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A labyrinth on the floor.
The labyrinth at Grace Cathedral.
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The best things to do in SF this winter

Explore the city’s architecture, art exhibits, and outdoor attractions

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The labyrinth at Grace Cathedral.
| Shutterstock

Welcome to Curbed SF’s city guide, a seasonally curated map of 26 essential things to do in San Francisco.

To help you enjoy what is arguably the greatest time to be in the city, we’ve selected the best places for selecting earth-hued flora, urban hikes, museum hopping, climbing colorful staircases, and more.

After all, in this 49-square-mile patch of land we call home, there’s more to do on an winter day stay at home in front of the laptop.

From architecture and cultural institutions to gorgeous spaces and the outdoors, some of these spots are familiar friends, some are recent discoveries, and others you may have stayed away from because of tourists. But all of them are worth visiting again and again.

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1. Take your pup for a hike along the Fort Funston Trail

Copy Link
Fort Funston Rd
San Francisco, CA 94132

Dogs give us everything. Don’t you want to give them something in return? Give your pooch the ultimate wanna-go-for-a-walk treat by taking the for a hike along the Fort Funston Trail at the westernmost end of San Francisco. This stunning 1.9-mile loop trail features wild flowers and oceanic views. Best of all, scores of locals take their dogs to this special spot, making it the Dolores Park for our canine community.

A post shared by Kobe the Pom (@kissmekobe) on

2. Lincoln Park Steps

Copy Link
32nd Ave
San Francisco, CA 94121

While these steps date to the early 1900s, the mid-aughts renovation brought this staircase back to life, care of Irish ceramist Aileen Barr. Bright green, yellow, and orange hues make for a set of stunning steps situated off California Street where it dead ends into the Lincoln Park Golf Course. Fireclay Tiles and Heath Ceramics donated pieces for the dramatic new staircase.

3. Pine Lake Park

Copy Link
Sloat Blvd & Vale St
San Francisco, CA 94132
(415) 831-5500
Visit Website

Next to Stern Grove, home to the oldest free summer performing arts festival in the country, sits Pine Lake Park, an area ideal for you and your pooch. It features a hiking trail, lake, and as evidenced on Instagram, loads of canine bliss.

4. Urbano Sundial

Copy Link
51 Entrada Ct
San Francisco, CA 94127

Completed in 1913, the 26-foot-high sundial is the only thing that remains of San Francisco’s great raceway that once stood inside Ingleside Terrace.

5. Check out the fall foliage at the Botanical Garden

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1199 9th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 661-1316
Visit Website

Get your flower power on in Golden Gate Park inside the San Francisco Botanical Garden. A choice place to see and buy plants particular to the area. Best of all, you can take a free docent-led tour to learn more about all the flora blooming around you. The park is open until 6 p.m.

6. Presidio Pet Cemetery

Copy Link
667 McDowell Ave
San Francisco, CA 94129
(415) 561-4323
Visit Website

Starting off as a place for military families to bury their pets, this cemetery is official full and no longer accepting—ahem—lodgers. But you should check it out as it’s a lovely, moving tribute to our best friends, While the majority of animals buried at the pet cemetery are dogs and cats, there are also parakeets, canaries, pigeons, macaws, rabbits, hamsters, rats, lizards, goldfish, and mice.

7. Forest bathe in Mount Davidson

Copy Link
Mt Davidson
San Francisco, CA 94127

Originating in Japan (where it is called shinrin-yoku), the practice of forest bathing is reported to have health benefits (physical and mental) to help lower heart rate, blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, and more. And for hiking aficionados, there’s nothing better than a hike in a woodsy area smack dab in the city. Be sure to reach the top to see the massive cross.

A post shared by Kyle Huber (@asenseofhuber) on

8. Sashay down the Lyon Street Steps

Copy Link
2450 Lyon St
San Francisco, CA

The Lyon Street Steps offer up some of the choices views of the bay. Ideal for joggers or those who like to wander around the city willy-nilly. Sadly, personal trainers and fitness classes have monopolized them as of late, but that doesn't mean the athleisure-free among us aren't welcome.

