If you’re looking for things to do in San Francisco, then you’ve found a great starting point to plan your trip! I’m up in the Bay area about once a month for work, sometimes I have the opportunity to stay in San Francisco. I’ve also vacationed there. I have a love hate relationship with the city. It’s beautiful, unique, and a paradise for someone that likes to walk. It’s also grungy, expensive, and you must layer your clothing to be prepared for any kind of temperature. Without the pro’s and con’s it wouldn’t be such an interesting city.
WHERE TO STAY
Most hotels are either near Union Square on in the Fisherman’s Wharf area. If you want to go the Airbnb route, Mission and Lower Haight are centrally located. I stayed at an adorable Airbnb with a great host in SOMA (South of Market) and saved some serious money on lodging.
San Francisco is an incredibly walkable city if you plan your days right, make sure to take into account the glute engaging hills. If walking isn’t your thing the busses, BART and car services also make it incredibly convenient to venture around. If you are heading to he Marin Headlands (basically if you go across the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll likely want your own transportation. The bus does go out there, but it can take a while.
THINGS TO DO
There is a plethora on what you can do in San Francisco and a weekend is such a short time to experience it all.
A visit to Alcatraz is a must. It was my favorite thing to do on my vacation in San Francisco. You can only book tickets through the National Park system and you MUST reserve your tickets months in advance. I highly recommend taking the night tour for smaller crowds and more earie feel. I wish I could have done this one, but booked the trip too late. Make sure you do the audio tour.
Total tourist trap, but if you are going to Alcatraz you can spend some time walking around here.
Mission District is a hipsters paradise. Walk around Valencia Street from 14th all the way to 24th to scope out stores, bars and restaurants. Make sure to check out Clarion Alley to check out some awesome murals/ street art. Look out for the occasional pile of human feces. It’s all part of the charm. Dolores Park is where many apartment dwelling people like to hang out on the weekends.
On a clear day, you get an awesome panorama of the city and Bay from Twin Peaks. Some describe it as one of the most epic views in the world. I was lucky enough to be here on a clear day and indeed it is pretty epic. Bundle up because it can get windy up there!
Upper Haight is most famous for the Summer of Love and location of the Grateful Dead’s home. It’s pretty touristy, but if you hit up Golden Gate Park before or after, a good stop.
Lower Haight is gritty, less touristy and some cool local art stores. Grab a beer at Toronado for a taste of brews from around the world.
Golden Gate Park
There are Buffalo in the park. Buffalo! Not only that, but while you meander Golden Gate Park, I promise you will come across some amazing vignettes and people watching. Frisbee golf? Here. Remote controlled model boats? Here. Beautiful Japanese Garden? You get the point I’m sure, but If you start your day in the Haight district, head here for a late morning/early afternoon picnic, then make your way to Lands End you’ll have a pretty epic (albeit action packed) day.
No, not just a clothing store, Lands End also a beautiful trail system along the coast. If you start at Lands End Tail Eagles Point you get to drive/walk through a fancy neighborhood. You’ll get amazing views of the entrance to the Bay, a full view of the Golden Gate, and Marin. I would recommend exploring here at the end of the day enjoy sunset. Lands End Labyrinth is a fun site to see as well as Sutro Baths (described below)
Once known as the world’s largest indoor swimming pool, the Sutro Baths are now ruins at the edge of the city. Conveniently located in Lands End, you can explore a cave and a nearby (chilly) beach.
Located downtown is North America’s oldest China town. San Francisco’s Chinatown is full of tea stores, home goods and even a fortune cookie factory. The Golden Gate Cookie Factory is tucked in an alleyway, if you want to take a photo of the workers making the cookies, they will charge you, but if you buy some fortune cookies you can take a photo gratis.
North Beach is filled with lots of yummy Italian restaurants located North of downtown. Former home of the 1950’s Beat Generation. Find a place to grab some Napoleton Pizza outside and people watch. Would be good to grab lunch here before or after visiting nearby Lombard Street (below).
Lombard Street is the world’s crookedest street. Walk steeply up or down the picturesque street while witnessing traffic driving down the narrow, crooked street.
Full House Sites
If you are a child of the 90’s or got into the show long after it aired, then a stop to the Full House House or a stop at Alamo Square to view the painted ladies (iconic shot in the intro credits) naturally can fit in your plans. Keep in mind the Full House House is NOT located in Alamo Square.
Ride the Trolley
Completly touristy, totally worth it.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
This is such a cop-out, but seriously, Yelp is your best friend here. San Francisco has so many incredible places to eat and drink it’s hard to make recommendations. Sushi burritos were all the rage recently, but it’s probably already moved on to something else.
Places I have enjoyed in San Francisco are:
- Tony’s Pizza Napoletana (North Beach)
- Pancho Villa Taqueria (Mission)
- Smuggler’s Cove (Fillmore)
- Noir Lounge (Hayes Valley)