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Getaway Guide: Visit San Francisco
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Getaway Guide: Visit San Francisco

With endless things to do in San Francisco, the hardest part is figuring out where to start. Our S.F. getaway guide is here to help.

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8 min read

December 20, 2022

San Francisco is a unique city drawing in tourists, explorers, and those in need of a breath of fresh cultural air. You’ll know you’ve arrived when the commonly noted sense of adventure and admiration starts to take over as you take the towering buildings, the docks, and the majestic Golden Gate bridge peering over the clouds. There’s oh-so much more to explore in between so let’s dive into a fun-filled itinerary to help you visit San Francisco right.

Arriving

Pulling into San Francisco after the lushness of Yosemite Valley, you’re greeted with a contrasting image of city buses, cable cars, Muni Metro trolleys, and skylines welcoming you to the heart of the city. While Ghiradelli and Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Golden Gate Bridge garner a lot of attention, there are so many more landmarks, experiences, and things to do in San Francisco than the tourist destinations let on.

Experience the exciting ride on the historic Cable Cars of San Francisco.

The Stay

Nestled amongst the incredible music venues of Great American Music Hall, The Warfield, and Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, the Phoenix Hotel awaits. Embrace a stay as eccentric as the town itself for your weekend in San Francisco as you take on the rock ‘n’ roll spirit of the 50s, motor court hotel ambiance.

Day 1

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The vibrant colors, endless eateries, and interesting storefronts make the Mission District come to life. 

Afternoon

Lunch

After settling into your room at the unique Phoenix Hotel, lunch is in order. Take a nine-minute walk to the Civic Center BART station to hop on a quick ride toward the San Francisco International Airport. When you arrive in the oldest of San Francisco’s neighborhoods, you’ll have to resist getting too distracted by the beauty of the Mission District to head to Gracias Madre to brim over an incredible array of vegan Mexican food. Warm and colorful interiors meet the mouthwatering scents of home cooking; a rich and overwhelmingly sensory experience awaits. Relish the savory tempeh chorizo, creamy guacamole, and rich cashew nacho cheese as the flavors dance in your mouth; an echo of the liveliness of the Mission District with every bite.

The Mission District is home to Mission Dolores Park—one of the best places to soak in the sunshine.

Dessert and Dolores Park

A stroll down 18th Street takes you past the scent of freshly baked sourdough bread at Tartine Bakery and past the line that forms outside of Bi-Rite Creamery, before leading you to Mission Dolores Park. Grab an organic gelato and enjoy the grassy lawns covered with picnic blankets, play dates, and happy faces soaking up the sunshine. Insert a dose of lounging in the sun to make the most of your visit to San Francisco. You can continue this walking tour on Church Street to see the famed Golden Fire Hydrant that saved the neighborhood during the 1906 fires.

Evening

Dinner

If you want to visit San Francisco like a local, then check out some of the popular but well-kept venues for dinner like El Techo — one of the city’s amazing rooftop restaurants. While there are plenty of Michelin-starred restaurants nearby, there is something about sitting high above the streets, eating Latin American-inspired dishes, and looking over the city that just makes you feel closer to the essence of San Francisco. Indulge in the cotija cheese–topped guacamole, savory empanadas, and spicy grilled shrimp for dinner, and round out the experience with flan for dessert. Bask in the shimmering city lights as the sun starts setting in, giving the city a new soul.

What may seem like an unexciting stop in your San Francisco itinerary may in fact be one of the most memorable; the Wave Organ is a unique sculpture!

The Wave Organ

If you’re not yet ready to call it a night, make sure to pass by the Marina District as you make your way back to the hotel. One of the unique places to visit in San Francisco, The Wave Organ can only be fully witnessed at high tide. Lying just past the lighthouse and yacht club of Marina District, this marble sculpture plays music with the tides.  Relying on the waves to create sounds through its series of 25 organ pipes, this quirky acoustic landmark can actually be quite soothing, setting you up for a good night's rest.

The Painted Ladies are quintessential San Francisco. Head across the street from Alamo Square to see them for yourself.

Day 2

Morning

China Basin

As hard as it may be to believe a full day has already passed in this bustling city, it’s time to seize the next day. The town is alive and waiting for you to explore new neighborhoods. Grab a quick cup of in-room coffee, and head on the 1.5-mile journey into the China Basin. On top of being home to Oracle Park–one of California’s iconic baseball stadiums,  the spot also boasts one of the best brunch locations in the Bay Area.

The interior decor of Marlowe might draw you in, but it's their exquisite cuisine that will have you coming back time and time again. 

