One Day In San Francisco
04.07.2021
One Day in San Francisco
I am lucky enough to live across the Bay from the gem of northern California, San Francisco. Trust me on this, San Francisco offers the best blend of gorgeous views, rich history, contemporary culture, and trendy city life. You can’t beat the food, the colors, the music, the shopping, and the relaxed vibe. You will feel completely transported to another zone while spending one day in San Francisco.

We get plenty of visitors who want to see all the tourist spots and get a local’s insights, but they often only have one day in San Francisco. When that happens, here’s how we make the most of it!

Know before you go!
Best Time To Go

I recommend you not stress about the weather here and come whenever you can! It is unpredictable due to the Bay, the hills, and the micro climates. The official warm months are June through October and cold months are December through February. Not to worry, there is plenty to do rain or shine. Just think layers and comfortable shoes!

Where To Stay

As a favorite tourist spot for families and conventions, San Francisco has innumerable budget friendly choices through VRBO. You can also check Expedia for hotels. I recommend you choose your location based on your transportation preferences. Read reviews and DM me about neighborhoods if you are unsure. Consider if you are up for a lot of walking on hills? How comfortable are you with navigating a confusing public transportation system? Are you renting a car? Will you be using rideshare services? If you are renting a car, please know that parking can be a bit of a hassle!

Transportation

If you want to see a lot in one day in San Francisco, I would make sure you have Uber or Lyft apps downloaded before you venture out to experience my favorite outdoor and inexpensive activities. Be prepared with a portable phone charger and head out early! This is a four trip ride-service day, if you don’t rent a car, so have that budgeted.

See these sites in this order, and make your one day in San Francisco memorable! Here we go!
#1
The Golden Gate Bridge
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 and you can walk part of the 1.7 miles and then head back. There is a shop, a café, and bathrooms at the foot of the bridge, just in case you need stuff! Every single angle is photo worthy! It truly is spectacular! When you have 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
Ocean Beach
Next up! As you exit the Presidio, hop off at the Sutro Baths. After you walk down to the water and explore the ruins of the old bath house, you can continue on and walk past the Cliff House, and look out at the famous Seal Rock. You might only see birds and not seals, but it is still a wonderful landmark! Stroll on the sand and take lots of photos of course, its the Pacific Ocean! Across the street you can have lunch at the Beach Chalet. I recommend the Seared Tuna Salad with one of their brews! It is a little pricey, but well worth it. You are paying for the views, as well as the great food. 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. You could walk, but it might take about 50 minutes.
#3
Golden Gate Park
Home to some of the most treasured spots in San Francisco, Golden Gate Park is 1017 acres of unincorporated land in the city. If you are pressed for time, I highly recommend just the 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. (On another visit, you can choose the Conservatory of Flowers, DeYoung Museum, or the California Academy of Sciences.) As you drive through the park, be sure to look out the window to see Stowe Lake, the rose garden, and of course, the famous San Francisco buffalos! No need to call for a car after the Tea Garden, you can use your navigation app and walk straight to Haight St.
#4
Haight/Ashbury
I have a special affection for this neighborhood because it is where I lived when I first moved to San Francisco. 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 neighborhoods have become highly gentrified and hip and trendy, however, 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
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.” Yes, it is a crazy tourist attraction but has an interesting history. In the 1920’s, streets like it were too steep for cars, so the landowners created a wildly curvy street. A photo of Lombard Street ended up on a post card in 1961 when the hydrangeas were in full bloom. Just as if it were an Instagram pic, the street became one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist spots. From that spot you can see the Bay, Alcatraz, and some of San Francisco’s prettiest neighborhoods. 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
Fisherman’s Wharf & Ghiradelli Square
The wharf area of San Francisco is probably the most “touristy” of all the tourist spots in the city. You have to experience the street entertainment, the seals, the shops, the chowder, the sourdough bread, the chocolate, and the crowds. (When you have more time, get a reservation far in advance for the boat ride and tour of Alcatraz. It is pricey, but 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. If you are with an adult-only crowd, you may want to get a famous Irish Coffee at The Buena Vista across from the Cable Car ticket booth. Get your tickets first! They cost $7 and you can book online in advance (https://www.sfmta.com/getting-around/muni/cable-cars) or buy at the stop. The line can take a while and the wind kicks up there, so Irish Coffee might warm you up for the wait!
#7
Cable Car Ride
Hopefully you can 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

Chinatown

When you hop off the Cable Car, you will be in the area of downtown San Francisco known as Chinatown. It is 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! Our favorite is Hunan Homes on 622 Jackson St. Reasonably priced and everything on the menu is great. This family owned restaurant has been our go-to for over 30 years! Get the Hot and Sour Soup and Mu Shu Chicken.

After dinner you can head back home and collapse! You did it! You spent one day in San Francisco!

xx,

Carrie

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