Look no further for a romantic getaway in California! San Francisco, California is a perfect destination for couples looking to spend quality time and explore.
From eating sourdough while watching sea lions, to exploring Muir Woods, or celebrating in the arts and culture of this diverse city, San Francisco is a perfect weekend destination! Read on for the ultimate 3-day itinerary.
San Francisco has so much to do that I recommend visiting with the mindset that you don’t have to experience everything in one trip. And that you can always come back!From Arizona (our current residence), San Francisco is a great place to visit since there are often really great flight deals! Flights can be as low as $50 round trip. With all that said, is 3 days in San Francisco worth it? Absolutely!
Day 1 (FRIDAY): Arrival, Mission District
Firstly, it is wise to look at places to stay a few months in advance for your trip.
Holiday Inn has a fantastic rewards program and we booked a stay with the Golden Gateway Location Downtown. Similarly, there are a variety of great options for other hotels and Airbnb’s.
Since we left after work on Friday, our flight from PHX to SFO landed at 9pm, the flight is only two hours which makes for a perfect weekend getaway! Once you land, find your rental/turo car or Uber to your stay for the night.
Mission District for a Late Night Snack
Halfway through the drive from the airport, you may want to stop for a late night snack like we did. We decided to go visit the Mission District for some late night eats and found some incredible tacos/burritos.
We later learned that the mission district was named after the 1776-built Mission Dolores, and is well known for its Latino roots and hipster vibes.
There are old-school taquerias and eclectic live-music clubs with cocktail lounges and chef-driven eateries.
A great stop for food and entertainment if you want to come back another day!
DAY 2 (Saturday): Muir Woods, Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street, Ghirardelli, etc.
Saturday is THE adventure packed day, so make sure to have a good breakfast, bring water, wear comfortable clothes/shoes, and be ready for the fun!
First stop on the list is an inspiring hike through Muir Woods.
Located just north of the city, Muir Woods is the closest location to see redwoods from San Francisco. From our hotel downtown, the Muir Woods visitor’s center was about a 33 minute drive.
We thought about taking an Uber/Lift, but the cell service is very poor once you are inside the park, so that’s why we chose a car rental. However, in hindsight it may have cost us more because of the tolls to cross the bridge. So something to keep in mind.
If you didn’t rent a car, there is still another way!
The Muir Woods Shuttle brings visitors from off-site locations to the park and back. The shuttle serves one bus stop location, and the tickets are round-trip. Visitors booking shuttle reservations don’t need a parking reservation, so this could be a great option for you!
Muir woods is a National Monument known for its towering redwood trees.
It was the first National Monument that was created solely because of a land donation from an individual. Redwood Trees are the tallest living things on this planet. The Bohemian and Cathedral groves contain the biggest trees, one 252 feet tall and one 14 feet wide!
There are a few steps you NEED to know when visiting Muir Woods.
- Purchase the Parking Pass online before visiting the park ($8.50)
- Purchase the Entry Fee for each person visiting ($15.00 each)
- Print out your documents beforehand since cell service can be unreliable
Click here to purchase your passes.
You will need to book a 30 minute time window for arrival, we chose 8:00-8:30am. The total cost to visit the park for the two of us was $38.50 plus gas and the Golden Gate Bridge toll fees.
We walked about a half mile from the parking lot and entered Muir Woods.
The park is named after John Muir, an activist known for helping establish the National Parks. Some of my favorite Muir quotes…
The mountains are calling and I must go.
In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.
I highly recommend taking your time inside the park. Find a spot to be still and feel the peace/power of these magnificent trees. We spent about an hour and a half in the park, and left feeling peaceful and inspired! On our way back to the city we planned to visit Muir Beach, but decided to go check out the coastal town of Sausalito instead.
Sausalito was a great change in plans!
The city is a 20 minute drive from Muir Woods, and definitely worth a stop to find unique souvenirs and artistries, or grab a bite to eat at a local café.
The plan was to see the bridge next, so we didn’t spend too much time here, but planned to come back for brunch the next day.
Golden Gate Bridge
After Sausalito, stop by the Golden Gate Viewpoint for an iconic view of this architectural marvel.
It is a quick 13 minute drive to the viewpoint and you will see parking spots along the road. There are signs to not leave valuables in the car so be sure to bring them with you.
We arrived around 11am and luckily found a free spot right away. There is a short hike to the viewpoint, and then you can see the stunning views of the bridge and dazzling bay area.
Take your time, grab some memorable pics, and then head back downtown for sourdough and soup!
Lunch at Boudin
From the Golden Gate Bridge, drive down to Fisherman’s Wharf for some amazing sourdough and bread bowls.
It’s a 16 minute drive to the Boudin Sourdough Bakery and Café. I crave Boudin’s sourdough all the time, it’s one of my favorite stops while visiting San Francisco!
