21 Best Things to Do in Union Square, San Francisco

Union Square, San Francisco
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San Francisco's Union Square is an excellent travel destination for its eclectic mix of locals and tourists, shopping, theater performances, galleries, and nightlife attractions.

The best feature of Union Square is its location and accessibility from anywhere in San Francisco.

The city's top sights are also close enough for you to spend an entire day with friends or family without going too far.

In the heart of San Francisco, California, Union Square is a 2.6-acre public space bordered by Geary, Powell, Post, and Stockton Streets.

Union Square got its name from pro-Union rallies on the eve of the American Civil War.

The monument also serves as a homage to the sailors of the US Navy.

Here are the best things to do in Union Square, San Francisco:

Try Riding the Cable Cars

People riding a Cable Car
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San Francisco is simply not San Francisco without its cable cars.

They contribute to the specific qualities that make this city unique and a wonderful place to visit.

Two of the three cable car lines operate in Union Square.

A cable car along Union Square road
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Both involve climbing and descending San Francisco's steep hills to reach the Fisherman's Wharf neighborhood.

Observing them move up and down Powell Street carrying passengers from all over the world is exciting.

It is amusing to see the cable car drivers turn the cars manually so they can return to Fisherman's Wharf.

Admire Architecture at the Dewey Monument

Aerial view of the Dewey Monument
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You know the sensation you get while exploring a new city and seeing something so beautiful that it makes you gasp?

One place that will give you this feeling is the Dewey Monument in Union Square.

Located in the city's heart is a monument to Admiral George Dewey, who led American forces to victory over Spain in Manila Bay, Philippines, during the Spanish–American war.

Details of the Dewey Monument
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This memorial stands out from the crowd as a great reminder of what it means to be an American hero.

The statue's exquisite pedestal has the name "George Dewey" engraved into its base.

Four bronze lions surround it and face Union Square, creating the sense that they are watching over their ruler.

This monument stands for everything that makes the nation great, including liberty, courage, and leadership.

Victory statue of the Dewey Monument
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Eat and Watch Sports at Bartlett Hall

You can tell you've arrived in Union Square when you see the well-known Bartlett Hall.

This elegant restaurant serves delicious food and broadcasts live sports on many televisions.

While waiting for your table or watching the game, you may unwind in their lounge area, which has nice chairs.

It's not surprising that Bartlett Hall has become a San Francisco institution, given that its daily menu changes based on materials sourced from nearby farmers and vegetables.

Shop at the Maiden Lane

Shops along Maiden Lane
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One of the most well-known shopping avenues in San Francisco's Union Square is Maiden Lane.

Chanel, Marc Jacobs, and Yves Saint Laurent are the famous stores on this premium boulevard.

You will surely love this two-block pedestrian-only street all day long.

Street sign of Maiden Lane
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This is the time of year when Maiden Lane's cafes and taverns set up their outdoor seating areas for a beautiful lunchtime.

You can go after 6:00 p.m. when all the shops are open; there is street entertainment to enjoy if you're seeking something more exciting to do.

While dining or drinking at one of the many establishments along Maiden Lane, you may watch street performers amuse customers.

The realreal luxury store at Maiden Lane
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Meet San Francisco at the Hallidie Building

Exterior of the Hallidie Building
Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Exploring Union Square's history is the best way to get a sense of San Francisco when you're there.

The Hallidie Building is a well-liked spot for tourists.

The building bears the name Andrew Smith Hallidie in honor of the San Francisco cable car pioneer who helped build the city's first cable car system in 1873.

In 1918, the architect Willis Polk designed the building as an office building.

Eventually, the building earned recognition as the first American skyscraper to use glass curtain walls.

Remarkably, you can also see some fantastic friezes depicting various historical events from San Francisco's past.

These include workers assembling the first cable cars, which you can see when you walk around the exterior of this historic structure.

The lobby has terrazzo flooring with swirls of various colors that appear to be intertwined and marble columns with Corinthian capitals.

Shop Again at the Westfield San Francisco Center

Interior of the Westfield San Francisco Center
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The idea that Union Square is the only place to shop in San Francisco is a common misconception.

There is, however, a ton more shopping centers in the area.

The Westfield San Francisco Centre shopping center is across Market Street from Union Square.

This area offers more shopping opportunities, with Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom's serving as anchor stores.

There are additionally shops like Abercrombie & Fitch, Banana Republic, and Michael Kors.

