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. Here's a list of our 18 favorites.
Have a Drink at a Ritzy Hotel Bar
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.
See the Bay Lights on the San Francisco Bay Bridge
At sunset, the otherwise utilitarian San Francisco Bay Bridge transforms into a sparkling, LED light sculpture. Computer programs create incredible patterns that the span the bridge and there are a few different places to best take in the view. Watch from the Embarcadero between the Ferry Building and the bridge or look down on the lights from the top of Telegraph Hill's Coit Tower.
Take an Evening Tour
Guided tours don't stop when the sun goes down, and these fun tours are some the best. The San Francisco Night Tour with Vantigo will take you around the city in a cute, restored Volkswagen van that seats six people at the most. In two hours, you'll see the city at its sparkly, glittery best. Beer and wine are included in the reasonable tour price. Or try 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 two-hour culinary tour.
See Alcatraz at Night
Touring Alcatraz during the day can be hot, cramped, and take away from valuable sight-seeing time elsewhere. But visiting the storied prison at night extends your sightseeing time and gives you a chance to experience special programs and activities not offered during the day. You'll be the only group on the island, which can add to the slightly mysterious charm of this unique tour.
Go See a Baseball Game
Nighttime baseball games are a fun tradition anywhere, but the Giants' expansive ballpark is particularly enjoyable. Grab a hot dog and a pint of beer and join in on the fun! The team also hosts a few different special events throughout the summer.
See a Unique Performance
Every city has theaters and movie houses, nightclubs and symphonies. You can find them in San Francisco, too, but why be boring? San Francisco's 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. Or check out We Players, which stages site-integrated performances in dramatic outdoor locations.
Visit Treasure Island for This View
Treasure Island is possibly the best place in town to watch the city lights come up at sunset. The tiny island is fun to explore during the day (Bikes! Cocktails! A winery!), but you won't believe the photos you'll be able to get once the sun falls below the horizon each night. To get there, take the Bay Bridge toward Oakland and exit halfway across.
Go to the Marin Headlands
If you're interested in taking more breathtaking sunset photos, this photo 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.
Walk Along Pier 7
A bit hidden from other touristy spots in San Francisco, you'll find Pier 7 along the waterfront between Washington Street and Broadway. A short walk to the end gives a beautiful city lights view, and there are plenty of benches to relax and enjoy a San Francisco evening, crowd-free.
Go to the Top of Coit Tower
You can head to the top of historic Telegraph Hill where you'll find San Francisco's 210-foot Coit Tower. The ground floor of the tower has colorful murals painted by local artists, while the top level will offer you beautiful views of the glittering skyline. (Pro-tip: This view is similar to what you can see from the top floor of the parking garage above the police station on Vallejo Street.)
Photograph the Transamerica Building at Night
Whether you love it or hate it, the iconic Transamerica Building has always had a unique profile in the city. You can get some of San Francisco's most iconic photos by shooting it from one of the city's many hilltops, set against the lights of Berkeley across the Bay.
Take a Quiet Walk Through Chinatown
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. 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.
Discover Something New with Goldstar
Goldstar, a unique California-based company, calls itself an "event discovery service." What does that mean for your night out in San Francisco? It means you can buy deeply-discounted tickets to theatre performances, sporting events, tours, and more. Recent offerings included a Golden Gate Bridge champagne tour on a schooner and comedy performances.
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. The tours begin in Chinatown and cover the Embarcadero and Little Italy.
Go See the Speakeasy
Not to be 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.
The San Francisco Ghost Hunt promises to introduce you to San Francisco's most notorious ghosts on a lantern-lighted walk through Pacific Heights. Tours are led by Christian Cagigal, a Bay Area magician.
Go to a Museum
Many of San Francisco's best museums offer late-night entrance at least once a week. The California Academy of Sciences offers late-night admission every Thursday from 6 to 10 p.m., while the de Young Museum, one of the city's best art museums is open late on Friday from 5:30 to 8:45 p.m. Most museum's late-night hours include special talks and performances and sometimes even food and drink.
See a Concert at the Fillmore
This historic concert venue opened in 1954 and has hosted the likes of the Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, The Who, and many others. The landmark Geary Boulevard venue still showcases both rock legends and up-and-comers, making it a uniquely San Franciscan way to spend an evening.