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Two day itinerary in San Fransico

We are 3 adults visiting San Francisco for 2 days and a day in Sonoma.

We would like to visit the highlights of different neighborhoods. We wouldn't mind stopping at the California Academy of science and taking a ferry tour.

Should we take the hop on hop off?

And can anyone help us with this itinerary. We started a few times and gave up.

We will be staying near fisherman's warf and want to go to the market at the ferry plaza the first day, which is a Saturday.

Thank You

Posted by
5828 posts

You could look into the SF Muni's 3-day visitor passport:

3-Day Visitor Passport

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Whether you're here for a day or for several weeks, SFMTA makes it
simple for visitors to get around the city with ease. A Visitor
Passport can be purchased at ticket kiosks, on Clipper®, via
MuniMobile ® and sales locations for 1, 3, or 7 consecutive days of
unlimited rides on Muni, Muni Metro, historic streetcars, and cable
cars. Single ride Cable Car tickets are also available. Purchase your
Passports and Cable Car tickets in advance on your smartphone using

Save money by purchasing your Passports on Clipper or MuniMobile. To
encourage pre-payment., we have reduced our passport prices on Clipper
and MuniMobile, the SFMTA’s mobile ticketing app.

Posted by
2679 posts

You don’t say what things you like to do, so it makes responding difficult. SF is a walking city with good public transportation which is easy to learn. I have no experience with HOHO other than seeing them go by with underdressed tourists peering out (it can get cold in SF, have layers). Let me throw out a few ideas: you are staying near Fisherman’s Wharf so the first thing you want to do is get away from there. Throngs of tourist, T-shirt shops, mediocre overpriced restaurants. I would consider having an Irish coffee at The Buena Vista if you are so inclined but save that for later in the day or you’ll never get going! You can walk to the Ferry Building and getting there early on Saturday for the farmers market is fun. Take a shopping bag, be prepared for sticker shock. Do take some time to explore the Ferry Building itself. Fun shops, eateries. Walking along the bay towards the Bay Bridge is fun if the weather is good-people watching great. The California Academy of Science is first rate and worth the trip getting to Golden Gate Park. While there you can explore the gardens, even visit the De Young museum if you like art. If you really like art consider a visit to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) which is a two mile walk from Fisherman’s Wharf through Little Italy and Chinatown and has recently been dramatically renovated. Check both websites for current exhibitions. Dining out in SF can be expensive. Here is a place that delivers a real bargain in fine food but you must reserve, its small, and the menu changes daily so options are limited. $39pp for a full meal There are so many other places to stroll-Union Street, Noe Valley among them. Don’t rule out a trip to Alcatraz-seems corny but it’s really fun and you’ll have your ferry ride. You mentioned a day in Sonoma-I assume that is the town? Sonoma County is huge and good for several days of wine tasting. Have fun!

Posted by
3016 posts

One of my favorite things to do in San Francisco is to take MUNI to Fillmore Street (many routes to choose from) and walk downhill all the way to the waterfront. You will be walking through Pacific Heights, Cow Hollow, Union Street, Chestnut Street, and the Marina. Once you get to the waterfront, you can turn right and walk through the Great Meadow at Fort Mason to the Hyde Street Pier and the National Maritime Museum. You should end up pretty close to most of the hotels in the Wharf area.

Posted by
9106 posts

We’ve done the HOHO bus and really enjoyed it (and we live here).

My recs: for great walking tours
Ferry Bldg (don’t miss Blue Bottle Coffee and Miette Bakery)
Ferry to Sausalito and back
Lunch or dinner at Slanted Door at the Ferry Bldg (reservation recommended)
Haas-Lillienthal House
Chestnut St
Fillmore St
North Beach/Washington Square
Tony’s Pizza at Washington Sq (sit outside)
Walk up to Coit Tower
Rent bikes and ride from Fisherman’s Wharf/Cannery Row through Ft Mason, along the Marina and along Crissy Field at the Presidio
Ft Point
Ride bikes or Walk across the GG Bridge
Nob Hill
Mission District
Castro District
Palace of Fine Arts
Legion of Honor Museum
deYoung Museum
Cable car ride

Fwiw, Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 are horrid and not worth your short time.

