4 Days in San Francisco Itinerary
HAVING 4 DAYS IN SAN FRANCISCO GUARANTEES YOU’LL BE ABLE TO SEE, DO, AND TASTE THE BEST OF SAN FRANCISCO. THESE ARE OUR TIPS FOR EXPLORING AS MUCH OF SAN FRANCISCO AS POSSIBLE IN JUST A FEW SHORT DAYS.
Our small but mighty city is packed to the brim with unique activities, sights, and experiences you can only find in San Francisco. With only 4 days in San Francisco, you have to prioritize the best of the best!
That’s where we come in. Asking us if we know the best 4-day San Francisco itinerary is like asking a fish if it knows how to swim!
We’ve made finding the best of San Francisco our life’s mission, so you could say we know a thing or two about how to have a good time in the city. Here are our must-do activities, restaurants, views, and establishments when you have 4 days in San Francisco!
If you want to see the best parts of San Francisco in a single day, check out Dylan’s Famous Tour with Muir Woods and Alcatraz! This tour is designed specifically for those with limited time in the Bay Area, but want to see and experience as much as possible.
DAY 1 IN SAN FRANCISCO
SPEND YOUR FIRST FULL DAY IN THE CITY ON A SAN FRANCISCO GUIDED TOUR.
You’ll want to cover as much ground as possible on your first of 4 days in San Francisco because you’ll be able to navigate the rest of your time better. After you’ve had a chance to get a good overview of the city, you’ll know exactly where you want to spend more time for the rest of your trip.
Dylan’s Famous Tour with Muir Woods and Alcatraz is one of the most popular San Francisco bus tours on TripAdvisor. This family-owned tour will take you far past the standard city tour itinerary!
You’ll discover murals in the Mission District, enjoy skyline views at Twin Peaks, stop for lunch across the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito, venture out into the towering redwoods of Muir Woods, and be dropped off right at your chance to escape to Alcatraz.
Dylan’s Famous Tours cover so much ground in a single day that the rest of your trip can focus on any areas that catch your eye instead of frantically chasing bucket list items the entire trip!
Over your first day in the city, our guides will help you with personalized plans for the rest of your 4-day San Francisco itinerary.
GUZZLE SAN FRANCISCO BEER AND BURGERS INSIDE OF GHIRARDELLI SQUARE FOR DINNER.
Our love affair with San Francisco Brewing Co. is no secret – we’ve already declared these craft beer makers one of the best San Francisco breweries!
They are the only San Francisco brewery in Fisherman’s Wharf, making SF Brewing Co one the best places to grab a burger and a few pints after your tour. Chow down on classic pub fare and wash it all down with San Francisco craft beer.
SPEND A NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM WITH A 21+ CROWD.
This after-hours event at one of the city’s most iconic museums is the perfect nightlife event to schedule into your 4-day San Francisco itinerary. Every Thursday, museums across San Francisco turn into adults-only venues with cocktail receptions. You can sip quality drinks, dance to some DJ beats, and view the museum after dark. It’s as unique and entertaining as it sounds!
In the heart of Golden Gate Park is the California Academy of Sciences: NightLife. General tickets are under $20, making this one of the most affordable San Francisco nightlife events! You can also upgrade the experience by purchasing VIP tickets! This creative experience includes an hour-long behind-the-scenes tour and a private cocktail reception where the first two drinks are on the house.
If one museum choice isn’t enough, you can also check out The Exploratorium: After Dark. Located along the San Francisco waterfront, in the shadows of the Bay Bridge, you can purchase evening tickets to access all the exhibits and galleries at this beloved hands-on science museum.
** Please note, even though the popular San Francisco CityPass does include the Academy of Sciences, it is not redeemable for the Nightlife event.
WATCH THE BAY LIGHTS ART INSTALLATION ON THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY BRIDGE.
Since 2013, 25,000 LED lights have embellished the suspension cables on the Bay Bridge, connecting San Francisco to Oakland. This art installation was meant to be a temporary project, where every night the LED lights were programmed to display a different light show dancing around the cables.
The public response to the Bay Lights was so positive that fundraising efforts were launched to create a permanent place for the light show. Since 2016, the San Francisco Bay Bridge has been permanently adorned with nightly light shows along with suspension cables.
The best viewing of the Bay Lights will be on the Embarcadero around the Ferry Building. Head down one of the piers that jut out into the San Francisco Bay and find a bench for a personal viewing of the Bay Lights.
DAY 2 IN SAN FRANCISCO
BIKE THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
If you’re spending 4 days in San Francisco, you have to make time to bike the Golden Gate Bridge.
While walking the bridge is a great overall experience, you may be over it before you’re halfway done with the trek! The out-and-back walk of the Golden Gate Bridge is over 3 miles and takes well over an hour to complete (not counting the additional transportation to and from the bridge!). That expends some serious energy and trip time!
