A 3-Day San Francisco Itinerary for First-Time Visitors
Have you heard the phrase, “I left my heart in San Francisco”? I love San Francisco and want to share with you a 3-Day San Francisco Itinerary for you to get the most out of your first-time visit here.
I have visited San Francisco 3 times and I adore this city. There is so much to see and do, not to mention the food! I will admit I have yet to see it all either, but want to share with you my 3-Day San Francisco Itinerary for first timers if this is your first time (or even second) time to the city.
First the Basics-
The best time to visit San Francisco is from September to November, as Autumn offers warm temperatures and fewer crowds. Spring is another good time, but expect the breezes to have a little more bite to them.
San Francisco is very accessible by foot and using their public transportation. You will want to purchase a visitor passport from one of the SFMTA (Municipal Transportation Agency) booths. The tickets are sold by single rides, or 1,3 & 7 day passes. The passes are your best option for unlimited rides on Muni, Muni Metro (buses), historic streetcars and cable cars.
We visited on the first weekend in October and the weather was beautiful. We booked our stay at the Hotel Adagio a luxury boutique hotel close to Union Square.
We started our weekend off by purchasing our Muni 3-day pass at the booth on the corner of Powell Street and Market Street. The cable car runs up Powell Street if you want to catch it to take you up the hill to your first stop.
It is centered on Grant Avenue and Stockton Street and is the oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinese community outside Asia. You can follow my Walking Tour of China Town here, or just wander around. There are lots of gift shops and Chinese restaurants to choose from and be sure to take in the sounds and smell as you wander through this area.
LITTLE ITALY OF SAN FRANCISCO-
This small area of Little Italy is located in the North Beach district, in the northeastern area of the city. There are many delicious Italian restaurants, cafes and ice cream shops in this area and it is just a few blocks from your next stop, Coit Tower. Check out the beautiful houses on Telegraph Hill on your way!
Is a 201-foot tower in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood and is one of San Francisco’s iconic locations offering 360° views of the city. There is an elevator that takes you to the top of the tower for a fee of $8 adult, $5 Senior (62+) $5 youth (12-17) and $2 Child (5-11). You can also view the famous Coit Tower murals to see San Francisco as it was in the 1930’s, which are located inside the building. To get there on foot take the Filbert Street Stairs , just off Kearny Street or the Greenwich Street Stairs for a peek into some lovely gardens. Next, head over to Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf.
PIER 39/FISHERMAN’S WHARF-
Pier 39 is a must do for first-timers, with sea lions, waterfront dining (I suggest the Fog Harbor Fish House for some delicious seafood, try the seared tuna!), street performers, and shopping. Be sure to stop in to Boudin’s Sourdough bakery for a sourdough bread bowl full of clam chowder.
Next, walk along Jefferson Street, as you head to Ghirardelli Square browse the windows of all the shops along the way.
Shops and restaurants fill this 3-level landmark former chocolate factory, but a must-stop is the Ghirardelli store itself, for a delicious chocolate covered ice cream treat. After packing on those calories we will head up to Lombard Street.
One of America’s crookednest streets made up of eight hair-pin turns and found on many tours. It’s a steep, hilly, one-way street with beautiful Victorian mansions on either side. Watch out for cars if you are trying to get a photo of this famous street.
This public plaza is bordered by Geary, Powell, Post and Stockton Streets in the downtown district of San Francisco. It is SF’s #1 visitor destination for shopping, dining and entertainment.
The San Francisco Ferry Building is a terminal for ferries that travel across the San Francisco Bay, a food hall and an office building. On Saturdays it transforms into a Farmer’s Market from 8am to 2 pm, year round, rain or shine. With more than 100 vendors you will find a variety of local produce, food craft products, and breakfast or lunch options.
Home to the San Francisco Giants, this baseball park was built in 2000. If the Giants are playing a home game you won’t want to miss attending this ball park for it’s fantastic views of the bay as well as a day out at the ball park!
“Painted Ladies” is a term in American architecture used for Victorian and Edwardian houses painted in three or more colors that embellish or enhance their architectural details. This is one of the most photographed locations in San Francisco, located in Alamo Square. To get here take Muni line #21 westbound from downtown to the corner of Hayes and Steiner streets. The best time to catch a good photo is when the sun is setting and casting a sunset glow over these beauties.
BIKE THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE/SAUSALITO-
If you are up for a day of exercise you can rent a bike from Bike and View Bicycle Rentals and Tours and bike across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. Go here to read more about our Cycling Across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito trip.
The Presidio is a park and former military base on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula. Here you will find The Walt Disney Family Museum, the Palace of Fine Arts, Crissy Field Center and a US National Military Cemetery.
Alcatraz is a notorious prison and once home of Al Capone, now it is a museum with an audio tour. I have done both the day and night tour and highly recommend both, but if you can definitely book the night tour. ***Book in advance here.
There are so many more things to do and see in San Francisco but this should give you a good start. If you have any great suggestions leave a comment below.
Until next time…..travel on!