If you follow the 1-day itinerary above and have a day to spare, use it to get familiar with other famous landmarks around the city. Start with 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
The area that became famous for its scenes of destruction after the 1989 earthquake has long been one of the most picturesque and coveted patches of local real estate. 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. Get some postcard-perfect snapshots at the stunning Palace of Fine Arts, built for the Panama Pacific Exhibition of 1915, and then walk over to Crissy Field, where restored wetlands and a beachfront path lead to historic Fort Point and to the southern underside end of the Golden Gate Bridge.
2. 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).
3. Golden Gate Park
Stretching from the middle of the city to the Pacific Ocean and comprising 1,017 acres, Golden Gate Park is one of the city’s greatest attributes. Since its development in the late 1880s, it has provided San Franciscans with respite from urban life—offering dozens of well-tended gardens, museums, a buffalo 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.
4. Cha Cha Cha
By now you’re probably starving, so walk out of the park, past the throngs of young squatters (don’t worry—they tend to be harmless) and into the Haight to Cha Cha Cha (1801 Haight St.; tel. 415/386-7670). Order plenty of dishes from the Caribbean tapas-style menu and dine family-style. Oh, and don’t forget a pitcher of sangria—you’ve earned it.
5. Exploring the Haight-Ashbury District
Despite the overall gentrification of San Francisco, the birthplace of the Summer of Love and Flower Power remains gritty. The several blocks of Haight Street lined with inexpensive restaurants and shops are popular with young and old nonconformists, 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.
When you get to 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.
6. 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.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.