With the abundance of beautiful architecture, Gold Rush history and a funky arts scene, San Francisco can actually be explored on a very low budget, if not for free. While San Francisco is not often thought of as an affordable city, attractions like Golden Gate Bridge, Anchor Brewing Company and Fort Point are all free for the public to explore on their own. The bridge, for instance, invites visitors with its two walkways, perfect for jogging, biking or simply taking a stroll across with a camera or cappuccino in hand. So, next time you want to visit this City by the Bay, check out one of these five attractions that won’t break the bank.
San Francisco’s famous cable cars have quite the history, dating back to 1873. Visitors can learn about the inventor, technologies, builders and ongoing efforts to save and rebuild the city’s iconic mode of transportation. Located in the car barn on Nob Hill, the museum houses a collection of historic cable cars as well as old photographs and mechanical displays. Quite fittingly, a cable car line runs just a few blocks from the museum, so visitors can step outside and experience the open-air ride for themselves after the tour is completed.
The world’s most famous bridge lies on the north side of San Francisco, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The 6-lane bridge spans the mile-wide Golden Gate strait and has been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Its iconic reddish orange color is continuously maintained by a team of painters. Visitors can simply walk across the bridge on one of the sidewalks, where they take in some of the area’s best views of both the city and the Pacific Ocean. Just remember to beware of the fog that rolls in most evenings bringing a crisp breeze along with it.
For a sunnier view of San Francisco, make the trek south to Bernal Heights Park, where the fog is less intrusive. While visitors can simply picnic on the hill overlooking downtown, Golden Gate Bridge and the East Bay hills in the distance, there are also several hiking trails to explore the city’s wildlife. Native grasses and wildlife still grow, offering a glimpse into what the area once looked like before being developed. As such, more than 40 species of birds call this spot home, along with California alligator lizards and Pacific gopher snakes.
Located beneath the south side of Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point is a National Historic Site that dates back to the Civil War. The fort was used to protect San Francisco harbor from Confederate and foreign attack during the war. Visitors can walk throughout the fort, which features old cannons and cannon balls, as well as sleeping dorms and dining halls set up to look like they did in the late 1800s. Because of its prime location, it’s also a perfect spot to get some more unique views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
What started in 1871 as a beer-and-billiards saloon with a creative brewmaster has turned into San Francisco’s most established brewery. Anchor Brewing Company offers two public tours every week day, free of charge. The 1.5-hour tour takes guests through three floors of the building, offering a brief history along the way. Then, the tour ends in a beer tasting room, where guests will be able to taste the iconic Anchor Steam Beer as well as others such as the Anchor Saison, one of the brewery’s newest ales. While the tour is free, visitors will need to make a reservation sometimes up to six months in advance because of its popularity.