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Published January 9, 2024

30+ Fun Activities in San Francisco That Don’t Involve Alcohol or Food

Let’s go out—minus the calories and hangovers.

by San Francisco Bucket List


Ever feel like city to-do lists are a revolving door of brunch spots and bars? While we love a good coffee date or catch-up over mimosas, we’re equally happy to provide some sober, active adventures to shake your routine up. Far from being all espresso martinis, San Francisco is a treasure trove of sights to explore: there are lakes for paddling, trails for hiking, science exhibits to peruse, and even a church to skate through.

We asked our followers to share their favorite non-drinking activities in the Bay Area, and they delivered. Whether you’re participating in dry January, looking to cut back, or just need some fresh inspiration, we've got you covered. Check out our curated list of fun activities from local San Franciscans that will keep you out of the bar!


Outdoor Recreation

Hike the Marin Headlands

The Marin Headlands is known for its dramatic cliff trails of oceanic rock, offering sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge. With various trails to choose from, it's the perfect place to spend a day outdoors! Marin Headlands trails can be accessed off Highway 101 from the Rodeo Avenue Exit and Trailhead and Spencer Avenue Exit at Morning Sun Trailhead.


Hike Around the Sutro Baths

The Sutro Baths are made up of the ruins of a large private saltwater pool that now flows out into the ocean in the gorgeous Land’s End beach area. Peek into the cave at the bottom of the baths, walk the pleasant cliffside trail for stunning views of the sea and bridge, and return in time for sunset at the top of the stairs.


Visit Baker Beach

Stretching a mile below the rugged cliffs on the Presidio's west shoreline lies a neighborhood beach with panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, and Land’s End! Feel free to bring your Labradoodles—it’s an off-leash dog beach. 

(Heads up: North Baker Beach is a clothing-optional area).


Swing Above the City at Billy Goat Hill

Not only is there a pretty view of the city skyline from Billy Goat Hill, but there's also a vanishing swing that delights daring visitors (sadly, someone keeps cutting the swing down, but kind people keep putting it back up). The hill is located in a quiet San Francisco neighborhood, above Noe Valley and just down from Diamond Heights.


Rent a Paddle Boat at Stow Lake

Within the Golden Gate Park greenery lies a large lake dotted with hidden waterfalls, a stone bridge, a Chinese pagoda, and wildlife galore. Head to the boat house to rent a rowboat, electric boat, or pedal boat starting at $26/hour and enjoy a relaxing glide across the scenic waters of Stow Lake. 


Visit Crissy Field Beach

​​​​​With a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Crissy Field East Beach is where locals come to bask, fog or shine. The windy beach is also a kitesurfing hotspot for the adrenaline beachgoers and sports fans among us.


Listen to the Wave Organ

Talk about putting your ear to the ocean! The San Francisco Wave Organ is a granite, wave-activated acoustic sculpture located on a jetty in the SF Bay. Through a series of pipes, the Wave Organ interacts with the waves of the bay and conveys their sound to listeners at several different stations. We recommend a visit at high tide.


Take a (Free) Walking Tour with SF City Guides

City Guides is a non-profit organization with over eighty 1.5 to 2-hour historical and architectural walking tours in San Francisco, allowing you to learn about the diverse ways the foggy city became the vibrant place it is today.


Take In The View from The Battery Spencer

Once a military fort, Battery Spencer is now a 19th-century concrete battery featuring panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands area. It’s an easy drive over the bridge with plenty of parking nearby, making it the perfect spot to enjoy an afternoon!


Stretch Your Legs at Salesforce Rooftop Park

A tech company creation for all! Everyone is welcome to enjoy this public park/living roof with a curved walking trail lined with benches, surrounding grassy lawns, dancing fountains, a children’s play area, and an amphitheater.


Play Fetch at Fort Funston Dog Park

Let Fido run free at this off-leash beach complete with surrounding trails and 200-ft high bluffs for hang gliding.


Check Out Tunnel Tops Park

SF's newest park is a complete 14-acre oasis at the center of the Presidio, featuring views, nature, and play! Whether you're posing with Yoda or walking along the beach just north of the park, there’s something for everyone. 


Explore Strawberry Hill

Found in the middle of Stow Lake at over 400 feet tall, Strawberry Hill is the highest point in the 1,000+ acre park. The hill offers a waterfall, a Chinese pavilion, birds and butterflies, and plenty of trails to explore. Don’t miss the epic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city skyline at the top!


Bike Around the City

There’s no better way to see the city than from the seat of a bike! Take a guided bike tour and explore historic sites, hidden gems, and breathtaking views across the Bay Area. Choose from a variety of bike tours suitable for all ages, levels, and ride types.


People-Watch at Dolores Park

Home to the warmest weather in San Francisco and large enough to handle its huge weekend crowds with ease, Dolores Park is a must-visit spot for locals and tourists alike. Come for the shady palm trees and city skyline views, stay for the truly fantastic people-watching. 


Hike to the Point Bonita Lighthouse

Hike along the rugged continent’s edge for views of Bonita Cove, San Francisco, and the Pacific, and make sure to check out the Point Bonita Lighthouse at what feels like the world's end. The tunnel door stands open when the lighthouse is open for visitors, and sunset tours are available on Saturdays throughout the summer, where you can learn all about the history, geology, and ecology of the surrounding area.


Find & Climb All of the City’s Iconic Stairs

The city known for its steep hills has definitely decked out many of its inclines in style. Take in some of the iconic steps, like the mosaic Hidden Garden Steps on 16th Ave, the gorgeous tree-lined wooden staircase on Macondray Lane, and the iconic (and challengingly steep) Coit Tower steps, to name a few!


