3 Days In San Francisco, CA: The Perfect Weekend Itinerary

If you like nature, stunning architecture, shopping, museums, divey/hipster bars, and exceptional food in a city with a laid-back vibe, San Francisco is a must. There’s so much to see and do within 49 square miles.

Between the historical landmarks, majestic hilly townscape, and rich food culture, it’s possible to spend months in San Francisco and discover something new every day. If you’re planning a short and sweet weekend trip to San Francisco, you’re in luck! We’ve compiled the perfect 3-day San Francisco itinerary for you!

This itinerary will contain a good mix of popular activities as well as off-the-beaten-path activities, sights, and eats that we locals love to frequent. So without further ado, let’s get right into it!

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When Is The Best Time To Visit San Francisco, California?

In our humble opinion, the best time to visit San Francisco is from September to November. Unlike many other places in the US, the fall season offers some of the city’s warmest and most pleasant temperatures. Unless there’s a massive heatwave in effect, summer temps usually hover in the 60’s and 70’s. The other benefit of traveling during these months is that there will be fewer crowds than in the summertime.

Spring is another good time to visit thanks to its mild temperatures and lack of rain. Summers are great too, but just expect higher than average tourism as most travelers tend to seek out sunny weather activities in the city.

If you’re just looking to avoid rain, any time from April to November is good.

Regardless of when you choose to visit San Francisco, be sure to bring plenty of layers. Similar to other California coastal cities/towns, the weather here can be so unpredictable (one minute brisk and foggy, the next minute warm and sunny). Below is a photo of a chilly, brisk, and foggy afternoon in mid-July!

San Francisco Weather Best Time To Visit - Travels With Elle

How Many Days Are Needed To See San Francisco, California?

If I had to put a number to it, I’d say 4 to 5 days would be perfect for first-timers traveling to San Francisco, CA. This gives you enough time to hit the major tourist attractions as well as to visit a few off-the-beaten-path spots and get a taste of the local culture.

If you only had 3 days to spare, this would still be a good amount of time if you wanted to just get a taste of the city’s highlights and not dive in too deep. With just 3 days in SF, you will have more than enough activities to fill your days with. Really–there’s so much to see and do in the city. You could spend months/years in SF and still not do it all!

However, if you want to explore one layer deeper than Alcatraz Island and Fisherman’s Wharf, I’d recommend 4 to 5 days. That way, you’ll have enough time to see the museums, do some shopping, eat at a few good restaurants, catch some a show, see all of Golden Gate Park, do a hike, get out into the neighborhoods, and even rub elbows with the locals!

Any extra days you have can be used to explore other parts of the city or even take a day trip to other parts of the Bay Area.


Map Of Your Perfect 3-Day San Francisco Itinerary


Day 1 In San Francisco, California

Welcome to good ol’ San Francisco! Today is all about hitting a few tourist attractions by the Embarcadero and the piers as well as exploring some of San Francisco’s most loved neighborhoods. You better be ready to eat too because there’s a lot of good food featured on Day 1!

FERRY BUILDING FARMERS MARKET

Start your day off with a visit to one of the most lively farmers’ markets in all of the Bay Area! The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is a tri-weekly California Certified Farmers Market located at the San Francisco Ferry Building. It’s the perfect place to wander among SF locals, pick up some local produce, dried fruits, fresh-baked pastries, and even grab a bite to eat.

Our ultimate favorite food stall is Primavera (based in Sonoma, CA)—trust me, get the pork mole tamales. Out of this world. Their chilaquiles are also great!

The market is open Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, with over 100+ vendors featured on Saturdays. Saturdays are by far the best day to go.

FERRY BUILDING

Ferry Building - Free Things to Do in San Francisco

Also at the Embarcadero, you will find the famous ferry building, which is a real treat to explore. Many, many gourmet shops and restaurants line the interior of the building, including those selling locally made cheeses, olive oil, fresh oysters, artisanal ice cream, craft beer, and much more.

Highlights: Pick up some Blue Bottle Coffee, stop by Humphry Slocombe for their delicious and creamy ice cream flavors, grab some freshly baked bread at Acme Bread, and explore a few of the boutique stalls (they give free samples of olive oils, tapenade, lotions, and more).

