Once you've found intern housing for your time in San Fransisco, it's time to make this place feel like home. The first step is learning the basics and what longer-term residents have to say about the City by the Bay. Next, figure out how you'll spend your time when you're not working at your internship.
Even if you're only in the Bay Area for your summer internship, you'll have plenty of time to see what this area has to offer. We know you might be on a tight budget, so we gathered a list of activities and sights that won't require a lot of cash. It's time to get exploring!
Free Activities in San Francisco
While the city does have a high cost of living, it offers a surprising amount of free activities. There are often free weekly events such as poetry readings and street festivals — just Google what's happening each week. The activities listed below are ready whenever you are!
Check out iconic (and touristy) sites
While San Francisco is more than what's shown on TV and in movies, you can't pass on checking out some of these well-known destinations. If you don't want to walk or bike, hop on a MUNI train or bus.
- The Painted Ladies. Pack a picnic lunch and spend a day in Alamo Square Park, located just across the street from these colorful houses.
- The Golden Gate Bridge. Walk or bike across for free and find amazing views of the city, Alcatraz, the San Francisco Bay, and the Pacific Ocean. Go a little further to the small town of Sausalito for a bite to eat.
- Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39. Find sea lions and seafood and thousands of your closet tourist friends.
Explore the vibrant neighborhoods
San Francisco is made up of lots of neighborhoods, each with its own architecture, style, and flair. Check out the complex architecture of city hall in the Civic Center, the Victorian houses and high-point views in Russian Hill, the hippie culture in Haight Ashbury, the bustle of the Financial District, and the shops and restaurants in Chinatown.
Take a Walking Tour
San Francisco City Guides offers more than 80 free tours in themes such as Alfred Hitchcock's San Francisco, Coit Tower Murals, and neighborhood tours for areas including Nob Hill and South of Market (SOMA). All guides are highly trained volunteers, and tours last from 1.5 to 2 hours. Don't forget to tip your guide at the end!
Visit a Free Museum
- San Francisco Center for the Book gives visitors an inside look at bookmaking, from bookbinding to letterpress printing.
- The Cable Car Museum showcases the history and evolution of this famous mode of transportation.
- Musée Mécanique, located on Pier 45 in Fishermans Wharf, contains over 300 interesting items including coin-operated instruments and antique arcade games.
- The de Young Museum is a fine art museum that's free to visitors the first Saturday of every month.
- The California Academy of Sciences contains a 4-story glass rainforest sphere, an aquarium, a planetarium, and more and offers free days every month or two.
Explore the great outdoors
If you don't have a private room or you're stuck in cramped student housing, getting some fresh air can do wonders. Even if you found spacious temporary housing, don't miss the natural beauty the area has to offer.
Golden Gate Park
Located south of the Richmond area, this urban park covers 1,017 acres. It includes meadows, forests, lakes, and gardens as well as paid attractions such as the San Francisco Botanical Garden, which is free for residents, and Conservatory of Flowers.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
This area includes over 80,000 acres for biking, running, and exploring in San Francisco and areas north of the city.
Areas outside the city
If you're looking for a bit more of an escape from the city, head across the Golden Gate Bridge to hike on some of the 250 miles of trails. On the Muir Woods Trail, you can see towering redwoods, and the Coastal Trail and Bonita Lighthouse trail offer wildflowers and fantastic views.
Activities that cost less than $50
- Ride a cable car ($8 per adult). Pro tip: Jump on the cable car a few blocks after its starting point to avoid long wait times and still catch amazing views.
- Watch a movie in the historic Castro Theatre ($14 for a regular hour show). For extra fun, buy tickets to a sing-along show.
- Shop at a farmers' market such as the Heart of the City Farmers' Market, The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, and Noe Valley Farmers Market.
- Climb to the top of Coit Tower in Telegraph Hill ($7 for residents).
- Take a ferry to Alcatraz Island ($39.90 for a round-trip ferry ride and audio tour). Be sure to book at least a week or two in advance.
Check out nearby cities
If you're getting tired of the scenery or the fog, hop on a train and head to another city in the Bay Area. The Caltrain runs directly from San Francisco to San Jose, the largest city in Silicon Valley. While you're there, you can check out the quirky Winchester Mystery House or visit the Computer History Museum.
You can also hop on a BART train and head across the Bay Bridge to Oakland. Spend some time looking at the vibrant street art, rent a boat to paddle on Lake Merritt, or visit the USS Hornet Sea, Air, and Space Museum. Nearby, you can head to the Alameda City Beach for truly warm bay water.
Get your grub on
San Francisco is a foodie's heaven. This city is home to cuisine from all around the world, and it's the birthplace of dishes including rocky road ice cream and chop suey. Whether you're looking for budget eats or an elaborate brunch, you can find it in San Francisco.
- Nari for modern Thai food (San Francis Square)
- Pakwan for affordable Pakistani Indian cuisine (Tenderloin and Mission)
- Hot Sauce and Panko for takeout wings (Nob Hill)
- Molinari Deli for sandwiches (North Beach)
- Kusina ni Tess for homey Filipino (Tenderloin)
- Marufuku for ramen (Japantown)
- Hogwash for sausage and beer (Union Square)
- Mitchell's for homemade ice cream (Noe Valley)
Make the most of your time
It's perfectly okay to spend some time at home. However, don't spend all your free time during your short-term stay holed up in your single room. If you do, you might regret not spending more time outside in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
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