Art, Museums & Culture

Visit the Legion of Honor

Built to honor Californian soldiers who died in World War I, the Legion of Honor displays over 4,000 years of ancient and European art, all in a stunning dripping-in-gold neoclassical building overlooking Lincoln Park and the Golden Gate Bridge. 


Spend an Afternoon at the Exploratorium

San Francisco's Exploratorium is more than a museum — it's an educational experience the whole family can enjoy! Step into a world of science, art, and human perception with hundreds of interactive exhibits designed to boggle the mind.


Explore the Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts is an extravagant architectural icon—an open-air palace building surrounded by an idyllic pond often graced by snow-white swans. It’s so beautiful that many couples use it as the backdrop for wedding photo sessions.


Wander Through the SFMOMA

Nestled in the FiDi, the sprawling San Francisco Museum of Modern Art houses over 33,000 works of contemporary art, making the museum one of the largest of its kind in the world. The exhibit themes range widely from Subway Art to large-scale sculptures to pop art to film soundtracks. Bonus: entry is free for locals every first Thursday from 1-8 PM.


Attend the Ballet

Did you know that San Francisco Ballet is the oldest professional ballet company in America? The San Francisco Ballet offers world-class performances, and if you've never been, it's time you do. This year's season includes Swan Lake, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Dos Mujeres, and more.


Explore the California Academy of Sciences

The Cal Academy is the only place on earth to contain a Planetarium, Rainforest, Aquarium, and Natural History Museum all under one roof (which is a “living” roof, to boot). Grab a Planetarium movie ticket and amble through the iridescent Aquarium to contemplate the beauty of life while searching for the elusive octopi.


Entertainment & Events

Play Pinball at the Emporium Arcade

Enter the massive, LED-lit two-story Emporium for a night of old-school arcade games, complete with pinball, air hockey, and pool tables.


See a Magic Show

The magic show we're talking about isn't the same magic show at your eight-year-old niece's birthday party. The Magic Patio is a secret magic venue tucked in a hidden corner of the Mission with unbelievable magic and mind reading. You'll experience seemingly impossible mysteries while seated mere inches from the stage in the intimate, 50-person venue. 


Swing Dance at Verdi Club

In the same vein, don’t sleep on Verdi Club, the historic 100-year-old social club in the heart of the Mission district. Whether you’re learning to swing at The Woodchopper’s Ball on Tuesday nights or hosting a fabulous dance party in the 2500 sq ft. ballroom, this swing hotspot sets the perfect mood for dancing the night away.


Skate at the Church of 8 Wheels

There’s no single quintessential San Francisco activity, but if there was, a case could be made for skating at the Church of 8 Wheels. This disco-themed skating rink in an abandoned cathedral is complete with a DJ stage/altar.


Attend Mellow Sessions at Haight

The Mellow Haight is a houseplant store by day and a private venue by night. On Saturday nights, they host unique concerts by the best musicians, DJs, and composers of the Bay Area, as well as touring artists. Always new artists, always a surprise!


Experience the Musée Mécanique

Step into a simpler time at this iconic antique arcade! This collection will take you on a journey from hand-cranked music boxes all the way up to modern arcade games.


Grab a Lane at Mission Bowling

You'll never ~strike out~ with some good, old-fashioned, nostalgic fun! Mixed sports metaphors aside, Mission Bowling offers retro-chic bowling lanes six days a week. Come with the family during the day, or swing by for nighttime bowling, where the venue is 21+ only after 6 pm. 


Laugh Along at a Live Comedy Show

For a fun, light-hearted evening, head to the famed Palace Theater, where you can catch world-famous comedians featured in The New Yorker, and on Comedy Central, SNL, Netflix, and HBO.


Activities & Shopping

Go Thrift Shopping on Haight Street

Made famous by the hippie movement in the 1960s, the colorful neighborhood of Haight-Ashbury has retained its creative, sustainable, and eclectic vibe. In other words, it's an absolute hotspot for prime thrift stores and vintage shops.


Find One-Of-A-Kind Treasures at Canton Bazaar

From exquisite silk scarves and robes to Buddha statues, porcelain figurines, folding fans, purses, framed artworks, crystals, shoes, umbrellas, and an extensive range of kitchenware, Canton Bazaar has something for everyone.


Check Out The Inner Sunset Flea Market

Every second Sunday on Irving Street, between 9th and 10th Avenue, you can shop from over 30 resident, artisan, nonprofit, and local business vendors! They also host activities, occasional performances, and more.


Tour the Conservatory of Flowers

Don’t miss the stunning rare bloom viewings at the Conservatory of Flowers, which is also included among the iconic Golden Gate Park activities. Our favorite time to visit is the holiday season night bloom tours, but there's always something exotic to see!


Stroll Through Umbrella Alley

Make sure to check out the interactive mural spectacle that is Umbrella Alley! Located in the famed San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf, this spot is perfect for your next Instagram shoot.


Take a Private Tour of the Blue Painted Lady

Speaking of the famed Painted Ladies, one is now open for private viewings! The Blue Painted Lady is one of the most original and pristinely preserved of the seven on Postcard Row. Tour the interior that reflects almost 173 years of the owner’s family history in the city.


Take the Ferry to Angel Island

Golden Gate Ferry operates daily to and from the San Francisco Ferry Terminal (SFFT) and Angel Island State Park. Hop on board and travel to the island to experience miles of superb hiking trails, camping sites, beaches, and breathtaking views of the entire Bay Area—or just enjoy the ferry ride.


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