If you have a few free hours in San Francisco on a layover, but feel overwhelmed at the idea of trying to cram all of the sights in– Fear not! I’ve got you covered.
*It should be noted that this itinerary was designed to meet the desires of my friend group and can absolutely be adjusted to best suit your individual needs! This is what worked best for us given our time constraints and mutual interests.*
Here is a detailed itinerary of the day I planned and perfectly executed in June of 2018.
Start: Powell Street & Market Street
Here, in one of the most popular areas of the city, you can purchase a one-way ticket to ride the famous San Francisco Cable Car! Powell & Market is a great starting location because of its proximity to the Powell Street BART Station– Very helpful for those perhaps coming from Oakland or an airport or elsewhere! Powell & Market is also the location of the famous cable car turn-around point, so it’s essentially the starting point of this particular route. As a result, wait times can be a bit tedious, so allow for extra time. Don’t be discouraged if the line is super duper long though– As the cable cars return empty, a larger than normal number of people can hop on to enjoy the ride!
TIP #1: If traveling with a buddy, waiting in line is the perfect time for one person to grab a couple bottles of water and light snack. Helps pass the time without having to make a pit stop along the way!
TIP #2: Try to snag a spot on the cable car that allows one person to sit and one to stand/hang on by a pole. It’s an incredibly fun experience from both vantage points– PLUS you then have a built-in photographer to capture you in your windswept glory as you hang on!
Enjoy the approximately half hour cable car ride to Fisherman’s Wharf– aka the Taylor Street & Bay Street stop. Along the way, you’ll pass through Chinatown, the famously-crooked Lombard Street, and even catch your first glimpses at the beauty of San Francisco Bay!
Total time: 75 minutes
Stop #1: Fisherman’s Wharf
Hop off the cable car and make your way over to the wharf. Here, you’ll have quite a variety of dining options. The wharf is famous for its sourdough breadbowls and fresh seafood, so foodies will have a field day! Out-of-towners also have the option of indulging in In-N-Out burger, so really, you can’t go wrong.
TIP: If you’re walking down Jefferson Street and feel overwhelmed by your food options, know that taking a left on Taylor Street will present you with more options, but also some great places to sit and enjoy whatever meal you choose! Just watch out for pesky seagulls who are as eager as you are to eat that sourdough bread bowl!
Total time: 60 minutes
Stop #2: Ghirardelli Square
As you finish your lunch and that sugar craving hits, you’ll be relieved to know that Ghirardelli Square is very close by! As you walk back down Jefferson Street, browse the souvenir shops and bask in the vibrancy of this area. The energy is infectious! You’ll know you’re nearing the chocolate shop because of the delicious smells wafting your way (and maybe because of the enormous Ghirardelli sign). Located at 900 North Point Street, Ghirardelli Square will undoubtedly satisfy your sweet tooth and in a variety of ways– chocolates, sundaes, and more! There are a handful of shopping and dining options in the square, but the chocolate shop is definitely the place to be! The shop features the classic Ghirardelli chocolates you know and love, combined with ice creams, hot cocoas, and more. There is truly something for everyone, so take your time exploring and making the best possible choice for yourself!
TIP: A classic move– If you’re there with a friend or partner, get two completely different menu options so that you can indulge in even more chocolate-y glory!
Total time: 45 minutes
Stop #3: Golden Gate Bridge Photo Op!
Take your sugary concoction with you as you walk back down towards the water. You’ll pass the San Francisco Maritime Museum which also boasts a beautiful historical park! Make your way to Van Ness Avenue to the Municipal Pier. Here, if it’s a sunshine-y day, you’ll have amazing views of the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz! Take some selfies and evaluate how you’re feeling before your next stop.
Total time: 30 minutes
Stop #3: The Mrs. Doubtfire House
You have two options to get to 2640 Steiner Street: Uber/Lyft, or walk. Choosing the former will obviously get you there quicker, while the latter provides a great dose of beach views and exercise. Your choice! I chose to walk and I was not disappointed. My legs were crying the next day because of the hills, but it was 100% worth it. It’s about a 10 minute drive or a 40 minute walk. Upon arrival, take ALL of the photos and catch a glimpse of the Robin Williams memorial that has been created.
TIP: If you do choose to walk, definitely pace yourself! Make sure you have water with you and soak up the views and the chance to see a different part of the city!
Total time: 60 minutes (walk)/30 minutes (drive)
Stop #4: The Full House House
To clarify: This is the house featured in the opening credits of the 90s TV show located at 1709 Broderick Street– NOT the Painted Ladies, or row of houses also featured in the opening credits. This house is a short walk from Mrs. Doubtfire’s residence– about 15/20 minutes depending on your pace. As always, you have the option to Lyft/Uber which will take between 5-10 minutes depending on the time of day. There are signs in the immediate area near the house reminding visitors that it is a residential neighborhood and requesting that the volume be kept down. Don’t let that intimidate you– Take those pictures and enjoy the moment!
Total time: 40 minutes (walk)/25 minutes (drive)
310 minutes, or just over 5 hours (walk)
265 minutes, or just under 5 hours (drive)
*Total time does not include travel to/from your point of origin*
This brought my San Francisco day to an end. It was just about perfect– From the weather, to the food, to the people I shared it with. I couldn’t help but smile as I wrote this blog post because of the sheer joy and happiness I felt reliving this glorious day! This city has some serious charm and contagious energy. As short as it was, I absolutely adored my six hour San Fran day and dream of going back for an extended stay.