A common question our tour guides get while on tour is “what would you do if you only had one day in San Francisco?” Given that that question is probably one of the most difficult to answer as a knowledgeable tour guide, we’re going to add on a few days and present you with our ideally itinerary for 72 hours in San Francisco. Attempt it all, or drop a few activities, just remember- you’re on vacation!
Start off your first day with a morning city tour to get your bearings. Different strokes for different folks- choose the tour that will best suit you (and your traveling companions) needs. Wild SF Walking Tours, Avital Food Tours, and Vantigo (got to toot our own horn) all provide unique experiences that will help you get acquainted with the city. Love the guided experience? Go for more than one! SF City Guides also offer a range of options on a variety of topics.
Once you are good and acquainted with SF, head on over to the Ferry Building. While you’ll have lots of options, you can’t go wrong with lunch at the Cowgirl Creamery. (The grilled cheese will undoubtedly change your life.) For the lactose intolerant in your life, Mijita is another great Ferry Building lunch option that will knock your socks off. Be sure to get some chocolate samples from Dandelion Chocolate, or a beer from the Fort Point Brewery.
After your busy morning, there are a few ways to spend the afternoon that will compliment well. You could take a stroll down the Embarcadero, finding somewhere to sit and read (pro-tip: there are clean, free restrooms in the Exploratorium at Pier 19- along with a lot of other cool stuff), catch a film in the Embarcadero Center Cinema, or head back to your place to take a nap!
The best, most happening spot for dinner on Friday nights is Off the Grid at the Fort Mason Center (open March – October). Food trucks, live music, urban market, drinks, seating, and lots of fun, be sure to bring your layers and you’re guaranteed a fun dining experience.
If you’re not exhausted from your day of fun, there are plenty of ways to spend a Friday night in SF. Top of the list includes: roller disco at the Church of 8 Wheels, live music and dancing at the Boom Boom Room, catching a film at the Kabuki Theater, or drinks at the Tonga Room.
Get an early start with breakfast at Kate’s Kitchen in the Lower Haight (they open at 8am, cash only). The brunch crowd rolls hard and deep in SF, so if you try to go anywhere at 10am you’re likely to hit an hour wait- you’ve been forewarned. Kate’s offers great options and your coffee cup will guaranteed never be empty.
After breakfast take a stroll over to Golden Gate Park. Depending on your interests, check out the de Young Museum, the Japanese Tea Gardens, the Conservatory of Flowers, or the California Academy of Sciences. Be sure to make a stop at the Twirl and Dip ice cream truck behind the Cal Academy 🙂
Once you’ve worked up an appetite with all that walking and learning, take a lyft (hop on the N judah, or if you’re really committed- walk!) to lunch at the Java Beach Cafe. Get your lunch to go and eat it in the succulent garden across the street, or on a bench facing the ocean. Stroll along Ocean Beach after lunch if it’s sunny, or walk over to Andytown for a snowy plover (just trust us on this one) and a bit of a break.
Once you’ve recharged, take the #7 bus over to the Mission. You can either head straight to Burma Love if it is dinner time already, or you can spend some time before dinner checking out Valencia Street and the Clarion Alley Murals. After dinner you again have a few options! Mission Bowling, Urban Putt, dancing and drinks at El Rio, or a film at the Alamo Drafthouse.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to day three, which means you’ve totally earned the right to sleep in! If switching time zones has you up early, you’ve also earned the right to try for a spot at Plow (be prepared to get there at 7:30AM- bring a book.)
If you are able to sleep in, head over to Straw (for carnival themed food) or Souvla (for amazing Greek food) in Hayes Valley. Be sure to get some Greek frozen yogurt from Souvla, or a coffee from Ritual after lunch and then sit in the park at Octavia and Hayes. If you’re in the mood for some brews, Biergarten is a delightful spot nearby to relax in the sun (plus they provide blankets in case it gets foggy!)
If you’re in the mood to move, take a Yoga class at Yoga Garden, or take an urban hike from Hayes Valley up Fillmore Street to Alta Plaza park. Soak in the views and the rays. Relax! You deserve it.
About the Author // Eliza Dropkin is a Vantigo Tour Guide. She enjoys live music, good food, and cruising around town in Jerry (though she loves all the vans equally). All photos were taken by the author.