Things to do in Bay Area

The Best Bay Area Tours

See the best of the Bay Area with these immersive tours.

For tourists and locals, the Bay Area is an explorer’s paradise. From the legendary Alcatraz Island to hidden gems in Yosemite National Park and ancient forests, tours offer the opportunity to see the best side of the region under expert guidance.

Of all the things to do in the Bay Area, these tours are among the best.

Historical and Cultural Tours

You could visit the Bay Area’s museums for a taste of history and culture, but these tours add an extra flair to the experience.

1. Alcatraz City Cruises

Alcatraz Island stands about 1.25 miles off San Francisco’s shores. This infamous military prison serves as one of many Bay Area landmarks. Several tour options encourage exploration, but it’s hard to beat the official Alcatraz City Cruises.

The Day Tour includes round-trip ferry transportation and access to the island. You’re free to explore as long as you like until the final day tour leaves. Most people spend two to three hours on this excursion, with return ferries leaving every 30 minutes.

The Behind the Scenes tour lasts about four to five hours. If you include the Night Tour, plan for an additional three hours. The Behind the Scenes tour takes a different route and offers new audio guide content. It covers areas such as the New Industries Building, the hospital area, and the chapel.

The Night Tour begins as the sun sets behind the Golden Gate Bridge. Expert historians discuss rotating topics and take you to areas not offered during the day.

Photographer: Ali Chehade

2. Hidden Gems of Yosemite Day Trip

As the seasons change, so do the tours that take you into Yosemite National Park. The Hidden Gems of Yosemite Day Trip accommodates 15 people. The tour is mostly conducted in a luxury, climate-controlled van, with frequent stops to stretch your legs and explore the surrounding areas.

Expect to discover awe-inspiring views of El Capitan, a distinctive granite monolith, and Half Dome, a massive rounded quartz structure. Yosemite Falls often delights with its impressive heights.

From March to November, when the weather is nice, you can hike through Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias. This all-day excursion picks you up from downtown and waterfront area hotels at 6 a.m. and doesn’t return to San Francisco until around 9 p.m.

Photographer: Stephen

3. Muir Woods and Sausalito Half-Day Tour

Explore ancient coastal redwood groves on the Muir Woods and Sausalito Half-Day Tour. Book a tour to skip the lines at Muir Woods National Monument. Immerse yourself in a total sensory experience, from breathtaking sights and sounds of birds chirping through the rustle of the foliage to the scents of nature.

Many trees here are upwards of 1,200 years old. After your trek, enjoy a leisurely tour through Sausalito, a seaside city that embraces a Mediterranean style. If you’d rather not return when the tour departs, skip the shuttle and enjoy your time. A local ferry offers trips back to San Francisco.

Photographer: Maygutyak

Nature and Scenic Tours

These nature and scenic tours highlight the Bay Area’s beauty, from mountains to coastlines with forests in between.

4. Point Reyes National Seashore Day Trip

Point Reyes National Seashore is large enough to fill several day trips. Within its expanse, a shipwreck, an abundance of wildlife, and amazing biomes unfold. If you’d rather explore alongside a knowledgeable ranger, a guided tour can help make it more memorable.

Ranger-guided programs vary depending on the season, but may include whale watching from an observation deck or observing the native elephant seals that claim the beach each winter. Hour-long guided walks cover topics such as geology or history.

5. Yosemite Full-Day Tour

Embark on a more extensive, less-structured excursion into Yosemite National Park with Extranomical Tours. This Yosemite one-day tour from San Francisco departs bright and early at 5:20 a.m. before venturing into the granite peaks and stunning nature trails.

On the ride to the park, you'll learn how the California gold rush began and how these striking landscapes formed. Within the park, spot some of the most beautiful vistas for a peek at natural formations, such as El Capitan, the Sentinel Dome, and Cathedral Peak.

The tour stops in Yosemite Valley for lunch, leaving you free to hike and explore for two hours before reconvening for additional scenic landscapes. After your Yosemite adventure, weather permitting, the tour enters the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias, where some of the oldest trees tower overhead.

If the weather isn’t safe for hiking the trail, spend the extra time exploring Yosemite National Park.

City Tours

Explore the Bay Area’s most popular urban destinations.

6. Big Bus San Francisco Hop-On, Hop-Off Tour

We’re fans of wacky ways to experience the world, and what better way to see San Francisco than atop a roofless double-decker bus? Climb off when your legs are ready to take over. The whole appeal of the Big Bus Hop-On, Hop-Off San Francisco Tour is that you take control of your own journey.

When an attraction catches your eye, disembark at a designated stop. Once you’re done exploring, wait at the bus stop and climb aboard the next one to continue your tour. While aboard, tune into digital commentary offered in several languages.

The regular daily tour routes pass the most popular destinations in San Francisco, from PIER 39 to the Golden Gate Bridge. The Sunset Tour provides the best nighttime views of attractions, such as the Coit Tower and San Francisco City Hall.

7. San Francisco Bridge to Bridge Cruise

Prepare for a 90-minute cruise across San Francisco Bay. The San Francisco Bridge to Bridge Cruise takes you on a sightseeing adventure. Enjoy light refreshments from the cocktail and snack bar and take phenomenal photos of the city’s distinctive skyline.

