A Week in San Francisco – Spending 5 to 7 Days in San Francisco for First Timers

San Francisco is the perfect destination for a long vacation. Because of its rich cultural and artistic heritage, the museum scene in the City by the Bay is unbeatable. And when it comes to beautiful and distinctive architecture, the city has much to offer.

Combine that with a plethora of delightful tours, cruises, and parks, and you’ve got a ton of great attraction options to choose from.

To help you make the most of your time in this amazing city, we’ve put together a week in San Francisco itinerary for first timers, covering a bunch of fun activities that you could choose from to build your perfect week-long trip, or even 5 days in San Francisco.

This itinerary includes popular attractions grouped by neighborhood or type of activity, including:

  • Fisherman’s Wharf – Big Bus San Francisco Sightseeing Tour, Madame Tussauds, Aquarium of the Bay…
  • Golden Gate Park – California Academy of Science, de Young Museum…
  • Union Square & SoMa – SFMOMA, AT&T Park Tour, Bike Rental…
  • Theme Park Day – Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, California’s Great Adventure…
  • Wine Country Day – Full Day Wine Country Tour

Spending fewer days in San Francisco but still want some fun ideas? That’s okay – check out our 1 day, 2 days, or 3 days in San Francisco itineraries.

Save on Attraction Admission

Admission to many of these top San Francisco attractions and activities are included on the Go San Francisco® Card.

This itinerary is just one of many ways to experience San Francisco. The Go San Francisco Card. give you the flexibility to choose which attractions to visit on the go.

Depending on how many attractions you’d like to visit per day and which neighborhoods you want to tackle, this itinerary could easy fit into 5 days in San Francisco.

See all available passes, attractions & prices – Learn more.

Fisherman’s Wharf Options to Add to Your Itinerary:

Big Bus San Francisco Sightseeing Tour

san-francisco-Hop-On-Hop-Off-Classic-Tour-2-Day-Ticket-2
If you’re a first-time visitor to San Francisco, then a sightseeing bus tour should be a must on your itinerary.

It’s one of the best ways to get a feel for where all the major attractions are and how the neighborhoods connect to one another.

Choose a hop-on hop-off option for the flexibility to get off at places that interest you. Even better? Your ticket is good for 48 hours, so feel free to take your time!

Getting In: Hop On Hop Off San Francisco Bus Tour tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.

Madame Tussauds San Francisco

Madame-Tussauds-San-Francisco-2No need to visit Hollywood to meet your favorite celebrities – just head to Madame Tussauds San Francisco to come face-to-face with musicians, actors, historical figures, and many more.

With seven different themed areas that span the gamut from Hollywood to sports to music, you’re sure to find your personal fav.

Getting In: Madame Tussauds San Francisco tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.

Escape From the Rock Cruise

sfo-escape-from-the-rockThis informative and exciting 90-minute cruise provides a great opportunity to sail through the bay and around the notorious Alcatraz.

Snap photos of the country’s most famous historic prison and enjoy unparalleled views of the sweeping city skyline. Kids will especially love the narration and sound effects that showcase the history of Alcatraz.

Getting In: Escape From the Rock Cruise tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.

Aquarium of the Bay

Aquarium-of-the-Bay-2This singular aquarium focuses particularly on the marine life of the San Francisco Bay, giving you a special perspective on the fascinating plants and creatures that call this region home.

A must-see exhibit at this attraction is the 300-foot-long clear glass tunnel system that winds under a tank filled with thousands of species and specimens.

Getting In: Aquarium of the Bay tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.

Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise

Bridge-2-Bridge-Cruise-1This exciting and informative 90-minute cruise escorts visitors around the Bay, showcasing the top landmarks and sites of the region.

Sights you’ll see on the tour include Alcatraz, Treasure Island, the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, and more. Be sure your phone or camera is charged for this cruise!

Getting In: Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.

Ripley’s Believe it or Not!

san-francisco-ripleys-believe-it-or-not-1Visit Ripley’s for a glimpse into a weird and wonderful world. Explore 400 different wacky exhibits (70 of which offer hands-on attributes) arranged in 18 themed galleries.

You’ll marvel at real natural artifacts, man-made objects, wacky works of art, and much more. Kids always love a visit to Ripley’s.

Getting In: Ripley’s Believe it or Not! San Francisco tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.

Musée Mécanique (free!)

musee mecaniqueA perfect pairing with Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, the Musée Mécanique features one of the most extensive private collections of mechanical musical instruments and antiques in the world.

Their antique arcade machines are a particular highlight of the collections. A visit here is a certainly a walk down memory lane!

Getting In: Admission to the Musée Mécanique is free.

Golden Gate Park Options to Add to Your Itinerary:

California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences Sea Stars

Image credit: California Academy of Sciences

This unique attraction combines all of your favorite scientific institutions under one green roof: an aquarium, an all-digital planetarium, a natural history museum, and a research center.

A visit here is a great opportunity to satisfy your curiosity about the natural world, and to learn all about the latest scientific advances being made at this facility.

Some of our favorite things to do at the California Academy of Sciences include “Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs,” “Twilight Zone: Deep Reefs Revealed,” and “Dark Universe.”

Getting InCalifornia Academy of Sciences tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.

de Young Museum

de-Young-Museum-4This comprehensive art museum features a diverse collection of art and artifacts that span the globe, with everything from Oceanic art to American painting and decorative arts.

They also have particular strengths in sculpture, art of the Americas, and African art.

Be sure to pay attention to the building itself, too; it was designed by world-renowned architects to integrate art with the natural landscape.

NEW: Get combined admission to the de Young Museum and the nearby Legion of Honor, an excellent fine arts museum with strengths in European painting.

Getting In: de Young Museum tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.

