San Francisco is absolutely one of my favorite cities. I lived in the Bay Area for MANY years and consider myself a California girl (with a heavy dash of my Montana roots) 🙂 Since I live in Arizona now I do not get the chance to experience San Francisco as often as I like especially since my family and some of my closest friends all live there. Before attending my family reunion this year, we spent one fabulous day in San Francisco. Keep reading to learn about my guide to one day in San Francisco.
Guide to finding a hotel in San Francisco
Lets be honest, finding a hotel in San Francisco can be challenging. First, hotels especially during the week, are VERY expensive. Second, you need to find a location to stay otherwise your options are overwhelming. I recommend to start your search with trip advisor. Figure out what you want to see and start there. Try to pick a location closest to most of your top sites or a central point if your plan is to see sites all over San Francisco.
We stayed at the Hotel Rex in Union Square. It was very close to shopping, restaurants, the cable car and more. I would recommend it. Be prepared for a smaller room with a higher price tag though. I am not sure if you can avoid it :-). Think about what site you want to see during your one day in San Francisco, here are some of the highlights.
Some of the must-see sites in San Francisco*
- Golden Gate Bridge ( I recommend trying to see it from different points of view so you can see more of San Francisco.)
- Union Square
- Fisherman’s Wharf
- Pier 39
- Cable Car
- Lombard Street
- North Beach
- China Town
- See a SF Giants baseball game
- Golden Gate Park
- Baker Beach (Great view of the bridge)
- Ferry Building
*This list is not all inclusive.
Now on how to spend one day in San Francisco.
Guide to One Day in San Francisco
Let me set the scene. We were visiting a friend in San Mateo (south of the city for those unfamiliar) and had a car. (If your arriving at SFO, you will be coming from the same direction).
We drove into the city around 12 noon via 280 and took a tour by car first. We drove by AT&T Stadium, we continued along the Embarcadero to see the Bay Bride, Ferry Building, Pier 39, and more. Next, we headed up into the city and drove through North Beach and China town in the car. Then headed toward Lombard Street to see the famous crooked street. Jackpot, we got lucky and found parking.
If you have a car park it once and take Uber or public transporation
After parking the car near our hotel in Union Square at the Sutter-Stockton garage, we grabbed a backpack with essentials and grabbed some lunch. San Francisco has amazing food. We checked Yelp and found a great spot nearby. The cable car stop was close & waited for one to stop. Be patient. We had to wait about 15-20 minutes.
The cable car is iconic San Francisco and my kids really wanted to ride it. Although my son was seriously bummed he wasn’t allowed to hold on to the outside rails. At any point you can hop off and see Lombard Street, Cable Car Museum, etc. But you have to pay another fare depending on which fare you purchase,
Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 and Ghiradelli Square
The Cable car stops in Fisherman’s Wharf and its a short walk to see the sites of Fisherman’s Wharf.
- Stop for some crab at one of the local merchants
- Check out one of the local street performances
- Grab a bowl of clam chowder at Boudin Bakery
Boudin Bakery is a bakery based in San Francisco, and is known for its sourdough bread. Its delicious. After walking around we head toward Ghiradelli Square for some chocolate. While walking look around, you can see the Golden Gate bridge (on a clear day), Alcatraz, etc. After our chocolate pit stop we headed toward Pier 39 for some more fun.
Along the way you will pass by the place to book a tour to Alcatraz or cruise around the bay, even under the Golden Gate Bridge. On previous trips, I had done both but highly recommend especially if you have more than one day.
Pier 39 has restaurants, shopping, great views, a carousel, etc. Lots to see for sure. I stopped at my favorite crepe place for a snack while my family experience a 7-D ride. Walk along the outside of the pier for beautiful views of the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz island and the famous seals. Take your time and enjoy!
Guide to one day in San Francisco continues…..
It should be dinner time now and San Francisco has some of the best restaurants in the world. You have endless options with every type of food choice you can imagine! Do you want a great view? Seafood, Chinese food, Greek food, Italian food, Thai food, German food, etc etc etc. As with my advice for lunch, use Yelp. Narrow down and choose. You may want to think about this ahead of time since you may need a reservation at certain places. Some essentials are:
- House of Prime Rib
- Foreign Cinema
- Gary Danko (high end)
- Tartine Manufactory
- The Slanted Door
- or choose one of these suggestions from Conde Naste Traveler
After Dinner, get a good nights sleep and prepare for the last part of your one day guide to San Francisco.
Breakfast, Parks, Beaches
Wake up early and get your day started. Hit up Yelp one last time and find a breakfast spot. We choose Honey Honey Cafe and Crepery. It had 4 stars after 2,112 reviews. And it was delicious for adults and kids . Highly recommend if you choose to stay in Union Square.
Next we got in the car and headed toward Golden Gate Park. We wanted the kids to see a different side of the city. We stopped at the classic Full House first.
Next we headed to Golden Gate Park. I absolutely love the park. There is so much to see and do. From playgrounds for the kids, concerts, DeYoung Museum, Academy of Sciences, Lakes, grassy areas, Japanese Tea Garden, Polo Fields, etc. It is over 1,000 acres. Its incredible and completely worth your time to visit. We spent time at the playground and carousal. We also took a drive through some of the park too.
From Golden Gate Park we headed over to Baker Beach. Since the city was socked in with fog, the kids had not seen a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge yet. I love the view from Baker Beach. We also wanted some beach time and grab some great family pictures. As always, Baker Beach did not disappoint.
Our one day ended with Yoda
After leaving Baker Beach, we headed over to Lucasfilm Studio. Lucasfilm was founded by filmmaker George Lucas in 1971 in San Rafael, California; most of the company’s operations were moved to San Francisco in 2005. It is located on the edge of Golden Gate Park. The grounds are beautiful with stunning view of the Palace of Fine Arts, Marina District and the Golden Gate Bridge. We stopped to see Yoda.
Our one day in San Francisco was done.
I hope you enjoy San Francisco as much as I do. It is an amazing city. If you need further advice, send me an email at [email protected].
As always, thanks for reading. Follow my blog for my travel and lifestyle adventures and follow me on social media.