10 Things to Do in San Francisco (1 Day)

I’m going to tell you 10 things to do in San Francisco for a day…what to see, where to eat and what to do all down by Fisherman’s Wharf. 


We’re going to visit the Golden Gate Bridge, see the walruses on Pier 39 and eat some amazing chowder and bread and chocolate.  Here are 10 things to do in San Francisco for the day. If you are visiting San Fran or if your airplane lands in San Francisco International Airport, and you have a layover, this video will help you.  The SFO is a 40 minute drive to the Fisherman’s Wharf area. If you like this video, leave me a comment or subscribe for other travel, fashion and party idea videos that POP. We are an airline family so most of my videos are travel tips.

#1 Thing to Do in San Fran is to Uber it toward the San Francisco Cable Car System, which has been running since 1873.  Have your Uber driver drop you off at the Powell Street Cable Car TurnAround stop on Powell and Mason streets. Our Uber driver had a car phone charger for us, gum and water bottles!  We landed in the morning, but the morning traffic wasn’t too bad so the commute took around 40 minutes.  We got in line for the Cable Car at 9 am and waited an hour and a half.  The Axiom Hotel is right by the line; we suggest getting pastries and coffee from there (no line) while you wait.  It’s eye opening seeing some of the disturbed individuals yelling or asking for money, and there are plenty of people around so it’s not unsafe.  Your family members can even run across the street to the huge mall and grab something to eat while you wait.

You can only buy tickets on the actual Cable Car if you have cash.  If you can only pay with a credit card, you will want to stand in a little line at a booth by the Cable Car line.  You will have plenty of time to stand in that line.  We had enough cash so we just bought them on the car, and they WILL check for your ticket.  This Cable Car will take you over many hills straight to Fisherman’s Wharf, but it will stop in China Town.  Now, you can get off at the China Town stop, but you will have to pay full fare to get back on at China Town and continue to Fisherman’s Wharf.  We skipped China Town.  The full fare per person is $7, and if you’re a senior, you only get a discount if you travel before 7 am or after 9 pm.  You can buy a full day passport (I’ll link it below) for $17 per person so if you wanted to hop off and back on in the same day, you do that. But you buy those from the conductors on board so have cash on hand.

#2 Thing to Do in San Francisco is to get the lay of the land once you get off the Cable Car at Fisherman’s Wharf – tourist shops, booking a tour if you want…they have ferry rides around the bay to the Golden Gate Bridge.  Take it from us; set up these tours months ahead.  Crowds made it so that everything was booked that day; we were there the beginning of August, and 6 piers away from Fisherman’s Wharf, where the Alcatraz tours take off were booked until the end of the year when we looked.  Plan ahead for tours.  We saw segway tours, but I’m talking about any boating tours.

#3 Wow, Alcatraz is amazing if you can swing it for your day in San Fran.  You have individual audio tour head sets to walk around with at your own leisure-you’re not with a tour guide or group.  This, along with the ferry ride will take around 2.5 hours.  They take your picture before you even get on the boat; we recommend making a scary face as a family.  You meet this boat way down at Pier 33.  We also recommend watching the original Escape from Alcatraz with Clint Eastwood.  We got to go on Halloween to Alcatraz…aah back when we could take our child out of school without him being responsible for alot of instruction.

Map of Fisherman’s Wharf (Fish Alley)

#4 What Food to Eat – In Fisherman’s Wharf, where you get dropped off at the Cable Car – this is called Fish Alley.  This area is a flat triangle of about 5 blocks all along the San Francisco Bay.  If you want a breakfast or pastry or some awesome coffee, look toward the water and turn right on Jefferson Street and go to Boudin Sourdough Cafe.  This is a crowded, fun place to eat at bar top tables and order some delicious coffee.  It’s brisk because the wall height doors are open so you get the sea breeze. There is a restaurant that opens at 11 fyi.  Whenever you are getting hungry, you need to already be at a restaurant because of the wait time.  If you get hangry, that one day in San Fran will be ruined. While we drank our coffee, we planned where we wanted to go first.  This cafe is across the street from Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum if that interests you…or if it’s windy and freezing cold and you want an indoor thing to do.

You will see near lunch, a bunch of vendors under Alioto’s and Fishermen’s Grotto right beside Alioto’s.  Those will see you the freshest clam chowder and fish, and you can take that food and walk right over to the benches or sidewalks to eat by the bay water.  But if you go behind their kiosks, there are tiny restaurants where you can escape the heat or cold.  We ate at saBella.  They and La Torre have vendors outside as well as a restaurant behind their kiosks. There’s even The Chowder Hut right there in the middle of the cement lot in Fish Alley.  You cannot eat inside I don’t think, but you have lots of tables outside to eat at.  It’s an A-frame little restaurant.  Any of the Wharf food is going to be excellent in my opinion.  My uncle was the accountant for Alioto’s back around 1980, and Aliotos was quite a treat.  I think they still have the same carpet, and they have tons of tables inside with a view of the bay.  There’s something about eating warm chowder with the cold, wet wind hitting you while you eat it outside though.  Good times!

#5 Thing to Do in San Francisco If you have a history buff, is to tour the SS Jeremiah O’Brien, ship right there by Alioto’s and Fisherman’s Grotto.  It’s the last standing Normandy ship I think?  You can sit in the turret and look down the scope.  Great tour; the movie Titanic used the belly of this ship to film the pipe sections, do you remember that part in the movie?

