Reaching across America’s West Coast, San Francisco’s Bay Area provides stunning views and top-tier cuisine from various vibrant cultures to tantalise your tastebuds. The city of San Francisco is home to quite a few famous landmarks and popular tourist attractions such as the Golden Gate Bridge.
San Francisco’s Bay Area is simply bursting with adventures, foodie-delights and sights to behold. Take your time looking over the list down below to discover your favourite San Francisco Bay Area spots.
32 Best Places to Visit in Bay Area
Table of Contents
- 32 Best Places to Visit in Bay Area
- 1. Port Costa
- 2. Golden Gate Bridge
- 3. Sonoma County
- 4. Fruitvale
- 5. Sonoma Farm Trails
- 6. Silicon Valley
- 7. Sausalito
- 8. Mount Tamalpais
- 9. SFMoMA
- 10. Calistoga
- 11. Lombard Street
- 12. Fisherman’s Wharf
- 13. Half Moon Bay
- 14. Tiburon
- 15. The Palace of Fine Arts
- 16. California Academy of Sciences
- 17. Point Reyes National Seashore
- 18. The Painted Ladies
- 19. Asian Art Museum
- 20. Castello di Amorosa
- 21. The Walt Disney Family Building Museum
- 22. Union Square
- 23. San Francisco Zoo
- 24. Ghirardelli Marketplace at Ghirardelli Square
- 25. Golden Gate Park
- 26. Haight-Ashbury
- 27. Japanese Tea Garden
- 28. Russian River
- 29. Santa Rosa
- 30. Little Italy
- 31. China Town
- 32. Red Bus Tour
- Final Thoughts on the Best Spots to Visit in the Bay Area
Whether you fancy a hike or a relaxing day at the beach, the San Francisco Bay Area has you covered. Here is a list of exciting spots to check out the next time you find yourself in this beautiful and bustling neck of the woods.
If you are in need of some fresh air and breathtaking views, then Port Costa is certainly the perfect escape. With a population of only 190 residents, this village creates the feeling of stepping back in time.
Whether you are a foodie or an art fanatic, Port Costa has something for every type of traveller. And here you will certainly be able to reset and rewind in the quaint, calming environment.
This impressive suspension bridges the water between San Francisco Peninsula and the Marin Headlands and is one of the most iconic bridges in the world. Ideally, you want to be able to say that you’ve crossed the length of the Golden Gate Bridge by foot (which could take roughly 30 minutes). So, why not tick it off the list and hit your step goal while you’re at it.
If you do not fancy the walk then renting a bicycle to cross this red giant might be ideal. Take your time soaking up the magnificent views while marvelling at the engineering feat that is this bridge. And be sure to keep your eyes peeled for seals frolicking in the water down below.
Feeling parched? Sonoma County is the region of the Sonoma Valley Wine Production. Sonoma is ideal for wine lovers on the hunt for a picturesque adventure and some delectable vino. If sipping crisp wines does not tickle your fancy then fear not; there are plenty of riveting escapades to be had here.
If you are not afraid of heights then a zipline through the coastal Redwood trees might just be for you. If you fancy a day trip, take a drive more toward Marin County to Point Reyes Lighthouse on the Pacific Coast. Don’t leave without paying a visit to the Cowgirl Creamery so you can sample some delicious cheeses. Sonoma is a great weekend trip from San Francisco.
Just like the name suggests, this is the location to add to your itinerary if you identify as a foodie. Allow your meal to settle while you embark on a mural-viewing walk along Rue de Merde and get the opportunity to explore more of this vibrant town.
Fruitvale is known for its Hispanic festivals and delectable dishes. Tac-hopping is recommended if you are eager to sample all the tacos and food trucks during your visit.
If you delight in picking your own produce, then the Sonoma Farm Trails awaits. This farm was conceptualised by farmers who wanted to give people the option to experience and learn more about farming and agricultural practices.
This outing will not only be unique and informative but an interactive experience for kids that promises to deliver heaps of excitement. Sonoma also offers various insightful workshops and interesting tours to choose from. So grab your trail shoes and get ready for an exciting outdoor adventure.
For the tech-wizards with a keen interest in all things innovation, Silicon Valley is conveniently located right in the Bay Area. There are various cities within the Valley, of which San Jose is the largest.
It is well worth visiting the birthplace of so many major technological names. You are not permitted to view this impressive space inside the building, and there are no official tours but the grounds are open for roaming and taking photos.
