Enjoying San Francisco On a Budget

Enjoying San Francisco On A Budget

San Francisco, California should be on everyone’s bucket list. But, we understand how expensive this city can be. Don’t let the fear of not being able to afford San Francisco keep you away from experiencing this beautiful city! There so many exciting activities to do that will allow you to afford San Francisco, even if you’re on a tight budget. We experienced San Francisco in a day for under $20, and so can you!

Like Flowers Or Art? Visit the Japanese Tea Garden For A Combo Of Both

The Japanese Tea Garden is located in the Golden Gate Park of San Francisco. While this one is not free, I felt as though it was a beautiful piece of the Golden Gate Park, and a must visit while you’re there. It was $9 for non-residents. Senior and youth ages are charged $6 for non-residents. A way to avoid this fee is to go on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday before 10am for free admission. Make sure to also arrive early in the day, as parking and traffic seems to become a nightmare later in the day.  I wish I knew this before going!

Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco, California

Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco, California

The Japanese Tea Garden allows its visitors to experience beauty, tranquility and harmony in a Japanese-style garden.

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Are you still a little curious about the Japanese Tea Garden? Go check out What Makes The Japanese Tea Garden Special on my blog!

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Yes, There Are Actually Bison Roaming in San Francisco

Bison in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco They’re roaming in a paddock, that is. Bison are also located in the Golden Gate Park, must west of the Japanese Tea Garden. This is an easy drive if have a car! Interestingly, I’ve discovered that there have been Bison in the park since 1880. San Francisco Zoo staff still care for the Bison today.

Originally, there was a bison cow and bison bull transported from Wyoming and Kansas to the Golden Gate Park. The cow was named Sarah Bernhardt and the bull was named Ben Harrison. By 1918, the park had acquired 30 bison in their herd! Over the years, the captive breeding program at the Golden Gate Park has been able to successfully breed their bison, producing 100 calves.

We didn’t spend much time at their enclosure, but it was a neat thing to see something like Bison in such a largely populated city like San Francisco!

Check Out Muir Beach

We were actually planning on checking out Muir Woods National Monument. Unfortunately, they require reservations to be made over the Internet on their website, www.gomuirwoods.com. To add to the problem, the site had no cell service or WiFi for us to reserve. The man informed us to travel all the way down to Muir Beach to get service. When we reached this hidden gem, it was breathtaking. It was a beautiful, tucked away beach. While we were there, it was also raining over the mountains and sunny over the ocean. It provided us with the formation of a lovely rainbow over the hills. The best part about this treasure was the roads that it took to get there. They were a bit sketchy (especially when you’re driving a Suburban, an 18.5 foot vehicle), but a lot of fun and filled with some breathtaking views and scenery. It was also FREE, unlike the Muir Woods.

Muir Beach, California

Muir Beach, California

Muir Beach, California

I would have loved to see Muir Woods, and it will remain on my bucket list. If you’re in the area and want to see them, make sure you RESERVE your parking (which is $8 per privately owned vehicle) and be prepared to PAY an admission fee of $10 per adult 15 years of age and older (Children under 15 are free).

Getting A Little Hangry? Grab Lunch From Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, California If you’re into fish, you have to eat at Fisherman’s Wharf at least one time while you’re in San Francisco. In fact, I never eat fish and I was even excited about grabbing some food from here. After walking around for some time, we chose to eat at Sabella & La Torre. There, we ordered Fish n’ Chips, and boy, did they not disappoint! The seafood was delicious, super fresh, and cost about $8.99 per plate. This is a very reasonable price for a lunch in the area.

The Fisherman’s Wharf  is located on the northernmost waterfront in San Francisco from Ghiradelli Square east to Pier 35.

Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, California

Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, California Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, California

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Fun Fact: 

I’m not sure if it’s something in the air, but seagulls are ruthless by this area in San Francisco. They really didn’t understand the meaning behind “personal space”. In fact, as I was eating, a seagull got pretty courageous when he decided to snatch a piece of fish right out of my hand! I might’ve lost part of lunch, but at least it counts as a good story. 

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Have You Ever Seen A Barking Sea Puppy Before?

Well, you’re about to. Check out Pier 39 to see some California Sea Lions…A LOT of them. I’ve always been interested in marine life, so this was one of my absolute favorite things about San Francisco. The Sea Lions are all piled up on the docks at the end of the peer. It was like one big cuddle fest, and you couldn’t help but be a little jealous of them!

