Updated January 2016
If you’re planning a visit to San Francisco, here are 12 really great tours that you can take to see San Francisco and the Bay Area, including trips to Muir Woods, Napa Valley and Yosemite National Park. This is a perfect time to be in San Francisco.
Enjoy your moment of Zen – the 90-second video above shows the Golden Gate Bridge (one of the world’s top tourist attractions) with waves lapping on the shore. Take a moment to relax, sit back and visualize being there and consider taking one of these fun San Francisco Tours:
Top 12 Insider’s Picks in San Francisco
1. San Francisco Deluxe Half-Day City Tour
See San Francisco’s top attractions on this fun 3 1/2 hour guided city tour. Visit famous landmarks including the Golden Gate Bridge (with a photo stop at Vista Point), Chinatown (one of the nation’s largest), Fisherman’s Wharf (fun shopping and people-watching), Victorian homes (known as the Painted Ladies), Golden Gate Park (look for the small herd of buffalo) and the Japanese Tea Garden (tranquil setting in the oldest Japanese Tea Garden in the U.S. ). Find out about San Francisco’s history from expert tour guides. Free wireless on board your tour bus – this is San Francisco after all! Tour can be upgraded to include a Bay Cruise (well worth it if you have the extra time to spare).
2. Beach Blanket Babylon Show
We can’t say enough about Beach Blanket Babylon – this hilarious one-of-a-kind musical show is a “must-see” when you’re visiting San Francisco. The ever-changing line-up features laugh-out-loud skits on politics, the Royal Family, TV and movie stars, sports legends… whatever is going on in the news. We always recommend seeing Beach Blanket Babylon to our out-of-town guests and clients – there’s nothing like it anywhere in the world.
3. San Francisco Land, Sea, Air and Alcatraz Adventure
Talk about the ultimate San Francisco adventure – two days of fun! See San Francisco by land (4-hr city tour), sea (cruise the bay on a catamaran) and air (seaplane tour) – plus a visit to Alcatraz Island by boat. If you have the time, this combo tour is an ideal way to experience our beautiful City by the Bay. Take pictures on, under and over the Golden Gate Bridge.
4. San Francisco Bay Sunset Catamaran Cruise
You can’t beat San Francisco Bay at sunset, especially aboard a luxurious catamaran. We enjoyed a perfect fog-free sunset during our last catamaran cruise. Sail by Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito and the beautiful San Francisco skyline and waterfront on this leisurely 90-minute bay cruise. Both the Adventure Cat 55′ or 65′ catamaran have a shielded viewing area (for wind protection) and canvas trampoline nets for passengers who like the open seas. Sunset Cruise includes light nibbles and two complimentary drinks. Happy sailing!
5. San Francisco Food Tour: Ferry Building and Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
Calling all foodies! This fun 2-hour guided culinary tour takes you through San Francisco’s Ferry Building and Ferry Plaza Farmers Market (we love coming here – it’s the place to be on a Saturday morning). Food tastings include heavenly organic cheeses (Cowgirl Creamery cheeses are to die for!), San Francisco’s famous sourdough bread (you’ll only find it in S.F.), flavorful house-cured meats, freshly-baked fruit and veggie tartlets, French macaroons (OMG!) and yummy chocolates. Are you getting hungry yet? Come with an appetite.
6. Exploratorium Museum of Science General Admission
Guaranteed to bring out the kid in you! Opened in its new location (in April 2013) overlooking San Francisco Bay, the Exploratorium Museum of Science, Art and Human Perception is not to be missed. Enjoy 600+ interactive exhibits in five different galleries, plus stunning water views from the Bay Observatory Gallery’s floor-to-ceiling windows. A few of our favorite exhibits include: Recollections (or what we like to call the “Psychedelic Room”), Toothpick Sculpture (it took Scott Weaver 37 years to make the “Rolling Through San Francisco” piece using 100,000 toothpicks and Elmer’s Glue), Giant Curved Mirror (take a fun group photo of your family and friends), Shadow Box (freeze your shadow on the wall), Kaleidoscope (fun for all ages), Tornado (put your hand in the vapor), Giant Interactive Clock (try to be in the vicinity of the 40-ft tall clock as it strikes the hour), and the unique Water Fountain Toilet (your kids will love it!). Arrive at the museum early to allow plenty of time to see everything – it makes a fun day out with family and friends.
