Posted June 1st, 2017, 11:39 AM
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!