22 Things to do in San Francisco at Night
San Francisco is one of those astonishing cities that comes to life at night! If you feel like the night is still young, San Francisco is the ultimate city to go on the adventure of a lifetime.
For you night owls, we have listed some of our favorite things to do in San Francisco at night. Choose your favorite activity and join us for a wild ride through San Francisco’s wild and exciting nightlife.
You won’t regret it!
And if you’re looking for family friendly activities then check out our post on things to do in San Francisco with kids
Join a San Francisco night tour
Night tours in San Francisco are always packed with giddy excitement and memorable moments. The great landmarks of San Francisco are even more alluring at night when they are floodlit. Being guided on a walking tour of the hidden gems in the city by the Bay is a wonderful experience.
San Francisco has hundreds of guided tours and experiences that can take you around the city and its iconic sights such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, the Presidio, Grace Cathedral’s bell towers, the Embarcadero, as well as its lesser-known jewels and mysteries..
A night tour in San Francisco is the best way to soak in the splendor of the city and see it in ways you’ve never seen before.
While more tourist-oriented night tours will see you exploring Fisherman’s Wharf, Nob Hill, Union Square, and the storied Alcatraz Island, there are some even more rewarding options for the independent traveler
Taste the best late-night food San Francisco has to offer
One thing a major city can offer a night-owl traveler is excellent late-night cuisine, and in this regard, San Francisco is a serious contender for top dog on the Pacific coast.
To really get the local flavor of the city you should look up the current list of top food trucks. You’ll often find these trucks lurking around corners in unexpected places, but it’s worth looking up the schedules of the current kings of the street - your taste buds will thank you. A perennial local favourite is Curry Up Now, and you can find them in the Mission, FiDi and elsewhere about town.
If you’re in the North Beach area (which is close to a lot of the top spots to visit in the city), the Tosca Café not only offers classy cocktails and coffee drinks but imaginative and zesty bar food in many variations.
Not too far away, and close to Fisherman’s Wharf is the elegantly appointed birthplace of the Irish coffee, Buena Vista Cafe, which is perfect on brisk San Francisco days.
Divisadero Street is a slightly upmarket part of town that has few tourists, which is surprising because it has much to offer visitors. Those looking for late-night dinners can check out Nopa for classic California fare and exotic international dishes.
If you’re looking for an after-bar snack, try La Oaxaqueña, a hole-in-the-wall in the Mission District that serves up homemade guacamole in a traditional Molcajete, or stone bowl. Other traditional dishes that will satisfy your late-night cravings include mole and tamales, all of which are served until 2am (a rarity in the San Francisco Bay Area) .
Lastly, if you find yourself hungry at the later hours then Box Kitchen is the local hangout for ridiculously delicious food considering how low priced it is. If you’re having a drink at the dive bar next door, Tempest, then they’ll let you take your food inside to eat.
Be amazed by the nightly Golden Gate Bridge and the city skyline
The Golden Gate Bridge anchored by the Presidio on one side, and Sausalito on the other, is one of the most iconic sights in California and it’s dazzling at night.
A popular viewpoint of the bridge along with the city skyline can be found at the Battery Spencer lookout on the Northern side of the bridge in the Marin Headlands. It’s best accessed by car. You’ll be amazed at the beauty of the bridge at night, faintly glowing from streetlights with the city skyline aglow beyond it.
From the city side you can also look at the bridge from Chrissy field, which is not too far from the Palace of Fine Arts and Fisherman’s Wharf, so it makes a nice way to end the day before or after dinner.
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, hop in a car and cross the Golden Gate Bridge to the Marin Headlands where you can snake up the hill for a few minutes and arrive at Hawk Point, ground zero for the most stunning sunset photos of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge. Your instagram followers will thank you.
As with any great bridge, there are several fantastic vantage points you can enjoy it from. Here’s a list of other places where you can see the bridge.
