What to Do in San Francisco in 3 Days
Planning a last-minute Bay Area getaway? This 3-Day San Francisco Guide will help you discover what to do in the city these next few 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 that this city is only 7×7 square miles (that’s 121 square kilometers)—roughly ⅔ the size of Brooklyn in NYC! But don’t underestimate this small city. There are tons of unique things to do in San Francisco.
San Francisco Tour on Day 1
We highly recommend taking a San Francisco tour on the first full day of your visit to the city. We designed our San Francisco Tours to allow people to see the best parts of San Francisco in a single day! These tours incorporate San Francisco neighborhoods, Muir Woods, Sausalito and an official Alcatraz Day Tour.
Tour Highlights with Dylan’s:
- Explore the top neighborhoods with your local guide and learn the stories, history, and diversity of San Francisco. See the Painted Ladies, Presidio Park, Chinatown, and more!
- 10 locations and 5 amazing photo stops, including Alcatraz, Muir Woods, and Golden Gate Bridge. You will have more than enough time to take in the views, do a little exploring, and get some amazing photos.
- Cross the iconic Golden Gate Bridge into beautiful Sausalito, and enjoy the quaint shops, coastal walks, and a delicious local lunch!
- Spend over 75 minutes in Muir Woods and stand in awe of the famous redwood trees. (Additional $15 fee for entrance to Muir Woods for guests 16 yrs+).
- Enjoy a convenient drop-off right at Pier 39 for your Alcatraz Island adventure!
WHAT TO DO IN SAN FRANCISCO IN 3 DAYS
We want to help you plan three perfect days in San Francisco.
From finding the most comfortable accommodations to choosing the top local favorite spots for food and drinks, 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.
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 the city 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 within 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?
When you only have 3 days in San Francisco, choosing a conveniently-located hotel or vacation rental is the best move you can make. Thanks to the traffic and a 24/7 competition for good parking spots, San Francisco isn’t the easiest city to commute around. By staying at hotels near Fisherman’s Wharf, you can be centrally-located and walk to many of the San Francisco hotspots on your bucket list! We happen to be in the neighborhood, so we have a great handle on the best hotels in Fisherman’s Wharf.
We are big fans of the industrial-chic San Francisco 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!
This welcoming Fisherman’s Wharf hotel boasts free wifi, is walking distance to some of the best San Francisco tours, and is home to a self-serve wine bar. (Yes, that exists, and it’s amazing.)
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.
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. Fog or no fog, you’re going to take in some amazing scenes rolling through this picturesque area.
Dylan’s sends out intrepid travelers on Rad Power 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. Each rental includes a detailed map of the city, expert recommendation on must-see stops around your route, a bike lock, and, of course, a helmet.
You can enjoy 10% off San Francisco bike rentals at Dylan’s with promo code 3PERFECTDAYS when reserving on the Dylan’s 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 to top the day off by dining at a local gem. North Beach is filled to the brim with enough seafood, italian dishes, and creative dining experiences to make your head spin. To help you avoid getting overwhelmed, we’ve shared our absolute favorite spot.
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 this North Beach Italian restaurant. Everything at Sotto Mare is seafood, and everything at Sotto Mare is cooked to order on the stovetop.
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!
Looking for more amazing restaurants and incredible sights to enjoy while in San Francisco? Check out this comprehensive guide for more ways to enjoy the Golden Gate City.
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 venue in the world—Club Fugazi.
This 108-year-old theatre has been home to some amazing performances over the years, including the famous Beach Blanket Babylon show. Now, it is home to Broadway veterans putting on a high-flying, circus-themed show, Dear San Francisco: A High-Flying Love Story.
If you are looking to ogle at expert choreography, stunts, contortion, and oh-so-much more, you definitely need to check out this up-and-coming performance.
DAY 2: FUN THINGS TO DO IN SAN FRANCISCO ON YOUR SECOND DAY
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.
You’ll get the most bang for your buck with a tour that has a comprehensive San Francisco one-day itinerary. Dylan’s has been helping travelers explore San Francisco like a local for over a decade. During all those years, we’ve been able to perfect our game plan that covers all of the must-see San Francisco bucket list items—even Muir Woods and Alcatraz!
Our most popular tour allows you to see it all in one day: iconic landmarks and neighborhoods of San Francisco, Sausalito, Muir Woods, and Alcatraz!
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 famous corner of Haight & Ashbury, the sprawling mansions of Billionaires Row, and the Golden Gate Bridge.
From there, 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 to worry about where to eat in Sausalito, as there are plenty of tasty lunch and dessert options to choose from.
Dylan’s guides will teach you everything you need to know before arriving at Muir Woods.
So when you arrive, you’ll be prepared to make the most of your hour visiting Muir Woods. It’s the perfect amount of time to explore the most popular trails, visit the gift shop, and take in the towering redwood forest.
If you are looking for a fun forest activity for your kids under 12, you can ask for a Junior Ranger Activity Book. This fun activity book helps kids learn about Muir Woods and discover all the animals that call the woods home. When they are done filling out the workbook, make sure you find a ranger to swear them in as an official Junior Ranger!
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. Read all about the Muir Woods Cafe grilled cheese here.
After your excursion in the Historic redwoods, it’s time to escape to Alcatraz!
You can’t plan a trip to San Francisco without at least trying to visit Alcatraz Island! While tickets are difficult to come by, you can book them in a tour package with Dylan’s.
Once you are out of the woods, it’s time to hop on a ferry to Alcatraz. Our shuttle will drop you directly at your ferry, so you don’t need to fuss about transportation or finding parking.
After a quick but beautiful ferry in The Bay, you’ll land on Alcatraz Island to walk the grounds, hear the award-winning audio tour of The Cellhouse, witness the cells of famous prisoners, and hear bone-chilling prison ghost stories.
You will get all of these experiences in a single day tour. Talk about an amazing addition to your 3 days in San Francisco!
WHERE TO EAT IN SAN FRANCISCO AFTER A TOUR?
Want to end your busy day with a delicious bang? Head to the old 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. 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
Following our guide for 3 days in 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, hiked through Muir Woods, went on an Official Alcatraz 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 hairpin turns that make up San Francisco’s 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 Crooked Street in any direction.
The best way to visit is to take a minibus tour that allows you to get up close to a walkable distance from Lombard! Learn more about Crooked Street in our Lombard Street Insider’s Guide.
End days in San Francisco 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 Dylan’s Famous Tour + Muir Woods to allow people to see the best parts of San Francisco in a single day!