Things to do in San Francisco at Night

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    Things to Do in San Francisco After Dark

    San Francisco at Night
    ••• San Francisco at Night. uschools / Getty Images

    Like any big city, San Francisco has its share of typical evening fare: theater and performing arts, fine dining, and nightclubs.

    But what if you don't like those typical after-hours pursuits or are traveling with a family? Never fear, there's still plenty you can do in San Francisco after the sun goes down. I stayed up late in San Francisco to check them out and to find the things you might enjoy.

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  • 02 of 14

    Get Off to a Glitzy Start

    JCB Tasting Lounge at the Ritz Carlton
    ••• JCB Tasting Lounge at the Ritz Carlton. © Ritz Carlton San Francisco / Photo by Scott Chebegia

    Kick off your event at the swanky, swoon-worthy JCB Tasting Lounge at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. This jewel box of a lounge seats about a dozen people in an eye-popping setting of black and gold, animal prints and glittering crystal.

    Order a glass of passionate, provocative No. 9 sparkling wine or flirt over the flamboyant, sensual (and oh-so-yummy) No. 69 Pinot Noir. When this place fills up all their Baccarat crystal glasses, they won't accept another single soul, no matter how much you beg. Make reservations to avoid that disappointment.

    For a gorgeous view from slightly less opulent surroundings, you can't beat the Top of the Mark at the Mark Hopkins Hotel. It's so romantic that I once ended up performing an ad hoc marriage vow renewal for friends there while we sipped our bubbly.

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    Bay Bridge: Bay Lights

    Bay Lights on the San Francisco Bay Bridge
    ••• Bay Lights on the San Francisco Bay Bridge. ©2013 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    At sunset, the otherwise utilitarian San Francisco Bay Bridge transforms into a sparkling, LED light sculpture. Use the Bay Lights Guide to find out more about it - and the best places to see it from.

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  • 04 of 14

    Take an Evening Tour

    San Francisco from Twin Peaks
    ••• San Francisco from Twin Peaks. uschools / Getty Images

    Guided tours don't stop when the sun goes down, and these fun tours are some the best.

    I love the San Francisco Night Tour with Vantigo.  Vantigo is no pack-'em-in-like-sardines experience. Instead, you'll ride around in a cute, restored Volkswagen van that seats six max. In two hours, you'll see the city at its sparkly, glittery best. Beer and wine are included in the reasonable tour price (assuming you can drink them legally). ​Reserve your spot on their website.

    Take a Segway Tour: Why let your feet get tired when you can use a Segway Human Transporter to explore the cityscape at night? An evening tour with the San Francisco Electric Tour Company is more fun than you can imagine. Reservations required.

    Go Ghost-Hunting: The San Francisco Ghost Hunt promises to introduce you to San Francisco's most notorious ghosts. Reservations required.

    Take a Foodie Tour: On a Local Tastes of the City tour, you'll sample the city's best coffee, Dim Sum, and other foods on a...MORE two-hour culinary tour. Reservations required.

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    Alcatraz at Night

    Aerial of Alcatraz at sunset, San Francisco, USA
    ••• Aerial View of Alcatraz at Sunset. Matteo Colombo / Getty Images

    I discourage people from taking the Alcatraz tour during the day. It takes up too much time that could be spent elsewhere. But visiting at night extends your sightseeing into the evening hours. And even better, it also includes special programs and activities not offered during the day.

    The night tour operates year-round Thursday-Monday evenings. Reservations required. You can buy your tickets in advance on the Alcatraz Cruises website.

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    Warm San Francisco Nights: Summer Only

    ATT Park Baseball on a Summer Night
    ••• ATT Park: Baseball on a Summer Night. Brad Mangin / Getty Images

    Longer days and warmer summer temperatures bring out a few evening activities that you can't do any other time of year.  Use the Guide to San Francisco Summer Nights to get some ideas for a warm San Francisco night.

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  • 07 of 14

    Entertainment That's Uniquely San Francisco

    We Players Perform Hamlet at Alcatraz
    ••• We Players Perform Hamlet at Alcatraz. Courtesy of We Players / Photo by Tracy Martin

    Every city has theaters and movie houses, nightclubs and symphonies. You can find them in San Francisco, too, but why be boring? Try one of these Only in San Francisco evening entertainments that are far more intriguing.

