and frequented attractions in the city. Just sit back and watch the cluster that is considered the most crooked street in the world. And if you really want a treat, check out the Bring Your Own Big Wheel race each Easter weekend. While the race hasn’t been held on Lombard Street since 2007 (now on Vermont Street), it’s still a great free event that once resided at the crooked Lombard landmark.

San Francisco Botanical Garden

Comprising 55 acres of Golden Gate Park and formerly known as the Strybing Arboretum, the San Francisco Botanical Garden is home to over 50,000 individual plants. Open to the public for the past 75 years, the San Francisco Botanical Garden is divided into four broad plant collections (Mediterranean, Mild-temperate climate, Montane tropic, and Specialty collections) and over twenty unique sub-collections. A number of these plant species come from around the world including Central America, South America, and Southeast Asia. The mild Mediterranean climate of San Francisco makes for the ideal weather to support all of these plants from across the globe. Both free and educational, as well as located within Golden Gate Park, the San Francisco Botanical Garden is a must-visit for any nature lovers visiting the City by the Bay.

Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

With San Francisco’s Chinatown neighborhood being one of the more renowned in the country, its also home to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company and Factory. If you’ve ever eaten a fortune cookie it’s very likely it was made here. Located in an alley between Jackson and Washington Street, the fortune cookie factory has been open since 1962. In addition to making traditional fortune cookies, the company also produces chocolate flavored fortune cookies, fortune-less cookies, almond cookies, and other traditional sweets. Visitors touring the factory will witness workers creating the cookies, in addition to being able to purchase a bag of fortune cookies for only five dollars!

Fat Grape Winery

Housed within the old Navy Brig on San Francisco’s historic Treasure Island you’ll find Fat Grape Winery. As one of San Francisco’s newest urban wineries, creator/owner Patrick Bowen is making premier sulfite-free wines from California’s finest grapes. Founded in 2008 and offering always-free wine tastings, Fat Grape Winery is certainly on the come-up within the Northern California wine community. Fat Grape’s Tasting Room hours are between 11am and 6pm Thursdays through Sundays. Call today to book your free tasting.

Amoeba Music

In 1997 Amoeba Music finally crossed the Bay Bridge and opened a San Francisco store within a converted bowling alley on the eastern edge of Golden Gate Park. As the music store’s second location (following Berkeley), the massive music selection and free live music available has only helped revitalize the once music-filled Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. In addition to live shows the store frequently has in-store meet-n-greets and record signings for devoted Bay Area fans. If you’re ever looking to kill a few hours in the city, Amoeba is the perfect place to go wander. That goes for its Berkeley and Hollywood locations as well.

Cable Car Museum

At 1201 Mason Street in the Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco tourists will find the incredibly fascinating and always free Cable Car Museum. In addition to some education exhibits and a gift shop, the Cable Car Museum houses two of the oldest cable cars still in existence. The first of which are a grip car and trailer from the Sutter Street Railway that date all the way back to the 1870s. The second historic cable car within the museum is a Clay Street Hill Railroad grip car, which stands as the only surviving car from the very first cable car company. Established in 1974, the Cable Car Museum is open free to the public from 10am to 6pm between April 1st and September 30th; and 10am to 5pm between October 1st and March 31st.

Twin Peaks

Standing around 925 feet in the heart of San Francisco you’ll find the second highest points and locals’ favorite hiking spots in the city, Twin Peaks. Separated by only 660 feet, the North Peak, also known as Eureka Peak, and the South Peak, known as Noe Peak, offer incredible views of San Francisco, San Francisco, and when it’s not too foggy, Santa Clara Valley. Originally called “Los Pechos de la Choca” (Breasts of the Maiden), the mountains also offer a diverse array of animal and plant life. The peaks’ hours are sunrise to sunset, seven days a week. Just remember to bring a jacket, because it gets chilly up at the top.

The Golden Gate Bridge

Last but not least there’s old and reliable, the most iconic location in all of San Francisco – the Golden Gate Bridge. Stretching one mile wide and three miles long, this suspension bridge and wonder of the modern world connects the northern San Francisco peninsula to Marin County. For over 78 years the Golden Gate Bridge has served as an international symbol of San Francisco, and is easily the most photographed bridge in the world. Visitors to the bridge may walk or bike along either side throughout most of the day. A visitor center and gift shop, now referred to as the “Bridge Pavilion,” opened on the San Francisco side of the bridge for the 75th anniversary of the stunning steel structure. If you’ve never been to San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge is a free and absolute must-visit.

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