Located on the Northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito is a postcard-quality city in Marin County. It offers everything from quality seafood restaurants, to beaches and beautiful parks.
Be sure to pay the marine animals a visit at the non-profit Mammal Centre. Known for its breathtaking views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, a Sausalito tour offers exciting views and activities. This area provides a chance to slow down a little while breathing in the fresh ocean air along the boardwalk.
Fancy a horse-back ride or a mountain hike? Mount Tam is the symbolic landmark of Marin County and a highly recommended spot for you to do all your walking, hiking and outdoor activities while in the Bay Area.
Part of the California Coast Ranges, Mount Tam is overflowing with trails and towering Redwood trees while providing you with the most spectacular views of the Bay Area. Whether you intend to run, trot, or stop and paint this beautiful area, this region is a must-see.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art shouldn’t be missed. It’s one of the biggest contemporary art museums in the world, hosting over 33 000 pieces. It boasts everything from media arts and sculptures, to beautiful paintings, and even impressive architecture.
If you are hungry for art then this is right up your alley. Look forward to famous artworks by big names like Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol and Frida Kahlo. Join a tour for this cultural experience and be prepared to stand mesmerised. All seven floors of this architectural and artistic institution will thoroughly impress its visitors.
Nestled within California’s Napa Valley, this region is the perfect spot to visit if you fancy a luxury spa retreat or a cycling wine tour. Here you can experience a volcanic ash mud bath treatment, and head off to a winery thereafter. If you are more inclined to go on a walkabout, then you cannot miss out on sight-seeing all the Mediaeval-style buildings and castles in this area.
Be sure to add Petrified Forest and Faithful Old Geyser to your travel itinerary. This geyser earned its name by regularly erupting for all its spectators and is a truly unique sight to behold. Calistoga is also brimming with breweries, wineries, ideal picnic spots, and tranquil rolling hills. A visit here sounds like a no-brainer to me.
Fancy experiencing the most crooked street in the world? What a peculiar attraction this road is. This street makes cars appear to be driving at unusual angles – certainly one of those experiences you must see for yourself to fully appreciate.
Word is, the sharp angles were added for increased pedestrian safety and to combat the steep nature of the road. Lombard Street, and all eight of its hairpin turns, eagerly awaits you and your camera.
This is the ideal spot for a romantic sunset stroll with your partner. Here you can grab a delicious bite at one of the many indoor or outdoor establishments. You can also opt to enjoy a unique shopping excursion, marvel at some museums, or take an exciting bay cruise.
You can also purchase your own fresh crab, or sample a bowl of clam chowder at one of the many seafood restaurants along the way. Lined with attractions, shops and restaurants, the Wharf has plenty for you to see and do. This is also the place you can experience the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co from the film Forrest Gump, in all its fame and glory.
This Bay is the ideal spot to experience small-town charm and hospitality while enjoying a plethora of adventures, surf and scenery. Half Moon Bay is located near the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which means you will have tons of marine and wildlife biodiversity to view.
This area also offers some of the biggest surf spots, as well as majestic Redwood trees that line the coast. If you get tired of walking you can experience the views from the water by mounting a kayak or stand-up paddleboard for something different. Be sure not to leave without visiting the famous crescent-shaped harbour that lies just north of this culturally-diverse town.
Tiburon is a historical sea-faring town within Marin County California that boasts diverse boutiques and various shops just waiting to be browsed. Spend the weekend here and soak up all the beautiful history the town holds.
Fancy a little more rockface and wildflowers? The Tiburon Uplands Nature Preserve is the perfect place for hiking through the splendid Californian trees while getting in some leisurely exercise.
Be sure to catch a ride on the Tiburon Ferry to Angel Island and visit Angel Island State Park, known as the “Jewel of San Francisco Bay”. A bay cruise is a great way to learn more about San Francisco and its landmarks.
Located in San Francisco’s Marina District, the Palace of Fine Arts has been described as one of the best spots in the whole Bay Area to visit. Here you can spend an afternoon relaxing and feeding the ducks.
The serene gardens around the area are the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic while soaking up the sights. the Roman architecture of this palace could be admired for hours.
The Palace is encapsulated by serene lagoon waters and an open rotunda. When visitors aren’t catching a play or exposition at this incredible venue, they are making use of this gorgeous Californian gem in other ways. These include using it as a wedding venue or as the perfect backdrop for graduation and engagement pictures.
