San Francisco is a city like no other in the United States or maybe even the world. It’s known for it’s liberal views, wonderful restaurants and steep rolling hills that can make you question if your car has enough horse power to get up them! Call it the city or SF but never Frisco or San Fran! This city has so many unique places to visit that you have to spend more time here to get the most out of it. Join me on a tour through the city and I will take you to my favorite places to go while I’m visiting the city.
- Trouble Coffee Company
- Ocean Beach
- Hook Fish Company
- Sutra Bath Houses
- Cliff House
- Lands End
Travel can be taxing on you, depending on how long your plane ride was to get to San Francisco, a day of relaxation can help cure you! Today you will get a chance to relax a bit before heading out into the city for a bit more adventure. Get some beach time in today and take on the western side of the city.
Trouble Coffee Company: This coffee shop is famous for their cinnamon toast. They have appeared in several magazines and they are independent minded at heart. Try their cinnamon toast with one of their delicious coffees or my favorite is to pair it with a nice Thai coconut. Sit outside and get a great experience of people watching in the area.
Ocean beach: Next to Trouble coffee company is Ocean beach. It’s one of the busier beaches in San Francisco and many times you will see surfers out riding waves in the ocean. It’s a long beach and stretches up to the Sutra Bath houses. Stop and relax a bit, while watching surfers do their thing in the water. If you’re up for it, take a dip or at least put your feet into the pacific ocean. I will tell you that it was quite a different experience coming from the East coast. The Atlantic ocean feels quite warmer to me, but you have to try both right?
Hook Fish Co.: If you’re feeling a little hungry after your travel during the day, it’s ok to stop in and grab some great seafood from Hook. They have some wonderful sandwiches, burritos and killer fish and chips. It’s also right off of Ocean beach so it’s very easy to access. They will usually have a line so don’t let that scare you off. Also, it’s a small shop and only to go at the moment, so if you are looking to grab some food and head out to the ocean, this is also a perfect opportunity. Make sure you get their homemade hot sauce, it’s fantastic!
Sutra bath houses: Make your way up to the top of Ocean beach and come to the bath houses. It will take a little imagination, but this was a massive bath house area at one time before burning down. Tour through the many locations of the bath houses and take a look out into the ocean. If you steer right when you get down to the houses, you will see a small cave that you can enter. Enter in and watch as the ocean smashes into the rocks below. Pretty cool to stop and enjoy.
Cliff House: Once you finish at the bath houses, you can stop in at the Cliff house for a great view as you get a bite to eat. The Cliff House has made it through a lot in it’s history including a couple of fires. The food can be delicious and they have several options for food. They have some delicious salads and several appetizers that are great. They also have some wonderful drinks that they will concoct for you on your visit. Try a speciality drink or have an Anchor steam as it’s the oldest IPA in the United States.
Lands End: As you work your way back, you can come across to Lands End. It has sweeping views of the cliffs and ocean. There are some cool looking trees around the area and they also have the Legion of Honor museum, which has some neat statues for you to visit outside if you choose not to do the museum. Overall it’s a great place to end your sightseeing for the day and head back to where you are staying for the evening.
- Fishermans Wharf
- Pier 39
- Crab House
- Ferry Building
- Oracle Park
Today you’re headed down to the ocean, but this time Fisherman’s wharf area. Keep your car parked as you might not need it at all today. You can take your famous SF cable car down to Fishermans wharf as there is a main station right next to Union Square. I will say that there is always a line to get on the cable cars so it’s up to you if you feel its worth it or not. If not, it’s a quick Uber ride to the wharf.
Fishermans wharf: Start your day off at the wharf and walk down to Boudines to get some of their famous Sourdough bread. Boudines is a massive company that started in SF and is one of the oldest companies in the city. The building is massive at Fishermans wharf. Take a stroll down and continue walking the wharf to your next stop Pier 39.
Pier 39: When you get here, right before the pier, head down to your left near the docks. There are resident sea lions that will be basking in the sun on the docks. Sit and watch them as they whisk away the day screaming into the air and enjoying themselves. Pier 39 has a little bit of everything. Walk through the shops and enjoy yourself. The aquarium for San Francisco is here. They have several shops to walk through, an arcade and more. If you’re left handed, they even have a special shop for you here! It’s a great people watching spot and can get quite busy through the day. You also get a great view of Alcatraz from here.
