Hidden San Francisco Attractions

San Francisco is a vibrant and diverse city filled with world-renowned attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge, the iconic cable cars, the former Alcatraz Prison, and Lombard Street “The Crookedest Street in the World.” But there’s a whole other side of the City By The Bay that’s every bit as enjoyable, but far less well known. So if you’re willing to step off of the main tourist track, you should check out the following 5 out-of-the-way attractions. We think they’re each well worth a visit:

The Wave Organ

San Francisco Wave Organ

Location: 3 Marina Green Dr, San Francisco, CA 94123

The Wave Organ is a unique acoustic sculpture located on a jetty that forms the small Boat Harbor in the Marina district of San Francisco. It consists of 25 PVC pipes of different lengths and diameters that extend into the waters of the San Francisco Bay. The pipes are positioned to capture the sound of the waves, which are then channeled through the pipes to create a variety of musical sounds. The installation was designed by Peter Richards and George Gonzales and was installed in 1986. Visitors can interact with the Wave Organ by placing their ears near the pipes to hear the sounds produced by the waves. The sculpture is particularly popular at high tide, when the sounds are the most pronounced.

To read more about the organ, check out the following link: www.exploratorium.edu/visit/wave-organ

The Seward Street Slides

Seward Street slides

These Seward Street concrete slides are a fun and unusual way to spend an afternoon in a non-touristy area of The City. Each is over 70 feet long, built into a steep hillside in the city’s Castro district. Originally built in the 1960s as a way for kids to slide down the hill on pieces of cardboard, they were eventually replaced with the permanent concrete slides that you see today. The slides are a favorite of locals and visitors, providing a thrilling ride for kids and adults alike. The slides are free and open to the public year-round and are surrounded by a park featuring a grassy area for picnics and other recreational activities. Note, though, that the slides, themselves are only open Tuesday through Sunday from 10am to 5pm and are closed every Monday. (Those hours are different than the park hours.) And in case you’re wondering, the park overseer installs gates inside the chutes when the slides are closed so you can’t slide down outside the normal operating hours, as seen in the image below.
Seward Street slides closed
For more information about the slides, check out the official website: www.sfparksalliance.org/our-parks/parks/seward-mini-park

The Exploratorium

The Exploratorium

Website: https://www.exploratorium.edu/

Location: Pier 15 Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111

Located on Pier 15 on the San Francisco waterfront, the Exploratorium is a museum of science, art, and human perception. It was founded in 1969 by physicist and educator Frank Oppenheimer and has since become a renowned institution for its interactive exhibits and innovative approach to science education. The museum’s exhibits encourage visitors to experiment, explore, and investigate the world around them, while promoting critical thinking and scientific inquiry. The museum features hundreds of exhibits, focusing on biology, physics, art, and human perception, as well as a Tactile Dome, where visitors navigate a pitch-black environment using only their sense of touch. It also offers educational programs, workshops, and events for all ages. The Exploratorium’s mission is to create a culture of learning through innovative exhibits, programs, and experiences that inspire curiosity, creativity, and collaboration. If you’re visiting San Francisco with a child, this is the one attraction you shouldn’t miss.

Bison Paddock, Golden Gate Park

Bison Paddock, San Francisco

Location: 1237 John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco, CA 94121

The Bison Paddock in San Francisco, California, is a small enclosure located in Golden Gate Park that houses a herd of American bison, also known as buffalo. The paddock was established in 1891 when a group of bison were donated to the city by a rancher. Today, the paddock is home to a small herd of bison, which can be viewed by the public from a viewing area. Visitors can also learn about the history of the bison and their role in Native American culture at the nearby Golden Gate Park Visitor Center. The Bison Paddock is a popular attraction in Golden Gate Park and offers a unique glimpse into the history and ecology of the American West.

For more about the bison, check out this link to the official website: sfrecpark.org/facilities/facility/details/Bison-Paddock-224

The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar

This one is for adults only.

Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar

Location: 950 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108

Located inside the Fairmont Hotel in the heart of San Francisco, the Tonga Room is a legendary tiki-themed restaurant and bar. Originally opened in 1945, the Tonga Room is a relic of San Francisco’s mid-century Polynesian pop culture craze and has remained a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.

The highlight of the Tonga Room is undoubtedly its incredible atmosphere. The lagoon in the center of the restaurant features a floating barge that serves as the stage for live music performances, including a band that performs on a thatched-covered boat. Rainstorms, complete with thunder and lightning, are also simulated periodically throughout the night, adding to the ambiance and excitement.

Aside from the novelty of the venue, the Tonga Room is also known for its delicious and creative cocktails, such as the Mai Tai and the Scorpion Bowl, as well as its Pan-Asian cuisine with a Polynesian twist.

Visiting the Tonga Room is a unique experience that transports guests to a different era and a tropical paradise, making it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in San Francisco’s history and culture.

For more information, including opening hours and online menus, check out this link: www.fairmont-san-francisco.com/dine/tonga-room-hurricane-bar/

Author’s Note

These are just a few of the dozens of lesser-known but well-worth-it attractions you’ll find in San Francisco. If you’ve got a favorite that you think deserves to be on this list, drop us an email and we’ll look into it.

Travel on!