Welcome to JetSetting Fools, here you will find our best travel tips for destinations worldwide. Some of the links on this site are Affiliate Links and if you use them to make a purchase, we may earn a commission. For more information, read our Disclosure Policy.
Planning a San Francisco Itinerary can be quite the task – especially if you only have a few days over a weekend. The city by the bay boasts iconic sights, delectable food and an abundance of fun activities. The numerous attractions make it difficult to choose what to see – and what to skip – with just 3 days in San Francisco for sightseeing.
We understand the struggle; we’ve made countless weekend trips to San Francisco – always eager to visit our favorite SF spots and seek out something new. Using our experiences, we created this guide to the Perfect San Francisco Weekend Trip to help fellow travelers, like you, plan your best SF trip.
Why Plan a Weekend Trip To San Francisco?
San Francisco has long ranked as one of our favorite cities in the world. In addition to the sights and the food (both of which are fabulous things to do in San Francisco), we relish the fun atmosphere and casual vibe of the city.
Spending a long weekend in San Francisco is a great way to get an introduction to the fantastic city.
On weekend vacations in San Francisco, travelers can see the best San Francisco sights, seek out lesser-known locales, indulge in the tasty fare and spend time in nature. The city is incredibly diverse – and a weekend getaway to San Francisco is an ideal way to experience it.
How To Plan a Trip to San Francisco?
We know how challenging it is to plan a trip to San Francisco. During the many years that we lived in Phoenix, Arizona, we often escaped the summer desert heat to the cool coastline on quick San Francisco weekend trips. The more we visited the bay area, the more we fell for it…and our list of what to see in San Francisco grew, too.
In order to make the most of our limited time, we had to meticulously plan our weekend trips to SF – eventually planning the absolute Best Itinerary for San Francisco.
We have done all the tedious research, which should make planning a trip to San Francisco a breeze for you. We have fit as much sightseeing as possible into our San Francisco Weekend Itinerary – plus we include a helpful San Francisco map of attractions.
San Francisco Itinerary FAQs
Before we jump into our outlined plan for a weekend in San Francisco, we want to answer a few of the most frequently asked questions about our SF Itinerary.
How is Your San Francisco Weekend Trip Itinerary Arranged?
Our 3-Day Itinerary San Francisco includes three full days of sightseeing.
Day 1 of our San Francisco Weekend Itinerary features the must-see tourist sights in the city. On Day 2, we explore the city’s best districts. For Day 3 of the SF Itinerary, we head into nature and visit the best parks and bay area beaches.
Each day of our 3 Day San Francisco Itinerary picks up in the same general area where we ended the previous day, making it easy to move sights from one day to another.
What is the Best Way to Use the San Fran Itinerary?
Well, locals would say by not calling their city San Fran or Frisco! That aside, travelers want to approach the city with a firm checklist of sights or simply have an idea of the neighborhoods they want to explore, they can use our outlined itinerary for San Francisco.
While we offer a plethora of specific recommendations for what to do in San Francisco in a weekend, we also highlight the the best districts for discovery and exploration.
The best way to use our Weekend San Francisco trip plan is to adapt it to your own personal travel style.
Can I Use this Itinerary for a Trip to San Francisco on a Budget?
San Francisco is an expensive city, there is no doubt about it. That said, our outline for what to do in San Francisco in 3 days features many of the best cheap and free things to do in SF – so it can absolutely be used for a budget trip.
It is still best to plan your trip budget before you go so that you can determine what ticketed attractions to include in your San Francisco trip. Use our Free Vacation Budget Planner and get our best tips for planning your SF budget trip.
Can I Use this Itinerary when I Travel to San Francisco with Family?
Sure – our San Francisco in 3 Days Itinerary is family friendly!
The attractions and activities we include appeal to a wide range of travelers. While the SF trip itinerary is not specifically geared to families, there are many kid-friendly activities included in it.
Why is it the Best Weekend in San Francisco Itinerary?
Our San Francisco weekend trip itinerary is ideal for both first-time travelers and return visitors who want to see the absolute best sights of San Francisco in a short amount of time.
The itinerary is easy flowing, simple to follow and features a range of activities.
Highlights of our itinerary for San Francisco include the Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39, Ferry Building Marketplace, Coit Tower and many more quintessential SF sights – plus, we offer our top tips for the best food and drink in the city.
What if I have More (or Less) than 3 Days in San Francisco?
We designed our SF Itinerary for weekend visitors, assuming they will plan a long weekend and have three days in San Francisco to explore the sights. If you are traveling to the city and plan to see San Francisco in 3 days, you can use our itinerary exactly as it is written.