VISIT THE EXPLORATORIUM

From there, take a scenic 15-minute walk over to the Exploratorium. The Exploratorium is often regarded as one of the world’s most interactive science museums. I grew up visiting as a kid and have unforgettable memories burned into my brain about how awesome this museum was! With more than 650 immersive exhibits that serve to educate visitors on real-world topics, this place is perfect for children and adults alike.

Looking for a later, adults-only visit? Every Thursday, The Exploratorium welcomes adults-only after 5pm for their After Dark events. After Dark visitors can enjoy the usual exhibits as well as an array of special themed programs with a drink in hand.

Tickets cost $30 for adults ($20 for children), but admission is included if you opt for either a Go City San Francisco All-Inclusive Pass or Explorer Pass.

PIER 39 / FISHERMAN’S WHARF

fishermans wharf san francisco
Historic F Line Trolley at Fisherman’s Wharf

Continue up the Embarcadero to reach Pier 39. Welcome to one of the largest tourist attractions in SF! Despite how touristy it is, you gotta check it out at least once. Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 are home to dozens of restaurants, shops, activities for families and kids, and kitschy attractions (merry-go-round, a wax museum, 3D rides, etc).

At Pier 39, you will also find the Aquarium of the Bay and be able to catch sightings of the famous SF sea lions. Pier 39 also has a merry-go-round, candy shop, mini-donut shop, and lots of other restaurants to check out.

For the true wharf experience, head to Boudin for clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl or grab a shrimp/crab roll from one of the many seafood stands and watch the smelly sea lions bark away.

VISIT MUSEE MECANIQUE

Located within Fisherman’s Wharf, Musée Mécanique is one of my favorite free museums in San Francisco. Here you’ll find more than 300 vintage and fully functional entertainment machines, ranging from orchestrions, coin-operated pianos, antique slot machines, crane games and more from the past century.

This museum is open until 8pm every night of the week, and it’s a great way to spend an hour. Although it won’t be free to play all of the games, prices for each machine range from 1¢ – $1, with the average price being either 25¢ to 50¢ per play. Don’t miss the old-fashioned photo booth on your way out!

GHIRARDELLI SQUARE

Ghirardelli Square San Francisco - Free and Affordable Things To Do in SF - Travels With Elle

Ghirardelli Square is a fun little square to walk around if you’re already in the area. From the Fisherman’s Wharf area, hop on over and spend the 20-30 minutes walking around.

The main attraction here is The Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop–if you’re in the mood for sweets, don’t miss the sundaes or the hot chocolate. The hot chocolate is definitely a winner.

GET AN IRISH COFFEE AT ITS BIRTHPLACE

Buena Vista Cafe - Free and Affordable Things To Do in SF - Travels With Elle

Steps away from Ghirardelli Square sits the Buena Vista Cafe. A little known fact, the Irish Coffee was actually born right here in San Francisco back in 1952! So come get a taste of the original for yourself!

On a regular day, the Buena Vista serves around 2,000 Irish coffees—up to 2,500 on a busy weekend day. These Irish Coffees are made the legit way, with Tullamore Dew. Afternoon pick-me-up? Don’t mind if I do!

CHECK OUT LOMBARD STREET ON FOOT

Lombard Street - Free Things to Do in San Francisco

Just a 7-10 minute walk from Ghirardelli Square will bring you to Lombard Street, one of the city’s most unique and iconic streets. Lombard is a one-way street filled with 8 full twists and turns that you can actually drive on. Since this is such a popular attraction, be prepared for lines of cars waiting for their turn to drive down.

A better alternative is just to skip the car and walk up and down the street. This way, not only can you go at your own pace and enjoy the beautiful bushes, trees, and gardens lining the street, but you can also avoid the headache of having to be stuck in that car traffic. There’s a great view of the city from the top, so don’t forget your camera!

You can get here by taking either the cable car or other public transport available in the city. Most SF hop-on-hop-off bus passes also have a stop close by, allowing you to get here with just a short walk.

EXPLORE NORTH BEACH

North Beach - Free and Affordable Things To Do in SF - Travels With Elle

After you’ve snapped a few pictures at Lombard Street, take a quick walk over to North Beach, one of the culturally richest, most-loved neighborhoods in San Francisco! A buzzing neighborhood steeped in Italian heritage, you can find many restaurants and shops, as well as bars, hole-in-the-wall establishments, and independently owned coffee shops.

