Traveling to San Francisco with only one day to explore? It can be hard to decide what to do with such limited time in your schedule.
Fortunately, we’ve put together a one day in San Francisco itinerary to help you make the most of your one day in in the city.
This one day itinerary includes:
- Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus Sightseeing Tour
- California Academy of Sciences
- Golden Gate Park (free!)
- Sea Lions at Pier 39 (free!)
- Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise
Save on Attraction Admission
Pick up a 1-Day Go San Francisco Card and save off combined admission vs. paying at the gate.
Remember, this one day in San Francisco itinerary is just one of many ways to experience the area during your trip.
The Go San Francisco® Card gives you the flexibility to create your own itinerary, so you can choose from dozens of top attractions and create a vacation tailored to your interests.
Stop #1 – Hop On Hop Off Big Bus San Francisco Tour
The Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus San Francisco – 1-Day Classic Tour is one of the best ways to get to know San Francisco and see all the top sights.
Most buses have a professional guide on board with live commentary and each tour features entertaining pre-recorded narration in 10 languages, so you’ll learn all about the city’s history, culture, and famous neighborhoods while your attention is directed towards the landmarks you pass along the way ensuring you see it all.
Getting In: Big Bus San Francisco Sightseeing Tour tickets are included on the Go San Francisco Card.
Stop #2 – California Academy of Sciences
A visit to the California Academy of Sciences has much to see and do.
There’s a rich and diverse aquarium, a fascinating natural history museum, an all-digital planetarium, a four-story rainforest, and more–all under one, grass-covered roof!
They also conduct state-of-the-art research and run a number of educational programs, so it’s a great destination for anyone interested in any of the work they undertake. It’s perfect for kids and adults alike. Be sure to take a turn in the earthquake simulator, too and learn first-hand the devasting effects earquakes can and have had on San Francisco and its surrounding communities and economy.
Check out our local’s tips for visiting the California Academy of Sciences.
The California Academy of Sciences opens at 9:30, and visitors typically spend between 2-3 hours here to see a good portion of the exhibits.
Getting In: California Academy of Sciences tickets are included on the Go San Francisco Card.
Lunch near Golden Gate Park
There’s a plethora of dining options quite near Golden Gate Park, so if you’re not feeling up a picnic in the park on your one day in San Francisco, there are plenty of other choices.
Head south of Lincoln Way for a variety of options that include the kid-friendly Park Chow and the sumptuous Mexican Nopalito, or just wing it and see what looks good on yelp.
Stop #3 – Golden Gate ParkGolden Gate Park is one of the premiere urban parks in the country (did you know it’s actually the largest, too?). A stop here should be a must-do on any one day in San Francisco itinerary.
It’s filled with wonderful attractions — including the California Academy of Sciences, the de Young Museum, and the Conservatory of Flowers — as well as plenty of green space for biking, strolling, picnicking, and much more. It does not, however, connect to the Golden Gate Bridge (a common misconception).
Getting In: There is no admission fee to enter the Golden Gate Park, and the park is open 24 hours a day. Visitors may find it more bustling in the afternoons or weekends, but the park itself is so large, it will rarely feel crowded.
Stop #4: Visit the Sea Lions at Pier 39After lunch, spend some more time getting to know the marine life of the San Francisco Bay area with a trek up north to visit to the West Marina at Pier 39 to see the sea lions who flock there to rest and relax in the sun.
Due to a bountiful supply of food and ideal temperatures, during certain times of year, several hundred sea lions will be camped out at Pier 39 – quite a sight to behold!
Getting In: Although there is no fee to see the sea lions, they are quite a popular sight so you’ll want to keep that in mind when planning your day. Depending on how long you want to observe these playful creatures, reserve 30 minutes to an hour of your afternoon.
Stop #5: Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise
This popular Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise is a great way to relax and take in some of the beautiful sights and sounds of San Francisco and it’s the only cruise that actually sails under the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge.
The whole family will love the beautiful views on this cruise, and it truly is one of the best views you can get of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
Don’t forget to bring your camera, as you’ll definitely want to capture shots of the many of the other landmarks you’ll see on this cruise, including Alcatraz, Bay Bridge, Sausalito, Treasure Island, and more.
Cruises run several times daily beginning at lunchtime; consult the schedule and arrive at least 15 minutes in advance of your desired cruise.
Getting In: Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise tickets are included on the Go San Francisco Card.
Dinner in SoMa
The neighborhood south of Market Street — aka SoMa — is an excellent place to look for dinner options.
They have everything from high-end steak and seafood joints to inventive gastropub fare and yummy Asian fusion. Whatever you’re craving at the moment, SoMa has a restaurant to fit the bill.
If you follow this one day San Francisco itinerary with a Go San Francisco® Card, you’ll save on combined admission prices.
The Go San Francisco® Card is the best choice for maximum savings and flexibility during your vacation.
You can also save even more on your one day in San Francisco if you take advantage of any of the included extras that come with your Go San Francisco® Card.