There is so much more to San Francisco apart from being the financial, commercial, and cultural center of Northern California.
Especially at night.
Its history, like the California Gold Rush, made it a beautiful melting pot of cultures.
Indeed, this is fully evident in the city’s attractions, colorful cuisine, and various fun activities.
If you’re preparing a trip and looking for fun things to do in San Francisco at night, here are our suggestions…
1/ Sunset Cruises
One of the most spectacular ways to explore the beauty of San Francisco is through a cruise.
There is something magical about a nighttime cruise especially if the sights are as breathtaking as the Golden Gate Bridge, the silhouette of Alcatraz, and the impressive city skyline.
View the city from the water with a variety of evening cruises.
Sail around Alcatraz, which looks more menacing and impressive with dark shadows surrounding the entire island.
Go under the Golden Gate Bridge (and look for sea lions!) aboard a traditional tall schooner to fully appreciate the marvelous architecture.
2/ Dinner Cruises
Relax while gazing at the city’s most famous landmarks and skyline while you glide on the water.
You will enjoy a splendid meal on the water, aboard some of the most well-appointed cruise liners that tour around the bay.
Elevate your experience with a dinner & dancing cruise.
This combines a four-course dinner with a live band to tempt your inner dancing prowess.
At the same time, indulge in cruising past the most iconic San Francisco attractions.
For a truly unforgettable experience, go on a helicopter tour to see the wonders of the city from up above!
3/ Cable Car at Night
The iconic San Francisco cable car system is the last manually-operated cable car system in the world.
Moreover, it is one of the city’s most recognizable symbols.
Originally, there were 23 cable car lines but only three remain nowadays.
These three lines include two routes that run from downtown (close to Union Square) to Fisherman’s Wharf.
In addition, there is a third line that runs along California Street.
Although the cable cars are still used by locals for their regular commute, the majority of people who ride them are tourists.
These cars run from 6:00 am until midnight.
Indeed, they give you one-of-a-kind, fantastic views especially as you go up the steep hills of San Francisco.
4/ Ride a Segway
This is a cool way to explore San Francisco at night without tiring out your legs!
Get to know the city streets and feel the cool evening air as you glide along on your Segway.
Truly, this is a fun experience you should not miss.
Enjoy breathtaking nighttime views of Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, North Beach, Washington Square Park, Coit Tower, and Ghirardelli Square.
If you are looking for a unique way to tour the city, riding on a Segway is the way to go.
The Chinatown centered in Stockton Street and Grant Avenue is the oldest one in North America.
More importantly, it is one of the most famous (and biggest) ones outside of Asia.
Covering an area of 24 city blocks, this Chinatown shows its fascinating character at night.
During the evening, there is a smaller crowd and your exploration can be done in a less frenzied manner.
Here are a couple of night tours you can join.
Chinatown Segway Night Tour
Why walk when you can Segway? Explore one of San Francisco’s oldest neighborhoods and glide along the lantern-lit streets on your two-wheeler.
A guide will point out the most interesting facts about the sights you pass, letting you discover Chinatown with your senses as well as your mind.
Marvel at the unique souvenir finds and trinkets you will find on display, particularly on Grant Street where most of the tourist shops are located.
Chinatown Food Tour
Your visit to San Francisco’s Chinatown will be incomplete without trying out sumptuous authentic Chinese cuisine; this walking tour starts at the Chinatown Gate, where you will start your exploration by foot towards the best sights and tastes in this neighborhood.
Learn more about the traditional Chinese customs and traditions as you make your way towards a Buddhist temple, and on to the dim sum houses where tasty, filling treats await you.
Get ready to check out the restaurants that offer the most tempting dishes, which will surely leave you craving for more; make sure to stop by the fortune cookie to see how these famous treats are made.
6/ Alcatraz at night
The island of Alcatraz was originally developed with facilities to house a military fortification, a lighthouse, a military prison.
Finally, it became a federal prison from 1934 to 1963.
The entire island was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
Nowadays, the facilities are managed by the National Park Service, opening the island to tours by way of a short 15-minute ferry ride from Pier 33.
Also known as “The Rock”, Alcatraz once housed some of the most notorious inmates, including Al Capone, Arthur R. “Doc” Barker, and Robert Franklin Shroud.
Enjoy a magnificent view of San Francisco at night from the island.
