How to Spend 48 Hours in San Francisco
We probably all know that feeling. That incredible feeling, in the middle of a whirlwind travel adventure. The moment when you realize that somehow you're lucky enough to have 48 extra hours in your jam-packed schedule - enough time to visit just one more city.
If you're on the west coast, San Francisco is the place to see. The city itself is very small - it's home to around 850,000 people, compared to New York's population of over 8 million. This makes it the perfect city for exploring in a short amount of time.
Day 1, 10am - Check out Pier 1
Time to start the day - and what better way to start it than heading to San Francisco's Pier 1? It may not be as well-known as the famous Pier 39, but it's definitely a sight to see. The pier hosts a large farmer's market and a vast selection of food stalls, why not try something new and treat your tatsebuds?
Before you get to the pier, you'll see an industrial water fountain, the Vaillancourt Fountain - an 'Instagram' worthy sight. The fountain spews electric blue water, so it's not your usual water feature. Sadly, the real reason for the blue water is much less magical - the algae killer within the water alters it to create the blue lagoon effect.
From the pier, you'll also be able to view the beautiful Oakland Bay Bridge, or simply the Bay Bridge to locals. We'll understand if you take loads of photos, send them to your mum, and then realise it's not the Golden Gate Bridge. Happens to the best of us. The Bay Bridge is also one to see at night, due to the amazing light show that takes place.
Day 1, 3pm - San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is a museum like no other. You will be amazed at the incredible art features you can see. San Francisco is known for being quite a trendy city, where just about anything goes. This makes the art museum a hub for the city's most unique artists. Admission can be a little expensive - unless you're 18 or under, when it's free. The world-class exhibitions are extremely creative and unexpected. The museum itself is walking distance from Union Square, so it's very accessible. The gift shop on sight can be a little on the pricey side, however, you and your friends can get some awesome tiger temporary tattoos for less than $5. My friends and I really loved them.
Day 1, 7pm - Palace of Fine Arts
The best time to visit the Palace of Fine Arts is around 7pm, during Golden Hour (always check the sunset time beforehand though). The way the sun hits the golden stone makes you feel as though you're in ancient Rome. Just stroll through, absorb the beauty of the architecture and the lake, with the cool tranquil climate. The most calming and relaxing place you will ever experience. After a fun day of traveling, the walk through will be a well needed end. A word of advice - there isn't any parking nearby. Your best bet is to use public transport, as it's easy to navigate. You could also use Uber or Lyft, as they're both reliable and easy to use.
After you get back to your accommodation, have a well-deserved relaxing evening - you'll have a solid day of exploring the next day.
Day 2, 10am - Alcatraz
When thinking of San Francisco, most people's minds head straight to Alcatraz Prison. For good reason - Alcatraz is an infamous place, known for containing some of the biggest criminals of all time. Al Capone, George 'Machine Gun' Kelly, and Alvin Karpis all called Alcatraz home at one point or another. It was active between 1907 and 1933, until its closure due to lack of funding. The prison's 1,576 inmates were not all well-known gangsters, but they were all prisoners who wouldn't conform to the rules and regulations of their previous prisons.
In order to visit Alcatraz, you need to use a company called Alcatraz Cruises. Other cruises can take you nearby, but only Alcatraz Cruises can land on 'The Rock' (no, unfortunately not Dwayne Johnson). You'll want to spend as much time on Alcatraz as possible, so it's best to give yourself about half a day to explore the island. There's no food available to buy on the island, but you can grab some snacks and drinks on the ferry there. Wrap yourself up - the morning will get really foggy and a little chilly, so best to be prepared.
Day 2, 3pm - Golden Gate Bridge
Can you really say you've been to San Francisco without a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge? It's a staple of tourism - there isn't a keyring around without the iconic bridge, but that's why we love it. The walk across takes around 45 minutes, or maybe more if you'd like to really soak in the view of the Bay. Just make sure to watch out behind you - the bridge is a favourite for runners and cyclists. And we can't forget about Karl. You know Karl, right? No? Are you joking? Well If you don't know him, you'll get to know Karl well. Karl the fog Karl. He spends most of the morning covering the bay, acting like an air conditioner.
Day 2, 5pm - Mrs Doubtfire, Full House, & Painted Ladies
"I'm ready for my close up." If you're a huge Robin Williams fan (may he rest in peace), you'll know that one of his most famous films, Mrs Doubtfire, was filmed right here in sunny San Francisco. The outer shots of the family home was on Steiner Street, which isn't very far out of the city, and is easily accessible using Uber and Lyft. You can pay your respects to Robin Williams, but also make sure to respect the current owners by keeping your distance and being aware of their privacy.
Whatever happened to predictability? One of the biggest TV shows of the 1990's in America was Full House. It followed the crazy lives of brothers Danny, Jesse, and Joey, as they tried to manoeuver fatherhood together. You just can't get better TV than that. The house they used on the show is on Broderick Street, but like the Mrs Doubtfire house, it's a public residence so be respectful to people privacy. You got it dude.
You might have been able to spot another landmark when watching the Tanners grow up - the Famous Painted Ladies. These Victorian-era homes were famously painted in bright colours, to liven up the area. The homes are, again, private residences so privacy is crucial. However, there is a large lawn in front, which you can take a picnic or sunbathe on for a while.
Day 2, 7pm - Pier 39/Fisherman's Wharf
I can't think of a better way to end off an incredible 48 hours in San Francisco than enjoying an evening at Pier 39 or Fisherman's Wharf. One of the best things about going in the evening is seeing all the cute street lights and hanging lights illuminating the area. There are so many amazing restaurants and food stalls, you won't be bored (or hungry). They even have their own Bubba Gump Shrimp Shack, so you can feel as though life is like a box of chocolates, (hopefully you know exactly what you're getting though). The Wipeout Bar and Grill is a surf themed restaurant that I definitely enjoyed. The upstairs pizza restaurant gives you a great view of the Bay Bridge, especially once it's all lit up. There is so much to do at the pier as well. Tonnes of shops and attractions, plus there's a two-story carousel (I'd be lying if I told you we didn't try it, and yeah, it felt great).
Other fun facts to know about San Francisco:
- The Chinese fortune cookie was created in San Francisco, by a Japanese man.
2. When Al Capone was held at Alcatraz, he gave concerts (playing the banjo) with his inmate band, the Rock Islanders.
3. In 1867 San Francisco introduced an 'ugly law' which permits 'ugly' people from public exposure. Thank goodness that's gone.
4. The iconic colour of the Golden Gate bridge wasn't supposed to be the orange we see today. It was supposed to have black and yellow stripes - the orange is a sealant.