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San Diego has so many Farmers Markets available for you to get some exercise, find some healthy food, and checkout all the booths.
October 1, 2013 by Linda DuVal San Francisco is a fascinating city in many ways, with a rich history, appealing ambience and a unique setting that draws millions of visitors each year. Science.  Located in Golden Gate Park and newly remodeled, the California Academy of Sciences’ “inside-out” design provides a behind-the-scenes look at aquatic life support systems for the Steinhart Aquarium.
Oceanography.  The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park at Fisherman’s Wharf is the nation’s only floating national park. Tours.  Possibly the best way to discover the mystique of San Francisco is to take a stroll through its unique neighborhoods.
There are many more opportunities for free or inexpensive fun in the city by the bay – from excellent playgrounds open any time to special free days at local attractions.
Photos provided by San Francisco Travel Association by Scott Chernis and Jack Hollingsworth.
San Francisco on the Cheap is a member of Living on the Cheap, a network of websites published by frugalistas, journalists and consumer advocates. Fresh produce is the mainstay of Costa Rican cuisine and wherever you are in the country, you’ll find farmers markets heaped with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, and bustling mercados selling everything from local handicrafts to cut-price clothing. San Jose’s main market is the Mercado Central, a daily enclosed market located on Avenida Central. As well as picking up unique souvenirs and handicrafts, San Jose’s markets are a great place to try local foods and the Mercado Central is crammed with small restaurants, food stalls and deli counters where you can taste local specialties. Be prepared for some leisure as you soak in some sun, enjoy some water, and have some fun as you relax at the finest beaches Southern California has to offer. Come on down to Balboa park during the summer from Wednesday – Friday to listen to some great music at the Twilight in the Park Summer Concert Series.
While you’re there be sure to checkout the Roller Coaster and Belmont Park for some amazing games and entertainment. Take your camera to shoot pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge, browse the shops in Chinatown, and be sure to ride the trolley and other public transportation to get around, when possible.
The city’s premier architectural symbol also lends its name to a lovely 1,017-acre park that includes meadows, lakes, rose gardens, an arboretum, a rhododendron dell, music concourse, a children’s playground, a buffalo paddock and the tallest artificial waterfall in the West. San Francisco’s family-friendly museums are free at least one day each month and in many cases, free always for children 12 and younger. Visitors can meet biologists who care for more than 5,000 animals, and perhaps even help feed the fish.
The Wells Fargo History Museum in the heart of San Francisco’s Financial District takes visitors back to the Gold Rush era with its displays of gold nuggets, rare artifacts, interactive exhibits and a stagecoach that visitors can hop aboard. Home to the world’s largest collection of historic ships, it includes the 1886 square rigger Balclutha, an 1890 ferryboat Eureka and the steam tug Hercules.
Over the span of 200 years, three flags flew over the base — Spanish, Mexican and American. Because the Northern California weather and waters are often cool, visitors won’t see swimmers — or even sunbathers all that often.


