San Francisco itineraries for inspiration
However you’re traveling — with kids in tow or on a romantic rendezvous — and however long you have, from 24 hours to see the sights to a full four days to devote, we’ve got recommendations for how you can make the most of your stay in San Francisco.
1-2 Day San Francisco Itinerary
- Dive right into the iconic highlight of the city by biking across the Golden Gate Bridge. From the hotel, it’s about eight miles to Sausalito, the charming seaside community on the other side of the bridge. From there, you can ride back or take a ferry.
- Then it’s off to Lombard Street, known for being the “crookedest street in the world” with its eight hairpin turns. Hop on a cable car, that legendary San Francisco form of transportation, and head toward North Beach, where you can have lunch at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, famed for its award-winning margherita pizza.
- Move your digestion along with a walk up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower. Be on the lookout for the wild parrots along the way.
- In the evening, take the Alcatraz Night Tour for a quieter, after-hours look at this infamous island and prison, or if it’s a Friday, head to Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center, a food truck night market featuring local vendors, live music, and spinning DJs.
- If you have a second day, use it to explore some of San Francisco’s many incredible museums, like the Exploratorium, de Young Museum, Walt Disney Family Museum, and Walt Disney Family Museum, and Asian Art Museum.
3-4 Day San Francisco Itinerary
- On day three, head north, where less than an hour from the city, Muir Woods is a national monument with old-growth coastal redwoods, some of which can soar to heights of 250 feet. The park offers a nice contrast to urban life and is a majestic place to commune with nature.
- In the afternoon, go to Alamo Square to see the photogenic Painted Ladies, a row of gorgeous pastel-hued Queen Anne–style homes. Nearby, spend time exploring Haight-Ashbury, the neighborhood that was the epicenter of the 1960s counterculture movement and still retains that hippie vibe. Don’t miss Amoeba Music, a bowling alley turned record shop that also hosts live shows.
- On day four, get to all those spots you haven’t had a chance to see yet — perhaps take a stroll through Chinatown, where you can tour the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory; hike up Twin Peaks for 360-degree views; enjoy an indulgent sundae in Ghirardelli Square; shop the boutiques along Fillmore Street; or laugh at the barking sea lions at Pier 39 while enjoying the legendary sourdough bread from Boudin Bakery.
- Cap off your stay at The Buena Vista, famous for introducing Irish coffee to the U.S. in the 1950s after much experimentation to perfect the recipe.
Family-Friendly San Francisco Itinerary
- Fuel up for a day of fun and exploration at Zazie, a neighborhood bistro known for its gingerbread pancakes and egg dishes. Then it’s off to the, California Academy of Sciences, an aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum all rolled into one. Don’t miss the living roof or adorable African penguins.
- In the afternoon, the three-mile hiking loop at Lands End is mostly flat and delivers big rewards: gorgeous ocean views and interesting detours along the way, including the ruins of the Sutro Baths, built in 1894 by a self-made millionaire.
- For dinner, Spark Social SF in Mission Bay is a food truck park with fun seating options — think a double-decker bus and fire pits — plus lots of entertainment like cornhole and balloon animals, or grab a quick dinner at Mac’d, a build-your-own mac ’n cheese spot where you and the kids can keep it classic or go avant-garde with toppings like truffle oil, Hot Cheetos, and hot dogs.
- Before heading back to the hotel, drop by the landmark City Lights bookstore to pick up bedtime reading material — it’s well stocked with progressive reads for all ages.
Romantic San Francisco Itinerary
- Grab some smoked salmon avocado toast and a horchata latte to go from Twisted St. Cafe or wander the stalls in search of goodies at the Embarcadero’s historic Ferry Building Marketplace, then set the romantic tone for the day with a stroll along Lovers’ Lane in the Presidio. This scenic footpath came to be in the 18th century and was often used by soldiers to meet up with their sweethearts. Today, it offers views of some of the city’s most beautiful homes.
- Next, unwind at SenSpa, a soothing oasis with an East-meets-West sensibility. You can get a blissful couples’ massage, or spend quality time together in the far infrared sauna, which boosts circulation.
- For a twist on the tried-and-true date night concept of dinner and a movie, head to the Mission District’s Foreign Cinema, which serves California-Mediterranean fare amid a charming atmosphere, with a patio draped in twinkling lights and classic films projected on a large wall.
- Have a nightcap at Bix, where the swanky Art Deco décor makes for an elegant environment in which to imbibe classic cocktails done right.