by Bridget Jackson
I was overjoyed when I found out I would be going to San Francisco this past January. It’s a thrilling city with numerous sights to see. So what do you do when you only have 3 days to spend in San Francisco, but have a must do list a mile long? Well, I took this challenge with excitement and after tedious research of the area; I was able to create an itinerary for each day’s activities. By adhering to a strict daily schedule, on nightfall of day 3, I had put a check mark next to all items on my daily activity list! In just three days, I visited many major attractions in San Francisco and I also spent time in Muir Woods National Monument, Point Bonita Lighthouse and I took a leisurely drive to Point Reyes National Seashore and Bodega Bay! My travel itinerary worked great for me, and it might be helpful for anyone who is traveling to the area and wanting to pack in as many sights as possible with limited time available. The days are nonstop and fast paced the entire day. All I can say is make sure you pack your tennis shoes, jacket, drink a large coffee, and grab a camera because we have places to see, and there is no rest for the weary! My tips on planning my itinerary; first, I looked up the top things to do in San Francisco. After analyzing the list, I chose what interested me. Once my priority list was generated, I looked at a city map of the area in order to plan my route. After studying the map, I grouped all destinations that were near each other (remember time is of the essence) and you don’t want to travel back in forth through San Francisco traffic when many sights are so close to each other. Traffic time equates to missed sights! Hold on tight here we go!!
Day 1– I recommend a drive to Twin Peeks park (Twin Peaks Boulevard). The view of the San Francisco skyline is breathtaking from this location. Next, travel to Golden Gate Park; it’s a very big park so I chose to observe it from the car rather than foot. Then, drive to Haight St. and Ashbury, and place yourself into the 60’s era of peace and love, look for Janis Joplin’s former residence on Ashbury; it’s a 4 story pink townhouse. Next stop; Seal Rock, Sutra Baths, and the Presidio. Here you will find Baker Beach which has an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge. After that jaunt, head to the Palace of Fine Arts. Make sure that when you leave the Palace, walk toward the beach, and you will find another picturesque view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. Absorb the beauty but not for too long, because it’s time to hop on the Golden Gate Bridge and head to John Muir Woods (about a 20 minute drive). There are stops on both sides of the Golden Gate Bridge where you can park your car if you decide to take a walk on the bridge. After you spend some time at the redwoods, I strongly suggest you head to Point Bonita Lighthouse for a spectacular coastal lighthouse (visitation hours of the lighthouse are limited). The Muir Beach overlook and Rodeo Beach both are worth a visit and have glorious views. As you head back toward San Francisco spend some time in Sausalito. It’s a quaint town with many restaurants, and enchanting shops.
Day 2– Rise and Shine!! All aboard; this morning brings a boat trip to Alcatraz (I advise purchasing your tickets in advance). My voyage began on the ferry Alcatraz Cruises; don’t forget your jacket. Once you arrive at Alcatraz you can stroll the island and facility at your leisure, since the ferry has several departure times. A walk to the Alcatraz lighthouse will ensure views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Bay Bridge. The ferry dock is a short walk to Pier 39, so take a peek at the Sea Lions that hang out there. Pier 39 also has several commercial stores and restaurants, so you may not want to spend a lot of time there. Other interesting places to see in the vicinity are Grace Cathedral, Lombard Street, and Coit Tower. While in Fisherman’s Wharf, catch a trolley and take it to Chinatown (warning: the trolley ride is one way). This will give you some time shop in Chinatown before you catch the trolley back to the Wharf. The trolley also stops at the Financial District. There are many high end stores in that area. After shopping, take the trolley back to Ghirardelli Square for a chocolate delight at one of their candy stores, or perhaps try their famous hot fudge sundae. Before you leave the Wharf area, give your taste buds a treat, walk over to Buena Vista Cafe and have an Irish Cream coffee (it was invented there!).
Day 3 – This day takes us beyond the Golden Gate Bridge for the nature lovers, with a leisurely trip North along Hwy 1. First stop is Pt. Reyes National Seashore, about 43 miles from San Francisco; many people may not know that the San Andreas Fault borders the park. After you pick up your map at the visitor center, take a quick hike on the Earthquake Trail and you will be able to see blue posts that mark the San Andreas Fault line. I also recommend driving to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, depending on the season and weather you might see whales migrating. Fair warning; it is a high endurance hike to reach the lighthouse with many steps to climb, so keep that in mind. Following your journey to the lighthouse, drive to Chimney Rock and watch the elephant seals in action. By 2:00 pm, I advise to make your way back on Hwy 1, north to Bodega Bay, (about 38 miles away). The scenery is beautiful and the journey is accented by charming towns. Once you reach Bodega Bay, follow the road to Bodega Head for incredible views of the rocky coast. Bodega Head is also another hotspot to view whales depending on the weather and time of year. If you happen to be an Alfred Hitchcock movie buff, parts of the movie The Birds were filmed in Bodega Bay and the surrounding area. There are landmarks you might recognize like the Tides Wharf, and Potters Schoolhouse. At this point in the journey it’s late in the evening, and night time brings dark and winding roads for Hwy 1, so choose the best route that works for you to make it back to the city.
Alas, my travel companions, that’s a wrap, I had a great time in San Francisco and I am sure you will too. If you have any questions about this trip or need help planning your adventure feel free to ask Bridget. Safe Travels!