The San Francisco Airport is one of the largest and busiest airports in the state of California and has a plethora of shops, eateries, and other attractions to enjoy. But if you are spending a whole day waiting for your next flight, you will want to get out of the stuffy and crowded airport for a while and see the sights.
Surrounded by water, San Francisco is a fabulous place to see the ocean. You can even go swimming, fishing, or surfing. Most beaches have places to rent boards and other equipment. Store your belongings in a suitcase storage locker near the San Francisco Airport while you visit the beach or some of the fantastic attractions in town.
Go Museum Hopping
San Francisco has over 50 museums and art galleries not far from each other so you can visit several in one day if you want. In fact, within a few miles, you will find the Millbrae Museum, the Millbrae Train Museum, the Peninsula Museum of Art, and the Plymire-Schwarz House Museum. A bit of everything is within reach.
Venture another 10 miles or so and you’ll see over a dozen more museums to enjoy. The Exploratorium is a fantastic science museum, the Pacific Heritage Museum will teach you all about the city, and the University Auto Museum has 128 rare automobiles to get selfies with. Don’t miss the $2,000,000 Tucker 48.
Visit Some Parks and Beaches
San Francisco has an average temperature of 70 degrees year-round, so outdoor activities are popular. The parks department boasts over 220 parks to explore. The largest is the Golden Gate Park, which has 1,017 acres at the southern end of the bridge. McLaren is also a fun place with 313 acres, 11 miles of trails, tennis, golf, and a pool.
Beaches can be found everywhere you look but one of the most popular is Baker Beach, which is right at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. Ocean Beach is another favorite with a great swimming area. For the history buffs, try Fort Funston Beach where you can see the fort as well as the magnetic black sand.
Explore Fisherman’s Wharf
If you want to taste seafood straight out of the bay, the wharf is the best place to go. If you don’t want to catch it yourself by renting a fishing guide, there are plenty of seafood kiosks and shops selling their wares. They have other food too like Alioto’s, Old Tyme Treats, Café De Casa, and Ghirardelli Ice Cream.
For other types of fun, you can visit the aquarium, see over 100 classic arcade games at Musée Mécanique, and get some cool selfies with celebrities at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. Don’t miss the fascinating oddities at Ripley’s, the chance to learn about ships at the Maritime Museum, or getting scared at the San Francisco Dungeon.
Go Shopping in Chinatown
Spanning 24 square blocks, this Chinatown is the oldest and largest in the United States. There is so much to do there that they offer cable cars to ride around on. Some of the landmarks to see include the Dragon Gate, Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, Great Star Theater, and the Chinese Culture Center.
There are also four parks in Chinatown including Portsmouth Square, which is full of monuments and history. There are souvenir shops everywhere, so you can get those too. From Chinese décor to toys and games, you can find it all in Chinatown. You can also find the best Chinese food in California there.
Get Selfies with Sea Lions at Pier 39
The obvious thing to do at Pier 39 is to see the sea lions that hang out there. With more than 1,000 at any given time, they can be noisy, but it is a unique experience. Also, if you have a few hours, it is worth it to take a boat tour or cruise. The whale-watching cruises last 2.5 hours and other tours last from 30 to 90 minutes.
Besides cruises and sea lions, you may also enjoy some excitement. There are several rides including the 7D Experience Ride, Frequent Flyers bungee jumping, The Bay Plunge, and the Flyer 4D ride. Or try the mellow carousel, musical stairs, and mirror maze. They also have over 100 shops and eateries to enjoy.
Whether you go there to see the prison or for Native American History, this island is one must-see place. The penitentiary where Al Capone once “lived” is open to the public for audio or guided tours. What attracts most people is the lighthouse, warden’s house, dining hall, morgue, recreation yard, and cell house.
During the occupation of Alcatraz from 1969 to 1971, the United Indians of All Tribes led a protest and stayed until they were forcibly removed. An agreement was later reached between the Native Americans and San Francisco. However, there is still a lot of history from that time period on the island to see.
Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the seven wonders of the world, so you have to at least visit the bridge to learn the history. The bridge was built in 1937, is 1.7 miles long, and is over 745 feet tall. See the San Francisco Bay on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. It is the perfect spot for selfies.
Rather than walk the 3.4-mile round trip, you can also rent a bike at the wharf. When you get to the other side of the bridge, take a walk along the Black Sands Beach, visit the Marin Headlands, or check out the Bay Area Discovery Museum. Then you can go back to the city side and eat at the Roundhouse Café.
Before you go back to the airport to catch your flight, stop at one of the nearby restaurants for some San Francisco cuisine. The New England Lobster Market & Eatery is famous for its fresh catches, Naked Fish is a superb sushi eatery, and El Super Burrito is a fast and inexpensive place to grab some Mexican delights.