Celebrated for its hilly streets, moody fog, famous bridge, and buzzing nightlife, the City by the Bay offers a lot of fun under the sun. It’s hard to know where to start, so that’s why we’re providing a day-by-day itinerary on where to go and what to do. No need for guidebooks or travel agents because we’ve got the inside scoop on the best sites and attractions you won’t soon forget. Let’s get started!

Day 1: How to Enjoy Iconic Bay Area Sights

Alcatraz. Fisherman’s Wharf. Muir Woods. With so many renowned attractions in the region, you have to be strategic in your planning and make sure you leave yourself enough time to appreciate the adventure. An ideal way to begin the day is on the open water with a 30-40 minute ferry ride from Fisherman’s Wharf or Union Square heading to Muir Woods and Sausalito. This journey will showcase exquisite views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and once you reach your destination, beautiful redwoods abound. Nothing beats getting up close to the world’s tallest trees, so it’s no surprise that President Teddy Roosevelt declared them a national monument in 1908. Coupled with this exhilarating excursion is the opportunity to check out the nearby seaside town of Sausalito, hailed for its views, dining, shopping, and art galleries, which hit all the sweet spots for visitors to the area. The tour will take you around five hours, after which you can jump on the ferry back to San Francisco.

cruise ship sailing by alcatraz

For late afternoon and evening, no trip would be complete without a visit to Alcatraz. Not only will you get to see the many faces of the island, but the sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Area can’t be beaten. If you’re captivated by the lore of Alcatraz (and there are plenty of intriguing facts to learn), a tour of the island and prison—complete with the popular cell house audio guide—will provide all the details you’re keen to discover. In fact, Bay Area Moms lists this tour as part of their “Bay Area Fall Bucket List” for 2023!

Of course, all of this institutional education may make you hungry for other things too—like comfort foods, which happily, you have the freedom to devour. Fisherman’s Wharf is a fitting location for foodies to savor delicious foods. Even amateur bakers who perfected their recipes during the pandemic will appreciate a bite of the goods at Boudin Bakery. Add to that a stroll through Ghirardelli Square or by Pier 39 to walk off the carbs, and you’ve made the most of daytime and evening during your first 24 hours.

sourdough breaad in san francisco


Day 2: How to Indulge in Cultural and Culinary Endeavors

What’s a visit to San Francisco without a trip to a world-class museum? With so many cultural options to choose from, there’s no excuse for not checking out at least a few local favorites. For starters, the California Academy of Sciences. One of the biggest natural history museums in the world (which also doubles as a research institute), it’s home to more than 46 million specimens from around the globe. Such a large number means that to absorb it all, give yourself at least a good 3- to 4-hour viewing window. CAS is open from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Saturday, and 11:00 am to 5:00 pm on Sunday (with the last entry at 4:00 pm), so plan accordingly.

You will discover exciting and diverse cuisine in unique family-run food establishments and discover the story of San Francisco through its food and iconic neighborhood while exploring North Beach, Chinatown, and Downtown, dipping in and out of delis, bakeries, taquerias, dim sum hot spots, and more while strolling through the city.

For art lovers, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art—one of the US’s largest museums for contemporary and modern art—features a host of global artists. From Ellsworth Kelly and Andy Warhol to Gerhard Richter and Andreas Gursky, the permanent collection—coupled with limited special exhibitions—serves enough eye candy to satisfy every viewer. As the first West Coast museum dedicated exclusively to 20th-century works, SFMOMA does not disappoint. Spend at least two to three hours to capture it all from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Friday to Tuesday, or 1:00 pm to 8:00 pm on Thursday.

To top off the day, fix your gaze on the water with a Premier Dinner Cruise. After all, isn’t that what the Bay Area is known for? It’s as easy as an ocean breeze to plan a date night that delivers fab food and picturesque views of the San Francisco skyline. A plated experience makes some lasting memories. Departing from Pier 3 on the Embarcadero on Washington Street (South Gate), cruises set sail from 7:00 pm -9:30 pm on Sunday & Thursday (boarding at 6:30 pm) and 7:30 pm-10:30 pm on Friday and Saturday (boarding at 7:00 pm).

Live entertainment will set the mood for an unforgettable night out on the water.


muir redwood trees in san francisco

Day 3: How to Explore the Great Outdoors

One of the best things about the West Coast is the weather. With moderate temperatures year-round, the desire to be outdoors can be overwhelming when you visit, but that’s easy to wrangle through exhilarating activities such as biking, hiking, and walking. Starting near Ghiradelli Square, riders get on the National Bike Path to travel along the waterfront and over the bridge. During the 3-hour outing (10:00 am to 1:00 pm, they’ll be surrounded by spectacular views (and for sunsets, there are quite a few!) and have a chance to snap pics for the Gram at select stopping points.

golden gate bridge in san francisco bay

Speaking of fab photo ops, Golden Gate Park is flush with them, including the alluring oasis of the San Francisco Botanical Garden with its lush greenery and gorgeous flowers. A walk through this respite from civilization will take about two to three hours (7:30 am to 5:00 pm with final entry at 4:00 pm). Alternatively, the serene setting and majestic architecture of the Japanese Tea Garden is an hour well spent to revitalize the soul (9:00 am to 5:00 or 6:00 pm—depending on the season—with the last entry 30 minutes before closing time).

Wrap up your final day with an evening walk through San Francisco’s iconic neighborhoods and areas. From Chinatown and the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square, there’s excitement around every corner—plus a range of diverse, delectable spots for dining. Looking for more? The Matador Network endorses City Experiences for five must-do San Francisco tours that include riding the iconic cable car, a trip to Chinatown, Alcatraz, Musée Mécanique, and a spectacular dinner cruise. Looks like only one question remains: How fast can you pack?

자주 묻는 질문(FAQ)

Is three days enough time to visit San Francisco?

Most people find that 3 or 4 days is plenty of time to spend to cross everything off of your San Francisco bucket list. Of course, there is so much to see and do if time allows, you could spend more time taking a few day trips to see it all.

When is the best time to visit San Francisco for a three-day trip?

The best time to visit the City by the Bay is from September to November. Surprisingly, fall offers some of the warmest temperatures year-round and with fewer crowds than summer, you will be able to see more. Spring also has mild temperatures and less rain so that is a good option too.

When can I find the best rates for San Francisco?

If you’re traveling on a budget, then you will want to visit the city in the off-season months of October-April. Most hotels and tours are more expensive in the summer since it is the busiest time for tourists.

Do you need to rent a car to visit San Francisco?

You will have no trouble getting around the city. San Francisco has excellent public transit, tour operators, Uber, and scooters to get you around town.

Original post date: February 7, 2023