Downtown, San Francisco Activities

Part of our San Francisco travel guide; our list of the best attractions in Downtown, including Davies Symphony Hall, Asian Art Museum and Great American Music Hall.
  • The best activities in Downtown San Francisco: Davies Symphony Hall

    Davies Symphony Hall

    201 Van Ness Ave
    Box Office: M-F 10AM-6PM, Sa noon-6PM Performances: W-Su usually 8PM or 8:30PM with Sa-Su matinee 2PM, See website for exact schedule. $10-$50. San Francisco has an excellent symphony orchestra, with Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) as the principal conductor. The Season goes from September to April, with a break in the middle of December and January. When the San Francisco Symphony is on tour, other orchestras visit to fill the void. In July there is a "Summer in the City" program of light music; August is quiet. Opened in 1980, the building's sweeping wraparound architecture was elegantly designed to compliment the other buildings in the War Memorial complex. Inside, the building was designed to maximize acoustical tones with the exterior glass wall being used as a backdrop to capture sound. To further enhance and refine the sound it has adjustable acrylic acoustical panels around the stage area. There are circa 2,700 seats inside.
    Downtown food nearby
  • Asian Art Museum

    Asian Art Museum

    200 Larkin St
    Tu-Su 10AM-5PM (with extended evening hours every Th until 9PM) Closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. First Sunday of every month: Free, Adults: $12, Seniors 65 and older with ID: $8, College students with ID and youths ages 13 through 17: $7, Children 12 and under and SFUSD students with ID: Free, Th evenings at a reduced rate ($5) after 5PM. Built in 1917, and formerly the old library building, this building is a fantastic blend of "Beaux Arts" and modern design elements. It was designed by renowned architect Gae Aulenti (architect of the Musée d'Orsay, Paris). Inside, you'll find many interesting architectural details including the grand staircase, loggia, vaulted ceilings, the great hall, stone floors, period light fixtures, and inscriptions. The museum is one of the largest and newest museums of Oriental art. It has circa 15,000 artifacts covering 6,000 years of Asian history. The Asian Art Museum hosts many special exhibits as well.
    Downtown eat nearby
  • Great American Music Hall

    Great American Music Hall

    859 O'Farrell St
    Shows: Hours Vary Box Office: M-F 10:30AM-6PM, Show Nights 10:30AM-9PM, Closed Sa-Su (except during shows - opens 1 hour before show time). Ticket prices vary by act but typically run from $10-$30. Reputed to be the city's oldest nightclub, this ornate 600 capacity music venue presents hip music acts, some well-known among the cognoscenti, some so cutting edge that there's blood on the pavement. In the 1930s, this was fan-dancer Sally Rand's "Music Box." The interior, which was designed by a French architect, is known for its ornate balconies and columns.
    Downtown restaurants nearby
  • Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

    Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

    99 Grove St
    The auditorium is not open to visitors or for tours, but only during event times which vary. Price varies depending on act. This four-story tall, "Beaux-Arts" style building occupies an entire city block in the heart of the Civic Center and has 7,000 seats inside. Large and small bands, exhibits, concerts, and galas are all hosted at the Civic Auditorium. Check Ticketmaster to see what's playing [2].
    Downtown food nearby
  • San Francisco Ballet

    San Francisco Ballet

    455 Franklin St
    Box Office: M-F 10AM-4PM (10AM until start of performance on performance dates Performances: T-Su usually 8PM or 7:30PM with Sa-Su matinee 2PM. $18-$250. The repertory season begins in January and continues through May.
    Downtown eat nearby
  • San Francisco Symphony

    San Francisco Symphony

    Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave
    Box Office: M-F 10AM-6PM, Sa noon-6PM Performances: W-Su usually 8PM or 8:30PM with Sa-Su matinee 2PM, See website for exact schedule. $10-$50. San Francisco has an excellent symphony orchestra, with Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) as the principal conductor. The Season goes from September to April, with a break in the middle of December and January. When the San Francisco Symphony is on tour, other orchestras visit to fill the void. In July there is a "Summer in the City" program of light music; August is quiet. Opened in 1980, the building's sweeping wraparound architecture was elegantly designed to compliment the other buildings in the War Memorial complex. Inside, the building was designed to maximize acoustical tones with the exterior glass wall being used as a backdrop to capture sound. To further enhance and refine the sound it has adjustable acrylic acoustical panels around the stage area. There are circa 2,700 seats inside.
    Downtown restaurants nearby
  • Red and White Fleet

    Red and White Fleet

    Pier 43 1/2
    Cruise times vary — see website. Bay Cruise: Adults $22, children/teens (5-17) $16. Sunset Cruise: Adult (18+) $48; and Youth (5-17) $34. SF Explorer Cruise: Adults $34, children/teens (5-17) $22. They offer a 1 hour "Golden Gate Bay Cruise" which goes under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz, a 2 hour "California Sunset Cruise" which goes around Angel Island, and a 90-minute "SF Explorer Cruise" which goes under the Bay Bridge toward SoMa.
    Downtown food nearby
  • War Memorial and Performing Arts Center