9. Urban hike Diamond Heights to see the Eichlers

Copy Link
Diamond Heights
San Francisco, CA 94131

In lieu of getting grubby via a trek through the dirt, head up to Diamond Heights to see the many Eichler specimens. In the 1950s, architect Vernon DeMars drafted the plan for a middle-class community combining high-rises and lower-slung townhouses and homes, which the Redevelopment Agency christened Diamond Heights after Diamond Street. The onetime affordable homes meant for the masses now fetch millions of dollars.

And if you’re not afraid of getting a little mud on your shoes, be sure to hit the neighborhood’s Glen Park Canyon trail; the view of the midcentury-moderns from behind is a sight to behold.

10. The Wave Organ

Copy Link
83 Marina Green Dr
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 528-4444
Visit Website

An artifact of the Exploratorium (and as such just around the corner from the Palace of Fine Arts), the Wave Organ not only makes beautiful (if deeply weird) music out of the motion of the ocean, but the oddball artificial peninsula near the Yacht Club provides one of the most intriguing panorama views of the city.

11. Dog Eared Books

Copy Link
489 Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114

Like the smell of books? Like the read books? Head over to the Castro and check out the second location of Dog Eared Books, one of San Francisco’s few remaining independent bookstores. While you’re there getting your papyrus aroma fix, be sure to look over releases from local authors. (Psst: Local scribe Andrew Sear Greer won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.)

12. Hike around the perimeter of Angel Island

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Angel Island
Tiburon, CA 94920

Take the ferry to Angel Island for the afternoon to trek around this expansive island. Check out the old army housing and barracks; the Angel Island Immigration Museum, a haunting structure since it once served as an internment camp for Japanese-American residents during World War II; and more.

13. Tom and Jerry’s House

Copy Link
3650 21st St
San Francisco, CA 94114

A longtime San Francisco tradition, this house in Dolores Heights is hard to miss with its giant illuminated Christmas tree, oversized toys decorating the exterior, and the owners’ huge stockings hung over the garage with care.

14. Marvel at the Octagon House

Copy Link
2645 Gough St
San Francisco, CA
(415) 441-7512
Visit Website

This eight-sided house was built in 1861 as the home of the McElroy family. Today, it is owned by National Society of Colonial Dames of America in California (the group who saved it from destruction) and it is a decorative arts museum.

A post shared by Brock Keeling (@brockkeeling) on

15. Haas-Lilienthal House

Copy Link
2007 Franklin St
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 441-3000
Visit Website

To step inside the Haas-Lilienthal house is to get a glimpse of upper-middle-class life in 1886 San Francisco. The Haas family lived here with a small army of servants, and they meticulously maintained the home, its fixtures, and furniture through the generations. In 1972, the family donated it to the Foundation for San Francisco’s Architectural Heritage. Today, it’s a time capsule you can see.

16. Lilac Mural Project

Copy Link
Lilac St
San Francisco, CA

While Clarion Alley draws a bigger touristy crowd, the lesser known (albeit equally fantastic) Lilac Alley boasts some the greatest street art in the city.

A post shared by © Nico Hend (@nicohend) on

17. Meditate in the pews at Grace Cathedral

Copy Link
Grace Cathedral, 1100 California St
San Francisco, CA 94108

Life comes at your fast. To ease the crushing blows of anxiety and information overload, head up to Grace Cathedral at the top of Nob Hill, sit in a pew and meditate into serenity. Your arduous trek up the hill will be rewarded with mosaics by Jan Henryk De Rosen, large stained glass windows, a Keith Haring altarpiece that acts as an AIDS memorial, and a pair of large labyrinths. Also of note, this church features copies of the Baptistery doors from the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Florence.

We also strongly recommend the pews for meditating. Heavenly.

A post shared by @gracecathedral on

18. Tompkins Stairway Garden

Copy Link
200 Putnam St
San Francisco, CA 94110

Formerly a trash-covered hillside, residents worked for three years to get the area surrounding the staircase in tip-top shape. Highlights include new greenery and a painted staircase. The San Francisco Chronicle calls the garden “cheerful splash of public art that will probably become a photo hot spot.”

19. Hang out in the lobby at the Fairmont Hotel

Copy Link
950 Mason St
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 772-5000
Visit Website

Hotel lobbies are an underused space. They’re usually inviting, warm, and chock full of people happy to be in the city. And the swankiest of them all is the epic lobby at the Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill.

