The Alcatraz Island, the legendary penitentiary also known as the “Rock” was once home to despicable, notorious criminals, and is now famous for the desperate escape plots and other shocking, mysterious tales. Stories were told that prisoners who tried to escape drowned or were devoured by sharks “lurking” in the water. And don’t be surprised if you hear ghost tales and stories of ghost sightings in the prison walls. So if you’re up for a unique, memorable, mysterious guided tour in San Francisco, don’t forget the Alcatraz Island in your short list of places to visit!
The island which was named Isla de los Alcatraces or the Island of the Pelicans in 1775 is situated just 15 minutes away from San Francisco. It is so close but seems very far. It was also been a beautiful bird sanctuary, a place of a civil war fortress, the first lighthouse on the American West Coast, and the scene for many films. A visit to the Alcatraz Island is not just a “prison tour” as what many people think. Its latest renovation includes a sanctuary for water and sea birds.
The island can only be accessed by tour which starts when you arrive at the Alcatraz dock and are welcomed by a representative of the National Park for a short orientation of the site. After this, you can choose to stay as long as you wish with boat services leaving every 30 minutes. You can explore the historic cell houses as well as the remarkable gardens. You can see how close the outside world was to convicted inmates and why escaping from prison was such an enticing plan.
If you're a thrill-seeker, you can try a night tour of the island and the old prison. You can get an all-inclusive pass which includes the return ride and a 45-minute cellhouse audio tour. It’s best to book well in advance because tickets do sell out fast! Also, it’s suggested to allot a two- to three-hour tour of the place so you’ll have enough time discover this mysterious place, unravel it’s secrets and history.
So plan well and contact an expert tour guide in San Francisco for a comprehensive, memorable, and enjoyable visit. Contact Private Tour San Francisco for more information.
Experience many acres of green lawns, tranquil lakes, beautiful paths, and stunning flowers amid thousands of towering trees, and 7,000 different kinds of plants nestled in the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Enjoy many exciting attractions from gorgeous gardens to amazing events like the Outside Lands. Sunday is probably the best time to visit the park, as cars are prohibited on certain roads within the park on this day. Some of the great ways to discover this site is with a bike, strolling, or with a guided tour in San Francisco.
Founded in 1871, this 1,017-acre park attracts around 13 million visitors every year, making it the 5th most visited park in USA! The park in general is open to public every day, but opening hours for certain attractions vary. The cost for visiting the Golden Gate Park is free, though some attractions may charge a certain fee.
The park’s top attractions include: The de Young Museum, California Academy of Sciences, Conservatory of Flowers, Japanese Tea Garden, and the San Francisco Botanical Garden.
The de Young Museum showcases an astonishing collection of American art from the 17th century to the 21st century. It also features modern art; global costumes and textiles; photography; as well as African, American, and Oceania art. In the 9th floor of the Hamon Tower, you’ll get to experience astounding 360-degree views of the beautiful Pacific Ocean and also the city of San Francisco.
In the California Academy of Sciences, you’ll get to explore a natural history museum, planetarium, and an aquarium all in one roof! The four-story rainforest, breathtaking coral reef, as well as the planetarium will definitely amaze you! Daily exciting programs in the Academy include coral reef dives and penguin feedings.
The Conservatory of Flowers boasts its rare, beautiful tropical plants and flowers from around the globe! It’s an architectural treasure with five awesome galleries. The Japanese Tea Garden is adorned with fabulous pagodas, gates, a stunning moon bridge, and grand 1.5-ton Buddha!
Strolling through the San Francisco Botanical Garden is like taking a tour through the Central American, Mediterranean, or New Zealand rain forests! It’s a gorgeous, tranquil refuge.
The top places to visit in the Golden Gate Park which you shouldn’t miss include: the Stow Lake, National Aids Memorial Grove, Buffalo Paddock, Beach Chalet, Dutch and Murphy Windmills, Spreckels Lake, Speedway and Lindley Meadows, Rainbow Falls, Strawberry Hill, Music Concourse, and the Hippie Hill!
There are countless things to do in the Golden Gate Park! You can bike, jog, skate, play tennis, disc golf, soccer, or archery! There are also so many great things to see, from beautiful fauna and flora, arts and culture, to architecture! You can even see a real buffalo roaming in the park! So if you’re looking for a unique adventure in one place, contact Private Tours San Francisco to inquire about guided tours in San Francisco!
