EPIC SAN FRANCISCO Itinerary! (September 2019)

Our EPIC San Francisco itinerary will show you all of the best things to do while you are in San Francisco - no matter your travel style!

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San Francisco is such an unusual place, a haven for techies, foodies and nature-lovers! With some of the most iconic structures in America, and an abundance of green cliffs, sandy beaches and blue waters, it’s a sure win.

It’s also well known for its cultural contributions! In San Francisco, you can find an exciting concert, play or performance every week – and they’re free! It’s also got some of the best food, music and art in the country.

If you’re looking to spend 3 days in San Francisco, or more, we’ve put together an itinerary of all the best there is to do and see! These all make for one incredible time in San Francisco. So find a cheap flight here and experience the unique city of San Francisco!

 

Best Time To Visit San Francisco

when to visit San Francisco

These are the best times to visit San Francisco!

San Francisco is an all-year-round foggy city! It’s really strange and makes for a rather mysterious effect. If you’re wondering when to visit San Francisco, it’s best to go between September and November!

Fall offers some of the city’s warmest temperatures year-round, not to mention fewer crowds than Summer. Spring is also a great time thanks to its mild temperatures and lack of rain. Winter is chilly and damp, and during Summer, San Franciscans lift their rates, and tourists are everywhere.

 Average TemperaturesChance of RainOverall Grade
January10°C/50°FHigh🙁
February11°C/52°FHigh😐
March11°C/52°FHigh😐
April11°C/52°FAverage🙂
May13°C/55°FAverage😀
June13°C/55°FLow😀
July14°C/57°FLow🙂
August14°C/57°FLow🙂
September14°C/57°FLow😀
October14°C/57°FAverage😀
November13°C/55°FHigh🙂
December10°C/50°FHigh😐

 

Where To Stay In San Francisco

where to stay in San Francisco

San Francisco offers a wide variety of accommodations!

San Francisco is an eclectic city, with a wide variety of interesting accommodations available. We suggest you find something close to the city center. Especially if If you’re only spending about 2 days in San Francisco, you want to make the most of your time!

Most of San Francisco’s attractions are around the center of the city, while they are few and far between on the outskirts! So you want to stay near to the majority.

There are some really unique neighborhoods, with very different scenes! If you’re looking for an artsy neighborhood, which the city is historically famous for, find a place to stay in Mission District or Pacific Heights. Here you’ll find beautiful architecture, street art, and vibrant artistic communities.

Are you more interested in the tech space and how that translates to the ‘real world’? Book a hotel in the starkly clean, totally different San Franciscan neighborhood of South Beach. All three areas are close to the city hub!

 

San Francisco Itinerary

HI San Francisco Downtown is our pick for the best hostel in San Francisco!

Best Hostel in San Francisco – HI San Francisco Downtown

This popular, vibrant hostel is perfectly located and really well-priced. It’s in the center of town. It’s very safe and in a good neighborhood.

It also offers a lovely free breakfast daily, and a fully equipped guest kitchen! You’ll find you have everything you need for 3 days in San Francisco or more.

Check on HostelWorld

 

Also, check out our reviews of the top hostels in San Francisco.

 

San Francisco Itinerary

Mayflower Hotel is our pick for the best budget hotel in San Francisco!

Best Budget Hotel in San Francisco – Mayflower Hotel

One of the best value-for-money hotels in the city, Mayflower has everything you need. It’s centrally located, which is important if you’re only spending a weekend in San Francisco.

The pleasant rooms are clean, the beds comfy, and all the important amenities are available. Staff is very friendly and daily housekeeping is provided!

Check on Booking.com    Check on HotelsCombined    Check on Agoda

 

San Francisco Itinerary

Huntington Hotel is our pick for the best luxury hotel in San Francisco!

Best Luxury Hotel in San Francisco –  Huntington Hotel

With old-world, luxury interiors and panoramic views over the city, this is our top pick. The architecture is beautiful, and the spa is award-winning. We suggest you stay on the top floor for the best views!

The rooms are huge, making it a great stay for families or couples.

Check on Booking.com    Check on HotelsCombined    Check on Agoda

 

Intro to Itineraries

San Francisco itinerary

Welcome to our EPIC San Francisco itinerary

There’s so much to see in San Francisco, that it’s a really good thing their public transport is so good! There are plenty of options. You can try all of them if you find the journey to be part of the experience!