This neighborhood boasts some of the most entertaining local sights in the city. Along Columbus Avenue, you will find the highest density of Italian cafes in San Francisco. There’s always an energetic and vibrant atmosphere here, especially on a warm, sunny day!

If you can get a seat at the casual seafood restaurant Betty Lou’s Seafood and Grill, I’d highly recommend a meal there. The seafood linguine and Mike’s wok-fried crab are a must. A must, I tell you!

Highlights: Lunch/afternoon snack at Golden Boy’s (serving wonderful Sicilian-style pizza since 1978; get the clam and garlic pizza), Betty Lou’s, Sotto Mare

EXPLORE CHINATOWN

Chinatown Streets - Free Things to Do in San Francisco

A short walk from North Beach will bring you right into the lively neighborhood of Chinatown. Not only is this the largest Chinatown outside of Asia but it’s also the oldest Chinatown in North America.

Starting at the iconic Dragon’s Gate on Grant Avenue and Bush Street, you can browse trinket shops and tea shops, visit the famous Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, explore the district with a culinary walking tour, or pop into various restaurants/delis to try all the dim sum your heart desires.

Highlights: Golden Gate Bakery— serves up one of the best egg tarts you’ll ever have in your life (even better than the ones in Hong Kong).

Read More: 17 Best Things To Do In San Francisco’s Chinatown (And Where To Eat)

DINNER AND DRINKS: NORTH BEACH

Betty Lou's - The Perfect 3 Day San Francisco Itinerary - TravelsWithElle

Head back to North Beach for more wonderful Italian food. This is where we always tend to gravitate for dinners in SF. Again, Betty Lou’s Seafood and Grill won’t disappoint.

After dinner, stop by one of the always-festive neighborhood bars or pubs for a few drinks before heading back to your hotel.


Day 2 In San Francisco, California

B. PATISSERIE

b Patisserie - The Perfect 3 Day San Francisco Itinerary - TravelsWithElle

Start your morning off Bay Area style, with a mouthful of pastries! In my opinion, not many other metropolitan cities do pastries as well as San Francisco does. If you’re looking for an alternative to Tartine, b. Patisserie’s the one. They have croissants and Kouign Amann’s baked to the ultimate perfection.

If those aren’t what you crave, simply get something else. I’ve had their pound cakes, madeleines, and cakes. Everything is seriously so irresistible.

JAPANTOWN

SF’s Japantown is a 6-block area of shops and restaurants along Post Street in the Western Addition neighborhood. Here you’ll find three indoor malls lined with a variety of authentic Japanese shops and restaurants.

Go to Peace Plaza for your photo opp with the grand pagoda, eat some ramen, get a matcha soft serve parfait at Matcha Cafe Maiko, take sticker pictures at Pika Pika (one of my favorite things to do with people I take to Japantown), play Japanese arcade games, browse gift shops selling ceramics, origami paper, stationery, and Japanese toys, and end the night singing in a private karaoke room.

San Francisco’s Japantown is a really fun place to explore but is often overshadowed by Chinatown. Since there are only four Japantowns left in the U.S., with San Francisco’s being the largest and oldest surviving, this area is certainly worth a visit! (The other three are located in Los Angeles–Little Tokyo and Sawtelle’s Little Osaka–and San Jose, CA.)

THE PAINTED LADIES

Painted Ladies - Free Things to Do in San Francisco

From Japantown, take a 10-15 minute walk or bus/rideshare your way over to The Painted Ladies. If you haven’t already heard, The Painted Ladies are an iconic sight in San Francisco. Unfortunately, you won’t find actual ladies here.

Instead, you’ll find some of the most beautiful houses in all of San Francisco, and they are free to enjoy from the outside. Visitors are not able to go inside these buildings since they are privately owned, but still worth admiring and having a picnic across the street. If you’re familiar with the hit television show Full House, you immediately recognize these houses and will want to catch a glimpse of the Painted Ladies for yourself!

HAIGHT-ASHBURY

haight ashbury san francisco

After soaking in the sights of The Painted Ladies, it’s time for some hippie, counter-culture vibes! Take the bus or rideshare over to the historic yet lively Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.