7. Golden Gate Bay Cruise
Taking a Bay Cruise is another “must-do” when you’re visiting San Francisco. It’s on the top of our list when we’re entertaining out-of-town guests and family, especially on a warm, sunny day. This is a perfect time of year to be in San Francisco. Cruise past San Francisco’s scenic waterfront and famous landmarks as you learn about the city and enjoy fun trivia on this educational one-hour narrated Golden Gate Bay Cruise. Our favorite part of the cruise is looking up at the Golden Gate Bridge as the ferry sails underneath it. Get an up-close look at Alcatraz as you sail past the notorious prison and hear about its history. Dress in layers – if the fog comes in it can get quite chilly. This bay cruise is an open ticket, valid for use on any day within one year of your booking date.
8. Early Access to Alcatraz and Exclusive Cable Car Sightseeing Tour
This exclusive early-bird ferry to Alcatraz puts you ahead of the crowds and includes priority entrance and audio-tour at one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist attractions (Alcatraz tour frequently sells out, especially during peak tourist season). Get a feel for what life was like at this infamous prison for inmates Al “Scarface” Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly and Robert “The Birdman” Stroud. After your Alcatraz Tour, take the ferry back to Pier 33. Board a motorized cable car and set off to see San Francisco’s top attractions, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf – take a behind-the-scenes tour of Boudin Bakery and see how San Francisco’s famous sourdough bread is made. We always get a kick out of watching the bakers make creature-shaped loaves like turtles, teddy bears, alligators, lobsters, and crabs. For lunch, we highly recommend you try the clam chowder filled sourdough round – it’s soooo good!
9. Luxury Napa Wine-Tasting and Helicopter Tour from San Francisco
Treat yourself to a VIP Napa Wine-Tasting experience – late Summer/early Fall is the best time of year to visit Napa Valley (during Harvest/Crush Season). And the weather is lovely too. This small group tour is limited to just six people – ideal for celebrating a special occasion with family and friends or rewarding your team for a job well done. The spectacular 30-minute helicopter ride gives you a bird’s-eye view of beautiful San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Napa Valley – what a way to see two of the world’s most beautiful destinations. Cheers!
10. Muir Woods, Giant Redwoods and Sausalito Half-Day Trip
Wait until you see California’s magnificent giant redwood trees – they’re among the oldest and tallest on earth. Be sure to take a picture standing in front of one before you leave the park. Muir Woods (a 560-acre park) includes six miles of scenic hiking trails – and yes, there are trails for all levels. If you happen to be at Muir Woods during early summer to fall, check out the ladybugs that migrate there from California’s Central Valley every year (we saw them crawling on plants, logs and fence posts near the entrance to Fern Creek Trail). This fun 4-hour tour also takes you to Sausalito (one of our favorite places to visit for the day) where you can enjoy shopping and sightseeing – the picturesque town sits on the waterfront, overlooking San Francisco Bay and the S.F. skyline.
11. Yosemite National Park and Giant Sequoias Trip from San Franciso
If you’ve never been to Yosemite (and even if you have), treat yourself to a fun Day Trip from San Francisco. It’s one of the most naturally beautiful places we’ve ever visited. This “must-see” tour is perfect for people who can’t spare more than a day in Yosemite – and for those who don’t want to drive (pick-up and drop-off is provided from selected San Francisco hotels). Take pictures standing in front of the giant sequoia trees (best visited between May and October), see El Capitan (popular with mountain climbers), hike to one of Yosemite’s beautiful waterfalls (our favorites are Bridalveil Falls and Yosemite Falls), rent bikes and cycle along the flat bike paths located throughout the valley, stop by the Visitor Center and Ansel Adams Gallery (his world-famous black and white photographs capture the beauty of Yosemite Valley like no other).
12. 3-Day Yosemite Camping Adventure from San Francisco
If you’re adventurous and like being out in the great outdoors, you won’t want to miss this amazing 3-day camping trip to Yosemite from San Francisco. The guided tour takes you off the beaten path to explore trails in one of the world’s most beautiful parks. Camp out among the giant sequoia trees – enjoy hiking, biking, sightseeing and exploring Yosemite Valley. This adventure is perfect for both first-time campers or experienced campers. My first California camping trip was in Yosemite – happy memories. It’s true what they say… you never forget your first 🙂
What are some of your favorite tours and things to do when visiting San Francisco?