Solo in San Fran: Best Things To Do with 24 Hours in San Francisco

I’m so glad I decided to swing by San Francisco on my recent trip to California. I absolutely fell in love with this city, and you will too!

I only had a day to explore, but it was an incredible 24 hours. These are my favorite things to do in San Francisco (and what I recommend for a quick trip to The Golden City):

Take a Cable Car to the Bay

This will be a highlight of your San Francisco experience! Riding the cable cars is just like riding a bus or train in the city, just WAY cooler. Check out this Instagram Reel with all the info you need about riding these historic trolleys!

Transportation tip: don’t take a car around the city – just avoid the stress of traffic and one-way streets. The coastline of the bay is very bike and pedestrian friendly. I recommend renting an electric scooter or ebike to travel between sites. 

Make sure it’s electric though!! The hills in San Francisco are no joke – you’ll wear yourself out biking up and down them if you opt for a regular bike.

Ghirardelli Square

This is where the original Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory is located! There are three Ghirardelli shops where you can treat yourself to unique chocolate flavors, ice cream sundaes, and chocolate covered strawberries. There are other souvenir shops on the square and lovely fountains and lights that create a cozy ambience for exploring.

Pictures with the Golden Gate Bridge

The Presidio is the dedicated area on the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge that used to be a US military base. There are plenty of hills and open fields or beaches where you can snap amazing pictures with the iconic bridge in the background! It really is an amazing structure – definitely worth the hype.

Try to take pictures in the late morning/early afternoon. The summer months and evenings are when the fog from the ocean rolls in with a vengeance. For the best pictures and clearest views, visit in the morning in the fall/winter/spring.

Insider tip: if you want to cross the bridge in a car (you can just walk across), you need to pay a toll.

The Walt Disney Family Museum

Did you know that NorCal had cool Disney stuff too? This beautiful museum recounts the history of Walt Disney, his family, and how he got started as a filmmaker. I’d give yourself a good couple hours to explore the whole thing. There’s plenty of reading and watching to do, the information is fascinating, and the museum is really well done! Plus it’s a great place to escape the California heat and enjoy some air conditioning.

Palace of Fine Arts

People don’t usually think of the Palace of Fine Arts when they think of San Francisco, but they definitely should. This outdoor structure is a breathtaking piece of Italy in the middle of the city. It was originally built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition (think World’s Fair vibes). I could have spent hours walking around this peaceful site – make some time to explore and take pictures here too!

Ferry Boat Tour

After exploring some of the sites along the bay, a ferry ride is a great way to see all of it at once. I booked a ferry tour through GetYourGuide and it was one of my favorite parts of the day! Listen to the audio guide that plays throughout the boat and learn about the history of the Presidio, the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, Alcatraz, and more.

Bring some layers with you – even on sunny days, the ride is really windy!

Seafood Dinner at Pier 39

When you’re this close to the ocean, a seafood dinner is a must. Stop by Pier 39 for some great shopping and even better options for seafood. Try clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl or a classic shrimp dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. 

Lombard Street

You’ve probably seen “the crookedest street in the world” in movies and tv shows. Now’s your chance to walk/drive it yourself! This street is just one city block down a steep hill. The crazy part of it is the EIGHT switchbacks on that short stretch of road! Climb up the steep steps and discover the beautiful townhouses and hydrangea bushes along the road.

And if you have some time left…

Visit Alcatraz Island

I didn’t have time to visit this historic prison on the day I was there. But I heard from everyone I talked to that it’s super cool and worth a visit. You can book a tour (including ferry transportation to the island) through GetYourGuide too.

Which of these places would you want to visit first on your trip to San Francisco?

No matter what you do, you’ll fall in love with this city that’s so full of history and west coast magic.

Additional Resources

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