Furthermore, get ready to see the hidden spots which were once used by prisoners to attempt their escapes.
Listen to a riveting audio presentation which gives you a virtual tour of the Cellhouse.
Moreover, listen to stories from real prisoners about how it is to live on the island, and correctional officers’ stories about a prison breakout.
You can see more packages for Alcatraz in our guide: 17 Best Alcatraz Island Combination Tours
7/ Explore the Fisherman’s Wharf & Pier 39
One of the most famous tourist spots in San Francisco is the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood.
Its name originated in the 1800s, when Italian fishermen migrated to the city.
Afterwards, they began settling in the North Beach area trying their hand at catching local fish and Dungeness crab.
Enjoy the freshness of the salty air and gaze at the stunning bay view as you explore the top San Francisco tourist destination!
Give in to your passion for shopping at Pier 39, where you can also view California sea lions on the marina.
Make sure to leave time to explore the Ghirardelli Square, National Maritime Museum, Anchorage Square, Hyde Street Pier, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, Madame Tussauds, and so much more!
Exploring Pier 39 is a must for every San Francisco tourist – especially for families with children.
This shopping center built on a pier features an imposing two-story carousel.
In addition, there is a host of shops and restaurants, and virtual 3D rides.
Furthermore, enjoy the street performances, a video arcade, a public aquarium, and a wide variety of fun activities.
Entertainment by local street performers and musicians are free so you can watch and enjoy til your heart’s content.
The fun continues as the night goes on, with attractions that close late such as the 7D Experience and the Madame Tussauds wax museum.
8/ Madame Tussauds
Get ready to meet and pose with your favorite celebrities’ wax figures at Madame Tussauds!
Be part of their lives – even for just a few moments to take a photograph.
See international pop icons, sports legends, famous musicians, A-list movie stars, business & political leaders.
Alternatively, check out the Spirit of San Francisco, an interactive zone featuring the highlights of the city’s (and the world’s) history and contemporary culture milestones.
Try out the thrills of Alcatraz: Breakout, a one-hour escape room game.
Under these circumstances, you will attempt to solve puzzles in order to escape the world’s most infamous prison.
9/ San Francisco Dungeon
The San Francisco Dungeon is the first North America installation of the popular theatrical and historical attraction.
It originated in Europe.
Get to relive the stories of life during the olden days in San Francisco.
Interestingly, these are presented through 10 rides & shows led by live actors using special effects.
Similarly, captivating storylines and 360-degree sets are also used for the performances.
This dungeon experience takes you back to the time of the Gold Rush and the Shanghai Kelly boat show.
In addition, you will also see the beginnings of Alcatraz, and the criminal gang activities on the Barbary Coast.
Prepare to scream and laugh uncontrollably in this thrilling adventure!
San Francisco is open til 8pm from Friday to Sunday. From Monday to Thursday, it’s only opened til 6pm.
10/ 7D DarkRide Experience
Take a break from exploring the outdoors and seek out a different kind of adventure indoors.
This is a combination of a video game and interactive motion theater experience.
Feel the heightened excitement inside a 20-seat theater that features a gigantic movie screen.
Specifically, it uses cutting-edge 3D technology to give you the best thrills possible.
This is so much more than an exhilarating rollercoaster ride combined with an exciting blasting game.
Indeed, this is the adrenaline rush of a (virtual) lifetime.
The 7D Experience opens til 9pm daily, so there’ll be plenty of time at night to catch this attraction.
11/ Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most photographed landmarks in San Francisco.
It features awe-inspiring 746-foot tall towers, a distinctive orange color, and expansive main cables.
This suspension bridge spans the mile-wide strait connecting the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean.
See the bridge at night to get dramatic views of San Francisco with it’s skyscrapers in the background.
To get the best view, you can go to Fort Point National Historic Site, Baker Beach, Crissy Field, or Battery East Vista.
12/ Haunted San Francisco
If you are looking for a creepy kind of exploration, you will not be disappointed in San Francisco.
The city is known to have around 100 haunted spots, according to ghost hunters and paranormal experts.
With its colorful history, especially with the increased crime rate during the Gold Rush, it is not surprising that the San Francisco Bay Area would have a lot to offer for an out of this world (literally!) experience.
Go on a walking tour through Nob Hill and discover the role that vampires played in San Francisco’s history from Mina Harker of “Dracula”.
