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SF Weekend Itinerary for First Timers

We are visiting San Francisco just for the weekend and are looking to make the most out of our short stay! We are 20-something foodies and are looking for a mix of visiting the "must-see" tourist attractions and a bit of more local fare (neighborhood cafes, weekend festivals, etc.) I would appreciate any insight or changes you would make to the tentative plans below! What would be your ideal weekend as someone who is from the city? Thank you in advance!

Friday
-Fly in at 8:30pm
-Bourbon & Branch at 10:30pm
(this is close to where we are staying)

Saturday
-Ride the cable car from the hotel to the Ferry building
-Breakfast at Ferry Building farmer's market
-Walk along the embarcadero, see Pier 39
-Explore Chinatown and visit Golden Gate Fortune Cookie factory
-Lunch (?) Would like authentic seafood but not sure where to go that isn't a tourist trap! Alternatively could go to Presidio Social Club
-Walk through Marina neighborhood along Chestnut Street
-Visit Palace of Fine Arts
-See Golden Gate Bridge
-Michael Mina at 8:30pm
-After dinner things to do (anything fun to do late night outside of going to bars? Any recommended cocktail bars? Bar Agricole?)

Sunday
- 11:30am Brunch @ Tartine
- Walk through Mission neighborhood along Valencia street
- Walk through Haight Ashbury
- Golden Gate Park
- Places for fun snack/coffee/bakery nearby?
- Fly out at 7pm

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  1. Pretty solid list.

    Pier 39 is a gross mall built as a tourist trap.

    In Chinatown, custard tarts at Golden Gate Bakery are worth the wait in line.

    Traditional local seafood, Swan Oyster Depot is on the way from Chinatown and the Marina.

    15 Romolo and Comstock Saloon are a couple of good bars not too far from where you're apparently staying.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      You are in for a treat! I'm sure you'll figure this out but the cable car doesn't go to the farmer's market -- you have to walk from the bottom of California if you do take it partway. Taking one of the heritage street cars along the Embarcadero is a rather fun if a bit slow way to get to Pier 39. If you must walk through just to say you did, make it fast and keep going to Hyde Street Pier which is pretty cool: http://www.nps.gov/safr/index.htm It sounds like you've worked out that you deffo shouldn't eat at the Wharf :-).

      As a tourist myself, I'm always on the lookout for good seafood. If you're in Chinatown, that's not far from North Beach and Sotto Mare, which has very nice petrale sole on offer. The lineup might be a bit less egregious here than at Swan's on a Saturday.

      I've never been to Michael Mina and don't mean to diss your choice but it doesn't seem very San Francisco to me. What made you choose it?

      I presume you mean Bar Tartine for brunch on Sunday. If you can get out to the Mission early, you could pick up some baked goods from Tartine Bakery or Craftsmen and Wolves to eat later. I can't think of anything really worthy close to Golden Gate Park that fits your criteria. b patisserie is a thought if you're heading back toward downtown to pick up your luggage anyway.

      1. re: grayelf

        Thank you so much for such helpful suggestions! As for Michael Mina, I made a reservation for that night as some of the other highly recommended restaurants (Nopa, Frances among others I can't remember off the top of my head) were already completely booked for June 8th :(

        What other places would you recommend instead? This will be our big dinner of the trip, celebrating a special event :) My fellow traveler loves French food and great wines, I like seafood and local ingredients if that gives you ideas of a restaurant you think would be a better fit!

        1. re: fernweh195

          Great wines, take a look at Acquerello, Keiko à Nob Hill, and Spruce.

          1. re: fernweh195

            Did you look on opentable or call the booked restaurants already? Calling them might get you a seat! Good luck and enjoy SF!

            1. re: hyperbowler

              Calling is a great idea -- Open Table has its limits! I don't know nearly enough about wine to venture a guess as to where you might go but I've been wanting to try Keiko (one of Robert's suggestions above) and it seems like it might hit all your marks plus be nearish the hotel for the stagger home.

              One thing I have noticed as an eager-beaver tourist is that not everything opens all that early on Sunday along Valencia. The lineup at Tartine Bakery is there pretty much all the time however : -). Have a gougere for me if you go...

              1. re: grayelf

                I would second the Keiko recommendation—extensive and somewhat eclectic wine list. The food really does reflect both Chef Keiko's Japanese roots as well as her classical French training and the California terroir.

                I haven't been to Acquerello in years but it was very good.

      2. You have a *very* aggressive schedule for Saturday. Like most people on this site, we will heartily suggest you avoid Pier 39 as a massive tourist trap that not even foodies bother with...

        After Michael Mina, I would recommend you head to lower Fillmore in Western Addition; there you will find a handful of jazz clubs (Rassella's, Boom Boom Room, Sheba's and Yoshi's). Lots of cool, live music to be had...

        1 Reply
        1. re: CarrieWas218

          Great! I am definitely considering paring down the number of things we see on Saturday and will take Pier 39 off the list. Is the Marina neighborhood worth seeing, or also something to skip this time?

        2. Plot all this on google maps and calculate transportation time. You might be overbooked, especially given the popularity of your food destinations.

          Skip Chestnut St--- walk along the water instead. Great views as you approach the Palace of Fine arts and then Golden Gate Bridge.

          Swan's, recommended above, will have you waiting in line for well over an hour. Sotto Mare is a great suggestion and they take reservations, at least for dinner.Are you open for Chinese seafood?

          Brunch at Bar Tartine or Tartine Bakery? Both excellent, but totally different things and only the Bakery has pastries. The former takes reservations, the latter has hour long lines. Grayelf's suggestion to hit the bakery earlier is a great idea. Get as much walking done in the Mission as you can before Bar Tartine.

          Ice Cream Bar is a few block detour from Haight Ashbury as you approach the park. Get the shakes or some of the weird stuff if that appeals, but skip the standard sounding things. Baked goods are not a strength of that part of the city.

          After such a full day at dinner at MM, which I find heavy, I'd be too tuckered out to hit a bar. Caffeinate well, my friend :-)

          Sunday is really busy for a 7pm flight, but doable. Plan your transportation well ...