Most people associate San Francisco with partly-sunny afternoons walking the waterfront, strolling through Golden Gate Park, or neighborhood-hopping to see the sights and even getting some shopping done. These are all outstanding options for both residents and tourists, but some of the best experiences happen in San Francisco at night.
San Francisco’s history is one of the richest in the country, with iconic sites like the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Chinatown, and Fisherman’s Wharf. These are all great during the day, but when the sun goes down, these
It’s not just that there are so many things to do in San Francisco at night, it’s the variety. If you’re looking for nightlife, you’ll find a club, wine bar, or brewery that perfectly matches your taste. If you want to experience a San Francisco dungeon, you can take a tour. There are museums, world-class cuisine, music, theatre, and many more things to do in San Francisco at night. Just remember to drop off your unneeded bags at a San Francisco luggage storage spot before you head out and explore.
Tour Alcatraz at Night
Alcatraz might be one of the most obvious San Francisco recommendations for any visitor, but that’s for good reason. This island compound is one of the most fascinating and unique sites in the country; there is simply nothing else like it. Add an extra layer to your Alcatraz experience by heading there at night for one of their evening tours.
Just taking the boat from Pier 33 to Alcatraz, you can imagine the insurmountable obstacles the many intrepid escapees from this island fortress faced in their quest for freedom. Once you arrive on the island, knowledgeable guides will take you through the facilities and landscape of the island. You’ll learn about famous inmates and the lore that surrounds this island. You’ll also experience Alcatraz Island’s wonderful view of the city lights of the San Francisco skyline and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
Dinner Plans in Washington Square Park
If a dinner cruise is too touristy for you, try walking around Washington Square Park and settling on a nice Italian restaurant for a well-earned meal after the day’s sightseeing. This neighborhood’s rich Italian heritage is most evident in its wonderful restaurant scene. While San Francisco hangs its hat on being a modern, cutting-edge city, much of its architecture has an old-world charm. Cafes and restaurants in Washington Square park look like they are either in an old-school East coast neighborhood or actually in Italy.
The most famous of these restaurants are The Italian Homemade Company, Original Joe’s, and Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. The Italian Homemade Company is an authentic red sauce place that prepares homemade classic pasta dishes and other classics. Tony’s is a casual pizzeria and restaurant that excels at the Neapolitan-style pizza, but there are a number of different pizza styles on the menu! If you’re looking for a high-end Italian meal, Original Joe’s is your best bet. The darkly-lit ambiance combines perfectly with an outstanding wine selection and one of San Francisco’s best Italian menus. Looking for something to do after? Head to nearby Lombard Street to explore one of the best streets in San Francisco, and one of the best things to do in San Francisco at night.
Catch a Game
San Francisco’s sports teams have been on fire lately, and their fanbases certainly reflect that. Almost every night of the year, the stadiums in San Francisco are absolutely rocking for nighttime baseball games and an electric atmosphere at tipoff.
If you’re in San Francisco for a winter getaway, check out the newly-built Chase Center to watch the NBA Championship-winning Golden State Warriors play. You can enjoy this state-of-the-art arena’s excellent food options while Steph Curry sets records for three-pointers. If you’re enjoying a summer road trip and find yourself in San Francisco, head to Oracle Park to watch the San Francisco Giants take on the MLB’s best teams. You won’t have to kayak through the San Francisco Bay to catch a home run if you’re in the stands!
Catch A Concert
San Francisco has one of the country’s best musical histories, with bands like The Grateful Dead, Sly and the Family Stone, and Jefferson Airplane having made this town a famous rock and roll hotbed. San Francisco remains a live-music destination, with some of the most iconic concert venues in the country like The Great American Music Hall.
The Fillmore (named after the neighborhood it resides in) became famous in the 60s as the epicenter of the counterculture scene. It remains a pivotal place to see both legends and contemporary stars. The Independent is an intimate rock club that features up-and-coming bands and musical acts of any genre. It’s located near the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood that certainly shares the same scrappy spirit. The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium is a large historic venue that hosts must-see live shows from some of the world’s biggest touring bands and comedians. Don’t have tickets? Pop into The Hotel Utah Saloon and see if anyone is playing!
You don’t need to drive out to Napa Valley to taste some of California’s best wine. San Francisco’s nightlife caters to just about everyone, but this city’s wine bar scene is truly special.