Most importantly, you will have to try the cable car system. We even have it down as one of our stops! It’s an important part of the San Francisco experience and a good deal of fun.

San Francisco is actually quite a small city, which means you can walk just about everywhere! Most of our favorite parts of the city area actually within a 20-minute walk of each other.

They also have a fantastic train system which can take you anywhere in the area and is actually easier than traveling by car. In fact, while in many places it’s a good idea to rent a car, we suggest you stick to public transport in San Francisco! Even the places out of town can be accessed by rail or bus.

They also have shuttle services which you can ask about at your hotel. And of course, Uber for when you’re in a hurry! In our 2 day itinerary San Francisco, we’ve made sure you have enough time to fit everything in.

 

Day 1 Itinerary in San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge | Golden Gate Park | San Mateo Japanese Garden | California Academy of Sciences | Cable Car | Painted Ladies | Beach Blanket Babylon | Cat Club

 

Stop 1 – Golden Gate Bridge

  • Why it’s awesome – It’s absolutely iconic, and with good reason
  • Cost – Free
  • Food recommendation – Grab some breakfast and reading material at the Warming Hut Bookstore & Cafe

Wondering what to do in San Francisco in 3 days? This is where to start! This iconic art-deco span is one of the seven wonders of the modern world! It was opened in 1937, after being called ‘the bridge that couldn’t be built’ because of its extensive length and simple design.

Its vibrant red-orange color was selected because it provided visibility in the fog for passing ships – San Francisco is infamous for its year-round fog.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

The bridge has been featured in so many movies, including the recent hits Ant-Man and Big Hero 6! Walk across it if you have time, and admire the structure from many different angles.

Any San Francisco walking tour worth its salt will include a cross over the bridge, so if you plan to join one, make sure this is included! Even if you’re only spending one day in San Francisco, a stop here is a must.

 

Day 1/Stop 2 – Golden Gate Park

  • Why it’s awesome – It’s huge, and there’s an unbelievable amount of things to do and see.
  • Cost – Free access.
  • Food recommendation – Get some good old American comfort food at Outerlands.

This park is one of the greatest San Francisco landmarks! It’s huge, with over 1,000 acres. An oasis for locals and tourists, the park includes gardens, playgrounds, multiple lovely lakes, picnic groves, trails, and monuments.

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Situated in the park grounds are also an array of cultural venues, events, and activities. If you’re spending the weekend in San Francisco, be sure to check out what live events they have on! The city is famous for its free communal events, and this is the perfect location for these.

Bring a picnic and a book, and languish on the lawns. You can also trek around the park, stroll through the botanical gardens, visit one of the many museums, and see the old-style windmills.

You can really spend the whole day here! But since there’s a lot else to fit into our San Francisco trip Itinerary, we suggest you spend 2-3 hours at the park.

 

Day 1/Stop 3 – The San Mateo Japanese Garden

  • Why it’s awesome – It’s a little bit of Japan here in America!
  • Cost – Free.
  • Food recommendation – Bring a picnic of all your favorite snacks.

The Japanese Garden is our favorite of the botanical gardens in the greater Golden Gate Park. It’s really beautiful, and totally unique, a fully separate part of the whole. One of the finest gardens in California, there are many exotic plants here, as well as sculptures and lakes.

The San Mateo Japanese Garden

The San Mateo Japanese Garden, San Francisco | photo credits:www.virtuar.com

If you’re visiting the city over Winter to Spring, you’re in luck! The blooming of the cherry blossoms are a world-renowned wonder, and this is one of the only places you can see it in America.

Enjoy the tranquility of the area while watching the giant koi fish swim around the pond that winds around and through this ‘park within a park’.

The Best Travel Backpack?!

Pssssst! Not picked the perfect travel backpack yet? The Broke Backpacker team has tried out over thirty backpacks this year! Our favourite carry on backpack is the Nomatic Travel Backpack.

Check out this post to read our full review!

 

Day 1/Stop 4 – California Academy of Sciences

  • Why it’s awesome – it’s the ‘greenest’ museum in the world!
  • Cost – $36 entrance, or free with a San Francisco CityPASS.
  • Food recommendation – Get yourself some Russian pastries from Cinderella Bakery & Cafe!