However, some travelers might only have one day in San Francisco, while others may be planning a 4 Days in San Francisco Itinerary…or longer. No worries!
Travelers with less time can use our itinerary for 1 or 2 days in San Francisco (and we will show you just how to plan it).
We have tips for those with longer stays, as well. In addition to the detailed San Francisco 3-Day Itinerary that we outline in this SF blog post, we also offer suggestions for additional activities, sights and fun day trips from the city that can be used to create a 4-Day San Francisco Itinerary or longer.
To make sure travelers with more (or less) time plan their perfect SF trip, we include outlines and tips for shorter and longer San Francisco itineraries at the end of the post.
3 DAYS SAN FRANCISCO ITINERARY
Our San Francisco 3 Day Itinerary covers the top city sights. At the end of the post, we include other essential SF information – like a SF map of attractions, how to get there, how to get around and where to stay.
Day 1 of your 3 Day Itinerary San Francisco
On the first day of your 3-Day San Francisco Itinerary spend time enjoying some of the most iconic San Fran sights – and feasting on classic SF cuisine.
Shop at Ferry Building Marketplace
An iconic symbol of SF, the Ferry Building opened in 1898 and has long been the city’s entry point for ferryboat passengers. In the early 2000s, the building was transformed into an upscale marketplace featuring a variety of regional goods – and it’s the perfect place to kick off visiting San Francisco in a weekend.
Blue Bottle Coffee, Cowgirl Creamery’s Cheese and Hog Island Oyster Company are a few of the most popular shops in the Ferry Building. Additionally, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, an artisan farmer’s market – where shoppers can sample products and purchase ready-made meals – is held in the Ferry Building Plaza.
Pro Tip: Enjoy breakfast at the marketplace coffee shop, Blue Bottle Coffee – and then pick up some fresh fruit and sandwiches to eat later as a picnic lunch.
Ride the Ferry to Sausalito
Next up on your 3 Days in San Francisco Itinerary is a classic ferry ride on San Francisco Bay.
Hop on a Golden Gate Sausalito Ferry (from the pier at the Ferry Building Marketplace) for a 30-minute ride north to Sausalito. If the weather permits, find a spot on the bow of the ship for the best SF Bay views. Passengers also will have excellent views of Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge and Angel Island.
Pro Tip: The boat has room for 200 bikes, so bring one along if you want to spend your day pedaling around San Francisco!
The small seaside city of Sausalito is well-known for its artistic flair and houseboat community and it’s a fabulous place to spend some time during a weekend in San Francisco. Visitors are invited to stroll along the waterfront, wander through the marina, shop at Sausalito galleries and browse the boutiques.
Pro Tip: After exploring Sausalito, get an Uber to Vista Point at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge, which is the next stop on our San Francisco 3 Days Itinerary.
Walk Across The Iconic Golden Gate Bridge
As one of the most recognizable bridges in the world, taking a walk on the Golden Gate Bridge is an essential activity for every San Francisco Itinerary! The two-tower, steel-cable orange bridge was built in the 1930s and stretches 1.7 miles across the bay. We think it is best to walk from north to south, so that trekkers have a view of the San Francisco skyline in front of them.
Beginning at Vista Point, the walk across the bridge takes about an hour, allowing for plenty of time to stop and take in the San Francisco Bay views and to look for swimming sea lions in the water below.
Pro Tip: The Welcome Center on the south end of the bridge offers exhibits and information about the bridge and is worth a stop during your weekend San Francisco trip. Also, if you didn’t bring a lunch or just want a cup of joe, pop into the art deco Equator Coffee (aka the Historic Round House Cafe).
Picnic Lunch in Crissy Field Park
Once a military airfield, Crissy Field was converted into a national park in the early 2000s. Marked with trails, beaches, lookout points and picnic areas, the park is the perfect spot for an outdoor lunch on your 3 Day San Francisco Itinerary.
Eat what you brought with you from the Ferry Marketplace or the Round House Cafe, enjoy the view and rest your feet. Then walk through the waterfront park to the east towards The Palace of Fine Arts (and detour out to The Wave Organ, if time allows).
Pro Tip: To get to the next destination, visitors can take an Uber to the SF cable car station at Hyde and Broadway Streets – for one of the top highlights of a weekend trip to San Francisco!
Hop on a SF Cable Car
The famous San Francisco cable cars have been in operation since 1873. At one time, there were a total of 8 lines, but only 3 routes remain today. Our favorite route is the northbound Powell-Hyde Line that terminates near Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman’s Wharf – passing Lombard Street along the way.