The tour includes a stop at the Grace Cathedral, Huntington Park, Mark Hopkins Hotel, and the infamous Fairmont Hotel – one of the most haunted places in San Francisco.
Haunted San Francisco Tour
Get ready to explore the scarier, darker side of San Francisco in this nighttime walking tour of downtown alleys and streets.
As you walk to the most haunted spots in the city, your local guide will keep you riveted with stories of unexplained deaths, paranormal activity, brutal murders, and a lot more.
13/ Museums at Night
Enjoy San Francisco at night with a more relaxed pace as you visit some of the most interesting museums in the city.
Museum hopping is an activity that the entire family can enjoy, so we’ve had a look at all the top museums to see which one’s are opened late at night.
Generally, they’re open late on Thursday.
Here are a few you can visit.
Museum of Modern Art
Prepare to be dazzled by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, beginning with its awe-inspiring architecture and exterior.
Just like the MOMA in Los Angeles and New York City, this museum is devoted to contemporary art with exceptional exhibitions & collections.
Over 33,000 contemporary art pieces are showcased, with an entire floor focused exclusively on photography.
Opening Hours: Thursday 10 am – 9 pm
Explore the Exploratorium
The Exploratorium is an interactive museum for all ages located on the Embarcadero.
You will have a lot of activities to choose from, with over 600 exhibits to inspire your creativity.
You can experience walking across a fog bridge or learn how it feels like to be inside a tornado with the hands-on exhibitions; go to the Bay Observatory to enjoy spectacular views of the city and the bay.
Opening Hours: Thursday 6 pm – 10 pm
California Academy of Sciences NightLife
The California Academy of Sciences is a combination of a natural history museum, planetarium, and aquarium.
Explore the captivating rainforest spanning four stories and learn more interesting facts about the coral reef ecosystem;
The Academy’s green living roof is a wonder in itself, and an important part of its eco-friendly design.
View the Earth with a different perspective with the help of a spellbinding planetarium which virtually takes you through space and time.
Opening Hours: Thursday 6 pm – 10 pm
14/ Scavenger Hunts & Walking Games
Time to take your San Francisco nighttime exploration to a whole new level!
Choose from several engaging scavenger hunts and walking games which will take you through different parts of the city
These will give you much-needed exercise and at the same time challenge your mind and creativity.
Operation City Quest is a scavenger hunt involving finding more than 150 objects throughout the city with the help of your smartphone.
Specifically, these “items” include statues, monuments, and other points of interest as you walk for around 2 miles.
Moreover, the 3Quest Challenge will take you around the city to check for clues and answer questions, in order to complete the 3 quests.
Go around the city to collect supplies so you can survive a zombie apocalypse – all be part of the Zombie Scavengers Game.
Alternatively, Crazy Dash will have you dashing around the city as you complete crazy tasks and answer questions, as you get to explore San Francisco’s most famous tourist spots.
Go on a unique walking adventure with Wacky Walks, which involves a power shift as you navigate the city’s attractions.
15/ Sunset Photography
Capture the most beautiful sights of San Francisco at night with this sunset photography tour with Doc Miles.
You will be guided to locations that give the best perspective, so you can capture the most breathtaking photographs.
Included in this tour are places not included in regular tours’ itineraries, giving you the chance to view the city in a unique manner.
16/ Craft Cocktails Tour in Downtown San Francisco
Quench your thirst for adventure as you visit the most awesome cocktail bars in the heart of San Francisco.
Watch the magical concoctions mixed by experienced bartenders, and maybe you will learn a closely-guarded local secret, or two!
San Francisco bartenders have the reputation of being some of the best in the country, renowned for using farm-fresh produce in their customized blends, and for their revival of classic cocktail recipes.
17/ San Francisco North Beach Pub Crawl
Explore the uniqueness of the bars and pubs in the North Beach area, which is steeped in rich Italian heritage.
The nightlife in this area may be different from the bustling downtown vibe, but that does not mean that it is less interesting!
Relax in the popular Bohemian hangout, Vesuvio Café, where many literary geniuses went to unwind after a long day.
Check out the older pubs that offer a distinct flair to your nighttime adventures, and give you taste of the Italian culture.
18/ Mission 18th Street San Francisco Food Tour
Take on the hipster vibe of Mission District with a food tour that will dazzle your taste buds.