Experience Chinatown after dark
San Francisco’s Chinatown has much to offer visitors, but late at night the neighborhood transforms into a local haunt for hipsters and immigrants alike. You’ll find everything from Japanese beef tenderloin to Asian dim sum fusion.
Those craving top Chinese food can stop at the highly rated Good Mong Kok Bakery (great for Dim Sum), Yuet Lee for Chinese seafood (right next to the City Lights Bookstore), or stop in for a Cantonese dinner at Chinatown’s oldest restaurant, Sam Wo Restaurant on Clay Street.
Travelers looking for drinks and good times can visit the rollicking Buddha Lounge and enjoy one of their delicious signature Mai Tai cocktails -- a scene, to be sure, but the kitsch and show of it all is a part of the experience.
And if you like egg tarts then Golden Gate Bakery is a Chinatown institution not to be missed, although it shuts earlier in the night at 8pm, so it makes for an ideal early evening snack.
Live through a San Francisco Pub Crawl
A pub crawl, whether guided or impromptu, is a fantastic way to quickly get up to speed on all that San Francisco pubs, bars, and clubs have to offer. You will usually begin somewhere relaxed before finishing three or four hours later at an exciting club or bar.
The best bar crawls will take you through a pocket of the city so you get a feel for the area in a fun and interesting way. Here are some combinations we recommend:
SOMA SOMA has history as a working class part of town that has only recently changed with the tech boom. Old habits die hard, and you can find a mix of dives, and cocktail bars dotted amongst world famous tech companies whose logos you’ll no doubt recognize.
The Mission The Mission is one of San Francisco’s most eclectic areas, and one that tourists don’t often visit. While it is dirty, it’s also home to some great venues that run the spectrum from high-end cocktails to wild dive bars.
Our shortlist includes: Zeitgeist (dive bar with lots of locals, especially on Sunday afternoons), Makeout Room (honest fun with a messy dancefloor), El Techo de Lolinda (upscale, beautiful sunset views, cocktails), Bond Bar (modern), Blondie\’s (lots of nearby venues, an SF institution).
North Beach This area is close to the famous Pier 39 and also has a nice mix of venues. Most of them can be found on, or close to, Columbus Avenue. Just be aware that the intersection with Broadway is also where the adult entertainment venues of the city are.
The shortlist: The Saloon (live jazz dive bar), 15 Romolo (regular bar), Sweetie’s Art Bar (slice of Americana with a pool table), Gino and Carlo’s (a local sports bar), Cold Drinks Bar (high-end cocktails).
Other areas that have good nightlife are the Marina (younger college crowd), Hayes Valley (trendy), Divisadero (eclectic), Union Square (mixed), Fidi (cocktails and lounges), The Tenderloin (dives and jazz), and Polk Street (lots of bar hopping).
Eat Mexican Food in the Mission
Once you’ve sampled the drinks of the city you’ll soon be craving some local food. Along with the delights of Chinatown there’s the Mexican food of the Mission.
Ask anyone San Franciscan and they’ll each have their own favorite Mexican taqueria they’ll vociferously defend as the best in town. Whether it’s the quality of the pork, the crispness of the chips, or the softness of the tortilla, everyone local has their cause.
The veteran move is to order a wet burrito at Taqueria Cancún or eat late-night guac at La Oaxaqueña (open until 2am!). Vayable’s founder, Jamie, swears by Gordo (note: outside the mission), while the author of this article is partial to Camarones Diablo (the spicy prawns) at Pancho Villa.
Despite the local disagreement as to which restaurants wears the crown there’s one thing that everyone agrees on - Mexican food in San Francisco is a must-do for every visitor.
Check out the Church of Eight Wheels
The Church of Eight Wheels was indeed once a church, but now it is a roller skating rink in the grungy Lower Haight (not too far from Haight-Ashbury, ground zero for the 1960s hippie and counterculture movement). They have nightly themes, for example there is a funk and disco night every Friday and Saturday, usually featuring DJ David Miles III.