Riding one of the cable cars that rattle through the hilly streets of San Francisco is a must-do activity – and should definitely be on your 3-day San Francisco Itinerary. However, catching a ride on the SF historic trolleys can be time consuming as waits at the most popular stops can stretch up to 3 hours.
For shorter wait times, we recommend hopping on the cable car in the middle of the line at one of these Hyde Street stops (Broadway, Vallejo, Green or Union). Tickets can be purchased onboard with cash; exact change is required.
Pro Tip: Visitors who want to zigzag down Lombard Street – the Crookedest Street in the World – should Uber/Lyft directly from Crissy Field to the famous street and then walk down the 8 hairpin turns and continue downhill on foot to Fisherman’s Wharf. However, the cable car ride down the backside of Russian Hill offers the most spectacular views of the SF Bay and Alcatraz Island.
Drink an Irish Coffee at The Buena Vista
Established in 1916, The Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco is legendary; your San Francisco travel plan is simply not complete without stopping by. In 1952, the saloon owners created their own version of an Irish Coffee cocktail – a concoction of coffee, whiskey, sugar and cream. The delicious (and potent!) drink is an ideal afternoon warmer – and a must-try in SF!
Pro Tip: The classic tavern is located just across the street from the end of the Powell and Hyde trolley line; we think the best seats are at the bar, but there are tables for larger groups, as well.
Get a Sundae on Ghirardelli Square
If, however, your San Francisco trip itinerary is for family and kids, then an afternoon sundae might be a better option than the Irish Coffee.
The Ghirardelli Chocolate Company opened a factory in San Francisco in 1852. Although the factory long ago moved from Ghirardelli Square, an ice cream shop and the gigantic landmark Ghirardelli sign, which was constructed in 1922, still graces the square. Tourists flock to the square for ice cream sundaes covered in Ghirardelli chocolate and to buy chocolate gifts and souvenirs from the shops.
Pro Tip: The complex of brick buildings dates to the 19th century and is listed on the National Historic Register. Even if you don’t want a chocolaty treat, it is worth navigating your way through the square on your San Francisco three day itinerary.
Stroll Through the Maritime National Historical Park
The shoreline SF Maritime National Historical Park is an interesting place to visit during a weekend in San Francisco. The park hosts a fleet of historic vessels, the 1929 Muni Pier, the Maritime Museum (ticket required) and an informative (and free) Visitors Center. Guests can learn about San Francisco’s maritime past…or simply take in the spectacular views across the bay.
Pro Tip: Visitors who are interested in learning about military ships can take a tour of the USS Pampanito – a World War II submarine that is docked at nearby Pier 45. Get the details here!
Chow Down on a Clam Chowder Bread Bowl at Fisherman’s Wharf
Eating clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl is an essential SF experience that needs to be on your San Francisco Itinerary…and there is no better place to do it than at Fisherman’s Wharf. We would wager that just about every restaurant at Fisherman’s Wharf has bread bowl clam chowder on their menu – so there are plenty of places to choose from – including classic seafood restaurants and kiosk take-away spots.
The Boudin Bakery Cafe is one of the most popular places to get sourdough bread bowl clam chowder (the bread is incredible!). Another hot spot for clam chowder is Scoma’s Restaurant, a San Fran institution.
Pro Tip: Not a fan of clam chowder or seafood, but still want a classic California dining experience? Head to In-and-Out Burger – the iconic California fast-food chain – for a Double-Double cheeseburger, fries (ask for them Animal Style, which is not on the menu but delicious and messy) and a shake!
See the Sea Lions on Pier 39
Pier 39 is a hub of entertainment – and a fantastic place to end the first day of your SF weekend. Featuring shops, restaurants, street performers, a carousel and aquarium, Pier 39 is touristy, but it’s also a must-see for your vacation planner San Francisco.
For us, the top reason to visit Pier 39 is the sea lions. Since 1989, California Sea Lions have taken up residence on the floating docks on the west side of Pier 39 – and they are hilarious to watch.
Visitors who want to learn more about Fisherman’s Wharf can complete a self-guided audio tour.
Day 2 of Your San Francisco Weekend Trip
On the second day of your itinerary in San Francisco discover more city attractions in North Beach and a couple of iconic neighborhoods with the most delicious eats and sights. At the end of the day, take in a game or theater performance.
Eat Breakfast at Mama’s on Washington Square
Opened in 1951 as an ice cream shop, Mama’s has evolved into an iconic breakfast spot featuring classic American, homestyle eats. French toast, omelets and eggs benedict are the featured stars of the menu.
