San Francisco just seems to be the city on a smaller side. In reality there are many things to see in San Francisco. In this article I put together a tour of San Francisco that could be done in one day. You will need to drive a car for this tour. Names of the attractions that I specified are linked to the page with details and address to locate them in the city. Just power up your GPS and drive from one attraction to another.
Starting location should be San Francisco Ocean Beach. On the ocean beach you can enjoy the open ocean side of the city. On the opposite side of the Ocean Beach parking lot, you can see the tops of Murphy Windmill and Dutch Windmill located almost on the edge of the Golden gate park that starts on the Ocean Beach and stretches deep into the half of the city.
From Ocean Beach, you should drive to the Cliff House. Cliff House is located right next to Ocean Beach. You can see it from the parking lot of the San Francisco Ocean Beach. Down by the Cliff House you can peak at the ruins of the historic swimming pools called Sutro Baths built in 1896 and destroyed by fire in 1966 shortly after going out of business. Baths were too expensive to operate and were never rebuilt. Cliff House itself is also very modern. It has been rebuilt numerous times. Last one was built in 2009. First one however was built in 1858.
Next stop should definitely be the Legion of Honor. There are 3 monuments to see at the same location. Legion of Honor you won’t miss, because it is a huge structure with an arch. However the Holocaust Memorial is hidden on the side of the roundabout across the street from the fountain. The third monument Pax Jerusalemme is a red monument located right next to the fountain on the middle of the roundabout.
From the Legion of Honor next stop should be the Baker Beach. Driving to the Baker Beach you would pass through the neighborhood called Sea Cliff. It is probably the wealthiest neighborhood in San Francisco. Movie start Robin Williams owned a house on Sea Cliff. Baker Beach itself is a great location to take a side shot photo with the Golden Gate bridge from the sand beach by the bay. However check the sky. If weather is foggy, you won’t see much of the Golden Gate bridge from Baker Beach.
From Baker Beach, navigate right to the Golden Gate Bridge itself. There is a panoramic view observation deck next to it with parking. However photos of Golden Gate bridge will come out better from the Baker Beach, than from close up on the bridge simply because it is enormous in size. Baker Beach is a little further away what will let you get better shot of the full bridge. When next to the Golden Gate bridge however, you can take a walk on the bridge and take photos from the actual bridge overlooking the bay. Golden Gate bridge has a sidewalk and bike lane as well on both sides of the bridge. Crossing the whole bridge on foot probably will take away too much time because you want to complete this tour in one day, but walk couple of feet into the bridge for photos should fit in our schedule.
From Golden Gate bridge, drive to Palace of Fine Arts. It is probably one of the most gorgeous monuments in San Francisco and you would probably want to take pictures from each possible angle of it and it’s pond.
Couple of blocks from there, you should make a stop at the Marina Green Drive. From there you can have a clear view of the Alcatraz island. There is also a large pier with many beautiful yachts, which could also pose for photos just as great.
Next stop should definitely be the curviest street of all, the Lombard Street. To enjoy the street you need to drive through it and since you are touring the city on a car, you will be able to do just that.
From Lombard Street continue straight onto the Coit Tower that is located on the hill right across from where the curviest Lombard Street block is located. Coit Tower also has a parking lot, where you could park and take a walk around the tower.
Next stop will probably be the longest. After Coit Tower you should drive straight to Pier 39. Pier 39 is located on the Fisherman’s Wharf. Fisherman’s Wharf on it’s own has lots of things to see and you would definitely want to walk from Pier 39 along the Fisherman’s Wharf to it’s opposite end and back. Plan to spend at least 2 hours there. Don’t forget to stop by and say hi to truly San Franciscan sea lions at the outer end of Pier 39.
After Pier 39, head to the San Francisco Ferry Building. This will take you driving through the Embarcadero Street that has a gorgeous view of the downtown up close. San Francisco Ferry Building itself worth seeing from the outside for photos from the square in front of it. Inside San Francisco Ferry Building is a ferry terminal and a marketplace where you could get some snacks to go if you are hungry. I once bought very nice empanadas there, were very tasty. I loved them.
