10 San Francisco Secrets Travelers Should Know

We've narrowed down a few unique experiences that every tourist should be aware of when visiting San Francisco. Plan for an unforgettable trip with these 10 local tips, which include fun things to do and best ways to experience the Golden Gate City.

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Grab a Burrito Nightcap

Grab a Burrito Nightcap

El Farolito is the unofficial post-bar nightcap in the Mission District. This burrito joint is popular local hangout on Saturday through Wednesday until 2:30 a.m., and on Thursdays and Fridays until 3:30 a.m. 960 1280
Go Bowling

Go Bowling

Knock down some early-morning pins at Presidio Bowling Center, which is open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, or try Lucky Strike, which closes at 1 a.m. on Thursdays and 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Both bowling alleys serve alcohol, but Presidio Bowling Center serves beer and wine; whereas Lucky Strike is the place to go for an after midnight cocktail. 960 1280
Witness the City’s Midnight Glow

Witness the City’s Midnight Glow

Drive up to the top of Twin Peaks and park to see San Francisco’s bold skyline light up the sky, including, including the Bay Lights art installation on the Bay Bridge. 960 1280
Play Miniture Golf

Play Miniture Golf

Mini golf offers a different kind of late-night clubbing. Open on Fridays and Saturdays until 1 a.m., Urban Putt combines beer, wine and gourmet bar bites with a high-tech, 14-hole course for the ultimate mini-golf experiencing. 960 1280

Kristen Loken  

Keep the Party Going

Keep the Party Going

Head to Mighty or Public Works to dance until 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. (respectively) on Fridays and Saturdays. In San Francisco, these are 2 of the most popular spots to hear the best live acts and DJs, spinning hip-hop and electronic music.   960 1280
Eat Tasty Korean Food

Eat Tasty Korean Food

Korean “grill-it-yourself” havens are open longer than most restaurants in town. Every day, patrons at Korean Village Wooden Charcoal Barbecue House can get a meaty protein fix until 3 a.m. Cocobang is another option that serves hungry night owls on Sundays through Wednesday until 2 a.m. and on Thursdays and Fridays until 4 a.m. 960 1280

Missy Buchanan  

Catch a Midnight Flick

Catch a Midnight Flick

Consult the Clay Theatre’s calendar to find out what the movie theme is for Midnight Madness on Saturdays. The theme changes each week. 960 1280
Order Pizza at the Window

Order Pizza at the Window

After the bars close on Friday and Saturday in North Beach, the action migrates to the Golden Boy Pizza window, which serves up enticingly thick square slices until 2:30 a.m. For some, it’s the perfect place to stop after a long night of drinking beer, wine or cocktails.   960 1280
Devour Fresh Donuts

Devour Fresh Donuts

Prepare for the lines at the 24-hour Bob’s Donuts after midnight on weekends. It’s well worth the wait to sample these tasty fried treats, including the raised sugar donut, French cruller, cinnamon roll and apple pandowdy. 960 1280
Laugh Until You Cry

Laugh Until You Cry

Tickle your funny bone! Stay up and laugh into the wee hours of the morning at PianoFight, where locals and out-of-towners can enjoy Night Moves, San Francisco’s only weekly midnight comedy show. The laughs begin on Saturday at 1:30 a.m. 960 1280

Pianofight  

Alcatraz

Alcatraz

A prisoner can't wait to get to the other side of the bars. 960 1280

  

Alcatraz

Alcatraz

A shot of Alcatraz from the water. 960 1280

  

Alcatraz

Alcatraz

Two prisoners plot their escape in the lunchroom. 960 1280

  

Lee Ehrlich, a paranormal diver

Lee Ehrlich, a paranormal diver

Lee Ehrlich, a paranormal diver, discusses his plans for the sea serpent investigation that he will conduct underwater. 960 1280

  

Investigator Jackie Ganiy

Investigator Jackie Ganiy

Investigator Jackie Ganiy searches the docks of Alcatraz. 960 1280

  

Bob and Bill Clark

Bob and Bill Clark

Brothers Bob and Bill Clark search the waters for the sea serpent. 960 1280

  

