12 Best Things to Do in San Francisco in a Weekend

Welcome to San Francisco! The land of dreamers, hippies, and the world’s most innovative tech pioneers. You’ll find never-ending enjoyment in the 7x7 mile Californian peninsula. Which, exciting as it sounds, means you can’t cover it all in a quick break. Instead, follow this ultimate guide to visiting San Francisco on a weekend.

San Francisco is probably the most scenic major city in the United States. Its physical location next to the ocean and large bay make for some very picturesque views. It has some of the best architecture to be found in the entire country. There are a number of really good sites to see and some of the top things to do in California. The restaurant options are incredible. It’s the best of San Francisco.

On your road trips from San Francisco, you’ll see some major landmarks, hit up lesser-known gems, and enjoy some delightfully tasty restaurants too. And when you return, you can see the rest. Now, go pack. Prepare for anything and everything. San Francisco has a surprise or two around every corner.

For the next time when you plan your trip to USA you should also add spending the New Years Eve in San Francisco in your bucket list.

First, let’s have a quick discussion about the San Franciscan weather. Because it’s a weird one. San Francisco is subject to micro-climates, where the weather changes quite dramatically within a small area. In one day, you can go from boiling hot to freezing cold. Hell, it’s possible from one street to the next. For that reason, you must pack layers.

Oh, and fog is a real thing in San Francisco. It even has a name, Karl the Fog. And a funny Twitter profile too. The summer months tend to be the foggiest with highs in the morning and the evening. Be warned, it may obstruct your views. Climate is mild throughout the year.

This wonderful West Coast city is an ideal getaway destination for singles, couples, and families. The worth-seeing sites, enchanting views, beautiful streets, and outdoor dining make a great part of San Francisco to visit. Even if you’re not a fan of crowds, San Francisco has a few landmarks that you’ll definitely want to see even if you have to elbow a few ribs along the way.

While visiting the most instagrammable places in San Francisco, everyone finds their place. Here are few options you’ll want to consider. And remember, they can get crowded. If you don’t want to take your luggage or valuables with you, leave them at a safe and secure San Francisco luggage storage facility.

best things to do in San Francisco

Here are a few fun things to do in San Francisco during your weekend getaway.

1. Golden Gate Bridge

A walk, drive, or bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge is another only in San Francisco experience to consider, if you go there. Undoubtedly one of the most famous bridges in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge is an icon of the city. Among the historical landmarks in California, this suspension bridge connecting San Francisco to Marin County completed in 1937, is both beautiful and durable.

It was made to face winds of more than 100 miles per hour. The pedestrian walk provides unique views of the beautiful Bay Area, and is one of the best vacation spots in the US. The big red beast stretches nearly two miles across the waters to connect with Marin County.

If you want to cross the Golden Gate Bridge, you can walk across for free. Or you could do it quicker on a bike. Cyclists are allowed on the bridge’s pedestrian area until 3:30 pm on weekdays. Alternatively, if you want to marvel at the big ole bridge without actually having to cross it, head to Baker Beach where crashing waves and the bridge combine in one stunning vista.

2. Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island has been home to some of the world’s most notorious criminals. It’s seen eight brutal murders. And an untold number of other horrors… so naturally, the island and its infamous prison are among San Francisco’s most popular tourist attractions.

For that reason, booking ahead is a must. Last-minute Alcatraz tickets are available, but really you don’t want the hassle. Instead, the authorized concessioner, Alcatraz cruises, offers three different tours: a night tour, a day tour, and a behind the scenes tour.

All will give you a chance to experience a prisoner’s life on The Rock and to explore the world’s most famous cell house. A tour also includes the very necessary round-trip ferry.

3. Pier 39

If in the area, San Francisco is worth a strategic visit. The Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 area is a great tourist destination. Yes it’s very touristy, but you can get a sense of what is good and unique about San Francisco. The waterfront neighborhood does attract lots of tourists. Lots. But, if you’re prepared for that, you can still have a wonderful day exploring.

You should head straight to Pier 39, where you’ll find the Aquarium of the Bay and a delightful herd of resident sea lions. After, enjoy eating some of the best crabs in San Francisco at Pier 39. Among the fun things to do in San Francisco, taste Clam Chowder, a soup based on potatoes, clams, onions and celery. The best thing is that in a lot of restaurants in USA serve it inside a bread.

Once you’ve seen the icons of the city, it’s time to go a bit deeper into San Francisco and get to its soul.

4. Twin Peaks

In the Summer of Love, 1967, San Francisco became the birthplace of the hippie movement. And the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood was its epicenter. While free love and tie-dye t-shirts are not as prevalent as they once were, the area still attracts those with a love of the counterculture.

