When you don’t get a lot of days off to travel you have to learn to maximise the little amount of time you have! In today’s Mini Travel Guide I share my tried and tested itinerary on how to spend 4 Days in San Francisco, California. Including cool things to see and do, where to eat and where I stayed!
Duration: 4 nights, 3 full days (Saturday – Wednesday)
Month of Travel: September
Things to See & Do in San Francisco
DAY 1 – Afternoon:
One of San Francisco’s many icons, a small section of Lombard Street is a narrow one way switch back road that winds its way down a steep hill! Loads of cars and mini ‘GoCars’ were lined up at the top to take their turn at driving down the street! Even close to sunset, it was packed with tourists walking up and down the steps beside the road and even standing IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD at the bottom trying to take photos! It may be famous but cars do still use all the roads around it!
DAY 2 – Morning:
Cable Car – Powell and Market
There are several Cable Car routes around the city but we opted to take the one that leaves Fisherman’s Wharf and heads to Market Street. It’s $6 for a one way journey in the old wooden tram like car. A real novelty is being able to stand on a ledge on the OUTSIDE of it and hang on to a pole. Keep an eye on bags and where your legs are…cars and traffic bollards get VERY close! The streets of San Francisco are really fun, the hills make it like a rollercoaster!
*TIP* Visit early, the queues get massive as the day goes on!
DAY 2 – Afternoon:
Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour
Bus tours can be expensive but sometimes they are one of the better ways to get around a city because they literally stop at all the ‘must see’ locations! We used it to get off at the following places:
- Painted Ladies – a row of houses that are in a load of different films. To be classed as a ‘Painted Lady’, they have to be painted in at least 5 different pastel colours!
- Golden Gate Park – Japanese Tea Gardens. I love visiting city parks that are SO big they make you feel like you are a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The Japanese Tea Gardens make a nice stop!
- Golden Gate Bridge – This is one of the reasons we went on a bus tour! We wanted to take a trip across the bridge! We made sure we sat on the top deck of the open top bus and it was SO windy! The bus stops just the other side of the bridge so you can get off and take pictures, then simply jump back on the next bus that comes along!
- The Palace of Fine Arts – The Palace of Fine Arts was built in 1915 for an art exhibition! It’s an impressive structure with domes and pillars and a nice place to relax.
Take a Stroll Along The Boardwalk
From The Palace of Fine Arts it’s possible to walk along a boardwalk/cycle path all the way back to Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s a nice stroll that goes along the waterfront and through a small woodland area. During my visit, there were kite surfers in the water that were fun to stop and watch too!
DAY 3 – Morning:
You can take a ferry from Pier 33 to Alcatraz Island for a self guided tour of the old prison that once housed the likes of Al Capone. It’s no longer used anymore as the walls are losing their strength due to its location in the middle of a salt water bay and some of the buildings are derelict. Everyone is given a headset, you hit the play button and just follow the directions as it talks you through various places in the main prison building. It was a really interesting visit, even for someone like me that didn’t really know too much about it before I went.
*TIP* Take the headset off once during the tour. It is literally the most creepiest/atmospheric thing ever…there are so many people wandering around in complete silence…
DAY 3 – Afternoon:
I LOVED PIER 39! My favourite part was watching the sea lions that hang around on floating docks near the end of the pier. They are hilarious! There’s also a small information centre about them too. The pier is mainly just restaurants and what I like to call ‘toot’ (souvenir) shops including a left handed shop and a year round christmas shop! There’s also a small 7D theatre and a laser maze game. Me and my Sister done the laser game. It was pretty expensive and over in a few seconds…they fill a room with laser beams and the idea is to get out as quick as possible without breaking any of the beams!
DAY 4 – Morning:
City Segway Tours
City Segway Tours was one of the most fun Segway tours that I’ve been on! Once again, me and my Sister were the only 2 on the tour and our guide tailored the tour to us. We literally just messed around, having Segway races up and down piers, slaloming around wheelie bins, giving pigeons voices…it may sound childish but as 3 ‘young’ people we all had fun, even the guide said it was great to have a tour that was so relaxed! We visited:
- Fishermans Wharf – it is the 2nd biggest fishing port on the West coast of the USA
- The most expensive housing district in San Francisco. There are houses in that are worth $1.8 million and can’t get insurance because of the ground that they are built on and they will likely fall down if San Francisco has another earthquake.
- The Palace of Fine Arts and the cycle path back to Fisherman’s Wharf.
DAY 4 – Afternoon:
This was recommended by our Segway guide. It’s a FREE museum near Pier 39 that’s full of old penny machines…well it’s free to walk around, if you want to try them you need coins! Me and my Dad had a go of a test of strength one where you had to compress an old car coil spring and make a bell ring when it was released! Alone I couldn’t even go one click but together I thought we were going to send the bell through the roof! Whoops!
Mrs Doubtfire’s House
A film that was ALWAYS shown at Christmas when I was growing up! The ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ house is located at 2840 Steiner Street. My visit to San Francisco was only a couple of weeks after the death of Robin Williams. There were loads of messages left on the cobbles on the path outside of the house. The part I liked about walking up to see the house was the route we then took back to the hotel. We passed loads of fancy houses and there were some nice views from the top of the hilly streets!
DAY 5 – Morning:
Where to Eat in San Francisco
Dicks Last Resort
I first discovered the joy of Dicks Last Resort in Chicago! It’s a chain of restaurants where the wait staff are sarcastic and will make fun of you! They also make you wear big paper hats with silly/rude slogans on. It’s so much fun!
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
For us, we ate at Bubba Gumps because of the memory it holds for our family! It was the last place we ate at in LA when we finished driving Route 66! An awesome part of the Bubba Gump in San Francisco, is that it’s right on the end of Pier 39 and the restaurant has windows the whole way around it, so everyone gets a sea view!
Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream
Also on Pier 39. It’s ice cream and frozen yoghurt, you pick a cup, fill it up and then cover it in toppings. A bit like pick n mix sweets, payment is determined on the weight!
I can’t lie, the idea of these guides is to include everything we done and all the places we went within that time frame. Yes we had dinner at a Subway! Dicks and Bubba Gump are expensive restaurants because they are themed, we were then happy just to have a cheap dinner on one of the nights!
Where to Stay in San Francisco
Buena Vista Motor Inn
$290pn – breakfast included
Yeah I know what you’re thinking…ouch. It wasn’t so bad for us, we were travelling as a family of 4 and all crashed in the same room so could split the price between us!
- Location – It was a 10 minute walk from the wiggly part of Lombard Street and Fisherman’s Wharf is only 1 mile away and you could see the Golden Gate Bridge from some parts in the hotel.
- Breakfast was included
Buena Vista Motor Inn can be booked via booking.com HERE
Take a jumper/hoodie! Regardless of when you visit, it’s always kinda chilly!
Disclosure: Please note some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking. It comes at no extra cost to you but it helps me with the running of this site! As always, opinions are my own.