It is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 5p.m. to 7p.m. for all ages and then from 8p.m. until midnight it switches to 21 and over. It’s one of the more affordable activities in San Francisco.
The Church of Eight Wheels is over 40 years old and has evolved into one of the hippest and busiest venues in San Francisco today. With a retro style and fun events for all ages and even skating lessons for those new to the game, it offers fun for family and friends.
Laugh out loud at a comedy show
San Francisco has always been a city with top-notch entertainment as well as the best in comedy talent, going right back to Lenny Bruce in the 1950s. It’s been a regular stop for top national, and international, comedians ever since.
The headline venue for the city is Cobb’s Comedy Club and this is where famous comedians play when they’re in town. Top acts like Dana Carvey, Dave Chappelle, and Russell Peters are just some of the comedians who have graced the stage here.
The Punchline is another Bay Area comedy institution, which is closer to downtown where you can see a mix of up and comers along with seasoned performers.
You can also catch some laughs is Cheaper Than Therapy, a highly rated comedy club near Union Square with low prices, and a fun atmosphere. Those planning to visit at weekends are advised to buy tickets in advance as their shows are sold out fairly regularly.
A very Bay Area experience can be found at DNA Lounge’s Mortified which happens once a month. These nights feature regular people who read awkward stories from letters and journals from their youth, to the hilarity of the crowd.
If it’s true that laughter really is the best medicine, the comedy clubs of San Francisco can offer a healing prescription for hilarity!
Feel the chills at the San Francisco dungeon
One of San Francisco’s unique attractions is the San Francisco Dungeon. A tour here is an amazing spin through significant events in San Francisco’s history, re-enacted by local actors and using extensive sets and props to bring these events to life.
One startling section is devoted to the Chinatown gang wars of the late 19th century. You’ll feel as if you’re taking your life in your hands by being there, but of course, it is all perfectly safe, simply offering thrills and laughs for your amusement.
Other attractions include the Gold Rush, a maze of mines where prospectors once dug for gold, and a hair-raising escape from Alcatraz. Booking online ahead of time can offer travelers a significant discount.
Enjoy the city view from a rooftop bar
One of the most unique and exciting ways to experience San Francisco is by visiting one of its many fabulous rooftop bars. There is nothing quite like the thrill of being on top of a building with a group of friends out at night taking in the view.
Whether it’s the Rooftop25 in Soma, Oeste in Oakland, Everdene in Yerba Buena, El Techo de Lolinda in the Mission District, Charmaine’s at the Civic Center, or Hotel VIA in South Beach, enjoying the views of the city, San Francisco skyline, and weather from the top of the world is an adventure like no other.
Nights at the Academy of Sciences
The California Academy of Sciences has a lot to offer for the curious and fun seeking. Visitors can take in the planetarium or aquarium, or stalk through the rain forest exhibit.
The Academy includes a 21 and over experience called NightLife. It’s an evening event where you can enjoy the exhibits along with delicious drinks, dancing, rock bands, and more.
There is also a beer garden that opens at 6 p.m. that allows patrons to sample the wares of many local breweries.
There are regularly special exhibits on show so you should be sure and check the calendar for these. And if you’re in a wilder mood, the Animal Behavior exhibit offers encounters with exotic creatures from both the United States and around the globe.
Take a look at the Academy of Sciences upcoming events to see what suits your fancy.
Live Music at an Iconic Venue
If you are looking for some fantastic live concerts in San Francisco, you will not be disappointed! For an idea of what’s coming up when you plan on visiting, be sure to check what’s in store at some of San Francisco’s most popular music venues like the Masonic, the infamous Fillmore, and the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.
Check for upcoming performances and concerts by international artists as well as local bands at the Great American Music Hall, the Independent, and the many other world-class venues across the city of San Francisco.
Visit the Exploratorium after dark
After Dark Thursdays at the Exploratorium should be a strong consideration for your itinerary. On Thursday nights, The Exploratorium keeps their door open past the regular hours of 5 p.m. and allows adult visitors to explore the museum while drinking cocktails in an atmosphere that’s a fun mix between a bar, and a high school excursion.
