Rainy Day Activities in San Francisco, California

Amazing Things to Do on a Rainy Day in San Francisco, CA

When I first moved to San Francisco, I was asked if I went to the beach a lot. I quickly learned that my friends and family, all East Coasters, believed that all California weather was like Los Angeles weather. But that’s really not the case.

All throughout California, there are many different climates. In fact, even in San Francisco itself, there are different micro-climates. It’s not uncommon for it to be sunny and several degrees warmer in the Mission than in the Outer Richmond, where it’s often foggier and a bit chilly.

If you don’t like the weather in one part of San Francisco, you can take a quick MUNI ride somewhere else to warm up. But every now and again, often in the winter, rain is just a part of the city’s forecast. 

So, what do you do in San Francisco on a rainy day? I’ve compiled a list of the best San Francisco rainy-day activities for you, from indoor adult-friendly playgrounds to kid-focused indoor spaces. Pick your favorite rainy-day activity from this list, and you’re bound to enjoy your time in Fog City, rain or shine!

Fun Things to Do on a Rainy Day in San Francisco

1. Play around an arcade bar

Best Things to do in San Francisco in the Rain: Arcade Bar

Remember those days when you got your allowance and spent every rainy day after at your local arcade, plugging in quarters and trying your best to beat that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles scroller? Well, who says those days have to be over?

If you’re wondering what to do in San Francisco when it rains, head over to one of the city’s many arcade bars. These bars offer new and classic games, bar bites, and smooth sips. Some of the city’s best arcade bars include the Emporium, Thriller Social Club, and The Detour.  


2. Explore the Exploratorium

Cool Things to do in San Francisco in the Rain: Exploratorium

If you’re looking for more kid-friendly things to do in San Francisco when it rains, head to the Exploratorium, a hands-on museum that delves into all things art, science, and the intersection of the two. Located in a beautiful space at the Embarcadero, the Exploratorium is all about embracing your imagination and questioning what’s possible with the help of their family-friendly attractions and activities.


3. Visit the California Academy of Sciences

Fun Things to do in San Francisco in the Rain: California Academy of Sciences

Over in Golden Gate Park is another museum that asks you to question the world around you. The California Academy of Sciences is a massive museum and you can easily spend an entire rainy day comfortably hiding inside.

It’s actually more like four museums in one. There’s the Steinhart Aquarium, home to more than 60,000 live animals. Then, there’s the Morrison Planetarium, where you can study the cosmos in a 75-foot-diameter dome. 

The Osher Rainforest is a four-story dome that feels like you stepped inside the rainforest. The Kimball Natural History Museum completes the collection and is where you’ll find the past, present, and future coming to life through hands-on exhibits.


4. See the stunning de Young Museum

Best Things to do in San Francisco in the Rain: De Young Museum

Just across from the California Academy of Sciences at Golden Gate Park is the de Young Museum, one of the city’s best art museums and one of the best indoor activities in San Francisco for art lovers. 

Known for its incredible views and impressive collection of works from the Americas, Africa, and Oceania, the de Young allows you to immerse yourself in unique works of art, all while you’re standing in a building that’s very much a work of art itself.


5. Find cover at the Japanese Tea Garden

Cool Things to do in San Francisco in the Rain: Japanese Tea Garden

I’m adding the Japanese Tea Garden to this list with a slight asterisk. If you’re looking for indoor activities, you won’t find it here. The tea garden is an outdoor attraction. But it’s also my favorite place to be in San Francisco when it rains!

As you take shelter in the covered tea house, you’ll find true tranquility while you sip on a hot cup of tea and watch the raindrops fall over the garden’s exquisite collection of plants and Japanese outdoor architecture. It’s the perfect way to spend a peaceful afternoon. And since it’s right by the de Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences, you can do all three on a rainy day in San Francisco.


6. Explore Disney history at the Walt Disney Family Museum

Fun Things to do in San Francisco in the Rain: Walt Disney Family Museum

Over in the Presidio is where you’ll find one of my favorite museums in the city and one of the best indoor activities. The Walt Disney Family Museum takes you through the lives of Walter Elias Disney and his family. You’ll learn all about his first films, the trials and tribulations of his studio, and how Disneyland came to be. You’ll even see the models that inspired the beloved park.

While you’re in the Presidio, be sure to get your Disney fill by stopping by Disney-owned Lucasfilm, the home of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. You can’t go into the working facilities without someone giving you access, but you can see the iconic Yoda fountain and even get a look inside the lobby to view some amazing memorabilia during regular business hours. 