Nestled right in the middle of the Golden Gate Park, the Academy is the perfect place to go next!

Explore earth, ocean and space in this unique, high-tech interactive museum. It houses an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, and world-class research and educational programs!

Bursting with life, both fauna and flora, the California Academy of Sciences is one of San Francisco’s must-see destinations. Where else can you find a four-story rainforest and coral reef ecosystem in one man-made structure?

California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco

See a planetarium show, where no matter your age you’ll be transported through space and time and given a fuller understanding of our planet.

One of our favorite parts of this place is its eco-friendly design, which so perfectly matches its intention! On a similar note, check out our guide to sustainable, ethical travel.

The Academy is topped by a 2.5-acre living-roof, with wildflowers and leafy plants. For interest, beauty and education, this is a really great stop on our San Francisco itinerary.

 

Day 1/Stop 5 – Catch the San Francisco Cable Car

  • Why it’s awesome – it’s an icon, the world’s last manually operated cable car system.
  • Cost – ~$8 one way, $17 day pass.
  • Food recommendation – the cable car passes many great restaurants and cafés – hop off when you see one that catches your eye.

San Francisco is the only place you’ll find these traditional cable cars still being used as real working transportation! They are a historic symbol recognized around the world, and a great way to get around, up the city’s steep hills.

The cable cars run about every 10 minutes, but they are very popular, especially among tourists! That’s why we’ve made it our fifth stop – the lines will be shorter by now.

Catch the San Francisco Cable Car

Catch the San Francisco Cable Car, San Francisco

While it’s technically transportation, we think riding a cable car definitely qualifies as an important ‘stop’. It’s such an integral part of the local experience and an important stop on our 2 day itinerary San Francisco.

They’re old-fashioned and brightly colored! It’s a pleasure just to watch the conductor work. Your pass can be purchased directly from the cable car operator. Just remember to bring some cash!

 

Day 1/Stop 6 – The Painted Ladies

  • Why it’s awesome – the row of Victorian-era houses with their skyscraper backdrop is a unique sight.
  • Cost – Free.
  • Food recommendation – Sit down for some good food and creative cocktails at the nearby Nopa restaurant.

One of the most photographed locations in San Francisco, The Painted Ladies is a unique last stop for the daytime! It’s a tight, escalating formation of Victorian houses back-dropped by downtown skyscrapers. The modern-era and Victorian contrast stunningly!

As the name suggests, each of the old houses is painted in a different pastel color. The effect is very beautiful! There’s also a park right next to them, where you can relax and explore.

The Painted Ladies

The Painted Ladies, San Francisco

One of the painted ladies was the home in the 90s hit ‘Full House’. So if you were a fan, this will be an interestingly nostalgic stop for you and is one of the most quirky San Francisco points of interest!

Insider Tip: The Painted Ladies are also a very popular stop, so if you’re going during peak season, try to go on a weekday. It will be less busy!

 

Day 1/Stop 7 – Beach Blanket Babylon

  • Why it’s awesome – It’s colorful, satirical, and really funny!
  • Cost – $30 – $155.
  • Food recommendation – Get some late-evening seafood at Sotto Mare.

See a show at the world’s longest running musical revue! It’s one of the most popular San Francisco points of interest, and well worth a visit.

This musical is a brightly colored, high energy pop culture satire, making for the perfect night. It critiques contemporary issues and celebrities in the most humorous, good-natured way possible. And all with spectacular costumes and gigantic wigs and hats!

Beach Blanket Babylon

Beach Blanket Babylon, San Francisco | photo credits:Going Places, Far & Near

The performance follows Snow White on a journey around the world as she searches for her traditional ‘Prince Charming’.  On the way, she meets an ever-changing line-up of brilliant pop-culture characters.

It’s camp and outrageously fun. If you’re wondering what to do in San Francisco, this is a sure win!

 

Day 1/Stop 8 – Cat Club

  • Why it’s awesome – With great tracks, themed nights and drink specials, it can’t go wrong!
  • Cost – $0 – $10 depending on the day and time.
  • Food recommendation – Grab some Mexican-style street snacks from Azúcar Lounge.

