Updated August 2023
San Francisco is a city full of iconic landmarks, delicious food, and unique experiences. Follow this guide and let us show you how to spend a fantastic weekend in San Francisco.
The ultimate guide for how to spend a weekend in San Francisco
San Francisco is an exciting and vibrant city with plenty of fun activities, stunning views, and delicious restaurants to discover — all within a short drive or train ride!
Whether you’re looking to explore the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, go shopping in Union Square, or get brunch at Tartine Bakery, this guide shows you how to spend your perfect weekend in San Francisco.
Start with a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge
No trip to San Francisco is complete without a visit to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Take a stroll across the bridge and enjoy the stunning views of the city and the bay. If you’re feeling adventurous, rent a bike and ride across the bridge for an even more exhilarating experience.
Don’t forget to snap some photos to capture the moment! The Golden Gate Bridge is arguably one of the most famous landmarks in the world. Take an evening boat tour for a completely different view of this iconic bridge
Explore the Gateway to the City: Fisherman’s Wharf
No visit to San Francisco is complete without a trip to the beloved Fisherman’s Wharf! Experience spectacular views of the Bay Area, take pictures with sea lions and learn about San Francisco’s rich fishing industry history.
You must check out the iconic sea lions, they are always there and they’re very noisy. After taking plenty of snapshots at this waterfront icon, spend some time browsing Provence-inspired boutique shops. Be sure to pick up a souvenir or two along the way.
Discover the magic of Walt Disney at the Walt Disney Family Museum
For those with an appreciation of art, film and history, the Walt Disney Family Museum is a must-visit. Located on San Francisco’s Lombard Street, this interactive museum offers various exhibits that explore the life of one of the greatest animators and storytellers of all time.
From short films to concept art to innovative digital displays, this museum has something for visitors of all ages! There’s even a miniature model of Disneyland. And speaking of which, if you haven’t visited as an adult, Disneyland as an adult is pretty darn awesome.
I was shocked to learn of the hardships that Walt Disney encountered. It’s amazing how he persevered to create the most magical place on earth. I’m not normally someone who likes touring museums, but this one is an exception. It’s one of the most interesting museums I’ve ever been to.
Experience the Culture of Chinatown
San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinese community outside of Asia. It’s home to colourful storefronts, bustling markets, dim sum restaurants and various historic temples.
Spend some time exploring the unique culture and heritage of one of the world’s oldest immigrant communities. Immerse yourself in sights, smells and flavours that you won’t find anywhere else. I took a walking tour of Chinatown and learned so much.
We stopped at a Fortune Cookie factory and sampled a cookie right off the production line. YUM! I’d say that if you want to know how to spend a great weekend in San Francisco, you definitely have to eat a fresh fortune cookie.
If you can plan to have dinner in Chinatown, I highly recommend checking out Empress by Boon. We had the tasting menu with wine pairing – my fave way to check out a new restaurant – and wow! It was divine. Honestly, one of the best meals I’ve had in a while.
Take an Incredible Hike Through Yosemite’s Natural Beauty
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just looking for an adventure, a trek through Yosemite National Park is the perfect way to experience the stunning beauty of the outdoors. Meander down winding trails that will take you through lush waterfalls, towering granite cliffs and lush meadows.
Pause and take in some of nature’s finest moments, including Half Dome and El Capitan. Plus, enjoy views of both Yosemite Valley and Glacier Point as you wander your way around one of the United States’ most iconic national parks.
We took in the views of the Hetchy Hetch hike. It was a very scenic hike that wasn’t very challenging. If you’re looking for a gorgeous hike to do that isn’t strenuous, I recommend this one.
Dine Local in the Presidio area
Whether you’re a foodie or just looking for a great place to grab dinner, the Presidio area is filled with restaurants that serve up delicious, local cuisine.
From high-end restaurants like Perry’s and The Rotunda to more casual eateries like Arguello and Tratto’s, the Presidio area is home to some of the best dining in San Francisco.
For an even more unique experience, explore some of the city’s hidden gems and dive into some of the city’s most popular ethnic cuisines. I had lunch at Calibri Mexican and it was absolutely delicious. It’s inside one of the oldest buildings in San Francisco that used to be an army base. Oh, and their mezcal-based cocktails are delish!
Take a ferry to Alcatraz Island
No trip to San Francisco is complete without a visit to Alcatraz Island, the former federal prison that housed some of the country’s most notorious criminals.
Join a tour, or take a ferry from Pier 33 to the island and explore the prison cells, learn about the escape attempts, and hear stories about the inmates and guards who lived and worked there.
The audio tour is a must-do, as it provides a detailed and immersive experience of the prison’s history. Be sure to book your tickets in advance, as they often sell out quickly.
I visited Alcatraz years ago and somewhere in the archives, I have a photo of me standing inside one of the prison cells. Let’s just say I’m glad it was just for a photo op!
Where to stay in San Francisco
During my visit, I stayed at a San Francisco boutique hotel at Fisherman’s Wharf, The Kimpton Alton hotel. I highly recommend it! It is ideally located a short walk from Fishermen’s Wharf. Its central location was ideal because I did not have a car, nor did I need one.
The cable car stops a few blocks from The Kimpton Alton. It’s a very convenient and fun way to explore the city. Oh, and I should mention that they have record players in every room and a wine happy hour every day at 5pm. Yes, pls!
For those of you looking for a high-end hotel experience, I recommend staying at the St. Regis. Located downtown in the SoMa district, this 5-star hotel was recently renovated and I can say with certainty that the rooms are gorgeous. Almost as gorgeous as the lobby bar and restaurant.
Is 2 days enough for San Francisco?
Yes, two days are enough time to explore a good portion of San Francisco. Start by exploring iconic spots like the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf before getting a real taste of the city by taking a walking or food tour in Chinatown or Mission Dolores.
While you can’t see the entire city in a weekend, you can see a lot of San Francisco in just two days. Take some time to check out famous museums like SFMOMA and Exploratorium, or get outdoors and hit the beach at Ocean Beach and Fort Funston.
Conclusion – How to spend a weekend in San Francisco
San Francisco is a vibrant and exciting city that offers a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors. Whether you’re interested in exploring the city’s iconic landmarks, trying out some delicious food, or experiencing the local culture, there’s something for everyone in San Francisco.
I hope you enjoyed this guide and it helps you make the most of your weekend in the city by the bay. Las Vegas may be the most popular vacation destination in the US, but I really enjoyed my time in San Francisco and will definitely be back.
If you’re looking to extend your stay in California, check out the Rush Creek Lodge and Spa, my review will tell you everything you need to know about this luxury resort a 3-hour drive from The Bay area. Another excellent option is to visit the incredible San Diego Zoo.