What to do in San Francisco in 3 days

Planning a last minute Bay Area getaway? As 100% locals, Dylan’s Tours wants to help you discover what to do in San Francisco in 3 days!

Believe us when we say that last minute getaways to San Francisco are fun. While San Francisco in 3 days might not be enough to see EVERYTHING, it will give you a chance to see the best bits of our city.

Keep in mind, this city is only 7×7 square miles (that’s 121 square kilometers). Roughly ⅔ the size of Brooklyn in NYC! Such a small city means you can fit in a ton of unique San Francisco activities into a short trip.

Our bottom line summary:

If you can, we highly recommend taking a San Francisco tour on the first full day of your visit to the city! We designed our 1-Day San Francisco, Muir Woods, and Alcatraz tour to allow people to see the best parts of San Francisco in a single day!

Highlights:

  • Explore the top neighborhoods with your local guide and learn the stories, history, and diversity of San Francisco.
  • 15 locations, 7 amazing photo stops
  • Spend over 75-minutes in Muir Woods and stand in awe of the famous redwood trees.
  • After your morning tour you can enjoy a leisurely lunch in Fisherman’s Wharf and enjoy Pier 39’s famous sea lions.

Read on to learn more what else to do!


Discover the best San Francisco hop on hop off tours to combine with San Francisco night tours and Alcatraz tickets
See the famous Painted Ladies with a 100% local San Francisco tour

As 100% locals, we want to help you plan three perfect days in San Francisco.

From finding the best area to stay in San Francisco to the best places to eat and drink in San Francisco, we’re here to help you plan your perfect three days in San Francisco.

Grab your San Francisco 3 Day Pass from SFMTA for convenient access to the iconic San Francisco cable cars and historic streetcars from the 30s and 40s. Then use this guide to help plan your ultimate San Francisco itinerary!

san francisco guide


WHAT TO DO IN SAN FRANCISCO IN 3 DAYS


Day 1: WHAT TO DO ON YOUR FIRST DAY IN SAN FRANCISCO


First things first, if you’re flying into San Francisco, you’ll still need to get to San Francisco from the airport.

That’s right, the San Francisco International Airport is not actually IN San Francisco.

Don’t worry though! While the airport isn’t in city limits, there is plenty of public transportation available between the airport and the city.


Once you’re in San Francisco you’ll need to check into your hotel.

Best area to stay in San Francisco?

We’ve done the research for you and featured the Best Hotels in Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco on our San Francisco travel blog! This is one of the best central areas to stay in the city if you only have 3 days in San Francisco.

We are big fans of the industrial-chic San Francisco themed aesthetic of Pier 2620 Hotel. In fact, the rooms at Pier 2620 might make you think you’re actually staying in a cute local Airbnb!


Discover the best hotels in Fisherman's Wharf , like Pier 2620 Hotel.
Pier 2620 Hotel offers a reprieve from the typically touristy Fisherman’s Wharf

This welcoming Fisherman’s Wharf hotel boasts free wifi. It is also walking distance to some of the best San Francisco tours and is home to a self-serve wine bar.

SAN FRANCISCO VACATION PLANNER TIP: If you’re flying in early, most hotels will try to accommodate an early check-in. But, sometimes they just don’t have any rooms available until the current occupants check out. To ensure an early check-in, make your room reservation for the day before you arrive.

What to do in San Francisco after you check in at your hotel?

Most travelers to San Francisco usually arrive after most of the San Francisco day tours have departed. So, plan to take it easy on your first day in San Francisco.

A fun way of getting to know San Francisco is with a leisurely bike ride along the waterfront on a San Francisco e-bike rental.


Discover San Francisco by electric bike with Dylan's Tours
San Francisco e-bike rentals allow you to explore San Francisco at your own pace

Biking through Fisherman’s Wharf on your way to the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most quintessential activities to do in San Francisco.

Lucky for you, Dylan’s Tours sends out intrepid travelers on Pedego e-bikes. While you can pedal if you want to, it’s completely optional.

Effortlessly cruise up the notoriously steep hills of San Francisco with a power boost from a discreet electric battery on the back of the bike.

You can enjoy 10% off San Francisco bike rentals at Dylan’s Tours with promo code 3PERFECTDAYS when reserving on the Dylan’s Tours website (offer not redeemable with third-party resellers like TripAdvisor, Viator, Groupon or GetYourGuide).

Where to have dinner in San Francisco?

After you’ve worked up an appetite from your San Francisco bike ride, you’ll need a 100% local restaurant for dinner.

Sotto Mare, Italian for “under the sea”, is pretty much the ONLY authentic Italian seafood restaurant in San Francisco.

You won’t find chicken, beef, or even an oven or deep fryer at the North Beach Italian restaurant. Everything at Sotto Mare is seafood. and everything at Sotto Mare is cooked to order on the stove top.


The can’t-miss menu item at Sotto Mare is their cioppino.

Cioppino is a uniquely San Francisco dish, kind of like a seafood soup. It was created by Italian fishermen during the Gold Rush.

One of the owners of Sotto Mare, Richie, uses his grandmother’s recipe, both for the cioppino and the Italian bread that is made daily by Boudin Bakery in Fisherman’s Wharf.

So if you only have one nice meal to spare on your San Francisco itinerary, Sotto Mare is where you should go!

What to do after dinner in San Francisco

Just down the road from Sotto Mare, where Green Street turns into Beach Blanket Babylon Boulevard, you’ll find the longest running musical revue in the world — Beach Blanket Babylon.

This tongue-in-cheek comedy musical act is difficult to describe, but let’s just say they’re known for their hats.

Hats that require performer’s to wear special digging underneath their costumes.

Still, some hats are so massive they require assistance from cables hanging from the rafters.