That’s why we strongly suggest renting e-bikes and biking across the Golden Gate Bridge. E-bikes will make the hilly roadway a breeze, and you can get in all of the Golden Gate views while cruising alongside the walkers moving at a snail’s pace! After crossing the bridge, you’ll have time and energy to explore either side of the bridge further, gaining way more views than if you tackled it on foot.
Dylan’s offers half-day and full-day bike rentals so you can decide just how much ground you want to cover. Our bike rentals include a detailed map for navigating the city, a bike lock, a helmet, and expert advice from our team before you leave.
And if you want to combine biking the bridge with a Muir Woods shuttle, we offer that too!
On the San Francisco side of the bridge, you’ll find the Round House Cafe for hot drinks and light snacks, as well as the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center where you can explore the history of the bridge and buy unique souvenirs.
And depending on your next activity, we have bike drop-off sites on either side of the bridge so you can streamline your day!
EAT AT THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE MISSION STYLE BURRITO
If you’ve ever dreamt about burritos the size of your forearm, it’s time to make that dream a reality with a Mission Style Burrito. These massive burritos were created in San Francisco’s Mission District for busy locals needing a filling, portable meal.
These burritos are typically stuffed with rice, beans, meat, cheese and salsa. Each taqueria makes their Mission Burritos a little different, and just about every San Franciscan will offer a different answer as to who makes the best burrito in the Mission.
Personally, we’re big fans of La Cumbre since they have the claim to fame of being the first taqueria mentioned in the newspaper in connection to Mission Style Burritos. That’s why we’ve dubbed this taqueria one of the top 50 things to do in San Francisco!
Carlos Santana’s big brother was a tortilla maker at La Cumbre, and it was a pretty common sight in the early 60s to see Santana jamming out on the sidewalk. La Cumbre remains a favorite among locals and traveling musicians.
CATCH A BASKETBALL GAME AT THE WARRIORS ARENA=
The Warriors are coming back home to San Francisco with the opening of the new Chase Center. This new 18,000 seater Golden State Warriors stadium will be a must-see for anyone – basketball enthusiasts or not!
This new arena sits on the waterfront between the ferry building and Oracle Park (formerly Pac Bell Park, briefly SBC Park and most commonly remembered as AT&T Park). You’ll be able to chow down on amazing local eats like Tacolicious and Sam’s Chowder House while catching the NBA Champs play on their home turf.
SAIL ACROSS THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY ON A SUNSET CATAMARAN TOUR.
What better way to end a day in the city than onboard one of the best San Francisco boat tours at sunset? Especially when there are a couple of complimentary drinks and hors d’oeuvres included for your sunset cruise!
Whether you have a week in San Francisco or only a day, watching a California sunset from the Bay will be one of the most memorable experiences.
Even though it can get pretty chilly on the waters around the Golden Gate Bridge, the experience is totally worth it to see the sun disappearing into the Pacific.
DAY 3 IN SAN FRANCISCO
HAVE AN IRISH COFFEE FOR BREAKFAST IN FISHERMAN’S WHARF.
One of the best breakfasts in Fisherman’s Wharf is home to the first purveyors of Irish Coffee in America, the Buena Vista Cafe. Who says you can’t have a little historic cocktail created in San Francisco with your breakfast? This might be the best breakfast you can have during your 4 days in San Francisco!
Even if you’re not into the hair of the dog, the breakfast at the Buena Vista is worthy of a visit in its own right. Just be sure to at least catch a glimpse of the bartenders creating the Irish Coffees, sometimes a dozen or so at a time!
Buena Vista Cafe sits next to Ghirardelli Square and overlooks the San Francisco Bay and the historic schooners at Hyde Street Pier.
If you can, ask for a seat at one of the windows and watch as the historic Hyde Street Cable Car ferries people up the hill to Lombard, aka The Crooked Street. Better yet, if you’re staying at hotels in Union Square, you can take the Hyde Street Cable Car from downtown to Buena Vista!
EAT FOOD MADE IN THE OLDEST BRICK OVEN ON THE WEST COAST.
Tommaso’s is a beloved family-run Italian restaurant and is surprisingly kid-friendly. The place opens up at 5 pm and there are no reservations, so come at least 15-30 minutes early if you want to guarantee a seat at one of the first tables.
The menu is small and honestly hasn’t changed very much since the restaurant opened in 1935 (then called Lupo’s). Hand-painted oil murals decorate the walls of Tommaso’s. Legend has it, the original owners paid the artist in free meatballs.
Everything is still baked in the brick oven, which also has seen little change since the restaurant first opened. In fact, in the kitchen where the oven normally would be — is storage for pots and pans!
Fans of Chez Panisse by Alice Waters and Spago by Wolfgang Puck both have exact recreations of the Tommaso’s brick oven at their respective restaurants!
WATCH A SHOW AT THE FAMOUS CLUB FUGAZI.
