As a California native, I am deeply proud to be from Southern California (it’s just better😉). That being said, a San Francisco weekend is truly one of my favorite trips. Everything from the city’s history to its wide span tourist attractions and even its crazy hills, San Francisco is a must-see when you’re on the West Coast.
My most recent trip to San Francisco was with my husband in the Fall of 2022 for a work conference. This blog is based off that particular visit, but I also threw in a few extra items I’ve done in previous trips that we weren’t able to knock out this time.
Keep in mind, this list merely scratches the surface of everything you can do in the city and should only serve as a San Francisco weekend itinerary, especially if it’s your first time! I’ve been mastering San Francisco weekend trips since I was in high school so I’m confident in my list of must-sees. Enjoy!
WHERE WE STAYED
The St. Regis San Francisco is centrally located in between Chinatown and Oracle Park. It’s (of course) a beautiful hotel with great amenities (spacious gym!) and dining options and is within walking distance to a few Cable Car stations. It’s also the closest Marriott to Moscone Center, which is where my husband’s work conference was, so the location worked out great for many reasons!
WHERE WE ATE
Red Bay Coffee
Red Bay Coffee has a few cafes throughout California, but I’ve only tried this location in the Ferry Building. Forbes actually named Red Bay to have “San Francisco’s best coffee, hands down.” We grabbed a pastry and quick espresso that served as the perfect pick-me-up. The baristas were also super friendly, which paired well with the delicious, quality coffee😋
Blue Bottle Coffee
Blue Bottle has a locations all over the place so we actually went a couple of times during our San Francisco weekend. We enjoyed their espresso, lattes and Affogato (our favorite dessert!). No matter where you’re staying in the city, I’m sure there’s a Blue Bottle shop close by so I recommend going at least once.
El Techo is a rooftop restaurant that offers authentic Latin American-infused “street food” with gorgeous views of the city in the heart of the Mission District. We enjoyed their margaritas and split the pollo en andobo plate for dinner, which was plenty for the two of us to share. This restaurant is loved by locals and isn’t as touristy, which is a welcomed break if you’re running into crowds at the city’s staples!
Pro Tip: Wear a comfortable shoe (especially if it’s a heel!) when you go. You have to climb a few flights of stairs to get to the top!
Gott’s Roadside is located in the Ferry Building with plenty of outdoor seating facing inland toward the bustling city. We landed here after a frustrating travel day (see Zipcar section below), but were drawn to the restaurant’s retro diner vibe and light atmosphere. We split the chicken tenders and enjoyed some good wine – the perfect remedy to any travel complications😉
Crab House at Pier 39
I’ve been to Pier 39 many times, but this was my first time trying the Crab House – so good! We split a caesar salad, crab chowder sourdough bread bowl and truffle fries and it absolutely hit the spot. There are so many food options at Pier 39 (Fog Harbor Fish House is a great upscale spot!), but if you’re looking for a quick bite to eat in a casual, light and airy restaurant, you should try the Crab House. Good, authentic seafood with waterfront views of the bay.
This is St. Regis‘ restaurant located on the main floor of the hotel. Astra is an upscale American restaurant that offers visually stunning and equally delicious dishes. If you’re looking for an elevated date night, add this one to your list!
SPIN was the first “ping pong social club” I’ve ever been to and made for a fun late night adventure. They have locations throughout the country and offer the fun, unique concept of being “your offline social network”. It’s a lively environment to eat, drink, socialize and play ping pong of course! If you love ping pong or are looking to connect with people, definitely add SPIN to your list.
The St. Regis Bar
The St. Regis Bar is located in… yeah you guessed it, The St. Regis! The upscale bar offers a great variety of fun, high-end cocktails and a great wine selection. They also offer small, tasty appetizers to enjoy with your drink.
Even though we weren’t able to go (so bummed!), this bar was at the top of my list so I figured it deserved a spot on here. KAIYO is a block away from Oracle Park and is rated one of the best rooftop bars in the city. Of course, that means the it’s very hard to get in so they were completely booked out by the time I tried to make a reservation. Learn from my mistake and reserve your spot in advance!
WHAT WE TOURED
Lucky for us, the Dbacks were in town playing the Giants which gave us the perfect excuse to catch a game at the iconic Oracle Park. Not so lucky for us, the Dbacks took a beating, including an inside-the-park home run from the Giants… but even that didn’t stop us from enjoying the stadium!