Pro Tip: The restaurant is an absolute hotspot on San Francisco weekends, so expect a line to get a seat in the quaint diner.
Go to the Top of Coit Tower
The next stop on your San Francisco 3 Day Itinerary is Coit Tower, which stands atop Telegraph Hill offering stunning 360-degree views of the city, bay and SF bridges. The landmark tower was built in 1933 as a monument to the city’s firefighters. Visitors can go inside the tower (with a ticket) and ride the elevator up to the observation deck. Be sure you check out the interior murals that depict life in SF during the Great Depression.
Pro Tip: There is a Memorial to Volunteer Firefighters in nearby Washington Square that was funded by the same benefactor, Lillie Hitchcock Coit, who the tower is named after.
Buy a Book at City Lights Booksellers
The most famous bookstore in SF, City Lights Booksellers is an independent bookstore and publisher that was established in the 1950s. Even if you don’t intend to buy anything, it is worth swinging by the bookshop on your three days in San Francisco.
Known for selling and publishing progressive literature, the bookstore is often acknowledged as being an integral part of the San Francisco culture that blossomed in the 1960s.
Pro Tip: The City Lights bookstore business was bestowed the honor of an Official Historic Landmark in 2001.
Walk Through Chinatown
Considered to be the oldest and largest Chinatown in America, the San Francisco Chinatown dates to 1848 and covers 24 square blocks. In our opinion, Chinatown is an absolute must on your San Francisco weekend itinerary.
It was within the streets of Chinatown that the American version of Chinese Food was created. In addition to eateries and bubble tea shops, top attractions include ornate temples, the decorative Dragon Gate and sign-filled Ross Alley.
Pro Tip: Visit the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company for a behind-the-scenes look at how fortune cookies are made – and a chance to eat still-warm treats! The nearby Golden Gate Bakery, where they make authentic moon cakes and exquisite custard tarts, is just around the corner – but their hours are varied, so you will just have try your luck to see if they are open.
Shop at Union Square
The 2.6-acre Union Square is at the center of the San Francisco’s renowned shopping and theater district. Designed in 1850 and named for the Civil War pro-Union rallies held on the site, the square features a 85-foot-tall column, The Dewey Monument, at its center.
Two of the most iconic places to see on the square are the upscale Westin St. Francis Hotel and the Tiffany Building, with Tiffany & Co occupying the two bottom floors. The TIX Bay Area discount ticket booth is also on the square. However, numerous fashionable stores and boutiques (like Bloomingdale’s, Louis Vuitton and Gucci) sit within a 3-block radius of the square.
More Things To Do in San Francisco Union Square
If shopping isn’t your thing, there are many other attractions near Union Square that you could add to your San Francisco Itinerary, like the SF Museum of Modern Art, Yerba Buena Gardens and the city’s quaint French Quarter on Belden Lane.
Pro Tip: To get to the next stop on our San Francisco in a Weekend Itinerary, you will want to take the BART or use an Uber/Lyft.
The Mission District – or simply, The Mission, ranks as one of the oldest neighborhoods in San Francisco – and is a must-see on your weekend in San Francisco. Highlights of the district are vintage shops, colorful street art, a historic church, a phenomenal park and the best burritos in the city.
What To See in San Francisco Mission District
When you visit San Francisco Mission District, seeing the namesake Mission San Francisco de Asis chapel (often called Mission Dolores) is a must! Built in 1776, the building is the oldest structure in San Francisco, surviving the city’s many devastating earthquakes. The modest chapel sits in the shadow of the striking Mission Dolores Basilica.
Mission Dolores Park is another top place to include in your San Francisco travel itinerary. Attracting hippies, picnickers, dog walkers, and people watchers, the park is a place to kick back, relax and take in the epic SF skyline view.
Pro Tip: In addition to the district’s two main sights, we highly recommend exploring The Mission on foot! Seek out excellent street art and cool shops on Calle 24 and in the Valencia Corridor.
Sink Your Teeth into a San Francisco Burrito
There may be no greater love in San Francisco than for the burrito. The Mission-style burrito – meat and rice stuffed into a flour tortilla – was born in San Francisco in the 1960s. As such, it would be a shame to visit SF and not get one!
Taquerias all over the city sell burritos, but they originated in the Mission District and The Mission is still where you can get the best burritos in San Francisco. The top recommended spots for an epic burrito are Taqueria El Buen Sabor or the famed La Taqueria (although, expect a line!).