Club Fugazi gained its rep by hosting the ever-famous Beach Blanket Babylon sketch comedy show. As the world’s longest-running musical revue gracefully retired, it left space for new up-and-coming shows to rise to the occasion.
Currently at Club Fugazi, there is a circus-themed acrobatic performance called Dear San Francisco: A High-Flying Love Story.
This show captures the unique essence of San Francisco through spoken word, acrobatics, and jaw-dropping stunts.
DAY 4 IN SAN FRANCISCO
EXPLORE GOLDEN GATE PARK ON AN ELECTRIC BIKE.
Golden Gate Park is the biggest city-owned park in America and is about 20% bigger than Central Park in NYC!
If you opted out of biking the Golden Gate Bridge or want to add on another great biking opportunity, Golden Gate Park is the place to go with our San Francisco bike rentals!
The windy roads of Golden Gate Park are perfect for e-bikes that will help you discover all four miles of the park — including the hidden herd of bison, Dutch windmills, the California Academy of Sciences, the de Young Museum and the Japanese Tea Gardens.
ESCAPE TO ALCATRAZ
If you didn’t make it to Alcatraz on one our guided San Francisco tours, today is the day to escape to Alcatraz! Book your Alcatraz Day Tour with Dylan’s and add it on to your San Francisco itinerary.
Alcatraz sits on a small sandstone rock in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, earning it the famous nickname: The Rock.
The Alcatraz ferry runs multiple times a day almost every day of the year. While that may seem like it’ll be a piece of cake to make it on an Alcatraz tour last minute, we promise that’s far from the truth!
Tickets to Alcatraz sell out fast, so try to plan your tour at least a month in advance. If you can’t, here are a few ideas on how to get last-minute tickets to Alcatraz and everything you need to know before visiting Alcatraz.
Looking for an even more bone-chilling experience on The Rock? You can plan an Alcatraz Night Tour! Night tours are seasonal, and well worth the extra money. You will get a narrated tour around the island, guided tours, and access to areas that are blocked off from day tours!
Since Alcatraz is a windswept island, be sure to bring a jacket with you. Otherwise, you’ll be buying a $50 novelty sweater in the gift shop once you arrive! Be prepared for your trip to prison with our guide on things you need to know before visiting Alcatraz.
TRY CIOPPINO WHILE SITTING ON THE DOCK OF THE BAY.
Move over Rice-a-Roni, cioppino is the real San Francisco treat!
That’s right, cioppino — a seafood soup is an authentic San Francisco culinary creation. Back when there was actually a beach in North Beach, Italian fishermen would sail out into the waters and not return home until their boats were full.
For safety, the fishermen would moor together in the evening and “chip in” a little bit of their catch into a communal soup.
Cioppino, a pidgin word that puts an Italian twist on the word “chip in”, doesn’t really have an exact recipe to follow. Each restaurant makes their cioppino a little differently, and lately, we’ve been obsessed with the cioppino at the Crab House at Pier 39.
The Crab House sits on the dock of the Bay and serves their cioppino with shrimp, calamari, mussels, and whitefish. Grab reservations around sunset and watch the skyline and boats in the harbor light up in the evening.
JOIN A SAN FRANCISCO NIGHT TOUR IN A VINTAGE VW BUS.
San Francisco Love Tours, a top-rated San Francisco VW bus tour company, is one of the only small local tour companies that offer night tours year-round.
Even though San Francisco hop on hop off tours offer daily night tours on their double-decker buses, there is something extra special about seeing the city lights from a VW.
Double-decker buses are C-O-L-D at night and that experience in itself can ruin an entire San Francisco night tour. Catching a ride with San Francisco Love Tours ensures you’ll be comfortable (and stylish) as you cruise around to see the sights in their vintage VW bus.
VISIT AN AUTHENTIC SPEAKEASY WHERE PASSWORDS ARE REQUIRED.
Behind the frosted windows of Wilson & Wilson Private Detective Agency, you’ll discover an authentic 1930s speakeasy that looks straight out of a film noir about shoe gum detectives.
Even visiting their website offers little assurance that you’ll be visiting a bar. Instead, you’ll find a case description of a missing person with a number to call if you have information.
Wilson & Wilson is one of a handful of elaborate speakeasies organized by Bourbon & Branch, local San Francisco restaurateurs who have perfected the Prohibition-style speakeasy popularized while alcohol was banned.
During the American Prohibition on Alcohol, drinking and selling alcohol was illegal and a punishable crime. Many bars went underground and had false fronts that required secret passwords to gain access to the libations.
While your trip has to end, that doesn’t mean you can’t come back! As natives of San Francisco, we still find awesome new places in our city! While we tried to pack as much as possible in your 4 days in San Francisco, there is always more to do!
Discover San Francisco like never before! Join our Explore S.F. group on Facebook, your ultimate guide to the city’s best-kept secrets. From local tips to monthly adventures, this is where your journey begins. Click here to join and start exploring!