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Places

Free things to do in San Francisco

San Francisco is a beautiful city with a lot to do, but it can be pricey spending time here and the city regularly features in the most expensive places to live in the world lists. Fortunately, for those on a budget you can find plenty of fun and free options to help you enjoy it. Museums, tours, hiking trails and concerts are among the many things you’ll find going on around town with little or no cost involved.

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The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park

At over 1,000 acres, Golden Gate Park has lots of options for recreation, including ample room for jogging, cycling and rollerblading. Lindy in the Park happens every Sunday with free swing dance lessons. There are several playgrounds, places to picnic and free concerts throughout the year. One of the most beautiful spots in the park is the Japanese Tea Garden, the oldest of its kind in the US. A great place to spend some morning reflection before your day begins.

The Japanese Tea Garden

75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco

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Admission is free if you enter Monday, Wednesday, or Friday before 10am.

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Wander one of the world’s biggest modern art museums

SFMOMA was expanded in 2016 to display art from its collection of over 33,000 pieces. Its first and second levels are filled with art and free to the public. To get in the rest of museum, you’ll have to pay, although guests of 18 and younger are always free and a periodic Family Free Day will get two adults and a child in. You can find more info on current exhibits at their website.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

151 Third Street, San Francisco

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Photo: Shutterstock

Explore the piers at Fisherman’s Wharf

There’s plenty to spend money on at Fisherman’s Wharf, but it’s also a good place just to wander around and people watch. You’ll see street performers, Alcatraz Island off in the distance and docks full of seals basking in the sun on Pier 39. The Musée Méchanique (Pier 45, museemechaniquesf.com) is a huge collection of antique pinball and other coin-operated amusements—admission is free, but bring a pocket of change to play games.

, San Francisco

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Photo: Elevante / Unsplash

Try some local brews

You won’t get free beer, but the Drink SF Beer Shuttle offers a free monthly shuttle route that will take you on a tour of local craft breweries that are part of the San Francisco Brewers Guild. Each month features a different route of four or five breweries and you can hop on and off to suit your own pace. Check out the schedule at their website.

Drink SF Beer Shuttle

, San Francisco

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Learn about San Francisco’s colorful identity

One of the iconic images of San Francisco is the colorful cable cars that have been transporting people since 1873. You can ride the three operating lines that still exist. Catching a ride on one will cost a couple of dollars, and you can get more insight into your ride and rail transit history for free at the San Francisco Railway Museum. Displays include archival photographs, historical items and a full-size replica that allows you to sit in the conductor’s seat.

San Francisco Railway Museum & Gift Shop

77 Steuart Street, San Francisco

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Hear a reading by the next Ginsberg

Founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, City Lights Booksellers and Publishers is a bookstore and publisher that produced famous works by beat poets, including Allen Ginsberg’s epic Howl and Other Poems. The bookstore, that still publishes works by poets, is decorated with historic photographs and hosts free in-house poetry readings. If you want to learn more, the nearby Beat Museum (Kerouac.com) is dedicated to the history of the movement and also hosts free events.

City Lights Booksellers

261 Columbus Ave, San Francisco

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Get to know the city better

A group of passionate San Franciscans leads these free walking tours, which will give you insight into the city’s history, architecture and culture, everything from the counter-culture mecca of Haight-Ashbury to The Great Fire of 1908, to filming locations in Alfred Hitchcock movies. You can find a list of tours at their website.

San Francisco City Guides

, San Francisco

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