Eight Things to Do Outdoors in San Francisco


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“Lands End San Francisco” flickr photo by Ardash Muradian https://flickr.com/photos/ardash/21023623776 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Are you and your family looking for things to do in San Francisco this summer? As any born-and-raised San Franciscan will tell you, the best way to enjoy the city is outside, taking in the views. From historical landmarks to popular restaurants, it’s safe to say you’ll never be bored or out of options. To help narrow down your selection, we’ve put together our top eight recommendations and things to do outdoors in San Francisco. Let’s get started!

1. San Francisco Botanical Garden

General view - San Francisco Botanical Garden - DSC09901

The San Francisco Botanical Garden is the largest of its kind on the West Coast — and the perfect place to go during the summertime. With its 55 enchanting acres of land stretched across Golden Gate Park, it’s filled with more than 7,500 varieties of flora and fauna from all around the world.

Because the garden is sectioned based on the plants’ native region, a walk through the gardens won’t show you every plant fully in bloom. Instead, you’ll be treated to a colorful show of flowers, leaves and blossoms from places like the Mediterranean and South African regions.

The flat walking paths and colorful, fragrant displays make this a must-do for families with small children or those traveling with differently-abled companions.

2. Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve

Described by one dazzled visitor as feeling “like you’ve entered a fairy tale,” this 61-acre green space just a few blocks away from Golden Gate Park feels like a completely different world. Adorned with over five miles of hiking and biking trails, this lusciously green reserve feels quiet and secluded, even right in the middle of the city.

Fun fact: To keep the reserve healthy and sustainably cleaned, UCSF uses goats to trim back the vegetation. If you’re out there hiking a trail and happen to see one, don’t be alarmed! It’s just doing its job.

3. San Francisco Zoo

No outdoor activities list would be complete without mentioning a zoo – especially a world-class zoo like this one! Located against the banks of the Pacific Ocean, the San Francisco Zoo is home to more than 1,000 exotic, endangered and rescued animals. Spanning over 100 acres of land, it offers many programs to give visitors the chance to get up close and personal to some of the most fascinating creatures on the planet.

4. Buena Vista Park

view from buena vista park

Aptly named for the gorgeous city views you’ll get from its grassy upper slopes, Buena Vista is the oldest park in San Francisco. Buena Vista contains trails perfect for a leisurely stroll, as well as one of the city’s last live oak groves.

In the 1960s, Buena Vista Park was a haven for those in the counterculture scene. Today, as a throwback to the “peace and love” crowd, tourists and locals alike can marvel at the gorgeous flower paintings arranged in a peace sign design on the northeast staircase.

5. Land’s End

A gentle hike and spectacular views await you at the northwestern corner of San Francisco. Lands End’s delightfully windy and sometimes muddy trails meander their way through cliffs overlooking the ocean and emerge to incredible views of beaches and the Golden Gate bridge.

From the lookout (with cooperating weather), you’ll be able to see shipwrecks that submerged just off the coast. You’ll also have opportunities to access the old Sutro Baths, a San Francisco landmark.

6. Golden Gate Promenade / Crissy Field

Crissy Field

Travelers from across the globe love the Golden Gate Promenade for its unbeatable views and access to Crissy Field, a former Army airfield turned recreational paradise. The Promenade is favored for walking, biking and jogging, while Crissy Field is a popular spot for picnics and flying kites. Along the way, stop to enjoy stunning views of the San Francisco Bay, Crissy Marsh (a birdwatcher’s dream), Alcatraz Island and, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge.

7. Greenwich Steps

Anyone who says that climbing flights of stairs isn’t fun has obviously never climbed the Greenwich Steps and seen the views. Beginning at the corner of Greenwich and Sansome Streets, climbing each subsequent near-vertical flight will take you to the base of Coit Tower. From there, an elevator will take you to Coit Tower’s observation deck, where you’ll get 360-degree views of every major attraction in the region.

Lively vegetation and beautiful art installations will greet you on both sides, and if you’re lucky, you might just see one of the neighborhood’s famed wild red-headed parrots. Be sure to turn around at the top of each flight to get incredible views of the Bay Bridge and Yerba Buena Island.

8. Park Chalet Coastal Beer Garden

What kind of list telling you what to do in San Francisco would be complete without a unique indoor-outdoor restaurant?

Located across from Ocean Beach, just on the edge of San Francisco’s own redwoods patch, Park Chalet feels simultaneously elegant and familiar. With excellent food, beers and appetizers, there is always something for everyone. During beautiful weather, large glass doors open to create a space that’s light and airy, while the beer garden is located outdoors and has gorgeous views year-round.


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