If you’re not sure what to order, any soup in a sourdough bread bowl is a good start! As the weather permits, eat outside on the terrace for a view of the harbor and surrounding shops.
After eating, explore inside the bakery to find souvenirs and uniquely shaped sourdough loaves.
Since we went on Valentine’s Weekend, it was especially fun to get the heart shaped loaf.
Grab one for a cute picture and an excellent snack while you tour the city (your body will be thanking you for the extra carbs while walking up the high incline streets!).
Pier 39 and Sea Lions
After a hearty lunch, take a break and watch the “Sea Lebrities” at Pier 39.
The morning is the best time to see these cute creatures, but there are often at least some sunbathing out on the docks. Want to learn more about the history of these famous sea lions? Click here for more info.
The pier is also a great location to find food, fun, and shopping. There are great family friendly options of things to do like riding the carousel, jumping at the Flyer Thrill Zone, or visiting the Aquarium.
Ghirardelli & Shopping
After the sea lions, there are more shops to explore southwest of the pier. We spent some time wandering around, and then headed up a short distance to Ghirardelli Square. The Ghirardelli in San Francisco is a popular tourist attraction because it’s their oldest operating chocolate factory.
That’s right, you get to see where it all started 160 years ago!
Stop by to taste the yummy ice cream sundaes, tour the square, and learn about how chocolate is made from start to finish. If you visit during September, you could catch their annual Chocolate Festival!
Following Ghirardelli, it is a 10 minute walk or a 4 minute drive to the famous Lombard Street.
Why is it famous? Lombard street was designed in 1922 and is considered to be the most crooked road in the world! With 8 tight hairpin turns, driving down the street is certainly an experience.
There is also the option to walk down the street if you don’t want to take on driving the 27% grade hill.
San Francisco is well know for the intense and steep hills!
Last thing you need to know, Lombard Street is a popular destination, so it can get pretty crowded during peak hours. It usually only takes a few minutes to get down, so it’s definitely worth trying at least once.
Next on the list is a tour of the famous Alcatraz Prison.
Alcatraz is located on a lone island in the San Francisco Bay and was extremely popular during the 1950s.
The prison housed over 200 inmates and held the reputation of being inescapable. Another claim to fame comes from housing the notorious gangster Al Capon or “prisoner number 85” and the alleged prison escape in 1962.
The prison was closed in 1972, and became part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Today, tourists can take a ferry tour and a self-guided tour on the island.
Depending on what touring company you use, tours can cost anywhere from $25-$50.
There are tours running throughout the day and into the night, which can be found at Fisherman’s Wharf.
From other’s reviews, touring Alcatraz is described as a thrilling, educational, historic, an eye-opening experience, and a must do while in San Francisco!
Golden Gate For Sunset
Since our Alcatraz Tour was canceled, we decided to go back to the hotel and rest our feet. This ended up being a great choice, and we were ready to get back to adventuring after a little siesta.
I always recommend when traveling, to know the times for sunrise and sunset. It’s a special experience to see the sunset in a new and exciting location.
Because it was overcast in the morning at the Golden Gate Bridge, we decided to go back and get some photos with a clear sky. It was great timing, and we arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge lookout just as the sun was beginning to set!
We gazed at the bay area and enjoyed capturing some beautiful pictures of the changing colors reflecting on the water.
If you don’t want to pay the toll fee again, there are some great beaches on the south side of the bridge that would have wonderful sunset views as well.
Chinatown for Dinner
After sunset, head over to Chinatown for some fantastic dinner options.
We were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves walking through Chinatown during Chinese New Year. There were decorations and fireworks going off along the street as we made our way to Grant’s Place.
We relaxed with some warm tea while enjoying the Kung Pao and Cashew Chicken.
There are many more great options for dinner, and you really can’t go wrong in Chinatown. After eating, we headed back to the hotel for our last night in San Francisco.
SUNDAY (DAY 3): Palace of the Fine Arts, Brunch in Sausalito, Victorian Homes/ Painted Ladies
Palace of the Fine Arts
For the last day of the trip, be sure to plan around how much time you have before your flight. Try to fit in whatever else you would like to see before takeoff.
I ended up going on a morning run while Jordan slept and we coordinated to meet wherever I planned on stopping. My original plan was to run to Fisherman’s Wharf and then west along the coastline. I got a little turned around and ended up going to a different part of town.
*This is where I want travelers to be aware that the city does not look the same everywhere you go. While incredibly beautiful and vibrant, San Francisco is home to a large homeless population that results in some dirtier spots around the city. To make sure you are prepared, I would advise to stick to the locations you are comfortable with, it can be unsanitary walking around the sidewalks in some areas. Which is where I ended up on my run, but I corrected my directions and soon found myself running through a lovely park towards the ocean.
