With its mix of palm-fringed avenues, colourful architecture and buzzing vibrancy, San Francisco is a hub of activity that offers something truly special for every kind of traveller. Whether you’re looking forward to soaking up some culture or taking in spectacular scenery, the City’s enchanting personality is never far from view, especially if your vantage point is near the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
When on an escorted tour of North America with Travelsphere, you’ll find the perfect balance of included excursions and free time. And this, of course, gives you a pretty good reason to explore San Francisco if you happen to choose one of our West Coast packages. Not sure how best to spend your free time in the Golden Gate City? Take a look at some of our suggestions.
Presidio of San Francisco
A major outdoor recreation hub right next to the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll almost certainly want to see the Presidio of San Francisco on your travels. With forested areas, miles of trails, a golf course and scenic overlooks, it’s a nature lover’s dream come true.
Other highlights at this gorgeous national park include grassy Crissy Field with Golden Gate Bridge views, Civil War-era Fort Point and sandy Baker Beach, perfect for relaxing under the San Francisco sunshine. You’ll also be impressed to find many historic buildings in the vicinity, housing amazing sights such as the Walt Disney Family Museum and businesses like Lucasfilm, with its incredible Yoda Fountain. As such, you can look forward to a rewarding and eye-opening experience exploring the entirety of the very large, very interesting world of the Presidio.
Lyon Street Steps
For tourists of all tastes, San Francisco’s Lyon Street Steps provide the perfect setting for getting to know this glorious city. Just being at the summit of these steps is a mystical Zen experience truly difficult to describe; the feeling of the sky and air where you end up standing at the very top almost feels like heaven.
Because you’re up relatively high, the views really are quite spectacular. Of course, there’s no guaranteeing the weather, but the likelihood is you’ll be treated to some fabulous sights, including the awe-inspiring Palace of Fine Arts Dome (more on this later), the bluer-than-blue San Francisco Bay, and – depending on the conditions – a fog-shrouded sky stretching all the way across the horizon. Although a trip to the Lyon Street Steps will take you a little further from the Golden Gate Bridge than you were probably expecting, we promise they’re worth the journey.
Andy Goldsworthy’s Wood Line
Not far from the Lyon Street Steps is an iconic work by one of the world’s most renowned artists. Peek into the nearby eucalyptus grove and you’ll see a curvy line of branches tucked into the forest floor: Wood Line, the second work by sculptor Andy Goldsworthy in his ongoing exploration of the Presidio.
Consisting of eucalyptus branches sourced from various park projects that required tree removal, the piece is more than 1,200 feet in length, offering a visionary take on both the Presidio’s ever-changing landscape and perspectives towards the natural world in San Francisco as a whole. One day this great work will fade back into the earth, but until then, don’t miss this chance to see it during your free time on a Travelsphere holiday.
USS San Francisco Memorial
Installed in San Francisco’s Lands End, a park within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, you can fully immerse yourself in local history by visiting the poignant USS San Francisco Memorial.
Commemorating the estimated 100 sailors and seven Marines who died aboard the USS San Francisco (CA-38), the memorial stands as a testament to one of the most decorated ships of World War II, earning 17 battle stars. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the bridge wings of the original heavy cruiser are also part of the display, looking almost as if they long to return to the open water. If you’re a history buff, this is one San Francisco sight you won’t want to miss.
Once the largest indoor swimming establishment in the world, now an eerie – yet enticing – ruin, the Sutro Baths sit in one of the most beautiful settings in all San Francisco. This seawater playground of the City’s golden age may have burned to the ground in 1966, but it continues to draw large numbers of visitors both for its own sake and for the view it affords.
The baths themselves may no longer be in operation, but the ruined reality is quite remarkable in its own way. Of course, lovers of local history and culture will undoubtedly want to stop by, and scenery seekers will enjoy looking right out across the bright blue water of San Francisco Bay – a stunning sight at this formidable location. And an even bigger treat for tourists is fine dining at the nearby Cliff House, where the food is nothing short of exquisite and should definitely be savoured. If you’re in the Lands End area and want to make the most of your free time here, these two iconic city centre landmarks are your best bet.
The Wave Organ
Always wanted to see a huge musical instrument played by the ocean? Well, you can in San Francisco! During your free time with Travelsphere, be sure to check out the Wave Organ, one of the City’s most amazing man-made wonders.
The Wave Organ was built in 1986; collaborating with the Exploratorium, artist Peter Richards made an acoustic sculpture that amplifies the sounds of the waves in San Francisco Bay. It is comprised of more than 20 PVC and concrete pipes that extend down into the water at various elevations, with the sound created by waves crashing against the ends of these pipes. The liquid music produced is simply phenomenal: low, gurgling notes that ebb and flow with the restless movement of the ocean and the changing of the tides. If music is your passion, you need to visit the Wave Organ during your free time in San Francisco with Travelsphere.
Palace of Fine Arts
And now, the piece-de-resistance: The Palace of Fine Arts. You may have noticed the iconic dome of this magnificent building while admiring the view from the Lyon Street Steps. But nothing compares to seeing it up-close, which should be high on your list if you’re seeking San Francisco must-sees.
Saying this place is breathtaking doesn’t even cut it. Imagine admiring the Greco-Roman style Rotunda and colonnades, and then watching swans drift across the peaceful lagoon. Whatever you do though, don’t forget your camera – the Palace of Fine Arts is one of the most photographed sites in the City, featured in numerous film and TV productions. It’s also a popular wedding location and dazzling performance venue, as well as a wonderful place for a stroll after a visit to the Exploratorium. Trust us, this is the place to be if you want to make your free time in San Francisco count.
Of course, these are just a few of many great things to see and do in San Francisco when you have free time on our handcrafted tours. To get the best out of your stay in the Golden City, make sure you embrace all it has to offer and learn as much as you can. Have fun visiting one of the best destinations in the entire United States with Travelsphere!