So you have two days in San Francisco, what are the “best” ways to spend your time? Here is what I did and what I thought was good, bad and well, skippable….
1) Alcatraz : Make sure you book your tickets online before you leave for SFO. We booked ours only 4 days prior and lucked out, there were tickets available. I checked today and there are no tickets left for a month, so PLAN EARLY! You book the tickets with the National Parks Service, It is $30.00 for the ferry to the island and a super interesting audio tour of the cell block. Yes, it is touristy, yes there are lots of people but it is worth going! I think this attraction would likely appeal to kids eight and older only though. I saw lots of families dragging their kids around and thought, ugh, no thanks. There is no food or drink for sale on the island so make sure you don’t arrive hungry.
The ferry ride to Alcatraz is fantastic. Be sure to stand on the Port side of the ferry for best views of the city and photo ops. We even saw a dolphin, actually a “Harbour Porpoise” on our way to “The Rock” Time needed 2-3 hours.
2) Ride A Cable Car : Man was this ever fun, for $6.00 you can hop on a Cable Car and be whisked up the hill from Market Street to Fisherman’s Warf. This is a MUST DO. Everyone on board is having fun, laughing and enjoying something that is incredibly unique to the city. Time needed 30 minutes.
3) Visit Lombard Street “The Crookedest Street”
has 8 hairpin turns It is really interesting to watch the cars wind their way down the street, pedestrians can walk down steps that are surrounded by stunning flowerbeds with hydrangea’s, bougainvillea’s and fabulous apartments. You have a fantastic view from the top of the hill. Just make sure you walk DOWN the hill rather than up, unless you want a big work out! Time needed 30 minutes
4) Golden Gate Park
To be honest we just breezed into the park and did not spend nearly enough time here. I think you could budget 5 hours or more here and we only spent about 45 minutes. The main reason for our visit was to visit the de Young museum of fine art. The view of the park from the look out tower in the museum was breathtaking. If there is one attraction I feel that I did not get to see enough of it is the Golden Gate Park and the Museums and Japanese Tea Garden, on my next visit I will plan to spend a day here for sure. Time needed: 45 minutes this time…next time 6 Hours.
5) Golden Gate Bridge (See Separate Post on this coming soon) My sister and I did a hike along the Bridge to Sausalito. We arrived at Fort Point ($15.00 Uber ride from the Palace hotel) at 7:00AM and then hiked for almost two hours to Sausalito. This to is a must do, if hiking for two hours is not your thing you can just walk the bridge, take some pictures from the other side and then return to the city. Time needed: One hour to walk the bridge only.
6) Visit the Mission District (See Separate post coming soon regarding dining in the Mission.) We went to the Mission with our hipster friends for lunch, it is a super cool place to visit with a great selection of restaurants and bars. Time Needed 2 -3 hours depending on if you visit for lunch or dinner.
7) Visit Ocean Beach
Ahh Ocean Beach, like The Mission we ventured here initially for food and to try out what was listed as the best Brunch in San Diego at Outerlands with our super cool friends Bridget and Gareth. (review coming soon) It did not disappoint and the area is fabulous. After Brunch a walk to the beach and on to the Golden Gate Park, this is a not to miss morning out in San Francisco. Time needed 3 hours.
Fisherman’s Wharf: This was probably the biggest let down for me in San Francisco. I had visions of a real working Wharf with Fishermen, Sailors and market stalls, but it, alas, like so many parts of the world is just a “Disneyfication” of a Wharf. There are piers and boats but also lots of chain restaurants and tourists. Lots of ice cream eating, stroller pushing groups of tourists. Lots of T-shirt stalls, Low end souvenir stores, basically a Tourist Trap. You have to catch the ferry to Alcatraz from this area, so you will see it, just get in and get out. There are a bunch of sea lions lying on Pier 39 but what you have to walk through to get there is not worth it! I would only do Fisherman’s Wharf if I was with kids as they would like the Sea Lions but man getting through the hoards of Tourists to see them is likely not worth it.
Chinatown : If you, like me, live in a city that has a relatively large China Town, you may find the Chinatown in San Francisco a bit of a let down. We walked through Chinatown from Fisherman’s Warf back to Union Square, it was an enjoyable stroll but nothing I would say I had to do again.
Union Square: Again, this is a square, like many other squares in America that have shiny stores around it, commercial, Blah…. You will likely walk through it on your way to a restaurant, bar or hotel so don’t worry about prioritizing a visit here.
Up Next : Where to eat in San Francisco. YUMMMMMMYYYY.
Above: San Francisco and Alcatraz taken from the Port side of the Ferry.