    Beach Blanket Babylon is the longest-running musical revue anywhere. They're famous for their enormous hats and social satire. It's not award-winning fare, but it is a chance to let your hair down and not think much for a while.

    Discover Something Different: We Players stages site-integrated performances in dramatic outdoor locations. Or check what's going on at zSpace, an art gallery and performance space where you can discover some interesting and cutting-edge works.

    Discover Something New: I love Goldstar for deeply discounted tickets to a variety of performance events and other things to do, and you might discover something there that you hadn't thought about doing before. Get all the details in the Guide to Using Goldstar.

    The Speakeasy: Not to be...MORE confused with a brewery of the same name that is now closed, The Speakeasy is an immersive performance experience, which means you don't just watch, you participate. You might be in a brief public scene or get pulled into a private, one-on-one encounter with a performer. Or something entirely different might happen. That's the fun of it. Schedule your appointment on their website.

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    Visit Treasure Island for This View

    San Francisco from Treasure Island
    ••• San Francisco from Treasure Island. © Betsy Malloy Photography

    This picture was taken from Treasure Island. It's possibly the best place in town to watch the city lights come up at Sunset. To get there, take the Bay Bridge toward Oakland and exit halfway across. 

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    Go to the Marin Headlands

    Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco at Twilight
    ••• Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco at Twilight. © Betsy Malloy Photography

    This picture was taken from the Marin Headlands, on the northwest side of the Golden Gate Bridge. The city lights behind the bridge are truly magical. To get there, go north across the Golden Gate Bridge, exit just past the north vista point and turn left to drive up the hill.

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    Pier 7 and City Skyline

    San Francisco from Pier 7 at Twilight
    ••• San Francisco from Pier 7 at Twilight. © Betsy Malloy Photography

    You'll find Pier 7 on the San Francisco waterfront between Washington Street and Broadway. A short walk to the end gives a beautiful city lights view.

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    Coit Tower Night Views

    Telegraph Hill and 'Coit Tower'
    ••• Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower at Night. Thomas Winz / Getty Images

    Go to Coit Tower for a view of the city or photograph it from somewhere else. This view is similar to what you can see from the top floor of the parking garage above the police station on Vallejo Street.

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    Transamerica Building at Night

    Transamerica Building at Twilight
    ••• Transamerica Building at Twilight. © Betsy Malloy Photography

    The iconic Transamerica Building wasn't as well liked when built as it is now, but its profile has always been distinctive. In this view, taken from a hilltop in the middle of the city, it stands against the lights of Berkeley across the Bay.

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    Chinatown Shines at Night

    San Francisco Chinatown at Night
    ••• San Francisco Chinatown at Night. © Betsy Malloy Photography

    As soon as the sun goes down, Chinatown nearly turns into a ghost town. The few people who walk through it never seem to look up to see all the neon-lit signs or the glowing, red lanterns against the twilight blue sky. That is unless they see me pointing my camera lens at them.

    Don't be dull like everyone else, just take the short walk along Grant Avenue from Bush Street to Columbus just after the sun goes down. And don't forget to look up.

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  • 14 of 14

    More Things You Can Do in San Francisco

    View of San Francisco at dusk
    ••• San Francisco at Dusk. Thomas Winz / Getty Images

    There's a lot more to do in San Francisco day and night. If you're a contrarian traveler who seeks out the undiscovered spots, then don't miss these Things You Didn't Know You Wanted to Do in San Francisco. And of course, you'll want to take a look at the top things to do in San Francisco.

    Do you want your kids to have fun in San Francisco? Here's where to take them.

    San Francisco is one of California's best places to have fun without spending a penny. Just use the Guide to Things to Do for Free in San Francisco.

    It might rain in the winter. Here's what to do in San Francisco when it's raining. And if it's summertime when you visit, you'll definitely want to know What to Do on a Summer Night in San Francisco.

    What Not to Do

    You don't want to sound and look like a dumb San Francisco tourist or waste your time on trashy tourist spots. Whatever you do, don't do these 16 things when you go to San Francisco.