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Best Budget Attractions In The Bay Area

Are you thinking of visiting the San Francisco Bay Area but want to keep your expenses down? Fortunately, many of the local attractions are of little or no cost to visitors and are easily accessible via public transportation. Best of all, many of these attractions are among the most famous in the world. Here are just five of the best budget attractions in the Bay Area.
Fisherman's Wharf (Credit, Randy Yagi)


Fisherman's Wharf
Jefferson St. and Taylor St.
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 673-3530

Like the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf is among the must-see attractions in San Francisco. But in order to make a visit affordable, visitors should take public transportation such as the world famous cable cars or the Market Street Railway if it's too far to walk. While the top attraction at Fisherman's Wharf is a ferry ride to Alcatraz Island, there are more affordable things to do, including a stroll through the chowder and crab sidewalk stands, enjoying the many street performers, magnificent views of San Francisco Bay and the always entertaining sea life, particularly the dozens of sea lions at the nearby and equally popular Pier 39.

Related: Spend A Weekend In San Francisco Like A Local

Golden Gate Bridge (Credit, Randy Yagi)
Golden Gate Bridge (Credit, Randy Yagi)

Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco, CA 94129
(877) 229-8655

The Golden Gate Bridge isn't the oldest, longest or highest bridge in the world but it's widely considered to be the most famous. An iconic symbol of San Francisco, California and even the entire country, the Golden Gate Bridge is among the attractions not to miss in the Bay Area. For visitors on a budget, an affordable way to reach the bridge is with public transportation and once there, there's daily access for pedestrians and bicyclists. While the ideal way to visit the Golden Gate Bridge is to be close up, this national treasure can be seen from many locations, including Crissy Field, Baker Beach, Fort Baker and the Marin Headlands.

Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park (credit: Randy Yagi)


Golden Gate Park
501 Stanyan St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 831-2700

More than 200 acres larger than New York's Central Park, Golden Gate Park offers a number of attractions to suit anyone's budget for an entire day. Among the best low-cost things to do includes the free admission San Francisco Botanical Garden, the low-cost Japanese Tea Garden and Conservatory of Flowers, the pedal boats on Stow Lake and the Koret Playground and Carousel. Two of the marquee attractions at Golden Gate Park – the DeYoung Museum and the California Academy of Sciences – are also worth considering as long as it fits a visitor's budget.

Marin Headlands (Credit, Randy Yagi)

Marin Headlands
948 Fort Barry
Sausalito, CA 94965
(415) 331-1540

Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands offers some of the most spectacular views of the world's most photographed bridge and the Bay Area. Part of the Golden Gate Recreation, the Marin Headlands yields miles of hiking trails, a dog-friendly beach, historic buildings and other attractions. A great way to visit both the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands on weekends and some holidays is with San Francisco Muni's Route 76X. With a round-trip fare of just $4.50, visitors can avoid having to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and pay for gas and a bridge toll on the return trip. Among the notable bus stops along the route are Golden Gate Bridge, Kirby Cove, the Marin Headlands Visitor Center and Fort Cronkhite.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (Credit, Randy Yagi)


Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
400 Beach St.
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 423-5590

The best budget attraction in the South Bay is the admission-free Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Recently named the world's Best Seaside Park for the eight consecutive year by Amusement Today, the Beach Boardwalk is the oldest surviving amusement park in California and one of the last seaside amusement parks in the country. The two most famous rides – the Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster and the Looff Carousel – are both listed as National Historic Landmarks and on the National Register of Historic Places. Tickets to any of the more than 34 rides and attractions along the half-mile-long Boardwalk range from just $3 to $6.

Related: Guide To A Three-Day Weekend In Santa Cruz

Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on

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