Two Days in San Francisco Itinerary: Top Things to Do in San Francisco for First-Timers

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Here is how you should spend two days in San Francisco if your visiting San Francisco for the first time!

California is a massive, diverse state full of top National Parks, bucket list cities, renowned wineries, and beaches, but San Francisco stands out among Californian destinations. For San Francisco, it’s a “bucket list” city (ie the Golden Gate Bridge, the Full House House, cable cars, Alcatraz… you get the point) and there is SO much to do and see that your two days in San Francisco can easily be filled with activities.

We only spent two days in San Francisco, but this trip has made us want to go back already! If you’re from the state, San Francisco, among many other destinations, is a great option for romantic getaways in California. As first-time visitors to San Francisco, we wanted to see the top things to do and top attractions in the city. So here is your first-time visitor’s two-day itinerary to seeing the top things to do in San Francisco!

San Francisco Two Day Itinerary for First Time Visitors

Two Days in San Francisco Itinerary

San Francisco is full of culture, restaurants, shopping, and tourist sights so pick your niche, and let’s get planning!  So, here’s the rundown of how we spent two days in San Fransisco!

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco

Day One: Two Day San Francisco Itinerary

Visit the Top Things to Do in San Francisco

For your first day in San Francisco, be the classic tourist and that main tourist sites! Since you only have two days in San Francisco, make the most of it by checking off the top of your bucket list!

Visit Fisherman’s Warf

Fisherman’s Warf, is one the must-sees of San Fran. Here, you can see the famous California Sea Lions, eat great seafood, do some shopping, and tour some of San Francisco’s famous attractions.

This waterfront community stretching from Ghirardelli Square to Pier 35. In the later 1800s, this area became inhabited by Italian immigrant fishermen who came into San Francisco during the gold rush. Today, the area is still used by fishermen and the fishing industry.

Pier 39

Pier 39 is one of San Francisco’s top tourist destinations for its numerous attractions (one of them being the two-story Carousel!) and its family-friendly atmosphere. Pier 39 is just one part of the larger Fisherman’s Warf.

Tours and Sightseeing at Fisherman’s Warf

During a visit to Fisherman’s Warf, don’t miss out on some of San Francisco’s top attractions. Here, you can tour the Ghirardelli Factory, go on sightseeing tours, catch a Ferry to Alcatraz, and much more!

Ride a Cable Car

Riding a Cable Car should be on your list. It’s such a unique experience for the city that you can’t find anywhere else. There are a variety of options for buying passes and paying per trip with the Cable Cars. You can pay when you get on the car in cash. It’s a great way to see the city. Definitely add riding a cable car to your weekend getaway to San Francisco plans!

The Cable Car system in San Francisco is the oldest system remaining in the world! The cable car system in San Francisco came to lift because of Andrew Smith Hallidie, whole reportedly witnessed an accident where a streetcar slid backward down one of the San Francisco’s steep hills. 23 lines were established between 1873 and 1890 and only three remain today. Today, the Cable Car system is on the National Register of Historic places!

Visit the Golden Gate Bridge National Park

If you could only do one thing in San Francisco, you would have to go see the Golden Gate Bridge. The Welcome Center at the Golden Gate Bridge has a nice courtyard where you can get some photos in front of the Bridge and grab a souvenir or snack. Since the Golden Gate Bridge is part of the National Park, don’t forget you’re National Park Passport! At the park, there are free tours and trails for walking and exploring. We recommend walking across the bridge for the full experience! 

The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate, the one-mile-wide strait connecting San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. The Bridge was designed by architect Irving Morrow and engineered by Joseph Strauss and Charles Ellis during the 1930s. Prior to the construction of the bridge, a ferry crossed the bay to transport passengers. The orange color of the bridge is officially known as an orange vermilion called international orange!

Get the Best View of the Golden Gate Bridge at Crissy Field

If you have time, take a drive to Crissy Field, a former US Army airfield for amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Today Crissy Field protected by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. If you’re looking to take part in some outside activities during your weekend getaway to San Francisco, visit Crissy Field! Here, you can walk along the beach, see one of the best great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and take some awesome photos!

