There’s so much to see and do in San Francisco that it would be impossible to do it all in one weekend trip. Planning a trip with your sweetheart? Check out these San Francisco getaways for you and your significant other. Start by choosing from the top 20 places to visit in San Francisco. Below, we’ll take a deeper dive into all the fun to be had in this iconic city.
Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge isn’t golden in color at all; it’s more of vibrant red color and is an iconic image of San Francisco. Take advantage of the views from the bridge by crossing it on foot, biking it, or riding a bus, cab, or rideshare. Make sure you bring your camera to get a shot of you on the bridge!
Hike Lands End with a cliff view of the bay. The trail winds around the bluffs with a natural path and some steep steps heading to Lands End Point. You can take different routes depending on your hiking interests and abilities. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the view for free. One of the top picks for trails in this area is Coastal Trail Walk.
Ferry Building Marketplace
Check out what local fishermen, farmers, and artisans have to offer at the Ferry Building Marketplace. This building along the water is your one-stop shop for some San Francisco staples. There are many delightful places to eat in the Ferry Building such as Gott’s Roadside Burgers, Cowgirl Creamery Cheese, Hog Island Oyster Company, Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream, and more! Learn more about the history of this building.
Alcatraz served as a federal penitentiary from 1934-1963, housing some of the most dangerous criminals. The prison rests on an island with a rocky shore and rough waters that made it more secure. Most of the attempted escapes failed, but a few prisoners were never found, adding to the mystery. Alcatraz is a popular tourist attraction and has audio walking tours for visitors to learn about the prison’s history. Convenient ferries shuttle visitors back and forth. Make sure you get your tickets in advance, as purchasing at the door might be tough.
Lombard Street, also known as the “crooked street,” is made up of eight sharp turns in a short space. Drive down the windy road with incredible views of San Francisco on your way down. A tour of this iconic street is recommended. Get some more information on tours that might be available during your trip here.
Enjoy a hike, picnic, or leisurely walk at this national park that used to be a military post. At Presidio, you’ll also find a golf course, and a wide variety of food trucks on the fourth Sunday of each month. This is a great spot for family photos, too.
As the highest hills in the city, Twin Peaks is one of the top places to visit in San Francisco for a stunning view. Don’t forget to bring a jacket so the cold doesn’t stop you from admiring the fantastic view of the city! There are a couple of trails in this park. For the best view of the city, we’d suggest talking the Creek to Peaks Trail which will give you a 360-degree view of the city and surrounding bay area.
Experience the culture, enjoy the food and shop for souvenirs in Chinatown. Get authentic Chinese food at America’s first-ever dim sum house, Hang Ah Tea Room. Aside from the delicious food, this neighborhood always has special events taking place. Be sure to check out the event calendar to see what’s happening during your visit.
Situated along The Embarcadero with views of the Bay Bridge right outside, The Exploratorium is a fun hands-on museum meant for both kids and adults. With over 600 hands-on exhibits, this massive museum is a fun and educational experience for the entire family. On Thursdays, they host Exploratorium After Dark for adults ages 18 and over, where visitors can get lost in the interactive exhibits without the kids.
This artsy neighborhood is one of the most popular in the city. Check out the beautiful murals along Clarion Alley, great boutiques along Valencia Street, and top restaurants like Gracias Madre, Lolinda, and Lazy Bear. If you have some time, spend an afternoon in Dolores Park where you’ll get the full San Francisco experience and meet all kinds of interesting characters. For a truly unique experience, consider taking a food tour and discovering all the culinary gems that this traditional neighborhood has to offer.
Check out some of San Francisco’s best shopping in Union Square. In the winter, there’s a massive tree lighting ceremony in the middle of the square, in addition to an ice skating rink. The best public place to catch a bird’s eye view of Union Square is at the Cheesecake Factory on the top floor of Macy’s.
North Beach is heavily influenced by European culture, with cute cafes and boutiques very close to downtown. Get lost and spend hours at City Lights Bookstore, then stay for dinner and have an amazing authentic Italian meal at E Tutto Qua right across the street.
