Gaze at the beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge and squeal over the sea lions at Pier 39.
With just three days, you will experience all of the fun, quirky culture San Francisco, California has to offer. The only problem is that you might not want to leave!
Start off the day at one of San Francisco’s top coffee destinations. Blue Bottle, probably the most famous of the city’s coffees, has a number of kiosks and small cafes around the city. Their Hayes Valley location, a tiny spot on a back alley, is the original.
Next, take in one of San Francisco’s many museums. The renovated De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park always has interesting exhibits. The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts usually features somewhat edgier exhibits, including video and film.
If you want to ride a Cable Car on your first day in San Francisco, here’s an insider tip: most visitors take the Powell line, which has very long lines during high tourist season. The California Line, particularly starting from the Western terminus near Van Ness Avenue, is much less popular, but offers spectacular views of the bay toward Oakland as the car plunges down the hill.
If your Day One happens to be a Friday, Off the Grid at Fort Mason features a gathering of top-notch food trucks and a lively social scene. Definitely check the schedule and try to make one of the Off the Grid events during your stay so you can sample some of the city’s most eclectic and delicious cuisine. San Francisco almost always has some sort of film or music festival going on; entertainment options are endless. Check out SFGate for local entertainment listings.
San Francisco's cable cars are a popular tourist attraction.
Take your second day to get out of the city. Alcatraz is usually at the top of visitors’ lists; sadly, many don’t realize that it is necessary to make reservations well in advance. If you didn’t plan ahead, you can still get out on the water on a ferry to Sausalito, or if you just want a bay cruise, several companies offer these, including Blue & Gold.
If you have a car, you can quickly access amazing natural areas within minutes of the city. Heading north, the Marin Headlands is windswept with beautiful beaches, hiking trails. Slightly further afield, Muir Woods is popular and for a good reason - the redwood forest here is truly stunning. Mount Tamalpais State Park also offers many hiking trails; a local favorite is the Dipsea / Steep Ravine Loop.
A favorite beach, which gets relatively crowded on nice weekend days, is Stinson Beach. For alternative beach action, head south to Pacifica / Half Moon Bay, which do tend to be more foggy than Marin.
Muir Woods is popular and for a good reason - the redwood forest here is truly stunning.
Start your day at the Golden Gate Park, which offers a huge array of activities, trails and hidden lawns. Head first to Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park and rent a boat to idly paddle as you digest.
Cross the Great Highway to Ocean Beach and dip your toes in the always-chilly Pacific Ocean, gazing east. When you’re ready to warm up, head the renovated Beach Chalet, with depression-era murals and a brewpub / restaurant with an amazing view out across the Ocean upstairs. In the back of the same building hides the Park Chalet, where the indoor/outdoor bar has comfy adirondacks and blankets for resisting the fog. Enjoy your last evening in San Francisco, vowing to return as soon as you possibly can.