After about 6 miles and feeling the crisp salt air in my lungs, Jordan and I met up at the Palace of the Fine Arts. This is an incredible place to walk around and feel the grandeur.
The Palace of the Fine Arts was designed by Bernard Maybeck and was meant to resemble a Roman Ruin. It was built in 1915 to be a meeting spot for the world fair, celebrating the Panama Canal’s opening. The structure stands today as a special tribute to the arts, a sight certainly worth seeing.
Brunch in Sausalito
After a walk around the Palace of the Fine Arts, you can continue to explore the area, find some fun spots to eat, or head back over the bridge for brunch in Sausalito.
We had to pay the extra toll fee, but we really wanted to spend more time in the town.
Sausalito is best known for its excellent views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. It is also known for the historic Richardson Bay houseboat community built by artists and free spirits after WWII.
We walked around many charming shops and decided to get fish ‘n’ chips and fish tacos at Lappert’s Ice Cream.
I recommend switching out the fries for the sweet potato fries, they are delicious! T
he fish tacos here are incredible and you really can’t beat fresh fish from the coast.
After eating, we noticed our boarding time drawing closer, so packed up and headed back across the bridge.
Victorian Homes/ Painted Ladies
I highly recommend if there is more time before your flight, to see some of the iconic Victorian Houses around San Francisco.
This Victorian style architecture began in England during the reign of Queen Victoria between 1837-1901.
San Francisco was one of the first major U.S. cities to emulate this style of architecture. It was estimated that from 1850-1900 about 40,000 Victorian homes were built.
The most famous being the “Painted Ladies” also known as “Postcard Row”, well know from the beloved 90’s sitcom Full House.
Many of these homes were rebuilt after a tragic earthquake in 1906. My personal favorite Victorian home was this all black beauty located closer to our hotel downtown.
Take some fun optical illusion pictures, just be sure to hold your balance as you lean forward on the steep streets.
And that is how to spend a weekend getaway in San Francisco!
Head back to the airport and enjoy the view as you fly home.
Planning Your Trip: What You Need to Know
Things to Do
- Mission District
- Muir Woods
- Golden Gate Bridge
- Sourdough at Boudin
- Pier 39
- Lombard Street
- Palace of the Fine Arts
- Painted Ladies/ Victorian Homes
For more to do, check out the lists here!
The average flight time from Phoenix to San Francisco is 1 hour and 40 minutes. For the weekend getaway, you can leave on a Friday and arrive later that night. This will make for a late night, but you will have one full day on Saturday to explore! When you arrive in San Francisco, pick up your rental car at the airport and head downtown to your hotel/ Airbnb. The drive will take around 20 minutes.
Looking for an alternative way to travel in the city? San Francisco has a variety of options!
Once you are Downtown, it’s really convenient that most of the sights are accessible by walking! San Francisco is also filled with vendors that offer more ways to get around. It can be tricky to find parking downtown (most spots are metered and fill up quick) and our hotel charged a $30 fee to park our rental car. Therefore, it’s best to think about what kind of travel works best for you. Furthermore, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge has a $7.50 fee each time you cross, so that is something to keep in mind. Here are some options for alternative city travel:
- Bike rental
- Go City Card/ City Pass
- Cable Cars
- Go Cars
San Francisco is a beautiful coastal port town located in Northern California. The city is a great destination year round, but best months to travel are said to be September to November, or in the Spring. During this time temperatures are on average a high of 74 and a low of 58. January is the coldest month with an average high of 57 and low of 46.
- We traveled in February and the first day was a beautiful sunny day. We made sure to bring a wind/water resistant jacket in case of sporadic rainfall. The second day was classic overcast with the occasional sprinkle. Typically, the temperature in February had a high of 61 and a low of 48. We loved the change in weather, as it brought a moody and romantic atmosphere.
Click here for current weather
Go CityPASS/ Go City Card
The City Pass is another great option for saving money on attractions around the city. It includes 2 preset attractions with 2 more customizable options starting at $76.00 for adults and $56.00 for children. Follow our link to get the best discounted price available & save money on your trip to San Francisco!
For an all-inclusive pass, the Go City card is a great option for saving money. This pass can help you save on 25+ attractions and is customizable for the amount of things you want to do. You can also customize the pass with the amount of days you are staying in the city.
A 1-Day adult pass starts at $63 and goes up to an all-inclusive 5 day pass for $147, with cheaper options for child passes. Included in the pass are attractions like a Hop-on and Hop-off Bus Tour, Visit Alcatraz, The Aquarium at the Bay, San Francisco Zoo, All-Day Bike Rental, Go-car Tours, SFMOMA and more!
We hope that this three day San Francisco itinerary gives you the ultimate head start to planning your trip to the city! Check out our lists in the travel resources tab section for more suggestions of things to do in San Francisco. This city is full of history and life so coming back is always worth your while.