Also of note, the Venetian Room at the Fairmont Hotel was where Tony Bennett first sang “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in 1961. A statue of the crooner, erected for his 90th birthday, can be found outside the hotel.

20. The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite at the Museum of the African Diaspora

Copy Link
685 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 358-7200
Visit Website

As remarkable as the neighboring San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is, the Museum of African Diaspora offers a one-of-a-kind survey of culture dating back even to the earliest reaches of human history, and it’s just a few blocks away too.

Be sure to check out Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite, the first-ever major exhibition dedicated to this key figure of the second Harlem Renaissance.

21. Peek inside 140 New Montgomery’s lobby

Copy Link
140 New Montgomery, 140 New Montgomery St
San Francisco, CA 94105

Numerous businesses call this Timothy Pflueger-designed high-rise home. But the real star is the lobby, one of the finest interiors in the Bay Area. Pflueger used influences from Asia, such as the lobby adapted from a Chinese brocade, and from the Sierra Mountains. From ornate ventilation grates to dark marble walls, it would be a shame for passersby not to sneak a peek. The perfect selfie awaits.

22. Salesforce Park

Copy Link
425 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94105

The 5.4-acre park atop the Transbay Transit Center reopened in July, welcoming people to frolic and picnic on the grass, watch the chasing water fountain, or pore over the gorgeous flora. Other highlights will include yoga, live music, food trucks, and more.

23. Stock up on succulents at Flora Grubb Gardens

Copy Link
1634 Jerrold Ave
San Francisco, CA
(415) 626-7256
Visit Website

Bring the outdoors inside at this San Francisco institution. Flora Grubb opened a 28,000-square-foot solar-powered nursery in the Bayview in 2007. An ideal spot to grab some of the finest succulents the city has to offer.

24. Bayview Opera House

Copy Link
4705 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94124
(415) 824-0386
Visit Website

Founded in 1888, the Bayview Opera House is the oldest theater in the city. After being closed for several years, it received a much-needed renovation to the tune of $5.7 million. Gone are the trees and brick wall that used to cover its gorgeous facade. Today it can be seen from the T-Third Street line. Now it’s great place to hang out and check out some choice performances.

25. Walk along the Embarcadero to see Cupid's Span

Copy Link
245 The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA

A stroll along the Embarcadero during a glacial day is the ideal way to see the Bay Bridge. The bay is gorgeous. The restaurants inviting. And don't forget to take a pic of Cupid's Span for your Instagram.

A post shared by ♡ βernadette ♡ (@hunniber) on

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1. Take your pup for a hike along the Fort Funston Trail

Fort Funston Rd, San Francisco, CA 94132

Dogs give us everything. Don’t you want to give them something in return? Give your pooch the ultimate wanna-go-for-a-walk treat by taking the for a hike along the Fort Funston Trail at the westernmost end of San Francisco. This stunning 1.9-mile loop trail features wild flowers and oceanic views. Best of all, scores of locals take their dogs to this special spot, making it the Dolores Park for our canine community.

Fort Funston Rd
San Francisco, CA 94132

2. Lincoln Park Steps

32nd Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

While these steps date to the early 1900s, the mid-aughts renovation brought this staircase back to life, care of Irish ceramist Aileen Barr. Bright green, yellow, and orange hues make for a set of stunning steps situated off California Street where it dead ends into the Lincoln Park Golf Course. Fireclay Tiles and Heath Ceramics donated pieces for the dramatic new staircase.

32nd Ave
San Francisco, CA 94121

3. Pine Lake Park

Sloat Blvd & Vale St, San Francisco, CA 94132

Next to Stern Grove, home to the oldest free summer performing arts festival in the country, sits Pine Lake Park, an area ideal for you and your pooch. It features a hiking trail, lake, and as evidenced on Instagram, loads of canine bliss.

Sloat Blvd & Vale St
San Francisco, CA 94132

4. Urbano Sundial

51 Entrada Ct, San Francisco, CA 94127

Completed in 1913, the 26-foot-high sundial is the only thing that remains of San Francisco’s great raceway that once stood inside Ingleside Terrace.