Pier 39 Sea Lions in San Francisco, California

Pier 39 Sea Lions in San Francisco, California

Pier 39 Sea Lions in San Francisco, California

Killing Two Birds With One Stone…Check Out A View Of Alcatraz While You’re There!

At the very tip of the pier by the bay, on a clear day you will get a wonderful view of Alcatraz. There are day and night tours that are provided for tourists to visit Alcatraz, as well. If you have a day to make out of it, those tickets range anywhere from $40 to $60 per guest.

Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, California

Alcatraz Island used to serve as a military fortification, military prison, and federal prison from 1934 through 1963. In 1972, Alcatraz became a national recreation area and received recognition as a National Historical Landmark in 1986. During your visit, you can expect to see the oldest operating lighthouse on the west coast, an abandoned federal prison, early military fortifications, and natural features, such as various bird’s nesting grounds.

Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, California

The federal prison on the island was originally designed for prisoners who were causing issues at other federal prisons. While it was used, it held some of the most popular criminals in American history, including Al Capone, the “Birdman of Alcatraz” (Franklin Stroud), George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and Malvin “Creepy” Karpis.

Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, California

Have You Really Been To SF If You Haven’t Seen The Golden Gate Bridge?

San Francisco is definitely a hit or a miss with weather. Luckily, we hit San Francisco on a pretty clear day. But, don’t be disappointed if it’s foggy!

The Golden Gate Bridge should be a must-see on your list, especially because it’s free! We went close to sunset, so for picture purposes, we decided to access the bridge from the north side side.

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California

Do It, You Know You Want To…Drive It!

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California

We also went on the north side so that we could drive over the Golden Gate Bridge back into San Francisco for dinner. It’s worth the satisfaction of you knowing that you finally got to drive over that bridge. The total length of the bridge is about 1.7 miles!

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Did you know?

The Golden Gate Bridge was actually declared as one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. It’s also the tallest bridge in the United States, measuring at 746 feet!

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With All That Money Saved Up, Would You Treat Yourself?

M.Y. China in San Francisco, CaliforniaYou can avoid this suggestion if you’re looking to spend a little bit less money on food. But, for the sake of experiencing San Francisco, I couldn’t not include the fantastic dinner we had at a restaurant called M.Y. China. This restaurant is located on the top floor in the Westfield San Francisco Centre on Market Street. When we first heard we were eating in a mall, we were skeptical. But, don’t let the location fool you! The restaurant was elegant, professional, and a great mixture of traditional and fusion Chinese food.

We ate with another couple, so by the end of the meal, the bill came out to be ONLY $60 per couple. Try to understand, that we ordered a lot of food, so we were all extremely impressed with the outcome of the bill. The way we made it so cheap was by ordering family style. For example, we ordered three appetizers, a four course dinner, and four desserts. This way, everyone had the chance to try a little bit of everything. It made for a really enjoyable dinner experience!

M.Y. China in San Francisco, California
We started our dinner off with some drinks. I got the Jade Alchemy: Pernod absinthe, housemade lemonade, & star anise.

So, Where Are You Staying Tonight?

If you’re looking to save money, consider looking outside of San Francisco for Airbnb’s. There are a lot of great homes or rooms for nightly rentals, so I’d definitely give them a look. Also, have you considered camping? If you have any equipment with you, it’s an inexpensive way to really enjoy California!

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Use our referral link for $40 off when you sign-up with Airbnb! 

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Do you think we missed any budget friendly spots in San Francisco? Let us know in the comments below so we know what to check out next time we’re in the city!

Pier 39 in San Francisco, California

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Laura
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One of the America’s most beautiful and vibrant city.

jennifer
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I loved San Francisco when I went to visit last summer. I went to a lot of the places on this list. I went to Muir Woods and it was just about impossible to park there. There is one awesome catch to that – there is a bus system that goes from parking lots near the Golden Gate Bridge and takes visitors to Muir. Better make sure you’re at Muir before 8 am.

carey
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Awesome article! Glad I found your blog. We’ll visit San Francisco next week!

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[…] Enjoying San Francisco On a Budget – Aimless Travels – World Travel Tips and Guide. When you think of San Francisco, what do you think of? The Golden Gate Bridge? Or maybe a movie or TV show, such as Rise Of the Planet Of the Apes or Full House? Whatever it may be, San Francisco, California is one of those cities that everyone has on their bucket list. San Francisco can also be very expensive. But, what if I told you there were just as many exciting activities and ways to experience San Francisco without breaking the budget? We… Read more »