San Francisco City Guides offers free two-hour historic walking tours led by knowledgeable volunteer guides, which – although donations are welcome – are completely free of charge.
Dance on air
Golden Gate Park is bigger than New York’s Central Park, and equally beautiful. It’s free to visit, and its exquisite traditional Japanese Tea Garden is free to visit on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays if you slip in before 10am. Among the groves and gardens of the wider park, you’ll find plenty of free activities. Learn how to Lindy Hop from the guys at Lindy in the Park, who offer free lessons every Sunday at 11am – no partner required.
In sprawling Golden Gate Park, you can discover plentiful groves, gardens and activities all for free. One notable local favourite is learning how to Lindy Hop every Sunday at noon – no partner required.
POPOS – Privately Owned Public Open Spaces – are outdoor gardens, courtyards, and seating areas tucked into alleys and on top of office buildings around the city. Free and open to the public, though hours for each vary, use the handy POPOS map from San Francisco Planning and Urban Research (SPUR) to find one nearby.
Run for the hills
Explore San Francisco’s Mount Sutro Forest. The public park offers miles of hiking trails that wind through redwood and fern groves, perfect for a brisk morning walk or jog. On a foggy day, the towering misty trees have earned it the nickname the “cloud forest”. Alternatively, sign up for a Park Run. Crissy Field Park Run is a free 5km run every Saturday at 9am in the park. Keep your head up as you’re jogging along: the views you’ll get of Golden Gate Bridge are priceless.
Sea lions on Pier 39
In 1989 a colony of sea lions started making the marina docks at Pier 39 their home, and there are now hundreds of them. They haul out on the floating pontoons to fight, play and sleep – and they can make a real racket. The best way to see them is from the end of the Pier, at all times of year except June-July, when many leave to breed. And you can check their numbers before you go with by tuning into the charming live webcam. When you go, hold your nose – most first-time visitors are unprepared for the smell!