Golden Gate Park
The 1,000-acre park has wide-open spaces, playgrounds for the kids, waterfalls, and a herd of buffalo. Rent a bike to explore the entire property, you’ll be surprised by everything to offer. You’ll find the San Francisco Botanical Garden and the deYoung Museum here too. Depending on what time of year you visit, you may even be able to catch a free concert in the park.
California Academy of Sciences
Also located within Golden Gate Park, the California Academy of Science has a planetarium, rainforest exhibit, aquarium, and earthquake room, simulating two of San Francisco’s hardest-hitting earthquakes. Similar to the Exploratorium, Cal Academy also hosts an adults-only event on Thursday nights called Nightlife. The event is for adults ages 21 and over only because they serve alcohol and allow you to roam through the exhibits with a refreshing drink in hand.
Pier 39 is a gathering spot for locals and tourists to eat, shop, or play. It offers views of the bay and the sea lions sunbathing below. It’s also near the Aquarium of the Bay. A great location of tourist attractions, restaurants, and gorgeous views. You can smell the food cooking and the chocolate baking in the restaurants, which is all the advertising they need. A large carousel provides entertainment for the kids. Street performers and bike taxis keep the area hopping and moving.
Just a ten-minute stroll along the water from Pier 39, you’ll find Fisherman’s Wharf. Hang out and watch the fishing boats heading out to catch the day’s supply of seafood. Have a world-famous Irish Coffee at Buena Vista Cafe. Watch the cable cars carrying visitors to and from this bustling area. Many afternoons you’ll find local artisans set up along the sidewalk peddling their wares.
Palace of Fine Arts
The Palace of Fine Arts is an architectural marvel. It serves as an entertainment venue at times, but you can tour it for free. There’s a rotunda, tall detailed columns, garden areas, and a lake. The palace is close to the Golden Gate Bridge, so consider checking out both of these spots on the same day.
San Francisco Zoo and Gardens
Located right outside Golden Gate Park and near Ocean Beach, the 100-acre zoo houses over 2,000 endangered and rescued animals. There are “Free Days” for San Francisco Residents with proof of residency, but tourists can visit for only $25 for adults and $18 for children ages 2 to 12. Consider buying your tickets in advance here.
Haight-Ashbury still has a hippie vibe reminiscent of the 1960s era. Grateful Dead memorabilia can easily be found. You can shop in cool clothing stores and grab a beer in one of the laid-back bars. Just the window-shopping in this district can be entertaining.
Hop on a ferry across the bay to spend the day, hiking, picnicking, and soaking up the sun on Angel Island. You’ll be blessed with a view of the San Francisco skyline, as long as the fog isn’t blocking your view.
Where to Stay
There are a ton of iconic neighborhoods in the city. We’ve outlined 3 of the top picks for you and your group. Continue reading to learn more.
If prestigious and regal is what you seak, Nob Hill is the place for you. This area is known for being one of the most affluent areas of the city and offers a ton of amazing restaurants and bars. The area is located smack dab in the middle of the city, so you’ll have no problem moving around. Look for luxury hotels, amazing condos, and apartments, as well as some homes for rent in the area. You’ll pay for the luxury and location, but it’s totally worth it.
Looking for something a little more relaxed and laid back? Check out North Beach, a chill neighborhood with a mellow feel. You’ll enjoy being close to Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf. If food and fun are important to you on your trip, seriously consider this area. Look for some great deals on single-family Tudors and bungalows in this neighborhood.
Looking for tons of nearby museums and vibing nightlife? Stay in SoMa, short for ‘South of Market’. Enjoy fabulous and hip restaurants along with incredible views of the city. Find a great deal on an apartment or condo in this area. You’ll find homes as well, but with so much going on in this neighborhood, we’d suggest saving some money on accommodations to have more of your budget for exploration and fun.
Planning to be in San Fran for a couple of weeks? Check out these excellent options for weekend getaways from the city.
San Francisco Awaits!
San Francisco has so much to see and do. From shopping to museums, natural beauty to urban allure, you really can find everything here. IF you’re looking for some great spots to grab cocktails during your trip, read through these top 5 picks for some unique tiki bars in the city. Ready to start planning your trip to the Bay? Get over to VacationRenter to settle on the perfect spot for your trip!