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13 Indoor Activities Perfect for a Rainy Day in San Francisco

13 Indoor Activities Perfect for a Rainy Day in San Francisco

Explore this great range of interesting things to do on a rainy day in San Francisco and have fun in the Golden Gate City.

Mateos Glen Hayes


6 min read

March 04, 2023

Disclaimer: does not receive any kind of compensation for reviewing any of the products or services mentioned in this article.

San Francisco is a wonderful city to visit filled with history and plenty of fun activities perfect for the whole family. While the Golden Gate city is sunny most of the year it gets its fair share of rain, particularly from November to March.  During these five months, it frequently rains and that means it's nice to have some indoor plans to fall back on when visiting. Fortunately, there is plenty of indoor activities in San Francisco.

Ferry Building

Go shopping and eat out in one of the historic architectural centerpieces of downtown San Francisco.

One increasingly popular indoor thing in San Francisco is shopping at the Ferry Building Marketplace. This majestic structure was constructed as a major transit center for downtown San Francisco and, as the name suggests, it remains a place where you can catch ferries to cross the San Francisco Bay. Although the building declined in the latter half of the twentieth century, it has since been restored and now serves a combined role as a commercial center and transport hub. A visit here allows you to peruse a shopping mall complete with high-class stores and healthy restaurants, all enclosed in one of the most beautiful buildings in San Francisco. 

California Academy of Sciences 

Those searching for indoor activities in San Francisco would be remiss not to check out the California Academy of Sciences. This imaginatively designed facility nestled in Golden Gate Park features a range of scientific exhibits that allow you to experience the wonders of nature and the great beyond. Of course, the California Academy of Sciences is famous for its living exhibits, including a planetarium-rainforest and aquarium, a flight to Mars simulator, and a virtual Safari just to name a few. Altogether these innovative edutainment attractions make visiting this science museum one of the most fun things to do indoors in San Francisco.   

San Francisco Cable Car Museum

Check out the huge machines that make San Francisco’s cable cars go, and learn about the history of the last surviving cable car system of it’s kind.

San Francisco's cable car system started operation in 1878 and is the last surviving of its kind in the world. As the name suggests, San Francisco’s cable cars move thanks to cables they are attached to, which are drawn by large electric-powered wheels installed in a winding station. San Francisco’s cable cars are powered by one large winding station, where the Cable Car Museum is located.

This is, therefore, a working museum complete with operational winding wheels for each of San Francisco’s cable car lines and a depot filled with historic cable cars from the nineteenth century. The museum is just a short walk from vibrant Union Square and is one of the best San Francisco rainy-day activities, particularly if you’re into history and old vehicles. 

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Also known as SFMOMA, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is filled with twentieth-century artwork in a giant 170,000-square-foot facility. This makes visiting SFMOMA—one of the biggest modern art museums in America—a very popular indoor activity in San Francisco. You can spend hours in the place and not see even a fraction of what’s inside. Tickets to SFMOMA start at $25, and admission is free for those 18 and under, making this top art gallery in San Francisco a good family destination.

Ghirardelli Square

Experience a wide array of shopping and fine dining options and grab some gourmet chocolate at iconic Ghirardelli Square.

The story of Ghirardelli is a quintessentially American one. Founded in 1852 by an Italian-born immigrant and chocolatier called Domenico Ghirardelli, this San Francisco institution has since sprouted into a global brand famous for the highest-quality chocolates of all varieties. 

Although no longer the company's official headquarters, the distinctive brick buildings of Ghirardelli Square remain the company's spiritual home. You can still buy Ghirardelli chocolate here. The square has also become a hub for other shopping outlets and some rather exquisite restaurants. In short, plenty of San Francisco rainy-day activities exist in and around Ghirardelli Square. 

USS Pampanito

War buffs will love this fun thing to do indoors in San Francisco as the USS Pampanito is replete with history. This former United States Navy submarine served extensively in the Pacific theater of the Second World War and saw multiple successful engagements. In 1975 the submarine was transformed into a San Francisco museum and memorial to those who served. 