You will have access to the museum’s over-650 exhibits as well as live programs and presentations. Film screenings and other interactive fun things to do are also available.
For a fun, exciting, and educational experience at a reasonable price, After Dark at the Exploratorium cannot be beaten.
Experience Alcatraz at night
An Alcatraz night tour is the coolest way to experience the sometimes-spooky island as this tourist hotspot during the daytime transforms into something else entirely at night once the hordes have disappeared. There’s really no way to see Alcatraz without doing a guided tour and Alcatraz Tours are currently the only licensed vendor.
The tour features a narrated boat ride to the island from the ferry building, which really builds the suspense.
Following the boat’s docking, the tour is typically given of the main prison building, with the theme that one is “doing the time”. That means walking through the former prison through the eyes of an inmate while stories of real life ‘residents’ like the infamous Birdman of Alcatraz, and Al Capone, are woven in.
From there you can join the regular tours on the island, or you can do audio self guided tours, or you can just wander as you wish to take in Alcatraz in your own way.
Go wild for your favorite sports team
The Bay Area has several sports teams: the San Francisco Giants baseball, the Oakland Athletics baseball team, the San Jose Earthquakes soccer team, the San Jose Sharks hockey team, the San Francisco 49ers football team, and the world-famous Golden State Warriors NBA team.
For a fun night out with friends involves America’s favorite past-time — watching the San Francisco Giants play at Oracle Park. It’s easy to get to with the city’s main Caltrain station nearby, the Muni also stops right in front of the stadium and it’s a short, but scenic walk from the Ferry Terminal building along the shoreline.
The Giants play at, a relatively new field built in 2000 that holds over 42,000 fans. It’s a scenic ground and if you’re lucky you’ll see a home run fly literally into the Bay. The food in the stadium has all the baseball standards: hotdogs, popcorn but there are also more modern, and healthy, options available.
There’s no shortage of baseball bars near the venue to enjoy a drink before and after the game and drinks are available in the stadium, as well. All the better to help you sing along to Lights by Journey, (a famous San Francisco band), a popular song commonly played at games, primarily because of its sentimental lyric: “I want to get back to my City by the bay”.
Even if you’re not usually a baseball fan, visiting Oracle Park to see the Giants play truly is an unforgettable baseball experience.
Sing along at a San Francisco Broadway show
There is no lack of theater on offer in San Francisco, including a plethora of Broadway shows for lovers of musicals to enjoy.
The SHN Orpheum Theatre at the Civic Centre is a fantastic ornate building built in the 1920s. You’ll find the country’s biggest and most notorious Broadway shows here. The 1600-seat Curran Theatre in Lower Nob Hill is another long-standing theatre that prides itself on showing groundbreaking new theatre productions.
The War Memorial Performing Arts Center at the Civic Centre is another gorgeous theatre that a center to the Broadway show scene in San Francisco, as well as showing performances from the San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Ballet every year.
Dance the night away in a San Francisco nightclub
San Francisco has always been ahead of the pack when it comes to nightlife. Great dance clubs, cocktail bars, speakeasies, and live music can be found in all areas of the city that cater to all manner of musical niches and genres.
Temple Nightclub on Howard Street is a grand, impressively showy nightclub with multiple levels of dance floors and dazzling décor.
Bootie SF on 11th Street is another reasonably priced and fairly upscale club that offers ticket sales in advance.
Another choice for visitors is the popular Mr. Smiths, a dance and drinks club on 7th Street which offers decent prices, good drinks, nice people, and attentive bartenders. Or those looking for a gay club can dance the night away at OMG on 6th street, which offers delightful décor and a lively crowd.
Hike through the secret corners of the dark city
You will never run out of fun and exciting things to do and see in the nighttime hours while visiting San Francisco. Before tackling hiking on foot, one very popular choice is to take a sightseeing tour, hiking tour at night, or Segway tour to get oriented to the sights and sounds.
