Get started with planning your San Francisco vacation
Is this your first visit to San Francisco or are you simply looking information on attractions you may not have had time to visit yet? View our sample itinerary below to get started with planning your San Francisco vacation.
Start your first day in San Francisco off right by stopping down for breakfast. Then, put your walking shoes on as you’re off for a free tour of the city through San Francisco City Guides! Donations are welcome, but this non-profit association is made up of volunteers that love San Francisco and love sharing its history. You can take tours of neighborhoods, City Hall and the Civic Center, Golden Gate Bridge, or specialty tours like 1850’s San Francisco: Paris of the Pacific or Alfred Hitchcock’s San Francisco. There are multiple tours each day, so you could easily turn your first day in the city into a walking tour extravaganza.
After your long day of walking and learning about our city’s history, visit one of the wonderful restaurants in Noe Valley or the Mission District.
We hope to see you again for breakfast as you’ll need an energizing start to your Saturday in San Francisco! Today, you’re heading up to the North Beach area to catch the ferry to Alcatraz Island. If you want to avoid the crowds, you can take the early bird tour that departs Pier 33 at 8:45 a.m., otherwise ferries continue to run throughout the afternoon. If you’re feeling especially brave, you may want to wait for the evening hours, when special night-only tour options are offered. The night tour departs San Francisco at either 5:55 or 6:30 p.m.
If you want to see another island on your ferry journey, you can package Alcatraz Island with Angel Island. Angel Island is the Bay Area’s version of New York’s Ellis Island and was used as a checkpoint for immigrants coming to the United States between 1910 and 1940. Now a California State Park, it offers hiking and recreational activities as well as spectacular views of the Bay Area.
Once you return to San Francisco, take the time to walk along the coast and visit Pier 39! This is the spot to view some of our most famous locals: the sea lions! You’ll also find many wonderful souvenir shops, restaurants, and live entertainment. Make your way west along Fisherman’s Wharf for perfect photo opportunities, especially of Alcatraz Island!
Keep heading west toward Ghirardelli Square, a favorite spot for tourists and locals alike. The square is on the National Historic Register and Ghirardelli has been in business in the area since 1852. Head into the chocolate shop for a free sample or purchase a hot fudge sundae or hot chocolate from the Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop.
After treating your sweet tooth, it’s time to walk off the chocolate as you head toward another famous landmark: Lombard Street.
Lombard Street is known as the most crooked street in the world! There are steps on either side of the street to get up on top of it for a better view of this curvy road. The road was designed this way because the street has such a steep grade that switchbacks were the safest way to drive down it.
After taking photographs of this legendary street, you can continue east on Lombard toward Coit Tower. Not only does this tower offer impressive 360-dreee views of the city but is also an icon in itself. For only $3, you can ride the elevator to the top and see all of San Francisco.
Visit the kitchen for a light breakfast as you’ll need your dancing shoes today! You’re off to Golden Gate Park for Lindy in the Park. Every Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., there’s free swing dancing in the park with a beginner’s lesson at noon. Once you’ve dance your heart out, see why people leave their hearts in San Francisco by touring the rest of Golden Gate Park.
At 1,017 acres, the park is home to gardens, lakes, trails, monuments, and all sorts of activities located within the park. Explore the Conservatory of Flowers, Japanese Tea Garden, Stow Lake, or the Herschell-Spillman Carousel.
After an afternoon walking through the park, head south on 18th Avenue, turn east on Moraga Street and look for the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps. These mosaics spread across 163 steps and are a true community art project, with more than 300 neighbors participating in making this project come to life.
You’ve probably seen them moving around the city and they are definitely the transportation mode of choice in San Francisco, so now you’re going to learn about the history of these cars at the Cable Car Museum! Learn about the first test of the system back in 1873 at 4 a.m., how these cars transformed over the years and the impact they have on San Francisco’s history.
You may want to catch a ride on a car after learning about them; the Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason lines stop at the museum.
After your ride, head into Chinatown where you can see fortune cookies being made, try some delicious Chinese food, or buy unique souvenirs! San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in the United States and is the largest Chinese community outside of Asia.
If it’s the first Tuesday of the month, general admission is free to the de Young Museum. A visit to this fine arts museum in Golden Gate Park is a must-see for art enthusiasts.
After the de Young, you’ll be departing San Francisco to visit a nearby wonder. Try the Muir Woods and Sausalito half-day trip to see California’s Giant Redwoods and the nearby city of Sausalito! This tour departs at 9 a.m. if you wish to skip the de Young, or at 2 p.m. You’ll also get to drive along the iconic Golden Gate Bridge so you can tick that off of your San Francisco to-do list!
After returning from your half-day excursion, return to Noe’s Nest to pack up a bit before visiting another of our neighborhood restaurants to toast to an amazing trip in San Francisco.