Visiting San Francisco and want to experience some lively city nightlife? There are plenty of exciting destinations and activities we’d recommend. Our list of fun things to do in San Francisco at night includes taking a nighttime tour of the famous Alcatraz Prison, to strolling through the exotic Chinatown, to catching a nighttime ballgame at Oracle park, you are sure to have a fun time exploring all that that SF has to offer at night.
If you’re visiting with kids, check out our guide to the best things to do in San Francisco with kids. On a budget? Then check out our great list of free things to do in San Francisco that won’t break the bank. And, if you want our ultimate guide, be sure to read through our 30 best things to do in San Francisco.
1. Pier 39
A Classic nighttime tourist destination along the San Francisco waterfront, Pier 39 is a hotbed of nonstop activity. From shopping, dining, and historical landmarks, to fun street performers entertaining the crowds there is so much happening day and night. Also, there are normally packs of sea lions resting on the docks along the edge of the pier and are themselves a popular attraction along this exciting promenade.
This a fun and family-friendly destination and we’d recommend if you are visiting with kids.
2. Alcatraz Island Night Tour
Another legendary San Francisco landmark, Alcatraz Island is a small, mysterious island that sits in the San Francisco bay about one mile from Downtown SF. Alcatraz Island was originally developed to be a military outpost, federal prison, and a lighthouse.
Just a 15-minute ferry ride to the Island, you can take a tour of all the historical facilities and learn about the island prison’s curious past as well as the epic escape attempts by various prisoners throughout the years.
3. See the Bay Bridge Lights
For a relaxing thing to do in San Francisco at night, we recommend a trip down to the waterfront Emarcadero, where you can walk the paths along the water, see the ferry building, and watch the light show of the Bay Bridge lights as they dance along above the bay. The bay bridge is the not-as-famous brother of the Golden Gate Bridge and is actually quite a bit bigger. Connecting the city of Oakland with San Francisco, this bridge spans nearly 5 miles across the bay and is one the longest suspension bridges in the united states.
For a taste of an exotic place far away, we’d recommend visiting the colorful China Town district in downtown San Francisco at night. The second most popular tourist attraction in SF, Chinatown is spread across 24 blocks and is filled with ethnic Chinese restaurants, retail stores, and open market vendors.
Visiting Chinatown in SF is a one-of-a-kind experience that really makes you forget where you. We’d highly recommend strolling through the streets of Chinatown and being immersed in this rich foreign culture.
5. Exploratorium After Dark
Housing over 600 fascinating exhibits, the Exploratorium is located on pier 15 along the San Francisco waterfront and offers a fun time for the whole family during the day. Then on Thursday nights, the Exploratorium opens as a fun nighttime hotspot for the 18 and older crowd. For a unique activity that mixes science and alcohol, we’d definitely recommend visiting the Exploratorium after dark.
6. Oracle Park
If you love baseball, or just want to experience one of the most scenic baseball stadiums on the West Coast, then you need to visit Oracle Park. Home the San Francisco Giants professional baseball team, this breathtaking stadium is located right on the waterfront in the South Beach neighborhood of SF and you get an awesome view of the San Francisco bay.
If you want to experience one of the most celebrated sporting events in SF, then we’d recommend you check out the Oracle Park events calendar to see what’s happening during your visit.
7. Union Square
At the heart of Downtown San Francisco, Union Square is the bustling center of town. With upscale stores, art galleries, and restaurants surrounding the square, the square is a great place to see the city and do some shopping.
Union Square is home to many public art installations and often hosts various interesting art events. If you are visiting the downtown SF area, then Union Square should be on your list of things to do.
8. Mission District
The mission district is an area close to Downtown that is known for its artsy vibe, interesting food, and is a hotbed of modern San Francisco culture and fashion. Named after the San Francisco mission which still stands in this neighborhood and is the oldest known building in the city. Dolores Park is a popular park in the Mission District and has a great view of the downtown skyline.
We’d recommend visiting the Mission District to find a great restaurant, see some interesting street art, and to generally experience the current cultural climate of SF.
9. Coit Tower
For the best 360-degree view of San Francisco and the surrounding cities across the bay, you need to visit Coit Tower. Located close to Downtown San Francisco in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood, this 210-foot concrete tower was completed in 1033 and is now on the Nation Register of Historic Places.
We’d recommend a visit to this impressive tower if you want to get above it all and see the town from a neat perspective.
10. Ghirardelli Square
If you love chocolate, then visiting the famous Ghirardelli Square is a fun thing to do in San Francisco at night. As the site of the original headquarters of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, this area on the San Francisco waterfront has turned into a lively area that has many great shops, restaurants and a 5-star hotel.
We’d recommend a visit to the Ghirardelli flagship store inside the square to browse the largest selection of chocolate around.