Pro Tip: If you are not in on the burrito craze, check out Tartine Bakery instead. In addition to their excellent hot pressed sandwiches, they offer delectable bakery treats.
Take in the View of the Painted Ladies
The Painted Ladies are one of the interesting San Francisco sights that shouldn’t be missed. The term ‘Painted Ladies’ refers to the colorful Victorian and Edwardian-style houses that were built from the late 1800s until 1915. The city’s most famous row of Painted Ladies is on Steiner Street, across from Alamo Square Park. The row of homes is often featured in movies and ads but is probably best recognized from the TV show Full House.
Pro Tip: The best view of the Painted Ladies are from the top of the hill at Alamo Square Park. From the elevated viewpoint, you can see the San Francisco skyline in the background.
Go to a Game or the Theater in San Francisco
One of the best ways to end the second day of your 3 Days in San Francisco Itinerary is with an entertaining game or theater performance.
San Francisco Sporting Events
Actually, on more than one occasion we have created an entire San Francisco travel itinerary that revolved around watching a baseball game.
The San Francisco Bay Area is home to 6 professional sports teams: 49ers (NFL Football), Giants (MLB Baseball), Oakland Athletics (MLB Baseball), San Jose Earthquakes (MLS Soccer), Golden State Warriors (NBA Basketball) and San Jose Sharks (NHL Ice Hockey). Attending an SF sporting event is quite the spectacle and heaps of fun…but tickets are certainly pricey.
San Francisco Theaters
Spending an evening at the theater is one of the top San Francisco things to do…and there are plenty of places to do it!
The San Francisco Theater District hosts numerous stages for an array of performances, including everything from Broadway plays to musical acts to side-splitting comedians. The best theaters – like the historic and opulent Orpheum Theater, The Curran and The Strand – are top venues in the district.
Pro Tip: Grab a bite to eat before your evening entertainment. There are numerous bars and grills surrounding most of the sports venues and plenty of chic restaurants in the Theater District for a meal.
Day 3 of Your 3 Day San Francisco Itinerary
On the last day of your itinerary for San Francisco, feel the groove in one of the city’s most famous districts – and then stretch your legs in a city park. At the end of the day, wind down you San Francisco weekend and watch sunset from the beach.
Get Groovy in Haight-Ashbury
The Haight Ashbury district – centered on Haight and Ashbury Streets – has long played a significant role in modern culture…not only of San Francisco, but of the world. Exploring the district is one of the top activities to include in your itinerary for San Francisco.
The famed location of the 1967 Summer of Love, the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood was the epicenter of the hippie movement in the 1960s.
In addition to the head shops and the free society Diggers community group that both flourished in the district, several local musicians – like members of the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin – lived in Haight-Ashbury.
What To Do in San Francisco Haight-Ashbury District
There are numerous reasons to include Haight-Ashbury in your San Francisco travel plan – from finding popular residences to perusing the funky shops. We are detailing how to spend your time in Haight-Ashbury.
Start your morning at greasy spoon Pork Store Cafe for a hearty breakfast of comfort classics (or, for a lighter meal try Coffee to the People).
Stroll through the neighborhood admiring the beautifully restored Victorian homes. As you walk through the district, seek out the most famous residences (you can find Jerry Garcia’s former house at 710 Ashbury Street) and keep your eye out for some of the most colorful SF street art.
Pop into shops – like the classic Amoeba Music, Love on Haight, Piedmont Boutique or one of the many, many smoke shops.
Do you really want to feel the groove of the 60s and 70s in San Francisco? Take the Love Tour aboard a 1970s VW Van. Find out more here!
Pro Tip: In the 1980s, the comedy clubs of Haight-Ashbury were all the rage. Many famous comedians – like Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg – got their start at The Other Cafe comedy club.
Hike Twin Peaks for the Best View of San Francisco
Standing at nearly 1000 feet, the San Francisco Twin Peaks are the best place to go in the city for an outstanding 360-degree view. As there is no charge, we think it is one of the best free things to do in San Francisco!
An urban hike in the middle of the city, the 1.5-mile roundtrip trek takes hikers to the summit for unsurpassed city views. Although the trail is steep, it is well-worth the climb to get an elevated view of the best San Francisco landmarks – like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.
Other points of interest at Twin Peaks are Christmas Tree Point (a third summit that offers fantastic downtown San Francisco views) and Mission Blue Butterflies (an endangered butterfly species that thrives on the Twin Peaks).
Pro Tip: The weather on Twin Peaks is often windy and cool – and it can be drizzly in the wintertime. Make sure you are prepared with a jacket or umbrella – and, of course, good shoes for your hike to the top. You can also drive up Twin Peaks, however parking is very limited.
