Monday, January 11, 2010

Free in San Francisco - Part 2

When talking about free things to see and do in San Francisco there are many options. In this post are some of the more scenic options (though the very scenic Marin Headlands were mentioned in my last post.)

See the San Francisco Botanical Gardens for free in Golden Gate Park.

It is free to visit Golden Gate Park and there are many activities in the park that are free. You can visit the Strybing Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. The San Francisco Botanical Gardens has over 7,000 varieties of plants from around the world, so there is always something pretty to see no matter the season. There are free, daily docent-led tours of the botanical gardens and a free children's story time held on the first and third Sundays.

Flowers seen in May at the Botanical Garden.

You can also, for free, see the bison who live in Golden Gate Park at the Bison Paddock. And not too far away is the Dutch Windmill with the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden.

A Golden Gate Park resident at the Bison Paddock.


The towering Dutch Windmill is 75 feet tall.


Drive up the hill from Golden Gate Park along the Great Highway (turns into Point Lobos Avenue) with the Pacific Ocean bordering on your left. You will quickly reach the restored Cliff House and the adjacent ruins of the Sutro Baths in the Sutro Historic District. Park rangers and docents lead walking tours for those interested in either the natural or cultural history of the area.

Use some of the money you've been saving to dine at the Cliff House.


Work up and appetite or burn calories exploring the Sutro bath ruins.

Back in the Marina District past the Presidio you can find the Exploratorium and the Palace of Fine Arts. The Exploratorium is not free, except on the first Wednesday of each month, but it doesn't cost to walk around the grounds and view the remaining structures from the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition.

Palace of Fine Arts is located in the Marina District.

One of the best ways to see San Francisco and its many sights is by driving the 49 Mile Scenic Drive. Best of all, it's free! The drive starts at the Civic Center and ends at SFO. It covers much territory and many sights in between. According to an article published several years ago by the San Francisco Chronicle, the entire drive takes about four hours...without stops. When you;ve reached the end of the drive, be sure to visit the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library & Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum located at SFO, admission is free. The airport also has many art exhibits located throughout its terminals.

Coit Tower is a popular tourist destination.

Coit Tower, situated atop Telegraph Hill, offers spectacular views of the city; while not free to take the elevator to the top (admission is $5.00) you can enter for free to view the 1930s era murals depicting the common worker as as well daily life in San Francisco.

The murals were a New Deal Public Works of Art Project.

Due to the topography of San Francisco, you actually don't need to visit Coit Tower's observation deck to get spectacular views of the city. Telegraph Hill is situated high enough to offer up fantastic views without the additional height of the tower. However, if you can swing it, definitely go to the observation deck as the views are unmatched. Coit Tower has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2008.


Views from atop Telegraph Hill.


Spectacular views offered from the observation deck of Coit Tower.

One things to keep in mind is that a lot of the attractions in San Francisco have free or discounted admission for kids and/or seniors. There are also several options to get reduced admission to multiple attractions and transportation by purchasing discount cards such as the Go San Francisco Card or the San Francisco City Pass.

Finally, neither this post nor my previous post are by any means a comprehensive listing of things to see or do for free in San Francisco. If you know of things that are fantastic and free, let me know and I'll include them in a future post.