Home of the iconic red-orange bridge and colorful cable cars, San Francisco is a distinctive city that serves up the perfect blend of natural highlights and metropolitan thrills. From boisterous sea lions and breaching whales to engaging museums and decadent diners, there’s something to delight any type of visitor. Try this do-it-all itinerary for a little taste of everything.

Cable cars
Iconic cable cars in downtown San Francisco.

Early Morning: Breakfast at Brenda’s

Brenda’s French Soul Food serves a breakfast so decadent it lingers on the menu till 3 p.m. No matter when you rise, you’ll find mouthwatering delights waiting here. Try the Hangtown Fry, a house favorite with a scramble of bacon, crispy oyster, and scallions. If you prefer pastries, order the Beignet Flight. This generous sampler includes one each of the plain, chocolate, granny smith apple, and crawfish beignets.

Midmorning: Tour Alcatraz

Alcatraz Island is so popular you’ll need to snag your tickets well in advance. They typically sell out at least a week ahead of time. The famed prison island offers a variety of experiences including self-guided audio tours and educational programs. The island is worth visiting for its natural beauty outside the prison as well. You’ll find sea gull colonies, tide pools, and gardens.

Noon: Belly Up to The Ice Cream Bar

The Ice Cream Bar offers unassuming lunches that take traditional faves to a fresh new level. Try the Black Bean Burger with organic greens and spicy aioli or the Pulled Pork Sandwich with a house BBQ sauce. Every sandwich comes with a house-made pickle and your choice of sweet potato chips or beet salad.

Delicious though it is, your sandwich is only a starter to the decadence at The Ice Cream Bar. There’s no Coke here. Choose from a fascinating menu of original sodas like Chocolate Phosphate or lemon-and-chamomile Dream of Tarts. Serve your sweet tooth with a malt or milkshake featuring flavors such as butterscotch, maple syrup, and coffee.

Embarcadero
The Embarcadero in north San Francisco.

Afternoon: Experience the Exploratorium

Home to over 600 interactive exhibits, the Exploratorium is a fascinating destination for those who like to touch, experiment, and play. Learn to calculate the weight of a car with air pressure, illuminate an LED bulb with pennies, and create a tornado in a bottle. Learning gets a fun twist at this lively take on the traditional museum. The Exploratorium is located in the Embarcadero area, right on the water.

Dinnertime: Explore Pier 39

Pier 39 is the most-visited destination in the city. Not to be missed, this attraction offers a little of everything. Explore Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze, take a spin on the San Francisco Carousel, and learn about local wildlife at the Sea Lion Center. Shopping abounds on the pier with everything from The Cable Car Store to The Shell Cellar.

Order dinner off the 100 percent sustainable menu at the Fog Harbor Fish House. Menus are crafted daily to make the best use of what’s fresh and sustainable on any given day. You never know exactly what you’ll find, but common features include clam chowder, California sea bass, and Prince Edward Island mussels.

If San Fran’s siren call is drawing you in, don’t resist the pull! Cut through the fog and find the best features of the city, starting with this guide.