A weekend trip to San Francisco to visit all the top tourist attractions and to check out all the best places to eat when traveling on a budget.
1. Chinese Korean Style Cuisine in the Sunset | 11 a.m.
1031 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122
Begin the trip on the west side of town in the large residential neighborhood of Sunset. Known for its foggy weather, this side of the city also contains some hidden culinary gem including the ever popular San Tung. A mix of Northern Chinese and Korean cuisine, head there early as there's always a line to get the famous Dried Fried Chicken Wings. The crispy skin mixed with the sweet and slightly spicy sauce is the perfect way to start the trip. The other items on the menu, including the boiled dumplings and black bean sauce noodles are also popular here.
2. Enjoy All the Activities in Golden Gate Park | 12:30 p.m.
Walk a couple blocks over to 9th and Lincoln to enter into Golden Gate Park. Immediately on the left will be the SF Botanical Garden (Yelp), which has plants and flowers from all over the world. Deeper into the park you'll find an open space plaza that has the Academy of Sciences (Yelp) and the de Young Museum (Yelp). Depending on your interests, you can take time to visit one or both of these. The Academy of Sciences is a natural history museum with an aquarium and planetarium, while the de Young Museum is more focused on art. There is also a free outlook at the top of the brown structure at the de Young Museum that is worth a visit to get a great view of the city.
Continue exploring the park and visit areas like Stow Lake, which allows you to rent a boat to row around, or to the Rose Garden to admire all different colors of roses. The Japanese Tea Garden (Yelp), which is right next to the de Young, has a serene zen-like atmosphere and also a small tea house if you need to have an afternoon break for some small snacks.
3. Crookedest Street in the World | 3:30 p.m.
Head east in the city and make your way to the crookedest street in the world. You can drive down the street, but it's best to park afterwards and walk and observe it in person. The street is lined with flowers and is a perfect spot to take a few pictures.
4. Must-Try West Coast Burger | 4 p.m.
333 Jefferson, San Francisco, CA 94133
Take a left from Lombard St. and you will be at Fisherman's Wharf, one of the premier tourist attractions in San Francisco. Walk along the main street next to the bay and you will see lots of restaurants and shops selling souvenirs. There is also an In-N-Out here, which is a must for those not from the western part of the U.S. These freshly made burgers are super delicious and crazy cheap as well. Get a double-double (two patties, two slices of cheese) and get it "animal style" which adds a thousand island-like dressing. You won't regret it.
5. The San Francisco Boardwalk | 4:30 p.m.
Continue walking around Fisherman's Whalf until you reach Pier 39 (Yelp), which is a boardwalk filled with tons of shops, restaurants, video arcade, 3D rides, and a carousel. There are also sea lions which hang out on the dock. The pier has been revitalized over the past couple years to make it much nicer and is a fun place to hang out, especially if you're traveling with kids.
6. Original Mission Style Burritos | 7 p.m.
2950 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Drive to the Mission neighborhood, which is one of the most popular spots in the city for its vibrant nightlife and cheap eats. The Mexican food here is particularly good and well-known, and you may have heard of Mission style burritos which are famously wrapped in aluminum foil. One of the best in the city is El Farolito, which is a no-frills authentic shop serving up tacos and burritos. It's a hole-in-the-wall, and you may not want to linger around too long, but the food is insanely tasty and also incredibly cheap. After dinner, hang around the Mission which is lined with many restaurants and bars to enjoy the SF nightlife.
7. San Franciscan Pizza? | 11:30 a.m.
211 23rd Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121
On the west side of town, there is a pizza shop that is probably the most San Franciscan of all pizza places. It's a tiny small business, with only 4 tables, and a menu that changes weekly based on seasonal ingredients with pizza toppings like eggplant, summer squash, and mascarpone. It definitely echoes of west coast vibes and how you may imagine a San Francisco shop to be. But the most important thing of all is that the pizzas here are absolutely delicious. They're also very fairly priced compared to a lot of the other pizza shops around town. Just make sure to get there early to grab a seat, or be left waiting out in the foggy weather.
8. Signature Attraction of San Francisco | 1 p.m.
Since you're on this side of the city, drive north over to the Golden Gate Bridge where there is an exit to park your car and to take some pictures. If you have the time, you can drive across the bridge and even go to the small waterfront town of Sausalito, which has a number of shops and restaurants. On the way back, take the last exit up the hill and go to the overlook which provides an amazing view of the San Francisco skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge. On clear days, the view is truly majestic.
9. Scenic Photo Spot in SF | 2:30 p.m.
Continue the tour of scenic attractions by going to one of the most popular places of all. The Palace of Fine Arts (Yelp) is a classic photo spot in SF with its Greco-Roman palace and lake, and it wouldn't be surprising if you come across people taking wedding photos there. It's a beautiful place to take pictures or to just walk around to catch a break.
10. Authentic Chinese Food | 3 p.m.
Continue east towards Chinatown, which is another popular tourist area in the city. It is one of the biggest in the U.S., and there are many souvenir shops that sell keychains, t-shirts, magnets, and other trinkets. For an afternoon snack and a taste of authentic Chinese food, get some dim sum to go from Good Mong Kok (Yelp). You can choose from the classic shrimp dumplings and siu mai as well as many others. The best thing is that each order only has a few, so you can order a lot and sample each of them. For something more sweet, go to Golden Gate Bakery (Yelp) for their flaky egg tarts. These are the best in the city and definitely worth a try if you can brave the line.
11. Shopping Central at Union Square | 4 p.m.
From Chinatown, Union Square is only a 5 minute drive or one to two stops on the bus. This is the shopping area of San Francisco, and all the large department stores like Macys, Nordstrom, etc. are around here, as well as all the flagship international brand stores like Nike, Uniqlo, Zara, etc. The Westfield and San Francisco Shopping Center are also both here for something indoors. If you're not in the mood for shopping, the Museum of Modern Art (Yelp) is only a few blocks away and offer a great collection of art pieces. For something more whimsical, the Museum of Ice Cream (Yelp) is also right around the corner, although admission for both of these places are in the $25 to $40 range.
12. Ramen from Japan for Dinner | 6:30 p.m.
18 Yerba Buena Ln, San Francisco, CA 94103
For dinner, head over a few blocks to one of the premier ramen imports from Japan - Ippudo. With an amazingly rich pork bone broth and springy noodles, the popular ramen chain in Japan now has an outlet in San Francisco. The Shiromaru Classic is their signature ramen, and the Akamaru Modern adds a bit of a flavor and spicy kick to it. The pork buns are also something not to be missed. With many ramen places in SF from Japan now, including Tsuta and Mensho just in the downtown area, Ippudo still stands in my opinion as the best amongst them.
13. End the Day at a Local Brewery | 8 p.m.
620 Treat Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110
End the trip by going to the Mission and relaxing in a large "biergarten" at Southern Pacific Brewery, which is a local brewery with over 15 beers on tap. With large spacious indoor and outdoor seating, Southern Pacific is super laid back and an awesome place to chill out and just relax with friends. There is nothing like a cool beer to unwind after a long day of travel and to reminisce on all that you've seen and done over the past 2 days.