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11 Off The Overwhelmed Path Experiences In San Francisco

Home to a dazzling abundance of postcard-worthy attractions, San Francisco is also home to a host of lesser-known experiences that go well beyond tourist destinations (we’ll see you, Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz).

Are you itching to discover the nooks and crannies of the “City by the Bay”?? Then take a look at the post to discover the 11 must-see hidden gems in San Francisco!

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Off the Beaten Path San Francisco: Unusual City Activities

Wave organ

A giant organ on the shores of San Francisco Bay creates a poetic and gentle symphony played by the ocean. The instrument consists of 25 pipes, which are located at different heights of the area. The instrument was built in 1986 from material from a demolished cemetery and is activated by the crash of the waves. Tip: The music is best heard at high tide.

Moraga Steps on 16th Avenue

The Moraga Steps in San Francisco, California.

It’s no secret that San Francisco is filled with a variety of Instagram-ready places, including iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Pier 39. But the city is also home to some stunning photo spots that you won’t find in the travel guides. The quirky Moraga Steps, for example, are a precious hidden gem that almost only locals know about.

Located on 16th Avenue in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Heights neighborhood, the staircase has 163 steps intricately decorated with more than 2,000 handcrafted tiles made up of 75,000 tile fragments, mirrors, and stained glass.

As you climb the tiled stairs on 16th Avenue, be sure to take a closer look at the tiles, which are beautifully designed in the shape of birds, stars, flowers, and other whimsical patterns.

Mission District

The Women's Building in the Mission District, Sao Francisco, California.

The Mission District is where you can experience the full range of San Francisco’s arts and culture scene. Whenever you feel like unleashing your creativity, be sure to take an unplanned stroll through this vibrant neighborhood, which is heavily influenced by the city’s Latino communities.

As you sniff around “The Mission”, expect Mexican restaurants, trendy boutiques and quaint art galleries. If you’re an art lover, be sure to take a free walking tour to explore the area’s eye-catching patchwork of colorful street art murals, reflecting a variety of artistic styles.

camera obscura

Giant Camera Obscura overlooking the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco, California.

Big-eyed travelers looking to see San Francisco from a new perspective must add the Giant Camera to their travel bucket list. Located on the cliffs north of Ocean Beach, this large-format Camera Obscura creates whimsical 360-degree live images of the Seal Rock Area.

Labyrinth in Lands End

The maze of the San Francisco Rock Maze

Designed by San Francisco artist Eduardo Aguilera, this stone maze is a beautiful gem on the rocky shoreline of Land’s End Park. The creation was destroyed twice, but restored by the artist, always in the same place: a picturesque rocky outcrop with great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands and the Pacific Ocean.

Sutro baths

Picturesque view from Sutro Baths Upper Trail.

After enjoying the relaxing and serene atmosphere of the Land’s End Labyrinth, venture further out to the nearby Sutro Baths, which are just a short walk from the Cliff House. Built in 1896 by Adolph Sutro, a self-made millionaire from San Francisco, the baths were once the largest indoor swimming pool complex in the world with a capacity of 10,000 people at a time.

Spanning three acres and with seven tide-fed saltwater pools at the entrance to San Francisco Bay, the baths went down, and now all that’s left is an eerie but beautiful selection of ruined pools and crumbling walls overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Little Italy

Victorian homes and restaurants in Little Italy, San Francisco, California.

A delicious selection of Italian restaurants makes Little Italy a popular destination for travelers looking to enjoy unbeatable food in San Francisco. Located between Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown, the neighborhood (originally called North Beach) was historically home to a large northern Italian community and has some of the city’s restaurants.

When visiting Little Italy, be sure to try the delicious focaccia at Liguria Bakery, tiramisu at Trattoria Pinocchio, and the golden crust pizza at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana.

Coit Tower

The Coit Tower and the San Francisco skyline.

The Coit Tower towers on Telegraph Hill and has been a crown jewel on the San Francisco skyline since 1933. Head to the observation deck of this sleek 210-food building for breathtaking 360-degree views of the city, including landmarks like the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. When you visit, be sure to check out the tower’s murals depicting life in California during the Great Depression.

Botanical Garden and Shakespeare’s Garden

Interior views of the Winter Garden of Flowers in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California.

Perfectly located in Golden Gate Park, the San Francisco Botanical Garden and Shakespeare’s Garden are quiet green spots in the middle of the city.

In the Botanical Garden, you can admire more than 8,000 different plant species from around the world, including towering palm trees and alluring flowers such as camellias, magnolias and rhododendrons.

After exploring the San Francisco Botanical Garden, head to the dreamy Shakespeare’s Garden, dotted with more than 200 flowers and plants mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare!

Golden Gate fortune cookie factory

    Chinatown San Francisco.  Golden Gate fortune cookie factory.

Aside from all the unusual things to do in San Francisco, visiting the city’s Fortune Cookie Factory is certainly one of the most exciting. The factory, founded in 1962, produces up to 10,000 fortune cookies a day, which are freshly baked on a copper grill wheel that rotates at slow heat.

During your visit, you can have a free taste of the cookies or buy a bag to eat later!

Treasure Island

An aerial view of the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island with the city of San Francisco in the background.

Are you looking for a first class place to get fantastic views of San Francisco? Then Treasure Island is definitely worth a trip. An artificial island on San Francisco Bay, this area is home to some of the city’s most exciting events, including the San Francisco International Dragon Boat Festival, Treasure Island Flea Market, and the annual two-day Treasure Island Music Festival.

Frequently asked questions about San Francisco

Where Do The Locals Go In San Francisco?

Locals don’t usually go sightseeing, but rather explore the city’s diverse neighborhoods. If you want to experience the city like a local, be sure to wander around areas like Hayes Valley, The Mission, and North Beach. This is an unprecedented way to soak up the energy of San Francisco and stumble upon some world class hidden gems!

What should I avoid in San Francisco?

If you’re looking to get off the beaten path and discover the lesser-known wonders of San Francisco, avoid the city’s tourist attractions like Union Square, Alcatraz Island, and Fisherman’s Wharf.

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