Alcatraz: This famous national historic landmark is a destination for everyone that is visiting San Francisco. It can take up half a day between traveling to and from the island and actually going through the audio tour. If you really want to try something different, they have a night time tour that is unlike anything else you will experience. The island has been used several ways over time but the most famous obviously is the federal penitentiary. This prison has held some of the most notorious criminals including one of the top, Al Capone. The severe currents around the island made it very unlikely for most people to escape this area. There are several attempts logged, but none that can officially say that they escaped Alcatraz island. Take an early tour after visiting the pier as it gets pretty busy. There isn’t much for food on the island so you have to decide if you want to eat before or after. There is a small cafe before getting on the boat that has several food options and drinks while you wait for your boat. The audio tour itself will take you several hours and unless you rush through this can easily take you 2-3 hours to see most of the island. It also is a little bit of walking as there is no real vehicle to take you around when you get there.
Crab House: If you decide to eat something small before going to the island, I would recommend heading back to the Crab house after for a delicious meal. This place has some wonderful dungeness crab, which is only found on the west coast. It’s a fantastic tasting crab that you have to give a try while in the city. This can be a little bit pricey for lunch, but they do a wonderful job and it’s a perfect opportunity to get away from the craziness of Pier 39 for a bit. Sadly you will find that San Francisco overall is quite pricey for everything, so take that into consideration.
Ferry building: This building is almost like a constant farmers market. There are a lot of little shops that you can get fresh oysters, cheese, wine and more at. This is usually a local favorite and you will see many people coming here from the city. If you are in the mood for oysters, Hog Island Oyster company is here. If you want to try fresh coffee from a local roaster, try Blue Bottle Coffee or maybe even a little chocolate from local Dandelion chocolate company. There is a lot to experience and it’s just fun to walk through and look at all of the different vendors.
Oracle Park: Depending on the time of night and day you are here, you could always take in a SF Giants home game. This park is beautiful and has a wonderful view of the ocean. They also have some great food inside. If the Giants aren’t playing or you aren’t really into baseball, then you can walk by and stare up at the stadium. The bay bridge is also behind the park and lights up at night. If you want to stay around the area and watch the light show, that’s also an option!
To place a night cap on your final evening in San Francisco head to a local brewery. There are many local favorites so it’s hard to give you just one to head to. Black Hammer is close to Oracle park so it’s easy access. 21st Amendment is a brewery from San Francisco that has grown to be quite popular and also has some decent food. Or Anchor Steam is the oldest brewery still in the city and actually came up with the first IPA in America. Either way, end your night with some suds!
- Baker Beach
- Flywheel coffee roasters
- Golden Gate Tours and bike Rentals
- Palace of Fine Arts
- Golden Gate Bridge
- Boat ride back
Baker Beach: Today get up early and head over to Baker beach. This beach is a perfect location to grab and coffee and watch the fisherman in the early morning. It also has a perfect view of the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
Flywheel Coffee Roasters: If you are in the mood for a coffee after Baker Beach and love your craft coffee, head over to Flywheel. They do a fantastic pour over coffee and it’s also right next to a great bike rental location that I would highly recommend taking. Flywheel also has several light food options for you if you are in the need to grab a bite to eat before starting your self guided biking tour.
Golden Gate Tours and Bike Rentals: This is a great place to rent bikes for the day. A perfect location that is located right next to Flywheel and they give you several maps with options on different routes to take when biking the city. There are also several locations around the city so you can drop your bike off at them if you want that option. I would recommend taking the Golden Gate tour across the bridge. How many times are you going to say that you were able to cross the Golden Gate Bridge?! You can start out at Golden Gate park and travel up through the area right before the bridge. There is a neat fort that you can stop at on the way or just grab some great shots of the bridge before heading over. I would also recommend stopping over at the palace of fine arts. The building is extremely neat to see and it has a large park in front of it. When you decide to cross the bridge, there is a bike path that you have to take vs walking the bridge. Make sure you get on the right path. Biking the bridge can be a little chilly so hopefully you brought a light jacket with you! You will make your way past the bridge and bike over to the city of Sausalito.
Sausalito: A great little town that is right across from the city and it has several places for you to stop on your bike tour. They have wine tasting or several other restaurant options as you bike through. I am sure you are hungry as you pass through the city. Joinery is a great restaurant option if you enjoy some good food and local craft beer. They have several options for you to choose from with both. Sit and enjoy being off your bikes for a while.