7. Get creative at the Children’s Creativity Museum

In Yerba Buena Gardens, you’ll find the Children’s Creativity Museum, one of the best indoor activities in San Francisco for kids between two and 12. Featuring a historic carousel, hands-on exhibits that encourage children to create anything they can imagine, and classes and workshops for even more learning opportunities, this museum is perfect for all kids, from little artists to aspiring engineers. 


8. Go under the sea at the Aquarium of the Bay

Best Things to do in San Francisco in the Rain: Aquarium of the Bay

PIER 39 is home to the Aquarium of the Bay. If you find yourself near this iconic pier and it starts to drizzle, you’re in luck! This aquarium is home to 24,000 marine animals and strives to shine a light on the beauty and biodiversity of the waters of Northern California.


9. Learn about different cultures at the Asian Art Museum

Cool Things to do in San Francisco in the Rain: Asian Art Museum

Found over in the Civic Center, the Asian Art Museum offers a great indoor activity that invites you to uncover the incredible contributions to art from the Asian world. With more than 2,000 works of art on display at a time and the museum rotating out these pieces of art through different exhibits throughout the year, a visit here guarantees an in-depth look at the art from all major cultures in Asia.


10. Get artsy at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

For more art to uncover in San Francisco, head to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA). The YBCA is more than an art museum. It’s a celebration of the art world and its storytelling capabilities. As you visit this arts center, you’ll hear stories from voices from all different walks of life. YBCA also puts on many events that let you truly immerse yourself in diverse forms of art.  


11. Stay dry at the Museum of African Diaspora

The Museum of African Diaspora offers another San Francisco rainy-day activity that invites you to learn about different cultures. At this museum, you’ll learn about the challenges faced by and contributions from African and African descendant cultures, showcasing their rich heritage and their place in the art world.


12. Treat yourself to a spa day

Best Things to do in San Francisco in the Rain: Spa Day

If you’re in town on a rainy day, why not treat yourself to a spa day? San Francisco is home to a number of diverse spas, like the Pearl Spa in Japantown, a Korean women-only spa that specializes in body scrubs. Or find wellness-focused treatments over in the Presidio’s SenSpa or Union Square’s Pure Organic Spa


13. Play a little indoor putt-putt or ping-pong

Cool Things to do in San Francisco in the Rain: Indoor Putt Putt or Ping Pong

While Urban Putt is sadly no more (though it’s set to return with a new owner and a new name soon), there are several more mini-golf courses that offer excellent indoor activities in San Francisco, like Subpar Miniature Golf in Ghirardelli Square. 

If indoor mini golf isn’t your speed, check out SPIN instead, which is part bar and restaurant and part ping-pong club. 


14. See a touring show or performer

If you find yourself in San Francisco in the rain at night, you may want to head over to the city’s theater district. As someone who grew up loving Broadway, I was so delighted to find out how much of a theater scene San Francisco has

Not only do many touring Broadway shows play here, but there are also tons of more intimate engagements, like conversations with beloved actors and musicians. You’ll love spending the evening hiding from the rain in these ornate theaters.


15. Spend time at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Fun Things to do in San Francisco in the Rain: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

If contemporary artwork is your thing, the best thing to do in San Francisco when it rains is to head to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), one of the largest modern art museums in the US. This vibrant museum expands the definition of art, showcasing everything from visual art spectacles to ink paintings to photography. 

The museum also strives to highlight the interactivity of art through impressive events that just might be happening during your next rainy day in the city.

There you have it! Amazing things to do in San Francisco when it rains. What are your favorite rainy-day activities?


Author

  • Jacqueline Gualtieri

    Jacqueline is a writer and editor pursuing the freelance life to explore the world. Born and raised in New Jersey, she spent her college years in Boston before settling down with her partner and puppy in Monterey, California.

    When she’s not writing, you can often find her planning her next trip. Road trips are her favorite, whether it’s driving across the country or simply exploring a new city in her own backyard. She loves uncovering the history of every new place she goes.

    Jacqueline has a restless passion for learning and makes it a goal to pick up a new skill every year. She’s picked up embroidery, crocheting, knitting, and cross-stitching, but she’s hoping to master more languages to help her in her travels. She’s also a published author, with short stories and poetry appearing in several anthologies.

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