Paranormal investigator Jeff Dwyer

Paranormal investigator Jeff Dwyer

Paranormal investigator Jeff Dwyer prepares for his search with the help of Terry Brown. 960 1280

  

Louis Powell and Lee Ehrlich

Louis Powell and Lee Ehrlich

Louis Powell and Lee Ehrlich view sea serpent footage with witnesses Bill and Bob Clark. 960 1280

  

Alcatraz

Alcatraz

An interior view of Alcatraz. 960 1280

  

Alcatraz

Alcatraz

One of the many creepy hallways of Alcatraz. 960 1280

  

Actor Kenneth Feragen

Actor Kenneth Feragen

Actor Kenneth Feragen holds the kind of rope that so many prisoners used in their suicides. 960 1280

  

Sutro Forest

Sutro Forest

Crew members Terry Brown, Matt Parkinson, Brandon Todesca and John Whelchel run -- dressed as escaped prisoners -- through the Sutro Forest. 960 1280

  

Sutro Forest

Sutro Forest

Rex Bell, a witness of the ghosts of the Sutro Forest in San Francisco. 960 1280

  

Jennifer Brown recounts her experience

Jennifer Brown recounts her experience

Jennifer Brown recounts her experience with the ghosts at the docks of Alcatraz. 960 1280

  

The dive team

The dive team

The dive team works on their equipment for the sea serpent search. 960 1280

  

Cliff House

Cliff House

Take a short road trip to see the Cliff House, located at San Francisco’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area -- the largest urban park west of the Mississippi River. Learn about the house’s rich history, dating back to 1863. Looking for a bite to eat? The Sutro Wing houses a two-story dining room with a view overlooking the Pacific Ocean. 960 1280

Roberto Soncin Gerometta / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images  

San Fran Cable Cars

San Fran Cable Cars

Hop on an iconic San Francisco cable car. British promoter Andrew Hallidie and engineer William Eppelsheimer designed and started the city’s cable car system in 1873. Of the 23 lines established between 1873 and 1890, only three routes remain, two of which stretch from downtown near Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf, and a third that runs along California Street. 960 1280

Tzuyaya / iStock / Thinkstock  

Russian Hill

Russian Hill

One of the 44 hills in San Francisco, the Russian Hill neighborhood is most famous for being home to what's been called "the crookedest street in the world," Lombard Street. This picturesque street was designed with a series of switchbacks to help vehicles make it down the extremely steep hill. We definitely recommend taking a drive down the perfectly manicured street, but look out for the hordes of tourists snapping photos at the bottom. 960 1280

Getty Images News  

Alamo Square Park

Alamo Square Park

Perhaps best known for being the setting of the "Full House" opening sequence, Alamo Square Park offers spectacular views of the city, perfect for a picnic of your own. But the best view is along the east side of the park, where the famous Painted Ladies sit along Steiner Street. Sometimes called “Postcard Row” for obvious reasons, the houses were built between 1892 and 1896 by developer Matthew Kavanaugh, who lived next door to the row houses, in the mansion at 722 Steiner Street. 960 1280

San Francisco Travel Association  

Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf

The Fisherman's Wharf neighborhood is home to Pier 39, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, the Cannery Shopping Center and Ghirardelli Square, as well as several museums and famous restaurants. 960 1280

Mitchell Funk / Getty Images  

Napa Valley Wine Train

Napa Valley Wine Train

Get out of the city and head north to take a three-hour ride on the Napa Valley Wine Train through stunning vineyards, while indulging in elegant food and, of course, tasting local wines. The vintage train has been running since 1989 on a rail line first established in 1864 by San Francisco’s first millionaire. A ride on this train is the epitome of luxury. 960 1280

Universal Images Group / Getty Images  

Pier 39

Pier 39

Stop by Pier 39 for a ride on the carousel, as well as for a visit to the Aquarium of the Bay, a meal at the floating Forbes Island restaurant and a glimpse of the sea lions that hang out on the docks. 960 1280

