Wednesday, April 13, 2016

5 No-Cost Places to Visit in San Francisco

The City By The Bay is a popular tourist destination for good reason. Who doesn’t want to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge or take the ferry to Alcatraz? But let’s face it, San Francisco is an expensive place to visit. Hotel parking alone can eat up a significant portion of your budget and that’s before you’ve even started sightseeing! Still there are plenty of free and inexpensive things to do – if you know where to find them.

Here are 5 no-cost (but fun) places to visit in San Francisco: 

The Cable Car Museum

The cable car is a San Francisco icon. Ride them as a way to take a break from walking up all the steep hills or just for the memory. After your ride, stop at the Cable Car Museum in Nob Hill to learn more about the history of the cable car. The museum is educational and free (although you'll likely have to pay to park if you drive).  You can see firsthand how the cable cars work. The museum deck overlooks the huge engines and winding wheels that pull the cables. If you're traveling with kids, there is a fun playground located almost across the street.

The Seward Street Concrete Slides

Tucked away in the Castro District are the Seward Street Concrete slides. These hidden gems are fun for adults and kids alike. For the fastest rides, bring cardboard or wearing fleece pants. (If you’re cardboard-less, never fear, the slides are fun without it and sometimes previous slide-goers leave their cardboard at the top of the slides.) Because the slides are nestled in the middle of a neighborhood, you’re asked to keep your noise low in consideration of the neighbors. The slides are located at: 30 Seward Street. They are closed daily from sunset to sunrise and on Mondays.


Chinatown is a must-see on any SanFran visit. You don’t want to miss the ornate restaurants teeming with tasty dim sum (bite-size portions, which literally mean “little bits of heart”) or the curio shops. Once you’ve had your fill of bao and shumai, you can watch dessert being made at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. This very small factory doesn’t have an admission fee, although they do charge a nominal fee for taking pictures. And for just a few dollars you can buy a customized fortune or a bag of cookies. If you need to burn off the just-consumed sugar, the fabulously named Willie "Woo Woo" Wong Playground is within walking distance.

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park is home to several museums and gardens including the acclaimed California Academy of the Sciences. But there are places to visit in the park that don’t have an admission fee. (Admission to the park itself is free.) Stroll the grounds to enjoy flowers, sports, the occasional weekend drum circle and American bison at the Buffalo Paddock.

If live animals aren’t your thing, the vintage carousel at the Koret Children’s Quarter is fun and inexpensive ($1/kids 6-12; children under 5 ride free with a paying adult. Adults $2.) You may have to wait a few minutes for your ride however, as the carousel operator and hot dog stand/snack shop worker frequently are one and the same. The children’s area also includes a large playground. If you missed the concrete slides on Seward Street, there are mini concrete slides at this tot lot.

Crissy Field

 Crissy Field is a former military airfield turned park. It's got a little bit of everything from wide open play spaces to biking and walking paths to the sand and shore. 

You can picnic or get food from the Warming Hut's (somewhat limited) menu. A blanket, kite, Frisbee or sand bucket are optional, your camera is not. There are great views of the Golden Gate Bridge from Crissy Field. It can get crowded here, but parking is free and ample.

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