Boat Ride: Instead of biking back the opposite way and biking back up to the Golden Gate Bridge, take a relaxing boat ride back to the city. They have a commuter boat that leaves the harbor in Sausalito and you also get a great view of the Golden Gate bridge from the water at sunset. The tickets are cheap and you can drop your bikes off at fishermans wharf when you get back across to the city. There are plenty of boat tours you can take through the bay, but this is a cheap commuter boat so you get a two for one on this trip! Make your way back and drop your bikes off and head back for the evening. You have had a long day and it will be good to take a rest before your next day of adventure.
- Sweet Maple
- Anchor Brewing
- Mission Dolores Park
- Dandelion Chocolate
- Mission Cheese
- Painted Ladies
Sweet Maple: Start your day off with a wonderful breakfast. This restaurant has a little bit of everything, but my favorite is their different options for Eggs Benedict. Sometimes it’s hard to find a place that does it right and they do it right, but also offer many options for it! The other great place is that it’s a perfect spot to have that extra special morning drink. Indulge in a mimosa or one of their fantastic Bloody Mary’s and you will start your day off right!
Anchor Steam Brewing: Take a tour of Anchor steam and learn some history of this wonderful American brewery that produced the first IPA in the US. They do a wonderful job with various tours that you can take through the distribution center. Learn the different types of hops that they use and the brewing process, including how they make their famous steam beer. At the end you get a chance to taste the finished product. It’s a great way to dive in and enjoy some beer from one of the first craft breweries.
Mission Dolores Park: Next head over to this park that gives you a wonderful view of the city. You can relax a little bit and do some people watching or head on over to the Castro district and continue on with your travels.
CAMP: Shortened to CAMP, the Clarion Alley Mural Project is a wonderful street to walk down and see the latest creations. This alley way is famous for producing art work focused on free speech and it can touch on many social issues current in the world at the moment. It’s a short street to walk through, but very neat to see the attention to detail that people can have in their paintings that line the alley.
Dandelion Chocolate Company: Close to the alley is Dandelion chocolate company. If you are into chocolate, they do a wonderful job of creating some different types of chocolate. Mostly dark chocolate is what they produce, so it might not be your thing if you are more of a fan of Hershey’s! Try various flavors of chocolate and have your dessert before moving on to your first food stop for the day.
Misson Cheese: Right next store to Dandelion is Mission Cheese. This wonderful cheese shop has some of the best cheeses from the local area, while also bringing in cheeses from around the world. They have many types of cheese platters and they do a wonderful job of pairing either wine or beer with your cheeses to really highlight the top flavor profiles from both. If you would also like to send some back home or even take a bit with you, that is also an option. They also have some other options for food, but I would recommend a charcuterie board to indulge in for sure!
Painted Ladies: You are not too far away now from the famous painted ladies. These Victorian style houses are colorful and paint the perfect picture of this city. These houses are known as the seven sisters and are famous for being on images shown for San Francisco. Also, if you enjoy your 90’s sitcoms, you would also remember them being shown in the opening credits of the show, Full House.
- Ritual Coffee Roasters
- Golden Gate Park
- Japanese Tea Garden
- Botanical Garden
- Ginza sushi
- Conservatory of Flowers
- Strawberry Hill
Ritual Coffee Roasters: It’s time to try another of my favorite coffee roasters in the city. There are several places that you can try Ritual coffee in the city. They also have some wonderful single origin coffees that are some of my favorites to try while in SF. Sit down and enjoy before heading out into the extremely large Golden Gate park for the day.
Golden Gate Park: This park is massive, which is why I have dedicated the entire day to it! It’s actually 20% larger than Central Park in New York city and is one of the most visited parks in the United States. There is a lot to do here and it can be overwhelming with how large this park is. Take it in stride and dedicate your day to exploring it.
Japanese Tea Garden: The first stop you will come to on your visit to the park is this wonderful tea garden. This is actually the oldest public Japanese garden in the US. It will bring you to a zen state of mind as you walk through this peaceful area. The various statues and open areas have the perfect qualities of the Shinto religion of Japan. Take a stroll and just relax as you walk through the park. I would then recommend stopping in to their tea garden at the center. They have several options for different types of Japanese food for you to indulge in while looking out at beautiful landscapes. I usually enjoy having some edamame and mochi during my visit. The sushi is pretty average in comparison to many other places in the city, but their other food is pretty good.
