Nowadays traveling has become much easier and thus the number of people who want to visit as many spots on the globe as possible is gradually increasing. But not all of them want to spend a hefty chunk of their budget on admission tickets and other attractions. That is the reason lots of tourists try to find free things to do in the city they visit without reaching for their wallet, in a way they see and feel the local mood and spirit. San Francisco is indeed an expensive city, but there is no reason to panic, because there are still free things to do in San Francisco, and we absolutely don’t mean the window shopping. In case a shark bite out of your travel budget is meant to pay for accommodation, spending extra money is a no go. So if you are on a backpacker budget, take a look at our list of free things to have a great time.
A Walk on the Golden Gate Bridge
This milestone in modern architecture provides lots of picture perfect moments without requiring a single dime. The sheer grandeur of its 746-foot towers is amazing, even in foggy weather. This iconic bridge is accessible for pedestrians during daylight hours, but the cyclists can enjoy the city skyline from the bridge 24 hours from both Eastern and Western sidewalks. No matter what route you choose, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and Marin Headlands. You can also find information about the history of the bridge at the little outdoor museum.
Stroll around Crissy Field
This recreation area is an ideal place for walks along the promenade. Here you can choose one of the picnic areas in emerald-green fields or shady beaches. What can be more relaxing than having your lunch embraced by nature in a tranquil atmosphere far from the city buzz? Those who want to have a bit of background history about this place can start their way with the Informative Center. What regards a postcard photo of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, you can obtain it at Torpedo Wharf. Want to taste the best organic soups and snacks? The good news is you can find them at Warming Hut, but of course, this is the case when paying isn’t optional. Here you can also find cool souvenirs and unique books. The surrounding area of Crissy Field is also famous for kid-friendly attractions, a swimming pool, a climbing gym, and parks.
Unwind in Golden Gate Park
Spend a few hours in the shade of redwoods to let all your worries go and take the advantage of free concerts and events in Golden Gate Park. One of the greatest things that you can enjoy totally free in this park is lawn bowling, so be sure to come here on Wednesdays at noon to take free lessons and have some fun. The good news is that you can take lessons every week, and even with a group not larger than that of 16 people, but for groups, there is a reservation required one week prior to the visit. A donation is requested only if you have decided to come with a group more than 6 people, but it’s really worth it because this outdoor activity is really a pleasure especially when the weather cooperates. You can also organize catered lunch or dinner after you have had enough fun on the grass. The Eastern edge of the Park is famous for the oldest Victorian greenhouse, but if you have some more time, have a look at the herd of bison on the Eastern Edge. Besides all this fun, there are also museums to visit, paths to walk down, recreation fields for sports and great spots to dine taking in the incredible views of the Pacific Ocean.
Wallow in the History at Chinatown
Most of the tourists try to avoid Chinatowns whenever they go because they can try Chinese food and buy made-in-China things almost everywhere. But what if we say that the oldest Chinatown in North America is located in San Francisco? Do you still have the wish to skip a visit to this chaotic but yet interesting spot of the city? To begin with we’d like to mention that there are many tourists who even book tours to this Chinatown in order to get extra information about Asian culture and history and Tien Hau Temple there. Calligraphy and miniature shrines festoon this old Taoist temple (if we speak of something in the USA, it’s sometimes embarrassing to call it old, but we mean the American conception of being old, which is of course far from being ancient). Portsmouth Square brims with history, the most remarkable part of which is, of course, the announcement of the discovery of gold, which actually became the initiator of the Gold Rush. If you have visited San Francisco in January and are deprived of lovely sun rays, don’t be upset, Lunar New Year Celebrations can still keep up the joyous atmosphere.
Get Closer to the Art Without Fees
Some of you may think museums are dull buildings with dusty pottery and useless stuff, but that is a mere prejudice. Actually, as many museums and galleries you visit, you get more and more sophisticated and begin to estimate the abilities of humankind as you understand the evolution of human brain, which resulted in inventing simple pointed sticks to use as tools at first and ended up with such cutting edge constructions as Golden Gate Bridge and the culmination of this process isn’t still in sight. Those who are interested in the history of coin-operated games and want to know how it all started can visit Musée Mécanique, which is by the way always free. You have probably seen Gypsy fortune tellers in some retro films and wondered how people could be so naïve to ask questions about their future to a machine? But let us not forget that it was before the Internet and video games and what now seems primitive to us, was quite a great entertainment during that time.
Cable Car Museum is also among the ones, which don’t charge admission, but provide a very interesting atmosphere inside. Riding a cable car is of course fun, but if you want to understand how they work, you should definitely visit this museum. Here you have also a unique opportunity to see vintage cable cars and learn a lot about emergency procedures and cable winding machinery.
If you are with children under 12, this means you don’t have to pay for their admission at all, but if you want to visit museums not paying a single cent, make sure to check the days of the month when they are free in general.
An Asian art museum is a great option for history buffs because here you can have a close look at wonderful items not only from India and China but also from other Asian countries, which can compete with their rich culture and history. One more thing: non-flash photography is allowed which is great for those who like taking notes. Visit the museum on the first Sunday of each month free of charge and enjoy also yoga sessions, films, and performances.
One thing to keep in mind: the capacity limitation results in long queues, so try to arrive early.
Outdoor Performances in San Francisco
San Francisco is famous for its numerous festivals representing all walks of life, which take place almost every weekend. So take the advantage of free shows, entertainment, parades and other fun provided by numerous culture aficionados. This vibrant multicultural city has a lot to offer foreigners in terms of cultural diversity. Almost all ethnic groups living in this city hold colorful festivals trying to show the best in their culture and history. This does not mean that the festivals are meant to satisfy history nerds only. There is so much fun, color, music and taste besides the history part!
You can enjoy sushi and teriyaki during the year at almost every corner of San Francisco, but to have a taste of the Japanese culture, visit the city in April and enjoy the Cherry Blossom Festival and the Parade of numerous performers from both Japan and Bay Area.
How Weird Street Fair is another spectacular family-oriented festival worth your time. Freaks in costumes, dazzling artwork, the global cuisine will make your day an exciting and memorable one.
Enjoy the annual folk freakout of the city at Golden Gate Park, becoming the part of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in the beginning of October and enjoy three days of free music.
These are only a few examples of splendid celebrations that take place in this marvelous city and if you seek for no-ticket-required performances, come to San Francisco without any hesitation.