From hippies to hipsters, gold rush to dot coms, San Francisco is all your holiday needs in one beautiful destination.

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Things to do in San Francisco

It may be compact, but San Francisco packs a punch. With its thriving start-up culture and creative scene, it’s a young and cool city packed with people who aren’t afraid to try something new – don’t be afraid to join them.

1. Unleash your inner child

Grab a bag of pennies and head over to Musée Mécanique, one of the oldest and largest privately owned arcades still standing in the world. With over 200 coin-operated antique arcade machines, mechanical musical instruments and a collection of kitsch 20th century artefacts, you can easily lose a few hours in happy play. For more of the same, visit Free Gold Watch, a pinball and video arcade that also offers custom screen-printing, clothes shopping and a place to hang out with the locals.

2. Get the blood pumping

Sure, you could just walk over the Golden Gate Bridge, but a better way to see it is while whizzing by on rollerblades. Rent a pair of inline skates from Golden Gate Park Bike & Skate, and enjoy a leisurely (or not) skate through the park. Sundays are the best days, as the main street is closed to cars. Once you’re sufficiently warmed up, head to the Circus Center, where you can try your hand at the flying trapeze, aerial acrobatics, trampolining and juggling. The centre’s team of instructors has performed with the Moscow Circus and Cirque du Soleil, so you know they’re good.

3. Chow down

No reservations are needed to enjoy one of San Fran’s coolest dining scenes. Many local chefs have turned to food trucks to satisfy hungry hordes, offering everything from Korean tacos to bacon-burrata BLTs. Check Off The Grid to find out which trucks are where – and when. For dessert, why not see where fortune cookies are made, at Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. Most people don’t realise the sweet cracker was invented in San Fran, not China, in the early 1900s. Entrance to the factory is free, and you’ll be given cookie samples to nibble on.

4. Find art in unexpected places

While The Gregangelo Museum looks like a normal house from the outside, inside it’s a rabbit hole of curiosities, with secret passageways, mirrored rooms and hidden chambers. Created as an art project during the 1980s by artist Greg Angelo, picture ancient Egyptian and Arabian nights crossed with Dr Seuss and Willy Wonka. Look out for the mosaic wall of the solar system and the life-sized sarcophagi. For something even more hidden, Peephole Cinema is located on the outside of a building on Orange Alley off 28th and Valencia Street in the Mission. Mini silent films, made by guest curators, are screened all day, every day – just look for the Peephole Cinema sign.

5. Get crafty

Join the hipsters at Workshop for craft classes taught by local makers, artists, foodies and DIY-ers. Learn to make anything from fresh mozzarella to soy candles and craft cocktails. It’s a great way to learn a new skill and meet the locals. To see someone else’s (rather eccentric) handiwork, stop in at Paxton Gate for shelves filled with taxidermy, rare insects and terrariums.