Building sign of Westfield San Francisco Center
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These options won't put too much of a strain on your finances, even though you may think that all these stores are too expensive for your budget.

One of the people's favorite stores is Macy's at Westfield San Francisco Centre because it carries everything from apparel and footwear to home goods and technology.

Additionally, Macy's carries some premium brands, such as Lucky Brand Jeans and Levi's Made & Crafted jeans, besides their private label line, American Rag Cie.

Beautiful interior of the Westfield San Francisco Center
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If you've ever been curious about collecting photography or want to learn more about it, head to Fraenkel Gallery.

Union Square is home to more than just fun and party hotspots.

Since 1979, this San Francisco gallery has presented nearly 300 exhibitions addressing the connection between photography and other art forms.

The gallery invites both seasoned collectors and those who are just considering purchasing photographic art.

The gallery has long-standing ties with international institutions, private collectors, and businesses.

Come and relax in this place after a fun party with your friends and family.

Eat with Friends at the Garden Court Restaurant

The grand interior of Garden Court Restaurant
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Since 1875, the Palace Hotel in Union Square has become a San Francisco landmark.

The historic restaurant, the Garden Court, is on the hotel's lobby floor, directly across from the door.

Built initially as the carriage entrance to this opulent hotel, it has now acquired a considerable historical significance for San Francisco.

Chandeliers inside the Garden Court Restaurant
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The history of the Garden Court is filled with weddings, engagements, parties, and youthful celebrations.

You can plan your wedding or any special occasion in this place.

You will have priceless memories of the Garden Court.

Watch Union Square at Night from the Saatva Viewing Room

The Saatva Viewing Room is transforming the mattress business in San Francisco's expanding tech sector.

The store is located near upmarket stores like Ralph Lauren and Tiffany & Co. in Union Square.

People enjoy how the store looks and how comfortable the beds are from the viewing room.

You can see modern Samsung technology throughout the store.

It includes a 4K television that shows 360-degree videos of different types of sleepers resting on other mattresses.

Grab a Meal at the E&O Kitchen and Bar

E&O Kitchen and Bar in Union Square is a well-known landmark in the city's heart.

It's a place where diners know they'll get a delectable meal.

This is the place to go if you're looking for something new.

The owners take pride in creating Asian food with solid and intriguing flavors.

You can order dumplings, noodles, satay, and many other dishes, including a raw bar.

Additionally, they offer outstanding burgers that would delight even the pickiest customer.

What if you're looking for a special night out?

E&O will ensure everything goes smoothly, whether it's a date night, family dinner, or a "let's get out of the house" day.

Enjoy Date Night at the Golden Gate Theatre

Exterior of the Golden Gate Theatre
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Visit the Golden Gate Theatre for a night of top-notch entertainment.

Only two theaters in Union Square show Broadway productions, and this one has operated since 1912.

These plays have roots in New York and feature actors from or headed to Broadway.

These productions offer a top-notch experience and include several up-and-coming stars.

The Golden Gate Theatre produces about six shows each year.

Taste Asian Food at the Le Colonial

Le Colonial is an excellent restaurant featuring Southeast Asian food in Union Square.

Everything on the menu, from the scallops to the tuna carpaccio, is genuine and fresh.

If you're unsure what to have, you can ask the staff for advice about their best-selling menu.

The restaurant's ambiance makes it the perfect place to go on a date or out with friends.

Staying on your best behavior when dining in this establishment is unnecessary due to the bright, colorful, and cozy decor.

Plenty of outdoor seating options are available if you want to eat outside.

According to reviews, most patrons love ordering from Le Colonial's broad cocktail menu.

See a Show at the American Conservatory Theater

Exterior of the American Conservatory Theater
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You have probably heard of the American Conservatory Theater, famous as the ACT Theater, even if you have never been to San Francisco.

It is one of the top theaters in town, run by a non-profit group that provides educational opportunities for everyone in the community.

The theater is located on Geary Street, close to Union Square.

The theater stages more than a dozen shows a year, including A Christmas Carol in December, which is always sold out months before the performance.

They offer acting classes to both adults and kids.

If you want to attend a musical or sign up for workshops at this theater, make a reservation before the tickets are sold out.

Buy Textiles at Britex Fabrics

You would expect to find an offbeat establishment like this family-run fabric shop in San Francisco.

Its two floors' walls are paneled with magnificent patterns made of wool and silk.

For a new chair, pillow, or article of clothing, choose fabrics from all over the world.

This textile shop offers exemplary service to its customers.

