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The Perfect San Francisco Itinerary: 4 Days by the Bay

4 days in San Francisco gives you the perfect opportunity to do & see many things. With great food, beautiful architecture, and iconic landmarks, this waterfront city is on many people’s must-do list. Wondering what you need to prioritize during your visit? We’ve got a great 4-Day San Francisco Itinerary.

San Francisco Go City Card

In order to make the most of your 4 days in San Francisco, you are going to want to do a few things in advance. This includes getting a GO City San Francisco Pass.

There are two options you can choose, one is based on the amount of time you will be in town and the other is based on the number of attractions you want to do.

Whichever one you choose, it will save you money.

San Francisco is an expensive city and any way you can save money here, you better take advantage of it! 

San Francisco View

Another thing that you will want to do in advance is book your Alcatraz tickets.

These tickets sell out quickly and we’d hate it if you had your heart set on visiting and didn’t get to because you didn’t think to book your tickets online in advance of your trip.

You will want to do this month ahead of your stay in San Francisco.

Saint Francis Statue (Patron Saint of San Francisco)

The last thing you will want to know about San Francisco is that many attractions & restaurants are closed on Mondays and a few things are closed on Tuesdays.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come to San Francisco on those days, it just means that you will need to make sure that you keep it in mind when planning your own San Francisco itinerary.

The Perfect 4-Day San Francisco Itinerary

When visiting San Francisco for a short stay, you will want to try to group your activities based on where you’ll be in San Francisco.

With our four-day San Francisco itinerary, you will find that we try to do things within a certain vicinity so you aren’t having to go from one side of the city to the other.

San Francisco Itinerary: Day One

The first day is when you should get your bearings on the city. We feel the best way to do that is with a bus tour.

The second half of the day is spent at the iconic Fisherman’s Wharf.

San Francisco Big Bus Tour

Big Bus Tour of San Francisco

We are big fans of taking Big Bus Tours when we arrive in a new place. We always hop on a bus with a live tour guide when available so that we can get a real perspective on the area.

Our San Francisco Big Bus tour was part of our Go San Francisco Card deal and helped us learn more about the city other than the places we were already familiar with.

You will find that many of the places on our San Francisco itinerary are also stops along the Red Line of the San Francisco Big Bus tour.

If you aren’t using the Go San Francisco Card, you can book the San Francisco Big Bus tour separately.

Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco

Fisherman’s Wharf

A must-do during your 4 days in San Francisco is a trip to Fisherman’s Wharf. One of the busiest tourist areas in San Fran, you will find everything from souvenir shops to restaurants.

There is plenty to do and see here, including eat. You will be overcome with the smells of waffle cones as you walk along the boardwalk!

But what really draws people to Fisherman’s Wharf is the view. You will be able to see both Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge along with some really cute Sea Lions.

Bay Aquarium in San Francisco

While you are there, you should take an hour or so to visit the Aquarium of the Bay. It’s not very big, but it has some really great features.

Bay Aquarium Sting Rays

You will see plenty of fish, sting rays and sharks and in fact, you will be surrounded by them when you walk through a tunnel in the tanks where they live!

River Otters in Bay Aquarium

You will see an octopus, jellyfish, eels and even a pair of river otters.

Aquarium of the Bay Admission is on the Go San Francisco Card.  

Hours of Operation:
Open every day from 10am – 6pm

San Francisco Itinerary Day Two

The second day of your trip to San Fran involves going to see the campus of LucasFilm. If you are a movie buff or Star Wars fan this is a really cool place to visit.

If not, you may choose to skip completely and go straight to the main attractions: Golden Gate Bridge & Alcatraz.

Lucasfilms Campus 

Located in San Francisco’s historic Presidio National Park is the headquarters of Lucasfilm.

Star Wars fans will enjoy getting to see some cool Star Wars memorabilia along with a really neat fountain featuring Yoda.

Unfortunately, they only offer tours to family members of employees (and they even get to shop at a really cool Lucasfilm store!).

Hours of Operation:
Open weekdays from 8am-5pm


Admission is Free
Location: 1 Letterman Dr, San Francisco, CA 94129

Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

Before heading out to see the Golden Gate Bridge, make sure you check your expectations.

First of all, San Francisco is notorious for fog.

You will be very lucky if you get a clear view of the entire bridge. More often than not, it is partially (if not fully) masked in fog.

While there are many places where you can get a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge, most choose to see it from Fort Point

The Civil War-era brick fortress is a short walk from Crissy Field or the Golden Gate Bridge and offers beautiful views without having to be far away from the bridge itself.


Alcatraz Island

Known as the most notorious federal penitentiary in the US, this island has also been used as both a Civil War fort and a military prison.

You will take a ferry to the island, and once there, a National Park Service representative will give you a brief orientation & let you know about any special activities available that day.

The rest of your time there is self-guided with an audio download.

You will find numerous videos and exhibits to explore during the 45-minute route through the prison. Also worth exploring are the grounds of the prison.

There are plenty of structures & gardens to check out.

You should purchase your Alcatraz ticket in advance.

Escape the Rock

If you don’t want to actually tour the prison site, you can also choose to take a cruise around it where you will see beautiful views as you learn about the history of Alcatraz.

Your Go San Francisco pass includes a cruise around Alcatraz Island that is fully narrated. You will learn its history of crime and punishment along with information about the infamous prisoners, tales of failed escapes, and stories about the brutality of life on the Rock.

Marina District for Dinner, Dessert & Shopping

Chestnut Street is the perfect place to spend the evening. It’s got great retail space (Brandy Melville, Pottery Barn, etc and a ton of restaurants and bars to choose from.

Pacific Catch in San Francisco

We ate at Pacific Catch because we were starving from a day of sightseeing and Pacific Catch had a Happy Hour Special for beer & appetizers.