Brunch at Marlowe

Marlowe’s menu is chalk full of unique finds. To replenish the kick in your step order the West Bay Sparrow to indulge in a complete vacay mood as you gulp away the refreshing combination of pineapple juice, lemonade, and hibiscus. Carry on this savory journey with the deviled eggs featuring aged provolone, pickled jalapeño, and crispy bacon. Transition with the fried grit cakes as poached eggs and sautéed kale and country gravy bring it all together in a sumptuous medley of flavors. Spare some room, because you won’t want to leave without the house-made donuts paired with lemon, ricotta, and house-made jam.

Afternoon

Chase Center

After such a decadent meal, a leisurely walk is a perfect way to check out one of the best places to visit in San Francisco. Take a one-mile stroll from Marlowe to make your way over to the Chase Center. This rejuvenating jaunt takes you across the Mission Creek Channel, leading you to Mission Bay Commons Park, and opening into Thrive City.  Enjoy the center’s extensive complex full of restaurants, retailers, and community-gathering spaces as you prepare for the two-mile walk to the unmissable Ferry Building of San Francisco.

A jaw-dropping saturation of discoveries and explorations at San Francisco MOMA.

Museums and Galleries

Enjoy a wide range of local favorites, like Dandelion Chocolate, Humphry Slocombe, Blue Bottle Coffee, and Hog Island Oyster Co in the vibrant ambiance of the Ferry Building. With retail therapy setting the tone, make your way to the mind-bending San Francisco Museum of SFMOMA. A saturation of discoveries and explorations at one of San Francisco’s best art galleries will make your jaw drop. Walk back to BART to take you back to the hotel to freshen up and get ready for the evening.

Evening

San Francisco is such a large city, full of things to experience, but it’s also important to pace yourself. Lounging by the pool and relaxing in bed are the perfect preparations for tonight’s plans–dinner and a comedy show. 

Dinner

We recommend kicking off the night at Brenda’s French Soul Food. Located right down the street from the Phoenix, a maze of mirrors on the wall sets the stage for a surprising punch of flavor as you bite into Creole-French fusion cuisine. With an incredibly comforting essence, Brenda’s will have you hooked on the addictive crawfish beignets stuffed with cheddar, scallions, and cayenne. Brace yourself for the hushpuppies with chipotle rémoulade, because there’s no going back. But make sure to save room for the sweet beignet flight, which is anything but optional. Generously dusted with powdered sugar, this plain beignet just might define the taste of your visit to San Francisco. 

The Comedy Show

Though pulling yourself away from Brenda’s may be difficult, it’s time to check out a San Francisco must-see destination–The Punch Line. Grab a ride from Brenda’s to one of the Bay Area’s best comedy clubs situated along the Financial District’s Maritime Plaza.  A mural of San Francisco lines the stage, providing a great reference point and bringing a sense of hominess into the space. Catch a show at this beloved venue featuring many comedy greats–including Dave Chappelle and Ellen Degeneres. End the day on a fun note, and good vibes as joy and laughter fill the room. 

DAY 3

Morning

Head over to Alamo square for the best view of the iconic Painted Ladies of San Francisco from across the street.

Breakfast

As you approach the final hours of your visit to San Francisco you’re sure to be filled with the sensation that there is still so much more to see. But instead of panic, it’s best you settle for a relaxing brunch at the hotel’s on-site restaurant, Chambers, to start your final day of exploring on a delightful note. Start by putting in an early order for your souffle pancake, as the eggs Benedict and the pork belly make their way to your table. Enjoy a delectable experience with perfectly toasted slices of an English muffin topped with savory ham, poached eggs, and a creamy hollandaise as ever there was. After a proper breakfast, savor some classic pancakes paired with ice cream and apple chutney. 

Golden Gate Park and The Painted Ladies

It’s time to hit the pavement and journey to your last outing. Nestled in the Sunset district of San Francisco, the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps await with 163 mosaic steps depicting nature with imagery from the sea to the sun. You can then head out on a 20-minute drive to get in a few more sites; drive past the Painted Ladies, right by the Panhandle, and through Golden Gate Park towards the Conservatory of Flowers - a gorgeous botanical garden perfect to unwind in.

The 16th Avenue Tiled Steps are well worth the visit. Whether you go for the exercise or the views from the top you'll be glad you went.

16th Avenue Tiled Steps

Once you arrive at the famous staircase, start at the intersection of 16th Avenue and Moraga Street to see the artwork right from the beginning. Make sure to divert your attention away from the artsy steps to marvel at the drought-resistant and native gardens that change as you ascend. Take the time to breathe in your surroundings, and take in the sweeping views of the city to carry home with you!

Disclaimer: California.com is not receiving any type of compensation for reviewing any of the products or services mentioned in this article.

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