Twenty-five free attractions in San Francisco
12. Golden Gate Park
When the weather cooperates, the 1,017-acre park of redwood, green meadows and museums is an incredible setting to laze away half a San Francisco day. Plus a lot is free, such as weekly concerts, or events like Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and Shakespeare in the Park. But better yet, there are free lawn bowling lessons on Wednesday and Friday.
13. Musée Mécanique
Sinister, freckle-faced Laughing Sal has frightened children for more than one hundred years at this wonderful vintage arcade that is as fun to look at (for free) as it is to play in. If you splurge a few quarters, you can start-your-own bar brawls in coin-operated Wild West saloons, peep at belly dancers or feed your inner Ms Pac Man.
14. Public Library City Guides walking tours
Local volunteer historians lead five, daily, one- to two-hour walking tours by neighbourhood and theme – ranging from Chinatown alleys to Alfred Hitchcock film sites to Coit Tower murals. It is volunteer-based, and completely free though donations are accepted.
15. Randall Junior Museum
A 520ft summit near the Castro with superb views over the city, the Randall Junior Museum is a free, family-ready place with live-animal exhibitions and hands-on workshops.
16. Readings at City Lights and Green Apple
The San Franciscan literary scene is legendary, perhaps nowhere more so than at City Lights, founded by city poet laureate Lawrence Ferlinghetti, next to Jack Kerouac Alley. Look for readings here, or at other beloved bookstores including the Richmond District's Green Apple.
17. Rincon Annex Post Office murals
Anton Refregier won the WPA’s largest commission to depict the history of Northern California just as WWII erupted. He resumed in 1945 and – as usual – the results were deemed “communist” by McCarthyists in 1953. The murals are now a National Landmark.
18. San Francisco Center for the Book
Remember books? The San Francisco Center for the Book not only displays the elaborate Coptic binding and wooden typesetting machines that were used to make the things, but also offers a wide display of changing exhibitions and workshops. All free.
19. Sea Lions at Pier 39
Do not pretend you are too cool to gawk at these guys, who canoodle, belch and scratch on the docks of Pier 39. As many as 1,300 come, as they have since 1990, providing great photo opportunities January to July. It is also free to watch unsuspecting tourists getting frightened by the World Famous Bushman often lurking behind his faux-shrubbery nearby.
20. Seward Street slides
Lost in the Castro - near the corner of Douglas Street and Seward Street, about five or six blocks southwest of Market Street and Castro - this tiny park has a couple of curving concrete slides that are fun to slide down. There are usually cardboard boxes to sit on, but BYOB (bring your own box) to be sure.
21. Stern Grove Festival's concerts
If you are visiting in summer (late June through late August), definitely look up a city classic: the Stern Grove Festival's calendar of free Sunday concerts has been a local icon for 75 years. Past artists include Neko Case, the English Beat and the San Francisco Opera.
22. Transamerica Pyramid’s fake observatory
A keystone of the San Francisco skyline since 1972, the Transamerica Pyramid’s observation deck has been closed since 11 September, but there is a virtual observation deck to see, plus a half-acre edwood Park at its base.
23. Twin Peaks or Bernal Heights views
Perfectly situated in the geographical centre of San Francisco, the twin 922ft peaks offer towering views of the city and bay, and are generally one of the must-sees for visitors with cars. It is a steep climb up from Market Street, so visitors without cars may want to consider a quieter alternate, Bernal Heights, with lovely views from south of the Mission and no tour buses.
San Francisco with Lonely Planet
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