If you’re not ready to turn in for the night and want to explore more of that famous San Franciscan nightlife, go to the Cat Club! It has something going on every night, so even if you’re not here over the weekend, a great time awaits.

Some of the club’s best events are the 80s nights, karaoke, and the risqué bondage go-go nights. The music is great, the outfits are funky and the drinks are flowing. It’s sure to be a fun night out!

Cat Club

Cat Club, San Francisco | photo credits:10Best.com

It’s also a very friendly environment (which isn’t always the case in clubs), with an easy-going vibe, two dance floors, two bars, a VIP lounge, and plenty of places to sit and get your breath back. You’ll wish you had a club like this in your own city!

The Cat Club is also situated on a street with a bunch of interesting bars and 24-hour cafés. So if you want to incorporate some bar hopping into the experience, you can!

 

Check Best Price

HI San Francisco Downtown
This popular, vibrant hostel is perfectly located and really well-priced. It’s in the center of town. It’s very safe and in a good neighborhood.
  • $$
  • Free WiFi
  • Free Breakfast

 

Day 2 Itinerary in San Francisco

Fisherman’s Wharf | Alcatraz Island | Exploratorium | Baker Beach | Walt Disney Family Museum | Lands End | After-dark at the Exploratorium

 

Stop 1 – Fisherman’s Wharf

  • Why it’s awesome – It’s a fun, busy suburb with lots to do!
  • Cost – Free.
  • Food recommendation – Grab a quick bite at Fishermans Wharf restaurant.

Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the city’s busiest tourist areas. Located on the northern waterfront, the neighborhood is full of quaint souvenir shops and stalls selling unusual seafood!

Fisherman s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco

From here you’ll also have postcard views of the bay, as well as Golden Gate and Alcatraz. It’s a lovely area to walk safely through the winding streets and explore the little hubs and hidden treasures.

There’s a large colony of sea lions that live on the wharf and casually delight passers-by! You can also find historic San Franciscan ships to tour. It’s a vibrant, colorful place to explore. It can get very busy during peak season, which is why we’ve made it the first activity for the day.

 

Day 2/Stop 2 – Alcatraz Island

  • Why it’s awesome – It’s a notorious old prison with lots to take in.
  • Cost – $25.
  • Food recommendation – Have a light breakfast at Baker Street Bistro.

Alcatraz, despite being off the mainland, is one of the top San Franciscan attractions! The site of the first lighthouse built on the Pacific Coast, It later became a federal prison for notorious convicts. Because of this, Alcatraz is a must-see!

The infamous prison housed convicts like Al Capone and Harvey Bailey, and is now part of the Bay Area’s 80,000-acre Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Despite its sordid past, the island is really beautiful!

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island, San Francisco

A visit to the island should always include a tour of the cell house! Here you can see where the prisoners lived until 1963. Still intact, you’ll see the main prison block with its tiny, claustrophobic cells, mess hall, library and ‘dark holes’, where the difficult-to-manage sat in darkness, sometimes for weeks on end.

It’s a fascinating place to explore. You will want to take a guided tour, in order to learn the details of its history, and all the questions you want!

 

Day 2/Stop 3 – Exploratorium

  • Why it’s awesome – Science and creativity come together in very exciting ways!
  • Cost – $30 entrance, or free with a San Francisco CityPASS.
  • Food recommendation – get something from the in-house Seaglass Restaurant.

Revel in the creative side of science at this interactive museum! It’s great for people of all ages – seriously, we’ve never met someone who didn’t enjoy it.

You’ll explore over 650 hands-on exhibits. And all with breathtaking views over the city and the bay in the spectacular glass-and-steel Bay Observatory. The Exploratorium is an ongoing exploration of science, art, and human perception. By participating in the exhibits, you play a role in the study!

Exploratorium

Exploratorium, San Francisco

Step inside a tornado (you’ll have to see it to believe it), turn upside down in a giant curved mirror, walk across a bridge of fog. It’s so much fun you could spend the whole weekend in San Francisco right here.

There are always new exhibits, and they update the attractions often so there’s always something new to see! It’s an aesthetic and information adventure – one you’re not likely to forget.

 

Day 2/Stop 4 – Baker Beach

  • Why it’s awesome – It’s an incredibly aesthetic beach with great views!
  • Cost – Free.
  • Food recommendation – Get some ice-cream on the pier.

