Editor’s Note: During this period of social distancing, Student Group Tour magazine will continue to provide ideas for planning educational travel. Many attractions and destinations are closed at this time; please contact them directly for updated information.

Home to a little bit of everything, San Francisco overflows with eye-opening and educational experiences for student groups. With its rich diversity and detailed history, the City by the Bay welcomes students from all around the country, and world, with open arms.

“A visit to San Francisco can open a student’s eyes to a different world,” said Hubertus Funke, executive vice president & chief tourism officer of the San Francisco Travel Association. “Here, in a city that is infinitely diverse, they can encounter sights, sounds, smells, tastes and sensations that may be entirely foreign to life at home. Each new experience brings a fresh perspective and shines a light on new possibilities. Perhaps poet Dylan Thomas said it best: ‘You wouldn’t think such a place as San Francisco could exist. The wonderful sunlight there, the hills, the great bridges, the Pacific at your shoes. Beautiful Chinatown. Every race in the world. The sardine fleets sailing out. The little cable cars whizzing down the city hills …. And all the people are open and friendly.’”

San Francisco Travel Association


Credit: © Exploratorium, exploratorium.edu

The Exploratorium is more than a museum; it’s an ongoing exploration of science, art and human perception. Step inside a tornado, turn upside down in a giant curved mirror, walk on a fog bridge and explore more than 650 hands-on exhibits. Students will find all of this plus unique programs, discussions and events, a cafe and restaurant, two stores, and more. The Exploratorium’s professional development programs provide educators with the skills, tools and support they need to apply inquiry-based learning and teaching in their classes.

California Academy of Sciences

Credit: San Francisco Travel Association

Home to an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum and world-class research and education programs, the California Academy of Sciences is one of San Francisco’s must-see destinations. From the splashing penguins in African Hall to the wildflowers on the roof, the building is bursting with life. A four-story living rainforest and awe-inspiring coral reef ecosystem will delight visitors of all ages, while immersive planetarium shows will transport audiences through space and time for a new perspective on the planet.

Asian Art Museum

Credit: San Francisco Travel Association

The Asian Art Museum is home to one of the most complete and renowned collections of Asian art in the world, with a collection spanning cultures from Turkey to India and China to the Philippines through 6,000 years. Deepen students’ study of Asian art and culture with a docent-led or self-guided visit. Serving one of the most diverse communities in the country, the museum leads a diverse, global audience in discovering the distinctive materials, aesthetics and intellectual achievements of Asian art and cultures.

San Francisco Symphony

Credit: San Francisco Travel Association

The San Francisco Symphony sets the highest possible standard for excellence in musical performance at home and around the world. The symphony provides school groups an unforgettable and engaging learning experience at Davies Symphony Hall through Concerts for Kids performances and daytime Open Rehearsals. High school teachers and students enjoy a rewarding, educational experience when they witness live music making by the San Francisco Symphony. Open rehearsals provide a behind-the-scenes encounter — a great way to hear orchestral music come alive.

San Francisco Zoo & Gardens

Credit: San Francisco Travel Association

Nestled against the Pacific Ocean, the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens is an urban oasis. It is home to over 2,000 exotic, endangered and rescued animals representing more than 250 species and lovely peaceful gardens full of native and foreign plants. The Leanne Roberts African Region and the Valentine Family Savanna offer a multi-species landscape with giraffes, zebras, kudu, ostriches, storks and more. At Hearst Grizzly Gulch, visitors can get nose-to-nose with rescued grizzly sisters Kachina and Kiona.