San Francisco is such a unique and fascinating city, you could easily spend a week there and not get bored. We only had two days to spare in San Francisco so we hit the ground running. It helped that we had just spent 31 hours on the Amtrak Train and were ready to go outside and get moving. Our 2 day San Francisco itinerary worked out perfectly. We saw a lot but also had some time to relax.
Family-Friendly 2 Day San Francisco Itinerary –
In two short days, we fit in our top three must do’s – catch a Giants game at Oracle Park, ride a cable car, and visit Alcatraz. On top of that, we had the bonus of seeing Lombard Street (from the cable car), walking around Fisherman’s Wharf, checking out the sea lions on Pier 39, and grubbing on some fresh seafood. Here is the perfect 2 day San Francisco trip itinerary to use for your family trip.
Where To Stay
If the price isn’t a consideration, the ideal area to stay in for this itinerary would be Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s just a quick streetcar away from the Alcatraz ferry and Oracle Park. The second best area that’s a little more affordable is Union Square. You really can’t go wrong with either location for this itinerary. Both are within walking distance to a cable car stop and all kinds of great restaurants. We stayed near Union Square because we found a three and a half star hotel on Priceline that was the same price as a two-star hotel near Fisherman’s Wharf.
Breakfast- A few blocks from our hotel we found Roxanne’s Cafe. It’s the perfect little breakfast spot and we didn’t have to wait long for a table. The corned beef, ham benedict, and pancakes were all top-notch. The restaurant is right on Powel Street and it’s nice to watch the cable cars go by while you eat.
Oracle Park – Giants Game
Somehow, the stars aligned and the Giants happened to be playing the Rockies in San Francisco on one of our two days there. Perfect!
Transportation to Oracle Park – Oracle Park is easily accessible by rail, bus, and ferry.
If you are staying in Fisherman’s Wharf or Union Square, your best public transit option would be to purchase a MuniMobile one-day pass. For only $12 per person, it’s good on all Muni, Muni Metro, historic streetcars, and cable cars. Simply download the MuniMobile app on your phone, pay for the one-day-pass, and you can look at the maps to find the best route to Oracle Park.
Oracle Park didn’t disappoint. The ballpark is right on the ocean so the views from the upper deck and the outfield are spectacular. Not only that, Oracle Park is family-friendly and has a great kid’s play area. The huge baseball glove and coke bottle in left field surround a gigantic slide and a playground. We arrived early enough for Eli to do the slide a few times before the line got too long.
Money-Saving Tip- There isn’t a bad seat in Oracle Park. If you aren’t really into baseball but want to go to a game to check out Oracle Park, I suggest buying a seat in the View Reserve Infield or Outfield, sections 308 through 331. You’ll have a great view of the playing field from afar but will also have an amazing view of the ocean. The seats we bought were in the lower box section. They were great seats but very expensive compared to the upper deck and you can’t see the ocean from there.
Food and Beer – If craft beer is your thing, the options at Oracle Park are almost endless. It seemed like every stand was selling five different kinds of beer. You can also find all kinds of food options. We saw stands selling everything from poke, Chinese food, burritos, sushi, and bbq, to crab cakes. There were also stands selling the common ballpark food – burgers, hotdogs, fries, and nachos.
Cable Car Ride
After the game, Eli was in desperate need of a nap so we called an uber instead of taking public transit back to the hotel. Plans can change all the time when traveling with kids!
You can catch the Powell-Hyde Cable Car at the cable car turntable located at the intersection of Powell and Market in Union Square. It was just a few blocks from our hotel so we walked over when Eli woke up from his nap.
Cable cars fill up and chances are you will have to wait in line for the next available cable car. If you didn’t buy a MuniMobile Pass, make sure you have the cash to pay your fare to the conductor after you get on. The fare is $7.00 for adults and kids five and over; kids four and under ride for free.
It was a chilly evening so everyone was huddled inside the car. It was neat to see the streets of San Francisco from the slow-moving cable car.
Our cable car experience was unusual. We were about halfway to the final stop at Ghiradelli Square when the cable car abruptly stopped in an intersection. We all quickly realized that there was a truck parked about a foot into the cable car’s path and there was no way the cable car could go on without hitting the truck.
Our conductors told us that this happened every now and again. They said usually whoever owned the car would look out and see that they were blocking the cable car’s path and rush out to move their car. So, we waited.
After about an hour of waiting, the driver of the truck still hadn’t come back. The conductors finally called a tow truck.
When we finally got rolling there was still just enough light to see Lumbard Street from the cable car.
Our day started early because we had tickets to visit Alcatraz at 8:45. On the uber ride to the pier (at about 8:35) I read on the tickets that you should arrive thirty minutes before your departure time. Too late for that! We rushed from the car, past one big group of people already lining up for the next tour, and up to our group that was already boarding. Luckily, they let us on. Phew.
Alcatraz Island, home of the famous abandoned and restored federal penitentiary, is a must-see if you are visiting San Francisco. “The Rock” as Alcatraz is known, is managed by the National Park Service and their audio-tour is top-notch. Here are some things you need to know about Alcatraz-
- Alcatraz tickets can sell out months in advance. You will need to plan and book as early as possible. We started looking into Alcatraz six weeks before our trip and both of the days we needed were sold out online.
- If you keep checking on the Alcatraz Cruizes website (the only website that legitimately sells Alcatraz tours) tickets could become available due to cancelations. We found available tickets exactly one month before our tour.
- Arrive at the pier 30 minutes before your tour. I know, we lucked out and still got on our tour showing up 3 minutes before departure, but don’t be like us.
- Snacks and drinks are sold on the ferry and you can also bring your own. You can eat on the ferry and on the dock near the bathrooms but once you walk into the penitentiary food and drinks besides water are not allowed.
- Make sure everyone in your family starts and pauses the audio tour at the same time so you are all taking the tour together.
- Expect to spend between two to three hours from start to finish of your tour. You can catch any returning ferry whenever you are ready to leave.
- Bring a jacket. It can be cold and windy on the island.
- Alcatraz is great for kids! Eli was fascinated by the entire tour.
It’s an easy and scenic walk from the Pier 33 to Fisherman’s Wharf on Pier 39. Fisherman’s Wharf is a popular family-friendly tourist area packed with restaurants and stores. You could spend hours walking around checking out all the shops. Eli found a magic store and the guys working there performed all kinds of magic tricks for us.
Pier 39 is also home to a sea lion colony. If you walk to the end of Pier 39 you have a great view of the sea lions on the nearby wooden docks.
Another highlight of Fisherman’s Wharf is the Fog Harbor Fish House restaurant. The seafood clam chowder, shellfish platter, and scallop pasta dish were absolutely delicious.
We were worried that two days wouldn’t be enough time to spend in San Francisco. But, it turned out that our 2 day San Francisco itinerary was just right for our family.
If you have more time to spend in San Francisco, there is so much more to see and do. Check out these amazing day trip options.