Recent Searches
Clear
See all San Francisco tours
750 tours & tickets
Things to do in San Francisco
See all things to do in San Francisco
5 Must-See San Francisco Neighborhoods and How to Visit
5 Must-See San Francisco Neighborhoods and How to Visit

10 Fun Things to Do When Alcatraz Tickets are Sold Out


Painted Ladies in San Francisco, California
Hi, I'm Madigan!

Madigan Talmage-Bowers is a writer based in Denver, Colorado. She has also lived in Italy, San Francisco, and New York City, where she studied media theory at the New School. She loves introducing her kids to ancient history, local art, hiking trails, and new foods on adventures around the globe.

see more
Hi, I'm Madigan!

Madigan Talmage-Bowers is a writer based in Denver, Colorado. She has also lived in Italy, San Francisco, and New York City, where she studied media theory at the New School. She loves introducing her kids to ancient history, local art, hiking trails, and new foods on adventures around the globe.

see more

A trip to Alcatraz Island tops many travelers’ must-do lists in San Francisco, but tickets to the infamous prison often get snapped up weeks or even months in advance. So, if you find yourself staring wistfully across the bay at “The Rock” on a sold-out date, here are 10 other ways to enjoy a day on and around San Francisco's waterfront.

1. Take a bay cruise

Sightseeing cruises on the San Francisco Bay depart almost hourly from Fisherman's Wharf, so there's a good chance you can snag a day-of ticket. While you may not be able to set foot on Alcatraz, most bay cruises pass very near the island for a look at the storied cellblock and water tower. Plus, you can sail beneath the Golden Gate Bridge for a unique look at the famous span’s underbelly.

San Francisco Bay Sailing Cruise
Likely to Sell OutLikely to Sell Out

San Francisco Bay Sailing Cruise

star-5
387
Admire San Francisco and its surrounding sights from the water on a San Francisco Bay sailing cruise. Onboard a catamaran, sail past the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, legendary Alcatraz Island, and the hamlet of Sausalito. Take advantage of great photo ops while you soak up the sea breeze during this scenic tour.
More
  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • English
  • Free Cancellation
From
$64.00
From
$64.00

2. Hop-off a sightseeing bus tour to see the Pier 39 sea lions

There's no ticket needed to see one of San Francisco's most enduring attractions—the colony of wild California sea lions that reliably congregate on the floating marina docks at Pier 39. Look for the marine mammals lounging in the sun, splashing around, and barking on the west side of the pier. A hop-on hop-off bus tour allows you to stop by this popular sea lion–watching spot before exploring more of the city.

Big Bus San Francisco Hop-on Hop-off Open Top Tour

Big Bus San Francisco Hop-on Hop-off Open Top Tour

star-4
2754
Ride a double-decker sightseeing bus to San Francisco's most famous landmarks with a choice of 2 different passes. Explore the city's 49 square miles, including stops at big-name attractions like Pier 39, the Palace of Fine Arts and Union Square. Go at your own pace, hopping off at any of 16 stops, exploring at your leisure, and then hopping back on when you're done. Choose the Premium pass to include a night tour or a Deluxe pass for an additional 24 hours of hop-on-hop-off and a night tour.
More
  • 1 to 2 hours
  • English
  • Free Cancellation
From
$53.10
From
$53.10

3. Explore the ocean’s depths at the Aquarium of the Bay

For even more marine life encounters, snag admission tickets to the Aquarium of the Bay, also located at Pier 39. With views overlooking the San Francisco Bay and interactive exhibits that are a favorite with families, it's home to more than 20,000 animals. Don't miss the giant Pacific octopus, adorable river otters, and entrancing jellyfish.

Aquarium of the Bay General Admission Ticket

Aquarium of the Bay General Admission Ticket

star-3.5
207
Gain admission to the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco, located at Pier 39 between Fisherman’s Wharf and the Alcatraz ferry landing. A general admission ticket provides direct access to all of the aquarium’s main exhibit areas, which house more than 20,000 sea creatures. Learn what is typically found in San Francisco Bay and the nearby Pacific, including sharks, river otters, and even octopuses. The aquarium features interactive exhibits, as well as walk-through glass tunnels where schools of anchovies and fluorescent jellyfish swim overhead and around you.
More
  • 2 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$29.75
From
$29.75

4. Look for street performers during a Fisherman’s Wharf walking tour

With street musicians, buskers, caricature artists, and midway games, the vibe along Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 is that of an open-air carnival—one bet enjoyed on a walking tour. Most street performances are free, though tips are always appreciated, and kids will especially love the hand-painted San Francisco Carousel, the Frequent Flyers bungee trampoline, and Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze.

Fisherman's Wharf Walking Tour
Likely to Sell OutLikely to Sell Out

Fisherman's Wharf Walking Tour

star-4.5
13
Though known more for beachside villages, the Amalfi Coast is home to off-the-beaten-path nature reserves ideal for hiking. On this small-group hiking tour, explore the Ferriere Valley Nature Reserve (Riserva Statale Valle delle Ferriere) and hike roughly from the town of Scala—known as one of the Amalfi Coast’s oldest villages—down to the area of the town of Amalfi. Along the way, see the nature reserves’ flora, waterfalls, and historic ruins.
More
  • 1 hour 15 minutes
  • English
  • Free Cancellation
From
$29.00
Price varies by group size
From
$29.00
Price varies by group size

5. Rub shoulders with the stars at Madame Tussauds

At the San Francisco outpost of the world-famous wax museum, you can fill your Instagram story with photo ops alongside dozens of lifelike figures, from local sports hero Steph Curry to pop icons including Lady Gaga and Beyoncé. Score a discount at Madame Tussauds with attraction passes such as the Go San Francisco Pass or grab a general admission ticket on the day.

