Save Money in San Francisco by Spending Time on This Freebies List

Although many believe the gold rush madness that created San Francisco in the 1850's has ended, the fact is this city is still expanding and contracting in boom and bust cycles. But instead of wild-eyed miners with pick-axes running up and down Market Street screaming about "gold in them thar hills," San Francisco is now driven by 20-something Silicon Valley techies in dark-rimmed glasses exclaiming, "There's money in this thar venture capital idea!"

Point being, from it's very beginning, the lifeblood of San Francisco has not been the fresh fog off the Pacific but the risky dreams of generations of entrepreneurs. And that has made this a pricey city.

Fear not. If your bank account is still smarting from that plane ticket to the city by the bay, we've compiled many fun-filled activities that don't cost a cent - much less a gold nugget. Most do involve walking, though, such as crossing the epic span of the Golden Gate Bridge or soaking up the Pacific breeze at Ocean Beach. A few options are seasonal, such as the Stern Grove Festival (Summer) and Simply Hardly Bluegrass Festival (Fall).

Mostly, though, we want to take you through San Francisco's neighborhoods, the blocks of culture that sew together this exquisitely unique city. If you're willing to do a little extra planning (and walking), you can leave your heart in San Francisco - and not your entire retirement portfolio. 

Ocean Beach
Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy


During the summer months, locals flock to the area beaches, and Ocean Beach is one their top choices. This expansive shoreline extends from the Cliff House to Fort Funston along the glistening Pacific Ocean, making it a great spot to stroll, jog...  Read More

Mission Dolores Park
Photo courtesy of nguy1


Mission Dolores Park is the heart of the Mission district and offers wonderful views of downtown. This is a true city park: often crowded, usually loud, and a great spot for people-watching. Street performers and food trucks often visit the park...  Read More



The Exploratorium believes the fundamental childhood traits of being playful and curious should be fostered for a lifetime. Founder Frank Oppenheimer believed in intertwining art and science to make learning attractive and memorable through...  Read More



Although there are many free festivals and events year-round in San Francisco, including Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and Fleet Week with the Blue Angels, Stern Grove has been around longer than any of them. For over seventy years, Stern Grove has...  Read More

Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park
Photo courtesy of used in book


Stretching more than three miles inland from the ocean, Golden Gate Park features more than 1,000 acres of gardens, meadows and woodlands. There are miles of walking trails, as well as playgrounds and plenty of picnic groves. You can even rent a...  Read More



The Sea Lion Center, a free attraction in San Francisco, offers the fascinating history of the sea lions of Pier 39. These photogenic creatures have been barking it up at Pier 39 since 1989. Since that time, tourists were mainly left to wonder...  Read More

Coit Tower
Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy


Often considered a tribute to San Francisco's volunteer firefighters, this 210-foot-tall tower has been a prominent feature in the city's skyline since its dedication in 1933. Endowed by the will of Lillie Hitchcock Coit, the tower was chosen as...  Read More

Lands End Visitors Center
Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy


Opened in spring of 2012, the Lands End Visitor's Center includes a cafe, museum exhibits, and an impressive selection of gift items to take back home. The museum focuses on the nearby history of the Sutro Baths, as well as environmental...  Read More

Golden Gate Bridge
Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy


One of the world's most famous bridges, the Golden Gate spans 6450 feet and links San Francisco to Marin County. Completed in 1937 at a cost of $35 million, the "Bridge That Could Not Be Built" is now a landmark visible from many points around...  Read More



Newly restored Point Bonita Lighthouse hangs right over the Pacific. Offering thrilling views and a fascinating history, this lighthouse is a quick but steep drive from the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge. The steepness doesn't end once you...  Read More


Meet Tom Molanphy

The only thing that Tom Molanphy loves more than the food, art, music, and culture of San Francisco is sharing it with others. San Francisco never gets old for Tom.

Tom has lived in the San...  More About Tom