10 Things to Do in San Francisco at Night

San Francisco is a city that offers many incredible activities during the day that you can't miss. However, there is another touristy side of the city that you should discover during the night.

Ana C.R.

Ana C.R.

9 min read

10 Things to Do in San Francisco at Night

San Francisco by night | ©Andreas Wulff

The night always invites you to rest, but in San Francisco everything is different. In this city you will discover a wide range of visits, tours and night tours that give you the chance to see the other side of the city.

Dare to live the night of San Francisco and discover all there is to see and do in this city like facing the ghosts of the city, visit the most famous neighborhoods, dance in the nightclubs, visit historical sites and take a gastronomic tour of the best restaurants in Chinatown.

1. Take a night bus tour of San Francisco

Chinatown at Night| ©Zheng Zeng
Chinatown at Night| ©Zheng Zeng

Nowadays, San Francisco tour buses are among the most sought after, including those that take place at night. There is no doubt that getting to know a city during its nighttime activity gives you a very different view of it.

The night bus tour of San Francisco lasts between 1 ½ and 2 hours. Some of the most visited sites are the financial district, Chinatown and the famous Fisherman's Wharf, among others. In addition, the tour crosses the Bay Bridge so that passengers can better enjoy the night view of the city.

The services consist of the bus tour and a professional guide who will be in charge of telling you a variety of historical details and anecdotes about each site. The tour starts between 6 and 7 pm and ends at the same place where it starts.

Book the San Francisco Night Bus Tour

2. Cruise the San Francisco Bay at night

San Francisco Bridge at night| ©Eric Kilby
San Francisco Bridge at night| ©Eric Kilby

One of the best decisions you can make during your visit to San Francisco is to take a night cruise tour of San Francisco Bay. Sailing across this bay is an incredible experience, and if you also do it on a night tour, the city skyline at sunset will offer you an unparalleled view.

This tour not only provides some of the best views of San Francisco, but also allows you to relax while sipping a snack or toasting with your favorite drink (the bar is available for purchase of drinks and snacks, but this is not included in the tour price).

It is very interesting to see San Francisco's nightscapes from another perspective, as is the case with the best boat tours that sometimes also include visits to very popular sites found on the city's waterfront.

Book a sunset cruise in San Francisco

3. Don't be afraid of San Francisco's mysteries!

Bay Bridge at night from Nob Hill| ©Germán Poo-Caamaño
Bay Bridge at night from Nob Hill| ©Germán Poo-Caamaño

It is possible to say that San Francisco is a haunted city full of mysteries. Naturally, ghost stories and mysterious events that have never been explained must be told at night. That's why taking one of the best ghost tours at the end of the day and feeling a little scared as you listen attentively to the tour guide tell you the most horrifying stories for a little over an hour is a terrifyingly fun experience.

Most of the night tours about San Francisco's ghosts and mysterious stories go to certain key sites in the city that were marked by dark events from which numerous ghost stories have emerged:

  • Nob Hill neighborhood, where sinister events happened in abundance.
  • Chinatown is another stop on this tour, as its streets have seen spooky scenes and even gangster wars.

The role of the guide in this tour is vital since thanks to his stories you will know the most amazing and supernatural details of each story. Fortunately, the tours are group tours, so you will have nothing to fear.

Book a San Francisco Mystery Tour

4. Visit the California Academy of Sciences at night

California Academy of Sciences|©Dick McLeish
California Academy of Sciences|©Dick McLeish

Located in the heart of San Francisco, the California Academy of Sciences is considered one of the greatest natural science museums in the world.

The museum is impressive and if you book a nighttime admission you can discover some of the most striking wonders of nature such as:

  • A collection of nearly 40,000 live animals.
  • The Steinhart, one of the most biologically diverse and interactive aquariums in the world and home to more than 900 unique species.
  • The Rainforest, four floors housing an incredible rainforest with more than 1,600 live plants and animals.
  • The Morrison Planetarium, a space where a virtual cosmos is projected in a fully immersive experience.

But, in addition, if you visit the Academy at night, you will have the opportunity to enjoy experiences, events and space shows that only take place when the sun goes down. Absolutely not to be missed!

Buy your night ticket for the Academy of Sciences

5. Discover the hippie route at sunset

Haight-Ashbury| ©zoxcleb
Haight-Ashbury| ©zoxcleb

If you visit San Francisco in any month of the year, you have to take full advantage of its nights. To experience the hippie mystique of the 70s, tour the city at night in the famous colorful vans! The city has an artistic and a little bit carefree spirit in some of its neighborhoods, especially those included in the hippie van tour, so it is not advisable to miss the most original excursion in San Francisco.

With the tour with the most colorful vans you will visit several areas of the city, especially those where the hippie movement was lived with more strength and passion. You will be accompanied by a guide through whom you will learn many stories that happened within the boundaries of each neighborhood visited on the tour.

This tour is only for people over 21 years old. It is important to check the services before hiring a guided tour with the hippie vans. Some only include the tour and a professional tour guide. Others include some stops at the nicest bars in the typical areas, e.g. Haight-Ashbury.

