San Francisco in a day or two? Yes, please! Sure, it would be ideal to have much more, but if you have limited time, dive right into all that this city and the region have to offer. Accept that you won’t see it all and set the best itinerary possible. Need help in that regard? That’s what Traveling Moms are here for! Here is Part One of my San Francisco in One or Two Days series to make the most of your Bay area experience.
San Francisco has something for everyone. Sightseeing galore, amazing restaurants, and incredibly diverse neighborhoods. In my case, I was flying solo during the day and planned on jumping right in with sightseeing. I wanted to get a sense of the essence of San Francisco. Sure, I had been there before, but it had been over 10 years – yikes! So much had changed in that 10 years that it would be like a new city to me. My traveler heart longed to learn more about the City by the Bay. But with so many choices, it was difficult to settle on where to go, particularly since I only had a few days. So here’s my proposal of a one day itinerary that will have you grinning from ear to ear after your taste of the Bay area.
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Then you’ll see why William Saroyan wrote: “San Francisco itself is art…. every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every home a poem, every dweller within immortal.” I couldn’t agree more.
San Francisco in One Day
Morning: 5 Hour City Loop E-bike Tour (including a lunch stop)
As part of my trip prep, I searched TripAdvisor for the best, most highly recommended tour companies. Dylan’s Tours earned top marks and rave reviews. Now I understand why. I signed up for the 5 hour electric bike tour of the city—note the important word there being ELECTRIC bike. As in with a throttle to help you pedal up the hilly, steep terrain of San Francisco. These Pedego bikes run as much as $ 2,000, so it really made me steer and ride it more carefully after hearing that little nugget! FYI: kids must be 16 and older to ride an electric bike.
Lucky for me, I ended up having a private tour because the only other person who signed up canceled! Their loss was my gain as Rodrigo led me on our 5 hour journey. One of the things that distinguishes Dylan’s Tours is that locals are showing you their city and they have immense pride and know exactly where to take you. Like grabbing burritos on the fly from Gordo Taqueria and then biking to a warm picnic spot at Queen Wilhemenia Garden in Golden Gate Park to eat lunch.
Here’s the map of our 17 mile route. Wow, we really covered some ground!
My favorite moments were biking on the Golden Gate Bridge; touching Hopper’s Hands at the base of the bridge; and the view of the Painted Ladies with the skyline majestically towering behind. Dang it, no John Stamos in sight! Touching Hopper’s Hands is something local runners know all about. Located at the base of Fort Point at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, this tradition was started by a ironworker who saw runners touch the fence during their runs. He added the hands in 2000 and a local tradition was born, followed by paw prints for dogs to touch as they accompany their owners on runs! I really loved this story and it was something I would have totally overlooked had I not been with a local guide who knew.
Soaking up the rays on such a gorgeous day and cycling were invigorating and an excellent way to see the city. I saw so many places I had never been before in San Francisco, it made me wonder what I HAD seen on my last trip. Biking the city gives you a wonderful overview of all the different districts and the unique flavors that fuse together to make it so diverse.
Maybe my experience is a bit skewed because I had a one-on-one tour, but I think it was because Rodrigo was the bomb dot com. He was personable, knowledgeable and just a fun guy to hang out with. We chatted as though we had been besties for years.
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Our final challenge: bike the STEEP hill leading up to Lombard Street. Since it was just the two of us, and he hardly ever takes groups up there, he gave me the option. I said, “What the heck!” and we went for it. I channeled my years of watching Tour de France with my husband and harnessed all my biking skills and can say that I made it!
I highly recommend touring with Dylan’s Tours and trying one of their adventures. They will give you a tour of their hometown and make it an unforgettable day! Cost: $ 95 per person. Must be 16 or older to use the electric bikes.
If you are touring with kids, then no worries. For a family friendly outing, Dylan’s Tours also offers minibus tours. As it says in their brochure:
-Dylan’s Famous is their most popular minibus tour, taking you through San Francisco’s unique neighborhoods, the majestic beauty of Muir Woods, and the Mediterranean waterfront town of Sausalito. With never more than 14 people per tour, you will share a personalized experienced with our San Francisco native tour guides. We make several stops for you to explore and take photos. This tour is an ideal way to get a taste of San Francisco, Sausalito and Muir Woods all in one day. We suggest this tour to those who want to experience a combination of city and nature.
-Want to include Alcatraz and lunch in Sausalito as part of your tour? Then opt for A Day in the Bay tour.
Afternoon: Ghirardelli Ice Cream Pit Stop and/or the Ferry Building Marketplace
Reward yourself from all that biking with an ice cream treat at Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop. No day would be complete without a little ice cream, don’t you agree? A top destination for this tasty treat is Ghirardelli Square where you can nosh on a Sea Salt Caramel Sundae or divine Brownie Sundae. The company was founded in 1852 by an Italian immigrant named Ghirardelli who came to America wanting to be part of the gold rush. While he didn’t strike it rich in gold, he made his mark by founding the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, and the company has been perfecting its chocolates for 163 years. Naturally, the ice cream shop also has a gift shop attached so you can pick up some souvenirs for your favorite chocoholic (and yourself).
The Ferry Building Marketplace bustles with people as you stroll past vendors with goodies like breads, meats, cheeses, olive oil, heirloom beans, and coffee. If you bypass Ghirardelli for sweets, then by all means, try the Humphry Slocombe’s Secret Breakfast ice cream (Bourbon and Cornflakes) for a crazy flavor combination! Or there’s always the chocolate lavender macarons at Miette. C’est magnifique!
Evening: Take Me Out to the Ball Game
If you’re a sports fan, cap off the evening at one of San Francisco’s sporting venues. We went with baseball and chose a Giants game. When in a city that has major league anything, it’s fun to take in a sporting event even if you’re not a sports aficionado. We chose the San Francisco Giants. AT&T Park is quite a nice venue and as the new stadium, it is much closer to downtown than Candlestick Park. It was a beautiful night for baseball, and we were able to walk around and see the World Series trophy and lots of memorabilia.
If sports aren’t your cup of tea, then finding a wonderful restaurant in a culinary mecca may be more your speed. Here are some great Family Friendly Restaurants in San Francisco.
And don’t miss my suggestions on an itinerary for San Francisco in Two Days. Hint: you may be getting out of town to try some wine!