With picture-perfect views and staggering cliffs, Baker Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

You’ll find an interesting amount of nudity here, despite the often chilly weather and very cold water. Turns out many San Franciscans love an opportunity to leave the clothes behind! And they seem impervious to the cold.  

It’s also dog-friendly! It’s always wonderful to see how much fun dogs have on the beach, as impervious to the cold as the happy nudists.

Baker Beach

Baker Beach, San Francisco

The white-sand beach has fantastic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, from an uncommon angle. It’s the most popular beach in San Francisco, and most days you’ll find colorful beach towels and pale people dotting the stretch of sand.

Baker Beach also has a picnic area above the sandy area, near the parking lot. Here you’ll find grills and bathrooms!

Insider Tip: The currents are strong and the water is freezing. It’s beautiful, but not ideal for those who want to get in the water.

 

Day 2/Stop 5 – The Walt Disney Family Museum

  • Why it’s awesome – Walt Disney had such a huge social impact, it’s fascinating to find out more about the man!
  • Cost – $25.
  • Food recommendation – Try something different at Off The Grid: Presidio Picnic.

Explore the life and legacy of Walt Disney! There is perhaps no greater figure to represent America’s pop-culture, having influenced a worldwide audience of children and adults. Walt Disney delighted the world, and the museum that celebrates him is delightful as well.

If you’re a Disney fan, this lovely little museum, with interesting displays and changing exhibitions, is a must-see! The museum displays the moments in Walt’s life in a variety of creative ways.

The Walt Disney Family Museum

The Walt Disney Family Museum, San Francisco | photo credits:BARTable)

You’ll come away with a much deeper understanding and admiration for the hard work that went into making the early Disney films come to life. Even if you were never into animation, to witness the dedication of one man into making his dreams come to life is fantastic.

The location is also really great. If you’re visiting on a sunny day, you’ll catch some amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the cityscape.

Insider Tip: There’s a lot to see here, so we suggest you put aside at least 2 hours!

 

Day 2/Stop 6 – Lands End

  • Why it’s awesome – You can get out of the city and explore the Californian wild side!
  • Cost – Free entrance.
  • Food recommendation – Get some cake or vegan pastries at the nearby Saltroot Café!

If after 2 days in San Francisco you’re looking to get out into nature for a while, spend the late afternoon at Lands End! You can hike the trail on this wild northwestern corner of the city, with stunning views and a beautiful forest.

In this natural oasis you’ll find hillsides of wildflowers and cypress, and views of old shipwrecks along the coast. You will also have access to the interesting ruins of Sutro Baths, once a public saltwater swimming pool complex.

Lands End

Lands End, San Francisco

If you wander for long enough you’ll find hidden pocket beaches, a Lookout visitor center, and of course, Land’s End Labyrinth. Walk through the carefully structured maze and be sure to take a photo or two!

Community volunteers have played a big part in revitalizing and restoring the native habitat here. We love the community support in San Francisco!

Serene and quiet, it’s an easy hike through the woods. Find a great view of the Golden Gate along with the shore – you’ll find this never gets old. After this San Francisco trip, you will really understand the romance and beauty of the place.

Insider Tip: If you can time this right to watch the sunset from one of its viewpoints, you’ll be well rewarded!

 

Day 2/Stop 7 – After-dark at the Exploratorium

  • Why it’s awesome – Everything changes at night!
  • Cost – $20 or $15 if you have a daytime ticket.
  • Food recommendation – cocktails and snacks at the bar.

It seems weird to include the same place twice, right? But on certain days the Academy of Sciences comes alive after dark, in a totally different way to its day-time persona!

The Academy hosts adults-only evenings with lots of fun sciency stuff to do, a full pass to all 650 of the mind-bendy interactive exhibits, and perhaps most importantly, a long list of cocktails! There is also great music provided and special on-theme programming.

After dark at the Exploratorium

After-dark at the Exploratorium, San Francisco

The crazy exhibits are really something to see after a few drinks, and you’ll enjoy comparing the totally different nature of your day and night experiences!

To crawl, slide, and bump your way through the pitch black Tactile Dome is also very different at night! That’s why the Exploratorium grabs two well-deserved spots on our itinerary for San Francisco.

