San Francisco Travel Guide

USA  #1 in Best Foodie Cities in the USA
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Courtesy of Kodiak Greenwood/Getty Images

1-day Itinerary in San Francisco

Explore the best things to do in Paris in 1 day based on recommendations from local experts.

Day 1

  • 1
    #1
    Golden Gate Bridge
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    #1 in San Francisco
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Golden Gate Bridge's vaulting, orange arches amidst the rocky seascape of the San Francisco Bay have made it one of the West Coast's most enduring symbols and the city's most popular tourist attraction. The bridge's name, "Golden Gate," actually refers to the body of water it spans (the Golden Gate Strait that connects the Pacific Ocean with the San Francisco Bay), and was built to make travel between San Francisco and Marin County an easier feat. 

    There are plenty of great spots to capture a snap of the majestic bridge. But if you want a truly postcard-worthy shot, head to the Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point, situated high on a hill overlooking San Francisco. If you have extra time, make sure to explore the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The actual span of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area encompasses multiple places in San Mateo (south of San Francisco), San Francisco and Marin Counties (Alcatraz and Muir Woods included), but notable parts of this recreation area can be found just a stroll away from the Golden Gate. From the bridge, travelers will find some scenic, bayside trails, some of which lead to secluded beaches, including Kirby Cove and Black Sands Beach. If you really want a trek, journey to the Point Bonita Lighthouse for sweeping views of the bay, found at the very tip of the Golden Gate Strait.

    Like many travelers who came before them, recent visitors were awestruck by the incredible architecture of the Golden Gate Bridge as well as the incredible views it affords. Some visitors made sure to point out to drivers not to turn right (heading towards the Marin County side) to the first lookout point, as it is crowded with tourists. Instead, venture into the hills for more space and greater photo ops. Travelers also suggested walking across the bridge for a scenic stroll (if it's not too windy or crowded). 

    The bridge is accessible all day every day by bus, car, bicycle or on foot. If you drive, parking is available but very limited and accessible on both the north and south ends of the bridge. The Northeast Side Parking Lot is free up to four hours, while the Southeast Side Visitor Parking Lot costs about $1 an hour. If you drive, you may be subject to a toll. Tolls are only assessed if you're traveling from Marin County into San Francisco. The tolls are taken electronically only and are $7.50 or $6.50 if you have a FasTrak account. For more information on how to pay your toll, and more about visiting the Golden Gate Bridge, visit its website

    ...Read More »
    10 minutes by car
  • 2
    #3
    Golden Gate Park
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    #3 in San Francisco
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Zoos and Aquariums, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Zoos and Aquariums, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    If California had a Central Park equivalent, Golden Gate Park would undoubtedly be it. Though Golden Gate Park sees a small fraction of the visitor's it's New York counterpart does (Central Park gets upwards of 25 million, while Golden Gate gets more than 13 million yearly), it's about 174 acres bigger (Central Park is 843 acres). The park offers so much to see and do, it could take an entire day to experience all that it has to offer. Trails, picturesque picnic spaces, playgrounds, sports courts, gardens, museums and more can be found within its evergreen borders. With so many options available, it's best to map out ahead of time what you want to do, though some attractions warrant a visit, regardless of traveler taste.

    The Japanese Tea Garden is one of those standout sites. This attraction is one of a kind, serving as the oldest Japanese Garden in the USA. It features five acres of manicured gardens outfitted with cherry trees, bamboo-lined pathways, koi ponds, a five-story pagoda, Zen Garden and actual tea house, among other features. There's also the Conservatory of Flowers, the oldest existing public conservatory in the Western Hemisphere. The conservatory offers visitors a look at a plethora of vibrantly colored blooms and a chance to learn more about the nearly 2,000 species of plants that call the conservatory home. 

    Another big standout in the park is the California Academy of Sciences, a unique attraction that features an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum and the Osher Rainforest, a 90-foot-tall dome-shaped facility that houses 1,600 live animals. Animal lovers will also take to Golden Gate Park's bison paddock located near Spreckels Lake. Those interested in art will take to the De Young Museum, which houses 20th century and contemporary art as well as a sculpture garden, and others wanting a good hike will enjoy exploring Strawberry Hill.

