5-Day Adventure Itinerary in San Francisco

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Advisor - Phoebe Pierce
Curated By

Phoebe Pierce

  • San Francisco

  • California

  • Food & Wine

  • Arts & Culture

  • Adventure Travel

  • Solo Travel

  • Local Culture

  • Sightseeing

  • Outdoors

top of a hill in a coastal city on a blue sky day
Curator’s statement

San Francisco is filled with fun adventures, sights, dining, arts, and more. There is no shortage of city excursions, yet there is plenty of nature to explore in Golden Gate Park. You can experience a diverse array of different foods and neighborhoods, from Italian food in North Beach, to Dumplings in Chinatown. For art lovers, there is the Museum of Modern Art, the Legion of Honor, the California Academy of Sciences, and the DeYoung Museum, to start. On a one-day excursion you can experience the Redwood trees of the Muir Woods, and taste fine foods and wines in Napa Valley. This area has some incredible coastal areas as well, from Baker Beach with iconic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, to Stinson Beach, with gigantic views of the Pacific Ocean. This guide will walk you through a fun and adventurous 5 day itinerary, which you can customize. The only caution is to bring comfortable walking shoes, because this city is packed with lots of hills.

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Day 1: Arrive in San Francisco

cityscape of skyscrapers and smaller buildings

You will arrive at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), and you can take BART (the local subway) into Embarcadero or Montgomery Stations in Downtown SF. These are close to your hotel. Alternatively, you can take a shuttle into your hotel.

If you arrive after 4pm, you can get aperitifs and drinks at The View Lounge. You can find an incredible view of San Francisco here, on the 39th floor of the San Francisco Marriott Marquis. Including a view of the Trans-America Pyramid.

For dinner, you can get Thai food at Osha Thai Restaurant, where delicate purple orchids will don your Pad Thai.

Day 2: Pier 39 and North Beach

city street

After you wake up, make your way down to the Ferry Building, either by a short walk or 5 minute BART ride. Here, you can explore the freshly baked goods, and many artisan foods being sold at the market.

Afterwards, you can hop on the trolley outside of the Ferry Building, and ride to Pier 39. Here you can explore the candy shops, attractions, including a Carousel, the sea lions, and the Bay Aquarium, where you can walk underwater in a glass tunnel surrounded by octopi and sharks.

Take a 10 minute walk, or trolley to North Beach for lunch. This Italian American neighborhood is known for it's excellent cuisines, gelato, and more. Grab a slice of artisan Italian Pizza at Tony's Pizza Napoletana, or classic Italian dishes at Barbara's Pinseria and Cocktail Bar.

Continue back to your hotel through Chinatown, exploring the different shops. Go to City Lights Bookstore on your way back, or if you are interested in hiking, walk from here up to Coit Tower, where you can see picturesque views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. If you choose to walk down the other side of Telegraph Hill, you may see the colorful green parrots of the Hill, and you will definitely see the Trans-America Pyramid.

For dinner, dine at a Dim Sum Restaurant in Chinatown, or at The Stinking Rose, a restaurant in SF known for it's over-use of Garlic. Not so brave? Take a rideshare back to North Beach, and try another restaurant in North Beach for Dinner. You won't regret it!

Day 3: Trolley through the city

trolley on a city street

After enjoying a complimentary hotel breakfast, make your way down to Powell St. where you can hop on the trolley. Take a walk up to Union Square, to see the attractions and shopping, if you are interested. But, you can't get on the trolley at Union Square, so you have to walk back down to Powell & Market to get on the Powell-Hyde Trolley.

Enjoy speeding through the streets. You can get off the trolley and have lunch at Cafe Meuse. After lunch, get back on the trolley, speeding through Russian Hill, until you reach Lombard Street. Get off the trolley and enjoy the wonderful city views, and winding Lombard St.

After taking your pictures, get back on the Trolley, to the end of the line, which is between Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman's Wharf. Go to Ghirardelli Square to explore the historic Chocolate Museum, and try some delicious chocolates too.

Reembark on the trolley in the opposite direction. You can get off at Broadway and Hyde. 2 blocks over is Serafina - a charming Italian restaurant. Get back on the trolley to your hotel to get your rest; you will need it.

Day 4: Muir Woods and Napa Valley

view of the sky in a forest with sun peaking through tall trees

After complimentary hotel breakfast, start of your day excursion to Muir Woods, organized by a tour company (this is easier than renting a car and trying to find parking in SF).

The tour will lead you across the Golden Gate Bridge (take pictures!) and into the winding roads of Marin. On Highway 1, you will be shocked by breathtaking coastal views, with vibrant green hues and rich ocean blues due to the strong rains California has received this winter.

A walk in the Muir Woods will leave you at awe of these Jurassic trees; elegant, and historic in nature. The tour will continue to take you into Napa Valley, where they will lead you to tasting some of Napa's Best wines, and artisan foods. The inviting Napa Valley will leave you with a sense of peace and warmth.

After returning from a long day, come back to your hotel in SF to unwind for the evening.

Day 5: Golden Gate Fields

Japanese garden with cherry blossoms in the foreground

Take the Muni from Downtown San Francisco to Golden Gate Park. Get off the stop and explore the Conservatory of Flowers, a beautiful indoor garden exploding with the blooms of spring.

Afterwards, you can take a 0.5 mile walk and enjoy lunch at Cinderella Bakery.

After lunch, continue for 0.7 mile back into the park, at the Japanese Tea Garden. This traditional Japanese Garden imbues a sense of peace and tranquility with nature into your heart. Climb a circular bridge, and watch koi fish drift serenely through the ponds. You can order traditional Japanese food items and snacks at the cafe after walking through the garden.

If you're still interested in Museums, close by is the California Academy of Sciences, and the Legion of Honor. Their exhibits vary, so check out both options. To the west is Ocean beach, if you want to relax and watch the waves. 1 mile to the east, is Haight-Ashbury, if you want to look at the psychedelic art and clothing shops, which sprung up in the late 1960's.

For dinner, you can enjoy traditional Egyptian Food at Al-Masri, located in the Outer Richmond District. There is dancing on Saturday nights. There is also Han Il Kwan, a delicious Korean BBQ spot. In this area, there are many different dining varieties from American, Slavic, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, and more.

If you have any more energy left, you can go to the Tonga Room Union Square, off of Powell and California Street, in the Fairmont Hotel. This is a very fun, unusual Tikki Bar, with dancing, and a DJ spinning tunes in an island, inside a pool.

Need to Know

For more adventure travel trips, check out my guide, Fun Things to Do in Cairo, Egypt.

Advisor - Phoebe Pierce

Travel Advisor

Phoebe Pierce

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This is part of our ongoing series on travel to San Francisco, and our longer series on travel to California.