The party starts at 6pm and ends at 10pm, giving you plenty of time to enjoy and explore. While you can arrive at around 9pm, we suggest you get there as early as you can! You will want lots of time here to appreciate all of the fun!

Golden Gate Bridge

You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.

GET IT HERE

 

Day Three and Beyond

San Francisco Bay Sunset Cruise| Museum of Modern Art | Tour San Francisco by Bicycle | Chinatown Culinary Walking Tour | Golden Gate Bridge Seaplane Tour

If you’re planning to travel to spend more than 2 days in San Francisco then you are in luck!  There is still so much more to see and do, and lots of different ways to experience the beautiful city! Read on for our 3 day itinerary San Francisco.

 

San Francisco Bay Sunset Cruise by Luxury Catamaran

  • Relax on a luxury catamaran while you watch the sun set over San Francisco Bay.
  • You get snacks and 2 complimentary drinks to enjoy while you take in the view.
  • Sail past the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.

This is a great way to take in San Francisco from a bit of a distance! Sunset is the perfect time to observe San Francisco’s attractions. Everything glows in the golden hour, contrasting with the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean.

Snack on light hors d’oeuvres and sip complimentary drinks as you sail. We also like that you get to go on a catamaran instead of an ordinary cruise ship! They are really cool.

San Francisco Bay Sunset Cruise by Luxury Catamaran

San Francisco Bay Sunset Cruise by Luxury Catamaran, San Francisco

On this adventure, you will sail by the infamous Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge. You’ll also sail past Sausalito, the city opposite San Francisco. This lovely little city is known for its houseboat enclaves, built by artist squatters after WW2! It is quite a sight to see.

You should also keep an eye out for the local wildlife! The sea lions in the area are famous, and if you look closely you may see other marine animals, like dolphins and pelicans. The area is abundant, both on land and in the water.

The catamaran has a protected viewing area, which provides panoramic viewing so you can take in everything around you. There are also canvas trampoline nets for the more adventurous. Here you can experience the ocean and sights in the open air! Just be sure to bring a windbreaker, it gets chilly!

 

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

  • Explore seven stories of art.
  • Beautiful combination of modern and classic exhibitions.
  • Global artists and exploratory themes.

With lots of fresh innovative art and a good deal of classics to explore, MOMA is a must if you’re planning a trip to San Francisco for more than a few days! The exhibits are always changing, so locals enjoy it just as much as the tourists.

There is so much to explore on the seven floors of this huge museum. Since you can spend a solid half-day here, there is also a restaurant and café inside, so you won’t have to starve or leave before you’re ready!

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco

If you’re here on a Thursday, spend the evening here! They’re open till 9pm, and you can spend a fantastic night sipping wine and looking at art. If you’re here on a romantic trip, this is an even better idea.

The museum is beautiful inside & out. Stare at the expansive, living wall of ferns. Sit in alcove seats with fantastic views of the city. Admire the diverse range of collections, spanning a truly impressive range of cultures, periods, artistic movements and sensibilities.

The paintings and sculpture explore ideas that have challenged all of humanity, and deeply personal thoughts and feelings. Themes that have shaped the history of modern art and themes you might have thought to have nothing to do with art. But really, nothing is out of art’s reach, and that’s what you’ll discover here.

 

Tour San Francisco by Bicycle

  • Rent a bicycle and get exploring.
  • Or join a cycle tour.
  • You can even join an electric bike tour!

Exploring a city by bicycle is a great way to see it! And San Francisco is made up of small windy streets and long boulevards, which makes it the perfect place to experience by bike.

There are many bicycle rental places in the city. In Russian Hill, a coastal neighborhood, you’ll find a few on every road! Find a bike, grab a map (they should have one at the bike rental place) and explore San Francisco.

You’ll find so many little details and interesting people, beautiful graffiti and a feeling of community that’s quite unique to this special city.   

Tour San Francisco by Bicycle

Tour San Francisco by Bicycle, San Francisco

You can also take a San Francisco Electric Bike Tour. This is a great option for those who aren’t strong enough to spend the day pedaling around this hilly city, or who aren’t good at finding those hidden gems.