Your tour might start at Fisherman’s Wharf, head through amazing Chinatown (the largest in the world), Pier 39 (the 7D experience is open till 9 p.m.), travel across the Bay Bridge over to Treasure Island, Presidio, SoMa, Castro, Haight-Ashbury, Golden Gate Park, or off in whatever direction you desire.
Once you become acquainted with where the most popular spots are, you can enjoy hiking the pedestrian-friendly and picturesque streets such as Lombard Street or Market Street on foot, or you may decide to catch a lift on a beautifully lit-up cable car to expand your in-city adventures.
Also consider a late-night hike up Twin Peaks, which has a 64-acre hilltop park and hiking trails up to sweeping views of the Bay Area.
There are three cable car lines, and each runs until midnight so you will have plenty of choice destinations to get out and explore.
Ride the iconic cable cars at night
Riding the iconic San Francisco cable cars is something on every tourist’s bucket list, or at least it should be! It is a fun adventure while still being practical as a means of travel around the city. Take a few steps of preparation and a fun adventure will ensue.
Three main lines serve the city. Each of these cars is going to pass iconic sights such as Union Square on the Powell-Mason line or Nob Hill on the Red line.
Upon entering a car, you will notice two staff members. One is the grip person who runs the car and the other is the conductor who is in charge of ticket sales as well as keeping an eye on the riders. The grip person will watch for potential passengers who wave to indicate their desire to ride. However, if the car is full they won’t stop no matter how enthusiastic your waving is!
Check out visitor passports for a great deal on tickets. Another way to save some money is to get a CityPass. Lines are often long, so have someone stand in line while another goes to purchase tickets.
Watch ridiculous underground wrestling
One of the most spectacular, absurd, hilarious, raunchy and fun night events in the Bay Area is Hoodslam, an underground wrestling show. It defies description. Any event where the crowd regularly chants “This is real! This is real!” has got to be great.
Hoodslam is underground wrestling entertainment that’s designed to be theatrical and fun. Imagine WWE but where the scripts are no-holes-barred (not appropriate for the kids) and the atmosphere is fun and oh so American.
Just over the Bay Bridge in at the Oakland Metro Opera
Catch a Jazz Show
San Francisco has a rich jazz tradition with top luminaries regularly touring the city’s famous jazz haunts. Most jazz shows have a cover charge and it’s expected you’ll buy dinner and drinks while you watch the show.
That means a night at the jazz club can add up, but the music is second to none, and it’s perfect if you’re looking for a night out with a layer of sophistication.
The Black Cat is a cosy and elegant option in the Tenderloin with delicious cocktails. It’s also hidden away with a main bar upstairs with the club entrance just a discreet door on the main floor.
For a more modern experience where you can see raw up and coming talent check out the Boom Boom Room in Japantown. The SF Jazz is a large dedicated music auditorium in Hayes Valley, a trendy neighbourhood with lots of aftershow cocktail bars you can enjoy.
Other wonderful places to enjoy local jazz include: Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio in Civic Center, Rum & Sugar in the Tenderloin, and Club Deluxe in the Haight, to name just a few. Almost all jazz bars in San Francisco will have a worthy cocktail list, and what better way to enjoy the city than with a drink in your hand and a tap in your foot?
See a Drag Show
San Francisco is famous for its gay culture and drag queens. So it should come as no surprise that there are drag shows across town most nights of the week.
The best place to start is The Castro, San Francisco’s centerpoint for gay culture. The Castro Theatre has regular shows but you’ll also find musical films you can singalong to, with The Sound of Music a regular crowd pleaser.
The dinner and show at AsiaSF in Soma is another option that’s a popular event in town. With a delicious dinner menu, and a number of dance acts throughout the night, it makes for a wildly entertaining evening.
Not too far from AsiaSF is Oasis, which is a nightclub with a stage that often has shows. There’s usually a two drink minimum.
What will you do in San Francisco tonight?