Best things to do in San Francisco for a weekend

The iconic Golden Gate Bridge is the perfect backdrop for a weekend in San Francisco — Photo courtesy of San Francisco Travel Association

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Any time of year is a good time to visit San Francisco. One of the most popular travel destinations in the country, the City by the Bay is rich in culture, food and places to explore.

Because San Francisco is a such a great walking city, you get to spend a lot of time outdoors, whether you’re strolling the urban streets of its diverse neighborhoods or navigating the hiking trails of its 376 beautiful parks.

We put together a weekend itinerary that’s perfect, filled with a little bit of everything that makes San Francisco famous.

Just make sure you pack comfortable shoes.

Day One: Art, an iconic bridge and the world’s best pizza

Drop your bags off at Lodge at the Presidio, where you’ll happily be spending the next two nights. Resist the temptation to park yourself by the fire pit and stare at the stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and head downtown to spend the afternoon at some of the city’s renowned museums.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is a must-visit. Founded in 1935 as the first West Coast museum devoted to modern and contemporary art, it’s an architectural wonder in itself. And it features one of the most significant architecture and design collections in the country, as well as the largest space in any U.S. art museum permanently dedicated to photography.

If you’re hungry for more than art, you can grab a snack from the museum’s Cafe 5 and enjoy it outdoors in the Jean and James Douglas Family Sculpture Garden on the fifth floor.

Although you could easily spend the day at SFMOMA, try to take in one or two of the city’s many other acclaimed museums, such as the De Young Museum – a landmark art museum in Golden Gate Park – or California Academy of Sciences, which houses a rainforest, an aquarium, a planetarium and more, all under one roof.

For a deep dive into the diversity that makes San Francisco so exciting, check out the GLBT History Museum in the Castro, the city’s legendary “gayborhood,” and the Contemporary Jewish Museum, whose unusual shape is derived from the letters that spell “chai,” the Hebrew word for life.

If you prefer your art outdoors, visit the Mission District, where hundreds of walls and fences feature vibrant, eye-popping murals.

After a long afternoon of museum-hopping, pick up a book or two at the world-renowned City Lights Bookstore before treating yourself to dinner at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, home of 13-time World Pizza Champion, Tony Gemignani. The man has perfected the art of pizza, and you can choose from 13 different regional styles to enjoy on the outdoor deck.

13-time World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani13-time World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani — Photo courtesy of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana

Roll yourself back to the lovely Lodge at the Presidio, where you can finally sit outside by the fire pit and stare at the stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge – before crawling into the luxurious bed to sleep like a baby.

Day Two: A day in an urban national park

Start your day with breakfast (included) in your room or on the outdoor patio. Spend some time checking out the Lodge’s eclectic art and imagining the hotel back in the day when it used to be a military barracks.

Because the Lodge is located in the Presidio – an award-winning National Park covering almost five percent of the city – it’s an ideal starting point for a day to celebrate nature in all its glory.

Of course, the quintessential San Francisco experience involves crossing the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, and you can walk across its 1.7-mile span or rent a bike at Sports Basement. Or you can simply admire the magnificent views from one of the eight scenic overlooks along the extensive Presidio trail system.

Stop for lunch at Presidio Social Club Exchange to pick up artisan food, from salads to prime rib, made to order. Don’t forget the buttermilk biscuits as you settle in for a picnic on the main lawn.

The Batteries to Bluffs Trail boasts stunning ocean viewsThe Batteries to Bluffs Trail boasts stunning ocean views — Photo courtesy of Charity Vargas

Once you’ve been fortified, you can take in the ocean views along the Batteries to Bluffs Trail, bird watch at El Polin Spring, check out Andy Goldsworthy’s natural art installations via a three-mile hiking loop or visit the Presidio’s newest destination, Quartermaster Reach, which sports a new trail along the Tennessee Hollow Watershed to San Francisco Bay. You can even play a challenging round of golf on one of the oldest courses on the West Coast.

After all that fresh air, treat yourself to the magic of the Walt Disney Family Museum, where you’ll be inspired by the man behind your favorite characters.

Sessions at the Presidio is the place for dinner, with 90% of its delicious dishes organic and sourced from within a 25-mile radius. Not to mention, they offer an eclectic wine, beer and cocktail menu. You can eat on the roomy outdoor patio or take your food back to the hotel.

You’ll look forward to once again sitting by the fire pit at the Lodge, going over your day, before settling in for the night.

The fire pit at the Lodge at the Presidio is a highly-coveted spot to relax and take in the viewsThe fire pit at the Lodge at the Presidio is a highly-coveted spot to relax and take in the views — Photo courtesy of Paul Dyer

Day Three: Explore iconic sights

There are so many options for your last day in San Francisco, from Alcatraz and the Aquarium of the Bay to the Zoo.

Stop by Pier 39 to enjoy the views and the food at the new outside dining areas. Be sure to say hello to the sea lions.

The Ferry Building is a great place to shop and eatThe Ferry Building is a great place to shop and eat — Photo courtesy of Nat & Cody

Then do some last-minute shopping at the San Francisco Ferry Building, where you can enjoy gourmet, locally-made takeaway food and drinks from the marketplace in the expanded outdoor dining area. Grab burgers and soft serve from Gott’s Roadside, ice cream and oysters from Hog Island, or enjoy seasonal cocktails and small plates on the back patio of Boulettes Larder.

Because you can’t fit in everything San Francisco has to offer – Chinatown, Lombard Street, Ghirardelli, the Painted Ladies and so much more – by the end of the weekend, you’ll already be planning your next trip back.

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