Day 2: Two Day San Francisco Itinerary

Tour Alcatraz and Angel Island

For your second day in San Francisco, take the day to see Alcatraz. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to book the Angel Island/Alcatraz dual tour. Booking ahead is a MUST. I booked about 3 weeks in advance and barely got a ticket for the time and date I wanted. You can book tours that include both Alcatraz and Angel Island if you’re interested in doing both! 

How to Visit Alcatraz

  • Purchase tickets ahead of time
  • Catch your ferry ride to Alcatraz, which departs from Pier 33 along Fisherman’s Warf. Make sure to get there early so you don’t miss your departure time!
  • The ferry departs every half hour and is about a 20 minute ride. The ferry rides offers excellent views of San Francisco!
  • Once you arrive at the island, you’ll be greeted by a National Park Ranger who will introduce you to the site and give you instructions on how to access your audioguide!

During a visit to Alcatraz, you can see the dining hall, barracks, warden’s house, the lighthouse (which is the oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast!), the gardens, recreation yard, and other military fortifications. A tour of Alcatraz included a self-guided audio guide and it’s recommended that you allow at least three hours to visit the entire site.

Alcatraz Island is located 1.25 miles offshore from San Francisco. The small island was developed for a lighthouse, a military fortification, military prison, and federal prison. The prison gets the nickname the “Rock” because of its location on the rocky island.

The prison at Alcatraz gains its fame for housing some of the country’s most wanted criminals. Because of the rough currents and distance from land, Alcatraz was the perfect location to have a prison with little to no chances of escapes. However, there have been multiple attempts, but prisoners were either killed, captured, or drowned. The federal prison was established in 1933 and housed notorious criminals including Al Capone, the Birdman of Alcatraz, and Machine Gun Kelly.

Alcatraz is now protected and maintained by the National Park Service.

Visit the California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is an amazing interactive, science museum! This natural history museum features exhibits, nighttime activities, and lectures. At the museum, you can see some of their permanent exhibits: the African penguin exhibit, the aquarium, living roof, and fully-living indoor rainforest (with butterflies!). There is so much to see at the museum that picking a few exhibits for one day is plenty. 

Considering I was only in the city for a short period of time, I got to experience many of highlights. San Francisco is so rich with culture and history that I hope to return in the future!

Where to Eat (including gluten-free!) in San Francisco

Cultural Districts

Firstly, San Francisco is known for having different cultural and neighborhoods areas of town including Chinatown and their own little Italy! The San Francisco Chinatown is actually the largest outside of Asia! And for Little Italy, you can never go wrong with Italian food! These neighborhoods are great for learning about different cultures and experiencing their cuisine. For your weekend getaway to San Francisco, give some new cuisine a try in one of these neighborhoods! 

Eating Gluten-Free San Francisco

As a gluten-free and fructose-free person, I had a great time exploring restaurants that could accommodate my dietary needs. I found two great cafes in San Francisco that I loved!

Little Gem

Little Gem is a small eatery that features food that is naturally raised and free of additives, preservatives, harmful chemicals, and modification. natural, seasonally fresh, and organic food. Marin Sun Farms provides all meats that are pasture-raised and grass-fed. They have both lunch/dinner menu and a brunch menu on the weekends. The quality of my meal was representative of how much the restaurant cares about the source of their food. I got a salad with a fried egg, seaweed, greens, salsa, rice, and mushrooms. It was a very large, filling portion. Reservations for dinner are recommended. Delivery is available from Caviar and Uber Eats.

Seed and Salt

Seed and Salt another gluten-free, plant-based café, was another great choice for dinner. They both cold and hot meals, pastries, smoothies, and breakfast. I chose to order the zucchini spaghetti with a buckeye veggie ball. It was very delicious! They have a large selection of reasonably priced meals. All food prepared at this café is free of gluten, dairy, refined sugar, trans fats and GMOs. You can order online and delivery is available through Caviar.

Where to Stay in San Francisco