Yerba Buena Garden
Yerba Buena Gardens is the name for two blocks of public parks located between Third and Fourth, Mission and Folsom Streets in downtown San Francisco, California. The first block bordered by Mission and Howard Streets was opened on 1993. The second block, between Howard and Folsom Streets, was opened in 1998, with a dedication to Martin Luther King, Jr. A pedestrian bridge over Howard Street connects the two blocks, sitting on top of part of the Moscone Center convention center.
The original block contains several public art installations. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is located behind a waterfall, which is the largest fountain on the West Coast. The King memorial consists of large, etched glass excerpts of King's speeches in the languages of San Francisco's sister cities, and also includes a large green space where performance arts events are held throughout the year.
Located in the Gardens proper are the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, a contemporary arts center in the North block, and the Children's Creativity Museum, a children's media and technology museum in geared to children ages 3–12. Kids can make Claymation videos, work in a computer lab, check out new games and apps, and perform and record music videos. The museum is open year-round 10–4 from Wednesday through Sunday, and on Tuesday during the summer. An ice skating rink, a bowling alley, and a restored 1905. The historic Looff carousel twirls daily 10–5 originally located at Playland-at-the-Beach can also be found in the South block. Eateries within the gardens include the B Restaurant and Grill and the Samovar Tea Lounge on the North block's terrace, Mo's Grill on the South block's upper walkway, and a snack shop by the carousel.
The gardens are liveliest during the week and especially during the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, from May through October with free performances of everything from Latin music to Balinese dance.
Atop the Moscone Convention Center perch a few lures for kids. Just outside, kids adore the excellent slides, including a 25-foot tube slide, at the play circle. Also part of the rooftop complex are gardens, an ice-skating rink, and a bowling alley.
Nearby museums include: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Contemporary Jewish Museum, Museum of the African Diaspora, and Cartoon Art Museum.
The Cable Car Museum is a free museum in the Nob Hill neighborhood Located at 1201 Mason Street, the San Francisco Cable Car Museum is the perfect place to learn how San Francisco's favorite means of transportation works. The museum has been operating since 1974, contains historical and explanatory exhibits on the San Francisco cable car system, which can itself be regarded as a working museum. The museum's main exhibition explains the history and operation of the Cable Car. On learning how it functions you will understand the great expense that is involved in maintaining the system alive.
In the ground floor you will see the enormous machinery on which the cables that make the trolleys circulate throughout San Francisco rotate.
In the Cable Car Museum you will also be able to see some old trolley cars and some photographs of its evolution over the years as well as learning how it was affected by the great earthquake which destroyed a large part of the system.
The museum contains several examples of old cable cars, together with smaller exhibits and a shop. The cable cars displayed include:
Sutter Street Railway - grip car 46 and trailer 54 dating from the 1870s
Clay Street Hill Railroad - grip car 8, the only surviving car from the first cable car company
Exterior of the Ferries and Cliff House Railway Co. Building Constructed in 1887. Houses both the cable car winding station, engines, and museum. The smoke stack in the rear was damaged in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, restored then soon decommissioned when steam power was replaced with electrical power at the winding station.
The museum is part of the complex that also houses the cable car power house, which drives the cables, and the car depot ("barn"). The car depot is not accessible, but two overlook galleries allow the visitor to view the power house, and to descend below the junction of Washington and Mason streets in order to view the large cavern where the haulage cables are routed via large sheaves out to the street.
The cable car is part of the charm of San Francisco; everyone wants to travel in it and to photograph it climbing the steep hills. The best way to get to know it is in its own museum and, better yet, its free admission.
The San Francisco Zoo is a 100-acre (40 ha) zoo located in the southwestern corner of San Francisco, between Lake Merced and the Pacific Ocean along the Great Highway. The zoo's main entrance, once located on the north side across Sloat Boulevard and one block south of the Muni Metro L Taraval line, is now to the west on the ocean side of the zoo off of the Great Highway.
This zoo is the birthplace of Koko the gorilla, and since 1974, It houses more than 1000 individual animals representing over 250 species, as of 2016.
The Insect Zoo opened in 1979 and features terrariums containing live arthropods, including millipedes, centipedes, hissing cockroaches, tarantulas, scorpions, velvet ants, termites, walkingsticks and bees. Visitors can examine specimens under microscopes, and there are insect-themed books, videos, puppets and games.
The San Francisco Zoo participates in Species Survival Plans, conservation programs sponsored by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The program began in 1981 for selected species in North American zoos and aquarium where the breeding of a species done to maintain healthy, self-sustaining, genetically diverse and demographically stable populations. The zoo participates in more than 30 SSP programs, working to conserve species ranging from Madagascan radiated tortoises and reticulated giraffes to black rhinos and gorillas.