Jewhyte / iStock / Thinkstock  

Aquarium of the Bay

Aquarium of the Bay

At the Aquarium of the Bay, stroll through 300 feet of tunnels to see over 20,000 marine animals from San Francisco Bay and its surrounding waters. The aquarium also has fun activities for kids, touch pools with sharks and an interactive Bay Lab station. 960 1280

Jeff Greenberg / Photolibrary / Getty Images  

Haight-Ashbury

Haight-Ashbury

Once a collection of isolated farms and acres of sand dunes in the 1800s, the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco maintains its bohemian vibe, which started when the neighborhood was the epicenter of the hippie movement in the 1960s. 960 1280

Gavin Hellier / AWL Images / Getty Images  

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

Locals and tourists alike enjoy a 1.7-mile stroll or bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge for breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay. The city celebrated the famous bridge’s 75th anniversary in 2012. 960 1280

Kit_Leong / iStock / Thinkstock  

Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square

Originally the site of a chocolate factory, Ghirardelli Square is now a large retail and restaurant complex. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is considered the first adaptive reuse project in the country. We recommend tourists stop here for a tasty ice cream sundae or to sample some delicious Ghirardelli chocolate. Simply follow the intoxicating smell of chocolate wafting through the air. 960 1280

Barry Winiker / Photolibrary / Getty Images  

Precita Eyes Muralists

Precita Eyes Muralists

Add a little culture to your San Fran trip. Stop by the Precita Eyes Muralists Association, one of only three community mural centers in the U.S. Established in 1977 in San Francisco’s Mission District, the multipurpose community-based organization sponsors and organizes ongoing mural projects throughout the Bay Area and internationally. Weekly art classes are also offered for children, ranging in age from 18 months to 19 years old. 960 1280

San Francisco Travel Association/Scott Chernis  

The Dragon Gateway

The Dragon Gateway

Explore Chinatown and enter the gateway, located on Grant Avenue at Bush Street. San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinese community outside of Asia. Seen here, the Dragon Gateway -- installed in 1969 -- is a gift from the Republic of China. 960 1280

Joe Potato Photo / iStock / Thinkstock   

Nob Hill

Nob Hill

Nob Hill is one of San Francisco’s signature neighborhoods, renowned for its swanky character, city landmarks and famous hotels that border Huntington Park. Some popular places to visit when you’re in the hood include Flood Mansion, the Cable Car Museum, Lumiere Theatre, Bigfoot Lodge, You Say Tomato and the Big 4 Restaurant. 960 1280

Can Balcioglu / iStock / Thinkstock  

Coit Tower

Coit Tower

Take the steep walk or drive up to the 210-foot-high Coit Tower for the best views of San Francisco. Located in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood, the Art Deco tower was designed to resemble a fire hose nozzle in tribute to local volunteer firefighter Lillian Coit’s affinity for the San Francisco firefighters of her youth. Architects Arthur Brown Jr. and Henry Howard designed the tower, while 27 on-site artists and numerous assistants created the beautiful murals. 960 1280

Jane Waterbury / iStock / Thinkstock   

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island was once home to some of America's most notorious criminals. Al "Scarface" Capone, the "Birdman" Robert Stroud and James "Whitey" Bulger all served time at Alcatraz during the 29 years that the federal prison was in operation. 960 1280

Jewhyte / iStock / Thinkstock   

Palace of Fine Art

Palace of Fine Art

The San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts was constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, but rebuilt in 1965 along with the renovation of the lagoon and walkways. It remains a popular attraction for tourists and locals, as well as a popular location for weddings. It has become such an iconic structure that a miniature replica was built in Disney’s California Adventure Park in Anaheim. 960 1280

Michelle Gibson / iStock / Getty Images  

Japanese Tea Garden

Japanese Tea Garden

Located in the heart of Golden Gate Park, the Japanese Tea Garden was developed for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition. Unwind and experience the garden’s natural beauty and tranquil atmosphere. This popular San Francisco attraction features classic elements such as pagodas, stone lanterns, stepping-stone paths, native Japanese plants, koi ponds, a Zen garden and the Temple Gate (pictured). 960 1280

Celso Diniz / iStock / Thinkstock   

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