After Pier 39, head to the Union Square in the heart of the San Francisco downtown. Unless you want to shop around the boutique stores around Union Square, you should rush to the balcony of the Cheese Cake Factory located in the Macy’s Building at the top floor and get the glimpse of the downtown and passing-by authentic San Francisco Cable Cars from above. San Francisco Cable Cars definitely is a must see attraction. I would even suggest to ride one, just as part of this tour because here we have only one day to see the city. If you happened to visit around Christmas time, the San Francisco Christmas tree will also be right there on the Union Square with the ice skating rink next to it.
Not far from Union Square you should stop and take a photo by the Dragon’s Gate known also as San Francisco Chinatown Gate. San Francisco is very diverse city. There are lots of neighborhoods, however Chinatown is famous for the movie star that we all know and remember forever. Bruce Lee was born, lived and filmed many of his movies in San Francisco Chinatown.
Next stop is the famous of them all Haight Street of San Francisco. Haight is famous for it’s hippie movement that has happened in 1967. The tradition grew into an annual festival called Haight-Ashbury Street Fair. In 2017 Haight-Ashbury Street Fair happened on June 11th. It is an annual festival and happens right about that same time in June every year. It is a whole day event however and I am trying to fit this whole tour into one day. Therefore you at least have to stop and take a photo by the Haight Street Legs, they are located one the middle of the block right next to the cross intersection between Haight Street and Ashbury Street. By the way, Jimmy Hendrix lived on Haight Street.
From Haight Street, drive straight to the Music Concourse Community square located inside of the Golden Gate park. Music Concourse Community will give you the taste of the Golden Gate Park and it’s beauty. Japanese Tea Garden is located right next to the Music Concourse Community. If you think you can make it, you can visit the Japanese Tea Garden, however I think you will need at least 2 hours to walk around the Japanese Tea Garden. See for yourself, all depends how much time do you have left until the sun set.
You probably heard of Twin Peaks and wondered if this would be possible to have as part of this tour. Sure it is possible and Twin Peaks is the next stop that you should make. When at Twin Peaks, you can park your car at the parking on the observation deck and enjoy the bird’s eye view of San Francisco. From there you can see a stretch of the city all the way from Golden Gate bridge through downtown and even the Hunters Point that’s located all the way to the right of the city.
The last major stop of the tour is the San Francisco Treasure Island. Trip to treasure island will take you through the Bay Bridge, which is just as beautiful as Golden Gate bridge. Just remember to take the exit on the middle of the bridge on Treasure Island, it will be on the left side of the bridge right before you enter the tunnel that leads to the second half of the bridge. The exit is a steep turn, therefore slowdown before it. Don’t worry about traffic behind you, they will slow down with you. If you pass the exit, you will end up in Oakland. You can always turn around, but you will have to pay a bridge toll to come back. It’s not much, around $5 depending on the time of the day and day of the week. View from the Treasure Island is the best in the evening, when all lights of San Francisco Downtown buildings and lights on the Bay Bridge are on. If you get in time for the sunset, you can also enjoy beautiful sunset there as well.
After Treasure Island, I would probably suggest to go back home and park the car, then take a taxi to the intersection of Broadway Street and Columbus Street. The best angle of the famous Transamerica Tower is there. And Broadway is packed with bars and restaurants. Definitely if you are hungry and in need of something unique and truly San Franciscan, try dining in the restaurant called Stinking Rose. Every dish in Stinking Rose is made with garlic. For that its called the Sticking Rose. If you just want some beer, you will find a huge variety of bars there. Enjoy, just don’t drive drunk. Ticket in San Francisco for drunk driving is way too expensive and includes an even more expensive pass to spend time in San Francisco jail. Therefore if you drink, just enjoy and walk or take a taxi.