Have I enough time in San Francisco?

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Lancashire. UK
279 Posts
Joined Jan 2014
I will be on QE from Southampton to San Francisco at the start of next year's WC. There is an overnight on board before disembarking and I have just one night in a hotel before my flight on the following evening. This means that I will have 2 full days and most of the final day to see the sights. My question is whether that is enough. I do not want to go to Alcatraz but want to see as much as I can of San Francisco. I am wondering whether to add on a couple more days but this is going to be expensive as I will have to pay a flight amendment fee and single supplement in the hotel. Any thoughts would be much appreciated.

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Melbourne, Australia
2,604 Posts
Joined Dec 2008
I think, if you plan well, you can see quite a lot of San Francisco in 2 full days. We were on QE for a world cruise segment and only had the one day and did quite a lot and we did see Alcatraz as well. We walked a lot! Planning is the key though. Research the kind of things you want to see the most and do your best. I would love to go back and see more. I should also say that you could always find more to see if you stay longer but only you can decide whether you want to pay more (flight amendment fees, etc) at this point.
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Previous cruises:
QM2 - Mediterranean Delights May 2009
QE - Aegean Introduction Nov 2010
Volendam - Pacific Treasures Feb 2012
QM2 - WC Segment SIN to MEL Feb 2013
QE - WC Segment SOU to HK Jan 2015
70 Posts
Joined Oct 2015
I live near SF so I would love to hear what you want to see to better answer the question but the short answer is that you can see a lot in 2 days. I love Coit Tower because it gives you a great view of the city. I also like to walk the Golden Gate Bridge (or bike across). I also like the ferry building, especially on Saturdays.Hotel location can make a big difference on how much you can see.

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Santa Cruz, CA
803 Posts
Joined Oct 2005
I live about an hour and a half from San Francisco - there's so much to see and do; with two and a half days, you will need to choose wisely. I suggest you look for a couple walking tours. They are not very expensive, and you can concentrate on areas that interest you. That should occupy a couple half-days, and will also give you ideas for additional places to visit in your free time.

This is a good start:

San Francisco, CA
1,121 Posts
Joined Nov 2002
Having lived in SF for 40 years, I can echo that you can see a lot. Also, let me add that it is as much a city of lifestyle and mood as of sights - so bring your walking shoes and work in time to stop for a meal or a drink.

Some things I'd probably skip
  • The view from Twin Peaks or the rotating restaurant at the Hyatt. (besides the aforementioned Coit Tower, I'd recommend cocktails at the Top of the Mark, or if you're up for a little hike [not bad at all] the next hill down from Twin Peaks, Corona Heights, via Roosevelt Way.)
  • Our art museums used to be totally underwhelming, but the SFMOMA downtown has recently come into its own (The deYoung has a new building but still a spottly collection, and the Palace of Legion of Honor is hard to get to.)
  • Fisherman's Wharf. San Franciscans regard it with the same enthusiasm as New Yorkers do for Times Square. ESPECIALLY avoid Pier 39.
  • Ocean Beach (Brrrrr!)
  • The Castro is historic and the walking tour is recommended to learn of its history, but otherwise it's just a few blocks of not-terribly-interesting bars and shops
  • I haven't taken one, but I'd think that the tour busses would be a no-go with the way traffic crawls in SF these days and because many streets and sights ban them. If the weather is nice, far better are the Bay tours. They cover the history of the city and all the sights on the water and they sail around Alcatraz and the bridges.
  • Lombard Street
DO see (semi-random list)
  • North Beach (Home of Beach Blanket Babylon, which is a hilarious revue that has been packing them in for 45 years or so - they keep it topical an fresh)
  • A walk along the Embarcadero at the foot of Market St. (a block or two is fine - also fits with the Ferry Building)
  • Dolores Park on a sunny afternoon. (Easy to get to on the J-Church metro and also close to the historic Mission Dolores)
  • ...and all sorts of stuff I can't think of now
S.W. England
702 Posts
Joined Nov 2007
It might be that when you dock in SFO, it will take some time to get off the ship because of custom procedures. I am afraid that this is a common thing when arriving in US from a foreign port. Last year on QV, I am sure it was past 11.00am before we could disembark in LA.
This is just something to be mindful of, but at least the ship berths right in the city of SFO, and you can easily walk to many places, and trams are in abundance.
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Oakland, CA USA
1,786 Posts
Joined Jan 2013
Mark did a good job with his reply. We live in Oakland just across the bay from SF, and I worked in San Francisco for 34 years. Still go a couple of times per week. In your short time, you can see a lot of the major sites, although plan your day well. You won't have enough time for the museums, for much shopping, or for far-flung sites, especially those out of town. Do eat well. Dining is one of the natives' favorite past times.
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Magnolia, Texas
1,389 Posts
Joined Jul 2009
Having lived in SF a couple of times in my life, here are my thoughts. SF is a very picturesque city with lots to see. You can walk in the flatter parts of the city, but it can be very hilly as well. It has excellent public transport in the SF Muni (buses, trolleys and cable cars) You can buy a visitor pass for 1,3 or 7 days to use all of these). BART is the high speed subway (in SF) that can take you into SF Airport should you choose to use it. You prepay your ticket on Bart and some ticket machines accept credit and debit cards. You might also consider Grey Line tours which offers a variety of tours to some of the places already mentioned. Book Alcatraz tours before you leave as they fill up.

There is excellent shopping and dining in SF. Union Square has some of America's best stores, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Macy's and smaller shops. SF Center on Market Street has Nordstrom and Blooomingdales.

