How should you spend one day in
Trust me on this, spending one day in San Francisco offers the best blend of gorgeous views, rich history, contemporary culture, and trendy city life. I’m lucky enough to live across the Bay from the gem of northern California; San Francisco.
You can’t beat the food, the colors, the music, the shopping, and the relaxed vibe. You’ll feel completely transported to another zone when you spend one day in San Francisco.
And if you have some extra time, visit the famous Mission Street Murals of San Francisco.
And if you have more than one day, check out more things to do in San Francisco!
See these sites in this order, and make your one day in
San Francisco memorable!
#1 Walk the Golden Gate Bridge
Ready to begin your one day in San Francisco? Grab breakfast and start here! Being on the Golden Gate Bridge in fog or sun and looking up at those towers from the road below is special every time I do it!
Your driver can let you off at the foot of the bridge so you can walk part of the 1.7 miles and then head back.
There’s a shop, a café, and bathrooms at the foot of the bridge. Every angle is photo worthy! It truly is spectacular!
When you’ve had your fill, call another ride and have them drive you through the Presidio, the former army base, with gorgeous views, to Ocean Beach.
#2 Stroll on Ocean Beach
Next up! As you exit the Presidio, hop off at the Sutro Baths. Walk down to the water and explore the ruins of the old bath house, then continue on to walk past the Cliff House, and look out at the famous Seal Rock.
Stroll on the sand and take lots of photos of the Pacific Ocean! Across the street you can have lunch at the Beach Chalet. I recommend the Seared Tuna Salad with one of their local brews!
Finish lunch and walk to the entrance of Golden Gate Park for a photo at the Dutch Windmill, overlooking the ocean.
Time to call for another driver to take you through the park to The Japanese Tea Garden.
#3 Visit Golden Gate Park
San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, with its 1017 acres of unicorporated land, is home to the most treasured spots.
The Japanese Tea Garden
I highly recommend the Japanese Tea Garden for a stroll, photos, and some tea. Admission is $12 March through September and $10 during off months. San Francisco residents, seniors, youth, and children are discounted.
You can also choose from the Conservatory of Flowers, the DeYoung Museum, or the California Academy of Sciences.
Or opt for a drive through the park to see Stowe Lake, the rose garden, and the famous San Francisco buffalo!
No need to call for a car after the Tea Garden, just use your navigation app and walk straight to Haight St.
#4 The Iconic Haight/Ashbury
Don’t miss “The Haight” because it offers a peek into what used to be the center of the Summer of Love and the birth of the hippie culture.
The shops and food are signature to the San Francisco experience.
Get some ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s and then time for another driver pick up!
Your driver will take you on a 20 minute drive through a big chunk of the city to the famous section of Lombard Street.
#5 Wind down Lombard Street
Ask your driver to drop you off at the top of the hill. Lombard is known as the “crookedest street in the world,” and yes, it’s a crazy tourist attraction, but has an interesting history.
Historic Fun Facts
In the 1920’s, streets in San Francisco were too steep for cars, so the landowners created a wildly curvy street for cars to maneuver.
A photo of curvy Lombard Street ended up on a post card in 1961 when the hydrangeas were in full bloom. Just like an Instagram pic gone viral, the street became one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist spots.
After you’ve had your fill of the views, take the 15 minute walk down toward the Bay to Ghiradelli Square and Fisherman’s Wharf.
#6 Next up is Fisherman’s Wharf
& Ghiradelli Square
Your one day in San Francisco must include Fisherman’s Wharf. This is the most “touristy” of all the tourist spots in the city.
Experience the street entertainment, the seals, the shops, the chowder, the sourdough bread, and the Ghiradelli chocolate.
If you have more time, get a reservation for the boat ride and a tour of Alcatraz. The boats leave from the wharf and you can get tickets right there, or online. It’s an iconic San Francisco experience not to be missed.
