Looking to fill out your San Francisco bucket list? Read our blog to learn about our recommendations!

San Francisco is constantly evolving. As the culture, population, and history grow and change, so does the bucket list you need to get a true SF experience. To visit places like the Golden Gate Bridge and Ashbury-Heights, a GoCar San Francisco tour is your best bet. But along with the popular tourist destinations, there are some hidden gems that should also be on your San Francisco bucket list.

Here’s what else you should add to your San Francisco bucket list:

  1. Eat at an SF Tradition
  2. Alcatraz in a New Light
  3. Dinner and a Show
  4. Seward Street Slides
  5. Salt Ponds by Air
  6. Museum of Ice Cream
  7. Lombard Street
  8. Buy a book at City Lights
  9. Find Wild Parrots

Eat at an SF Tradition

Photo Credit: Franco Folini

In the twentieth century, Hofbräus exploded on the restaurant scene in San Francisco. At their height, the Bay Area was home to over two-dozen hofbräus – cheap German-style bar and restaurants loaded with personality. There is only a handful left today including the iconic Tommy’s Joynt. This cafeteria-style eatery can serve up to 700 people a day from a menu of old-school comfort food like turkey, beef carved to order, and meatloaf better than your mother made it.

While the food and cheap beer draw people in, it is often the funky decor that keeps them coming back. Kitschy and mismatched decor – think neon signs, china dolls, and taxidermied armadillos – cover every square inch of the restaurant. It’s like they raided every estate sale in the Haight-Ashbury and hung their findings up for the world to see. Whether you’re new to the Bay Area or you know the city like the back of your hand, a stop at this SF tradition belongs on everybody’s San Francisco bucket list.

Alcatraz in a New Light

This island prison needs no introduction. When people think of San Francisco, they think of steep hills, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz Island. There are countless ways to see the prison from day tours to boat tours, but there are some more exciting options as well. Visitors and locals alike will be spooked and intrigued by the night tour which takes you through a less crowded island and stops at destinations not included in the day-time tours.

For those who have been to “The Rock” before, the new behind the scenes tour is the perfect reason to return. This guided tour takes place as the sun is setting and runs for an hour and a half. The entire tour is dedicated to areas that aren’t generally open to the public and focus on stories that most visitors don’t get the chance to hear. 

Dinner and a Show

Photo Credit: Junisf.com

San Francisco is a foodie’s dream. Every neighborhood has some must-visit place that locals rave about. In the NoPa neighborhood, that place is Ju-Ni. This 12-seat, Michelin-starred restaurant does sushi one way and one way only. Guests come in for an 18-course “omakase” experience. Omakase means chef’s choice.

Diners give up all control over their meals (though allergies can and should be noted ahead of time in the mandatory online reservations). In return, they are gifted with hyper-seasonal dishes prepared by hand by one of three sushi chefs. These masters roll and garnish the dishes while talking to diners and walking them through the ingredients and techniques that go into each roll. It is the kind of once in a lifetime experience that needs to be added to your San Francisco bucket list.

Seward Street Slides

Photo Credit: Braden Kowitz

Compared to some of the more bombastic items on our San Francisco bucket list, the Seward Street Slides might seem a little silly. That is exactly why they belong here. These concrete slides encapsulate the spirit of the city. Built in the 1960s and designed by a local teenager, these slides represent a community coming together.

The area was slated for development, but the people of the neighborhood wanted the space to remain open and free to use. They protested for almost a decade before winning the right to turn the area into a public park. Nowhere else in the city manages to combine both the city’s whimsy and its history of rebellion and radical thought so perfectly or in such a fun way. Just remember, no adults allowed unless accompanied by a child.

Salt Ponds by Air

Imagine a pastel Rothko spread across miles. That is what the Salt Ponds of San Francisco Bay look like, at least from the air. The ponds spread over 16,500-acres in Newark, less than an hour south of the city. Each pond is a different color from lime green and gold to flamingo pink and deep, rusty red.

Roads cut through the ponds, but the best way to see them – and one that many locals haven’t even taken advantage of – is by air. Private tours of the area have to be arranged ahead of time, as many local helicopter companies focus on aerial tours of the city. 

Museum of Ice Cream

Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson

If you haven’t heard of the Museum of Ice Cream, you must have been living under a rock. This colorful installation took over Instagram for most of 2017 and 2018. While the online fervor has quieted down, the museum sells out tickets each day. Admission is free but tickets have to be reserved ahead of time (like months ahead of time).

What you’ll find inside are brightly colored rooms dedicated to creating a multi-sensory experience for visitors. Rooms might be dedicated to a bubblegum pink pool filled with giant sprinkles or a hallway full of pink and yellow dangling bananas. The museum is designed to be whimsical and cute so that every corner offers an Instagram-worthy picture. For the social media inclined, this is a museum is a must-do item on your San Francisco bucket list.

Lombard Street

You know Lombard Street from Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Pixar’s Inside Out. The street is famed for its steep hill and eight tight switchbacks. It is a San Francisco rite of passage to drive down this hairpin road. For those not quite up for the challenge, it’s worth stopping at the bottom for a picture (though we promise it’s not as scary as it looks).

Buy a Book at City Lights

San Francisco has been the heart of a few different movements like the civil rights movement in the 60s and LGBTQ+ rights in the 70s and 80s, but the Beatniks were the first. City Lights was known for publishing avant-garde work from the likes of Jack Spicer, Allen Ginsburg, and Charles Bukowski.

The shop now carries a mixture of new titles, classics, and books that focus on the unique culture of the city. Browse the shop and pick out a little piece of history like Ginsburg’s Howl and Other Poems or Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.

Find Wild Parrots

Parrots are not native to the United States, yet Telegraph Hill is home to a flock of them. No one is sure if the parrots escaped or were released, but they have called the area home for decades.

Take a walk through the beautiful and steep streets and pedestrian stairways of the neighborhood as you head to Coit Tower at the crest of the hill. As you hike keep an eye out for the little scarlet-headed green birds that you can find nowhere else in the country.

Final Thoughts

From just our own San Francisco bucket list, it’s easy to see why SF is one of the most popular cities in the world. For those who want to get the most out of their San Francisco trips, we suggest taking a look at GoCar San Francisco Tours. From renting a GoCar for a couple of hours to spending the day in an Aston Martin DB11, we have the tour you’re looking for!