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One Day in San Francisco


Last Updated on December 28, 2021 by Amy

Aside from a 6-hour layover in San Francisco, David and I had never been, so we jumped on the opportunity to spend one day in San Francisco while passing through on a sailboat.

San Francisco Public Transportation

It was incredibly easy to get around in SF.  Tickets to the trolley and bus are interchangeable and although it says they are good for 90 minutes, all of ours were marked to expire almost five hours from when we bought them.  There’s the trolleys, bus, cable cars, subways, and ferries, so there are lots of choices.

Coit Tower

We started (of course) by taking the ferry over to the SF Ferry Terminal. From there, we grabbed the trolley service down the Embarcado to Lombard, where we got up and walked to the Coit Tower. Even though the day hadn’t been as clear as the previous few days, we did get a great view.

Oh, sorry David, did I not mention it’s 400 stairs up?
Love this tree. The neighborhoods and houses we passed were pretty ritzy.
Panoramic of the Golden Gate Bridge and the waterfront.
The view of Alcatraz from Coit Tower.

Pier 39

From Coit we walked down to Pier 39, for the sole reason of checking out the sea lions. Definitely the highlight of my day, the sea lions are loud with their barking, ungainly on land, graceful in the water, and just an altogether fabulous show. It was not quite the peak season for sea lions (which is August) but there were hundreds. I suppose it’s probably not peak tourist season either, so we were able to get a pretty good view to watch them for a while.


From Pier 39 we walked to the start of the Cable Car and took the car up to Chinatown, where we popped into the oldest dim sum restaurant in the US – Hang An, founded in 1920. Dim sum is not a food you can find all that easily in the islands, so it’s an excellent stop for us. We ordered five dishes and they were all great, but the pork meatballs were outstanding.


Next, we hopped a Muni bus to the Castro district, the heart of gay pride in San Francisco. We did a short, self-guided walking tour, seeing the landmarks and grabbing a cookie at Hot Cookie (known for their phallic-shaped cookies, but they only came in one flavor), a chai tea at Philz Coffee House (unicorn themed) and a drink at Twin Peaks.

Rainbow Flag at the Harvey Milk Plaza.
Alfred E Clarke Mansion.

Tenderloin District

From Castro we ran an errand (Best Buy – I broke my Nikon DSLR camera battery charger). Then it was dinner time, and we took the bus to the Tenderloin district and walked for a few blocks to find Pawkar Pakistani Restaurant for some Tikka Masala (and the best naan I think I’ve ever had). Finally, back to the waterfront to enjoy the sun setting over San Francisco and the bridges starting to light up.

More Than One Day in San Francisco

Planning for just one day in San Francisco was really challenging.  I found this article by Time particularly helpful.  There are a few things we would have liked to do that we missed:

There are just so many amazing instagramable places in San Francisco!  We were lucky to have room & board covered by our employers, but there are plenty of cheap things to do in San Francisco.

Watch the Video: A Day Exploring San Fransisco

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  1. You know how to pack a lot into a SF day!! I loved reading it all and Amy, your pictures are fabulous!! Years ago Marcia and I spent a weekend in SF and walked all those steps too. Glad the weather was so favorable and your sea lion pictures are great!
    Safe sailing to Hawaii!
    Hugs, Grandma

  2. I’m saving this blog note for when I next visit daughter in Oakland. Her husband works as an animator at Pixar (Victor Navone). Wish I had known you were going to be there so long as I might have been able to get a Pixar tour for you. Especially glad to know of a good dim sum place. Yay!!!

    1. Oakland, especially the Jack London area, is nice. Bummer about the Pixar tour, that would have been amazing!

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