The Haight-Ashbury district has become a very popular tourist destination, famed for its unique hippie history, eclectic-ness, and counter-culture charm. It’s got all things vintage and retro–thrift stores, record stores, and bookstores, such as the world-famous Amoeba Records and bookworms’ favorite, Booksmith.

Haight Ashbury is bursting with color as well, due to its many murals, galleries, and art spaces. If you’re looking for something kitschy, The famous Haight Ashbury legs are above the shop called the Piedmont Boutique (1452 Haight St).

Read More: 13+ Things To Do in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury

THE CASTRO

The San Francisco Castro district is an internationally recognized neighborhood that is best known to support the LGBTQ community. You will find plenty of fun things to do here during the day and well into the night. This colorful, relaxed neighborhood is jam-packed with eateries and good vibes, perfect for strolling or taking a quick rest at a restaurant.

On your stroll, don’t miss views of the historic San Francisco Castro Theatre, originally built in 1922. Check out the Pink Triangle Memorial Park, a memorial to all of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender victims of the Nazi regime during the WWII period.

The Castro is also a great place to brunch if you want to schedule a visit earlier in the day. If you’re looking for a few great brunch spots, head to local favorites such as Wooden Spoon, Kitchen Story, or Starbelly for your first meal of the day on the weekends.

THE MISSION DISTRICT

Murals In The Mission District San Francisco - Free Things To Do In SF

The Mission is one of the most culturally diverse neighborhoods in the entire city with some of the best things to do to keep you busy in San Francisco. It’s packed with super trendy restaurants as well as some of the most fun and down-to-earth bars in the city. What you’ll notice here is that there are two distinct areas—a historical/cultural area as well as a more gentrified area.

Valencia Street is lined with many artisanal coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and independent boutiques, while Mission Street is home to some of the best tacos and burritos in the United States. (You heard that right, La Taqueria won “Best Burrito in the US”). If you still have room in your stomach after stuffing yourself with Mexican food, grab a pastry or an epic slice of pizza at Arizmendi Bakery.

The Mission District is also a virtual outdoor art gallery full of vibrant murals. On side streets and alleyways, vibrant murals can be found from left and right and all around you! These grand works of art feature themes ranging from cultural heritage to social-political statements. Take a stroll over to Balmy Alley, Clarion Alley, Cypress Street, and Lilac Street to enjoy the district’s mural art.

Read More: 16 Best Things To Do in The San Francisco Mission District (And Where To Eat)

TARTINE BAKERY

tartine bakery san francisco

Alright, I know it might be a little bit late to visit a bakery (as pastries are best bought and eaten in the morning), but I had to give an honorable mention to Tartine. If you’ve braved the long line and made it to the front and the morning bun hasn’t sold out yet, you need to get one. Or better yet, get two. These bad boys are heavenly–crispy, sweet, and flaky on the outside, soft and zesty on the inside.

Craving something less sweet? Opt for one of their wonderful hot-pressed sandwiches.

SHOPPING ON VALENCIA STREET

Valencia Street - The Perfect 3 Day San Francisco Itinerary - TravelsWithElle

Spend less than a minute on Valencia Street and you’ll immediately feel the hipster, yuppie vibe of this area. Expect to find many artisanal coffee shops, restaurants, bars, gift shops, and independent boutiques. Some of my favorite shops to explore here include The Pirate Supply Store, Paxton’s Gate’s, Therapy, and Often Wander.

Looking for an afternoon pick-me-up? For coffee, head to Ritual Coffee. For a coffee alternative, grab a matcha latte and Japanese fare at Stonemill Matcha. For creative cocktail drinks, head to The Beehive for good drinks and the ultimate 60’s vibes.

DOLORES PARK

dolores park san francisco

Dolores Park is one of the main landmarks in the Mission and one of the top reasons why I love the Mission so much. It’s absolutely the perfect place to grab some food, have a picnic, and sunbathe on a sunny day (not to mention the great opportunities for people watching). The best part of all, the people who come here are actually locals.