The Muir Woods national monument is the last surviving primordial redwood forest. Located in Marin County, California. It is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It protects 554 acres (224 ha), of which 240 acres (97 ha) are old growth coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) forests, one of a few such stands remaining in the San Francisco Bay Area. Only a few miles north of San Francisco, in an isolated canyon, The park offers solitude, interpretive displays and programs, and numerous hiking trails. Come stroll through 1,000 year old giant trees towering 260 feet high and find out why famed naturalist John Muir called this… “…the best tree-lovers monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world.”
The main attraction of Muir Woods are the coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) trees. They are known for their height, and are related to the giant sequoia of the Sierra Nevada. While redwoods can grow to nearly 380 feet (115 m), the tallest tree in the Muir Woods is 258 feet (79 m). The trees come from a seed no bigger than that of a tomato. Most of the redwoods in the monument are between 500 and 800 years old. The oldest is at least 1,200 years old.
Redwood Creek provides a critical spawning and rearing habitat for coho or silver salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Steelhead are listed as threatened species (2011) in the Central California Coast distinct population segment. Coho salmon are listed as endangered in their evolutionary significant unit (2011). The creek is near the southernmost limit of coho habitat and the fish have never been stocked, so they have a distinctive DNA. The Redwood Creek salmon are Central Coast coho salmon which have been listed as federally threatened species since October 2006 and as federally endangered species in June 2005. Coho migrate from the ocean back to freshwater for a single chance at reproduction, generally after two years in the ocean. The spawning migrations begin after heavy late fall or winter rains breach the sandbar at Muir Beach allowing the fish to move upstream
The monument is managed by the National Park Service and is open year round from 8:00am to sunset. An entrance fee is charged.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is located in Monterey, California. The aquarium was founded in 1984 and is located on the site of a former sardine cannery on Cannery Row. It has an annual attendance of around two million visitors. It holds thousands of plants and animals, representing more than 600 species on display.
The centerpiece of the Ocean's Edge Wing, is a 28-foot-high (8.5 m), 333,000-US-gallon (1,260,000 l; 277,000 imp gal) exhibit for viewing California coastal marine life. In this exhibit, the aquarium was the first in the world to grow live California Giant Kelp. The 28-foot-tall 333,000 gallon Kelp Forest was the first exhibit in the world to include a living kelp forest. In addition to the bay water provided to all tanks, a surge machine at the top of this exhibit provides the constant water motion that kelp requires. Visitors are able to inspect the creatures of the kelp forest at several levels in the building. The largest exhibit in the aquarium is a 1,200,000 gallon the Open Sea exhibit (formerly the Outer Bay), which features one of the world's largest single-paned windows. It is one of the few aquariums to successfully care for the ocean sunfish in captivity.
The top of the tank is open, and was situated to maximize its exposure to sunlight during the day, thus further mimicking the bay. Eighty species of seaweeds grow in this exhibit, some of which have also entered the aquarium through the water from the bay rather than being deliberately planted. The kelp in this exhibit grows about 4 inches (100 mm) per day, and requires divers to trim it once a week.
Sea life on exhibit includes stingrays, jellyfish, sea otters, sea horses, and numerous other native marine species, which can be viewed above and below the waterline. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of very few in the world to exhibit both bluefin and yellowfin tuna. For displaying jellyfish, it uses a Kreisel tank, which creates a circular flow to support and suspend the jellies. The aquarium does not house mammals other than sea otters that were rescued through its Sea Otter Program.
In January 1996, the aquarium opened the Outer Bay wing to provide exhibits covering the open-water ecology of Monterey's Outer Bay. The main 1,200,000 tank in this area is the largest in the aquarium, and features one of the world's largest single-pane windows, the acrylic window is actually five panes seamlessly glued together through a proprietary process.
This area was extensively renovated starting in August 2010, and re-opened July 2, 2011, as the Open Sea galleries. Another exhibit created at this time includes a school of 3000 sardines (a fish that was once the foundation of Monterey's economy), swimming against the endless current of a toroidal tank. As part of the Open Sea renovation, the aquarium also added a puffin exhibit, juvenile sea turtle exhibit, and multimedia experiences highlighting microscopic plankton.
The Legion of Honor Museum offer unique insight into the art historical, political, and social movements of the previous 4,000 years of human history. Holdings include European paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts; ancient art from the Mediterranean basin; and one of the nation’s largest repositories of works of art on paper.
It houses European art and houses the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts in a neoclassical building overlooking Lincoln Park and the Golden Gate Bridge.
