Things to Do in San Francisco for Free

Things to Do in San Francisco for Free
San Francisco is rich in natural beauty and social history; this picturesque city has been a hub for popular culture and tourism since the California Gold Rush in 1848. Beyond the ever popular museums and shopping, San Francisco offers an array of free activities that combine a day in the great outdoors with local history.

Glen Canyon Park

Quietly tucked away in a canyon, this one-mile nature trail winds through densely forested eucalyptus trees. The destination, offering a reprieve from the hustling city during any season of the year, is an ideal place to pack a lunch and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. Visitors can access Glen Canyon Park from highway 280 in San Francisco or by taking the number 44 bus and getting off at Elk.

Golden Gate Park

This beautifully landscaped urban park is 1,017 acres and nearly 20 percent larger than New York's Central Park. Hosting more than 13 million visitors per year, Golden Gate Park is the third most visited park in the United States. With a multitude of exhibits and features it could take days to see it all. Highlights that are not to be overlooked include the Japanese Tea Garden, Conservatory of Flowers, the windmills, bison paddocks and Spreckels Lake. If time permits, stop by the "Janis Joplin Tree" on the edge of Hippie Hill located at the western end of Golden Gate Park. This area was a popular gathering ground during the Summer of Love and it is said that the branches of the tree have just enough room for a girl and her guitar.

The Presidio

Sitting in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Presidio served as an army post for three nations. Containing over 11 miles of hiking trails, visitors can view the rich history while enjoying the mild weather. Cyclists can also set off on the 14-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail. Open year-round, except for holidays, the Presidio Visitors Center is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Golden Gate Bridge

A visit to San Francisco would not be complete without getting an upfront view of this celebrated historical landmark. Visitors can walk the 1.7 miles across the bridge and feel the ocean breeze. Take an extra moment to visit the gardens on the southeast side of the bridge. "Pacific Horticulture Magazine" and Joan S. Hockaday's "The Gardens of San Francisco" have noted this five-acre oasis as one of San Francisco's greatest natural treasures.

Strybing Arboretum

Located in Golden Gate Park, the Strybing Arboretum is a 55-acre sanctuary with more than 7500 varieties of plants from all over the world. Open 365 days a year, visitors can take a free docent lead tour or choose their own pace with a self-guided map. Guided tours start at 1:30 pm Monday through Friday and 10:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. on the weekends.

San Francisco Botanical Garden
9th Avenue at Lincoln Way
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 661-1316

Article Written By Patricia Poulin

Patricia Poulin is a freelance writer based out of the western slope of Colorado. Poulin's travels and insight have chronicled in print media resources, such as "Inside Outside" and "Breathe" magazine. She is also a regular contributor for other various publications including "USA Today." Poulin holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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