Korean Sticky Ribs

What did we eat?

  • Thai Coconut Shrimp: five-spice crispy shrimp in a Thai sweet chili sauce. These were very good.
  • Korean Sticky Ribs with spicy cucumber banchan, sesame seeds, scallions. Should’ve ordered two of these as they were everyone’s favorite.
  • Seasoned Fries. These were yummy! Get them with the spice!
  • Grilled Steak Tacos: marinated skirt steak with crispy onions, cabbage, cilantro, sriracha aioli, & lime crema. These were just okay. Since we were splitting them, we got steak, but had it just been me, I would have probably tried the shrimp or fish tacos.
Susies Cupcakes San Francisco

Then we stopped to buy cupcakes at Susie Cakes. Talk about a showcase of yummy desserts. This place has a little bit of everything. We were thrilled to even see some gluten-free options.

Susie Cupcakes

We chose cupcakes: Red Velvet, Mint Chocolate and Gluten Free Chocolate. We got them to go so that we could eat them at Cow Hollow while watching the sunset!

Susie Cakes
2109 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123

San Francisco Itinerary: Day Three

For your third day, we think you should explore the city on foot. Check out the Haight-Ashbury district, and take a look at the Painted Houses and the home used for Full House before heading to the Museum of Modern Art and having some of the best food ever in Chinatown.

Haight Street / Ashbury San Francisco


A trip to San Francisco should involve visiting the Haight-Ashbury district.

At the center of the 1960s hippie movement “Summer of Love,” you will find an eclectic array of shops, colorful street art, and plenty of brightly painted Victorian homes (along the side streets).

Victorian Homes in San Francisco

Painted Ladies

The iconic Painted Ladies of San Francisco are an architectural marvel, known worldwide for their unique style and colorful appearance.

These Victorian houses, with their elaborate details and bright colors, have become a symbol of the city’s charm and beauty.

Full House in San Francisco

Full House Home

One of the most iconic homes in San Francisco is the house from the opening credits for Full House. You will find it at 1709 Broderick Street, just a mile from Haight Street.

There is plenty of on-street parking and you will see people taking photos in front of the home all day long.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Filled with sculpture, photography, painting and various mixed media, this museum has a rotating set of expeditions of modern art for you to see.

Also, you be sure to check out the more than 19,000 plants on the Living Wall. If you want a gorgeous selfie spot, this is it!

Hours of Operation:
Open Friday through Tuesday 10 a.m.–5 p.m. and Thursday 10 a.m.–9 p.m.
Closed Wednesday.

Adult $25
Senior (65 years and older) $22
Age 19–24 with ID $19
Age 18 and under Free

China Town in San Francisco

Dinner in Chinatown

There is so much great food in San Francisco and you will definitely want to try some during your time here.

When you have only 4 days in San Francisco, make sure that you eat at least once in Chinatown.

While our San Francisco itinerary won’t tell you exactly where to eat while you are in Chinatown, you will have no shortage of choices.

San Francisco Itinerary Day Four: Trip to Silicon Valley 

With four days in San Francisco, you really should take a day trip out to San Jose.

Just about an hour’s drive from San Francisco, you can easily spend the day there checking out different parts of Silicon Valley and the Winchester House.

Googleplex in Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley

A trip to Silicon Valley will allow you to see Apple Headquarters where you can visit the flagship store. While it really isn’t much more than any other Apple Store, it does have a small selection of Apple T-shirts you can purchase.

1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA 95014

You can also go see Googleplex which has a much better store and super cute lawn art of the iconic green robot along with various super-sized dessert items.

The Google Merchandise Store sells a ton of souvenirs featuring Google & YouTube. There is even a clearance section where you can score $10-$15 t-shirts!

1911 Landings Dr., Mountain View, CA 94043

Touring Winchester Mystery House
Courtesy of Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House

The Winchester Mystery House is a mansion in San Jose, California, that was once owned by Sarah Winchester, the widow of firearm manufacturer William Wirt Winchester.

Ariel view of Winchester Mystery House
Winchester Mystery House

What began as an 8-room farmhouse soon transformed into the 160-room Winchester Mystery House.

You may wonder why it is considered a “Mystery” house. Well, when you tour the home, you will find stairways leading nowhere, doors that don’t open, and an overall sense of unbalance. 

These oddities were done with purpose. It is claimed that Sarah Winchester believed that she was being haunted by those who died from gun violence and her way to deal with it was by creating an environment that she believed would trick the ghosts.

Hours of Operation:

9 am-8 pm (most days)

Adult (Ages 13-64) $39
Child (Ages 6-12) $20
Senior (65 and up), Military, Fire, EMT $32

Riding Cable Cars in San Franciso

Riding a Cable Car in San Francisco

I know that one of the most iconic things you can do in San Fran is ride a cable car.

You will notice that I didn’t include a ride on a Cable Car on our San Francisco itinerary.

It isn’t because we don’t think you should, we just think that you will need to decide when & where you take it based on what’s most convenient for you.

It is relatively easy to find cable cars.

There are three cable car lines: two at Powell and Market that will take you to the Fisherman’s Wharf area and that begins its route at California and Market and continues to Van Ness Avenue.

You can board at the cable car turntables.

While riding a Cable Car is a way to get from one place to another, it isn’t cheap. Expect to pay $7 each time you ride (no matter what your age).

You must purchase your fare in advance of boarding at Bay and Taylor. Fares may be paid on-board to the Cable Car conductor at all other stops.

With our 4-day San Francisco itinerary, you can see a little bit of everything. Of course, unfortunately, there isn’t time to see all that San Francisco has to offer.

We hope that no matter how long you plan on being in the Bay area you can enjoy some of the things that make this part of California so special.

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