My Favorite Things to Do for Free in San Francisco

by tatiana on September 3, 2015

russian_hillAs we’ve all been reading in the news, or experiencing first hand if you live here, San Francisco and the surrounding cities have become pretty spendy places to live and visit. In addition to real estate and rent prices skyrocketing, the general cost of living here is pretty high. There are definitely ways to keep costs down, some of which include being smart about where you shop, trying to buy produce in-season, cooking at home, walking instead of taking the bus or Uber, etc.

Additionally, going out and spending time with friends (or having a day to yourself!) can be costly, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are a few of my favorite free (or almost free) things to do in the city:

Check out books, eBooks and DVDs from the San Francisco Public Library
I usually visit the Presidio Branch (since it’s a 5-minute walk from where I work). There are 28 branches throughout the city. They even have a mobile branch! I also REALLY love their book sales. I love their book sales a little too much, actually. At the last one, I came home with way too many VHS. Yes, I still have a VCR, and I’m proud of that. Lucky for me/us, their Big Book Sale is happening next week

Go on a San Francisco City Guides Walking Tour
I’ve been on eight of these brilliant tours and have learned something new and fascinating every time. (Some favorites include the Alfred Hitchcock and Chinatown tours.) These tours are free, but donations are encouraged at the end of each tour. The guides are all unpaid volunteers and the program is run by the San Francisco Public Library.

Walk around Golden Gate Park with your horticulturalist friend
Ok, I know not all of us have a friend who is a plant expert, but you can still enjoy the park for free.

Walk (or run!) to Aquatic Park and take in the beautiful view of the city and Oakland across the Bay
I’m currently training for my first ever half marathon, so I’ve been doing this A LOT! It’s pretty incredible to be able to, within 15-30 minutes, take a walk or run and be treated to beautiful views or an entirely different neighborhood to explore. Speaking of walking and exploring – I highly recommend reading Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco by Gary Kamiya, marking pages and then following his footsteps around the city.

Sign up for free movie screenings
I was pretty dubious about this when my coworker told me about it. But since signing up, I’ve seen Amy the Amy Winehouse documentary and got tickets to see The Visit next week. You have to get in line pretty early (I waited about 1.5 hours last time), but I think it’s a fun experience. (Pro tip: bring a book.)

What are some of your favorite free or almost free things to do in the Bay Area, or your town? 

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kendra September 4, 2015 at 10:19 pm

I love this post….such great advice!


tatiana September 23, 2015 at 9:41 am

Thanks, Kendra! :)


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