As soon as I made it into the city, I knew I was in trouble. I had barely been there 30 minutes, and San Francisco already had me. I’m not sure precisely what it was—maybe the steep hills filled with picturesque houses, the happy vibes I got from its inhabitants, or possibly the little boutiques I went strolling by. I hadn’t expected to like it so much—I’m not a huge lover of cities—but I was hooked. If you’ve never been before, go ahead and book a ticket now. I’ll save you the trouble and loop you in on some iconic top attractions in San Francisco you absolutely must try on your first visit to the city!
1 | Painted Ladies of Alamo Square
If you’re a Full House lover like myself, you kind of have to check out the Painted Ladies. They’re absolutely adorable. After checking them out, I definitely had serious #housegoals, but not the millions of dollars to support those goals.
2 | Cruise through San Fran Bay
Take an afternoon cruise through San Francisco Bay. For me, there was nothing cooler than boating under the Golden Gate Bridge! This one is a no brainer, and definitely one of the top attractions in San Francisco.
3 | Check out Alcatraz
While you’re on the water, make sure to take a good look at Alcatraz. Even better, if you have the time, stop and take a tour! I have sort of an odd fascination with prisons, so if you’re anything like me, definitely check it out.
4 | Dolores Park
Dolores Park may have been one of my favorite parts of San Francisco. Imagine a giant park, sunshine overhead, and thousands of people just chilling on picnic blankets. Friends bring snacks, drinks, and other goodies, and just enjoy a day outside. It was such a relaxed atmosphere, and everyone was so friendly! I’ll put it to you this way–if I ever become homeless, I would want to live in Dolores Park.
5 | Cable Cars
Cable cars are a pretty iconic part of San Francisco. I sincerely doubt there are any locals on them, but I say go for it! It’s a top touristy thing to do for a reason…plus, they’re really cute!
6 | Fisherman’s Wharf
Like the cable cars, Fisherman’s Wharf is another one of those top attractions in San Francisco that you just can’t miss. I learned that it actually refers to the whole neighborhood, not just the wharf portion. Make sure to hit up a local seafood joint, check out the iconic Pier 39, and make friends with the pier’s favorite residents: the seals!
7 | Lombard Street
Not going to lie, for this just being a street, I was pretty excited to visit. I mean, how can you not be thrilled to see what’s touted as the “most crooked street in the world?” Factor in stunning houses and blooming flowers, and you have a photographer’s paradise…except for the hundreds of other tourists also stretching to get a photo. Best of luck there!
8 | CREAM
If you want to eat the best ice cream sandwiches of your life, go to CREAM. That’s really all I have…if you’re not into ice cream sandwiches, I’m guessing we’re not friends? Just do it, I promise you will not regret your decision!
9 | Explore Sutro Baths
Sutro Baths used to be a huge, private saltwater swimming pool facility, but the complex burned down back in the 1960s. It’s now in ruins, and a really cool area to walk around and explore. It’s nice to escape the bustle of the city and just enjoy the Land’s End area.
10 | Brunch/ Wander the Hills
Ok, so I don’t know if this is true, but I’m pretty sure everyone in the entire city goes out to brunch on the weekends…at least that’s how it felt trying to get a table Saturday morning! In any case, everyone has the right idea, so copy the locals and hit up the hot brunch spots. Afterwards, walk off that brunch through the San Fran hills.
11 | Drive over Golden Gate Bridge
By this time, you’ve been under the Golden Gate Bridge, but driving over it is 100% one of the top attractions in San Francisco. You get beautiful views of the bay, and the bridge (duh!). Honestly, it’s just one of those items you have to tick off the bucket list…it’s a really cool experience!
12 | Napa
After you drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, just keep on driving (to Napa)! I used one of my days in San Francisco to explore wine country, and it may have been the best decision of my trip…currently tied with ice cream sandwiches. In Napa, you will find wine tasting, sunshine, and happiness…need I say more?
Cheap flights: I’d recommend looking up eDreams.net. They scan tons of different travel discount sites and feature special flight deals.
Where to Stay: Luxurious: Hotel Omni. Mid-Range: Inn San Francisco. Budget: The Willows Inn (as much as San Francisco has budget hotels…just expect to pay a lot when staying in the city. Another option is to check out Airbnb and see what deals you can find there!
Car Rentals: You don’t need a car in San Francisco, but I had a rental since San Fran was the last stop on my California road trip. As far as rental cars go, you can’t go wrong with CarRentals.com. They pull from a number of different car companies, and definitely provide good deals. If you’re looking for a luxury rental, try Sixt–they provide some legit deals on premium and luxury rentals!
For further reading on California, make sure to check out the following guides!
- Venice Beach: For your weekend guide to Venice Beach, look no further!
- Big Sur: Discover the top 8 foolproof tips for driving Big Sur!
- Solvang, California: For a unique mash-up for Dutch culture and California, make sure to check out Solvang!
- Napa Valley: Explore Napa Valley 101 for all you first time visitors!
- Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip: For the most epic 8 day PCH road trip guide down the California coast, look no further!
And folks, there you have it…how to spend a fun-filled weekend in San Francisco. I’m sure I’ll be back again someday, so let me have it—what are some of your favorite things to do in the city?
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I might make a little extra spending money, at no extra cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own and these products/services have been found useful during our travels and come highly recommended to you from yours truly!