How to Spend 3 Days in San Francisco
If you have three days in San Francisco, consider yourself lucky—it’s ample time to immerse yourself in the city’s dreamy fog, diverse neighborhoods, and far-out sophistication. After your urban adventures, there’s even time for a wine or wilderness excursion. Here are a few ways to spend three days in and around SF.
Day 1: The Hills and the Bay
Introduce yourself to San Francisco by taking a road often traveled—it’s actually quite nice. Choose a hop-on hop-off bus tour to get your bearings and explore at your own pace, or, if you’re staying downtown, catch a historic cable car at Market and Powell streets and ride over the hills to the waterfront. From the end of the line at Fisherman’s Wharf, you have options: cruises depart from the nearby piers to Alcatraz, to Sausalito, and around the bay. Combination tours save time and money by pairing a cruise with additional experiences such as a food tour or admission to local museums. Alternatively, rent bikes and ride along the San Francisco Bay Trail to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Day 2: Golden Gate Park and Off-Beat Neighborhoods
Day two is for more in-depth exploration. Start with a walking tour in the Mission, a diverse district known for stellar street art and an explosive cuisine scene. The next neighborhood over is another walking tour option: the Castro, a few square blocks of LGBTQ culture with the city’s most popular historic theater. You’ll also want to journey through the Haight—home to colorful Victorians, funky boutiques, Deadheads, and visionaries—and emerge into the vast urban oasis of Golden Gate Park, easily seen in just a few hours on a Segway or self-guided bike tour. The park is also home to the California Academy of Sciences and de Young Museum, two sights best seen with skip-the-line admission tickets.
Day 3: National Parks, Wine, and Whales
Just beyond the bay lie several essential day-trip destinations. Wine lovers can spend a day in the internationally renowned Napa and Sonoma valleys, exploring by bus, train, private car, or bike, while nature enthusiasts can embark on an epic day in Yosemite, one of the US’ first national parks. Guided Yosemite tours leave San Francisco early in the morning and return after dinner, including time to revel in Gold Rush towns, hike among giant sequoias, and spectacular park highlights such as Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and El Capitan. If you’d like more time on the coast, journey down to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Carmel, or try a whale-watching trip out to the Farallon Islands.
10 Tours and Activities
- How to Get Off the Beaten Path in San Francisco
- Food Lover's Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area
- San Francisco Museums After Dark
- San Francisco Dining Cruises
- Don't-Miss Dishes in San Francisco
- How to Spend a Rainy Day in San Francisco
- Biking Across the Golden Gate Bridge
- How to Spend 3 Days in San Francisco