    Recent visitors agree there are tons of things to do at Golden Gate Park. So much so that most admit they wouldn't be able to see everything in a day, and recommended travelers pick what they want to do before they go. Even if you have limited time though, visitors suggest making a trek to the park for a short stroll, the scenery is worth it. Some suggested to make sure your journey ends right at the ocean, which borders the park on the west side.

    You'll find Golden Gate Park on the northwestern edge of San Francisco. Muni Metro light rails and several bus lines service the park. While entrance to the area is free, some attractions within the park (like the Conservatory of Flowers, the California Academy of the Sciences and the Japanese Tea Garden) cost a fee. For more information on attractions, ticket prices, upcoming events and more, visit Golden Gate Park's website.

    ...Read More »
    5 minute walk
  • 3
    #2
    California Academy of Sciences
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    #2 in San Francisco
    Museums, Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Attention all traveling families: recent visitors said this is the perfect place to bring kids in San Francisco. The California Academy of Sciences brims with plenty of things to see, including an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum and even a rainforest. 

    The Steinhart Aquarium is home to about 40,000 animals representing more than 900 different species, including a penguin colony from Africa, a swamp with an albino alligator, a shark lagoon and a separate 100,000-gallon tank that mirrors the ecosystem of the California coast. Meanwhile, the Osher Rainforest houses 1,600 animals, including 250 free-flying birds and about 100 reptiles and amphibians in its four-story complex. The Morrison Planetarium is known for its 75-foot-diameter screen, which screens "Tour of the Universe" shows daily. And the Kimball Natural History Museum boasts dinosaur fossils, an interactive science exhibit and a unique earthquake simulator. 

    On top of all of the permanent exhibits, each attraction features its own program of presentations and activities. Travelers suggest sticking around for the coral reef dive at the aquarium or venturing into the Shake House, the earthquake simulator found at the Kimball Natural History Museum. Admission may be pricey to some (adult tickets start at $35.95; entrance for children costs between $25.95 and $30.95, depending on age), but travelers say their experience was worth the cost. Visitors were impressed with not only the quantity of things to do, but the quality, with those young and old saying they left amazed at what they were able to see and do in a day. And a day is what you'll need to see everything, so make sure to pick and choose ahead of time if you're on a tight schedule. 

    You can find the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, along Nancy Pelosi Drive. There are multiple public transportation links around the park, but the closest to the California Academy of Sciences is the Irving St. & 9th Ave. Muni metro stop. The academy is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. For more information on the California Academy of Sciences, consult its website.   

    ...Read More »
    10-15 minutes by car
  • 4
    #5
    Twin Peaks
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    #5 in San Francisco
    Hiking, Recreation, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Recreation, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you want the best views of San Francisco, take a hike to Twin Peaks. These famous grassy pounds rise 922 feet from the ground, making them the second highest point in the city (after Mount Davidson). From the top, travelers can view multiple San Francisco landmarks, including the Bay Bridge and the downtown skyscrapers. Whether you decide to go during the day or night (some say you should do both), numerous visitors agree that the views are stunning and worth the trek. But make sure to bring a jacket: many recent visitors said it can get windier (and subsequently chillier) up top than at sea level.

    The Twin Peaks are open 5 a.m. to midnight and there is free (albeit limited) parking at the top of Twin Peaks Boulevard. The Castro Street station is the nearest Muni Metro stop and the Crestline Drive stop on the No. 37 is the best bus route (picks up from Market Street). Be sure to stay on marked trails, as poison ivy can be found in the area. For more information, visit the San Francisco Recreation and Parks website.

    ...Read More »
    15-20 minutes by car
  • 5
    #15
    Mission District
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    #15 in San Francisco
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Mission District has attracted San Francisco's young bohemian crowd in the past decade, but it's still retained its authentic, local Mexican ambiance. This is the place that introduced the burrito to the wider world, so be sure to check out a local hole in the wall for some great eats. The Mission is also a great neighborhood for getting away from the heavily visited tourist attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman's Wharf. Recent travelers said the funky neighborhood has a cool vibe and is filled with interesting murals. For an excellent view of the city, walk to the nearby Bernal Heights hill and relax for a bit. Also try the nearby Dolores Park, the most popular spot for sunbathers on a fogless day.

    While the Mission District is one of San Francisco's more popular neighborhoods, it can be unsafe at night, so take precautions and never walk the neighborhood alone in the evening.

    ...Read More »

Explore More of San Francisco

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