What are some little-known sights to visit in San Francisco, CA?

Even SF locals discover something new every day in this vibrant city, whether a new piece of street art, a pop-up craft workshop, or a just-open

Even SF locals discover something new every day in this vibrant city, whether a new piece of street art, a pop-up craft workshop, or a just-opened cafe. 

In this guide, we wanted to take you not only to our favorite hidden gems but also to areas where you may be lucky enough to find your own. 

One of the best ways to see the city’s depth and breadth is to hire a bike in San Francisco. There are e-bikes available to help you with the hills! If cycling really isn’t your thing, check out our San Francisco GoCars and San Francisco Segways for an alternative.

Get in touch with us at Inc Adventures for personalized trips to explore our beloved city and beyond. 

  1. Visit the Mission Cultural Center and take a unique class….

This lovely museum aims both to promote the work of Chicano, Central and South American, and Caribbean artists and to make arts accessible. Take a ‘tour with Frida’ on Tuesday or Thursday for an insightful history of the Mission District.

Get organized and book yourself into one of the center’s incredibly diverse range of drop-in classes. From screen printing to Aztec Dance, join a friendly group of locals to explore San Francisco culture firsthand.

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera worked in San Francisco in the 1930s and you can see their work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and some of Rivera’s murals at the base of Coit Tower.

  1. San Francisco’s Tiled Steps: 16th Avenue, Hidden Garden, and Miraloma

San Francisco’s communities have created stunning ways to make the most of the city’s steep hills in the form of mosaic-tiled steps. The most famous of these is the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps Project, created by artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher and worked on by over 300 neighbors. 

Other stunning examples (and fabulous photo opportunities) are the Hidden Garden and Miraloma Steps. Look out for images of local flowers, butterflies, a salamander, mushrooms, teapots, dragons, and inspirational quotes from contemporary figures.

The activist Rebecca Solnit described these steps as one of the hidden “jewels” of San Francisco for their artistic and political beauty. Pick up her book on San Francisco “Infinite City” at the iconic City Lights Bookstore (a not-so-hidden jewel).

To really get to know San Francisco through community eyes, why not join one of the Hidden Garden monthly cleanups and planting days?

  1. Visit San Francisco’s Antique Vibrator Museum

Get an incredible insight into medical and sexual history on Polk Street at San Francisco’s Antique Vibrator Museum. Starting in the 1860s doctors used vibrators as massagers for various conditions.

The museum collection traces the history of these tools up until the more overtly sexual marketing in more recent decades. For other quirky historical locations in San Francisco, head to our blog on the most historical places to visit in San Francisco. 

  1. Explore the secrets of the de Young Museum

Without even having to pay for an entrance ticket, you can get free panoramic views of the city from the Hamon Observation Deck at the museum. Make sure you choose a clear day!

The museum’s Barbro Osher Sculpture Garden is easily missed as it is located outside of the cafe. You can see the sky through a special oculus hole, with LED lighting that changes with the weather in the Three Gems Skyspace inside the garden. 

  1. Explore deep into the Golden Gate Park

Surrounding the de Young museum is the Golden Gate Park; a popular tourist attraction but with a scope so large it is easy to miss some of its most special features. Look for Tree Fern Dell, named “Mescaline Grove” in the 1960s due to the hallucinogenic effect of its winding pathways.

Or head to the National AIDS Memorial Grove. Created as a place to “heal, hope and remember”, it hosts thousands of names inscribed on boulders, benches, and stone crescents. Stop for a moment of reflection and peace among the ferns and trees.

Visit San Francisco’s Conservatory of Flowers for five galleries representing a different ecosystem of flowers. In summer you may be lucky enough to catch a free light show, beginning 30 minutes after sunset. 

Finally, don’t miss the Shakespeare Garden, a popular local wedding spot featuring flowers and plants mentioned in his plays and poems. Weeding those out has been quite a feat for garden designers as Shakespeare’s works include so many botanical references. 

Take this extract from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for example, and see if you can identify the following in the park:

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,

Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,

Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,

With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine…

  1. Visit the Yoda Fountain outside the Lucasfilm HQ

Also part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is Presidio Park, where you can find the campus of Letterman Digital Arts. This is a working production facility, but visitors can enjoy both the iconic Yoda Statue outside and a visit to the lobby.

Inside the lobby, you will find replicas and toys from Star Wars as well as vintage memorabilia from Godzilla and Dracula.

  1. Walk the Grace Cathedral Labyrinths

This is a French Gothic cathedral known for its beautiful mosaics and murals. Labyrinths have been part of Christian churches since the 4th century and were allegedly created to be pilgrimage paths for those who could not go to Jerusalem. 

Grace Cathedral has two labyrinths that offer a peaceful moment of walking and reflection as well as a site for many non-religious activities such as yoga, sound baths, and concerts. Check out Grace Cathedral’s all-inclusive events and activities here.

There is so much more we would love to show you about San Francisco, and that is without even venturing out into the bay or across the bridge (both of which we highly recommend in our Muir Woods and Alcatraz tour).

Other Inc Adventure guides you might enjoy are our 2-day San Francisco itinerary or our top 5 San Francisco neighborhoods. For more information, including tailor-made travel advice, get in touch with us; we’d love to hear from you.