2 Days in San Francisco


 

I have shown San Francisco to dozens of friends when they visit. Many of them have only two days in San Francisco. Here is how I organize their visit to help them figure out what to do in San Francisco in 2 days. Is two days in San Francisco enough – it can be if you organize.

How to spend two days in San Francisco

First, I make sure they want to see all of the A list for San Francisco

  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Cable Car ride
  • Chinatown
  • Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Alcatraz (best to have reservations)

Then I ask which of the other things to do are must see in San Francisco for them

  • Golden Gate Park
  • The Presidio
  • Disney Family Museum
  • Palace of Fine Arts
  • Lombard Street
  • Coit Town
  • The Embarcadero and Ferry Building
  • Fort Point
  • Haight Ashbury
  • The Castro
  • The Civic Center
  • Painted Ladies
  • Nob Hill
  • Union Square
  • Bay bridge

Sample 2 day itinerary for San Francisco

two days in San Francisco

Day One:

Union Square – I like starting a two day itinerary in the center of downtown San Francisco. The cable cars going past the grand old St Francis hotel will get you off to feeling the spirit that is what makes San Francisco different than any other US city and maybe the world.

Cable Car ride – you can catch the cable car on the corner of Union Square and ride it out to Fisherman’s Wharf. There are two different cable car lines that run on this section of track, i prefer the Hyde Street ride, but they will both take you to the wharf.

Fisherman’s Wharf – this is the most touristy part of San Francisco. But it has fun things to see, the Ghirardelli Chocolate factory, the San Francisco fishing fleet, Pier 39, USS Pampanito submarine, Aquatic Park and more.

Lunch – since you are spending two days in San Francisco, you need to take advantage of the great variety of restaurants. Fisherman’s Wharf has excellent seafood restaurants, my favorite is Scomas.

Alcatraz – hopefully you read this before getting to San Francisco so you can buy advance tickets for the ferry ride and tour of Alcartaz. This is great for two reasons. The tour of Alcatraz is a one of a kind experience in the famous old prison with great history. And the ferry ride out and back puts you on the water in San Francisco Bay. The views of San Francisco, the islands and the bridges are best from out on the bay.

The Presidio – When you get back from Alcatraz, head toward the Golden Gate Bridge with a stop in The Presidio. The Presidio is the old US Army base which was turned into a National Park 25 years ago. On the eastern edge is the Palace of Fine Arts, which is left over from the Pan-Pacific Exposition of 1913.

Disney Family Museum – The Presidio is where Lucusfilm (of Star Wars fame) is headquartered. It is also the home of the Disney Family Museum. If you have any interest in Walt Disney and the creation of everything Disney, this is a great stop on your 2 days in San Francisco.

Fort Point – as you continue to the Golden Gate Bridge, a quick stop at Fort Point will reward you with a Civil War era fort and a stunning view of the bridge.

The Golden Gate Bridge crossing the Golden Gate Bridge is a highlight for any two day San Francisco visit. I recommend stopping at the view lot on the far side of the bridge. It will give you time to enjoy the view.

Dinner – once again it is best to take advantage of the huge restaurant selection, For a nice night out I like Boulevard, Gary Danko or Quince. Or go more local with the Foregn Cinema or other Mission District eatery.

two days in San Francisco

Day Two:

Lombard Street – on the second day of your two days in San Francisco, I like starting with the crookedest Street in San Francisco. Remember it is one-way down the hill for one block and you cannot make a left turn to get on it.

Coit Tower – once you are down Lombard Street, stay on it and it will take you right to Coit Tower. Since it is morning, there should still be parking and you can enjoy the views.

Chinatown – now head over to Chinatown, if you are parking a car, put it under Portsmouth Square. Grant Avenue is the tourist street, but still fun. The corner of Grant and California Avenue is a cable car crossing and a great photo op. Don’t forget Ross Alley and the Fortune Cookie Factory.

Lunch – as you might imagine, the Chinese food is excellent here. I like the Far East Cafe for lunch, but there at least two dozen good places to pick from

Nob Hill – if you up to it, you can climb the three blocks to the top of Nob Hill, former home of Leland Stanford and most of the San Francisco rich before the 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed all but one mansion. The Flood Mansion is still there to be viewed as well as the original Fairmont Hotel.

Civic Center – at this point hop in the car and head over to Van Ness and San Francisco’s Civic Center. San Francisco has a city hall more impressive than many state capitol buildings. The opera hall, symphony and theater buildings are majestic. Plus the original building from the first UN Plaza are there as well.

Painted Ladies – head over to Alamo Square and the Painted Ladies of television fame.

Haight Ashbury – park in this area for a brief stop in the original hippie and Summer of Love part of San Francisco.

Golden Gate Park – you are quite close to Golden Gate Park. It features the de Young Art Museum, the California Academy of Sciences Museum, The Japanese Tea Garden (where the fortune cookie was invented during world war two) and much more.

Dinner – one last meal, I would try something different, maybe the souffle restaurant, Cafe Jacqueline in North Beach or the Slanted Door at the Ferry Building.

I hope this gives you some ideas on how to have the best two day itinerary in San Francisco.

2 days in San Francisco with kids

If you children here are the best places to focus on that kids seem to like

From the above list

Plus

  • Exploratorium – a fabulous hands on children’s museum on the Embarcadero
  • Fortune Cookie Factory – a tiny hand-made cookie factory in Chinatown
  • Ice Cream Museum – a fun exhibit on ice cream (needs reservations)