Walk along the Valencia Street corridor and listen to stories from the pioneering restaurateurs making this dynamic neighborhood a foodie destination; get ready to sample award-winning delicacies from acclaimed restaurants during this nighttime food tour.
See for yourself the strong Latino influences in food offerings such as nachos, tacos, and tequila.
Delight in the freshest produce, and indulge in pastries, ice cream, cheeses, and wine!
19/ Vegetarian Food Tour
Who says vegetarians and vegans cannot indulge in a food feast?
This walking food tour showcases some of the best food options for vegans and vegetarians, without being focused solely on vegetarian restaurants in the veggie food capital of San Francisco, the Mission District.
Visit restaurants and taquerias serving the best vegetarian dishes and snacks, while discovering the beginnings of the foodie revolution taking over the Mission District and San Francisco.
20/ Hard Rock Cafe
Go All-American with a visit to the Hard Rock Café, where you can choose from themed meals with fixed prices (also called “prix fixe”).
What started as a small café in London has expanded tremendously into an international franchise, with its presence set in over 63 countries.
The restaurant is a favorite among families because the menu is filled with delicious dishes loved by everyone, regardless of age.
Choose from juicy cheeseburgers, fall-off-the-bone hickory-smoked ribs, perfectly-prepared salmon, filling steaks, and even a variety of vegetarian options!
21/ Double Decker Bus Panoramic Night Sightseeing
Go on a sightseeing tour at night by bus, with the Fisherman’s Wharf as your start and end point.
Experience the sights and sounds of San Francisco after the sun goes down.
Specifically, gaze at the wonders surrounding the Embarcadero, the Financial District, and Chinatown.
You will then cross the Bay Bridge to get to Treasure Island.
This is where you can take all the photos you want to remember this panoramic night tour of San Francisco.
22/ Sightseeing Love Tour on a 1970s VW Hippie Bus
There is no cooler way to explore the San Francisco nighttime vibe than in a 1970s VW Hippie bus!
This is your chance to experience the city’s best spots as they were loved by locals and tourists, decades ago.
The Volkswagen buses ooze with authentic hippie energy celebrating Peace, Love, Freedom, and Adventure.
Moreover, the interiors will bring you back to the 70s with beaded curtains, neon blue seats, and shag carpets.
In addition, get to visit interesting streets which are off-limits to other buses.
See the best of San Francisco’s sights such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, The Castro, Lombard Street.
Similarly, check out a host of other attractions while reliving the hippie life inside the VW bus.
While on the Love Tour, you also have a chance to stop at strategic points to take priceless photos of your adventure.
23/ Watch Flamenco Performance
Prepare for a sensual experience as you watch a captivating flamenco performance in Pachamama, a charming nightclub renowned for its great selection of drinks and tapas.
Truly, watching Carolina Lugo’s & Carolé Acuña’s Ballet Flamenco will give the night a sultry vibe.
Feel yourself being transported to the heart of Spain by the pulsing footwork rhythm, and the sounds of syncopated hand clapping, castanets, guitar, and singing.
The performers’ intense passion is designed to mesmerize your senses with his sensational flamenco performance.
24/ Celebrate Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Seasonal Events
Want the best way imaginable to celebrate the Christmas season?
Go on a nighttime sing-along Christmas Karaoke tour in San Francisco!
Sing your heart out with the onboard karaoke machines, pre-loaded with popular hits and traditional Christmas songs to put you in a holiday mood.
Alternatively, go on a two-hour holiday lights tour in a 1970s-style Volkswagen bus for a unique experience.
Take in the view of the city’s most famous tourist spots.
Similarly, you can relax inside the bus surrounded by hand-painted murals, beaded curtains, and shag carpets.
Turn New Year’s Eve into a sensational party to remember, with a San Francisco Bay dinner cruise.
Moreover, enjoy unlimited drinks while sailing past the Golden Gate Bridge, the city skyline, Alcatraz Island, and other popular attractions.
After a four-course dinner or a buffet, hit the dance floor or go to the outdoor viewing deck, in preparation for the magnificent fireworks display when the clock strikes 12:00 midnight.
There are plenty of options if you’re looking for an eventful night out in San Francisco.
As you explore the city, you will discover that every neighborhood in San Francisco has its own distinct personality.
Take the time to get a feel of these unique vibes, which can only be enjoyed to the fullest with an open mind and an appetite for adventure when you are basking in the beauty of San Francisco.