24 hours in San Francisco is just enough time to discover the city, Muir Woods and even Alcatraz — with the right San Francisco itinerary.
How to See San Francisco in a Day
In the past, we published a guide comparing the 25 Best San Francisco Tours filled with great ideas for what to do in San Francisco. Today, we’d like to follow this up by telling you the top things to do in San Francisco in one day.
The truth is that you can’t really see everything in San Francisco in a day —the city just has too much to offer. There are well over 100 things to do in San Francisco when it comes to the main tourist attractions alone.
Luckily, with the help of 100% locals, you can make a personalized San Francisco day trip itinerary if you only have 24 hours in San Francisco, and actually do some of the things locals do in San Francisco.
This is where we come in! This guide will suggest a few San Francisco day tours so you can act as your own San Francisco vacation planner to help you unlock as much of the city as possible in as short a time as possible.
As 100% locals we’ll help you discover what to do in San Francisco for a day. Keep reading if you’d like to know how to see San Francisco in day!
Dylan’s Famous Tour: Our most popular San Francisco day tour
Dylan’s Famous Tour is famous for a reason! This San Francisco day tour is 7 hours that speeds by as 100% local guides take you to visit San Francisco’s most iconic neighborhoods. Including getting to Muir Woods, Twin Peaks, the Mission District, Haight-Ashbury, and the Golden Gate Bridge.
If you only have time for one San Francisco day trip, this is it. We’ve carefully built this tour to offer guests only the top things to do in San Francisco.
We don’t want travelers wasting any time if they’re trying to do San Francisco in 24 hours. The one day in San Francisco itinerary on our Famous Tour of San Francisco is a large reason for Dylan’s 5-star TripAdvisor rating.
One of the things that makes this one of the top things to do in San Francisco is that our smaller tour buses can travel through many of the city’s smaller streets and alleys, showing you parts of the city the standard big bus tours of San Francisco can’t.
We also manage to factor in plenty of time to take photographs, and we know all the best spots for photos in San Francisco because our tours are run by locals. We’re even happy to stop the bus at different points depending on what our guests want to see/photograph the most.
Keen-eyed readers probably noticed that a tour of Alcatraz isn’t included as part of Dylan’s Famous Tour of San Francisco.
Since there is already so much packed into our most popular bus tour of San Francisco, it would be a really long day to include official tickets to Alcatraz afterwards. (Although, if you keep reading, we’ve got an option for that too!)
If you’re spending 2 days in San Francisco, you can opt for our combo San Francisco tour and Alcatraz tickets package: Dylan’s Famous Tour and Alcatraz combination tour.
Alcatraz Island is arguably the most famous penitentiary in the world. Known for locking up some of the United States’ most infamous criminals. George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Robert Stroud “The Birdman of Alcatraz”, “Scarface” Al Capone and the recently apprehended Whitey Bulger all spent time on The Rock.
Alcatraz has as many stories as it had inmates, making it an unforgettable place to visit! Check out what you need to know before you visit Alcatraz Island so you’re ready for The Rock.
If you’re wondering what to do in San Francisco in 2 days – you can’t miss Alcatraz. And this is one of the best ways to see the city and one of the most historical and unique prisons in the US.
The Ultimate San Francisco Day Trip: A Day in the Bay
If you only have time for a single San Francisco day tour with official Alcatraz tickets — seeing even more than on our Famous Tour of San Francisco— you may like our A Day in the Bay San Francisco Tour!
After a decade of showing tourists how to explore San Francisco like a local, Dylan pieced together this perfect day in San Francisco for travelers who want to see as much of the city as humanly possible in a day.
We wanted to find a way to show guests all of the best spots in San Francisco while also getting to Alcatraz Island, to fit in all of the best things to do in San Francisco for a day.
Take this tour of San Francisco and Alcatraz if you only have one day in San Francisco and you want to see Alcatraz, Chinatown, the Golden Gate Bridge, Pacific Heights, and Muir Woods and more!
