A few weeks ago I was surprised with a last-minute trip to San Francisco. With just a single night in the city and all-total about 24 hours to explore, I didn’t waste my time. I packed nothing more than a backpack with a change of clothes, my toothbrush, my iPhone and an extra battery pack. Armed with my phone and a handful of recommendations I picked up on Twitter and Instagram, I was ready for a quick 24-hour trip to San Francisco. Here’s the outcome:
11:30 a.m. – Mission District
First stop after arriving: the Mission district! My flight arrived just in time for lunch, so on the train from the airport, I got off in the Mission district and beelined my way to a burrito stand. The Mission is famous for its burritos. In fact, on my last visit to San Francisco a few years ago, I spent a few days sampling the best of the best for a story (read: Burrito tour through San Francisco—my search for the city’s best burrito). This time I ended up at a place not far from the metro stop.
1:00 p.m. – Dolores Park
Probably one of my favorite parks I’ve been to, Dolores Park has that quirky and cool atmosphere plus in a beautiful location with a great view over the rest of the city. Bonus points that it’s located directly between arguably San Francisco’s coolest neighborhoods: Mission and Castro.
3:00 p.m. – Castro
The Castro neighborhood is an important one as much locally as globally. The Castro neighborhood is at the heart of the gay liberation movement, once home to Harvey Milk and countless other activists. The sidewalks are lined with rainbow flags, gay-owned businesses and plaques mark significant figures in LGBT history from activists to artists. I spent a few hours in the Castro shopping at some of the local bookstores, enjoying quality coffee at an LGBT coffee shop and reading up on San Francisco’s gay history.
8 a.m. – Hotel
(Unfortunately most of my afternoon and evening wasn’t really caught on camera—make of that what you will!)
I spent most of the previous afternoon and evening taking in some of San Francisco’s iconic sights – the seals at Pier 39, a ride on the trolley, dinner in Chinatown, shopping in Union Square and a visit to the City Lights bookstore (famous for being home to many of the Beats writers and poets). With a relatively relaxed first afternoon in San Francisco, I woke early the next morning for breakfast at my hotel – the Parc 55 hotel – and a walk around Union Square.
10 a.m. – San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
As soon as the SFMOMA opened up, I was already in line and ready to see some art. I purchased an audio guide as well because I knew I only had a few hours left of my trip and thought it would help to cover some ground quickly. Wrong! I was quickly obsessed with the museum; the exhibitions were as exhilarating as they were enlightening. I can’t remember the last time I was so motivated and moved by art, and the audio guide was the perfect accompaniment.
I stayed in the museum all morning and through lunchtime before I had to make my way back to the airport. San Francisco for a day was pretty spectacular and I was able to cram in a lot of the sites and some old favorites, but if I had to do it again: I’d definitely plan for a longer trip!
Shop my style
San Francisco for a day requires a pretty comfortable but practical look. While the weather in San Francisco is fairly consistent year-round, you’ve got to be prepared with warm, sunny afternoons and significantly more chill evenings. Pack layers, bring a bag and wear comfortable shoes—those hills can be a real pain to go up and down!