You’ll explore areas off limits to heavier vehicles, cycling in a group through the best neighborhoods. The tour explores fifteen different locations, plenty of photo stops and the Golden Gate Park. It’s a 6-hour tour, so you’ll come away with a much better feel for the city!

There are also frequent stops to talk about the significance of the areas, and a lunch stop. Your guide is knowledgeable and facilitates the experience so that you can get the most out of it!

 

San Francisco Chinatown Culinary Walking Tour

  • Sample tasty Chinese cuisine.
  • Explore the world’s largest Chinatown outside Asia in a unique way.
  • Learn about Chinese cooking methods passed down for generations.

If you’re looking for something a little different and craving Chinese food, join a culinary walking tour through Chinatown! The neighborhood is one of the most popular places among locals and has heavily influenced the San Franciscan culture.

You’ll get to sample the foods of this giant Chinatown on a 3-hour walking tour. There’s so much to see and taste here! You’ll see artisans making the famous Fortune Cookies by hand. Stroll down the small alleys, transported into a different land and learning about cooking techniques that date back centuries.

San Francisco Chinatown Culinary Walking Tour

San Francisco Chinatown Culinary Walking Tour, San Francisco

You will also have the opportunity to try different types of Dim Sum, and to learn about Chinese teas and herbs! If you’ve always loved Chinese takeout, but never know anything about the history of what you’re eating, this is the perfect opportunity to expand your understanding.

You’ll also visit a beautiful local Buddhist temple, and see multiple Chinese markets where you can marvel at the fresh produce. There are also musical instruments that you’ve never seen before, being played and sold along the street!

Finally, you’ll also be shown some Chinese antiquities and relics on the route. You’ll be absolutely amazed at how much culture and history you can experience and witness in one culinary walking tour! Food and beverages are all included in the tour price – and there’s lots of both.

 

Golden Gate Bridge from the Air! Seaplane Tour

  • See San Francisco’s points of interest from the air.
  • Whirl around in a private plane.
  • A totally unique way to experience the famous city.

This one is expensive, so we don’t recommend it for everyone. But if you can afford it, there’s no better way to see the sights after 2 days in San Francisco taking it all in from the ground.

You’ll fly over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, marveling at the contrasts between the bright orange and deep blue. Then you’ll go around the bay up to the town of Sausalito, nestled against the green hills.

Golden Gate Bridge from the Air Seaplane Tour

Golden Gate Bridge from the Air! Seaplane Tour, San Francisco

Try to spot your favorite places which you’ve found in the last few days. You’ll be flying quite close to land some of the time, so if you look closely you may be able to find them! You’ll also lift up into the clouds, experiencing an otherworldly place before returning to what you know.

You’ll be going up in the Alaska Bush Seaplane, a small, safe and reliable plane that lands on the water. The windows are large so you can easily view everything and take great photos.

There is so much to see on the air tour, including Angel Island, Fisherman’s Wharf and the huge Golden Gate Park! This is definitely one of the coolest things to do on our 3 day itinerary San Francisco.

Don’t forget to pack a good book!

Bloody Lessons (A Victorian San Francisco Mystery Book 3) This is our top recommendation for an awesome and inspiring read on this magical city.

 

Staying Safe in San Francisco

San Francisco is a pretty safe place! There are a few issues the city is working to solve, but you’re very unlikely to experience any violent crime, or even theft.

Car theft is significantly higher than the American average. So don’t rent or bring a car, if you can help it. As mentioned before, you won’t need it!

San Francisco also struggles with homelessness, which may at times be uncomfortable. However, there are homeless shelters and initiatives which prevent many of them from turning to crime, so you should be safe.

It’s best to know where you’re going. San Francisco has a lot of little streets and very different suburbs, so if you’re lost you might find yourself stumbling into an unsafe neighborhood. That’s why it’s good to keep a map on you and have a day plan.

Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.

 

Day Trips from San Francisco

For those planning to stay for more than a few days, the day trips from San Francisco are great! There’s some spectacular scenery in the area, and exciting activities and tours to make the most out of it. While they’re a bit out of town, they’re a great part of our itinerary for San Francisco.

 

Muir Woods Tour of California Coastal Redwoods

Muir Woods Tour of California Coastal Redwoods

The coastal redwoods are a must-see when you’re in this area! They’re ancient and beautiful, and really impressive, towering above you. On this day trip from San Francisco you’ll spend time in the Muir Woods National Forest, and take in the beauty of California’s awe-inspiring nature.