Posted by
827 posts

As a native of the Bay Area, I travel often to San Francisco for work and pleasure. With two days, there are a lot of things to choose from. I have taken the Hop-on-hop off bus and I am not a fan, I prefer to pick a few neighborhoods and explore. Public transportation is easy to navigate, but with three people, Uber or Lyft can be cost effective.

With Saturday as your first day, I would recommend the following:

Saturday morning Farmer's market at the Ferry building. Plan on having breakfast at the market. There are great food booths, my favorite are the bagels at Wise Brothers, but there is a wealth of gourmet food booths. If you want to take a Ferry ride this is the place to catch it, Sausalito is a nice trip with good views of the bay and both bridges. You can either choose to spend a little time in Sausalito exploring or take the Ferry back to the Ferry Building.

Saturday afternoon. Explore Golden Gate park--since you are interested in the California Academy of Science, I would recommend you visit that in the afternoon and then you have the option of exploring other attractions within walking distance, including DeYoung Museum or Conservatory of Flowers. Here is a link with options near the California Academy of Science:

Saturday evening. If you don't take the Ferry in the morning, an option is to take a night tour to Alcatraz. While it is touristy it is an interesting history and the night tour really brings home the isolation of the island. Here is a link for a tour: If you don't want to take a night tour, then head out to a nice dinner. My absolute favorite places in the city to take my friends from out of town are:
- Foreign Cinema (ask for the patio): not only do they have excellent food and cocktails, but they show outdoor movies while you dine (think upscale drive-in movie theatre). Reservations are a must. Here is the link:
- La Ciccia . Situated in a quiet neighborhood in Noe Valley, this restaurant is owned by a husband and wife from Sardinia. The food here is amazing, bringing the taste of Sardinia with local ingredients.
- Burma Superstar. Located in the Inner Richmond on Clement street this is a local institution for Burmese Food. There are no reservations and this is a small space. and you can wait awhile, but the food is flavorful, reasonably priced. The nice thing is that you can put your name in, give them a cell and then go shopping, they will text you when the table is ready. This street has a great independent bookstore, a german bakery (in business since 1911), Spanish and Asian stores.

Sunday morning you can either stay in the city or go to Sonoma for wine tasting. I personally would stay in the city and check out what is happening for the weekend and use that as a way to immerse yourself in the different neighborhoods. San Francisco has only a handful of great brunch places, here are some to consider:

  • Mama's in North Beach: the shortest wait I have had on a Sunday is an hour. but the food is worth it and you are in North Beach which is a great place to explore the Beat culture, visit City Lights Books, and experience Italy in San Francisco.
  • Marla's (near Balboa): one of the best brunches and they take reservations. In a little neighborhood not far from the park,.
  • Outerlands: outer sunset location, not far from Ocean Beach and the best Dutch Baby pancakes. Like Mama's the shortest wait I have had is an hour, but well worth it.
  • Brenda's French Soul Food: tenderloin is a dicey neighborhood, so Uber or Lyft. The food is New Orlean's meets California. Again a long wait, but worth it.

I will do another post for winery recommendations.

Posted by
827 posts

As a follow-up to my San Francisco post, I hope the ideas I provided along with the other input from the Forum helps you narrow down your interests. Also, if this is the first time you have been to the city, then some of the more traditional tourist activities, including the cable cars are fun.

For Sonoma, there are a lot of options as the Sonoma wine country goes well beyond the city of Sonoma with some of the best wineries further north in Healdsburg. For the purpose of my recommendations, I am going to assume that you want to tour around Sonoma (shorter drive from San Francisco). If you want to go further north, let me know and I can make some other recommendations.

Wineries for Pinot Lovers:
- Walt: on the Sonoma Square, they have a small tasting room with a lovely outdoors underneath pine trees. They have 1000 miles of Pinot from the Santa Lucia Highlands to the Shea vineyards in Oregon. This is a great plan to taste all the different expressions of Pinot. Reservations are required, but easy to get if you go on a Monday.
Three Sticks Winery is just off the square in a historic adobe. They also specialize in Pinot and they have personal tastings.