Book a 70's van tour of San Francisco

6. Tour San Francisco by night on Segway

Segway in San Francisco| ©Vince Smith
Segway in San Francisco| ©Vince Smith

Maybe riding a Segway is not the traditional way to tour Chinatown and Little Italy in San Francisco. However, if you are good at keeping your balance and are encouraged to try this transportation device, then your nighttime sightseeing tour in the city will be this excursion.

Segway tours (the ancestor of electric scooters) are for those who want to do something different while visiting a big city. These tours are organized in San Francisco to go through several areas close to each other, but the Chinatown and Little Italy tour is one of the most popular.

The tour lasts about two and a half hours, starts at sunset and there are strategic places where the group stops to take pictures and to listen to the guide's stories. The price of the tour includes the use of the Segway, protection elements (vest and helmet), the service of the guide and about 20 to 30 minutes to train in the driving of the device.

7. Discover Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in San Francisco

Madame Tussaud's San Francisco| ©Jeremy Thompson
Madame Tussaud's San Francisco| ©Jeremy Thompson

Madame Tussauds Wax Museum has a long history that begins in the 18th century just before the French Revolution. Today, a visit to this museum (San Francisco branch) is an adventure that has different features (history, horror, fun and much more) that make it very attractive and entertaining.

The museum comes alive at night (one day a week it is open until 9 pm) and its exhibits seem even more real at this time of the day. On a nighttime visit to the museum, you will find a variety of areas that are quite distinct from one another. These are Music, Leaders and Entrepreneurs, Movies, Sports and the area of celebrities who usually walk the red carpet called A-List.

It is advisable to plan your visit to this museum in advance, as it will last a considerable amount of time. It is impossible to resist the temptation of having your picture taken with the wax figures of your favorite artists and touring each area of the museum in just one hour.

Buy your ticket to Madame Tussauds Museum

8. Visit the night market

Ferry Building, at night| ©Pargon
Ferry Building, at night| ©Pargon

In San Francisco, there are many markets. However, there is one in particular that is open to the public until 10 pm. This makes it more interesting than others, as it is part of the city's nighttime activities.

It is located in the financial district on the waterfront, in a building that was restored and reopened in 2003. It is an excellent place to do your shopping at sunset and to enjoy a great dinner.

The Ferry Building Marketplace is a market with a wide variety of stalls and includes:

  • Fresh produce.
  • Beverages and foods already prepared in an artisanal way with the best raw materials and with traditional and innovative recipes.
  • Farmers' market.
  • Area with numerous gastronomic stalls (from restaurants, pastry shops and bakeries to wine bars and other beverages).

9. Spend a perfect evening in Chinatown.

Chinatown at Night| ©Sharon Mollerus
Chinatown at Night| ©Sharon Mollerus

If you don't know what to see and do in San Francisco's Chinatown, remember that it is one of the best places to eat and drink the most incredible delicacies of Chinese and other Asian cuisines (e.g. Vietnamese).

The night gastronomic tour can be the perfect alternative to know and enjoy the specialties of several restaurants in one night:

  • It is conducted on foot and starts at a pre-arranged meeting point.

  • There is an expert guide to accompany the group who is not only a specialist in Asian gastronomy, but also in the history of San Francisco's Chinatown.

  • The tour includes several stops at restaurants with specialties such as lacquered duck, dim sum, bao (or baozi) with different fillings that will surprise you, sushi moriawase (sushi assortment), rice or noodle dishes and Chinese pastries, among a variety of alternatives.

  • The price starts at 70 €.

  • It lasts approximately 3 hours.

By the way, it is important that when booking this tour you notify the tour operator if you have any specific dietary needs (vegan, vegetarian, etc.) so that at each stop you have the right options for you.

10. Live San Francisco's Fiesta!

Celebrate at The Castro| ©Bhautik Joshi
Celebrate at The Castro| ©Bhautik Joshi

If you like to party, dance and to ast to all the good reasons you have to do so, then San Francisco is the city for you. Discover the best clubs and bars in San Francisco on a night tour of the city!

The variety of choices in establishments also means different prices for tickets and drinks. San Francisco's nightlife is very active, but it is important to check the most suitable variants according to your preferences and available budget:

  • In the South Market area, you will find numerous restaurants, bars and nightclubs, from the cheapest to the most expensive and elegant.
  • Between Chinatown and North Beach, you will also discover bars with Californian music that you will probably fall in love with.
  • Today, The Castro is one of the busiest areas not only for the gay community, but for all the local and tourist communities. It is home to many nightclubs, bars and music shows that give you all the energy to dance.
  • For a night of drinks and dates, the best option is the Marina district with expensive places and high-end clientele.

11. Visit Pier 39 during the night

Pier 39| ©Güldem Üstün
Pier 39| ©Güldem Üstün

The famous Pier39 is a space enjoyed by locals and tourists throughout the day and also at night. So, if you want to do some last minute shopping and have a late lunch, Pier 39 is the place for you: most of the restaurants close at 10 pm and many of them also have souvenir and gift stores.

One of the best known is the Crab House with its specialties in crab, squid, prawns and other seafood (this company has several restaurants at Pier 39).

Other restaurants and cafes include Chowder (clam chowder), Crepe Cafe, Eagle Cafe, Fun Food Factory, The Hook, The Fudgery and Luau Lounge Tiki Bar, among others.