Top things to do near San Francisco Airport
The infamously unique prison island is in San Francisco Bay and whilst it no longer houses prisoners, it does offer one of the most fascinating and affordable attractions in SF – and it’s just 15 miles (25 kilometers) from SFO Airport. Reached by ferry from Pier 33 in the North Beach area, the Alcatraz tour includes the ferry ride with panoramic views of the city and its famous bridges, a film on the history of the island and an audio tour of the former-prison itself. There's also time to explore features including the lighthouse, historic military fortifications, rock pools and resident seabird colony. Day and night tours are available and always popular, so pre-book if you can.
Golden Gate Bridge
You can find the most famous sight in San Francisco just 18 miles (29 kilometers) from SFO; the iconic Golden Gate suspension bridge. Opened in 1937, this was the longest bridge in the world for almost 30 years and a wonder of modern engineering – there aren’t many structures that could be described as beautiful. It's the perfect place to take in some bracing sea air and the world-famous views of the city whether walking, cycling, driving or taking a bus. Across the bridge, you can find Battery Spencer and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which are great green spaces ideal for relaxing, walking or enjoying some food. On a good day, you might even catch some early-morning surfers underneath the bridge.
AT&T baseball park has been home to Major League Baseball’s (MLB's) San Francisco Giants since opening in 2000 and also hosts professional, college and high school football, soccer matches and music concerts. It's a superb baseball park just 14 miles (23 kilometers) from SFO International that boasts great views of the game and the city, a range of VIP-style ticket options and clean, modern facilities. Family-friendly with a wonderful atmosphere, the truly outstanding feature is the food, which is a fantastically high-quality and varied choice that’s way ahead of most modern sports stadiums in the world.
Palace of Fine Arts Theater
Set close to the Golden Gate bridge about 19 miles (30 kilometers) from SFO, the Palace of Fine Arts Theater is a striking monumental exhibition space that is over 100 years old. Built around a picturesque artificial lagoon and gardens, the palace itself offers grand, ornate architecture inspired by Greek and Roman buildings, decorated with beautiful panels and murals. A joy to explore or relax around when the weather is fine, it also features regular art exhibitions and is as much of a favorite for SF locals as it is for tourists.
Described by the New York Times as the most important science museum to have opened since the mid-20th century, the Exploratorium is about 15 miles (25 kilometers) from San Francisco Airport. It offers uniquely interactive, experiential museum exhibits where visitors learn about psychology, physics, biology, the natural world, magnetism and the local region by playing with and manipulating the exhibits. Perfect for children and the mad scientist in all of us, this really is the most fun that learning can be and the hours fly past.
Located just a short distance around the coast from the Golden Gate Bridge, about 18 miles (29 kilometers) from San Francisco Airport, Lands End is a park by a rocky stretch of shoreline affording stunning panoramic views of the whole Bay Area.
Dotted with hiking and biking trails, as well as numerous shipwrecks visible at low tide and a small “hidden labyrinth”, it's a great place to visit for a bracing walk in nature. You can often spot seals near the coast and a wide range of birds and flowers in the spring, but the one thing everyone remembers is the quality of the sunsets.
The Cable Cars
A San Francisco icon, the cable cars designed to carry people up and down the steep hills in the city have become a must-ride attraction for many visitors. The cars can get quite busy at weekends, so midweek is often the best time to enjoy them - all day passes are available if you plan to use cable cars as your chosen means of transport for the day. Three lines still operate around the Nob Hill area of the city and you can also find a Cable Car Museum alongside an intersection, which is a great place to jump onboard.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Close to the Financial District and Union Square, about 14 miles (23 kilometers) from San Francisco Airport, you can find the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The building, designed around a central atrium in bold, contemporary architectural style, houses an exceptional collection of pieces.
With the likes of Matisse, Klee, Duchamp, Warhol and many more on display, the collection is rotated around ever-changing exhibitions, special events and educational programs. The building itself is a pleasure to explore and admire alongside a world-class collection of work and you can also enjoy the rooftop garden, on-site café or head for one of the many restaurants in the area.