At 10 hours long, this San Francisco itinerary really does take a whole day, but it’s absolutely worth it!
Note: A Day in the Bay only runs from March to September.
Renting a Bike in San Francisco: See the city your own way
While we’re very proud of our San Francisco day trips, we know that some people prefer to explore the city by themselves. San Francisco bike rentals are perfect for travelers who prefer a choose-your-own-adventure style getting to Golden Gate Bridge.
San Francisco is one of the most bike friendly cities in America. Discover San Francisco like a local by bike and go off-the-beaten path on trails designed only for bikes and pedestrians. The views from these protect bike paths help make for a perfect day in San Francisco.
Dylan’s Tours offers a San Francisco electric bike rental service that is perfectly situated in North Beach — just a short cycle ride from Chinatown, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Sausalito beyond.
Biking across the Golden Gate Bridge is perhaps the best way to get a sense of the huge scale of the suspension cables that make this orange colored bridge so iconic.
Here at Dylan’s Tours, we proudly use a fleet of the best electric bikes we could for our guests, Pedego E-Bikes. We want people to be able to relax — to have the option to turn the motor on and let the San Francisco e-bike rental do the work for them on one of San Francisco’s many hills or along the 2.1 miles of the Golden Gate Bridge!
If you’re biking across Golden Gate Bridge, we highly recommend that you wrap up warm as it gets very windy out there, suspended above the Pacific Ocean!
If you head north across the Golden Gate Bridge and into the Mediterranean-esque town of Sausalito for lunch you just might find warmer weather. The best part? You can take a ferry to San Francisco to return your bike rental.
And when you stop to take a few photographs on the bridge (which you absolutely should), make sure to signal that you’re stopping so that other cyclists don’t crash into you.
A Wild Ride: Bike down The Crooked Street
There are many streets of San Francisco that are best experienced by bicycle, but the top of the list is, undoubtedly, Lombard Street. Particularly because most San Francisco day tours are banned from going anywhere near Lombard Street.
Lombard Street, with eight hairpin turns, is famous for being “the crooked-est street in the world”. The hill is so steep that the only way to ensure the road was safe for traffic was to create the now-famous eight hairpin turns lined with impeccably manicured stairwells on either side of the road.
For many, biking down Lombard Street makes for a perfect day in San Francisco.
We make sure our bike rentals are among the top thing to do in San Francisco in one day by performing regular checks on all of our bikes, so you can trust your brakes will work when you absolutely need them to!
Short but Sweet: Our San Francisco and Sausalito tour
So, we’ve covered our 7-hour Dylan’s Famous Tour of San Francisco and our 10-hour A Day in the Bay Tour. But, what if you have other plans in your San Francisco itinerary and still want to see all the iconic sites on a short San Francisco tour?
Introducing our San Francisco half day tour!
Perhaps you’re visiting friends here and can’t find 10 hours to sneak away onto a long Muir Woods tour. Dylan’s Tours has got you covered. With our San Francisco and Sausalito tour, we condense an entire San Francisco day trip into one succinct tour!
You’ll be surprised by how much we can fit into a 2.5-hour San Francisco tour. On this tour, you’ll visit Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach, Chinatown (the biggest Chinatown in North America), the Mission, Presidio, the Point, the Castro, Pacific Heights, the Golden Gate Bridge, and then you’ll finish the tour in the beautiful town of Sausalito for lunch.
If you only have a short time in San Francisco, or you’re incredibly busy throughout your stay, this quick San Francisco bus tour is probably the perfect fit for you!
Hopefully this guide will help a few of you plan your next big San Francisco trip. We hope you’ll be able to experience all of our local favorite things to do in San Francisco in a day — whether you take Dylan’s Famous Tour of San Francisco, our Alcatraz & Famous Tour, our shorter San Francisco and Sausalito Tour, or one of our San Francisco e-bike rentals.
If you have any questions for us, please feel free to get in touch.
What do you think are best things to do in San Francisco in one day? What would be on your San Francisco one day itinerary?