The Best Things to do Outdoors in San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
A beautiful city, with plenty to see.

San Francisco is a place in the world that many people dream of visiting or have always returned to after first discovering. There are so many ways to spend your holiday available in the city, whether you are looking for activities to do, shops to visit, or even beaches to lie on! You name it, they’ve got it. When you think of San Francisco many people’s mind go to the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Oracle Park, home to the San Francisco Giants. But there are so many great outdoor activities to explore when visiting The Golden Gate City, and some of its most beautiful sights can be seen while getting involved in some outdoor activities.

This article will feature some of the best outdoor attractions in San Francisco including Golden Gate Park, Angel Island and many for you to explore.

Dolores Park

Dolores Park, San Francisco

Dolores Park, also known as Mission Dolores Park, is visited by thousands every year thanks to its large range of features. It has tennis courts, basketball courts a football field and countless playgrounds open all year round for the public. There is something for everyone and going to the park is a great way to spend some time outdoors when you are visiting San Francisco. There are beautiful views of the Mission district all the way to the East Bay which offer some great opportunities for photography too.

Practical Wanderlust love Dolores park, telling us: “One of the best things to do outdoors on a nice day in San Francisco is to pack a picnic and a blanket and head to Dolores Park in the Mission, a gorgeous and well maintained little park with a stunning view of San Francisco. Just don't expect to have the park to yourself: on sunny days, Dolores Park resembles a page from a Where's Wally book: it's packed with groups of friends drinking, dancing, napping, playing music, playing with dogs, sunbathing, and just hanging out.

“If San Francisco were a college campus, ‘DoLo’ would be the quad. Keep an eye out for notable San Francisco vendors like Michael the Coconut Guy who walks around with a cooler filled with coconuts and rum and a machete. An afternoon in Dolores Park is one of the most uniquely San Francisco things you'll ever experience - just be sure to bring sunscreen!”

Angel Island

Angel Island, San Francisco

Angel Island is one of the main islands of San Francisco Bay. Originally a military installation, the island is now a great tourist attraction. There are many historical tours, hiking paths, bike paths and even a café on the island, so there is plenty to do and see if you’re there for the day.

To get to the island, a ferry departs Pier 41 at 9:45 am and returns at 3:00 pm to take you back to the mainland. During your visit to the island, you may notice the lasting effects of a large fire in the 1940s that destroyed much of the original military infrastructure. Despite this, there is still much to see and much to learn from the informative park rangers.

Whether you are there to go hiking or just to look at the beautiful nature on the island, don’t forget to stop at the Angel Island Café. Its located right on the water and has live music from local bands playing on the weekends, it’s great fun for everyone.

The Golden Gate Park and James Turrell Skyspace

James Turrell Skyspace, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

The Golden Gate Park is over 1,000 acres of land ranging from meadows to lakes. With so much rich history and agriculture, the park is the ultimate outdoor activity hub. From an archery field to sailing, there are so many parts of the park that you can explore and activities to do for all sorts of days.

One place in the park that Kara Harms of Whimsy Soul recommends you must visit is the James Turrell Skyspace. She tells us “One of my favourite spots is the James Turrell Skyspace in the Golden Gate Park. This Skyspace is a light-art installation that is always changing. Due to seasons and weather, the light never looks exactly the same no matter how many times I visit. It's simply stunning. The Skyspace is part of the DeYoung Sculpture Garden and something I try to visit every time I'm in the area”.

The Skyspace was commissioned in 2005. It is a subterranean piece of art that you can walk around for free. In the centre of the piece you can sit and admire the way the light works in different spaces, creating a truly magical scene.

Go sea kayaking on the Bay

Sea Kayaking in San Francisco

If you’re the kind of person who loves water sports, then kayaking around San Francisco Bay is certainly the activity for you. With so many companies offering tours and equipment to hire for kayaking, it is a great opportunity to see San Francisco from a new angle. Whether you’re staying near the East Bay or right near Pier 41, if it’s nice weather it’s a great way to spend some time outdoors.

Some great places to check out while kayaking:

  • Sausalito
  • Tomales Bay
  • Jack London Square
  • Half Moon Bay
  • Monterey Bay

Muir Woods

Muir Woods, California

If you want to get out of San Francisco, you can travel north of the Golden Gate Bridge to find Muir Woods, a 800 year old redwood sanctuary that is a national monument for San Francisco. There are 6 miles of trails in total to enjoy including loop tracks that take around an hour to an hour and a half to complete.

Their resident trees, the coastal redwoods, are the world’s tallest, the largest in the park is nearly 80 metres high! Because they are so tall, they block a lot of sun and warmth out and the park can be damp and cool all year round so don’t forget to pack a jumper before you set off. The trails up to the grove can be a very strenuous so be careful if someone in your group has limited mobility.

The woods have some stunning views and people come here from all over the world to see these giants. If you can go early or in off-peak season it’s a stunning experience as you’ll be able to avoid the summer crowds.

Seward St Slides

Seward St Slides, San Francisco

Located in the Corwin Street Community Garden you can find Seward Mini Park. Built in the 1960s as part of neighbourhood activism, the two concrete slides named the Seward St Slides are fun to visit with family. At the top of the slides, you will find a sign that reads “No adults unless accompanied by a child” which adds to the character of the residential park. The two slides are positioned side-by-side so you can race friends to the bottom. The locals love this place.

Although not an activity that would take all day, it is nice to visit and enjoy the surrounding park that local residents protested for, fighting against a development that would block views and rid the residents of some much-needed open space. The slides are very slippery and very steep so hold onto your hats if you’re going to attempt this one!

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