This is an ideal spot for visitors of all ages and a tour here will leave you both riveted and informed. Be it for the Planetarium, Aquarium, Biological Sciences display, or the Natural History Museum, the California Academy of Sciences is guaranteed fun.
You and your significant other can even make this your date night spot on a Thursday evening for something unique and exciting. Every Thursday night this place comes alive with cocktails, enchanting creatures, provocative science displays, and live music for over 21’s.
This protected coastline in Marin County is filled with wildlife, amazing views, crashing waves and stretches of golden sand. Many visitors come here to soak up the serenity and visit the lighthouse that was established in 1870.
The area can be explored in a day and it is recommended that you bring your hiking gear when you set out to the lighthouse as it is quite a walk from the parking area. It’s well worth the trip and provides the most idyllic location for watching the San Francisco sunsets and the grey whale migrations.
The Painted Ladies are a delightful row of houses that make for a must-see tourist attraction. It is recommended that you appreciate these seven pastel-coloured sisters from various angles to get the full experience. And regardless of the time of day, the magnificent San Francisco skyline seen from this point will not disappoint either.
These Victorian-style houses can even be seen from the park across the street, so be sure to pack a picnic basket and enjoy a relaxed afternoon on the greens of Alamo Square Park.
The Asian Art Museum is centrally located, making it very accessible to the public. The museum is home to over 18,00 pieces of work (some dating more than 6,000 years). This is the ideal place to visit if you wish to broaden your knowledge and appreciation of Asian arts and culture.
The museum’s cafe is perfect for enjoying a bite to eat, and the souvenir store is likened to a boutique experience. I suggest trying to purchase one of the limited Team Lab Continuity tickets in order to experience some of the more interactive and immersive exhibitions.
If you have an appreciation for good wine and old architecture then the Castle of Love should be top of your list. Castello di Amorosa is a Mediaeval-style Tuscan winery that produces a wide variety of Italian inspired wines.
A winery like non-other, it is worth taking a guided tour to learn about the history and processes of winemaking. Enjoy sitting down and testing your palate whilst enjoying some of the vinos on offer.
If you are a fan of Walt Disney’s works then this is the perfect outing for you. This family museum is thoughtfully lined with mementos and items from the start of the Disney journey, complete with sketches and concepts dating back to when it all began in 1923.
There are glass displays of figurines, vehicles, artefacts and plenty of educational history to soak up. Don’t forget to pop into the gift shop on your way out to grab a memorable souvenir.
Union Square is the perfect social hub to experience the San Francisco nightlife while being conveniently surrounded by hotels and luxury stores. Enjoy an evening here sipping cocktails at one of the local bars or trying out some authentic food from one of the many food trucks around the area.
If you pay Union Square a visit during the holiday season will have you awe-struck at all the Christmas lights and the majestic Christmas tree. During this time there is also an ice rink which people of all ages can enjoy.
The San Francisco Zoo is the perfect outing for you and your children to learn more about beautiful animals in a controlled and friendly environment. Be sure to bring your cameras and comfortable walking shoes for an afternoon well spent on your feet.
With everything from a gorilla preserve to a Lemur forest, you can spend the day at this 100-acre enclosure interacting with, learning from and appreciating the diverse and brilliant creatures that call this place home.
There is no shortage of unique restaurants in San Francisco, it’s a foodies paradise. For example, this marketplace is a unique attraction that caters to chocolate fiends in every way possible. This square is also well-kitted out with all things mini golf, restaurants, shops and several charming date spots to impress your significant other.
Ghirardelli Sundae Bar is the perfect spot for anyone with a sweet tooth. If you’re a chocolate lover then you’ll find everything from delicious chocolate ice cream to gourmet hot chocolates here.
Not to mention, Ghirardelli gives you the opportunity to visit a real chocolate factory where you’ll gain insight into the behind-the-scenes process of making this delectable sweet treat. It’s basically Charlie and the Chocolate Factory minus the Oompa Loompas.
If you fancy a change of scenery from bustling city life, then you should pay a visit to the breathtaking Golden Gate Park. Here you’ll find some of San Francisco’s iconic landmarks and attractions, all within the park.
This beautiful oasis of flowers and fresh air promises you a relaxing time connecting with nature while experiencing more beautiful sights that Bay Area has to offer. Whether you want to run, bike, walk or hike, the park welcomes it all. Bring your easel and paintbrushes, your dog for some exercise, or even your boat to take across the lake.
