Whether showing off with a strikingly sunny day or cozying up in a blanket of fog (affectionately known as Karl), San Francisco doesn’t disappoint. Three days is just long enough to sample the Mission’s legendary burritos, Hayes Valley’s eclectic quirk, the Marina’s waterfront bike paths, and the soaring redwoods and sweeping ocean views of the surrounding Bay Area. Here’s how to make the most of your long weekend in Fog City.
DRIVE FROM MARIN TO POINT REYES
Once you’re settled into the city, kick off the weekend with a sunset drive that gives way to sparkling city lights. Take Sir Francis Drake Blvd from Marin to the Point Reyes Lighthouse — you’ll pass through towering redwoods before arriving at the lighthouse, which marks the second foggiest place on the North American continent (!). Cruise back down towards the city on Highway One, through picturesque Stinson and Muir Beaches, maybe swinging by Muir Beach’s charming Pelican Inn for a snack or a pint, to be welcomed by the giant red Golden Gate Bridge backlit by the San Francisco skyline.
WINE AND CHEESE BARS
Unwind after your drive with some of California’s best wine and cheese. Cow Hollow offers a few options, from moderately priced Nectar Wine Lounge to California Wine Merchant and West Coast Wine & Cheese — pricier, but cozy and with extensive wine lists. If the cheese doesn’t quite fill you up, menu-shop Union Street for heartier fare, where you’ll find options from Belgian food at Belga to artisan burgers at Roam.
FARMERS MARKET FARE FOR A PICNIC
Start Saturday morning with a browse through the sprawling Alemany Farmers Market. Once you’ve loaded up on treats, take your goods to Dolores Park, a wide-open green expanse packed with an inviting cross-section of the city’s locals. Lounge your morning away with city views as your companion.
OFF-THE-WALL MUSEUM OUTING
Unleash your inner kid at the waterfront Exploratorium. Discover multiple stories of experience-based exhibits that teach you about yourself and the world around you. Dial it up a notch with a visit to the Tactile Dome, a pitch-black jungle gym for kids and grown-ups alike to tumble through by sense alone.
Get back to the world of grown-ups with a white-tablecloth Italian dinner in North Beach. It’s hard to go wrong in restaurant choice, but Trattoria Contadina is a tried-and-true family joint where the chefs have been whipping up rib-stickingly-good pastas in the open kitchen since the restaurant opened in 1984. Try a classic like Vongole, spaghetti with clams, or Il Diavolo, a spicy penne with burrata, paired with one of the imported Italian or local California wines from the impressive list.
BIKING AND COFFEE
Get your morning started by renting a bike at Parkwide by the Fort Mason entrance and taking it along the waterfront towards the bridge. Stop along the way for coffee at cult-favorite Philz, which has a truck outpost at Marina Green on weekends. Make your bike ride as long or short as you want, stopping at Crissy Field Beach or continuing all the way across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito.
GREEK AND GERMAN IN HAYES VALLEY
Fuel up after your morning activity with lunch at Souvla in Hayes Valley, a minimalist California take on Greek classics (don’t miss the Greek Fries with an assortment of Greek yogurt dips). Stroll through the eclectic shops nearby, then grab a brew at Biergarten, where the draft beers are constantly changing. You might want to opt for the half-liter size to make sure you’re ready to hit the road afterwards.
EAST BAY HILLTOP DRIVE
Venture to the East Bay for some more sweeping views with a drive along Wildcat Canyon Road. You’ll travel through tucked-away Tilden Park and the stately Berkeley Hills with plenty of opportunities to pull over and savor the view along the way — don’t miss aptly-named Inspiration Point.
MURALS, MEZCAL, AND MEXICAN FOOD IN THE MISSION
A weekend in San Francisco isn’t complete without exploring the Mission, an artsier, grittier side of the city that has been grappling with Silicon Valley’s gentrifying effects in recent years. Check out the colorful explosions of murals in Balmy Alley and Osage Alley before heading to Mosto to sample some mezcal. Finish it off with tacos and burritos (fun fact: Chipotle’s founder got his inspiration in the Mission) at one of the many taquerias, like Taqueria El Farolito, San Jalisco, or Taqueria Cancun.