    War Memorial and Performing Arts Center

    401 Van Ness Ave
    Tour hours: M 10AM-2PM — on the hour. Free. This 7.5 acre complex comprises the War Memorial Opera House, Memorial Court, the War Memorial Veterans Building (including Herbst Theatre and the Green Room, which is a classically styled reception hall), the Harold L. Zellerbach Rehearsal Hall, and Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall. The opera house and the veterans buildings (which are for the most part identical), along with the court, were intended to be appreciated in unison, and to compliment the surrounding architecture of the Civic Center. Their "Beaux-Arts" structures employ the Roman Doric Order and were designed by architect Arthur Brown, Jr. Both buildings were completed in 1932. Guided tours of the buildings are available.
    Downtown eat nearby
  • City Hall

    City Hall

    1 Dr Carlton B Goodlett Pl
    Management@sfgov.org. Brochures are available for visitors to take a self-guided tour: M-F 8AM-8PM Docent led tours: M–F 10AM, noon, 2PM. Tours: Self guided and docent led tours are free unless you're a private group of eight or more persons. Designed by Arthur Brown Jr., and opened in 1915, the architecture of the building was heavily influenced by the "City Beautiful Movement," which in turn reflected the American Renaissance style of the time. Its "Beaux-Arts" dome (the fifth largest in the world) was modeled after that of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Italy. The building itself is huge, 393 feet long, by 273 feet wide, and 307 feet high — occupying a full two blocks of San Francisco's downtown real estate. It is considered by many admirers to be the most impressive building in the city. Inside, it features a large rotunda with a grandiose staircase leading up to the second floor. The walls are adorned with oak paneling and the ceilings with crystal chandeliers. City Hall is the site of much history — In 1954 Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe wed here. In 1978, Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated here.
    Downtown restaurants nearby
  • San Francisco Public Library - Main Library

    San Francisco Public Library - Main Library

    100 Larkin St
    Su noon-5PM, M 10AM-6PM T-Th 9AM-8PM, F noon-6PM, Sa 10AM-6PM; Tour Hours: Offered on the first Tuesday of every month at noon. Internet: Free Tours: Free. Completed in 1995 at a cost of $109 million, the main library branch is over 375,000 square feet of modern architecture. It has seven floors, over 2,000 seats, and an impressive foyer that has a five story high atrium. At the top of the atrium is a bright sky-light and a roof terrace.
    Downtown food nearby
  • Glide Memorial Church

    Glide Memorial Church

    330 Ellis St
    M 7AM-2:30AM, Tu,Th 7AM-11:45PM, W,F 7AM-11PM, Sa-Su 7AM-1:30PM. Free. Famous for its gospel music, as well as for its inner-city missions, the church is a pillar of this community and plays a vital role in Tenderloin day-to-day life; anyone truly trying to understand the area should visit here. Sunday services are a major musical event attracting crowds, and yes, even long lines to get in!
    Downtown eat nearby
  • Beach Blanket Babylon

    Beach Blanket Babylon

    Club Fugazi, 678 Beach Blanket Babylon Blvd
    W-Th 8PM, F-Sa 6:30PM and 9:30PM, Su 2PM and 5PM (Matinees). $25-$73. This zany Steve Silver cabaret is the longest running musical revue in US theater history. The show is an internationally acclaimed San Francisco institution, and famous for its use of enormous hats, some of which are up to ten feet tall! It has even been seen by Queen Elizabeth.
    Downtown restaurants nearby
  • Heart of the City Farmer’s Market

    Heart of the City Farmer’s Market

    United Nations Plaza
    Su 7AM-5PM, W 7AM-5:30PM. Free. The farmer's market held Sundays and Wednesdays offers a less expensive alternative to the yuppie Ferry Building Farmer's Market, though it helps if you're seeking the ingredients for Asian food. On other days, there are often tents with vendors selling jewelry, scarves, clothing, snacks, house wares, and who-knows-what. The fun is in the surprises.
    Downtown food nearby
  • CounterPULSE

    CounterPULSE

    1310 Mission St
    This hybrid theater located at Mission and 9th Street is a hub for experimental art and activism. Online calendar boasts new and eclectic events year-round.
    Downtown eat nearby
  • The New Conservatory Theatre Center

    The New Conservatory Theatre Center

    25 Van Ness Ave
    Box Office Hours: W-Sa 1:30PM-7PM, Su-Tu noon-3PM Show Times: Performances are typically W-Sa 8PM, Su 2PM, year round. Tickets generally cost $18-$40. The three small New Conservatory theaters present novel, musical, comic, and educational plays.
    Downtown restaurants nearby
  • Union Square Theaters