If you grab a spot higher up on the hill, you will be treated to some outstanding views of the urban skyline. Bring a picnic, a blanket, a football, a pair of sunglasses, and some speakers and you’re sure to have a great time. There are lots of food establishments nearby— grab a burrito from La Taqueria, a cup of ice cream from Bi-rite Creamery, or pastries/sandwiches from Tartine Bakery and bring it along for your picnic.

Visiting later in the day? Dolores Park is a wonderful spot to catch the sunset.

DINNER AND NIGHTLIFE

House of Prime Rib - The Perfect 3 Day San Francisco Itinerary - TravelsWithElle

If you can get reservations to House of Prime Rib (they need to be made months in advance), this is where I recommend you eat. Just take a look at that photo, no other explanation is needed. If you can’t get reservations there, try Hinata for an omakase-style meal or Nick’s Crispy Tacos for something more casual.

From there, head out on Polk Street for some buzzing nightlife! Mezcalito, Macondray, and Jackalope are popular among us locals!


Day 3 In San Francisco, California

At this point, you’ve seen a lot of San Francisco’s major urban highlights and local neighborhoods! Day 3 will feature a lot more views of nature and museums mixed in.

LANDS END / SUTRO BATHS

sutro bath lands end san francisco

Start your day off with a brisk morning jog or stroll at Land’s End to experience sweeping coastal views and catch a glimpse of some pretty interesting landmarks.

At the Northwest end of San Francisco, you will find a small stretch of coastal forest known as Land’s End. The Lands End Trail is an easy hike or stroll that takes you to a few other attractions including Sutro Baths, the Labyrinth, and Eagle Point. Make sure to wear sneakers as the trail can be dusty. If you’re looking for a scenic way to start your day, there’s no other place more perfect than this.

When you get towards the ruins of Sutro Baths, walk into them and explore! The Sutro Baths were developed in 1894 by the millionaire, Adolph Sutro. With his interest in natural history and marine studies, he constructed an ocean pool aquarium among the rocks north of the Cliff House as well as a massive public bathhouse that covered three acres. After you’re done exploring the baths, head to Cliff House to grab drinks or food, and enjoy the views from indoors.

BATTERY TO BLUFFS TRAIL

Sutro Baths - 55 Best Things To Do In San Francisco CA - Travels With Elle

If you’re up for a hike, the Battery to Bluffs trail is a short and sweet hike that will grant you epic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the surrounding bay. At 1.7 miles round-trip, it is short enough to do in-between your San Francisco sightseeing day, or better yet, in the evening at sunset!

On this easy hike, enjoy the area’s historic gun batteries, coastal plants and wildlife, and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the Golden Gate.

HAVE A PICNIC AT BAKER BEACH

Baker Beach - Free Things to Do in San Francisco

If the weather is in your favor (which means the wind isn’t howling and the fog hasn’t rolled in yet), then make your way down to Baker Beach for a beach picnic! Baker Beach is where many locals go with their families and dogs on a nice and sunny day. When the sun is out, this is the beach to be at.

The highlight? The epic views of the Golden Gate Bridge!

LUNCH IN THE INNER RICHMOND

The Richmond District is the ultimate spot for multicultural cuisine. Try snagging a seat at local staples including Burma Superstar, Hong Kong Lounge, or grab some quick and delicious dim sum to-go at Good Luck Dim Sum. Not too far away is Arsicault Bakery, another iconic bakery that will appease any croissant lover!

SEE THE YODA FOUNTAIN

Yoda Fountain San Francisco - Free Things To Do In San Francisco CA - TravelsWithElle

If you love Star Wars, then you have to pay a visit to the Yoda Fountain located at the Lucasfilm offices in the Presidio. It’s a super fun photo op spot!

The fountain is conveniently located near the northern end of Lover’s Lane and only a short distance away from the Palace of Fine Arts (about 10-15 minute walk). Once you’re done enjoying the life-sized Yoda statue, you can head into the lobby of the Lucasfilm offices (or just peek your head in).

The lobby has a variety of small Star Wars memorabilia all around the tables and bookshelves. There are also replicas of different lightsabers, small Stormtrooper statues, and even an R2D2 in the corner.

