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Best Artsy Places in Chicago

Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to the best artsy places in Chicago! Are you interested in experiencing Chicago’s fine art scene? Of course you are, my cultured World Traveler! You want to follow in the footsteps of Ferris Bueller and make out with your sweetie in front of a Chagall stained glass window at the Art Institute.

But even for those of you who are not a fan of John Hughes’s greatest achievement, I promise this 24 Hour itinerary will hit all of the best artsy places in Chicago. If this is your first time in Chicago, this day is most ideal for you.

If it is not your first time in Chicago, I’m sure you haven’t exhausted the wonders of American Gothic, postmodern architecture, and the Garrett Mix. So enjoy spending a beautiful day enjoying all that the Windy City and the best artsy places in Chicago have to offer!

Best Artsy Places in Chicago

Where to Stay?

Many of the best artsy places in Chicago are located in the famous Chicago Loop. So when we’re choosing a hotel, we’ll want to stay someplace conveniently located near said Loop.

That’s why I recommend the Hampton Inn Chicago West Loop. It’s got large, comfy, immaculate rooms, the gentleman at the front desk couldn’t have been more helpful, and there’s a complimentary breakfast spread every morning so you can get your yogurt and cereal on before tackling the best artsy places in Chicago.

If you want to find a great deal on this hotel, click here. If you don’t trust my wisdom in hotels, and would rather go it alone for great deals on hundreds of hotels in Chicago, just click here.

Best Artsy Places in Chicago

What to Pack?

  • In the cold-weather months (which are many months in Chicago), you’ll want to bring along a sturdy coat. I recommend this one because it’s beautiful and stylish as well as warm, and it comes in a ton of colors.
  • In warmer months, it’s more likely to rain than snow, so bring along cute rain boots that would be cool enough for Ferris Bueller’s girlfriend Sloane.
  • A cell charger so you can take photos of the Marc Chagall blue windows without worrying your battery will die a hideous death.
  • A light jacket with a hood because it’s windy in Chi-town!
  • An umbrella strong enough to stand up to the Chicago winds or Mr. Rooney
  • My favorite guidebook to Chicago
  • The Devil in the White City, which is one of the best narrative nonfiction books ever written. It’s all about the Chicago World’s Fair, Chicago architecture…and a deranged serial killer. You’ll love it.
  • The saddest, most powerful novel set in Chicago, Native Son by Richard Wright. Every American should read this book.

Best Artsy Things to Do in Chicago

Morning: Art Institute of Chicago

Are you a museum loving fool like I am? I hope so, but if not I just plan to bully you until you learn to love museums. If you’re nervous about getting started with the wide world of ArtLovin’, the Art Institute of Chicago is an excellent place to start.

The entrance fee is quite pricey, so I suggest getting the Chicago City Pass if you’ll be in Chicago for a few days and want to see other big attractions like the Field Museum. You’ll save money.

For most of us outside the Chicago area, our first peek inside the Art Institute of Chicago was during the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. But the AIOC is so much more than a background for Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane’s hijinks.

In fact, TripAdvisor customers voted it the number one museum in the world in 2014! However, it has since been dethroned by the Met, the World War II Museum in New Orleans, and the Musee d’Orsay, and it now sits at #4.

Is that like the Bronze medal for museums? Does the Art Institute have to stand on a podium and grit its teeth while it watches two American flags and one French flag being raised and plots to kneecap the Musee d’Orsay so it can win the Gold medal next year? I sure hope so!

But enough about the revenge of the museum! You’re here to hear my mildly confused comments about the best artsy places in Chicago! So I present the…


best artsy places in Chicago

This painting is one of the most famous works in the Art Institute, which definitely makes this one of the best artsy places in Chicago. People argue over whether or not Wood meant to satirize Middle Americans with this portrait or depict them lovingly. (Fun Fact: the model for the woman in the portrait was Wood’s sister Nan.)

I come firmly down on the side of satire because these people do not look fun to spend time with at all. In fact, I’m pretty sure this guy is planning to murder you in your sleep with that pitchfork.

best artsy places in chicago

OK, that’s not actually the title of this painting, but I always think of it as Sunday in the Park With George because of the Sondheim musical, so let’s just go with that. This masterpiece of Pointillism depicts stylish yet faceless Parisians out for a stroll in the park, to see and be seen.

I like to think Seurat’s attitude toward the urban and chic is similar to Wood’s attitude toward the rural and simple. IF ONLY WE COULD REALLY KNOW WHAT THAT ATTITUDE IS! Are Wood and Seurat condescending and critical or supportive and affirming? Say it with words, painters! They’re a lot clearer than a bunch of colorful tiny dots.

best artsy places in chicago

A great work of art raises a million questions in the viewer’s mind, and it’s easy to see how Nighthawks succeeds on that level. We have so many questions when we look at this painting. Who are these people? Why are they at the diner? Is there no one outside the diner? Was this after the Zombie Apocalypse Why is the woman so dressed up? Why does she look like Jessica Rabbit? What are the people eating? Is it any good? Who do those mysterious shadows belong to?

Oh, actually I think those shadows are really reflections of museum-goers. All our other questions still stand, though.

best artsy places in chicago

Look at these babies. They are so choice. When you stand near them, you are bathed in a peaceful blue light. It is almost as if you become part of the artwork. Also they are by Chagall and he is my favorite 20th century artist.

Old Marckie Marc created these beautiful windows for America’s bicentennial celebration, and it is fun to look through the different panels for as many monuments and symbols of America as you can possibly find. It’s like a really classy version of Where’s Waldo.