Take a Photo of the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps
We love places like the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps. Located in the Golden Gate Heights neighborhood, the mosaic-tiled staircase is a product of a community project and ranks as one of the off-the-beaten-path SF attractions. If you can make room in your San Francisco Itinerary to see the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps, we highly recommend it!
The 163 steps are adorned with colorful tiles depicting a scene of ‘Sea to Stars’ and gardens line the staircase. It’s a fun spot for photo ops and a cool place to stretch your legs.
Pro Tip: The nearby Hidden Garden Steps are the result of another collaborative community art project – and it’s another San Francisco gem!
Visit Golden Gate Park
The 3-mile-long Golden Gate Park, which is bigger than New York City’s Central Park, is an expansive green space in the middle of the busy city.
Top attractions are located within the park, including the SF Botanical Garden, the Japanese Tea Garden, Dutch windmills, the Music Concourse and the Academy of Sciences. Additionally, visitors can follow the trails to lakes, statues, memorials, a carousel and the bison paddock.
Pro Tip: Park visitors can explore Golden Gate Park on foot – but the park is massive with a lot of ground to cover. Instead, you can rent a bike to discover Golden Gate Park on two wheels during your San Francisco 3-Day Itinerary.
Walk Ocean Beach and Watch The Sunset
It’s time to wind down your weekend in San Francisco – and Ocean Beach is the perfect place to do it. Ocean Beach sits at the west end of Golden Gate Park and stretches for 3.5 miles.
Although the water is cold and the waves are dangerous, the beach is an excellent place to take a long walk in the sand, watch skilled surfers and take in an epic sunset around a firepit.
Baker Beach, to the north near the Presidio, is another popular beach that offers spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, which is stunning at sunset.
Pro Tip: Cap off your 3-Day San Francisco Itinerary with dinner at the Beach Chalet Brewery and Restaurant, which is housed in a historic building within Golden Gate Park and offers fine views of the Pacific Ocean.
San Francisco Itinerary Map of Attractions
Use this link to Google Maps for an interactive online version of our San Francisco Map of Attractions.
More Things To Do In San Francisco
We included some of our favorite activities in our Weekend In San Francisco Itinerary – but there is so much more to do in the city. When planning a trip to San Francisco, consider adding these activities and attractions to your SF itinerary.
Ride A Bike In SF
Despite the hills, riding bikes in San Francisco is a popular activity. Throughout the city there are numerous bike rental shops – and you can reserve your 24-hour bike rental in advance online.
49 Mile Scenic Drive
A counter-clockwise drive around the city to the best San Francisco sights, the 49-Mile Scenic Drive is a fantastic way for visitors with a car to get acquainted with the city.
The route was first established in 1938 to highlight the best attractions in the city during the Golden Gate International Exposition. Find details about the road trip itinerary on Wiki.
Hike In Muir Woods
Muir Woods is a magnificent redwood forest just north of San Francisco. Within the national monument park there are 6 miles of trails that wind through epic nature. Visitors can plan their own hike in Muir Woods or let a guide lead the way on a hiking tour.
Visitors willing to travel further for nature can join an organized SF Day Trip to Yosemite National Park to see the Giant Sequoias. Get the details!
California Wine Tours
California is a known worldwide for its production of wine. Two of the best wine regions – Napa Valley and Sonoma – are easily reached on day trips from San Francisco. The best way to experience California’s wine country on short time is to join a tour – like this highly rated wine tour!
Pro Tip: Combine your Muir Woods hiking trip with a Wine Country tour and gourmet lunch on a combo super saver day trip! Get the details here!
More SF Tours for your San Fran Itinerary
Hiking and wine tours are among the most popular day trip adventures from the city – but there are many, many more options!
Book the best tours online with Get Your Guide – where you can read fellow traveler reviews before reserving your spot!
How Many Days In San Francisco?
How many days do you need in San Francisco? As many as possible! Honestly, determining how many days to spend in San Francisco will depend on numerous factors. The most important things to consider are your personal interests, overall time and your SF trip budget.
We could easily spend a week in SF and not run out of things to do – but would eagerly spend one day in San Francisco if that was all the time we had.
More Sample San Francisco Itineraries
We have outlined the best way to experience San Francisco in 3 days for weekend. However, because we know some visitors are limited to just one day – while others are planning longer trips – we are offering our advice for shorter and longer Bay Area Itineraries.
1 Day Itinerary San Francisco
Trying to plan a San Francisco One Day Itinerary can be challenging. In order to make the most of the limited time, travelers planning to visit San Francisco for a day will need a concise trip plan.
