Help me plan my itinerary for a San Francisco vacation

I know that there’s a ton of information out there about what to do and what to see, but it’s overwhelming and frankly I’m just trying to figure out an itinerary. How long to stay in what cities (and what to do during the time that I have).

Here’s the situation - it’s going to be me and my wife without any of our 4 kids. We are in our 40’s, we drink wine, but aren’t really into wine. Hiking and biking might be fun, but at the same time we’re not the super duper athletic type. We also don’t want to spend the time shopping. Sightseeing and light physical activity would be in order.

We arrive in San Francisco late Saturday afternoon (May 11) and and leave on Friday May 17th.

We haven’t booked our hotel yet, so I’m trying to figure out how many days to spend in San Francisco, and if we should stay in any surrounding areas - so I’m looking for advice.

Someone said a night in Carmel might be fun. Is there anyplace else nearby we should spend the night at? I’d like to get the hotel bookings out of the way.

In San Francisco, from what I read Union Square area is a good place to be (we were going to use Hotwire, and just specify that area and roll the dice on the specific hotel).

I’d like to see Alcatraz, and maybe bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, and see Muir Woods. What else should we add to our list?

Thanks in advance!

Frankly, I’d spend the entire week in SF, and explore other areas as day trips. SF has a lot to see and do, and a week isn’t as much time as you think.

You might enjoy some of the walking tours offered by San Francisco City Guides. And Golden Gate Park is worth a full day of exploration, at least. And I highly recommend a visit to the Asian Art Museum. And see what’s playing at the Castro Theater during your stay; it’s a fun place to catch a flick.

If you want to see Alcatraz, book ahead. The night tour is especially interesting, and often sells out.

Consider taking the ferry across the harbor to Sausalito, and spending an afternoon there. It’s a cute town, and the ferry crossing gives you a good look at SF from the bay.

I’m sure others will soon chime in with suggestions. Enjoy your trip - SF is fantastic!

Book your Alactraztrip now or at least within the next handful of days - they can sell out very quickly.

Are you going to burden yourself with a car, or are you going to use transit? AFAIK, most of the Union Square area hotels charge rather handsomely for parking.

There are car rental places in or near Union Square, so you could pick one up for a day (or two) trip to Carmel - it’s about two hours from SF.

gotpasswords - we hadn’t decided on a car… I like the idea of renting for a few days. We did hear that it’s a great drive up the Pacific Coast highway…

Is that something that’s worth it?

Artemis, thanks for the tips. It looks like the Alcatraz night tour either isn’t available when we are going or has sold out! :frowning:

An underappreciated alternative to Alcatraz is Angel Island. Not as famous, but drive or ferry to Tiburon from San Francisco, then catch a ferry to Angel Island and tour the Immigration Station - the Ellis Island of the west - also the hiking around Angel Island is gentle and pretty.

So many things to do in SF, I would recommend checking out some of the other threads we’ve had about this:"san+francisco""san+francisco"

I’m sure there are others, but this at least should be a start…

Public transit is so good in SF (and parking so expensive), you definitely only want a car for those days going afield (preferably weekdays):

  • Day trip to Carmel & Monterey
  • Muir Woods and Stinson Beach
  • Day to trip to Marin County

Sausalito and Angel Island you can do by ferry, Golden Gate Park by Muni bus, The Piers (including Alcatraz) by Cable Car, the Airport by BART.

The Castro (beautiful Art Deco movie palace) is a great idea but not many films showing that week that might work with the family. The best night is your first Sunday, when they’re showing THE RED SHOES in magnificent Technicolor at 8pm. Might be a good way to wrap things up after a day of walking/exploring downtown.

Are you ok with walking? Some places (Lombard St., Coit Tower, Union St., Fort Point) are close enough to other places you’ll be going that doing a nice (albeit hilly) walk might be nice, given the weather and some of the neighborhoods you’d be walking through anyway. Definitely find a city map and concentrate your days in clusters around geographic areas and you’ll be able to make the most of your stay (energy, time, $).

Cool! If you have more specific questions, feel free to ask.

Two of my favorites are the Palace of Fine Arts and while you are there, the Exploratorium.
Then there is… the sutro baths for some fascinating exploring.