    Union Square Theaters

    - the Marines Memorial Theater at 609 Sutter Street, play host to local, regional, and nationally renowned shows.
    Downtown food nearby
  • Museum of Performance & Design

    Museum of Performance & Design

    War Memorial Veterans Building, 401 Van Ness Ave, 4th Floor
    Library Hours: W-F 11AM-5PM, Sa 1PM-5PM; Exhibition Hours: Tu-Sa noon-5PM. Free. The museum is dedicated to celebrating all aspects of the performing arts in San Francisco, from the mid 19th century to the present day. It hosts exhibitions and lectures by leading artists to encourage an appreciation of the diversity of the performing arts.
    Downtown eat nearby
  • Local Tastes of the City Tours

    Local Tastes of the City Tours

    They offer an affordable $59 three hour tour of North Beach, starting at either 10AM or 2PM. You get to sample coffees, handmade chocolates, pastries, breads and olive oils. A historical lecture accompanies the tour and they will take you to some of the old Beat Generation hangouts. They also offer a separate three hour tour of Chinatown starting either 10AM or 2PM. Here you will get to sample Chinese Teas and Dim Sum, as well as see how fortune cookies are made at the Fortune Cookie Factory. Finally, they do a combined two hour night tour of both Chinatown and North Beach which starts at 6PM and also costs $59.
    Downtown restaurants nearby
  • Geary Theater

    405 Geary Street
    Home to the American Conservatory Theater, a Tony Award–winning institution and the largest theater company in the city, who put on many Broadway shows and original performances at this historic theater.
    Downtown food nearby
  • Linc Art Gallery

    1632C Market St
    Tu-Sa noon-6PM. Free. Lincart exhibits contemporary fine art and design at their gallery. Since its inception in 2000, it has exhibited over 50 shows, most of which were solo exhibitions from artists like Yayoi Kusama, Graham Gillmore, Tucker Nichols, and Pip Culbert.
    Downtown eat nearby
  • Space Gallery

    Space Gallery

    1141 Polk St
    Two story art gallery that has a full bar serving wine, beer and cocktails. This place is super-hip — they even serve 40oz bottles of Olde English Malt Liquor!
    Downtown restaurants nearby
  • Tet Festival

    Larkin St and Ellis St
    Mid-January to mid-February 9:30AM–6PM. Free. Celebrate New Year's Vietnamese style at this festival. It attracts almost 30,000 each year to the area. It's mostly Vietnamese-Americans in attendance, but everyone is welcome and it's a great opportunity to sample some of the delicious Vietnamese dishes that they have in the Tenderloin, and of course to throw around some "lucky-money."
    Downtown food nearby
  • Golden Gate Theater

    1 Taylor St
    Built in 1920 and influenced by the "Art Deco" and "Gothic Revival" styles, this theater has over 2,800 seats. It was designed by architect Gustave Albert Lansburgh.
    Downtown eat nearby
  • San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery

    War Memorial Veterans Building, 401 Van Ness Ave
    shiffler@sfgov.org. The Gallery at 401 Van Ness: W-Sa noon-5PM, The Window Site at 155 Grove St: 24 hours daily, Art at City Hall: M-F 8AM-8PM. Free. The San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery supports a diverse range of Bay Area "Visual Art" culture by supporting artists projects through collaboration with community organizations, commissioning contemporary art, and curated exhibitions. They also have window installations at 155 Grove St and another in City Hall.
    Downtown restaurants nearby
  • Fringe Festival

    156 Eddy St
    12 Days, beginning the Wednesday after Labor Day. See website for exact performance hours. $7-$8 per performance, Frequent Fringer Pass (all 10 Days): $55. This bohemian 10 day festival is all about theatrical experimentation and having fun... even if you don't know what you're doing exactly. Chaos rules here; even the list of performers are selected randomly at the last minute and participants are effectively given "carte blanche" to be as artistically free as possible. This leads to a lot of wackiness and of course a healthy dose of good old nudity! It takes place in several theaters but it is run by the EXIT Theater in the Tenderloin.
    Downtown food nearby
  • The Orpheum Theater

    1192 Market St
    Over 80 years old, this official historical landmark theater received a another facelift in 1998; it now has over 2,400 seats. The theater has hosted everything from silent films to Broadway theater, and special shows such as "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." It is modeled in the style of a 12th century Spanish Cathedral, being heavily influenced by both "Spanish Moorish" and "Spanish Baroque" architecture. It has ornate architectural detailing inside and was designed by architect Benjamin Marcus Priteca.
    Downtown eat nearby
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EDIT THIS ITINERARY Our list of activities in Downtown San Francisco uses some content from Wikipedia and Wikivoyage.