Fort Point, San Francisco

Fort Point, a historic fort that guarded the Golden Gate Bridge, is open for daily tours. (©Douglas Atmore/NPS)

Things to Do in San Francisco on a Budget

By Rachel Ward on 02/19/16
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On a budget? You’ll find countless ways to spend too much money in San Francisco, with all the tempting restaurants, bars and shopping, but you could also fill a whole trip with activities that don’t cost a thing. 

Here's your guide to exploring some of San Francisco's best sights, entertainment and culture without opening your wallet.

Alamo Square

(©Scott Chernis/SF Travel)

Attractions

Painted Ladies

Right in the middle of the city, the hilltop park Alamo Square overlooks the Painted Ladies, a postcard-perfect row of Victorian houses made famous by the “Full House” opening credits. The urban skyline juts out above them, making for a scene that attracts busloads of amateur photographers.

Attractions

Sea Lion Center

This new educational center right above the marine mammals’ famous Pier 39 hangout offers tours and an exhibit space.

San Francisco Railway Museum

(©San Francisco Railway Museum)

Attractions

San Francisco Railway Museum

Come here to discover the history of the city’s streetcar system and examine local railway artifacts.

Musee Mecanique

(©Musee Mecanique)

Attractions

Musee Mecanique

A family-owned gem in Fisherman’s Wharf, this charming museum showcases one of the world’s largest collections of working antique arcade machines, and you can actually play them!

(©Chris Harrison)

Areas to Explore

Chinatown

A stroll through the largest Chinese community outside of Asia is sensory overload, especially if you veer off the main drag of Grant Avenue. The gallery at the Chinese Culture Center on the third floor of the Hilton Hotel on Kearny Street is donation only.

Fort Point, San Francisco

(©Douglas Atmore/NPS)

Attractions

Fort Point

This Civil War-era brick fort has a magnificent setting at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Walk or drive down this lushly landscaped, outrageously curved block in Russian Hill, located between Hyde and Leavenworth streets

Amoeba Music

(©Amoeba Music)

Shopping

Amoeba Music

Catch an eclectic range of complimentary in-store shows and DJ sets at this Haight Street institution.

Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill

(©Scott Chernis/SF Travel)

Attractions

Coit Tower

Ascend Telegraph Hill via the Filbert Steps or the 39-Coit bus to admire the surrounding vistas of the bay and the Diego Rivera-style WPA murals at the base of the tower. (You’ll have to pay $7 to take the elevator to the top.)

Hyde Street Pier

(©Hyde Street Pier)

Attractions

Hyde Street Pier

In Fisherman’s Wharf, the museum and visitor center, in addition to a fleet of historic ships, provide a glimpse of Pacific maritime history.

(©Henrik Kam)

Attractions

Presidio Officers' Club

This cultural center in the former military post turned national park opened in 2014 inside the oldest building in the city. It’s home to a multimedia West Coast history gallery and hosts craft activities for kids, special exhibits and music performances.

Map of Things to Do in San Francisco on a Budget

The Where® Travel Guide to San Francisco