Guide to seeing San Francisco in 12 hours !

San Francisco has a lot of great tourist spots to check out, it really is such a cool city. Granted you probably will not be able to see every single spot in a span of 12 hours, but on our recent trip, we were able to get to a few on the top of our lists that we were wanting to see! So whether you have a long layover, or are just passing through and have some time to kill, follow our Guide to seeing San Francisco in 12 hours!


Last week we flew to California for one thing and one thing only in mind: a music festival is San Jose. So our trip had to be planned around that. After we booked we decided while we were there that we would site see around San Francisco, head East to Yosemite and maybe chill on the beach in Santa Cruz. Of course by the time we planned all of this out we had already booked our flights to the San Jose Airport as opposed to what would make sense now, the San Francisco Airport. Regardless we flew into San Jose at 11:30am and took the hour drive North to San Francisco. We had already booked a rental car so another hour drive on top of the 5 hour flight was not a big deal for us.


After 6 hours of travel you know our first stop had to be FOOD. One of the top spots in San Francisco that I wanted to see that also has a lot of food options is Pier 39. There is so much to do in such a small area there, you could honestly spend the whole day there, which I would have loved to do if we had more time, but we had a schedule to stick to! So first things first, we needed to grab some grub. One of the restaurants I had my eye on was Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. It is SUPER gimmicky and touristy but I couldn’t not try it! It was crazy busy, even when we went at 2:30 pm but they seem to have it pretty efficiently run because we didn’t have to wait long for a table. The menu was huge and the food was also huge. I had the biggest fish sandwich you have ever seen in your life, and it was delicious. The drinks were pretty good, a little overpriced and in American fashion, very over-sweetened. Overall, I had a great experience at Bubba Gump and I would definitely recommend it to any ‘Forrest Gump’ fan!

After lunch we decided to walk off the food and check out the rest of the Pier. The first thing we noticed is Alcatraz. They have tours that take you straight there which would have been super cool, but again in the time frame that we had it wasn’t a top priority for us. However being able to see if from the Pier was very cool. Just a jaunt over from that sightseeing spot was another hot spot at Pier 39 for tourists: the sea lions. I was probably more excited to see that than the historical prison, which tells you where my priorities are at. There is also TONS of shopping at the Pier. So me being the tourist that I am, and the fact that it was a little chillier than I had anticipated, I had to grab a San Fran hoodie as a practical souvenir!

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The next obvious stop for us after the Pier was the Golden Gate Bridge. It shouldn’t surprise me, but I had no idea that the Golden Gate was a toll bridge so keep that in mind when you want to drive over it! It’s a quick 15 minute drive from the Pier but we started to get caught in rush hour so it took about double the time to get there. On our way there we had the opportunity of driving through the stereotypical steep streets of San Francisco, so even though we didn’t have the chance to see Lombard Street, I feel as though I got the same experience. We then found our way to the bridge! Just driving over it felt super surreal to me. You see this bridge in photographs and on television all of the time so to be actually driving through it was unbelievable. On the other side of the bridge you want to make sure you hit up Battery Spencer, which is a little trail that takes you up to the most perfect photo opportunities for the bridge! This is the closest lookout to the bridge, but there are a few more lookouts the longer you drive up the road, so we got a couple of vantage points!

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Next on our list was something we just had to do in San Francisco, which is a Giants baseball game. Even if you’re not into baseball that much I would still totally recommend attending a game. Watching the game in the atmosphere of the park is so much different that just watching it on your television at home. Like any other city, San Francisco has a lot of pride in their sports teams, so it is cool to be a part of that for one night. The game we went to also happened to be Pride Night so that was really special.

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Maybe you’re looking for a place to stay for the night? We had the pleasure of staying at the Americania Hotel. It is a retro style boutique hotel in the South Market District. It used to be a Best Western Hotel before Haiyi Hotels took it over, so don’t be confused if you see it labelled as both. It has great spacious rooms with an awesome restaurant and a heated pool. Parking does come at an extra cost however because it is valet only. The staff was incredibly nice and they were super accommodating, especially when we had to make a 3:30am checkout to head to our next California destination.


Seeing San Francisco in a span of 12 hours may seem like a bit of a daunting task, but if you do some research and have a plan of what you want to do and see, it is very do-able. I hope this Guide helps you when you plan you’re next trip to San Francisco!

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