Location: 1 Letterman Dr, San Francisco, CA 94129

EXPLORE THE PALACE OF FINE ARTS

Palace of Fine Arts Free Things to Do in San Francisco

Just 10 minutes away from where the Yoda Fountain’s located in the Presidio is the Palace of Fine Arts. Photography lovers, don’t forget your camera when visiting the iconic Palace of Fine Arts. This is one of the most photographed sites in the city, having been featured in various movies and TV shows.

Originally built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition, this urban temple has become a San Francisco gem, enjoyed by both locals and visitors alike. Spend the afternoon admiring the Greco-Roman style architecture and exploring the grounds and the peaceful lagoon. You might even see a photoshoot or wedding happening!

GOLDEN GATE PARK

Golden Gate Park - 55 Best Things To Do In San Francisco CA - Travels With Elle

Next, take a bus/rideshare over to Golden Gate Park to explore all the little gems and museums it holds.

Golden Gate Park is such a dreamy place to spend a few hours. This park was modeled after Central Park in New York City and is actually 20% larger than Central Park. Golden Gate Park spans over 1,000 acres and houses a ton of museums, gardens, and attractions. A few notable attractions here include the Conservatory of Flowers, the San Francisco Botanical Garden, the de Young Museum, as well as the California Academy of Sciences.

The Japanese Tea Garden is also a cute little garden to explore. You can also check out the Golden Gate Park Rose Garden, completely free at all times, featuring over 60 rose beds. The peak time to see roses is during the summer, but there’s always something on display no matter the season. There’s even a ferris wheel to ride within Golden Gate Park!

CALIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

The California Academy of Sciences is a natural history museum that has become one of the most popular things to do in San Francisco. This museum is chock-full of things to see with a planetarium, aquarium, and indoor rainforest. There’s simply so much to do and learn from one place! They also have an adults-only night, every Thursday night from 6-10 pm (reservations are required).

If you had to just pick one museum to explore within GGP, I’d recommend the Cal Academy of Sciences. Their planetarium shows are just so cool!

Tickets do cost a pretty penny (almost $40 per adult), but admission is included if you opt for either a Go City San Francisco All-Inclusive Pass or Explorer Pass.

DINNER AT THE PAWN SHOP

Ready for a speakeasy-inspired dining experience? Right behind an inconspicuous door in an old pawnshop are good food, creative cocktail drinks, and funky music. Once you get past the doorman, you’ll be greeted by one of the great mysteries of San Francisco! A hidden tapas bar with a one-of-a-kind menu and an extensive wine list! Trust me, the food is really good here.

To access The Pawn Shop, you will need to find the golden phone at 993 Mission Street. Pick up the phone and speak with the funny pawn master and he’ll let you in. While it’s not required, it’s even more fun if you bring something to pawn/sell at the pawnshop in the front! Don’t forget to make your reservation!


Consider Getting The Go City San Francisco Pass

If you plan on hitting up a few of the museums/attractions listed in our itinerary above (and a few more of your own), you should consider getting a version of the Go City San Francisco Pass. It’s a really great way to see what you want to see while saving a bunch of money.

The Go City All-Inclusive Pass is really great for travelers who want to see as much as possible while they’re in San Francisco. With the Go City San Francisco All-Inclusive Pass, you can choose between a 1, 2, 3, or 5-day pass that will give you free admission to 25+ museums and attractions. This includes the following:

  • California Academy of Sciences
  • Exploratorium
  • Escape from the Rock (Alcatraz cruise tour)
  • Aquarium of the Bay
  • SFMOMA
  • The Walt Disney Family Museum
  • Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus 1-Day Classic Tour
  • All-day bike rentals
  • and a bunch more good stuff not listed here…

If you don’t plan on visiting a ton of different attractions, Go City also has an Explorer Pass which will still save you a lot of money. With the Explorer Pass, you’ll pay one flat fee for a 2,3,4, or 5-choice pass. You’ll then have 60 days to use it. There is also no need to pick attractions ahead of time, simply choose attractions as you go! Passes start at $55 for 2 choices.

No matter which pass type you pick, you’ll ultimately save far more with these passes compared to buying separate attraction tickets!


Got A Few Extra Days To Spare In The San Francisco Bay Area?

If you’ve seen the major highlights and done most of what you wanted to do in SF, we recommend hopping on BART or grabbing a seat on a guided tour to see what else the Bay has to offer. You’ll have no issues filling that time with fun stuff to do!

