San Francisco Weekend Guide: Explore the Charm of the Bay Area

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San Francisco, California Weekend Getaway - Golden Gate Bridge.

Looking for a place to chill out with your romantic partner or group of gal pals for a long weekend?  Head west in the USA to San Francisco, California, where you’ll find a charming city filled with fun things to do, quaint neighborhoods, historic sites, unique adventures, and amazing cuisine. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, you’ll find a welcoming vibe, open to all, and a guaranteed memorable time.  

First Stop – Head to the Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco’s most famous icon is the Golden Gate Bridge where you can walk, bike, or drive across this iconic landmark. With exquisite views of the Bay and skyline, this is destined to be one of the highlights of your trip. There are a choice of companies renting bikes to ride solo or take a group tour. Make your reservation online in advance to save a few dollars. When you’re ready to come back, take the ferry back from Sausalito,…with your bike!

While you’re in the Golden Gate Bridge area, don’t miss Golden Gate Park with its beautiful gardens, California Academy of Sciences, the De Young Museum (art collection), and the indoor Conservatory of Flowers. The Golden Gate area is a wonderful place to lose yourself in the splendor of fine architecture and gorgeous ambiance.

Read More: 15 Fun Things to Do in San Francisco with Teens

Check out the Presidio

If you’d like to stay near the Golden Gate Bridge, check out the Presidio of San Francisco, where you’ll find two historic boutique hotels, the Inn at the Presidio and Lodge at the Presidio, along with great restaurants, a bowling alley, and other outdoor recreation. New to the Presidio are the tunnel tops, great for hiking, seeing native plants, and picnic sites.  

San Francisco, California Weekend Getaway - Take a tour of the grounds at Alcatraz Island.
Take a tour of the grounds at Alcatraz Island. Photo credit: Mira Temkin.

Alcatraz Island – A Fascinating Look at America’s Most Famous Prison

Once a former military fort, Alcatraz Island is the world-famous former Federal penitentiary that once hosted Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, and “The Birdman of Alcatraz.” It remains one of San Fran’s most popular tourist attractions, run by the National Park Service and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

The easiest way to get there is to catch the Alcatraz Cruises boat ride. It’s just a 10-minute jaunt out to Alcatraz Island. Most of the tours are self-guided, so you’ll want to grab one of the headsets and listen to the stories of the prisoners and the wardens as you wander around the cells.  

SheBuysTravel Tip: Make sure you carry a jacket or hoodie for the boat ride and Alcatraz Island. The winds tend to pick up and it is a little cooler out there.  

San Francisco, California Weekend Getaway - Check out the daily events at Alcatraz.
Check out the daily events at Alcatraz. Photo credit: Mira Temkin

Take a Self-Guided Tour

Visit the historic grounds and cellhouse, see where the inmates get fresh air, and listen to the audio tour. It’s mostly self-guided with interpretive programs throughout the day at Alcatraz Island, so be sure to check the daily schedule. They even show you how they locked and unlocked the doors.

For something a little on the spooky side, book a night tour and get another perspective of the jail, coupled with amazing sunsets across San Francisco Bay.

San Francisco, California Weekend Getaway - Pier 39 is the dining, shopping, and entertainment capital.
Pier 39 is the dining, shopping, and entertainment capital. Photo credit: Mira Temkin

Fisherman’s Wharf – The Place to Play

Opening in 1884, Fisherman’s Wharf remains one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist attractions and a place to see popular events. Expanded to include Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf offers the best of both land and sea attractions.

Cruise along San Francisco Bay, buy fresh fish from local purveyors on the boats and have a delightful picnic with an amazing bay view. For a real thrill, ride the SkyWheel for exquisite views of San Francisco Bay. Cuisine reigns supreme here with everything from Dungeness crab, international culinary treats and some of the best chocolate you’ve ever tasted.