California Wine Merchant - Located near the presidio, this small bar focuses on an inviting atmosphere and a menu that focuses heavily on California wine producers.
Amelie - Anyone looking for a relaxing atmosphere to sample local and international wine, nibble on cheese, and live jazz should head to this Nob Hill bar.
Wine Down SF - This SoMa bar is the perfect meet-up spot if you’re looking for an after-work drink. The crowd at Wine Down SF skews young, making it San Francisco’s most lively wine bar!
Terroir - This bar was an early pioneer of the natural wine craze, and it still has a heavy focus on this wine niche. Music enthusiasts will fall in love with the extensive vinyl record library that spins an eclectic music collection every night.
The Riddler - This Hayes Valley stalwart made its name for incredible decor and a popcorn machine. This inviting wine bar just so happens to also curate one of the city’s best wine menus!
Exploratorium After Dark
While the Museum of Modern Art, Asian Art Museum, The California Academy of Sciences, and the de Young Museum are all great options during the day, the Exploratorium is where both art and science nerds go for a fun night of education and entertainment. The whole museum is fitted with dazzling light displays, fog machines, atmospheric decoration, and more.
Check out the man-size kaleidoscope for a truly psychedelic experience. There are also mind-bending mirrors that will excite and disturb. While the Exploratorium is one of the best places to take the kids, they also curate a program of guest speakers, live music, and more for adults. This entertainment, packaged with the unique and exhilarating scenery, makes for one of the best things to do in San Francisco at night.
San Francisco has an amazing array of museums, but if you are looking for something educational at night, the Exploratorium is a must-visit!
Take A Night Tour
There is such a wide variety of night tours in San Francisco, that just about anyone will find something that’s for them. These can be taken on foot, or on wheels. Here are a few options:
Electric Tour Company will guide tourists and locals around San Francisco, on Segways! They offer a sunset tour of San Francisco's Chinatown & Little Italy Segway Tour at night that will guide you through two of San Francisco’s most iconic neighborhoods. You’ll experience some cool evening air and even be able to see the San Francisco night skyline, Coit Tower, and even the Bay Lights on this tour.
Looking for something a little spooky? The San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour guides you through the strange and mysterious history of the Pacific Heights neighborhood, which is where the highest concentration of ghost sightings has been reported. Regardless of whether you encounter a spirit or ghoul, you’ll at least get to see some of the most beautiful Victorian architecture on this walking tour!
Dim Sum In Chinatown
Chinatown’s cultural importance in San Francisco cannot be overstated, and its food scene is a huge part of that. Dim Sum is the perfect group dinner. Because each plate comes with multiple servings of each dish, you can sample from a variety of buns, rolls, skewers, and other delectable finger foods. Adding the BYOB element makes this tradition even better. Bring a six-pack of Bay Area craft beer or a prised bottle of wine you picked up in Napa. Share it with friends over some dumplings and enjoy a quintessential San Francisco dinner.
Chinatown is undoubtedly one of the best places to eat in San Francisco. Check out our guide to the best street food in the city to learn more.
Catch a Broadway Show
San Francisco’s Theater District is world-famous for its Market Street stretch of iconic venues. The most famous of these many venues are The Strand, The Curran, and the historic Orpheum Theatre. The Orpheum Theatre certainly headlines this list, as it’s one of the most famous theater venues outside of Broadway. The best traveling productions run through the Orpheum (for reference, this is where Hamilton came through San Francisco). This district is located between Union Square and the Civic Center, making it perfect for grabbing an amazing dinner or drink before the show.
Bay Bridge Lights
The Bay Bridge might not be as famous as its neighbor the Golden Gate Bridge. But when the sun goes down, it dazzles and shines with the Bay Lights, which have been orchestrated by world-renowned light artist Leo Villareal. You can take in this marvelous sight anywhere along The Embarcadero or even as far as Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, but the best vantage point can be had from Pier 13.
Bar Hop In The Mission
If you’re a hip twenty-something looking for a trendy night, head to The Mission District. While Haight Ashbury can make a claim as the epicenter of San Francisco’s counterculture of decades past, The Mission is currently home to the city’s thriving arts community, and let’s just call it like it is, hipsters.
