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Visiting San Francisco for the First Time? Here's What to See and Do


How to Tackle San Francisco as a First Timer
Hi, I'm Peter!

Peter Neely is a Brooklyn-based writer and poet who's been bounding between cities for a decade, with stops in San Francisco, Budapest, Montreal, and Lyon. Changing NYC apartments like socks, Peter has lived in Harlem, Greenpoint, Sunnyside, and Crown Heights, though Coney Island is his spiritual homeland. Spot him reading on the subway, or complaining about the slice at your favorite pizzeria.

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With so much to see and do, it's easy to get overwhelmed when planning a trip to San Francisco. From exploring the hilly streets and pastel-colored Victorian homes to sailing on the bay and hiking in the redwoods, here's how to make the most of your time in San Francisco.


Enjoy the sights

Don't miss the must-sees.

Though San Francisco is a manageable size, with its steep hills and limited public-transit options, sightseeing tours are the best way to see the city's iconic sights. Book a hop-on-hop-off-bus tour for the most flexibility, or opt for neighborhood walking tours to slow down and uncover the city's past. 

Visit the museums

Make the most of San Fran's cultural institutions.

Marvel at revered paintings, sculptures, and photographs at San Francisco's art museums, including the Legion of Honor and de Young museums. Book advance tickets to avoid weekend lines, and join a gallery tour for insight into the works on display. Best of all, a ticket to either museum is good for same-day admission to both. 

The De Young Museum is a must when in San Fran for the first time. Photo: Stephen Lam / Viator

Hike in the redwoods

Don't skip San Francisco's majestic forest.

One of the most fantastic features of San Francisco is hiking just a stone's throw from the city. Don't miss the old-growth trees in Muir Woods, over the Golden Gate Bridge in Mill Valley, including towering redwoods and sequoias. Because public transit won't take you there, book a tour that includes a hike and stops at nearby waterfront towns. 

Go wine tasting

Sample some of the region's top varietals.

Sip California's famous wine just north of San Francisco at two of the most celebrated wine-producing areas in the country: Napa and Sonoma valleys. Take a wine-tasting tour to avoid the worry of driving yourself. Group tours offer a great value, and private tours let you choose the vineyards you'd like to visit.

You can't miss wine country when in San Francisco. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small / Viator

Bike over the Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco's most famous landmark must be experienced.

Perhaps San Francisco's most notable attraction, the Golden Gate Bridge should be on every visitor's itinerary. Don't miss the chance to bike over the bridge—several guided tours will lead the way, or you can rent a bike and head over on your own.

Sail on San Francisco Bay

Take to the water off the California coast.

Feel the wind in your hair with a sail on San Francisco Bay, where you can enjoy views of the Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz Island. Book a sailing excursion for a romantic cruise with drinks, or, for a bit of history, opt for an Alcatraz Island tour—you get to see the infamous prison island and enjoy views of the bay on your included ferry ride.

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Hi, I'm Peter!

Peter Neely is a Brooklyn-based writer and poet who's been bounding between cities for a decade, with stops in San Francisco, Budapest, Montreal, and Lyon. Changing NYC apartments like socks, Peter has lived in Harlem, Greenpoint, Sunnyside, and Crown Heights, though Coney Island is his spiritual homeland. Spot him reading on the subway, or complaining about the slice at your favorite pizzeria.

Keep exploring
See all San Francisco tours
732 tours & tickets
Things to do in San Francisco
See all things to do in San Francisco
Where to Find the Best Views in San Francisco
Where to Find the Best Views in San Francisco