From forests to beaches, wineries to breweries, and some of the best hot chicken sandwiches you’ll ever eat in California, the Bay Area has got it all. Check out a few great day trips around the Greater Bay Area from San Francisco below.


Best Local Spots To Eat In San Francisco, CA

Because of its ever-growing food scene, there are so many delicious food joints in San Francisco. Certainly, too many places to name here!

For a taste of local flavor, here are some of our favorite cheap eats in San Francisco, CA:

  • Golden Boy Pizza
  • Betty Lou’s Seafood & Grill
  • Arizmendi Bakery & Pizzeria
  • Underdogs Too or Underdogs Tres
  • La Taqueria
  • Sam’s Burgers
  • Kevin’s Noodle House
  • Good Luck Dim Sum
  • Ming Kee Restaurant
  • b. patisserie
  • Ariscault Bakery
  • Genki Crepes & Mini Mart
  • Humphrey Slocombe Ice Cream
  • Mitchell’s Ice Cream

Where to Stay in San Francisco, CA

There are tons of lodging accommodations in San Francisco ranging from budget-friendly to outright luxurious. Hotels tend to cost a lot more in SF compared to other urban cities, so take care to do some research before settling on an option.

In order to save you time and money, I want to help you minimize the need to Uber/Lyft everywhere. As such, I’d recommend staying in a neighborhood that’s relatively central to everything. I recommend staying in or near the following neighborhoods: Mission District, Hayes Valley, The Castro, and Union Square (Union Square is where you’ll find most hotels are located).

Here are some hotels I recommend checking out, organized by neighborhood:

Union Square

Hotel Nikko San Francisco – Hotel Nikko San Francisco features beautiful modern accommodations with a bar, on-site restaurant, fitness center, swimming pool, and a terrace. You’ll be super close to a ton of public transportation options.

San Francisco Marriott Marquis Union Square – This downtown San Francisco hotel offers a fitness center, restaurant, and luxurious rooms with panoramic views. As with other Marriott hotels, this one is equally as modern and spacious.

Handlery Union Square Hotel – This San Francisco hotel is in Union Square, a 5-minute walk from the Powell Street cable car line. It features an outdoor pool and modern, spacious rooms. Guests will also have access to a fitness center one block from the hotel and an on-site sauna. Handlery is located 0.5 miles away from Chinatown and 1 mile away from North Beach.

Noe Valley / Mission District

Noe’s Nest Bed and Breakfast – Located in a charming Victorian house in San Francisco’s central Noe Valley neighborhood (near the Mission), Noe’s Nest Bed & Breakfast serves a generous daily buffet breakfast and offers guest rooms with free WiFi. Seriously, the rooms are so charming and the breakfast is just delightful.

1906 Mission – This San Francisco bed and breakfast features a modern, environmentally conscious design. Each room is designed with the environment in mind: energy-efficient lighting, re-purposed building materials, and free organic toiletries are provided. Do note that these rooms have a shared bathroom.

Hayes Valley

Hayes Valley Inn – While this is not the most central option, I added it to this list because of its simple charm! I stayed here a few years ago and had a wonderful, homey stay! Hayes Valley Inn is just 5 minutes’ walk from attractions such as the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House and San Francisco City Hall. Guests can easily discover local boutiques, art galleries and cafes. Do note that these rooms have a shared bathroom.

The Castro

Beck’s Motor Lodge – Beck’s features charming, bright, and modern rooms. It’s located only steps from the city’s historic cable car lines with direct access to Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square. Dolores Park and San Francisco’s Mission District are just 15 minutes’ walk away from this motel. A number of antique shops, cafes and unique stores are located in the neighborhood. This is one of the rare hotels that offer free parking!