Take an afternoon to explore Haight’s extravagant wonderfulness, dipping into vintage clothes stores, anarchist bookshops, and record emporiums. Along the way, look out for the incredible murals. Some of which depict former Haight residents including Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. Finally, if you’re looking for a fun night, have a drink at one of Haight’s fun dive bars.

5. Golden Gate Park

Don’t miss Golden Gate Park, which is one of the best city parks in the United States. At more than 1,000 acres, Golden Gate Park is absolutely ginormous. You could just relax in its open green spaces. There are some beautiful gardens and museums. And you could easily spend a full day or two exploring the Presidio, which was established by the Spanish Empire in the 18th century and is now part of the national park system. It doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

6. California Academy of Sciences

But why not enjoy a morning of culture and tour a museum? The world-famous science museum covers (pretty much) everything on earth and beyond with some genuinely stunning displays.

7. Japanese Tea Garden

Continue the cultural exploration at the Japanese Tea Gardens. There you can wander its highly manicured gardens and enjoy a traditional cuppa in the Tea House. Finally, head to the bison paddock to see mighty American bison wandering the fields.

8. Marin Headlands

Marin and San Mateo counties have some spectacular stretches of unspoiled seashore. There are many beaches, but there are also vertical cliffs and offshore rocks. Much of it is quite wild and natural. Half Moon Bay has some very nice beaches. The only place near the Bay Area that has a Southern California beach culture is Santa Cruz, which has a boardwalk amusement park.

Compared to other major metro areas the Bay Area has an extraordinary access to beautiful natural areas as well as urban attractions. Within a few minutes of anywhere in the Bay Area you can be hiking/mountain biking trails in beautiful mountains and forests, wind surfing or watching birds on the bay, or walking along a spectacular part of the Pacific seashore.

9. Grace Cathedral

Nob Hill is a good location. It has lots of beautiful views and it is within walking distance of the cable car museum, the maritime museum, Chinatown, Telegraph Hill, North Beach (Italian neighborhood), Grace Cathedral, etc. The Fairmont and Mark Hopkins hotels are the best known. And there is a cable car line nearby. This is a hilly area, so you will get an aerobic workout on the uphill parts.

Most of the attractions are to the north and east, but you can walk to the south to Union Square. If you walk in that direction be careful that you don’t accidentally enter The Tenderloin, though it is perfectly safe during the day and you might find it interesting. Some of the hills in San Francisco are so steep that there are stairways instead of streets.

10. Marshall's Beach

Unlike many nude beaches, it’s not a long drive. You could walk there from downtown San Francisco. There are 336 stairs down a steep trail from the parking lot, so you’ll want to be physically fit. This is a beach for everyone. The south end is mostly people wearing clothes. The middle area is mostly nudists of both sexes, but men are a big majority.

At the north end, sometimes unapproachable at high tide, you can see or even participate in a wide variety of sexual activity, if you are so inclined. The north end is visible from the Golden Gate bridge. Under the bridge is a fortress constructed in 1853, 12 years before slavery came to an end. It was built to protect the 49ers and others from pirates or military ships that might sale into the bay.

When the tide is especially low, you can walk right up to the fortress. Tourists inside the fortress can see what they might consider very shocking activities on the beach! The only downside is it is often cool and foggy.

11. Coit Tower

Chinatown is very interesting. It is the biggest and oldest Chinese community in North America, but don’t make the mistake of spending all your time on Grant Avenue. That is for the tourists. Stockton Street and the narrow alleyways are more interesting. Right next to Chinatown is the Italian neighborhood of North Beach, which is great to explore on foot.

Walk to the top of Telegraph Hill and take the elevator to the top of Coit Tower for the views. And if you are in good shape take the stairways to see a unique community on the east side of the hill.

12. Angel Island

San Francisco can get a bit, um, hectic. Which is, of course, why we love it. But, if you want to relax, some of the best camping in California can be found a short ferry ride away on Angel Island.

The largest natural island in the bay, Angel Island was once a military base and immigration station. But it’s now better known for its beautiful views of the San Francisco skyline. A visit is all about taking it easy. No all-night raves here. Just take gentle hikes along its nature trails and enjoy its gorgeous city views.

Remember, if you’re going to spend a weekend in San Francisco, you’ve got to be prepared for anything and everything. The city is full of wild surprises (and even wilder people).

To make the most of it, just go with the flow. Embrace the spirit of the city. And be safe. Trust me, you’ll have an unforgettable experience.
Kalyan Panja