November 6

San Francisco in a Day: What to See and Things to Do


Let’s say you’re on vacation in California. Let’s also say you’ve never been that interested in the tourist-infested theme parks where you spend more time in the lines than on the rides. Maybe you’re looking for something with a little character and a warm, friendly atmosphere. San Francisco is definitely a good choice in this case, and there’s practically no end to the things to do and see around the city.

golden gate
The Golden Gate bridge @ Flickr by soupboy

But now let’s say your trip only allows for a single day in the city. Is it still worth the effort? Could you still see enough of the city?

Absolutely! You just have to plan a little more carefully. You may have a limited time, but there’s still plenty to see. You just need to be a little more efficient about combining travel, attractions, and food throughout the day.

Transport as Attraction

One of the most popular attractions in the city is the cable car system. This simple form of public transportation runs all through the city, and people come from all over just to ride them. And the good news is that you have now made one attraction into your source of transportation to the rest of them.

The San Francisco Muni and cable cars take you right up to some of the other big attractions, from the ferries and piers 39 and 41 to Chinatown, Candlestick Park, and the North Beach area. You can hop off at any of these places for a quick look around and then catch the next cable car when you’re ready to move on. Quick, simple, and fun.

Along those same lines, you can move from land transportation to sea transportation very quickly and easily by leaving the cable cars and hopping onto the Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise. This tour takes you around the bay, under the Golden Gate Bridge, and around Alcatraz, all the while providing an amazing view of the San Francisco skyline. It’s a great way to get different perspective on some of the most well known attractions in the area.

san francisco
San Francisco @ Flickr by ah zut

Get Food Fast, but Not “Fast Food”

If you only have a day in San Francisco to spare, you don’t want to waste much of it stuck in a restaurant waiting for a meal. At the same time, you shouldn’t miss out on some of the local flavor. There are a lot of ways to get food fast, without feeling like you need to default to one of the standard restaurants you can find all across the country. You might try something different like the Off the Grid street venders that offer great food from their food trucks and different places around the city. If that isn’t what you like, then there are plenty of little eateries all over the town that serve some very random selection of cuisine. They’re all worth trying, but don’t spend too much time there – you still have a lot to see.

san francisco in a day
Fisherman’s Wharf @ Flickr by Roger Smith

San Francisco in Two Days

Okay, so maybe there is just a little too much to cram into a single day and you’ve found a way to stretch your trip out a little long. This would be the best time to check out a few of the attractions that deserve a closer, more in-depth look. On day two you can start at the Aquarium of the Bay and see some of the 20,000 sea creatures that make a home there. If marine life isn’t your thing, though, you can spend some time at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art where you can get see more than 26,000 works of art, enjoy the Rooftop Garden, and even catch a live performance.

It may be hard to see enough of San Francisco in a single day, but if you’re careful and plan your trip in advance, you can easily see enough to create some great memories.

This post was written by Dan Patterson who works for CityPASS. Use the San Francisco CityPASS to save 52% on admission to five of the top attractions in San Francisco, including a seven-day passport to ride the cable cars as much as you want!

Have you visited San Francisco? What did you like most of the city? And least? Do you have any tips you’d like to share with us? Share them with us in the comments section below, and this post too if you think others might find it useful!


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      1. Can you do this for me?))))
        in any case, the post is cool! I was in San Francisco by myself so many times, but has not see everything as it should. I do not know why this happens …

  1. SF is my favorite city in the entire world so for only a short period of time I would do a few things – dim sum in Chinatown, hiking in Marin, shopping in the marina or Union street, and going out to dinner at a trendy new restaurant 🙂

    1. Hey Ashley, there are many people who absolutely LOVE this city…and I’m not surprised! Thanks for sharing those tips…and restaurant you recommend?

  2. San Francisco has always been my favorite destination. I always visit Alcatraz Island which is located just off the coast of SF. The best thing I love about this city is riding in the cable cars. Hands down, it is the best way to travel SF steep hills. Apart from this, I love visiting aquarium of the Bay. I don’t like Grant Avenue so much which lies in China Town; it provides the bad taste of Chinese culture.

  3. Let me accept one thing today, the pictures you post here in your blog posts are so attractive that I always wish to visit the place after reading your post. Again, I am making a wish, the pictures are wonderful and one should visit this place.

  4. Oh yeah!! San Francisco is such a beautiful place… I often visit there for my business purpose… I love having breakfast from Mama’s; the food over there is amazing. Apart from this, I enjoyed visiting Coit Tower, which some say resembles a fire hose nozzle. I like the trolley car services provided to reach Castro Street Station. It’s amazing. I really don’t find anything which I hate about that place. Nice post!

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