While self-guided walking tours are easy (information is available from San Francisco Travel), ambling with the experts can be even more fun. Find practical advice on saving money on groceries, travel and shopping, plus tips from our experts on how to live the good life for less at Living on the Cheap. With a history dating back to 1880, the lively market hosts over 200 stalls selling an array of fruit and vegetables, fresh fish and seafood, coffee beans, herbal medicines, handicrafts and clothing. And even though it’s an expensive city to visit in many ways, it also has its share of free or cheap things to do. Strolling the pier and observing is free, but admission to board the ships is $5, under age 17 free. The post’s 1,491 acres  next to the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay have some of the best views in town.
San Francisco’s historical and architectural highlights, tall tales and gold rush lore come to life with narrated San Francisco City Guides walking tours with library-sponsored volunteers.
It takes you to 49 interesting places, including Civic Center, Chinatown, Twin Peaks, Lake Merced, Mission Dolores, Fisherman’s Wharf and Fort Mason Center. Performers include the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Ballet. Look out for tropical fruits too, like the heart-shaped anona (a type of custard apple), the cashew fruit (often used in juices), bunches of red and orange rambutan; or the strong-scented nanzi, alongside fresh papaya, Costa Rican guava, mango and granadilla (passion fruit).
The free admission on the first Sunday of each month features storytelling and yoga sessions. At its new location along the waterfront at Pier 15, the Exploratorium is a playground for ideas. The unique San Francisco Cable Car Museum in the historic Cable Car Barn & Powerhouse, (where the cable system has operated since 1907), visitors can view the actual cable-winding machinery as it reels 11 miles of steel at a steady pace of nine-and-a-half miles per hour. Scheduled events and activities include sea chantey sing-a-longs and tours of the Eureka engine. Most walks take one to two hours and reservations are not needed, except for groups of eight or more.
Plan to stop a while with a picnic lunch at Marina Green to watch the weekend yacht races, windsurfing and sail boating.
On these free Sundays during special exhibitions, the museum often presents films and performances related to the cultural background of art works on view. In the vanguard of the movement of the “museum as an educational center,” the Exploratorium offers hundreds of interactive exhibits in the areas of science, art and human perception.
An enormous Fresnel lens, once used in the Farallon Island lighthouse, marks the entrance of the nearby Visitor Center at the corner of Hyde and Jefferson streets in the 1907 Haslett Warehouse building. A 20-page guide to the two-mile Ecology Trail highlights the Presidio’s oldest redwood trees and Inspiration Point and includes pages for children to journal their own experiences. Ocean Beach along the western edge of the city features four miles of sandy shoreline and, at the north end of the beach, the historic Cliff House sits high above the shore and is a spectacular viewpoint for observing the vast Pacific. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) in Yerba Buena Gardens also has kid-friendly activities.


Nearby is the Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s Visitor Center, stocked with informational pamphlets and maps.
Learn the story of the Golden Gate Bridge or meander among the murals of the Mission to experience vivid artwork-covered walls. The museum features art from all over the world and its new design offers twice the exhibition space of the old building and gives the public access to a third of the museum free every day. Free the first Tuesday of every month, SFMOMA’s second floor houses the Koret Visitor Information Center staffed by educators who can answer questions and help young artists browse through art books, view a community art gallery and play with Art Cards, a gallery exploration activity.
It only takes $5 to ride a cable car, the only moving national historic landmark in America, to the museum via the Powell-Hyde or Powell-Mason lines. Rangers also lead free tours at Fort Point, a four-tiered brick and granite fortress built between 1853 and 1861, tucked under the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Kids will enjoy the Fire Department Museum Tour, where they can take a look at San Francisco’s first fire truck and other relics as well as listen to stories. The Cartoon Art Museum, on Mission Street, is the only one of its kind on the West Coast, with rotating exhibitions of art from comic books, animated movies, magazines, advertisements and newspapers as well as sculpture and video, with works dating from the 1730s to the present.
A project of the San Francisco Fire Department Historical Society, the San Francisco Fire Department Museum displays a collection of vintage equipment including hose tenders and steamers; photographs and memorabilia, especially from the dozens of volunteer fire companies. The reclaimed wetlands and grassy knolls of Crissy Field, located along the shoreline of San Francisco Bay not far from the Exploratorium, offer picnic tables, walking paths, viewing areas and a host of family  activities in the Crissy Field Center. The historic Beach Chalet also houses a visitor center for Golden Gate Park on the first level. Tours are also offered through the Ferry Building, North Beach, Chinatown, Market Street, the Palace of Fine Arts, Japantown and more. The museum exhibits range from a children’s gallery and caricatures to editorial cartoons, the avant-garde and underground comics.
Using the ocean as a classroom is the province of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary visitor center, which guides groups through more than 1,200 miles of open ocean surrounding the Farallon Islands off the Golden Gate. A four-mile walk down the Ocean Beach Esplanade or a short drive south on the scenic Great Highway leads to Fort Funston.
From the wooden observation deck built into the hillside, hang-gliders can be seen soaring over the cliffs and sea. Many consider it one of the finest examples of municipal Beaux Arts architecture in the world. A game of Frisbee, volleyball or smash-ball is a great way to warm up on this sandy playground. Baker Beach stretches along the western shore of the Presidio below Lincoln Boulevard. Hikers and sunbathers here are treated to beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands from the ocean side of the peninsula.  Note that nude sunbathing is popular at the northern end of the beach, closer to the bridge.



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