6. Indulge your sweet tooth at Ghirardelli Square on a private excursion

Farther west along Fisherman's Wharf, you’ll find the heritage red-brick complex that's home to the original Ghirardelli chocolate shop. While the factory has since moved elsewhere, you can still stock up on the full range of Ghirardelli treats and savor deliciously rich desserts such as the world-famous hot fudge sundae or decadent hot cocoa on a private Fisherman’s Wharf tour.

San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf Private 1-Hour Walking Tour

San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf Private 1-Hour Walking Tour

star-3.5
3
Come and discover all the secrets that San Francisco has to offer! We will walk all over the beautiful city, and see some beautiful sites like Fishermans Warf, Pier 39, and the Chocolate Factory. I am excited to take you on this journey! Details: 100% Private Tour. Commentary, Navigation, and Cool Information all included in the Pintours App. Don't worry about other people, this tour is completely tailored to you! With our app, you can pause the tour, and check out the locations as long as you want! You can skip a stop you don't like, and you have all the best information about each stop at your fingertips.
More
  • 1 to 2 hours
  • English
  • Free Cancellation
From
$10.00
From
$10.00

7. Fly high above the city

If you can’t get tickets to Alcatraz, splurge on a helicopter flightseeing tour and marvel over the island from above instead. Not only will you get a new perspective on the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll also be able to spot Fisherman’s Wharf, the Marin Headlands, and Angel Island.

San Francisco Vista Grande Helicopter Tour

San Francisco Vista Grande Helicopter Tour

star-5
308
Fly in a helicopter over San Francisco's most famous landmarks on this scenic tour. Fly over the city's neighborhoods, then head for Alcatraz, Fisherman's Wharf, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Continue towards Angel Island and the Marin Headlands while you enjoy choreographed musical accompaniment and informative commentary from your expert pilot. 
More
  • 30 minutes
  • English
  • Free Cancellation
From
$305.00
From
$305.00

8. Explore historic ships at Hyde Street Pier

Bordering Aquatic Park to the east, Hyde Street Pier is the permanent home of five vintage vessels with ties to San Francisco. It's free to admire the ships from the pier, although you can also buy tickets to step on board three of them, including the 1886 square-rigger Balclutha. Ranger-led tours offer a wealth of detail on the ships’ history, while many segway excursions also include a stop at the pier.

2.5 Hour San Francisco Wharf and Waterfront Segway Tour

2.5 Hour San Francisco Wharf and Waterfront Segway Tour

star-5
423
Take a San Francisco Segway tour along the waterfront to see popular city attractions like Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, and Alcatraz Island. With an experienced guide, cruise along San Francisco Bay on a personal 2-wheeled Segway, and learn how to operate during a training session. Limited to 10 people per tour, this tour provides a small-group experience. Choose from several tour times throughout the day.
More
  • 2 hours 30 minutes
  • English
  • Free Cancellation
From
$79.00
From
$79.00

9. Taste your way through the Ferry Building

If you follow the Embarcadero east of Pier 39, you’ll reach the historic Ferry Building. Once a bustling transit hub for commuter ferries, today the landmark is better known as one of San Francisco's favorite foodie destinations. Come hungry and try local specialties such as Acme sourdough bread, Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam cheese, fresh-shucked seafood at Hog Island Oyster Company, and a perfect drip from Blue Bottle Coffee.

San Francisco Food Tour: Ferry Building and Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
Likely to Sell OutLikely to Sell Out

San Francisco Food Tour: Ferry Building and Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

star-4.5
80
Tour San Francisco's Ferry Building on the original tour established in 2004 with an industry expert guide during this 90-minute excursion.
More
  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • English
From
$87.00
From
$87.00

10. Cross the Golden Gate Bridge

Another quintessential San Francisco experience, this one is always available. If you have a car, pay a small toll to drive across the iconic rust-colored span, stopping at the Vista Point on the north end of the bridge to gaze out at Alcatraz and the city skyline. Bike tours also depart right from Fisherman's Wharf, or you can walk across the bridge for free.

The Essential Electric San Francisco Bike Tour
Likely to Sell OutLikely to Sell Out

The Essential Electric San Francisco Bike Tour

star-5
107
Ride a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge on a guided e-bike tour that explores some of San Francisco’s most iconic landmarks and neighborhoods. Cycling San Francisco is a great way to experience the city at street level, but steep hills make for challenging riding. Choosing an e-bike takes the hard work out of sightseeing, as you ride alongside a local historian who shares stories along the way.
More
  • 5 hours
  • English
  • Free Cancellation
From
$99.00
From
$99.00

Explore more San Francisco tours

Keep reading

Keep exploring
See all San Francisco tours
750 tours & tickets
Things to do in San Francisco
See all things to do in San Francisco
5 Must-See San Francisco Neighborhoods and How to Visit
5 Must-See San Francisco Neighborhoods and How to Visit