Today it is one of the best-preserved submarines from this period and some of its components, including one torpedo tube and the onboard ice cream maker, are still operational. The museum runs several educational programs offering children and adults the chance to experience everyday life on a WWII submarine. 

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Ride the Streetcar 

In addition to the iconic cable cars, San Francisco has an extensive network of streetcars called trams. The city even maintains a heritage line complete with beautiful vintage trams from all around the world. If you want to ride one of these iconic vehicles, you can catch a streetcar on Market Street, near the Civic Center, and even in the Castro District. 

Because this is a full-fledged system, you can use street cars to affordably and quickly get to the many indoor activities in San Francisco. You can see where each route goes on the SF MTA website, and pay fares in cash, or with a fare card. It is even possible to charter a streetcar for special occasions and go anywhere you want throughout the network.   

Westfield San Francisco Center 

Perhaps museums aren’t your thing, and you’d much prefer to shop ‘til you drop in a huge emporium filled with all manner of chic couture outlets, entertainment, sumptuous bakeries, and fine dining options. In that case, you’ll want to check out this indoor activity in San Francisco. The Westfield San Francisco Centre is the city’s main upscale shopping center, filled with 170 stores occupying nine stories of real estate in the heart of The City. The mall opened in 1988 and has seen multiple improvements and expansions, making it the premier shopping hub on Market Street. 

Mission Dolores 

Visit this pristine Spanish Mission to take in some beautiful artwork from the Spanish colonial era.

Since San Francisco was once a Spanish mission town, it still has quite a few relics from this period, and the Mission San Francisco de Asis is one of these. Commonly known as Mission Dolores, this excellent example of California mission architecture remains largely intact and is filled with Spanish mission-style decorative elements. It's the perfect indoor activity in San Francisco for those who want to take a glimpse into a forgone past. Bask in the majesty of one of the most pristine Spanish missions on this side of the continent and take in some truly beautiful artwork. 

Aquarium of the Bay

The Aquarium on the Bay is hands down one of the best aquariums you will ever see. It contains a massive 750,000-gallon saltwater tank home to over 24,000 animals. One of the highlights of this enormous aquarium is the two long acrylic tunnels that run under the massive tank, giving visitors the experience of standing underwater alongside rare and beautiful sea life. Going to Aquarium on the Bay is one of the most extraordinary things to do on a rainy day in San Francisco.

San Francisco Opera 

Catch a classic opera and stay out of the rain in the majestic War Memorial Opera House.

Based in the monumentally ornate War Memorial Opera House in downtown San Francisco, the opera is the perfect place to go if you're looking for a long indoor activity in San Francisco. Indeed, few things are longer than a three-piece opera, and the San Francisco Opera doesn’t disappoint. The opera’s program features a range of shows including classic operas by the likes of Richard Strauss and Giacomo Puccini, and newer productions such as the work of Gabriela Lena Frank, a classical composer from Berkeley.


The Exploratorium is a museum of science, technology, and art unlike any other. It’s a unique experience because it’s an interactive monument to scientific achievement and education. The Exploratorium gives you and your family the one-of-a-kind experience that comes with learning principles of quantum physics through fun interactive exhibits that are a world apart from a dreary science lesson. You’ll want to set aside a day to explore everything this San Francisco rainy day activity offers.


Enjoy Japanese food, merchandise, and culture in one of the last remaining Japantowns in North America.

For many fun things to do indoors in San Francisco, Japantown is the place to go. Long ago, many cities on the West Coast had Japantowns where Japanese-Americans created vibrant communities and founded thriving businesses. Unfortunately, today there are only three Japantowns left in the entire country, one in San Francisco. Japantown offers you the perfect spot to immerse yourself in Japanese culture. It provides a range of restaurants, dance studios, and gift shops filled with anime merch and beautifully handcrafted ceramics straight from Japan. 

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