Things to Do

San Francisco

San Francisco is the major tourist destination in Northern California. There are plenty of exciting things to do in San Francisco; however, it is also important that San Francisco has a number of social and safety issues to be aware of. Please be sure not to leave anything visible in your vehicle, and, preferably, park in a secure parking lot. Also be alert as to not be pickpocketed. Do not leave a purse or bag out of sight, even if it is right beside you. That said, there are nearly limitless things to do in San Francisco. Here are a few:

Golden Gate Bridge

The emblematic symbol of San Francisco. Walking across the bridge is a popular activity, and worth doing. Just be aware, it can be quite cold at the bridge, even in the summer, so have warm clothing available.


Alcatraz is a former federal prison located on an island in the San Francisco Bay. It is a fascinating place to visit, but does take several hours to take the boat out to the island, tour the prison, and return. We recommend booking tickets two months or more in advance. Also, as with the bridge, the island is in San Francisco bay, which can be quite cold, even in the summer, so please bring warm clothes.

The island is operated by the National Parks Services, and information about visiting can be found on the NPS website.

Lombard Street

Lombard Street is a fun visit. Note that Lombard Street is quite long and the famous, squiggly, part is only one block.

Hop on hop off

Hop on hop off bus tours are a great way to see the city. Please make sure not to leave anything on the bus.

Bay Boat Tours

There are a number of good bay boat tours in San Francisco. See here for a list. Again, the bay is chilly, so dress warmly.


San Francisco's world-famous Chinatown is another good stop, particularly the fortune cookie company.

Cable Cars

The San Francisco Cable Cars are not just a way to get around; they are a thrill ride through the streets of the city. Hold on tight.

The Cable Car Museum is also unique, and you get to see the mechanisms that run this unique form of transportation.

Musée Mécanique

Musée Mécanique is a quirky, yet extensive, museum of early 20th century arcade games. If you're down by Fisherman's Wharf be sure to check it out.

Napa and Sonoma


Napa and Sonoma are famous for their wineries. Here is a list of some.

Note that some wineries require reservations, and some are only open to members, but many you can at least visit the on-site store. Please check before visiting.

Safari West

Safari West is an animal preserve close to Napa and Sonoma. It's a great place for kids, and you can even spend the night.



The Exploratorium, in San Francisco, is one of the best science museums around. It was founded by Frank Oppenheimer, brother of Robert Oppenheimer. A great spot for kids.

California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences, in San Francisco, is a museum of nature and natural history. The Osher Rainforest is particularly impressive. Also a great spot for kids.

Computer History Museum

The Computer History Museum, in Mountain View, is a surprisingly good museum on the history of computing, and just around the corner from Google headquarters.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

The world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium is also a great visit for those with kids.


Muir Woods

If you don't have long, but want to see some characteristically California nature, check out Muir Woods. It houses many Coastal Redwoods, the tallest trees in the world.

Note you need a reservation to visit Muir Woods. Make one here.

Redwoods National and State parks

Many more Coastal Redwoods are found in Redwoods National and State Parks near the Oregon border, and include a fun drive though the Avenue of the Giants.


Yosemite is probably one of the three most famous parks in the US, and hosts some spectacular views. It is a 4 hour drive from SF, and can be quite busy in the summer. We recommend arriving before 7am to avoid long lines, lasting potentially hours, getting into the park. The best way to get there early is to stay in a hotel close to the park the night before.


The coastal redwood is the tallest tree in the world, but pound for pound, the Sequoia is king. You can find some Sequoia in Yosemite, but Sequoia National Park is home base for these monsters, some more than 2000 years old.

Lassen National Park

Lassen National Park surrounds Lassen peak, which is an active volcano. You will find some examples of active geothermal activity in the park.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles is of course also a popular city to visit in California. It is, however, a 7 hour drive from Napa area, so please plan accordingly.

I'm not going to try to list things to do in LA, but here are a few places to visit on the way to LA: