Free Things to Do in San Francisco in August: 25 of the Best Festivals, Attractions, Museums, & More

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

Updated: March 8, 2023

The best free things to do in San Francisco in August include attending a street fair, admiring our colorful murals, and visiting some of our most popular attractions.

Highlights include a stroll across the Golden Gate Bridge, a chance to photograph the beautiful Painted Ladies of Alamo Square, and an opportunity to mingle with the locals at the Stern Grove Festival.

August is also a great time to climb to the top of Twin Peaks, explore the Palace of Fine Arts, or step inside City Hall. Discover details for these and other top free activities this month in SF.

Free Things to Do in San Francisco in August

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1. Nihonmachi Street Fair

Experience Asian-Pacific American life at this year's Nihonmachi Street Fair. Held in SF's Japantown district, this festival offers you the chance to celebrate a variety of cultures in just one day. Sample traditional food, watch live performances, and enjoy the works of local artists.

The festival is usually the first weekend in August.

>> Full calendar of events in August

2. Pistahan Parade and Festival

The largest celebration of Filipino culture in San Francisco is held each August. The Pistahan Parade & Festival offers two days of tasty food, music, entertainment, and art.

The colorful parade is also a features traditional clothing, dancing, and more. If you love Filipino culture, or want to learn about it, this is the perfect event for you. It's definitely one of the best free things to do in San Francisco in August.

>> Additional festivals in SF

3. Free Museum Admission Days

Outside the Conservatory of Flowers

Once a month, some of SF's top museums open their doors to the public and invite you to visit for free. These include the Asian Art Museum, the Legion of Honor, the Conservatory of Flowers and many more.

Make sure to check the calendar and play ahead as this is one of the most popular free things to do in San Francisco in August.

>> Calendar of all upcoming free days

4. Free Walking Tours

San Francisco is small, at only 7 miles x 7 miles, but it's packed full of history and interesting stories. This is why I love joining in on these free walking tours offered by SF City Guides. You will find tours of top districts such as Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf, and the Haight Ashbury.

You can also enjoy tours of top attractions such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park and the Palace of Fine Arts.

This is one of the best free things to do in San Francisco in August as you don't need to plan in advance. Simply show up a few minutes before the tour, check in, and learn all about the gorgeous City by the Bay.

>> Some of the best free tours in SF

5. Stern Grove

Each Summer, Stern Grove comes to life with their free concerts in the park. From mid-June to mid-August, you will find a concert each Sunday at 2pm. They include internationally recognized artists such as Boz Scaggs or Kool and the Gang as well as local groups such as the SF Symphony.

Make sure to arrive early as this is one of the free things to do in San Francisco in August that is popular with both locals and visitors.

>> This year's calendar of concerts

6. Lands End 

Most SF visitors are accustomed to viewing the Golden Gate Bridge from the bay side looking out toward the ocean. But what they don't know is that you can get stunning views of the iconic masterpiece and more from the northwest coastal corner of the city looking inland towards the bay.

Along with the photo ops, enjoy the cypress forests, trails, and rugged sea cliffs of Lands End Park, which is free to visit year round. Make sure to bundle up since you'll be right next to the Pacific Ocean as you take in the incredible landscape, which includes sea lions and shipwrecks.

>> More about hiking Lands End

7. Yerba Buena Gardens Festival

The Yerba Buena Gardens Festival is a fun, entertaining outdoor festival that runs from May to October. Each week, they offer several performances that range from kids' entertainment to live music.

You will find them at one of two locations within the gardens. Just follow the signs to find each performance.

>> Tips to check out this year's festival

8. Alamo Square Painted Ladies

One of the most famous of the free things to do in San Francisco in August are the Painted Ladies of Alamo Square. These gorgeous ladies are line-up side-by-side along Steiner Street (between Grove and Hayes) across from the park.

It's easy to get carried away by their scenic beauty as the city, and the bay, spread out behind them.

Make sure to walk up the hill of the park a bit for that picture-perfect view of the Seven Sisters with downtown San Francisco behind them.

>> More tips to visit

>> Additional free things to do with your kids and the entire family

9. Fort Point National Historic Site

Another one of my favorite free things to do in San Francisco in August is to visit the historic Fort Point National Historic Site. Built in 1861 by the US Army, this building has gone through quite a few changes and today is a free museum.

Inside, you get the chance to take a look at the place that protected the Golden Gate Strait for decades. You can also watch a couple of short videos and (in my opinion) get some of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge from its rooftop.

>> Pictures and visiting tips

10. Golden Gate Bridge

Speaking of the Golden Gate Bridge, the next item on my list of the best free things to do in San Francisco in August is a visit to the bridge itself. This 1.7-mile beauty will take your breath away.

Spend some time at its small outdoor museum and the slowly stroll across it as you take in the amazing views. Don't worry, you don't have to walk the entire way to get a feel for this top SF attraction.

>> More of what you can see and do at the Golden Gate Bridge

11. Mission Street Murals

Mission Murals

San Francisco is a colorful place and the Mission District is no exception. This eclectic district is home to hundreds of colorful murals. Some depict political stories while others offer a look at current San Francisco life.

Taking a walk through the district, they are hard to miss. However, just to make it easy, I've pulled together an overview of where you can find the largest concentration of them. Make sure to use my guide during your stay.

>> Pictures and maps of where to find the best ones

12. Lombard Street

Have you heard about our famous crooked street called Lombard Street? This is a must see during your stay and the best part is that its free!

