Go wild in the city, and we don't mean the nightlife. Head to Golden Gate Park and the Buffalo Paddock, a green pasture next to Spreckels Lake where a herd of six bison are a living piece of American history. It's a remarkable sight to see them grazing in the middle of the city.
It doesn't get much prettier than the nine-mile slice of the California Coastal Trail at Lands End, a well-marked path that winds its way from the historic Cliff House Restaurant and the ruins of Sutro Baths, along the rugged bluffs above the Pacific Ocean, all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge.
For more than two centuries, the Presido served as a military outpost, established in 1776. Handed over to the National Park Service in 1994, it is now a beloved destination with family-friendly events such as the Presidio Picnic, miles of trails, public beaches, restaurants and a hotel, renowned public art from sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, a national cemetery, and endless natural beauty spread across 1,500 acres on San Francisco's northwest waterfront.
Off the Beaten Path
Alcatraz might be more popular with tourists, but the largest island in San Francisco Bay, Angel Island, is rich in natural wonder and American history. Catch the Blue & Gold ferry to the island from Pier 41. Hike the island's numerous trails, and make sure to visit some of the historical sites, such as the U.S. Immigration Station, now a museum.
More than 33,000 works of modern art are on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), reopened in 2016 and showcasing photography, sculpture, media art, and other oeuvres from 20th- and 21st-century masters such as Andy Warhol and Frida Kahlo. A new restaurant, In Situ, brings the art of the table to diners and is helmed by Michelin-starred chef Corey Lee.
Best Day Trip
Some of the tallest trees in the world are just 12 miles form the Golden Gate Bridge at 560-acre Muir Woods. Start at the visitor center and follow the Bohemian Grove Trail through 1,000-year-old giants, remnants of an ancient coastal redwood forest that was donated to the government by a local couple, and named after John Muir, a noted conservationist.
Most Iconic Experience
You can't miss it, and you don't want to. The Golden Gate Bridge is city's famous symbol, first opened in 1937. Photograph it and then take a walk across it on the pedestrian path, or rent a bike with Blazing Saddles and pedal on what was, in its heyday, the world's longest suspension bridge.
San Francisco's cable cars are not only icons of the city, they are also moving national historic landmarks. There are three routes in the city, the most scenic of which is the Powell-Hyde line. Check out the Cable Car Museum, too, for a view of the huge whirring wheels that pull the cables underneath the streets of San Francisco. Finish the ride at the Buena Vista café, known for its Irish coffee.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Wacky, over-the-top, and a 100-percent must do, Beach Blanket Babylon is proof that if you can't laugh at yourself, San Francisco will do it for you. Performed in the North Beach neighborhood at Club Fugazi, the 1.5-hour show follows Snow White as she searches for her Prince Charming. Along the way she encounters an ever changing lineup of pop culture characters played by cast members donning outrageous costumes and supersized wigs and hats. It's 21 and over except on Sundays.
Neighborhood to Explore
Take a bite out of Dogpatch, one of the city's most creative neighborhoods, full of artist studios and galleries like those inside the 100,000-square-foot Minnesota Street Project. Pick up made-in-San Francisco goods such as clogs from Bryr Studio, custom messenger bags from Rickshaw Bagworks, and thirst-quenching local beer at breweries such as Triple Voodoo Brewery.