51 Entrada Ct
San Francisco, CA 94127

5. Check out the fall foliage at the Botanical Garden

1199 9th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122

Get your flower power on in Golden Gate Park inside the San Francisco Botanical Garden. A choice place to see and buy plants particular to the area. Best of all, you can take a free docent-led tour to learn more about all the flora blooming around you. The park is open until 6 p.m.

1199 9th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94122

6. Presidio Pet Cemetery

667 McDowell Ave, San Francisco, CA 94129

Starting off as a place for military families to bury their pets, this cemetery is official full and no longer accepting—ahem—lodgers. But you should check it out as it’s a lovely, moving tribute to our best friends, While the majority of animals buried at the pet cemetery are dogs and cats, there are also parakeets, canaries, pigeons, macaws, rabbits, hamsters, rats, lizards, goldfish, and mice.

667 McDowell Ave
San Francisco, CA 94129

7. Forest bathe in Mount Davidson

Mt Davidson, San Francisco, CA 94127

Originating in Japan (where it is called shinrin-yoku), the practice of forest bathing is reported to have health benefits (physical and mental) to help lower heart rate, blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, and more. And for hiking aficionados, there’s nothing better than a hike in a woodsy area smack dab in the city. Be sure to reach the top to see the massive cross.

Mt Davidson
San Francisco, CA 94127

8. Sashay down the Lyon Street Steps

2450 Lyon St, San Francisco, CA

The Lyon Street Steps offer up some of the choices views of the bay. Ideal for joggers or those who like to wander around the city willy-nilly. Sadly, personal trainers and fitness classes have monopolized them as of late, but that doesn't mean the athleisure-free among us aren't welcome.

2450 Lyon St
San Francisco, CA

9. Urban hike Diamond Heights to see the Eichlers

Diamond Heights, San Francisco, CA 94131

In lieu of getting grubby via a trek through the dirt, head up to Diamond Heights to see the many Eichler specimens. In the 1950s, architect Vernon DeMars drafted the plan for a middle-class community combining high-rises and lower-slung townhouses and homes, which the Redevelopment Agency christened Diamond Heights after Diamond Street. The onetime affordable homes meant for the masses now fetch millions of dollars.

And if you’re not afraid of getting a little mud on your shoes, be sure to hit the neighborhood’s Glen Park Canyon trail; the view of the midcentury-moderns from behind is a sight to behold.

Diamond Heights
San Francisco, CA 94131

10. The Wave Organ

83 Marina Green Dr, San Francisco, CA 94123

An artifact of the Exploratorium (and as such just around the corner from the Palace of Fine Arts), the Wave Organ not only makes beautiful (if deeply weird) music out of the motion of the ocean, but the oddball artificial peninsula near the Yacht Club provides one of the most intriguing panorama views of the city.

83 Marina Green Dr
San Francisco, CA 94123

11. Dog Eared Books

489 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Like the smell of books? Like the read books? Head over to the Castro and check out the second location of Dog Eared Books, one of San Francisco’s few remaining independent bookstores. While you’re there getting your papyrus aroma fix, be sure to look over releases from local authors. (Psst: Local scribe Andrew Sear Greer won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.)

489 Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114

12. Hike around the perimeter of Angel Island

Angel Island, Tiburon, CA 94920

Take the ferry to Angel Island for the afternoon to trek around this expansive island. Check out the old army housing and barracks; the Angel Island Immigration Museum, a haunting structure since it once served as an internment camp for Japanese-American residents during World War II; and more.

Angel Island
Tiburon, CA 94920

13. Tom and Jerry’s House

3650 21st St, San Francisco, CA 94114

A longtime San Francisco tradition, this house in Dolores Heights is hard to miss with its giant illuminated Christmas tree, oversized toys decorating the exterior, and the owners’ huge stockings hung over the garage with care.

3650 21st St
San Francisco, CA 94114

14. Marvel at the Octagon House

2645 Gough St, San Francisco, CA

This eight-sided house was built in 1861 as the home of the McElroy family. Today, it is owned by National Society of Colonial Dames of America in California (the group who saved it from destruction) and it is a decorative arts museum.