The Mission District is home to a variety of trendy bars, restaurants, and cafes. But if you find yourself in this neighborhood at night, grab a drink at any of these fun spots:
20 Spot - This wine bar used to be a record store, and with the vinyl spinning a variety of musical genres, you could be convinced it still might be! Sample from a variety of wines and local beer while people-watching and enjoying the music and relaxed atmosphere.
Blondie’s Bar - If you’re looking for a lively and no-frills night out, check out this Valencia Street spot. This “dive” makes a solid martini, just be careful navigating the crowd!
Trick Dog - This elegant watering-hole is perfect for just about every type of evening. It’s nice enough to bring your parents, but it’s trendy enough for a fun date night, or a great spot to start (or end) an evening with your friends. There’s a rotating cocktail menu, so you can sample a variety of flavors.
Monk’s Kettle - This laid-back pub is perfect for anyone looking for a relaxing atmosphere and an outdoor patio (weather pending). Come for the vibes, stay for the beer! Monk’s Kettle just so happens to have one of the best beer lists in the city. Some of the most sought-after beers in the country are on draft here.
If your trip to San Francisco involves partying, you want to know where to stay in the city. Check out our guide to the best neighborhoods in San Francisco.
Night Bloom - Conservatory of Flowers
Golden Gate Park is a treasure trove of wonderful daytime activities. But one of its best features truly comes to life on Friday and Saturday nights. The Conservatory of Flowers, located in the park’s northeast corner, is famous for its Night Bloom events that turn the building into a wonderland of lights and plant life. The Conservatory has a number of different rooms featuring an incredible diversity of plants and ecosystems. Each room is lit up in creative and artistic ways that evoke ecosystems and worlds both natural and fanciful. Stroll through the grounds and you’ll be amazed at what can be done with a few lights and the best collection of flowers in Northern California.
Cabaret or Drag Show
San Francisco is famous for its liberal and accepting culture, which is why a diverse and free-spirited community has made its home here. Dance performances like Cabaret and Drag Shows are very popular in San Francisco and they are a great group activity for a night out. Here are a few of the many bars and productions in San Francisco:
Aunt Charlie’s Lounge (Tenderloin District)
Beaux (The Castro)
DIVAfest (Exit Theatre - Theatre District)
Hamburger Mary’s (The Castro)
Church of 8 Wheels
The Church of 8 Wheels is a roller-skating emporium located in the Fillmore District that’s perfect for anyone looking for a nostalgia-driven evening. They have a program of theme nights with everything ranging from disco to DJ sets, either way, they turn this roller rink into a dance floor. Get your groove on while working off some of that dim sum, just try not to fall! This retro roller rink has become a Fillmore Street institution, and it’s perfect for anyone who doesn’t take themselves (or their wheeled dance performances) too seriously.
Craft Beer Experience
Northern California may be known for its prolific wine output, but the region was also one of the early pioneers of America’s craft brewing renaissance. San Francisco was host to early breweries, and to this day, it’s one of the best cities to visit for beer bars and brewery taprooms. While you can find amazing beer at just about every bar and restaurant, here are a few standouts:
Toronado - This is the OG American craft beer bar in San Francisco Bay Area. For over 30 years, this pub has been serving curious beer drinkers American craft beers alongside the best beers from around the world. Pioneering establishments like Toronado have been a key part of craft beer’s explosion in the United States. This beer bar is not only one of the best in San Francisco, it’s one of the best in the country.
Mikkeller - Mikkeller is one of the world’s most famous craft breweries, and they have locations everywhere from San Diego to Tokyo. This outpost in the Tenderloin District is a worthy addition to San Francisco’s already stellar beer scene. There’s an elevated atmosphere here, with a tasting room that resembles a winery’s. Try a wide variety of beers in this bespoke bar.
Local Brewing - This brewery’s taproom is located in SoMa and offers a variety of approachable beers and an underrated menu of bar food. This is right down the street from Oracle Park, so it’s a solid pre-game option for your next Giants game or just any old Friday night.
San Francisco is one of the absolute best cities in the world to visit. At night, there is such a wide variety of activities that just about everyone will find something to do! San Francisco’s nightlife is extremely inviting, and the relaxed atmospheres in San Francisco bars and restaurants are perfect for tourists who have had a busy day. There are amazing museums and night tours. There are ways to experience Golden Gate Park or Downtown San Francisco. The city’s natural beauty can also be taken in during the day as well as at night.
San Francisco has so many experiences to offer, and Bounce is here to help you cram everything you can into your visit!