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What can I do for Free in San Francisco, California?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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One of the advantages to a big city is the number of things you can do for no money or for relatively little cost. You’ll find many things to do free in San Francisco. A few are free on limited days only, and other free events happen only occasionally. In order to find the most free things to do things in San Francisco, you should plan your visit carefully around free events, or merely take advantage of the many things free in San Francisco at all times of the year.

From an architectural standpoint, San Francisco is an exciting city. A walk in Pacific Heights, for instance will have you awestruck at the art of the Victorian homes. Also, Grace Cathedral located on Nob Hill is considered one of the most beautiful of churches. Visiting Grace Cathedral or walking the city streets is always free in San Francisco. If you want a little local history while admiring architecture, consider accessing the free service, San Francisco City Guides, which offers one to two hour guided walking tours, just about every day of the week, year round.

Many museums are free though if you’re feeling generous, you might give a donation to the museums you visit. Here’s a listing of a few of the museums free in San Francisco:

  • Fort Point
  • Mission Delores
  • National Maritime Museum
  • North Beach Museum
  • San Francisco Cable Car Museum
  • San Francisco Fire Department Museum
  • Wells Fargo Museum

Some museums are free in San Francisco on certain days only. For example, on the first Tuesday of each month, the De Young Memorial Museum, the Asian Art Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor are all free. The Exploratorium, San Francisco Zoo, and the California Academy of Sciences are free in San Francisco on the first Wednesday of every month.

Shakespeare in the Park is a free production of Shakespeare plays, performed live, that has been popular since 1983. You do have to check dates and times, and also which parks feature the plays. You can sometimes find the same plays performed at parks in cities around San Francisco from July through September. San Mateo, for example, is close by, and has numerous shows in August.

Most Sundays during the summer, you can take advantage of shows at Stern Grove, a lovely park south of Golden Gate Park. Show up for free concerts, ballet performances, opera, and plays. Check the schedule, and be sure to dress warmly, as the weather can be foggy.

Of course, don’t forget Golden Gate Park as an attraction that is always free in San Francisco. Some sections of the park do cost money, for example the Japanese Tea Garden costs a few dollars for each person, and the De Young Museum and Academy of Sciences are only free once a month. Yet the Strybing Arboretum is free, as are the many themed gardens, like Shakespeare’s Garden, and the Rhododendron Dell. If you have a bike or skates handy, the main areas of the park are closed to traffic on the weekends, so you can bike or skate safely.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By summertime — On Oct 20, 2010

It's been a long time since I've actually done it, but walking across the Golden gate Bridge in San Francisco was one of the most memorable times of my life. Luckily I had the experience of doing it with a loved one and romantic evening stroll made for a classic tale of lovers on a bridge.

At the time when I walked across my lover there was no toll, I can't say if there is one now but I know it's only a few dollars of your vehicle sleight-of-hand imagine that a walking pedestrian would have to pay very much to cross the bridge.

If you are afraid of heights it can be a very daunting concept to walk across that massive historical bridge. You can get over this fear the experience is worth it in the in use are unmistakably some of the best that you will experience in your lifetime. Taking camera as you will surely see something that you want to photograph to help catch the memories of the city lights and Bay water in your mind.

By CoffeeJim — On Oct 20, 2010

While it may not be completely free, riding the cable cars in San Francisco is an inexpensive activity that you can do to enjoy yourself and experience a classic San Francisco activity.

While writing the cable cars in San Francisco you will find that you get to smell and hear and see the different sights and sounds of the city has to offer and its classic and historic areas.

A trip to San Francisco simply would not be complete without a ride on a cable car. If you use the cable cars and motor transportation can you reduce the cost that it would have incurred if you were just doing it as a tourist activity.

By GraniteChief — On Oct 20, 2010

From all the times I've experienced San Francisco, I found that the city was anything but free. If you try to take a taxi to get around anywhere in the town you can expect it to cost a minimum of $10 or more likely $25 or more. This seems a high amount for such a small city even though it is very densely populated.

Despite the high cost of activities in San Francisco it is extremely fun I just don't recommend visiting it without some cash. One of the things to do in San Francisco for free that many people overlook as very simple is a trip to Golden Gate Park.

This large and beautiful parks in the city is famous for its groupings in gatherings of many different types of cultures and people. Often you will find a drum circle on till into many other people enjoying themselves as they play music and kick balls or toss Frisbees.

There are even concerts that happen at Golden gate Park in San Francisco. If you are ever in the city will one of these free concerts is happening you should definitely check that out. There are many things to do in San Francisco, and I am sure you will find something that delights you.

By sammyG — On Oct 20, 2010

If you can get past the steep price of a hotel room in the city of San Francisco, California, then you can enjoy yourself with many of the cities free activities.

My favorite activity to do for free in the city is to go down to the Bayside. Honestly it doesn't matter where you are in the city at what Bayside all of them can be very entertaining. Boss suffer more industrial and not as comforting as others, there is always an allure that the waterside in the Bay San Francisco has to many people.

Whatever you decide to do for free in San Francisco I recommend doing it with a lover. San Francisco is a city of lovers and a beautiful one at that.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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