What If, San Francisco

You are here

September 28, 2022

Our Gate is Open™: Spend Three Days in San Francisco

It's time to satisfy your pent-up desire to travel. And what better way to do that than with a long weekend in San Francisco? With attractions, museums, restaurants, bars and clubs all operating at full capacity, our gates are open! Follow our custom, three-day itinerary for the best way to explore the City by the Bay.

Did you know you can get from San Francisco International Airport to the many hotels and attractions of downtown San Francisco for less than $10? Take a ride on BART, the Bay Area's Rapid Transit system, and start your San Francisco adventure.

Day 1 / Friday

Sign off from work and leave your luxurious home office (i.e. the couch) behind.

Check In to Your Hotel

San Francisco's hotels are ready to welcome you again. Pamper yourself in their luxurious accommodations. Most of the city's 30,000+ hotel rooms are located near its most popular attractions. You'll be able to explore easily on foot and then return to a comfortable room with a scenic view of San Francisco.


Dine Out

If you arrive in San Francisco by dinner time, you can sample some of the city's excellent cuisine. There is delicious food to be found in every neighborhood, and most restaurants have created safe and charming outdoor environments where you can sit down and enjoy your meal. Plus, our temperate, dry weather means that al fresco dining is always in style. 

Try authentic Chinese dishes in Chinatown. Choose a slice of prize-winning pizza in North Beach. There's fresh seafood at Fisherman's Wharf and mouth-watering burritos in the Mission. With nearby local breweries and the vineyards of Napa Valley and Sonoma County keeping us well supplied, there's no limit to the pairings you can create.

Take In the View

From wherever you decided to dine, it won't take you long to find yourself at one of San Francisco's many inspiring vantage points. Along the water, you can look across to the Bay Lights of the Bay Bridge or admire our other landmark bridge. Out in the Sunset or the Richmond, you'll get incredible views of colorful skies and the expansive Pacific Ocean. Dining in Noe Valley, the Castro, or Pacific Heights? Just find the nearest, steepest block to climb (you'll feel less guilty about dessert) and observe the city from a new and breathtaking angle.

One of the best ways to see the city sights is on a Big Bus hop-on, hop-off bus tour. Enjoy the flexibility before and after dinner as you explore from the Golden Gate Bridge to Fisherman's Wharf and Haight-Ashbury to Chinatown. Book a tour.

Day 2 / Saturday

Enjoy the Outdoors

We've all been cooped up for so long that the great outdoors has never been more appealing. Lucky for you, San Francisco is one of the greenest cities in the country, with acres of protected land for you to explore.

For a leisurely stroll, you can walk the Embarcadero from Oracle Park in SoMa all the way to Fisherman's Wharf. This flat, paved promenade gives you gorgeous views of the Bay Bridge, Treasure Island, and Alcatraz.

On the west side of the city is Golden Gate Park. This 150-year-old marvel of landscape engineering is bigger than New York City's Central Park! With much of it closed off to vehicles, you can amble along both footpaths and roadways while giving your fellow urban explorers plenty of space. Within the park, you'll find hidden treasures like a peaceful lake, a herd of bison, towering Dutch windmills, and museums like the California Academy of Sciences and the de Young Museum.

To the north lies the Presidio, a former military base turned national park. Filled with trails made for both hikers and bikers, as well as some fascinating American history, the Presidio is a must-see if you're looking to snap a jaw-dropping photo. Its views of the bay, the ocean, and the Golden Gate Bridge can't be beat. Don't forget to check out the miniature model of the original Disneyland theme park inside the Walt Disney Family Museum on you're way out.

The newest addition to the Presidio is the Tunnel Tops. Designed by James Corner Field Operations, the team that created New York City's High Line, the Tunnel Tops are 14 acres of new parkland at the heart of the Presidio. By being ingenuously built over Highway 101, the Tunnel Tops connect the Main Lawn of the Presidio to Crissy Field, giving visitors a safe and car-free way to walk all the way to the shoreline. The Tunnel Tops feature scenic overlooks, trails, and picnic areas that offer stunning views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. They're populated with 180 varieties of native plants and will be crucial to the ongoing conservation efforts within the wider Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

In each of San Francisco's neighborhoods, you'll find scenic and unique green spaces. Alamo Square Park is close to the varied restaurants along Divisadero Street and offers some of the most gorgeous views of the city skyline. Alta Plaza Park in Pacific Heights is perfect for anyone looking to get their steps in—but we promise the climb to the top is worth it. The same could be said of Corona Heights Park, just a short walk from the Castro. If just kicking back, soaking up the sun, and people-watching is what you're after, then Dolores Park is where you'll want to be. Whatever you're in the mood for, you can experience it in San Francisco's many parks.

Get Inspired At Our Museums

San Francisco's must-see museums are welcoming visitors back. Whether your interests lie in natural history, the fine arts, or our shared and evolving culture, you'll find inspiration in San Francisco's museums.