Don’t miss the #6 thing in San Francisco and that is the vintage arcade place called Musee Mecanique right before you enter the Pier 42ish for the ship.  It’s all right there beside Alioto’s and Fishermen’s Grotto.  They have vintage games, antiques and new arcade games.  So fun and quirky and quick!

Vintage Arcade Games You Can Play (and new games)

#7 Thing to See in San Francisco is to walk from Fisherman’s Wharf-Pier 42ish to Pier 39 to watch the famous walruses.  It’s like a man cave all in the open.  Hilarious grunting and blubbering around.  You can stand here watching them for at least 30 minutes.  There’s a tiny museum right above where you watch the walruses that’ll take you about 10 minutes to walk through. This gives you the cool story of how the walruses ended up on Pier 39 after an earthquake. In-between these two piers there is a big white building with a clean bathroom area.  It’s large and white.  Safe.

#8 We recommend you wait until after 2 to Uber to Golden Gate Bridge so the sun will burn off the fog-or if it’s sunny when you arrive, go there immediately!  You never know when the fog will roll in and COMPLETELY block it.  Change your schedule if you need to because a great view from the bridge is the main reason we love San Fran. Our Uber driver came within 2 minutes right there at The Wharf and took us right to the welcome center of the Golden Gate Bridge.  We walked about halfway across the bridge and were freezing so we came back to the welcome center.  This is like a mini museum and gift shop.  They have metal bolted facts about the bridge with large posters of construction that are amazing!  Don’t miss this.  For example, there are approximately 600,000 rivets in each tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.  You can take a selfie near an actual size cable segment holding up the bridge.  The fact posters tell you how many days it took from start to having an automobile on the bridge.  There’s also a coffee shop there with gorgeous views, but it was very crowded!  If you can fit it, I’d take a fleece or a thin wind breaker because that wind-whew!  And we were fine down by the Wharf!

Traffic congestion is a nightmare, and we recommend getting Uber to take you back to Ghirardelli from the bridge.  I’d say the car ride from Fisherman’s Wharf to the bridge is about 6 minutes.  Now, take Uber to Ghirardelli Square, which is in-between the bridge and wharf. 

It came within two minutes, but we met him at the entrance of the welcome center parking lot.  There is a turn around so he won’t have to go through the awful parking lot traffic to pick you up if you just meet him at the entrance.  Remember Uber tells you what the car looks like etc. So you won’t miss him. This Uber car was a Mercedes! And the other one was a Lexus!

If you’re a biker and IF it’s a beautiful day, we recommend renting a bike at the bridge, riding across it and down into Sausalito to a bakery for a quick pick me up.  But be prepared for that head wind!  Brutal!

#9 Must when you visit San Francisco is Ghirardelli Square.  It has 3 levels basically…a walk up ice cream cone section, a cafe, and a gift shop up top.  The Ghirardelli Cafe line has such little room inside so it is deceiving.  It looks like there will be a long wait in the restaurant part.  But don’t be fooled.  Stand in line and order the Sea Salt Caramel Sundae with caramel and hot fudge chocolate sauce.  I always ask for no whip so that I can get to the flavors faster!  They have free water cups by the vintage conveyor belt inside the restaurant so you don’t have to order it.  The food comes out faster than you can tell your waitress what you want.  Then they have the shops upstairs with candy, etc you can buy, as well as where you leave the cafe.

10# Thing to Do in San Francisco If you’re looking for a clean inexpensive hotel, we can recommend The Vagabond Inn.  Even if you do not stay there, take their free shuttle and then take a walk behind the hotel. No frills, but they have free breakfast and transportation to and from the San Francisco airport.  And weekdays are MUCH more expensive than weekend rates.  The 2 other reasons we like this one is that it’s in-between two nice hotels.  So after our day of racing around Fisherman’s Wharf, we came back to our hotel and crashed for an hour and walked right next door to the happy hour menu.  They had delicious and moderately priced foods to choose from that were top notch!  And you’re right by the water that planes land on at the airport.  So there is a view.  And outside of the Vagabond Inn and the others, there’s a really long cement walking path along that water.  You can jog or walk or walk to the Marriott next door to get a Starbucks and enjoy watching planes land and take off at the country’s busiest intersecting airport.  With only two runways, as one is landing, one is taking off at the same time.  It’s precise!  And so cool to watch from a distance.  And where the Vagabond Inn is is usually not fogged in so you will feel the sun.

For an added tip when visiting San Francisco I want to recommend what to wear when you are in San Fran for a day.  I recommend good canvas shoes.  I’m a tennis shoes gal for sight seeing, but with mist almost always in the forecast, you do not want your socks and feet to get wet.  These are excellent for arch support and thick comfortable soles.  I also recommend a tunic over comfy jeans or leggings.  I love cardigans because they are added layering without a lot of bulk.  I’ll link this rain coat below because it’s so fold up-able.  And the sleeves are long enough to wear over a cardigan as it is A-frame.  If the sleeves are too long, you get the happy pops of leopard under the cuff.  This wind breaker rain coat is super thin, but it helps block the wind if it’s not in the middle of winter.  I wore this in Oregon and loved it.  These are all wardrobe pieces for a vacation that you can pull out and wear for your one day in San Francisco that will still match and mix with other clothes in your bag.

I hope these ideas help give you a bird’s eye view of what 10 things to do in San Francisco so you can plan what your family wants to see and eat and do if you only have one day.  Thank you for POPping over!

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