Golden Gate Bridge

One Day in San Francisco

San Francisco is an dynamic city with its own unique character.  There are so many things to do in the Bay area that it can be hard to narrow down the list.  And, let’s face it – it isn’t exactly budget friendly.  While I normally prefer to stay longer in a destination and have a more relaxed itinerary, that approach isn’t really all that practical in San Francisco where it can cost an arm and a leg to stay in the midst of all the action.

Alcatraz Island with Sailboat
Alcatraz Island

The good news is that since many sites are in close proximity, it is possible to see a lot in one day.  Below is a sample family-friendly itinerary which checks a lot of boxes but isn’t too ambitious.

Sample 1 Day Itinerary

While the times may vary on tour times throughout the year, the general idea is to do Alcatraz first thing in the morning. (Check out Alcatraz Rocks! for more information on Alcatraz.)  Notice there is extra time built in for enjoying Alcatraz and lunch before an afternoon City Tour. The goal is to allow for flexibility in your day to make adjustments as needed for your family. For example, if you don’t want to rush at Alcatraz and prefer to stay longer, you can shorten your lunch.  If you are finished touring Alcatraz, you can spend more time exploring Fisherman’s Wharf and/or Pier 39 during lunch time.

Sea lions at Pier 39
Pier 39 Sea Lions

For our afternoon city tour, we booked the San Francisco Fire Engine Tour.  It was a very family friendly option which was fairly short.  We certainly enjoyed crossing over the Golden Gate Bridge on the back of an open air fire truck!  Each guest gets to wear a fireman’s jacket.  While it is not very figure flattering, it blocks the wind and is a lot of fun!

After your tour, you could either visit the Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop, Norman’s Ice Cream & Freezes, or a variety of other options for a snack.  (While Ghirardelli’s is iconic, we opted for Norman’s.  The ice cream was delicious, the line was shorter, and the customer service was outstanding!)  Both Ghirardelli’s and Norman’s are near the Hyde/Beach Street cable car station.  However, be prepared to wait in line as this can be a popular popular station.  We ate our ice cream while waiting and enjoyed watching the cable cars turn.

Cable Car in San Francisco
Powell and Hyde Street Cable Car

Trip Tip:  Book your Alcatraz Tour first and well in advance of your trip as tickets can sell out. Next, book your city tour. There will likely be more options for a city tour than for touring Alcatraz.  As with Alcatraz, I suggest booking this before your trip.  It is NOT FUN to have to search around to find the right tour for your family while you are on the trip.

There are so many other things to see and do in San Francisco.  I hope you have more than one day to explore and enjoy.  However, if your time is limited, you can still enjoy many sites and get a flavor of this unique city.

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