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4 day trip to San Francisco - Advice needed!

Vancouver, Canada
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4 day trip to San Francisco - Advice needed!

First time trip to SF, trying to pack in as much as possible in a trip. I've picked up a citypass so I want to do most of the touristy things on that. I also want to goto a beach (recommendations) but I'm not sure if I have the time to do it..

Day #1

Arrive SFO - 12pm

Arrive Powell St. BART - 2pm

Check into hotel and then shop around at Westfield/Union Square - 3pm+

Do you think I'll need more/less time around union square for shopping?

Day #2

Arrive at Fisherman's Wharf - 10pm

Spend the whole day there and do some of the following: Bay Cruise, Aquarium of the Bay, Pier 39, Alcatraz

Will I expect to spend my entire day at Fisherman's Wharf or does it sound reasonable to go elsewhere as well? Possible the beach or visit golden gate...

Day #3

Arrive at California Academy of Sciences - 10am

Spend a few hours there and then arrive at Japantown - 1pm

Spend a few hours there and then arrive at Chinatown - 4pm

Should I be spending more time at Japantown or Chinatown? Less time at the academy of sciences?

Day #4

Plane departs at 1pm.. I don't think I can go far in the morning unless it is somewhere nearby downtown


Ferry Building Marketplace
Points of Interest & Landmarks, Shopping Malls,
Heart of the City Farmers' Market
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San Francisco...
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1. Re: 4 day trip to San Francisco - Advice needed!

Read through this excellent list of suggestions first:


Specific comments:

Day 1: I don't know how much shopping you want to do or what you want to buy, but you could easily spend your first day around Union Square if that's what floats your boat.

Day 2: I assume you mean 10:00 AM not PM. If you are planning on visiting Alcatraz, you MUST buy tickets in advance. Check other discussions on this same board for the details. I would consider consolidating North Beach and Chinatown into this day rather than spending the day in Fishermans Wharf. You could easily walk from Union Square east to Grant Avenue then walk north on Grant through Chinatown, into North Beach, and then up Columbus to Fishermans Wharf.

Day 3: The California Academy of Sciences is in Golden Gate Park, and close to many other attractions within the park. If you really wanted to visit Japantown, you could do so on the way out to GG Park. You could also use this day to visit other, more interesting areas of the city such as the Haight-Ashbury district, which is also on the way to Golden Gate Park.

Day 4: Take some time to wander. Don't feel like you have to do everything all at once. It should still be here the next time you get back.

San Jose, California
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2. Re: 4 day trip to San Francisco - Advice needed!

Everythuing you can buy in SF can also be bought in Vancouver so why waste your time, then have to carry it all back?

Not much to see in Japantown IMHO, skip it. Add North Beach to Chinatown since they are right next to each other, as Wellvis advised.

I think you've allocated too much time to FW, 2 hrs is enough not counting the cruise and Alcatraz. The aquarium there is a rip off, small and expensive.

Edited: 25 May 2011, 22:35
Bloomington, Indiana
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3. Re: 4 day trip to San Francisco - Advice needed!

First, welcome to TA!

Here's a few comments on your outline:

Day #1: Only you know how long you'll want to spend shopping. I can say it's pretty compact, so you won't lose a lot of time traveling between stores, but as to whether you'll want to spend a few minutes or an hour in a given store . . . well only you can tell.

If you give some information about what you're looking for and/or stores that you want to visit, then people might be able to make guesses and/or suggestions regarding your shopping time.

Day #2: Personally I wouldn't do the bay cruise since you're planning on Alcatraz, but that's a personal preference. You'll be seeing the city from the bay when you go to Alcatraz and I don't think the bay cruise adds that much (yes, you will go under the GG Bridge). On a side note, make sure you reserve your Alcatraz spots - the tours often (generally?) fill up.

Beyond that, I think you've got too much time for the FW & Pier 39 area. In my opinion it merits and hour or two (maybe 3) to walk though and that's about it. See the sea lions, the views in general, check out a few tourist shops, maybe pick up some cheap souvenirs, get some clam chowder in a bread bowl, but I can't imagine spending an entire day on it.

Other things that are fairly close by that you might add in lieu of FW time include: Chinatown, North Beach or Lombard Street. There aren't really any nearby beaches.

Day 3: Again in terms of too much/too little time, only you can tell. You might have already done Chinatown (see above), so that might only leave Japantown for you to do after the museum. With this in mind, you could add your beach time on this day. When you leave the museum and either walk or "MUNI" out to Ocean Beach. A fairly direct route to Japantown would be to then move north to Geary (it will be a bit of a walk and a semi-significant elevation change) and take a 38 Geary back to Japantown.

Day 4: If you haven't already done Chinatown an hour or two walk through it should be possible before you leave. If not you could fit in a little followup (additional) shopping time or perhaps run down to the Ferry building, swing through North Beach, or . . .

I will point out that you *don't* have the obligatory Cable Car ride anywhere in your schedule!

The bad news is the lines most popular with tourists (running from Market Street to FW/Pier 39 areas) often have long lines/waits. An alternative is to ride the California Street line which basically never has a waiting line. (Also, be warned the lines are being worked and might not be running.) The California line might work between your hotel & Chinatown or the Ferry Building.

Lastly, consider getting a MUNI passport. Unlimited rides on all off MUNI (including cable cars) for one (relatively) low price. Given what you've outlined, I'd say get a 3 day pass and decide whether to have your first or last day be a "pay regular fare" or "walking" day.

That's what I've got to say about that,


Vancouver, Canada
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4. Re: 4 day trip to San Francisco - Advice needed!

Thanks for the help guys. Would including a trip to the beach on the same day I goto golden gate park be advisable? It doesn't seem too far off... any recommended beaches ?

Vancouver, Canada
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5. Re: 4 day trip to San Francisco - Advice needed!

Well in terms of shopping... we'll probably be shopping for clothes.. but that's about the only idea I have. I don't think we'll be spending an extensive time at each store though.

As for the alcatraz, I already checked and apparently it is all booked. I will probably just have to settle for the bay cruise.

General consensus seems that I don't need to spend a lot of time at the fisherman's wharf so I wil definitely look into spending less time there and coupling it with some other places that you mentioned. So I figure for the third day I can do.. academy of sciences --> beach --> japantown.

I was expecting to ride the cable cars as a mode of transportation for at least one of those days so Im definitely going to get that in there.

I already have the city pass so I won't be needing the muni pass. Thank you so much for the advice though!

6. Re: 4 day trip to San Francisco - Advice needed!

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