Lombard Street is a one block long attraction that offers 8 hairpin turns. It was originally created so that horses and residents could more easily get down from the top of the hill.

Today, it's draws in hundreds of people every day and it's one of the best free things to do in San Francisco in August.

>> Visiting tips

13. Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts is a beautiful, historic building built for the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition. It's one of the only buildings from the expo that still sits in its original location.

Since it was originally a temporary building, it's been almost completely retrofitted but retained its intricate beauty.

You will find this free attraction in the Marina District about a block from the SF Bay waterfront. Its rose-colored dome is hard to miss as you explore the area on your way to or from the Golden Gate Bridge.

>> History and visiting details

14. Pier 24

Pier 24 is one of our newer museums. Because of that, this is one of the free things to do in San Francisco in August that requires a little planning in advance.

Pier 24 is located in a renovated building along the waterfront. It's a photography museum that welcomes traveling exhibits and has no permanent collection of its own.

To visit, make sure to visit their site (click the link below for details) and register for a time to visit this interesting attraction.

>> Pics from my last visit and how to get an appointment

15. Wells Fargo Museum

The next item on my list of the best free things to do in San Francisco in August is a visit to the Wells Fargo Museum. This gem is located in the Financial District and is open during the week.

Inside, you will learn all about the Pony Express and how Wells Fargo grew to become the large bank it is today. They also have several informative exhibits about the history of San Francisco including the Gold Rush, the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, and the Panama Pacific Exposition.

>> What you will see in the Wells Fargo Museum

16. Twin Peaks

One of the best views of San Francisco and the surrounding areas is at the top of Twin Peaks. This San Francisco attraction features two hills that sit just over 900 feet above sea level.

Since they are the second tallest peaks in SF, the view from the top allows you to see everything from the Golden Gate Bridge to downtown SF to the Pacific Ocean.

It's one of the free things to do in San Francisco in August that you do not want to miss!

>> More tips to visit

17. Dolores Park


This part of the city, the Mission District, is known for having the best weather. On a sunny day, you'll see lots of locals and their dogs hanging out here on the grass. 

Dolores Park is an excellent place to grab a coffee or some ice cream, a good book, and a picnic blanket, and set up camp to enjoy the view for an afternoon.

>> What else you can do in and around Mission Dolores

18. Mosaic Stairs

Most visitors are familiar with our famous mosaic stairs at 16th Avenue and Moraga, but did you know that there are several others throughout the city? Currently, there are four sets of mosaic stairs with more in the works.

The set of stairs on 16th Avenue is the most famous, but there is also one just a few blocks away from them that is often overlooked. The other two take a bit of work to get to, but once you find them you will be stuck by their beauty.

>> More about these and other popular staircases around SF

19. City Hall

San Francisco City Hall is a working public building and yet most people don't realize that they welcome visitors inside daily. After admiring its gorgeous gold-plated dome from outside, spend some time taking a look inside.

Some of the highlights of your visit will include the unique marble staircase, a couple of small museums, and intricate decor throughout the building. It's free to enter and it's open during the week.

>> What you will see when you visit

20. Japanese Tea Garden

Normally, there is a fee to enter the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco. However, most people don't realize that you can get in free if you arrive during the first hour when they open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The garden is a great place to relax, unwind, and admire several historic Japanese structures. Make sure to arrive early on these three days for free entry.

>> Pictures from my last visit and what to expect when you arrive

21. Chinese Temples

Have you always wanted to visit a working temple? If so, then the next item on my list of the best free things to do in San Francisco is August is for you!

In the Chinatown district, you will find several historic and modern Chinese temples. I've created a list with visiting tips for my three favorites. Two have been running for several decades and one is a modern version. All three are open to the public and welcome visitors.

Make sure to read through my visitor's tips before visiting.

>> Where to find them and visiting tips

22. Cable Car Museum

If you've always wanted to learn more about SF's famous cable cars, then make sure to stop by this one on my list of free things to do in San Francisco in August. The Cable Car Museum offers you the chance to learn all about the history of these magnificent rolling attractions.

You can also step inside a cable car to see it without the crowds as it is a permanent exhibit in the basement. My favorite part is in the center of the museum that shows the cables that are pulling cars all around SF in action.

>> Pictures and tips to visit

23. Blue Heron Lake

Your trip is probably jam-packed with excitement and you might need a break or two. If you need relax and unwind, then Blue Heron Lake is one of the best free things to do in San Francisco in August for you! It's a man-made lake in the heart of Golden Gate Park.

It sits just a few feet away from other top attractions such as the California Academy of Sciences, the de Young and the Conservatory of Flowers. However, it's tucked away in an area surrounded by trees and natural beauty.

Top activities include climbing to the top of Strawberry Hill, renting a boat to cruise around the lake, and watching the wildlife at play.

>> Things to do at Blue Heron Lake

24. Street Art Around the City

Walking around San Francisco, you'll notice that one of the best free things to do is admire the street art scattered throughout the different districts. 

You'll find colorful and larger than life works painted around town from the Mission District to North Beach to Fisherman's Wharf. The city's walls are teeming with talent and potent messages waiting to be discovered. 

>> Find out where the most impressive pieces are located

25. Hike the Coastal Trail

The final activity on my list of the best free things to do in San Francisco in August is to hike the Coastal Trail. The trail starts in the Presidio, makes it way past Baker Beach, and over to Land's End. It's one of my favorite city hikes and it offers spectacular views.

>> More on visiting the Presidio

25 Free Activities in August in San Francisco: Festivals, Murals, Attractions, & More

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