Fun Tours:

  • Benzinger has a lovely vineyard tram tour. They specialize in biodynamic farming and it is good introduction to sustainable wine making.
  • Gloria Ferrer for Sparkling wine has a nice tour as well as wine/food pairing options.

Food: so many great options...the two I always come back to are Girl & Fig on Sonoma Square. Quintessential fresh California cuisine (eat on the patio). The other is El Molino Central is awesome Mexican food about 10 minutes from the square. Inexpensive, but delicious. I especially love the Tamales.

If you don't eat at Girl and the Fig for dinner and want to catch a nice meal on the way back to the city, try Buckeye Roadhouse in Mill Valley. It is an old roadhouse from 1937 that specializes in grilled and smoked meats. We were there last weekend for a birthday party and even saw a huge Buck on the property behind the restaurant.

Hope this helps. Enjoy your trip.


Posted by
9106 posts

I agree with Sandy about Mama’s but we’ve never had less than a 2 hr wait in ten times going there. Love it, but finally gave up as the wait is just too long. And you have to stand the whole time in a line on the sidewalk. Even rain does not shorten the wait. It’s that popular. I think the main reason is because it’s in every guide book.

Posted by
992 posts

We live here too and have done the HOHO bus... might be good to get an overview of the city!

If you go to the Cal Academy, go to Nopalito for dinner (on 9th Ave, just south of Lincoln) - this is one of my favorite restaurants (get the totopos!). There is a fun bar called the Shamrock just on that corner that we had never been to, but finally popped in a couple of months ago. There are some cure shops etc in this area as well.

I would see the Wharf to say you did, then get out. :)

Hayes Valley, Fillmore, Chestnut St.... all cute areas to wander around.

Posted by
5697 posts

As an alternative to brunch, try dim sum in Chinatown -- lots of small plates on rolling carts, just point at ones that look good.

Posted by
15450 posts

I lived in the city for a couple months, took the cable car once for the experience. The buses were faster and more comfortable for getting around the city.

If you are near the Buena Vista, it's a good place to go for a drink before or after dinner. Even if you don't like Irish coffee, it's fun to watch them pour a line of them.

I always like the small Japanese Garden not far from the Cal. Academy of Sciences - if it's not crowded.

Posted by
5 posts

When you say Sonoma, are you talking about the city or the county? If you are talking county and want a winery suggestion I would highly recommend Emeritus in Sebastopol if you like Pinot. Great wine, very friendly staff, nice relaxing place to do a tasting. Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Geyserville is fun, wine can be good and if you like his films it's really fun to see all the movie memorabilia!

Posted by
557 posts

There are some great recommendations here. I live in the Bay Area and my favorites are to spend one day at Ferry Building and then just walking around--good suggestions above--and one day in Golden Gate Park with a museum (science or art) plus the Japanese Tea Garden (it gets crowded, be prepared) and the conservatory of flowers, and finding a nice spot to sit and relax if it's a nice day.

Another vote for Burma Superstar. Nopa is another good choice. In Sonoma, I agree with the suggestion of The Girl and the Fig, although it's been quite a few years since I was there.

Posted by
23 posts

We loved the HOHO tour, and the night tour in particular.

If you want to go to Alcatraz, book ahead!!! We tried to book when we were already there and there were no tickets.

Posted by
9787 posts

I agree with Laura B about dim sum in Chinatown. It is delicious! I don't know where you are from, or if that would be an unusual experience for you. My husband and I make it a point to have dim sum everywhere we travel if it is available.

Posted by
19 posts

My favorite city!
Suggestions: I’ve taken friends to Gloria Ferrer for Sparkling wine has a lovely deck overlooking a garden/ vineyard, and only 40 min from SF.
A walk across the Golden Gate Bridge,
SF Symphony, summer program going on now,
Ferry Building and market
Ball game at PacBell (now oracle) Park