Essential Tips For Your San Francisco, CA Trip

  • If you’re driving into the city from elsewhere, be prepared for the horrendous Bay Area traffic, especially on weekdays during the morning and afternoon rush hours. The same goes for driving out of the city! Hopping onto the bridge to leave San Francisco could take almost an hour during rush hour. Plan your drives accordingly to avoid traffic.
  • Do not rent a car if you’re primarily going to stay in SF. Traffic sucks and parking is an expensive nightmare. What’s worse is that if you do rent a car, many hotels charge $35+ for overnight parking. If you’re considering street parking as an alternative, good luck because most hotels are located in metered street parking areas. San Francisco is relatively small, so most tourist attractions are close to each other and public transportation options are plentiful.
  • 511.org is a great resource that will provide you with detailed SF and Bay Area transportation information. Available both as an app and on the web, it should be your go-to resource for Bay Area traffic, transit, carpool, vanpool, and bicycling information. Since it’s catered towards commuters, it’s more comprehensive than Google Maps.
  • Dress in layers. Even in the summer, mornings and evenings in San Francisco can be cool and chilly due to the coastal climate. Packing layers when you head out to explore will help you stay prepared for any kind of weather. Of my 20+ years of living in the Bay Area, I have never gone to SF without bringing a jacket with me.
  • Wear extremely comfortable walking shoes. Even though public transportation is plentiful, San Francisco is a very walkable city and you’re going to be doing some hill climbing while you’re at it. My all-time favorite travel shoes these days are the tried and true Ecco Soft 7‘s (they’re stylish, comfortable, and have been raved about for decades since they were first created)! The best part is that they have them for both men and women.
  • Expect fog and wind while in San Francisco, and bring layers so that when it rolls in, you’re prepared! Sure there are clear, sunny days, but that’s more common in the summer and early fall.

Essential Packing List For San Francisco, California

  • Smartphone UV Sanitizer and Charger | Our phones gather all the grime and bacteria we touch throughout the day, and then they are stored in warm, dark places like purses and pockets, which make for great breeding grounds for bacteria to grow. They are the third hand we never wash, but should! Using a UV sanitizer such as PhoneSoap on a regular basis will help keep germs and illness at bay.
  • First Aid Kit | It’s always good to carry a first aid kit around with you when traveling. Road trips make it easier to do this since all you need to do is toss it in the trunk!
  • Hiking Boots | If you plan on hiking, bring well broken-in boots with good ankle support and good traction. My all-time favorites are the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Boots. They’re one of the lightest boots in its class, very durable, and provide out-of-the-box comfort, which is extremely important if you want to prevent blisters from the start.
  • Hiking Socks | If hiking, make sure you have a good pair of cushioned wool hiking socks. For extra toe protection and to prevent blisters from developing from skin-to-skin contact, go with a pair of Injinji toe socks.
  • Puffy Jacket | If you’re traveling in the fall or wintertime, you’re going to need layers in the Bay Area, which tends to get pretty cool nights. You have a lot of options here, but I personally have the North Face Thermoball, and it’s kept me warm throughout my many years of adventuring!
  • Daypack | I’m a fan of the Deuter ACT Trail 30 Hiking Backpack. Even when I’m not hiking! It has ample room for all the snacks and water you’ll need, as well as for your camera and the safety essentials for the hike.
  • Sunhat | Sun protection is key for any California destination.
  • Hand Sanitizer Hand sanitizer gel or wipes are a must any time you’re going to be in contact with surfaces many other people have touched. Never leave your hotel room without it! And if you do happen to forget it, remember to wash your hands often, especially before eating or touching your face.
  • Body Wipes / Feminine Wipes | Feeling a bit gross after a hike or bike ride but don’t have the time to shower right in that instant? Just whip out one of these body wipes for a quick refresher. The feminine wipes I like are infused with cucumber and aloe. Trust me, you will feel and smell so much better. Always good to have a few handy in your travel bag.
  • Portable Power Bank | You’re probably going to be out all day, snapping away taking pictures… the last thing you want is to be driving along with no phone battery! A portable power bank is a must-have, and Anker’s ultra-light, ultra-portable power bank is tried and true by so many travelers! I never embark on a day of exploration without it.
  • Soft Hydration Flask | Stay hydrated throughout the day with a water bottle that can go anywhere with you—and fold up when not in use. I love the packability of these bottles!

And that concludes this post! We hope that this post has inspired you to try something new! If you have any questions about the destinations or have your own travel tips to share, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below.


Want more San Francisco travel tips? Read More:

60+ Free and Affordable Things To Do In San Francisco, California

8 Best San Francisco Neighborhoods To Visit (And What To Do Beyond SF!)

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