The City by the Bay is a friendly and fascinating place. There's no shortage of things to see and do in San Francisco, which is positively brimming with activities for new arrivals and their families to enjoy.

Aside from world-famous attractions such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, San Francisco is also known for world-class shopping, vibrant and eclectic nightlife and dining options, as well as the natural beauty surrounding the city. There's also a packed annual events calendar to look forward to. Read on to learn more about the vibrant lifestyle in San Francisco.

Shopping in San Francisco

There are many fantastic neighbourhoods to explore when shopping in San Francisco. Unlike many other cities, the city’s shopping districts are fairly spread out. Union Square is a good place to start, with some of the most recognisable designer stores. Haight-Ashbury's hippie roots can still be seen in vintage clothing stores and exclusive boutiques.

Fillmore Street is considered the best shopping street in the city. Lined with retailers and restaurants, the area is at the epicentre of upcoming trends and provides a wide variety of shopping options, from second-hand bookshops to upscale clothing stores.

Nightlife and entertainment in San Francisco

Those looking for a good night out will find no shortage of great bars and clubs in San Francisco. With everything from electronic music and hip-hop clubs to trendy lounges and stylish cocktail bars, there are always plenty of options for a night out on the town.

Head to SoMa to dance the night away, the Mission area for dive bars galore, and the Union District for classy cocktail bars.

Sports and outdoor activities in San Francisco

The Golden Gate Park is San Francisco's premier outdoor attraction. Bigger than New York City’s Central Park and one of the most visited parks in the country, it attracts 15 million every year. Throughout its vast expanse, visitors can explore, picnic and exercise at the park’s lakes, groves, trails and cultural venues. Muir Woods is a highlight, and it's always pleasant to take a stroll among the centuries-old, colossal redwood trees.

Other popular outdoor activities in San Francisco include taking a boat trip through the San Francisco Bay and under the Golden Gate Bridge or exploring the air above the city on a sunset plane trip. Bicycling is also a popular activity, whether on the city streets or in the nearby mountains of Marin County.

Attractions in San Francisco

Lombard Street

By some measures, the famous Lombard Street is the most crooked street in the world, featuring eight hairpin turns. Originally designed in 1922 to make the 27-degree slope of the hill manageable for residents, Lombard Street has become one of San Francisco’s quirkier attractions.

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is by far the most famous symbol of San Francisco. There is nothing quite like seeing this iconic rust-coloured bridge in person for the very first time.


Commonly known as ‘The Rock’, this allegedly escape-proof island prison once held the likes of Al ‘Scarface’ Capone and George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly. On guided tours, newcomers can explore the prison and learn about the island’s fascinating history.

Aquarium of the Bay

Featuring more than 20,000 aquatic animals, from sharks and starfish to otters and octopi, the Aquarium of the Bay is a fascinating way to spend an afternoon.


San Francisco has one of the oldest Chinatowns in the United States. Even today, the area draws more tourists a year than even the famous Golden Gate Bridge. This is a great place to pick up fresh fish and vegetables, spend some time perusing the herbal shops, and enjoy a meal in one of the many enticing eateries.

Annual events in San Francisco

San Francisco’s diversity and eccentricity have, at times, influenced culture worldwide, and the city's unique attributes are reflected in its diverse and exciting events calendar.

Residents get to enjoy a variety of festivals that celebrate the city’s history and character. From beer and wine festivals to marathons and parades, new arrivals will be spoilt for choice.

SF Beer Week (February)

This festival showcases San Francisco's craft beer scene with hundreds of events over 10 days each February. Brew-loving newcomers will be in beer heaven, but even those who don’t know the difference between pale ale and dunkel will find something to delight in. Festival-goers can also enjoy gourmet events that sample some of the best food in San Francisco, meet the best brewers in the Bay Area, and even attend home-brewing demonstrations.

San Francisco International Film Festival (April)

The longest-running film festival in the US, the San Francisco International Film Festival hosts around 200 films from 50 countries each year. Attendees can enjoy some of the best new films from around the globe in an exciting setting.

Bay to Breakers (May)

Part fundraiser, part marathon and part celebration, the Bay to Breakers footrace has been a San Francisco institution since 1912. From serious athletes to costumed casuals, runners of all kinds can join in on the fun. Participants are cheered on by spectators, with the race concluding at Ocean Beach and the Finish Line Festival.

San Francisco Pride Parade (June)

One of the most vibrant and friendliest on the planet, the San Francisco Pride Parade follows a week of celebrations. The colourful contingent struts down Market Street to the cheers of the thousands of onlookers who gather to witness the event every year.

Fourth of July Celebration at the Pier (July)

Every year on Independence Day, city residents gather on Pier 39 to enjoy an evening of food, fireworks and live entertainment. There is no better way to experience this most American holiday in the city.

Union Square Tree Lighting (November)

Christmas cheer abounds during this event, with plenty of entertainment on offer, including live performances and holiday shopping. The festivities culminate with the lighting of a giant Christmas tree in the centre of Union Square, a decades-old tradition.

Kids and family in San Francisco

Expats moving to San Francisco can look forward to plenty of activities to partake in and sights to see with children, with many museums and parks designed specifically with kids in mind.

When it comes to getting around as a family, public transport within the city centre is adequate, but having a car will certainly make life easier for those planning on venturing out into the Bay Area.

Entertainment for kids in San Francisco

There's plenty to see and do with children in the Golden City. For a start, hours of fun can be had at one of the many theme parks surrounding San Francisco, such as California’s Great America, Six Flags and the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Playgrounds are rarer, but the Yerba Buena Gardens is a great place to visit, and the Children’s Creativity Museum is right next door.

Most kids love the boat trip to Alcatraz, and the self-guided audio tours are fascinating for older kids as they describe jail life, including stories from real inmates. Visiting the sea lions at Pier 39 is also a lot of fun.

Cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge is a popular activity, and a visit to the Exploratorium is a must for those who like hands-on science activities. The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park is home to playgrounds and open spaces, as well as exciting attractions such as the California Academy of Sciences.

It only takes a short drive to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Popular pursuits just outside San Francisco include hiking in the redwood forests at Muir Woods, visiting strawberry farms near Half Moon Bay, or exploring the tidal pools at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.

Expat Health Insurance

Cigna Health Insurance

Cigna Global Health Insurance.

Moving your family abroad can be intimidating, but learning about medical options such as family health insurance early on can help you settle successfully.

  • Comprehensive Family coverage, wherever you go
  • Paediatric coverage for well-child visits & immunizations
  • Access to dental and orthodontic care
  • 24/7 multilingual Customer Service

Get a quote from Cigna Global

Moving Internationally?

Sirelo logo

International Movers. Get Quotes. Compare Prices.

Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.

Get your free no-obligation quotes from select removal companies now!