San Francisco is one of America’s top tourist destinations throughout the year, but the city saves some of its most appealing attractions and activities for the summer. Create your ideal San Francisco holiday by exploring one or all of the following summertime sights.
1. Angel Island State Park
The second-largest island in San Francisco Bay, Angel Island offers a network of biking and hiking trails, so near and yet so far from the urban bustle of the big city. From 1910 to 1940 the island’s northern corner housed a large immigration station, through which approximately one million newcomers entered the United States. Long before that, the island served as a military base and was a discharge depot for troops returning from the Spanish-American War. Today, the island-wide state park protects native plant and animal species, including mule deer and the broad-footed mole. Take a public ferry or private boat from the city to the island, and don’t forget to bring a fully charged camera.
2. Fisherman’s Wharf
Encompassing the city’s northern waterfront, Fisherman’s Wharf ranks as one of San Francisco’s top tourist attractions. Nearly 12 million annual visitors flock here each year, drawn by the area’s museums, galleries, piers, and scenic vistas over San Francisco Bay. For more than a century this section of the waterfront housed the city’s fishing fleet, which once numbered nearly 500 vessels. Pick a clear and sunny day to explore the neighborhood on foot, or enjoy views over the bay from any of the area’s fine restaurants, which are supplied daily by the fishing fleet’s remaining boats.
3. Golden Gate Park
To see one of America’s largest and most-visited urban parks, add Golden Gate Park to your San Francisco itinerary. Home to numerous museums and lakes, the 404 hectare (1,000 acre) rectangular park also features a botanical garden and several athletic facilities. Spend some time in the serene Japanese Tea Garden, or soak up some of the city’s sporting history by touring Kezar Stadium, former home of the San Francisco 49ers football team. If you don’t mind spending some time indoors, stop by the California Academy of Sciences, the park’s landmark green building. Designed by award-winning architect Renzo Piano, the structure houses an aquarium, planetarium, and a living rainforest. The arguable highlight (or at least the biggest surprise) of this invigorating green space is its resident herd of American bison, a fixture here since the 1890s–keep your eye out for them next to Spreckels Lake.
4. Twin Peaks
If you think any mention of Twin Peaks refers to a television show from the early 1990s, the city’s two highest points over the Bay Area may just change your mind. Located just a short drive from the city center, these two hills remain perhaps the most recognizable natural features of San Francisco. Early Spanish settlers called them “Los Pechos de la Choca” (Breasts of the Maiden), and from a distance you can clearly see why. For sweeping views over the surrounding area and a chance to look for bush-nesting birds like the white-crowned sparrow, drive or take a tourist bus to the northern peak’s main parking lot.
5. Fort Funston
A former harbor defense installation situated in the southwestern section of San Francisco, Fort Funston still contains World War II-era guns and defunct Nike missile silos. Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the fort now serves as a popular site for launching hang gliders. If you prefer earthbound outdoor activities, explore the area’s network of hiking and horseback riding trails, or bring a pair of binoculars and spend a day looking for colorful butterflies and shorebirds. Fort Funston is a dog-friendly park, with several areas where you can let your pet run off-leash.
The Many Joys of Summertime San Francisco
San Francisco offers an abundance of warm-weather attractions, so don’t limit yourself to visiting just the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. Plan a trip to San Francisco with a few parks and waterfront areas in mind, and discover the many joys of summertime in the picturesque Bay Area.