Grab snacks and souvenirs and head to the line for the cable car ride at Hyde and Beach Streets. You may want to get a famous Irish Coffee at The Buena Vista across from the Cable Car ticket booth.
#7 Enjoy a Cable Car Ride
Get your tickets first! They cost $7 and you can book online in advance or buy at the stop.
The line can take a while and the wind kicks up there, so Irish Coffee at The Buena Vista might warm you up for the wait!
When you hop on the Cable Car, try to score outside seats, so you can really get the full experience of hanging on while riding down the crazy San Francisco hills.
The Cable Car is the last remaining, manually operated cable car system in the US.
This line will take you all the way to Chinatown. So, hang on and enjoy! Tell the conductor that you want to hop off in Chinatown. If you don’t, no need to panic, it is just a short walk from the final car stop at Market Street back into Chinatown.
#8 Visit the famous Chinatown
When you hop off the Cable Car, you’ll be in the area of downtown San Francisco known as Chinatown.
It’s literally as though you have been transported into another city all together.
This is the oldest, most established Chinatown in the US.
Take the iconic photo at the Dragon Gate, wander through, shop, and make sure you eat!
The Best Places To Stay in San Francisco
Right in the heart of Union Square and at the base of Chinatown is this fabulous, eclectic hotel with local art, unique rooms and fun vibe. Known for great service, awesome location, and the best French restaurant in town, Cafe De La Presse.
In an excellent location, the 1 Hotel San Francisco is across from the Ferry Building and has views of the city skyline and the Bay. Known for its style with local and reclaimed natural materials and sustainably sourced linens.
This luxury boutique hotel sits at the top of San Francisco’s prized Pacific Heights neighborhood. A turn of the century, Edwardian style hotel is known for its beautiful decor, superb service, complimentary breakfasts and generous wine time.
This is a great bargain in the beautiful Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. The Zeppelin features a celebration of the city’s avant garde era with a bold style. Known for being a comfy, funky, and affordable spot in a great location.
Choose your location based on your transportation preferences.
Are you are up for a lot of walking on hills?
How comfortable are you with navigating the public transportation system?
Are you renting a car?
Will you be using rides hare apps?
(If you’re renting a car, please know that parking can be a bit of a hassle!)
Here are my top neighborhood choices for a first time visitor:
~ Pacific Heights for views and quiet.
~ Fisherman’s Wharf for access to lots of activities.
~ Haight Ashbury for Victorian homes and hip neighborhood.
~ Downtown San Francisco to be in the hub of the city, close to Chinatown, stores, and shows.
When Is The Best Time To Go To San Francisco?
Don’t stress about the weather in San Francisco and come whenever you can! It’s unpredictable due to the Bay, the hills, and the micro climates. There’s plenty to do in San Francisco rain or shine. Just think layers and comfortable shoes!
The warmest months are June through October.
The coldest months are December through February.
What’s The Best Way To Get Around San Francisco?
San Francisco has a public transportation system called Muni. Its not the easiest to navigate, but there are many bus stops everywhere and you can purchase a Clipper Card for your visit.
Prices for the The Muni buses and trolleys: Adults: $3.00 (Clipper card/MuniMobile: $2.50) Seniors: $1.50 (Clipper card/MuniMobile: $1.25)
***Anyone under 19 years of age rides buses and streetcars free (not cable cars).
You will want to take a Cable Car as part of your visit, so plan on $8. per person for that part of this one day adventure.
If you want to see a lot in one day in San Francisco, Make sure you have rideshare apps downloaded before you venture out.
→ This is a 4 trip, ride-service day, if you don’t rent a car. Budget accordingly!
Be prepared with a portable phone charger, and get going early!
You spent your one day in San Francisco!
In a nutshell..
Follow this itnerary to get the most of your one day in the city by the Bay, the gem of Northern California. Hopefully it gives you a taste of all there is to see and enjoy here and you’ll want to spend more days in SF!
After dinner you can head back home and collapse! You did it! You spent one fabulous day in San Francisco!