Whilst on Contiki, (check out the tour I did – Best of USA – here) our second stop was San Fransisco. Let me just tell you, San Fransisco is a beautiful place. I have always wanted to visit, as I’d always heard such great things about the city. So many of my friends and family members have said they would live there in a heart beat. So not only was I hearing good things, I had always seen such incredible photos from all around the city. Everyone genuinely seems to be so relaxed and happy. No matter which direction you walk down the main street, there are locals and travelers riding bikes, strolling along (seemingly) without a care in the world. I remember I always felt a sensation of calm and happiness while exploring San Fransisco.
My Contiki group and I spent three days in the city. I have visited California four times, since I was 3 years old, but I’d never had the chance to make it to San Fransisco until June of 2015. I was beyond excited to be able to spend a few days walking around and exploring, checking out all the markets and of course, crossing San Fransisco Bay to Alcatraz for a few hours of education and exploring of the island. There is plenty to see and do in San Fransisco, and although I managed to see quite a bit in the few days I was there, I could easily have spent more time exploring!
If you’re planning on visiting San Fransisco, but aren’t sure of what to include in your stay, I’ve put together three days worth of activities for you to check out!
3 DAYS SAN FRANSISCO ITINERARY
DAY ONE – FISHERMAN’S WHARF
Not long after we arrived in San Fransisco, it was straight to Fisherman’s Wharf. I had heard quite a bit about this unique place. From the market shops to endless restaurants and ice cream bars. There are a ton of chain restaurants in San Fransisco, which I was surprised about! It feels like you’re in the middle of Los Angeles, there’s that many huge companies. You’ll find Applebee’s, Ben & Jerry’s, Bubba Gump and Hard Rock Cafe just in the main section of Fisherman’s Wharf. Walk a little further and you’ll even come across Chipolte, In-N-Out Burger, Jack in the Box, McDonalds, Starbucks and Subway. But considering you’re literally seaside, there’s also no end to seafood options for those fish lovers out there.
Maybe it was my lack of knowledge about the San Fransisco area, but I was really shocked to see so many familiar, large chains! I guess it shouldn’t surprise me, really. San Fransisco is a rapidly growing, popular town for travelers and tourists of all ages. The shopping is pretty great too. The city has quite a large selection of souvenir, apparel and electronic stores. So whether you buy too many clothes, or own every video game console from the beginning of time, I’m sure you’ll be satisfied.
You can easily spend a whole day exploring Fisherman’s Wharf. So I suggest heading out mid morning, staying for lunch and dinner, and calling it a night relatively early.
DAY TWO – ALCATRAZ ISLAND AND BOAT CRUISE UNDER THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
Wake up bright and early today, and head to Alcatraz Island for a morning of learning all about San Fransisco’s most famous (and one of the world’s most well known) prison. There’s quite a bit of up-hill walking involved, so wear some comfy shoes. But other than that, it’s a great way to learn some of San Fransisco’s history, and get an insight into the life of a prisoner back in the 60’s.
The view from certain parts of Alcatraz Island is incredible, even on a foggy day. So make sure you bring a camera, whether you plan to take photographs inside the prison or not. You’ll want it for the views from San Fransisco Bay to the city!
There are a few different tours and tickets available to purchase, depending on which time of day you would like to visit! For early bird and general day tours, tickets cost $37 for adults and $23 for children (aged 5-11). If you are more interested in seeing the prison at night, tickets will cost $89 (children’s tickets aren’t available for night tours). There is also a behind the scenes tour available for adults for $89. If you’d rather spread out your day over both Alcatraz Island and the neighbouring Angel Island, a combined ticket will cost $71.50 for adults and $48 for the kiddies.
If your budget allows, I definitely recommend exploring Alcatraz. Once you’re on the island, you can stay as long as you like. Your ticket gets you a return ferry trip, so just head back any time during the 9:45am and 6:30pm return time slots (leaving every 30 minutes)!
After you’ve explored the island, it’s time to get fancy. During my trip to San Fransisco with Contiki, we had the amazing opportunity to take a sunset boat cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge. The cruise took us past Alcatraz, around Angel Island, under the Golden Gate Bridge and back down San Fransisco Bay. You’ll definitely need your camera for this one. It was such a cool experience, and two hours of pure relaxation and happiness, was a great end to the day.
I’m not entirely sure which exact tour we did on Contiki, but it’s super similar to this one.
DAY THREE – BIKE RIDE THROUGH SAN FRANSISCO
This is something I never thought I would do do (let alone actually survive). A two hour bike ride around San Fransisco. Yes, you read that right. Two hours on a push bike, up (okay, and down) San Fransisco’s famous steep hills. And I lived to tell the tale. I’ll admit, it was pretty gruelling at times. But no where near as bad as I first thought!
It costs $35 for a guided tour around San Fransisco. Starting at Fisherman’s Wharf, your guide will take you through Fort Mason to the Marina, over the Golden Gate Bridge, and down the hill to the bayside town of Sausalito. If you’re somewhat active and enjoy getting outdoors, I highly recommend doing either a self or guided bike tour! It’s the perfect way to truly see and experience San Fransisco as a local.
Click here to read more information about the tour I did! You can also reserve your ticket in advance, so you don’t miss out!
I absolutely loved San Fransisco. It would be easy to spend a few weeks in the city, and not run out of things to see and do. But since I only had three days, I had to choose my favourites! There’s something so beautiful about this city. I don’t know whether it’s the people, the atmosphere, the scenery or shopping – it’s simply a wonderful place to visit (or live, if you’re lucky enough!)
I hope you found my 3 days San Fransisco itinerary useful!
Have you visited San Fransisco before? Do you live there now, or have in the past? I’d love to know your thoughts! Tell me in the comments below.
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