San Francisco Zoo & Gardens

San-Francisco-Zoo-and-Gardens-2Another popular destination in Golden Gate Park worth a few hours visit is the San Francisco Zoo and Gardens.

Combining many of your favorite critters across multiple exhibit spaces (including African Savanna, Bear Country, and Australian WalkAbout) with 100 acres of lovely gardens, this is a can’t-miss attraction.

They also frequently host special events (often around holidays, or during the summer) so be sure to check their event calendar before your visit to see what’s going on!

Getting In: San Francisco Zoo & Gardens tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.

Golden Gate Park

Image credit:Douglas Atmore / National Park Service.

Image credit:Douglas Atmore / National Park Service.

This beautiful urban green space is a favorite with locals and visitors alike. It has served as the green heart of San Francisco since the city’s founding and attracts over 13 million visitors each year.

Pack a picnic and relax on the lawns, play a game of Frisbee, or rent a bike and pedal around the paths.

Getting In: Admission to Golden Gate Park is free.

Japanese Tea Garden

The oldest public Japanese garden in the entire country, the Japanese Tea Garden is a peaceful oasis nestled in the heart of Golden Gate Park.

Featuring all the classic elements from pagodas and stone bridges to koi ponds and a zen garden, this popular destination is a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of ordinary life. If you’re visiting in the spring, be sure not to miss a chance to see their cherry blossom trees.

Getting In: Admission to the Japanese Tea Garden is separately ticketed and is not included with the Go San Francisco Card. For more information about this attraction and to purchase tickets, visit the attraction website.

Union Square & SoMa Options to Add to Your Itinerary:

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

SFMOMA-2This fantastically popular attraction is a must-visit for all travelers to San Francisco.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, or SFMOMA, is a premier art institution featuring stellar collections of paintings, sketches, sculptures, and much more.

It underwent a massive renovation not too long ago and is now one of the largest and most significant collections of modern art in the country. Art lover should not overlook this stunner!

Highlights of the Doris & Donald Fisher Collection include artistic giants like Alexander Calder and Paul Klee, among others.

Getting In: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.

AT&T Park Tour

AT-T-Park-Home-of-the-San-Francisco-Giants-2Sports lovers will enjoy a chance to tour the beautiful AT&T Park, one of the most charmingly situated ballparks in all of Major League Baseball.

Some of the sights on your tour include the player’s dugout, batting cages, the press box, a luxury suite, and much more.

Getting In: AT&T Park Tour tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.

All-Day Bike Rental by Blazing Saddles

Alamo Square - Blazing Saddles SFSan Francisco is one of the most bike-friendly cities around. With tons of trails, paths, and streets to explore, you’ll run out of energy before you run out of miles to pedal.

Blazing Saddles also offers a special guiding app which allows you to plot your route around major sights. Try their “Bike the Bridge” route!

Getting In: All-Day San Francisco Bike Rentals are included with the Go San Francisco Card.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

ybca-san-francisco-museumsIf you’re looking for some more artsy attractions to add to your San Francisco itinerary, a visit to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) is the perfect choice.

A contemporary art center that focuses on innovation and community-based art, this institution features a variety of films, performances, exhibits, and events that exemplify the most unique developments in contemporary art.

Getting In: Admission to the YBCA is separately ticketed and is not included with the Go San Francisco Card. For more information about this attraction and to purchase tickets, visit the attraction website.

Theme Park Options to Add to Your Itinerary:

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

six-flags-discovery-kingdomA visit to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is a rare opportunity to enjoy theme park rides alongside animal encounters.

Featuring both marine life and land-bound critters, this attraction offers the best attributes of an animal park in a playful setting.

For those really looking for that theme park excitement, their thrilling roller coasters are great choices.

Getting In: Six Flags Discovery Kingdom tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.

California’s Great America

California's Great America Coasters (2)A more classic theme park option is California’s Great America. With dozens of rides and slides to enjoy, the whole family will delight in this fun attraction.

Some popular areas include the Boomerang Bay water park, Planet Snoopy, and the Action Theater. Be prepared to spend a whole day here!

Getting In: California’s Great America tickets are included with the Go San Francisco Card.

Children’s Fairyland

With their storybook and fairytale-themed rides and attractions, this whimsical park has been serving the San Francisco area since 1950.

In addition to rides designed specifically for small children, the park also offers the Fairyland menagerie and ten acres of charming gardens.

This attraction is a great option for families with little ones who may not be comfortable on thrill rides.

Getting In: Admission to Children’s Fairyland is separately ticketed and is not included with the Go San Francisco Card. For more information about this attraction and to purchase tickets, visit the attraction website.

Wine Country Options to Add to Your Itinerary:

Weekday Napa & Sonoma Wine Country Tour

napa valleyOne thing you can’t do is leave San Francisco without taking the time to tour beautiful wine country.

Take this tour of Napa and Sonoma and visit three fantastic wineries: Madonna Estate, Sutter Home, and Sebastiani Vineyards.

Each has a different approach to their craft, so you’ll also learn about diverse wine-making styles as you sample their delicious wares.

Getting In: Weekday Napa & Sonoma Wine Country Tour tickets are available with the Build Your Own Pass.

Let’s Recap

This week in San Francisco itinerary was designed to be a great introduction to the city, filled with top attractions and activities located throughout the Bay area. Choose from any of these great attraction options to craft that perfect San Francisco vacation.

Don’t forget – many of these great activities and more are available on our San Francisco attraction passes, where you can save up to 55% on combined admission vs. paying at the gate.

We hope you consider adding a few of these great options to your upcoming San Francisco itinerary.

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The information contained in this post, to the best of the author's knowledge, was accurate at time of publishing. We do our best to ensure and maintain the accuracy of this information.