How To Create a San Francisco Itinerary 1 Day
The simplest way to create an easy flowing San Francisco 1 Day Itinerary is to use our SF weekend trip plan as a guideline.
Depending on your interests, we recommend following either Day 1, Day 2 or Day 3 of our outlined SF Weekend Trip. This will be the best way to plan what to do in San Francisco for a day.
On the other hand, a very ambitious traveler could combine elements from Days 1, 2 and 3, eliminating the items of least interest, to create an ideal San Francisco 1-Day Itinerary.
2-Day Itinerary San Francisco
You can easily plan a perfect San Francisco two-day itinerary by following Days 1 and 2 or Days 2 and 3 or Days 1 and 3 from our above 3-Day San Francisco Trip Itinerary. That said, for travelers who want to expand their sightseeing beyond the city, we have a few suggestions for an alternate sample 2 Day Itinerary San Francisco.
How To Build a San Francisco Itinerary 2 Days
In an effort to see the top city sights plus the surrounding region, travelers can condense our trip plan and add additional sightseeing.
We recommend that visitors who want to cram as much as possible into a San Francisco in 2 Days Itinerary combine as many sights from Days 1, 2 and 3 of our outlined weekend trip plan (choosing the activities that are most appealing) for their first day of sightseeing. Because each day picks up from where the previous day left off, it is pretty simple to rearrange the San Francisco itinerary by simply eliminating sights that are of the least interest.
Then, on the second day, join a guided half-day tour out of the city – like the Muir Woods tour – in the morning – and in the afternoon squeeze in any more SF sightseeing from our bay area trip plan that you previously skipped.
Alternate 3 Day San Francisco Itinerary
Trying to plan what to do in San Francisco in 3 days? No problem! We outlined the perfect plan for you! But what if you want to see even more?
Ambitious sightseers planning a San Francisco 3-Day Itinerary could accelerate our trip plan to include more attractions and activities.
How To Plan a San Francisco Itinerary 3 Days
For a fast-paced 3-day trip to San Francisco, we recommend rearranging our sightseeing for 3 days in SF to condense all of the suggested sights into 2 days in San Fran.
For example, rather than ending Day 1 at Pier 39, continue your sightseeing adventure to Coit Tower and end the day in Union Square (possibly with a theater performance). Then, start Day 2 in the Mission District and (skipping the evening entertainment), continue to the adventures of Day 3 in Haight-Ashbury and end at Sunset Beach.
By condensing the trip plan, you will have another full day for more sightseeing. In this case, on the third day of your 3 Days in San Francisco Itinerary, we recommend taking a day trip – like the full-day wine trip or the combo hike and wine tour – to complete your trip.
4 Day Itinerary San Francisco
With a 4 days in San Francisco Itinerary visitors have ample time to see the city sights and explore more of the region.
How to Make a San Francisco Itinerary 4 Days
There are so many options for what to see and do on a San Francisco 4 Day Itinerary that we are offering two different ways to devise the perfect trip plan.
One recommendation for visiting San Francisco in 4 Days would be to use our outlined 3-Days San Francisco Itinerary – then, on the last day, take a day trip.
Alternatively, you could create a trip plan that includes a fourth day in the city, rather than leaving on a San Francisco day trip. Top activities we recommend are going shopping, visiting a museum or delving deeper into a favorite (or missed) neighborhood.
California Coastal Road Trip From SF to LA
While San Francisco weekend trips are absolutely fabulous, so is the coast! If time allows, we highly recommend extending your California vacation with a classic road trip down the coast to LA stopping in Monterrey, Morro Bay, Santa Barbara and Malibu!
Read all the details and get the best tips in our Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip post!
How To Get To San Francisco
We think the best way to travel to San Francisco is to fly there! In fact, most weekend visitors will arrive in the city by plane at either the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) or Oakland International Airport (OAK).
SFO airport, which is one of the busiest in the USA, offers flights from around the country and top destinations worldwide with nonstop flights from Sydney, Tokyo, London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Lisbon. It is located 13 miles south of the city.
SFO Airport to San Francisco
There are a few different ways to get from OAK or SFO to San Francisco. The BART – Bay Area Rapid Transit – is the best public transportation route from the airport to the city; the ticket costs about $10 USD. Travelers can also use Uber or Lyft, which will cost about $30-$40 USD. Taxis cost a bit more – about $55 USD, plus tip. Private transport can also be booked online.
