Looking for something different to do in San Francisco—that isn’t football related?

Ever since the Gold Rush, San Francisco has always marched to the beat of its own drum. Even the 1906 earthquake couldn’t keep this creative Californian city down for long. Known worldwide for the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, that zig-zaggy road (Lombard Street if you need to know), Chinatown, and the Painted Ladies (think Full House)—there’s always something out-of-the-way that sets this city apart. 

Here’s a glimpse at our top 4 unusual places to call in on the next time you visit the City by the Bay.

1.) The 16th Avenue Tiled Steps

163 really is a lucky number because that’s the number of steps you can find on Moraga Street between 15th and 16th avenues. Each riser is delightfully adorned with mosaic tiles in an array of patterns that rise up before you like a kaleidoscope. Local residents contributed tiles and worked alongside mosaic artist Colette Crutcher and Irish ceramist Aileen Barr, to collectively create this spectacle. Now sponsored by San Francisco Parks, this stunning staircase delights visitors and locals of this section of the Bay area. Bring your camera—the view from the top is amazing!

2.) Valentine’s Day Pillow Fight

San Fran has no room in its Valentine’s Day heart for a massacre; so instead, it plumped for a pillow fight! If you’re feeling down this February 14th, then we’d like to make a (pillow) case for showing up at the annual Valentine’s Day Pillow Fight at Justin Herman Plaza! Feathers fly as the pillow talk is left behind for the nearly 1,000 attendees of this unofficial and free event. The mayhem may not be for the faint of heart, but when all is done and feathered, please help the city clean up by bringing your own garbage bag to fill with whatever mess is on the plaza floor!

Masks and moderation are advised, as just like all pillow fights—there’s always someone who yields their headrest like a mythical hammer. The opening swings have historically started around 6 p.m. on Valentine’s Night, leaving you plenty of time for a few fun hours in the city, before getting your head down—on a nice soft pillow.

3.) Clarion Alley Mural

No, this isn’t where Harry Potter bought his magic wand, but it is quite a magical alley for other reasons! Hidden away between 17th and 18th streets and connecting Valencia to Mission, Clarion Alley is an urban art lovers dream. The alley itself may not be very grand, or very long—but every inch of its walls are crammed with paint of every local color and style. Used frequently as a backdrop for modelling shoots, this alley is a must see for anyone wanting to brush up on their inner city culture!

4.) Musée Mécanique

"Musee Mecanique 04" by Tom Hilton is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Musee Mecanique 04” by Tom Hilton is licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you fancy a trip down memory lane, or for you younger readers, a glimpse back into the days before video games (yes, those days existed!) then the Musée Mécanique on Pier 45 in Fisherman’s Wharf is right up your alley.

With free admission daily, this mechanical hark back to the 1930’s era is a toy lovers dream. Over 200 mechanical games, figures, toys, and instruments are all yours to enjoy! It’s true—we’re not winding you up!

What’s the most unusual and fantastical place you’ve ever visited? Let us know in the comments section below.

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About The Author

Brian Lees

Brian Lees is a Content Writer and Editor with 21 years of experience in the travel industry and a lifetime of personal traveling memories. Originally from Scotland, Brian is a big fan of soccer, family, friends, and food. He's now happily settled on South Shore Long Island with a wife, 2 kids, and a dog to keep him busy! Between trips to Jones Beach, he's happy to keep the CheapOair blog filled with travel insights for you all.