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What to Do With a Day in San Francisco

San Francisco Insider Guides
by Matador Creators Mar 24, 2017

San Francisco is so jam-packed full of things to see and do, that you could never see all of it in just a day. However, if you did only have 24 hours in the city, what would be the best way to spend them?

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

6 AM — Fisherman’s Wharf


Photo: Daily Travel Photos/Shutterstock

If you haven’t Airbnb-ed a place in some other district and find yourself near Fisherman’s Wharf, the first tip is to get out there before the droves of tourists do. Grab a takeaway coffee and wander down the wharf. It’s not the place it was 60 years ago, when fishermen actually sold the day’s catch to locals, but worth seeing first thing in the morning as the sun comes up.

7 AM — Fuel up for the day at Il Cane Rosso

Head to the Ferry Building for breakfast.

The renovated landmark is home to local farm and food boutiques, and hosts weekly, year-round farmers markets. The Ferry Building has achieved the rare balance between being massively touristy and also a pretty cool place for locals. Foodie indulgences draw locals and tourists alike, but beware: the fancy cheeses and organic produce add up.

8 AM — Ghirardelli Square

There are actually three different routes for cable cars around the city, but the most popular one runs between Powell and Hyde Streets all the way to Ghirardelli Square, home of Ghirardelli Chocolates. Grab a cup of hot chocolate and help yourself to some free samples. You’ll need the energy for what’s to come.

9 AM — Get your bearings from the J-Church line

One of the city’s best views is along the J-Church line when the streetcar heaves up the steep incline to the top of Dolores Park. All of downtown, the Bay, the bridge, and the East Bay are splayed out in front of you, plus the sunning hipsters of San Francisco’s trendiest green space. The J-Church is a part of SF’s MUNI mass transit system, meaning a ride is only $2 (unless you sneak through the back doors for free).

10 AM — Rent a bike

Blazing Saddles is a popular choice, for renting a bike, but Park Wide, though more expensive, offers pickups at nearby Fort Mason and drop-offs at the Ferry Building. Enjoy the fair weather and wind along the water as you cycle over the Golden Gate Bridge — give yourself enough time for pictures! — and into Sausalito.

11 AM – 1 PM — Lunch with a view

If you’re in decent shape, it will only take about an hour to cycle from Fort Mason into Sausalito, maybe two if you give yourself enough time to appreciate the views at the bridge and vista point. Salito’s Crab House is a solid choice for lunch, but there are plenty of other places within walking distance such as Napa Valley Burger Company. Enjoy the view of the bay and check out galleries like The Art of Dr. Seuss to pass the time until the next ferry.

2 PM — Indulge in some retail therapy

Once you’ve returned your bike rental, hop on board one of the F trains for $2.25. Although part of San Francisco’s Muni system, all of the cars running on this line have been reclaimed from old streetcar systems across the globe, including Milan and Philadelphia. Stay on this train all the way to the end of the line, carrying you through the Financial District and Market Street until you see a huge rainbow flag: your entrance to the Castro. Immediately after you exit the car, you might be hungry and thirsty. Fortunately, Hot Cookie, with its erotic macaroons and delicious baked goods, is right across the street. Wash that down with a Philz Coffee after a short walk window shopping.

3 PM — Appreciate the architecture

Take some time to appreciate the architecture all around you. Some of the houses here survived the great fire of 1906, like the Caselli Mansion. You may not have time to see the Painted Ladies near Alamo Square, but properties in the Castro are well maintained and visually stunning.

4 PM – 6 PM — Dolores Park

Mission in gay San Francisco

Photo: Pung/Shutterstock

Walk over to Dolores Park and enjoy some of the craziness that only San Francisco can offer: dancing robots, acro yoga, and of course one of the friendly ladies openly selling pot brownies.

6 PM — Grab some local brews

Hopefully, by this point, you’ve had time to grab a six-pack of some of the city’s local brews. 21st Amendment and Anchor Steam are close by, with Lagunitas based in Sonoma County.

7 PM — Dinner at Tacolicious

By the time you’ve danced and drunk to your heart’s content, the sun may have already disappeared behind Twin Peaks and left you shivering; in this city, save October, warm nights are mysteriously absent despite a scorching day. You’re close enough to the Mission District to appreciate some genuine Californian Mexican food. I’m partial to the fajita burritos at Tacolicious but Gracias Madre is a solid choice as well. Cala on Fell St is also worth a visit if you can get a table.

8 PM — Pick-up something sweet

Tartine Bakery and Bi-Rite are close by and offer some excellent pastries and ice cream.

9 PM — Take your pastries to Twin Peaks and enjoy with a view

Take an Uber to the top of Twin Peaks for a truly peaceful look at the city.

10 PM — Polk Street bar crawl

Now for the home straight! The Mission bar scene is thriving, SOMA still has it going on, and the Lower Haight continues to be the city’s premier bohemian drinking enclave. But if you want to know where it’s really happening for locals, get your ass down to Polk. Whether you want to find your own way or take part in an organized pub crawl, the area is full of pubs, bars and clubs suiting every kind of music taste and crowd.

5 AM — Morning dance party

Day Breaker and Morning Gloryville are monthly morning dance parties that happen before work. Rotating venues include dance clubs, malls, and even boats in the summertime. Instead of cocktails, coffee and breakfast are served and the dancing starts right after yoga. Expect people in costumes (of course) and bumping music, and bring a change of clothes so you can head to work when the party ends around 9 am.

Find some of these spots on our travelstoke map:

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