Whether searching for something odd or straightforward, they take the time to understand your needs and ensure you leave with what you need.

The fact that the store has operated for almost forty years is not surprising.

It is a true gem in the Union Square textile scene.

Liven up Your House at the Crocker Galleria

Interior of The Crocker Galleria
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The Crocker Galleria in Union Square is a one-stop store for all your household needs.

TopShelf Boutique has everything necessary to create the ideal wardrobe for every occasion.

Luxe Pieces features necklaces of every color and design for the jewelry fanatic in all of us.

If you like to receive floral arrangements, Abigail's Flowers has beautiful bouquets ready for you wherever you go.

The Cookie Factory & Café is an excellent option for dessert, while the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills has daily wine and cheese tastings.

Explore the Yerba Buena Gardens

The grounds of Yerba Buena Gardens
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The Yerba Buena Gardens spreads over two blocks on the southeastern periphery of Union Square.

This complex spreads on the southwest quadrant of Mission Street and 3rd Street.

It boasts a lush 5.5-acre central garden, the Esplanade, featuring seasonal flora and deciduous and evergreen trees.

A waterfall at Yerba Buena Gardens
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It also flaunts the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Waterfall, the Reflection Pond, the Stone Stage, and the Butterfly Garden.

The Esplanade of the Yerba Buena Gardens hosts over 120 cultural events annually a trademark 6-month garden festival, public art shows, and dance and yoga sessions.

A bowling center and skating rinks, in addition, occupy the garden’s east block on Folsom Street.

Flowers at Yerba Buena Gardens
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Get the Kids Inspired at the Children’s Creativity Museum

Exterior of the Children’s Creativity Museum
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Families visiting Union Square have the Children’s Creativity Museum as an ideal destination for their kids.

This museum, located on the southeast corner of Howard and 4th Street, offers many interesting exhibits for children, such as its Storybook Park.

Its features include an Early Childhood Literacy exhibit wherein a sensory alphabet and a reading tree provide a fun learning experience for kids,

The Children’s Creativity Museum also offers an ArtLab and a DesignIt! Studio to inspire the artist’s mind among kids.

On the museum’s second floor, studios on animation and music take visiting children to another level of artistic experience.

Entrance to the Children’s Creativity Museum
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Applaud the Tricks at the Marrakech Magic Theater

Spend a remarkable evening of illusion and sleight of hands at the Marrakech Magic Theater on O'Farrell Street.

The star of the show here, Jay Alexander, is not only a master magician and mentalist but also a comic.

He has appeared in prime programs like Good Morning America, Today Show, and TEDx Talks.

With its Moroccan flair, the Marrakech Magic Theater’s Oasis Lounge is a perfect setting for Jay’s numbers,

Before his show, you can enjoy picking from a wonderful variety of drinks and appetizers at the theater.

Exterior of the Contemporary Jewish Museum
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Expect something new in a visit to the Contemporary Jewish Museum on Mission Street.

It’s a non-collection museum and instead features ever-changing exhibits where visitors can interact through shared experiences.

International and national institutions on culture are the partners of the Contemporary Jewish Museum in presenting its various exhibits.

Entrance door of the Contemporary Jewish Museum
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One of the past crowd-drawers of the museum was an exhibit on how the circle of New York artists adapted to rapid changes in 1962-1964.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum has also featured Jim Henson of Sesame Street Fame and his trailblazing efforts as a puppeteer, cartoonist, animator, inventor, actor, and filmmaker.

Facade of the Contemporary Jewish Museum
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Have a Drink at Historic Redwood Room

The Redwood Room is one of the quaint points of interest at the Clift Royal Sonesta Hotel on Geary Street.

This bar just past the hotel’s lobby is a standout because of its wall panels made from a single redwood tree.

History also resonates in the Redwood Room, with its opening on December 6, 1933, immediately the day after the U.S. Prohibition was lifted.

The art deco-inspired Redwood Room is a striking sight with its Klimt reproduction paintings.

From its bar, you can order artisanal cocktails, top shelf wines, liquors, beers, and gourmet small plates.

Final Thoughts

Union Square is where different cultures meet and offer the best of their products.

It even has one of the highest numbers of theaters and plays, musicals, and comedies, attracting many tourists.

Visiting San Francisco without experiencing Union Square is, honestly, a wasted trip.

You must visit Union Square at least once in your life to experience and enjoy your shopping with the most excellent entertainment.

Start planning your Union Square excursion today!

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