If you’re looking for a fun way to learn about San Francisco, then book one (or all!) of these quirky experiences available around the city.
Tours and curated experiences are the perfect way to get a crash course in the culture of San Francisco. Add in a knowledgeable guide who knows how to hit a punchline, and your party’s all but guaranteed to have a good time. The experiences Culture Trip highlights below are a mix of up-close interactions with some of the most popular attractions in the City by the Bay and tours revealing untold stories that will help you see the region in a new light.
This tour takes visitors to the real-life locations of 70 scenes from 55 Hollywood blockbusters. Destinations cover virtually the entire city, including Fisherman’s Wharf, Alamo Square and Haight-Ashbury. The best part is that a TV screen plays scenes filmed at whatever location you’re driving by – with commentary from the tour guide, a professional actor-slash-comedian. Your cinematic itinerary includes classics like Dirty Harry (1971), Mrs Doubtfire (1993) and even Full House (1987-1995).
The California Academy of Sciences is one of the most entertaining (and family-friendly) venues in San Francisco. Visitors rave about spending time with Claude the albino alligator, as well as ambling around the world-class aquarium and gazing across the city from the rooftop garden. This tour, however, allows guests to see what’s going on behind closed doors, far away from the general public’s gaze, with the institution’s scientists on hand to answer any questions you may have about their work. After the tour, guests are given free rein to roam the Academy and take in everything the exhibits have to offer.
GoCars are ubiquitous around San Francisco. It can seem like there are more people driving these cars around the waterfront than personal or ride-share vehicles. Whenever you look at the drivers and passengers in these zippy, golden racers, it always seems like they’re having a blast. Being so low to the ground makes you feel like a racing driver, even though you’re going at totally safe speeds. This tour puts riders in a GPS-guided car that narrates fascinating anecdotes about whatever you happen to be driving past. If you want to see the Golden Gate Bridge but don’t want to spend hours doing the walk or taking the trouble of renting a normal-size car, this is the way to go. Please note that the meeting point depends on which package you book.
Those who choose this adventure will inject a little competition into their experience and upgrade from tour to tournament. Up to five guests follow clues on their smartphones on a quest that takes them two miles across the city, from Yerba Buena Gardens through Chinatown, on picturesque cable cars, and to Hyde Street Pier just beyond Ghirardelli Square. Contestants are encouraged to go at their own pace. If you want to turn this into The Amazing Race, then go for it. If you want to make a pit stop for dim sum in Chinatown and laze outside Ghirardelli with an ice-cream cone, then that’s your prerogative. Just make sure to take in the sights and have fun.
After taking in unparalleled views of San Francisco from the city’s storied hilltops, this tour heads over to Fisherman’s Wharf. From here, guests are escorted to the San Francisco Dungeon where they discover tales from the city’s sordid past. Immersive, 360-degree sets and a full cast of actors weave stories of Gold Rush greed and Barbary Coast lust, breathlessly covering huge swathes of the city’s history in a narrative that’s funny, thrilling and enthralling.
Just south of San Francisco lies Silicon Valley, where tech giants work on their world-changing ideas. This tour takes visitors from San Francisco to the Google and Facebook campuses on a biofuel minibus. The tour makes a stop at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View so that guests can gain an insight into how Silicon Valley developed and hear about the technical aspects behind some of the products being engineered today. Please note that for this experience you are collected from your hotel.
Listen to classic rock while rolling around the city in a far-out VW van painted with groovy iconography that celebrates San Francisco counterculture. The van is decked out with technicolor seats and shag carpet. The stereo blasts anthems by Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead while the tour guide points out where these legends of rock’n’roll lived and honed their craft during the Summer of Love and beyond. Only six people fit in the bus, so the atmosphere is intimate and the interactions with the entertaining guide can be perfectly personalized.