2645 Gough St
San Francisco, CA

15. Haas-Lilienthal House

2007 Franklin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

To step inside the Haas-Lilienthal house is to get a glimpse of upper-middle-class life in 1886 San Francisco. The Haas family lived here with a small army of servants, and they meticulously maintained the home, its fixtures, and furniture through the generations. In 1972, the family donated it to the Foundation for San Francisco’s Architectural Heritage. Today, it’s a time capsule you can see.

2007 Franklin St
San Francisco, CA 94109

16. Lilac Mural Project

Lilac St, San Francisco, CA

While Clarion Alley draws a bigger touristy crowd, the lesser known (albeit equally fantastic) Lilac Alley boasts some the greatest street art in the city.

Lilac St
San Francisco, CA

17. Meditate in the pews at Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral, 1100 California St, San Francisco, CA 94108

Life comes at your fast. To ease the crushing blows of anxiety and information overload, head up to Grace Cathedral at the top of Nob Hill, sit in a pew and meditate into serenity. Your arduous trek up the hill will be rewarded with mosaics by Jan Henryk De Rosen, large stained glass windows, a Keith Haring altarpiece that acts as an AIDS memorial, and a pair of large labyrinths. Also of note, this church features copies of the Baptistery doors from the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Florence.

We also strongly recommend the pews for meditating. Heavenly.

Grace Cathedral, 1100 California St
San Francisco, CA 94108

18. Tompkins Stairway Garden

200 Putnam St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Formerly a trash-covered hillside, residents worked for three years to get the area surrounding the staircase in tip-top shape. Highlights include new greenery and a painted staircase. The San Francisco Chronicle calls the garden “cheerful splash of public art that will probably become a photo hot spot.”

200 Putnam St
San Francisco, CA 94110

19. Hang out in the lobby at the Fairmont Hotel

950 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108

Hotel lobbies are an underused space. They’re usually inviting, warm, and chock full of people happy to be in the city. And the swankiest of them all is the epic lobby at the Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill.

Also of note, the Venetian Room at the Fairmont Hotel was where Tony Bennett first sang “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in 1961. A statue of the crooner, erected for his 90th birthday, can be found outside the hotel.

950 Mason St
San Francisco, CA 94108

20. The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite at the Museum of the African Diaspora

685 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105

As remarkable as the neighboring San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is, the Museum of African Diaspora offers a one-of-a-kind survey of culture dating back even to the earliest reaches of human history, and it’s just a few blocks away too.

Be sure to check out Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite, the first-ever major exhibition dedicated to this key figure of the second Harlem Renaissance.

685 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94105

21. Peek inside 140 New Montgomery’s lobby

140 New Montgomery, 140 New Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94105

Numerous businesses call this Timothy Pflueger-designed high-rise home. But the real star is the lobby, one of the finest interiors in the Bay Area. Pflueger used influences from Asia, such as the lobby adapted from a Chinese brocade, and from the Sierra Mountains. From ornate ventilation grates to dark marble walls, it would be a shame for passersby not to sneak a peek. The perfect selfie awaits.

140 New Montgomery, 140 New Montgomery St
San Francisco, CA 94105

22. Salesforce Park

425 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105

The 5.4-acre park atop the Transbay Transit Center reopened in July, welcoming people to frolic and picnic on the grass, watch the chasing water fountain, or pore over the gorgeous flora. Other highlights will include yoga, live music, food trucks, and more.

425 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94105

23. Stock up on succulents at Flora Grubb Gardens

1634 Jerrold Ave, San Francisco, CA

Bring the outdoors inside at this San Francisco institution. Flora Grubb opened a 28,000-square-foot solar-powered nursery in the Bayview in 2007. An ideal spot to grab some of the finest succulents the city has to offer.

1634 Jerrold Ave
San Francisco, CA

24. Bayview Opera House

4705 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94124

Founded in 1888, the Bayview Opera House is the oldest theater in the city. After being closed for several years, it received a much-needed renovation to the tune of $5.7 million. Gone are the trees and brick wall that used to cover its gorgeous facade. Today it can be seen from the T-Third Street line. Now it’s great place to hang out and check out some choice performances.

4705 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94124

25. Walk along the Embarcadero to see Cupid's Span

245 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA

A stroll along the Embarcadero during a glacial day is the ideal way to see the Bay Bridge. The bay is gorgeous. The restaurants inviting. And don't forget to take a pic of Cupid's Span for your Instagram.

245 The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA