HOW TO VISIT SAN FRANCISCO ON A BUDGET
California cities are not normally known for affordable accommodations This is why you might be surprised on how many cheap or free attractions San Francisco has to offer. Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have a wonderful and enjoyable time in a town with breathtaking views, local landmarks and years of history. Some people have even left their hearts there.
This wide sandy beach sits on the sand spit that separates Rodeo Lagoon from Rodeo Cove on the west side of the Marin Headlands in Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The beach is made up of small colored pebbles that give it an incredibly unique look. Walk to the south end of the beach to see majestic rocks in the surf, and take your binoculars so you can see the birds on Bird Rock.
Located near the Golden Gate Bridge (and with awesome views of it to boot), Baker Beach is one of the many popular spots in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Baker Beach isn’t safe for swimming, but you’ll have the Battery Chamberlin, a large historic military gun installation from 1904, to entertain you.
China Beach is visually stunning, facing north toward the Marin Headlands with a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The rock walls on both sides create a small protected area that was once a camp for Chinese fishermen, which is how it got its name. The area just south of the cove is called Lands End and has some excellent hiking trails and a hidden surprise.
Unless you’re very familiar with the Northern California coast, you may not have heard of Fort Funston Beach. It’s the southernmost beach on the Pacific Coast side of the city, and it gets windy here… so windy, in fact, that we’d recommend skipping it if the forecast calls for heavy winds. Horses and dogs are welcome here, so it’s a great place to go with your furry friends.
Once upon a time (in 1896) the Sutro Baths, elaborate privately-owned saltwater and freshwater pools, opened for public use. They eventually shut down after some financial struggles, and in 1966, they burned to the ground. Their remains are now a historic site, and they happen to be surrounded by a beautiful beach.
And While you Are there Enjoy The Sutro Baths
The ruins of the Sutro Baths are an historic site on the western waterfront of San Francisco. In March of 1896 these elaborate privately-owned saltwater and freshwater pools opened to the public. After years of financial struggles the baths finally closed and in 1966 their remains burned to the ground. All the remains are the concrete foundations and walls. The beach below the baths is wide at low tide and all wet at high tide. The easiest access is at the south end of the baths near the Cliff House Restaurant. Large rocks, including the Seal Rocks, are just offshore from the Sutro Baths. Above the baths to the north is the Point Lobos Overlook. A tunnel through the rock below Point Lobos is popular with tourists, but be careful in there at it is dark and slippery. Trails meander all about the hillside behind the baths. For a longer hike, the Lands End Trail starts at the parking lot and leads to Mile Rock Beach.
The best place to park for a trip to the Sutro Baths is the Lands End Visitor Center (680 Point Lobos Avenue) which is directly above the baths. This entire area is part of part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. When the tide is high and access to the beach at Sutro Baths is cut off, nearby Ocean Beach is a good alternative.
Located in a small cove below the Lands End Viewpoint in San Francisco’s portion of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Mile Rock Beach is small and rocky – but it’s a lovely beach to visit. In addition to the nearby hiking trails, you’ll find picnic tables, a shipwreck, a lighthouse and plenty of beach to explore.
Affordable or Free San Francisco must see activities many locals have no idea about!
This is one of the best ways to experience Golden Gate Park. Weave your way through the tree-lined roads and take in the many spectacular views across the park. The best day to ride a bike through the park is on Sunday when the main road through the park is closed to cars. Rentals are available at the park. Visit golden-gate-park.com/biking for more information.
San Francisco Electric Tour Company offers fully narrated Segway and Electric Bike Tours. Tour the eastern section of the park via winding trails and bike routes. See the best views while listening to the legends of the park. Check out their Yelp and Tripadvisorreviews for more detailed info on the experience.
With 21 courts, temperate weather year-round and stunning views of the park, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better location to play tennis. Costs for walk-in play for the weekdays is as follows: residents ($4), non-residents ($6), seniors 65+ ($2), and youth under 18 are free. During the weekend and evening, the fees increase for residents ($5) and seniors 65+ ($5). On the weekends, all youth are expected to pay $2. You can reserve courts by time to guarantee yourself a spot. Players of all skill levels are welcome. Lessons at these courts are also available if you’re interested.
Familiar with disc golf? The process involves throwing a flying disc from distances to a metal basket target. It was popularized by college students and has a reputation for being a hippy sport, but it’s become more popular over the years with courses in many destinations. The Golden Gate Park disc golf course is the only one in San Francisco. It features 18 holes. It is free. But you’ll need to bring your own discs.
Lands End Labyrinth
This labyrinth off of the Coastal Trail is made with grapefruit-sized stones and inspired by traditional walking labyrinths from monasteries, where the goal is contemplation and meditation even though you could step over this beauty to the center. “I once saw a proposal happen here with a school of dolphins playing in the waves, “I’m pretty sure she said yes.” Start your journey at Eagles Point near 32nd Avenue and El Camino del Mar. You can find parking along the golf course on Lincoln Highway. The #1 bus will get you close to the area if you’re relying on public transportation, but being on the far reaches of SF, this is a journey best left to a cab or Uber. Follow the Lands End Trail along the coast until you reach a right turn towards Mile Rock Beach. Keep going down that trail, and just before you hit the beach, turn right up a small dirt path that leads to the labyrinth.
Golden Gate Bridge
You can’t visit San Francisco without getting an up-close look at the Golden Gate Bridge. Luckily, this attraction fits into any budget, because it’s free. You can walk or ride a bike across the 1.7-mile bridge. You can even participate in a free walking tour on Thursdays and Sundays so you can hear the history of this landmark as you explore.
Free San Francisco Walking Tours
The Golden Gate Bridge is not the only place you can tour for free during your visit. You can also take part in one of the many free tours offered by the San Francisco City Guides. They offer tours all year, with some of the destinations including popular neighborhoods like Castro, Haight-Ashbury, Westwood Park, Chinatown and Potrero Hill. Some of the tours also focus on local ghost stories, murals, past earthquakes, fires and the history of many landmarks.
Now The Tourist Attractions That Are The Most famous And Why Not!
If you were to overhear someone talking about “The Rock” today, nine out of 10 people would think that the subject of conversation was action movie star and former wrestler Dwayne Johnson. But if you had overheard the same conversation eight decades earlier, when James Cagney was the toughest guy in movies and wrestlers had names like Gorgeous George, there would have been no doubt what the topic of conversation was. The only “Rock” back then was Alcatraz, the maximum-security prison perched on a small island in San Francisco Bay.
CHINATOWN San Francisco
The story of Chinatown is the story of a neighborhood; an American neighborhood, an old neighborhood, an immigrant neighborhood, where the old country still lives inside the new one. The past and the present are inseparably woven together in this neighborhood defined by Broadway, California, Kearny and Powell streets.
In the mid-1840’s, following defeat by Britain in the first Opium War, a series of natural catastrophes occurred across China resulting in famine, peasant uprisings and rebellions. Understandably, when the news of gold and opportunity in far away Gum San, (Golden Mountain- the Chinese name for America) reached China, many Chinese seized the opportunity to seek their fortune.
The Chinese were met with ambiguous feelings by Californians. In 1850, San Francisco Mayor John W. Geary invited the “China Boys” to a ceremony to acknowledge their work ethic. However, as the American economy weakened, the Chinese labor force became a threat to mainstream society. Racial discrimination and repressive legislation drove the Chinese from the gold mines to the sanctuary of the neighborhood that became known as Chinatown. The only ethnic group in the history of the United States to have been specifically denied entrance into the country, the Chinese were prohibited by law to testify in court, to own property, to vote, to have families join them, to marry non-Chinese, and to work in institutional agencies.
The success and survival of Chinatown depended a great deal on the family and district benevolent associations which served as political and social support systems to newcomers. The members strove to meet the basic needs of the community, and represented a united voice in the fight against discriminatory legislation process.
“CHINATOWN” offers a revealing look at how a group of people bound geographically, culturally, linguistically and economically during hostile times has flourished to become a vibrant, courageous and proud community for Chinese Americans and greater San Francisco, referred to as Dai Fao (Big City) in Chinese.
San Francisco Attraction Passes
If you’re intent on seeing all that San Francisco has to offer–without going over your budget the CityPASS may be your best bet. With CityPASS, when you pay for an adult or child ticket, you get access to the California Academy of Sciences and the Aquarium of the Bay, as well as a one-hour cruise around the Bay. Your CityPASS also lets you use both the Muni bus and the famous cable cars to get around the city without paying extra. You can then choose between a visit to the de Young Museum or the Exploratorium. With Go San Francisco, you can get a variety of multi-day and option packages. Choose from more than 25 attractions and activities, such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Oracle Park Tour, San Francisco Dungeon and beyond destination tours to Muir Woods and wine country.
Some of the main attractions at PIER 39 may be the dozens of stores and eateries, but not everything has to cost a lot. One of the best activities here is free, and that’s watching the sea lions as they relax just a few feet away. Of course, there are also amazing views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. So if you want an affordable day out, grab some ice cream or coffee from one of the nearby shops and stroll around admiring the views from the pier.