I will mention a couple of places to eat that I love and are very SF in style. Zuni Cafe on Market (Gough Muni Station) and Tadich Grill on California St. (2.5 blocks above Market) - go for a late lunch or early dinner it closes at 9:30 and it is very busy from 11 am to 1 pm. There are lots other places to eat as well,

One place I would avoid would be the Powell St. cable car turn around. The most aggressive panhandlers in the country rudely accost people on the street. The California Cable car line at Market and California is a lot easier to deal with.

All of the places and services I mentioned have web sites, you might look them as you are making your plans. Enjoy your couple of days in SF. Dress for cool weather and carry a brolly.
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90,330 Posts
Joined Jul 2000
We lived in the Bay Area for a few years and also return very couple of years.

I would add a couple of more days.

There is so much to see and keep in mind that you will be getting over jet lag.

I would try to have four nights there.

Santa Cruz, CA
803 Posts
Joined Oct 2005
Originally posted by Keith1010
We lived in the Bay Area for a few years and also return very couple of years.

I would add a couple of more days.

There is so much to see and keep in mind that you will be getting over jet lag.

I would try to have four nights there.

I don't understand why the OP would be getting over jet lag.
I come from a land down under
23,487 Posts
Joined Jul 2014
For me, nowhere near long enough, but I don't move too well and things take longer, got a mate lives about an hour away from San Fran who reckons ten minutes is way too long to be there, but then he hates crowds.
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330 Posts
Joined Oct 2015
I live just south of SF. I don't believe you will have as much time as you think to see the sights. As was mentioned, the process of getting off the ship may take some time and then even though you are in a nice area for seeing sights, you will want to take your luggage to your hotel. I can easily see this taking until 1 or so. At which point you will need lunch (which in SF is an easy problem to fix- I have found Yelp helps me if I need to find something quick and less expensive in a pinch at a random location).

If I you are on the WC I think you are, you will be in SF in early Feb 2018 arriving on a Sunday and proposing to leave on a Tuesday.
Most of Sunday is gone, so you have all day Monday (remember some things are closed Monday in the "off" season, please check first) and it appears from your comments you have a late flight? perhaps out of SFO? on Tuesday?

Traffic (and where your hotel is) will definitely play a HUGE roll in how long it takes to get to SFO! A short 15 mile drive can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours or more (think rush hour traffic and accidents). Plus being on an international flight you should arrive at least 2 hours before your flight. Security lines at SFO (I am assuming this is your airport-if you are out of Oakland then I have no comment) can be VERY long. I get around them by paying through the nose for first class priority. So if this is the case for you it may not be so bad, but on international flights I would still give myself 2 hours (I just wouldn't go for the "more" than).

Therefore, IMHO most of Tuesday will be taken up with packing, getting to SFO and going through security. You might be able to do something before lunch that is close to the hotel before check out.

Personally, when I travel to Europe I take into account that it costs sooooooo much to get there that the extra dollars to stay a few more nights in a vibrant, city with a lot to see is inconsequential. Think about what it would cost you to get back.

Okay that said, I am going to go on the assumption that as you have better access than I to the major European art museums you might be more interested in things that perhaps could be considered unique to SF. This also assumes that you do not have mobility issues.

I love the Exploratorium, the Academy of Sciences (if you go here the DeYoung is right there and the views from its observatory are fabulous) , and the Legion of Honor (the views from here are amazing) In that order.

When I want to show my European friends the most of SF in just a few hours this is what I do:

We go to the tourist information center just down the stairs from the cable car stop at Powell and Market. It has a ton of information and you can get a pass for public transit that will cover multiple days and work for the cable car, Bart within the city, busses and the F line that runs along the Embarcadero.

As was previously mentioned there are A LOT of panhandlers here but there are also police everywhere. This is a HUGE tourist area and you will not be isolated or scared. I am a woman and I often take the Bart into SF getting off here to walk to Union Square for lunch and shopping either alone or with a girlfriend. Walk briskly and purposefully, do not make eye contact, keep moving!, do not engage in conversation, in other words just be smart about it like you would in any major city.

We then take the F line (there is a stop at Market and Powell) vintage street cars from Market up to Hyde Street (this takes us along the entire Embarcadero) getting off at Hyde Street Pier.

The Hyde Street pier has a little -and quite nice- museum with very clean public restrooms. Depending on your interests you can then take the Hyde Street Cable car directly back down to Market and Powell Street stop (best thrill ride in SF) or take a little hike for outstanding views.

If you want to get the views start walking past the Aquatic Park, (west) following the waterline and walk up the hill towards Fort Mason (more clean public bathrooms) and some of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay. Keep going and you'll find a Safeway across the street from the park you will stumble into, get your picnic and enjoy watching the locals play with their dogs.

We then continue walking along the water (west) to Chrissy Field, my favorite beach in Chrissy Field (more clean bathrooms).

You need to be aware that there are not cabs at Chrissy Field so you will have to get a Lyft or Uber or walk back to Hyde Street for the cable car.

Of course, there are about 20 different plans I could lay out depending on personal likes and mobility, this is just my “quick” favorite as I like fresh air, walking a city and seeing where locals hang out, and it takes us through a wide variety of the SF areas I think should be seen on a first visit with little time.

I agree you should avoid the Wharf and Pier 39.

Wear layers to accommodate getting warm while walking but cold while stopped.
No matter what you choose to do you will have a great time is SF!

Lancashire. UK
279 Posts
Joined Jan 2014
Thank you for such an informative reply and your helpful suggestions.
And thanks to everyone else too 😊

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