Botanical Garden: Next to the Japanese tea garden is another garden that can be a quick stop off right after experiencing the Japanese garden. Tickets are under 20 dollars a person and you get the chance to see over 9,000 plants from around the world. The setup takes you from each region of the world and depending on the time of year, there are different floral species that will be in bloom. It’s a nice walk through to see the beauty and walk off all of that mochi!
Ginza Sushi: I’m assuming you are hungry now and to go along with the Japanese theme, why not some delicious sushi done right? This sushi restaurant is close to the park so it’s easy access for you to stop over at, while staying in close vaccinity to the area. They have a lot of options for different types of food, but I love their artistry. They do a wonderful job of making sure that each roll looks beautiful before bringing it out to you. The flavors explode in your mouth and you won’t regret stopping in for lunch.
Conservatory of Flowers: When you get back into the park, you can next head over to this conservatory to take a walk through. I know we have a theme of seeing a lot of plants today, but they have some unique plants within this building and the building itself is a pretty cool site to see. It won’t take you long to do a walk through of the area and stay to the path way, but either way another option to see some nice flora from the area.
Strawberry Hill: Finally you will get to the center of the park and one of my favorite locations to see the beauty of the area. Strawberry hill is a nice little hike to the top and at times during the year is home to excessive amounts of butterflies. What I love about the area is it’s relaxing natural surroundings. There is Huntington falls that you can sit and relax at, maybe stop in to the Chinese Pavilion or just watch the ducks as they go about their day like nobody is watching.
You can finish your day by staying around the park and taking a picnic if you choose. Maybe stop over to the windmill or drive by the American Bison in the park and see them whisking the day away. Either way, enjoy this day of relaxing in the park and make some memories.
- Blue Bottle Coffee Company
- Union Square
- China Town
- Coit Tower
- MLK Memorial
- Museum of Modern Arts
Blue Bottle Coffee Company: One of the largest coffee roasting companies in the bay area, Blue Bottle continues to lead the way on many fronts with coffee. They also have several brewing methods that you won’t find anywhere else in the craft coffee scene. Stop in and have a quick bite with a delicious coffee before heading out for the day.
Union Square: Finish your first day in San Francisco with finding a place to stay around Union Square. This is a very busy area with a lot of shopping, but also the site they light the Christmas tree in SF and have an ice skating rink in December. You get a great view of a lot of the city and can walk around this area in the evening. Take in some shopping at Macys or one of the various other retailers in the area. The Macys has several restaurant options if you decide that it’s time for some food. If not, head on over to China Town for your next experience.
Chinatown: One of the oldest Chinatowns in the US, they have their famous Dragon’s gate to get that famous photo in front of. They also have some wonderful places to just walk through. Take a stroll through the various shops along the sides of the streets or stop in and have a bite to eat.
Sushirrito: If you didn’t stop into Chinatown to have a bite, then you can walk over to this local place for something that you might not have tried before. This restaurant makes sushi into large burritos that are actually quite tasty to have. There isn’t an excessive amount of seating in the location, but people move in and out pretty quick as it’s somewhat of a fast food type establishment.
Coit Tower: Make your way up to Coit tower for a nice view of the city. If you take the tour to the top, you will see what the early settlers of San Francisco saw and learn how they cultivated the land in the early days. It’s a pretty small fee for a ticket to get to the top and you will surely enjoy the view of the city!
MLK Memorial: As you walk over to the MOMA, stop in and see the MLK memorial. It’s actually the second largest memorial to Martin Luther King JR. in the United States. If ever there was a time for us to celebrate this icon in our history, it’s today. Stop in and read the passages and take a look at the water fountain before heading into the museum.
Museum of Modern Arts: To end the week, we will take you to your final stop for the evening. The Museum of Modern Arts in San Francisco is a wonderful museum that has been redone and is quite large. There are many floors for you to take some time and walk through. Various exhibits that really show you just what San Francisco is about as a city and culture.
You’ve made it through a tour of the top things to do in San Francisco! Obviously there is still always more to do within a city, but this touches on my favorite things to do in this wonderful city. If you have an extra day, I would recommend traveling around the bay to some other locations. Check out my road trip through the bay area for some options close by, or stop over in Berkeley for a quick day trip that you can take a train to. There are many options for wonderful food and great breweries also to try in that area. Regardless what you choose or you are at the end of your road, I hope you enjoy the bay area and the wonderful city of San Francisco.
*People watching experience