This diverse district in California, “Haight”, is a mashup of dive bars, bookstores, record shops and various vibrant restaurants. Haight-Ashbury is all about commemorating and keeping alive the counterculture movement of the 1960s, with all the colourful eccentricity of the historic hippie era.
Keep your eyes peeled on Ashbury Street where Janis Joplin lived, and also pay a visit to the red house that Jimi Hendrix once occupied along Haight Street. Haight and Ashbury Street are the spots for broad-ranging boutiques and many funky shops for your pleasant perusal. Spend the day absorbing the peace, love and freedom captured in this birthplace of hippie culture.
Nestled within the greenery of the Golden Gate Park, this beautiful tea garden is full of rich history and culture. It is also the oldest Japanese tea garden in the USA. Read your book on a bench with a cup of matcha tea, or enjoy a leisurely stroll admiring the sculptures, art and historical writings.
Complete with a bridge and serene pond, you are guaranteed to leave here feeling totally zen. There is also the added bonus of the tea cafe and gift shop for unique souvenirs to take home.
28. Russian River
Just a short drive from the coast, the Russian River region invites you and the whole family for a nature-filled adventure. Whether you prefer soaking up some sun rays on the pebbles of Johnson’s Beach or hiking through the fur-clad Californian Redwood trees, the Russian River region has something for everyone.
The Armstrong Woods State Natural Reserve hosts various summer hiking trails. The popular ones are the Pioneer Trail and the Armstrong Natural Trail. Be sure to take your photo under the famous and majestic Colonel Armstrong, which is the oldest Redwood tree in the reserve (1400 years old).
Spend time on Goat Rock Beach where the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean. You can also opt to take a walk along its scenic shores where you may be lucky enough to encounter the resident harbour seals.
29. Santa Rosa
Known also as the ‘Microbrew Capital of the United States‘ Santa Rosa has become the home of craft beer and microbreweries. This area is also renowned for its wines. Located in California’s famous Sonoma County (California’s famous wine region), you will have the pleasure of 300 plus top wineries and vineyards right in your backyard.
Spend the day exploring museums and for the art enthusiasts, the Charles M. Schulz Museum should not be missed. If music is more your groove then the Luther Burbank Centre for the Arts is the prime spot for seeing your favourite musician performing live.
30. Little Italy
Little Italy has all the colourful Italian cuisine and culture you could ask for. If walking is your preferred way of sightseeing then Little Italy is perfect. Here you can walk your way through this rich area and stop at bars and restaurants along the way.
Little Italy is also home to the iconic Coit Tower which means you can park in the Little Italy area and walk to the Tower. Standing 64 metres tall and located in Pioneer Park, the Coit Tower provides the perfect birdseye panoramic view of the Bay.
Take a stroll and experience the comfort of beautiful Italian heritage throughout this North Beach neighbourhood. Kick back after a day of sightseeing at one of the many authentic Italian-style eateries, such as the Vesuvio Cafe Bar or the famous Stinking Rose.
31. China Town
This region is iconic and simply a must-see destination during your visit. Enter China Town through the iconic Dragon’s Gate and take a walk around while sampling marvellous traditional foods, such as Dim sum and other baked goods.
If you are more inclined to view museums and landmarks, then Chinatown has got you covered. Visit the Tin How Temple, dedicated to the Chinese goddess of the sea, or pay a visit to the Fortune Cookie Factory where different festivals take place throughout the year.
Quench your thirst at the very quirky Li Po Cocktail lounge and for a non-alcoholic beverage. You can sample quality tea all the way from Taiwan and China, at the Red Blossom Tea Company.
32. Red Bus Tour
Overwhelmed with all your options? Buying a pass for the Hop-On-Hop-Off Big Bus Tour might just be the way to go. This way you can catch all the unique sights and landmarks of San Francisco, all from the viewpoint of a double-decker bus.
Depending on your pass, you can visit either the mainstream attractions or exit the bus on your own to spend time at any particular landmark. Once you are finished you can breeze back onto the bus for the adventure to continue.
There you have it, folks, the top sights, and attractions the Bay Area has to offer. Be it the furry Redwoods of Sonoma County or the peculiar zig-zags turns of Lombard Street, you are in for an adventure.
Friendly and bursting with activities, restaurants and unforgettable experiences, the Bay Area is the place to be, come rain or shine.
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