While San Francisco is not my birthplace, I consider the bay area home. I always get excitied to have visitors because there is so much for them to explore and it's exciting to see how much they enjoy the city. When most people think of San Francisco, they picture the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island, which are both critical for any trip to SF. Make sure you get reservations in advance for Alcatraz. (And, dress in layers year round!) Another must-see destination is Golden Gate Park, which has two museums, the Cal Academy and de Young, both offering cheaper admission during their adult only nightlife events.
View of Golden Gate Bridge from Bike Path
For a fun day in San Francisco which both locals and visitors can enjoy, I recommend renting a bike in Fisherman's Wharf, and after a lunch of sourdough and clam chowder at famous Boudin's, bike along the water (on a well marked path) up to and across the Golden Gate itself. Enjoy the view of San Francisco - a perfect photo opportunity! Continue down the hill to the quaint town of Sausalito, where you can get a cup of coffee (or ice cream in the summer)! A ferry from downtown Sausalito will take you to back to San Francisco. Next, ride a cable car - I've taken one from Gharidelli square (make sure to pop into the shop for a free chocolate) up to Union Square (the main shopping area in town). After this, if you have a car, drive down famous Lombard Street and continue to Coit tower. From here you can get a great view of the city and bay (if it's a clear day). Afterward, you'll be close to North Beach, the Italian district, full of restaurants and nightlife. A lively place to end the day!
View of ocean from Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay
If you'll have a car, I also recommend getting outside of the city to explore the surrounding towns. There's so much to see, I'll have a whole other blog post on Napa/Sonoma wine country, as well as the Santa Cruz/Montrery regions. But, within a day drive of San Francisco, I recommend exploring Palo Alto, home to Stanford University and nice restaurants and shops along University Avenue. Only 30 minutes away is Half Moon Bay's famous Ritz Carlton, which has a Sunday brunch if you're feeling fancy, as well as closeby Fitzgerald Marine Reserve where you can explore sealife in the tidepools. Point Reyes National Seashore to the north has beautiful views and day hikes. There's also plenty of hiking in the south bay, with great trail description at bahiker.com!
A website I recommend for inexpensive things to do in San Francisco is: http://sf.funcheap.com/. Have something else you recommend in San Francisco? Or other money saving tips? Leave a comment below!