Beach Blanket Babylon is bit like a drag show-inspired-SNL. So it’s very topical. Often “featuring” guest appearances from current pop culture figures and references to events currently happening in the real world.

This has got to be one of the most unique things to do in San Francisco. The city even renamed a section of Green Street as Beach Blanket Babylon Boulevard!


Day 2: FUN THINGS TO DO IN SAN FRANCISCO ON YOUR SECOND DAY


Not sure how many days to spend in San Francisco? We recommend staying long enough for a day tour of San Francisco.

Once you’re rested from your travels, your second full day in San Francisco will benefit from a San Francisco day tour.

This way, you can get your bearings around the city and spend the next day enjoying San Francisco neighborhoods that caught your eye from the tour.


Dylan's Tour mini-bus parked with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
Make the most of your San Francisco itinerary with a comprehensive city tour

You’ll find the most bang for your buck with a tour that has a comprehensive San Francisco one day itinerary. Dylan’s Famous Tour has been perfected over a decade of helping travelers explore San Francisco like a local.

Our most popular tour includes San Francisco, Sausalito, and Muir Woods!

This San Francisco bus tour conveniently picks up from Fisherman’s Wharf. Then it stops for photos at the murals of the Mission District, city skyline views from Twin Peaks, the infamous corner of Haight & Ashbury, the sprawling mansions of Billionaires Row and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Then you can enjoy a leisurely lunch in Sausalito. This coastal town is north of the Golden Gate Bridge along the scenic waterfront of the bay.

You don’t have worry about where to eat in Sausalito, because there are plenty of tasty options. You’ll even find plenty of options for dessert in Sausalito!



Dylan’s Tours 100% local tour guides will teach you everything you need to know before arriving to Muir Woods.

So when you arrive, you’ll be prepared to make the most of your hour in the park. It’s the perfect amount of time to explore the most popular trails in the redwood forest of Muir Woods.

Kids under 12 can ask for a Junior Ranger Activity Book. This fun activity book helps kids learn about Muir Woods and discover all the animals in Muir Woods.

Fans of Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” will have to try the Marin Melt Grilled Cheese Sandwich at the Muir Woods Cafe.

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Destination: Muir Woods, CA // Triple creamed Brie grilled cheese ???? // thanks for sharing @eatingthroughnyc

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This incredible grilled cheese features award winning local cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery and Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co sandwiched between freshly baked bread from local Rustic Bakery. So you can be sure it’s good!

Read all about the Muir Woods Cafe grilled cheese here.


Where to eat in San Francisco after a tour?

Dylan’s Famous Tour ends near the former Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory, known locally as Ghirardelli Square.

The chocolate factory (along with the old Del Monte Cannery down the road) shuttered their factory doors in the 60s.

But don’t worry, these days, hidden on the upper patio level is one of the best breweries in San Francisco. At SF Brewing Co., you’ll find classic American pub dishes with a unique San Francisco flare.

The restaurant is literally attached to this active San Francisco brewery.


Try a drink at the only brewery in Ghirardelli Square
Dylan’s San Francisco Brewery Tour begins with a drink at SF Beer Co.

Come for the brews, but please stay for the grub! You’ll spot pub favorites featuring popular San Francisco twists.

Traditional BBQ chicken pizza gets a SF twist with smoked gouda.

Classic BLTs are dressed up with chicken and avocado.

And the SF Brew Co Burger comes with housemade dijonaise.

Between the brews and grub, SF Brewing Co is the perfect addition to a weekend in San Francisco.


Day 3: How to Spend Your Last Day in San Francisco


Even with three perfect day in San Francisco, you eventually come to your last day.

Following our guide for this 3 day trip to San Francisco, you have already: eaten at the best North Beach Italian restaurant in San Francisco, explored all of the city highlights on a San Francisco city tour, and even shared a cheers at one of the best breweries in San Francisco.

Depending on how much time you have before a flight, there are a few ways you can spend your last day in the city.

If you only have time for breakfast

If you are staying at any of the best hotels in Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco, you’ll be within walking distance to some of the tastiest places for breakfast in Fisherman’s Wharf.

Breakfast in San Francisco makes for the perfect last hurrah before you leave. We are a global food destination after all!

If you have the afternoon to check off the last of your San Francisco trip itinerary

Having a few hours to explore before you leave gives you the opportunity to see any last bits of San Francisco that your city tour didn’t cover.

In most cases, this means the iconic eight hair pin turns that make up San Francisco’s Crooked Street.


Go where tour buses can't with San Francisco bike rentals
Most tour buses are banned from zipping down The Crooked Street.

This crooked part of Lombard Street has banned tour buses that seat over eight people since the 1980s!

In fact, tour buses are banned within about five square blocks of the Crooked Street in any direction.

The best way to visit is to take a minibus tour that allows you to get upclose in a walkable distance from Lombard!


One of the best pizza places in America is in the heart of San Francisco's Little Italy

End your private tour with one last San Francisco foodie adventure. We recommend enjoying the pizza from the World Pizza Cup Champion Tony Gemignani at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana.

Tony’s isn’t just one of the best North Beach Italian restaurants in San Francisco — Tony’s is one of the best pizza places in America!

While your San Francisco in 3 days tour might be over, you can always come back to SF to see more!

But if you want to see it all in just a day. We designed our 1-Day San Francisco, Muir Woods, and Alcatraz tour to allow people to see the best parts of San Francisco in a single day!

Book Your Tour Today


Need more help navigating what to do in San Francisco in 3 days? Check out these 100% local recommendations for everything San Francisco!

10 Ways to get from San Francisco to Muir Woods

9 Reasons to Explore the Redwoods at Muir Woods

A guide to beer tasting San Francisco – 30 San Francisco Breweries & Beer Halls You Have to Visit