If you follow our 1-day itinerary and have a day to spare, use it to get familiar with other famous landmarks around the city. Start with breakfast, a science lesson, and a pleasant bayside stroll in the Marina District. Next, cross the famed Golden Gate Bridge on foot; then take a bus to Golden Gate Park. After exploring the city's beloved park, it's time for lunch and power shopping on Haight Street, followed by dinner and cocktails back in the Marina District. Smashing.
Start: Bus nos. 22, 28, 30, 30X, 43, or 76.
1. Good Morning Marina District
Long known as one of the most picturesque and coveted patches of local real estate, the Marina area was hard hit in the 1989 earthquake, with televised images of its collapsed mansions grabbing the nation’s attention. Today, you’d never know it ever happened. Here, along the northern edge of the city, multimillion-dollar homes back up to the bayfront Marina, where flotillas of sailboats and the mighty Golden Gate Bridge make for a magnificent backdrop on a morning stroll. Start the day with a good cup of coffee on Chestnut Street (see our favorite spot, below); then get some postcard-perfect snapshots at the beautiful neoclassical Palace of Fine Arts, its columns reflected in a lovely man-made lagoon. Walk from there over to Crissy Field, with its restored wetlands and beachfront path.
2. The Grove
If you can’t jump-start your brain properly without a good cup of coffee, then begin your day at The Grove (2250 Chestnut St.; [tel] 415/474-4843), located in the Marina District—it’s as cozy as an old leather couch and has big, killer breakfasts, too.
Follow the beachfront path to historic Fort Point and to the southern underside end of:
3. The Golden Gate Bridge
It’s one of those things you have to do at least once in your life—walk across the fabled Golden Gate Bridge, the most photographed man-made structure in the world. As you would expect, the views along the span are spectacular and the wind a wee bit chilly, so bring a jacket. It takes at least an hour to walk northward to the vista point and back.
When you return to the southern end, board either Muni bus no. 28 or 29 (be sure to ask the driver if the bus is headed toward Golden Gate Park).
4. Golden Gate Park
Stretching from the middle of the city to the Pacific Ocean, 1,017 acre Golden Gate Park is one of the city’s best endowments. Since its development in the late 1880s, it has provided San Franciscans with respite from urban life—with dozens of well-tended gardens, museums, a bison paddock, a Victorian greenhouse, and great grassy expanses prime for picnicking, lounging, or tossing a Frisbee.
Have the bus driver drop you off near John F. Kennedy Drive. Walking eastward on JFK Drive, you’ll pass five of the park’s most popular attractions: Stow Lake, the de Young Museum, the Japanese Tea Garden, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Conservatory of Flowers.
5. Gordo Taqueria
By now you’re probably starving, so walk out of the park near the Arboretum, up to 9th Avenue at Lincoln Avenue. Continue up 9th to grab an incredible burrito from Gordo Taqueria (1239 9th Ave.; [tel] 415/566-6011), my favorite burrito spot for more than 35 years.
Once you’re done, walk through the park toward downtown and exit the park on Haight Street.
6. Exploring the Haight-Ashbury District
Despite the overall gentrification of San Francisco, the birthplace of the Summer of Love and Flower Power remains surprisingly gritty. For a several-block-long stretch, Haight Street is lined with inexpensive restaurants and shops popular with young and old nonconformists—as well as plenty of homeless people, who congregate on the sidewalk over beers, bongos, and buds. Spend at least an hour strolling up Haight Street, browsing the cornucopia of used-clothes stores, leather shops, head shops, and poster stores. There are some great bargains to be found here, especially for vintage clothing.
At the intersection of Haight and Masonic streets, catch the Muni no. 43 bus heading north, which will take you through the Presidio and back to the Marina District.
7. Dinner & Drinks
After such a full day on your feet, you deserve a memorable San Francisco dinner, and Nopa is a great place to get it. Located nearby but off the tourist path, it’s got a vibrant bar scene, killer cocktails, and a fantastic menu offering “urban rustic” food—which translates to contemporary American cuisine with seasonal, farm-fresh influences.