You’ll also discover Sausalito, a charming little coastal town across the bay from San Francisco. If you want to extend your time in Sausalito to explore the city, simply take a ferry back to San Francisco later in the day.

It’s a really popular tour, so if you’re planning a trip to San Francisco during the peak summer season, we suggest you book ahead!

Check Tour Price

 

San Francisco to Yosemite Park Small Group Tour

San Francisco to Yosemite Park Small Group Tour

You can’t travel to San Francisco without visiting Yosemite! On this 15-hour tour, you’ll drive through the Great Central Valley, stopping to see the majestic El Capitan rock formation. Take photos from the aptly named Inspiration Point and view the breathtaking Bridalveil Fall. On a sunny day you might see a rainbow here!

You’ll also see Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America! Yosemite is an incredible geographic marvel. If you have the time for this, we definitely suggest you do it – you won’t regret it.

After the tour, you’ll spend the afternoon near the base of Yosemite Falls, where you can relax and have a picnic. There are also many options for getting lunch in the park. It’s a nice, loose tour so you’ll have plenty of time to explore the valley at your leisure.

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Monterey and Carmel Day Tour with Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey and Carmel Day Tour with Monterey Bay Aquarium

Explore the area around San Francisco on this lovely day tour! You’ll wander through the pretty town of Carmel-by-the-sea, known for its fairy-tale cottages and old village vibe.

The tour takes you on the 17-mile Scenic Drive, with a few stops so you can take photos of the extraordinary scenery and rugged coast. You’ll also visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium! It’s home to over 30,000 species of marine wildlife.

You’ll also stop at Cannery Row, a coastal street lined with now-defunct old sardine canneries. The street has plenty to see and do now, but the slightly creepy vibe of those broken-down canneries are our favorite part!

Check Tour Price

 

Napa & Sonoma Valley Wine Tour from San Francisco

Napa & Sonoma Valley Wine Tour from San Francisco

Learn the areas’ history of wine-making while you taste on this tour of Napa and Sonoma valleys.

There’s such an interesting history here, from the Spanish missionaries who brought grape vines from Europe long ago, to the Forty-Niners who took part in the 1849 California Gold Rush and served wines in their saloons.

You’ll tour wineries and see how the grapes are picked, crushed, blended and bottled! Walk through beautiful vineyards and then taste the finished product. The wine tasting fees are included!

You’ll also be able to have lunch at the Historical Sonoma Square or Vintage 1870, in the heart of Napa.

Check Tour Price

 

Wine, Cheese, and Chocolate Tasting Tour

Wine Cheese and Chocolate Tasting Tour

For a more diversified experience, you can also take a wine, cheese and chocolate tasting tour! Visit one of Sonoma Valley’s unusual wine caves for a wine and cheese tasting while they explain the origins and making of both.

Explore a working olive oil and balsamic vinegar production mill, while you sample all of its offerings! Indulge in a chocolate tasting at a special Napa Valley chocolate shop.

You’ll enjoy a scenic drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and into wine country, in a minibus with convertible sun-roof! With the most delightful tastings and beautiful landscapes, this tour is definitely one of the best day trips from San Francisco.

Check Tour Price

 

Universal Travel AdapterOne of the best investments you can make is a worldwide travel adapter that will work anywhere! The one featured here is tough, reliable and a solid buy – Don’t leave home without one.

GET IT HERE

 

Conclusion

With its incredible stops and beautiful day trips, San Francisco is one of our favorite cities in America! Whether you’re interested in art, science or nature, you’re guaranteed to have a great time. If you’re interested in all three, you’ve hit the jackpot!

There are lots of options, but these are the best places to visit in San Francisco (in 3 days). Do you have anything you would add to an itinerary for San Francisco?

The city is also a great place to travel on a budget! While some of the stops are quite pricey, others are free. So if you’re operating on a shoe-string budget, don’t stress. Just mix-and-match!

 

Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through the site, The Broke Backpacker will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support helps me keep the site going.


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Our EPIC San Francisco itinerary will show you all of the best things to do while you are in San Francisco - no matter your travel style!

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