The California Academy of Sciences contains a planetarium, an aquarium, and a rainforest, all beneath one living roof. Its neighbor, the de Young Museum, hosts artworks from around the world and across the centuries. It also has a seven-story observation tower that offers breathtaking views.

The Legion of Honor, perched on the city's western cliffs, contains artworks by some of the greatest European masters. For more contemporary collections, visit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in SoMa. The building itself is a work of art!

When you think of Walt Disney, you might think of Southern California; but here in San Francisco's Presidio, you'll find the Walt Disney Family Museum, which celebrates the works, genius, and legacy of one of the 20th century's greatest creators.

The Museum of the African Diaspora, which is affiliated with the Smithsonian's National Museum of African-American History and Culture, explores the histories and cultures of African migrants through the ages, while the Asian Art Museum has priceless artifacts from a variety of East and South Asian cultures. Some are more than 5,000 years old! The Contemporary Jewish Museum celebrates the contributions of Jewish Americans to the worlds of film, fashion, and food, among other parts of our culture.


Explore Our Icons

You can't plan a visit to San Francisco without making time for those things that make our city so unique. Take a tour of Alcatraz, the infamous former federal prison situated smack in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Take the perfect selfie along the winding turns on Lombard Street. Coit Tower is nearby, and a hike up to its base on Telegraph Hill is great exercise rewarded by great views. PIER 39 is another man-made wonder, full of shops and restaurants and home to San Francisco's most famous non-human residents, the California sea lions. San Francisco's parks have remained open, meaning you can take a picnic lunch to Alamo Square and have your "Full House" moment in front of the Painted Ladies. And who can forget our Golden Gate Bridge, which you can always walk, bike, or drive across for a quintessential California experience.

Dine Out

This is the night you'll want to splurge and reserve that special dining experience you'll never forget and can't find anywhere else.

At State Bird Provisions and Rich Table, you'll find succulent dishes made from the finest, freshest, locally sourced ingredients. The Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn, created by one of the most awarded female chefs in the world, Dominique Crenn, serves up artistically assembled dishes that each have a story to tell. Besharam is another establishment with a female founder. Chef Heena Patel uses bold flavors to create her signature Indian dishes.

The House of Prime Rib continues its 70-year tradition of serving up the biggest and best cuts of meat. Zuni Cafe is another San Francisco institution, famous for its roasted chicken. Downtown, Tadich Grill, the oldest continually operated restaurant in California, offers steak, seafood, and intimate quarters.

Whether you're looking for something classic or cutting-edge, San Francisco's culinary scene has what you're looking for.


Day 3 / Sunday

Dine Out

For your last meal in San Francisco, you'll want a hearty breakfast you won't soon forget. That's why we suggest starting your day at one of the city's incredible bakeries. b. patisserie in Pacific Heights serves indulgent pastries like a cheddar-jalapeno scone or chocolate-banana-almond croissant that will get your morning started right. Then there's Craftstman & Wolves, known for its unique creation, the Rebel Within: a soft-boiled egg cooked inside a muffin!

Shop Unique Local Businesses

Many of San Francisco's unique neighborhoods have their own special shopping districts. Sure, the flagship luxury retail of Union Square is a treat, but what about finding something that says "only in San Francisco"?

In the Marina, you'll find charming boutiques along Union and Chestnuts streets. Up the hill from there, Fillmore St. runs through the Pacific Heights and Fillmore neighborhoods and offers designer clothing, stylish home furnishings, and indulgent self-care items. Hayes Street near Civic Center has great clothes shopping in close proximity to excellent cafes. Haight Street between Masonic Avenue and Stanyan Street is where to go to get your fix of San Francisco's Summer of Love wear. And in the Mission, a walk down Valencia Street offers everything from antique furniture to independent bookstores to vintage records.

Visit Chinatown

A city within a city, San Francisco's Chinatown is the oldest and largest such neighborhood in the U.S. Its narrow streets are lined with unique stores and excellent restaurants. The walls are covered in art celebrating the history and culture of the neighborhood. Lanterns sway in the breeze and traditional prayers and music fill the air.

Grant Avenue is great for photos, but to really immerse yourself in the neighborhood hustle and bustle, take a stroll down Stockton Street. Lined with fresh markets and local shops, this is where the community comes out to do its business.

Learn more about Chinatown at the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum or the free Chinese Cultural Center. You can also get an insider's perspective by signing up for guided experiences with All About Chinatown Tours or Wok Wiz Tours.

Of course, Chinatown might best be experienced through your tastebuds. Plan a meal at the trendy Mister Jiu's or the sprawling ChinaLive, where many styles of Chinese cuisine is on the menu. Don't forget to treat yourself to a stop at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company. You can even watch the cookies get made!


Once you've spent a weekend here, it's time to plan your next San Francisco trip, because we all know three days is never enough.

Looking for more travel ideas? Look no further than across the bay at Oakland and the Mt. Diablo Region.

You may also like