Things to do for History Buffs in San Francisco, California 

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  • 1

    Alcatraz Island

    389 reviews

    It's been a few years since I last visited the Rock and I need to go back more often. Gayle and I took her mother, nephew, and my son out to Alcatraz Island recently. We took the 10:30 boat out and the 1 PM back, and I think I was still and hour or 2 short. My time was also ...

    Popular withHistoryLocalFamilies
  • 2

    Golden Gate Bridge

    851 reviews

    When I was six, my mom and I left Hawaii for San Francisco to be stationed in the Presidio (at the time, an active Army base). I remember that I was excited to see the Golden Gate Bridge, a landmark I had thought was made entirely of gold. Needless to say, I was disappointed. But once I got over the ...

    Popular withOutdoorLocalHistory
  • 3

    Musée Mécanique

    44 reviews

    Why is this not the most famous spot in all San Francisco? It's right by the wharf and full of whimsy. Kids today with their Street Fighters and QBerts could learn a thing or two from these wooden video games.

    Popular withHistoryFamiliesBudget
  • 4

    Coit Tower

    122 reviews

    From the bottom to the top, Coit Tower is a historically beautiful sight with a magnificent view of the San Francisco Bay. Best way to experience it is to walk from Sansome Street and up the Filbert Street steps to the very top. Then wind your way down The hill into North Beach for meal.

    Popular withHistoryFamiliesLocal
  • 5


    186 reviews

    Over the years, I have had many different and enjoyable Chinatown experiences. The first one was as a teenager when my Iowa family visited San Francisco on vacation. I specifically remember a treasured puzzle box that I bought at some unnamed shop on Grant. Here are some others: - Visiting a girlfriend before I moved to the Bay Area and ...

    Popular withLocalHistoryFoodies
  • 6

    Sutro Baths

    39 reviews

    Lovely views, interesting history and just a fun place to explore. Head through the cave for stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

    Popular withHistoryOutdoorLocal
  • 7

    Palace of Fine Arts

    148 reviews

    San Francisco is truly a spectacular city, both due to its distinct architecture and hilly, scenic landscape, but apart from the staple of Golden Gate Bridge, the Palace of Fine Arts is the best spot to truly relax in the iconic Foggy City. Not only is it in a laid back, elegant neighborhood, but the lack of crowds makes it ...

    Popular withFamiliesDesignHistory
  • 8

    Fort Point National Historic Site

    29 reviews

    Fort Point is located at the southern side of the Golden Gate. This fort was completed just before the American Civil War, to defend San Francisco Bay against hostile warships. The fort is now protected as Fort Point National Historic Site and part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Plans for the Golden Gate Bridge in the 1930s called ...

    Popular withHistoryFamiliesOutdoor
  • 9

    Asian Art Museum

    36 reviews

    For a long time, Asian art really didn't interest me. It wasn't until I came here alone on my birthday once—my daytime gift to myself—for the Shanghai exhibit did I really learn to appreciate it. The museum is partitioned by countries, so you get a good feel for the history of each region. It's rarely crowded, even on free days, ...

    Popular withHistoryDesignLocal
  • 10

    Angel Island State Park

    47 reviews

    I have visited Angel Island via Ferry and Sail Boat. I think it's more enjoyable to get there from Tiburon (which has it's own set of activities on either end of the trip). Amazing views, good hiking and historical perspective abound. Food service is limited which is another reason to plan a picnic and enjoy the peacefullness of this place. ...

    Popular withOutdoorHistoryFamilies
  • 11

    Ferry Building Marketplace

    205 reviews

    There's little better than enjoying a cup of coffee in the Ferry Building. The echo of spoken voices provides just the right amount of audio haze, and the view of the Bay keeps the mind at peace. The food options are also incredible—my favorites being Delica rf-1 and Acme Bakery—where one can grab a bite of quality comfort to enjoy ...

    Popular withFoodiesLocalHistory
  • 12

    Ghirardelli Square

    98 reviews

    Sometimes a tourist trap is there for a reason. The history alone is great, but the square is now home to cute shops and restaurants. A lovely way to spend a few hours!

    Popular withFoodiesLocalHistory
  • 13

    Cable Car Museum

    19 reviews

    Be an urban explorer and hike up through Chinatown up Nob Hill to this FREE museum. I think seeing the inner workings of the cable car system is fascinating, but others may not be as enamored. I was thrilled to find an authentic old street sign from MY street in the gift shop, and yes I shelled out the bucks ...

    Popular withHistoryBudgetFamilies
  • 14

    City Hall

    67 reviews

    Constructed during a period dubbed the American Renaissance, City Hall is a beautiful display of architecture serving as the political heart of San Francisco. It’s significance is made even more clear if you’ve ever seen the film Milk, starring Sean Penn. It was here that Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone were murdered. The area around City Hall is quite nice, ...

    Popular withHistoryLocalDesign
  • 15

    City Lights Bookstore

    30 reviews

    The fabled bookstore that was the home of the Beat generation.

    Popular withLocalHistoryDesign
  • 16

    California Palace of the Legion of Honor

    59 reviews

    The California Palace of the Legion of Honor is a neat fine art museum, both in terms of their collections and the building itself. And because of its location near the water, it's wonderfully scenic and romantic. No wonder I often see happy couples having their weddings and/or pictures taken. Parking can be challenging, but is not impossible and there ...

    Popular withDesignHistoryLocal
  • 17


    115 reviews

    The intersection famous for the start of the original hippie movement in the the 1960s. The area keeps the hippie vibe alive with vintage clothing, coffee and trippie shops radiating out from the intersection.

    Popular withLocalBudgetHistory
  • 18

    Riding a Cable Car

    202 reviews

    This is definitely a must do. It's amazing to see how they traverse the steep hills. But be prepared to wait. Lines are long. Ride in the back beside the brakeman if possible.

    Popular withFamiliesLocalHistory
  • 19

    SF MoMA

    100 reviews

    I'll be honest. I didn't always respect modern art. There was a time when I thought it was all paint splattered toilet bowls or cans of soup glued against blank canvas. Yes, there's still some "modern art" that I find silly or borderline pretentious, however most of what I see in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is quite ...

    Popular withDesignFamiliesHistory
  • 20


    42 reviews

    For some background: The Presidio has a rich history spanning back to the time of the native Ohlone people. The Spanish arrived in 1776 to establish the northernmost outpost of their empire in western North America. The Presidio fell under Mexican rule for 24 years before the U.S. Army took control in 1846. Over 148 years, the U.S. Army transformed ...

    Popular withFamiliesHistoryOutdoor
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