How To Get Around SF
Our San Francisco travel itinerary covers some ground! While we think the best way to see San Francisco is on your own two feet, we understand other travelers may not want to spend so much time walking.
San Francisco has a good public transportation system, including the BART, Muni Trams, classic trolleys and ferries. However, many visitors may find that it is easiest (and fastest) to get around the city using Uber or Lyft; short rides typically cost about $10 USD.
The Hop On Hop Off double-decker bus is another option for getting around to see the top SF tourist sights. Pre-book your tickets here!
We do not recommend driving in the city – as parking is limited and expensive. However, visitors who want to travel beyond the San Francisco city limits may want to rent a car for the day.
Where To Stay In San Francisco
On a quick weekend trip to San Francisco, we think it is best to stay in the city center close to the attractions. It should be mentioned, however, that while staying at Fisherman’s Wharf puts visitors in the heart of the action, it is also incredibly expensive.
On our San Francisco weekend trips, we prefer staying in the Financial District – which is close to the Ferry Building, Coit Tower, Chinatown and Union Square. The many hotels (and Airbnb’s) in the area cater to business travelers – and often offer better rates on weekends. The Financial District is also well-connected with public transport options.
San Francisco Hotels
While we usually prefer staying in Airbnb apartments, we think it is better to stay in one of the hotels in San Francisco – especially for a weekend trip. Two San Francisco hotels we recommend are the Hyatt Regency and Hotel Griffon.
The 4-Star Hyatt Regency San Francisco is a luxury hotel that is situated just a five-minute walk from the Ferry Marketplace. The rooms are spacious, comfortable and some have bay views. Check availability for your trip!
Hotel Griffon offers an excellent location on the Embarcadero just steps from the Ferry Building. Top features are the onsite restaurant, free coffee in the lobby and delightful employees. Check rates now!
What You Need For Your Trip To San Francisco
We have a few final travel tips and packing hacks of what you will want to bring with you for your weekend trip to San Francisco!
Layer Up for Your Trip to San Francisco
Although California has a reputation for warm, sunny weather, it isn’t necessarily true in SF. In fact, one of the things that most appealed to us about taking weekend trips to San Francisco from Phoenix in the summertime was the guaranteed cooler temps.
On numerous trips – even though I knew what to expect – I arrived without warm enough clothes and had to purchase a sweatshirt or jacket to keep warm during our stay.
Furthermore, San Francisco weather changes quickly and can be unpredictable. Summers are cool, while autumn has the warmest temperatures (with highs sometimes in the low 80s). For the most comfort, we recommend wearing layers while sightseeing in SF (or be prepared to buy an SF logoed sweatshirt as a souvenir!).
Proper Shoes for Exploring SF in 3 Days
Our 3-Day San Francisco Itinerary includes a ton of walking! Make sure to pack a pair of comfortable city walking shoes for your full days of exploration. I like wearing Skechers and lightweight Columbia shoes, while Kris prefers wearing Merrell shoes.
Travel Camera for Your SF Weekend Trip
San Francisco is beautiful – so bring an actual camera to capture the stunning landscapes and city sights! We use a Canon Rebel with an everyday 18-135mm lens. The camera takes excellent photos – and comes bundled with tons of great accessories that are perfect for beginner photographers!
Anti-Theft Bag for SF Sightseeing
Like in all big cities, pickpocketing and petty crimes can be an issue in SF – and tourists are a prime target. While we have never had the misfortune of being pickpocketed, we are cautious about our belongings.
I carry a Timbuk2 Messenger Bag that has numerous interior zippered pockets where I can keep my valuables tucked safely away from thieves. Travelon is a good brand that specializes in anti-theft travel handbags – and a bra stash or money belt is always a good idea, too.
US Travel Insurance
We think travel insurance is essential for any trip – including a San Fran Weekend Trip! Not only can travel insurance help with cancelled flights or lost luggage, but it can also be useful in the event of illness or injury. Find out more about coverage and rates at World Nomads.
Looking for other USA weekend getaways? We round up top destinations in our guide to the 20 Best USA Weekend Trips!
We Want To Know: Is there anything you would add to our San Francisco Itinerary? What are your favorite things to do on a San Francisco Weekend Trip? Give us your best tips and advice in the comments below!
Visiting Other Top Destinations in the USA?
We’ve had the good fortune of being able to travel extensively around the United States – and we want to help you do the same!
Want to avoid the crowds? We’ve created detailed guides for visiting some for the most Underrated US Destinations as well!
Find all of our US Destination Guides on our USA Travel Page!
Pin it! See all of our travel pins on our JetSetting Fools Pinterest Board.