Oracle Park is one of those places whose very walls leave you awestruck. It holds so must history and in many ways is the heart beat of San Francisco. All that to say, make sure this is at the top of your list, even if you’re not a huge baseball fan! There’s plenty of great local food and drink vendors to enjoy, not to mention those waterfront views behind right field.
Pro Tip: If you travel with CLEAR, you can use it to skip the lines at Oracle Park! Look for the blue CLEAR tents at the park entrance and have your ID ready. It’s that easy!
Golden Gate Bridge
When in San Francisco, am I right? We couldn’t go to SF without visiting THE bridge. Since we were pressed for time and competing with the sunset, we had our Uber drop us off at The Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center. This is one of the most popular spots to see and take photos of the bridge so prepare for crowds if you go! There are plenty of other spots on the north side that give a great view of the infamous bridge. My personal favorites are Battery Spencer, Hawk Hill and the Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point. The Aquatic Park Cove also gives a glimpse of the bridge, but there are better, closer spots if you’re looking to get the shot.
Another must-see if you’re in San Francisco! This is one of my personal favorites because I’m a sucker for Ghirardelli chocolate🤤 Ghirardelli Square is home to a variety of shops and restaurants so it’s easy to spend a lot of time there. For this particular September trip, we only went to The Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop to enjoy their famous hot fudge and snap some golden hour photos with all the fall decor. If you have the time, I definitely encourage you to park here for a while and enjoy the history and magic of Ghirardelli Square! It’s so dreamy at night.
Pier 39 is definitely San Francisco’s most popular pier to tour so it should be on your list if this is your first time in the city! It’s kid-friendly and offers visitors a variety of shops, restaurants, entertainment and attractions. After grabbing a bite to eat at the Crab House, we bought an ornament at Christmas in San Francisco (this store will put you in the Christmas spirit no matter what time of year you’re there!), indulged our sweet tooth at Candy Baron and window shopped SOLVE IT! Think Outside of the Box. We ended our time at Pier 39 by snapping some photos of Alcatraz.
We weren’t able to go on this particular trip, but I’ve been a few times so it deserves a place on this list😊 Touring Alcatraz Island is a MUST when you’re in San Francisco, especially if you’re a murderino / true crime lover like me. Make sure to get your tickets in advance as this is a popular attraction!
Aquatic Park Cove
Aquatic Park Cove is right across the street from Ghirardelli Square so you can easily walk there if you’re in the area. The narrow beachfront gives you a taste of the North Pacific Ocean and a distant view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. I wasn’t planning on going to the beach in the Fall, so we only dipped our feet in and snapped some photos before the sun went down, but it was such a fun way to end the night.
This is another one we weren’t able to get to on this trip, but one that I’ve been to many times before and absolutely love! Chinatown is actually the oldest Chinatown in North America as well as the largest one outside of Asia. It’s one of the top tourist attractions of San Francisco and offers visitors a variety of shops, events, restaurants and more. If you go during a San Francisco weekend, plan to be here a while – it’s huge!
Mission Creek is just south of Oracle Park and is a peaceful, scenic channel. We only strolled the north side and snapped some photos, but there’s more to do on the south side like kayak rentals, sport courts, a dog park and more. If you find yourself on this side of town, make sure to check out Mission Creek. It makes for a less-crowded, beautiful photo op😊
How We Got Around
San Francisco is best seen on foot so I recommend walking as much as you can. Just make sure you research the area and stay safe 😊
Besides walking, riding Cable Cars is how we got around the city since they are easy to access throughout the city and stop at many popular areas. The maps are super easy to use, just download the MuniMobile app to get started!
Rideshare apps are always an option in San Francisco. We only Uber’d twice (not counting to and from the airport) when we were there – once because of time constraints and the other because the Cable Car route wouldn’t have been as convenient.
Zipcar (we tried)
Unfortunately, we did not have the best experience with Zipcar. We were excited to try them out for the first time since it’s (at least advertised as) an affordable hourly car rental service. This would have worked perfectly with our San Francisco weekend plans to quickly run around the city with different outfits. Unfortunately, we had tech trouble picking up the car (couldn’t get it unlocked) and ultimately had to cancel the order after customer service couldn’t virtually figure out the problem either. That being said, they gave us a full refund, but the reviews are mixed online so venture at your own risk!