Landmarks like the Coit Tower and the Transamerica Pyramid are visible from the cruise ship. It departs from Pier 43 1/2 in Fisherman’s Wharf and sails under the Golden Gate Bridge. The cruise ship meanders past Alcatraz Island and Treasure Island before traversing under the Oakland Bridge and returning to Fisherman’s Wharf.

8. Monterey and Carmel Tour

Step away from San Francisco’s urban attractions on the Monterey and Carmel One Day Tour. You’ll be picked up in San Francisco and driven 120 miles to Monterey. The area is known for Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, where diverse aquatic wildlife thrive.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium showcases unique creatures that live under the sea. After two hours of exploring, you’ll drive to Carmel-by-the-Sea, where glistening white sands greet you. Explore the quiet shops or simply relax on the beach before the return trip.

Adventure and Activity Tour

Adventure and activities abound in the Bay Area. This tour promises an unforgettable experience.

9. Escape from the Rock Cruise

Experience Alcatraz in a new light on the Escape from the Rock cruise. As the cruise ship sails under the Golden Gate Bridge and circles Alcatraz Island to reveal every angle, you’ll hear stories about what life was like for prisoners.

The island was considered inescapable. Although attempts were made, none have been confirmed as successful. While three prisoners disappeared, authorities report they were swept out to sea. No bodies were ever discovered.

This incredible cruise brings escape attempts by infamous criminals, such as Al Capone, to life through audio recordings in several languages.

Unique and Specialty Tours

Discover unique ways to see the Bay Area with these specialty tours.

10. Sunset Cruise

Add a romantic touch to your excursion on a Sunset Cruise. Departing from PIER 39, you’ll pass the Golden Gate Bridge and the sea lions known to inhabit the area.

When darkness engulfs San Francisco Bay, the skyline illuminates the horizon and reflects against the sea. The ship passes Angel Island, Sausalito, Tiburon, and Alcatraz Island before returning to the pier.

Source: Blue and Gold Fleet

11. Straight to the Gate Access: Golden Gate Bay Cruise

Get to know San Francisco’s skyline from the sea on the Golden Gate Bay Cruise. The journey begins at Pier 43 1/2 before trekking along North Beach and the historic vessels at Hyde Street Pier. As the ship turns west, Golden Gate National Recreation Area comes into view.

The Golden Gate Bridge is the main attraction, and you’ll see it up close as you sail underneath it. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for gray whales. The best times to see these gentle giants are from May to December. It’s an unbelievable treat if you happen to see one.

12. Pescadero and Half Moon Bay Tours

Half Moon Bay and nearby Pescadero offer four distinct biomes, from coastlands to redwood forests. Several cruise companies offer tours of the coastal areas. The harbor is famous for fishing, scenic cruises, and whale-watching opportunities.

Other local companies offer kayak tours for a more adventurous approach. Kayaks can also navigate through smaller bodies of water for closer looks than you’d get from a cruise ship. Tours into the harbor often invite opportunities to cast your rod for salmon and Dungeness crab or to go rock fishing.

Food and Wine Tours

San Francisco’s relatively close proximity to Wine Country makes these food and wine tours a must on your list of things to do in the Bay Area. Once you taste these wines, you’ll jump for joy high enough to rival our acrobats.

13. Napa and Sonoma Wine Country Full-Day Tour

Wine and dine in style with a Deluxe Sonoma and Napa Valley Wine Country Tour from San Francisco. This day trip begins with a scenic drive over the Golden Gate Bridge before starting a wine tour through three boutique wineries. Along the drive, the professional tour guide will narrate your surroundings.

Discover the intricacies of winemaking, from picking to bottling. Once you’ve explored the vineyards, you can indulge in the final product. Depending on the day, you may stop for lunch in Sonoma Plaza or downtown Napa before returning to San Francisco with your luxury, air-conditioned coach.

Photographer: Kevin

14. Russian River Valley Wineries and Redwoods Day Trip

A California Redwoods wine tour has never tasted so sweet. Soak in the natural beauty of Sonoma County before savoring a taste of the region's best wines on a Russian River Valley Wineries and Redwoods Day Trip.

This small group tour takes you into the Armstrong Redwoods State Nature Reserve. As you meander through the trails, your guide will provide historical context for the region. After looping back to the luxury van, you’ll visit local wineries offering small boutique and grand tasting room experiences.

Sip your favorites with a picnic lunch surrounded by breathtaking fields of grapevines. On the way back to San Francisco, the van stops in the Marin Headlands, offering a prime opportunity for photos of the Golden Gate Bridge.

15. Wine Tasting on the San Francisco Bay Cruises

San Francisco Bay Boat Cruise offers a twist with its tours. While most cruises require you to buy drinks, this includes a drink in the ticket price. Whether you sip your drink on a daytime cruise or at sunset, it’s a peaceful way to take in the scenery.

If you’d prefer an intimate experience, book a private charter that includes two drinks per person, with more available for purchase onboard. It’s a fun cruise experience with a personal touch.

Discover the Stories and Landscapes That Await With These Captivating Bay Area Tours

Tours offer an exciting glimpse into the Bay Area and surrounding regions. After you've explored the sights, head down to the theater. We’ll bring you into fantastical worlds with breathtaking settings that rival the ones seen on any tour.

At our shows in the Bay Area, we immerse our audience in an emotional journey with daring tricks and dazzling special effects. You'll enter a world of whimsy where anything can happen. With us, limits don't exist, and the possibilities are endless.

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