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The Bay Bridge | © Ed Dunens/Flickr
The Bay Bridge | © Ed Dunens/Flickr
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10 Tips to Avoid the San Francisco Crowds

Picture of Deanna Morgado
Updated: 9 October 2017
Millions of people travel to San Francisco every year, which means crowds, crowds, and even more crowds. San Francisco tourists attractions are great and one-of-a-kind, but that doesn’t mean travelers want to bear the jostling hordes. Here are some tips and advice to avoid the masses while experiencing San Francisco.

Book private tours

Several tours take San Francisco visitors all over the city. But these tours always seem to be packed to the point where you can’t even see which part of the city you’re in. While these tours can be fun, they’re often chaotic. Book a private tour, relax, and enjoy your new-found space. Travel agencies throughout the city offer private city tours, wine tours, boat tours and more.

The Bay Bridge
The Bay Bridge | © Ed Dunens/Flickr

Book walking tours

If private tours aren’t exactly your thing, try a walking tour of San Francisco instead. These tours are led by local volunteer guides who are incredibly knowledgeable, personable and fun. They know all the ins of outs of the city, directing you to local must-sees and giving advice on how to avoid the tourist crowds. Specific tours can be scheduled to see certain parts of San Francisco you’re dying to tick off your bucket list.

Visit lesser-known attractions

Skip the big name places in San Francisco. They’re filled with pushing and shoving tourists, ruining everyone’s experience. Instead of visiting Alcatraz Island, hop on a much less crowded ferry and take a gorgeous ride over to Angel Island. Soak up the panoramic views of the Bay Area as you dock to this lesser-known island. Rent bikes, bring a picnic, or enjoy one of many live music events held on the island.

Angel Island, San Francisco, CA
Angel Island, San Francisco, CA | ©kirkkohler/Flickr

Enjoy the great outdoors

The unpredictable weather in San Francisco tends to discourage many visitors from staying outside too long. But if you just plan ahead a little, outdoor fun in the city is an adventure all its own. Layer up your clothing to keep up with the changing Bay Area weather. Hop on a segway, kayak in the bay, or horseback ride without those pesky crowds!

Explore the outskirts

While the heart of central San Francisco is always buzzing with people and things to do, there is also a lot of fun to be had in the outskirts of the city. Explore the trails at Land’s End while the crowds storm the Golden Gate Bridge nearby. Feel that bay breeze on your face at Marshall Beach instead of the packed Ocean Beach.

footsteps on Marshall’s Beach
footsteps on Marshall’s Beach | © Brad Coy/Flickr

Make friends with locals

Mixing it up and making friends with the locals is probably one of the best things you can do in San Francisco. Once the locals love you, they’ll be more than happy to share the secret hideaway places in the city. Get the best of best of everything from your San Francisco locals. Natives give top advice on the best places and times to go to avoid any crowds.

Stay in lesser-known areas

Staying at the hot new hotel may not be the best idea. Actually, staying in a hotel may not be the best idea at all. Hotels fill up fast all over San Francisco. And if there’s any kind of event happening nearby, forget it. Tourists, locals, everyone will be all over the inside and outside of your hotel. Try getting a room or even an entire place through AirBnB. You can avoid overcrowded hotel areas and really feel at home during your stay.

Avoid festival weekends

Nothing congests San Francisco like a festival weekend. The streets will be backed up, sidewalks overflowing, with lines as long as street blocks. Before planning your trip, do a quick search of any festivals happening in San Francisco. Then avoid those days at all costs.

Get a head start

It’s understandable to have tourist-heavy areas on your San Francisco bucket list. And honestly, a trip to San Francisco wouldn’t be complete without walking the Golden Gate or shopping in Union Square. If this is the case then your best bet to beat the masses is to set the alarm very early and get a head start. This is one of the best ways to accomplish what may seem impossible: visiting a tourist attraction without many tourists.

Attend a local event

Local, lesser-known events are a great way to enjoy an authentic San Francisco experience without so many outside visitors clogging it up. Look up events that sound appealing to you but are being held only in a specific district. Attend events put on by one of San Francisco’s many mom and pop shops. Tourists are unlikely to have heard about these, leaving you to experience San Francisco minus those chaotic crowds.