Read More: Best Spas in the Bay Area

San Francisco, California Weekend Getaway - Chinatown is one of the most popular tourist destinations.
Chinatown is one of the most popular tourist destinations. Photo credit: Mira Temkin

Celebrate the Year of the Dragon in Chinatown

During the celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year, you’ll find dragons everywhere all over San Francisco, but especially in Chinatown, which opened in the 1850s when Asians began coming to America. This is one of the oldest Chinatowns in the U.S. and it’s filled with tons of shops selling exotic and practical goods, purses, sunglasses, and other trinkets.

Make your way down Grant Avenue and devour your way through the Chinese eateries. Think you’ve found your favorite egg rolls? Keep going. There are so many different tastes to enjoy like egg custard tarts, tea tastings, Peking Duck sesame pockets, and more. Check out their culinary food walking tours, too.

San Francisco has a popular Little Italy too. It’s the home to the Stinking Rose restaurant. If you love garlic, your nose will lead you here, The Garlic Alfredo Fondue is out of this world or try their famous Garlic Ice Cream.

San Francisco, California Weekend Getaway - Step aboard a cable car.
Step aboard a cable car. Photo credit: Mira Temkin

Ride the Cable Cars – Cross It Off Your Bucket List

You can’t visit San Fran without taking a spin on an iconic cable car, which has been running since 1853. Choose from three lines that go in different directions and use cable cars to get to a variety of neighborhoods like Union Square and exclusive Nob Hill. It’s exciting to go up and down the hills. Single rides cost $8.00 or buy a day pass or multi-day pass.

For a more in-depth look at the inner workings and history of cable cars, stop at the free Cable Car Museum.

Admire the Architecture at the Palace of Fine Arts

This exquisite palace is one of the most Instagrammed places in all of San Fran. Built to host the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, the Palace is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Discover Nob Hill

One of San Francisco’s iconic neighborhoods is Nob Hill, known for its luxury hotels and historic mansions built by famous railroad tycoons. Enjoy a drink and gorgeous views at the Top of the Mark at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel. A great place for brunch is Mymy or dinner at the Nob Hill Cafe for outstanding Italian food.

Read More: The Jay Hotel Brings the Ultimate in Luxury and Style to San Francisco, California

Stay in the Union Square Neighborhood

The best place to hang your hat for a few days is bustling Union Square where you’ll find attractions, shopping, and dining, all within a few short blocks. Located in the heart of San Francisco, Union Square lets you explore architecturally significant structures, Gold Rush history, and free walking tours, surrounded by AT&T Park, the Moscone Convention Center, and the theater district.

Popular Road Trips from San Francisco

What visitors enjoy most about San Francisco is the variety of road trips you can take via boat or a short drive to enrich your California Dreamin’ experience.

Take the Golden Gate Ferry to Sausalito

One of the most popular day trips from San Fran is out to Sausalito where you can see amazing views of Alcatraz, the Bay Bridge, and the San Francisco skyline. Just hop the Golden Gate ferry or bike to this charmer of a town, known for its great restaurants, art galleries, and fresh seafood along the Bridgeway Promenade. Don’t miss seeing the floating homes in Sausalito, especially one that resembles the Taj Mahal. There is a lot to do in Sausalito, so you may consider staying overnight at a bed & breakfast.

Read More: Best Beaches in San Francisco and Beyond

Stand in Awe of the California Redwoods

Near Sausalito is Muir Woods National Monument, where you’ll see the stately Sequoia trees that have been growing there for a thousand years. Opened in the early 20th century, this National Monument is home to some of the best Redwoods in the San Francisco Bay Area. Go hiking, check out the fauna and flora, and see the kind of plants that grow in semi-darkness, covered by the trees. It’s a peaceful outing you will long remember.

SheBuysTravel Tip: There is no cell phone service here and you must reserve your parking and shuttle service in advance.

San Francisco Travel has tons of trip planning info if you’re ready to plan your getaway to the City by the Bay.

With more than 20 years of travel writing under her bling-y belt, Mira Temkin understands the expectations of the leisure traveler and writes to those expectations. From destinations to tours to cruises and luxury resorts, her articles cover the world: across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Central America, South America and Europe. She is a proud member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and past member of the International Food Wine Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA). Mira always has her bags packed and is ready to go! You can read her other travel stories at
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