The museum contains a representative collection of European art, the largest portion of which is French. Its most distinguished collection is of sculpture by Auguste Rodin. Casts of some of his most famous works are on display, including one of The Thinker in the Court of Honor. However, there are individual works by many other artists, including François Boucher, Rembrandt, Gainsborough, David, El Greco, Giambattista Pittoni, Rubens, and many of the Impressionists and post-Impressionists—Degas, Renoir, Monet, Pissarro, Seurat, Cézanne and others. There are also representative works by key 20th century figures such as Braque and Picasso, and works of contemporary artists like Gottfried Helnwein and Robert Crumb.
San Francisco Dungeon is one of the most popular attractions in Fisherman's Wharf. It recreates scary historical events using 360° sets, special effects, and live actors. Visitors walk through the Dungeon, and are guided through each show by professional actors.
This sixty-minute tour through the darker corners and more demented denizens of San Francisco history plays like a more sophisticated and elaborate version of a seasonal Halloween attraction; instead of masked monsters, long corridors, and jump-scares, you get a series of nine scenes that range from a maze and a boat ride to dramatic vignettes that require you to stop, sit, and sometimes participate. The results will literally have you screaming – first with laughter, then with terror.
The San Francisco Dungeon is the first American version of an attraction that has locations in London, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Hamburg, and other European cities; though beyond the reach of our usual radar, the reputation of these Dungeons raises some high expectations. The exterior of the San Francisco Dungeon certainly looks innocuous enough: a sign above a busy sidewalk, with a barker luring victims toward the box office. The decor inside is wooden, suggesting the old west or a mining town – aspects of local history that will soon come to life before your eyes.
Shows and rides include:
The Descent- visitors descend into the Dungeon in an old mine shaft elevator and meet businessman Colonel Jack Gamble
Gold Rush Greed- a re-enactment of the clash between the natives and the new settlers on the American frontier in 1848
Lost Mines of Sutter's Mill- visitors search the maze of mines for any remaining gold
Streets of San Francisco- visitors meet gang The Hounds and their leader Sam Roberts down Kearny Street
The Court of San Francisco- a re-enactment of an old San Francisco courtroom where visitors are interrogated by former mayor and judge "Mad Meade"
Miss Piggott's Saloon- recreation of an old drinking saloon featuring Miss Piggott and Shanghai Kelly
Shanghai Kelly's Boat Ride- boat ride through the back waterways to learn about the lives of those who were sold to work as sailors
Chinatown Plague- recreation of the streets of San Francisco during the Black Death epidemic in 1900
The Ghosts of Alcatraz- recreation of the Alcatraz military prison during the 1800s
It’s a dark comedy of attractions; dark, atmospheric and very, very funny. If it was a movie it would likely be PG13.
The de Young, a fine arts museum located in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, is one of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco along with the Legion of Honor.
The de Young showcases American art from the 17th through the 21st centuries, international contemporary art, textiles, and costumes, and art from the Americas, the Pacific and Africa.
The American art collection consists of over 1,000 paintings, 800 sculptures, and 3,000 decorative arts objects, with works ranging from 1670 to the present day, this collection represents the most comprehensive museum survey of American art in the American West and is among the top ten collections nationally that encompass the entire history of non-indigenous American art. Since its inception in the Fine Arts Building at the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894 in Golden Gate Park, its subsequent institutionalization in the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum in 1924, and its reinstallation in the new de Young in 2005, the permanent collection has evolved exponentially.
Adore its striking copper facade, while others just hope that the green patina of age will mellow the effect. Most maligned is the 144-foot tower, but the view from its ninth-story observation room, ringed by floor-to-ceiling windows and free to the public, is worth a trip here by itself. The building almost overshadows the de Young's respected collection of American, African, and Oceanic art. The museum also plays host to major international exhibits, such as 100 works from Paris's Musée National Picasso and a collection of the work of Jean Paul Gaultier from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; there's often an extra admission charge for these. The annual Bouquet des Art is a fanciful tribute to the museum's collection by notable Bay Area floral designers. On many Friday evenings, the museum hosts fun, free, family-centered events, with live music, art projects for children, and a wine and beer bar (the café stays open late, too).
Bring your kids to the museum. We suggest approaching your visit as an expedition and letting your child or children take the lead. Children often have the ability to see things in artworks that adults may miss. When your children express wonder about a particular object, ask them to take a moment and look carefully at the work. Ask what they think is happening in the work of art and have them identify details that support their ideas. Any answer they provide is correct, as long as they can provide visual evidence!
Things to do in SF!