You have to leave the Art Institute to do this one, but it is worth it. Ordinarily you do not need to be told that popcorn is not lunch. But Garrett’s Popcorn is breakfast, lunch, dinner, father figure, preacher teacher, whatever you want it to be.

That’s why when you’re done with the Art Institute, you should just bop over to the Garrett Popcorn store and buy a small bag to nosh on the go for your lunch. This is going to be a busy day, and we have more of the best artsy places in Chicago to see!


Garrett has lots of flavors, but the only one you need to know about is the Garrett Mix. You are not permitted to order anything else. The Garrett Mix combines CheeseCorn with the CaramelCrisp flavor of popcorn.

It is the perfect marriage of salty, sweet, and sticky fingers. Even if it doesn’t sound appealing to you, JUST ORDER IT! You will thank me later, I promise.

Best Artsy Places in Chicago

Afternoon: Chicago Architecture Tour

No tour of the best artsy places in Chicago is complete without the famous Chicago Architecture Tour. On this tour, you will explore and learn about Chicago’s justly famous skyline from the high seas! Well, actually it’s the Chicago River, not the high seas, but l think I can take a little poetic license.

Just click this link to book the tour right away! Then follow me as I give you a preview of some of the highlights.

best artsy places in chicago

The tour is more fun if you keep an eye out for examples of different periods of architecture history. Allow me to give you a few pointers as a head start. Then you can impress the guide with your stealthily acquired knowledge!


best artsy places in chicago

This building is considered Gothic Revival because it has elements taken from cathedrals, even though it is a commercial building. I’m sure this says something sad about the state of religion and commerce in the modern world, but I don’t feel up to fully thinking through a position today. All I had for lunch was popcorn.

best artsy places in chicago

The M and M is one of the few Art Deco buildings on the tour. Unlike NYC, Chicago is not as known for Art Deco skyscrapers. Suck it, Chi-Town! (This is your daily reminder that your friendly neighborhood travel blogger, aka me, is a Native New Yorker.)

best artsy places in chicago

The Willis Tower is that Mid-Century Modern building with devil horns. I don’t know exactly what Mid-Century Modern means, but I assume it has something to do with Don Draper.

best artsy places in chicago

This is considered a postmodern building in part because it features playful design elements. Here, the green curves of the skyscraper reflect the curves of the river below. This kind of creativity definitely makes it one of the best artsy places in Chicago.

best artsy places in chicago

This is also a postmodern building. I guess a building is postmodern if you look at it for a minute and then say out loud, “Oh, I get the joke!” It’s a nifty building to look at because the design elements look classical, but it’s made with very modern materials. See, you get the joke too, right? Also, it’s shiny.


Bundle up! It gets really cold and windy on the water. Also the tour runs rain or shine, so be prepared! Like with an umbrella, but also just be mentally prepared for bad weather any time you are in Chicago.

Best Artsy Places in Chicago

Late Afternoon: Millennium Park

Chicago itinerary

After a busy afternoon of sitting on on boat, you will want to spend the rest of the afternoon sitting in the park! If you are here in the summer, there will be plenty of enjoyable events at the spidery Jay Pritzker Pavilion, which looks like a missing set piece from a Terry Gilliam science fiction movie. If not, why are you visiting Chicago at another time of the year? Don’t you know it gets cold?


The greatest thing to do in Millennium Park is to chill out at the embarrassingly named AT&T Plaza and glory in the wonders of this sculpture by Anish Kapoor. No list of the best artsy places in Chicago is complete without this, arguably Chicago’s most famous work of art.

Its official name is Cloud Gate, but the whole wide world knows it as The Bean. I imagine that is because it looks like a big, shiny silver bean. Isn’t it adorable? Isn’t it tempting/illegal to sit on it?

best artsy places in chicago

Suddenly I wonder if Boston gets mad that Chicago has a sculpture called the Bean when Boston’s nickname is Beantown. Maybe Boston cursed Chicago for the sculpture and that’s why it look so long for the Cubs to win the World Series…

Best Artsy Places in Chicago

Evening: Pizanos Pizza

What would a list of the best artsy places in Chicago be without a mention of deep dish pizza? A sad, lonely thing, that’s what. After all, deep dish is possibly Chicago’s greatest artistic creation, even more so than the Bean.

Unlike some New Yorkers, I love deep dish pizza. I love a good NYC slice more, but deep dish pizza is an intriguing mutant beast, and I’ll be damned if there’s anything to hate about adding more crust, more cheese, and more sauce to the already perfect creation that is the pizza pie.

There might be a bit of a line at Pizano’s because the place is so popular, but I got around that by taking an odd seat at the bar. Keep in mind that if you are a single lady sitting at the bar, you may get asked a lot what you are doing alone.

Also probably at least one man will call you Princess in a tone that implies he thinks it is your first name and you two are on a first name basis. But Pizano’s is a friendly place, so probably no one’s going to harass you.

I especially recommend Pizano’s for the solo diner because they serve individual pizzas! So there’s no wasting food. I got the individual cheese, which had the perfect balance of dough to sauce to mozz.

I personally do not like it when the dough on a deep dish is so thick that you feel like you’re just eating a loaf of bread covered with essence of tomato. Fortunately Pizano’s does not make this mistake. Two thumbs up from this New Yorker!

Those are the Best Artsy Places in Chicago!

What do you think are the best artsy places in Chicago? Are you ready to start booking your hotel room in Chicago? And did Boston put the ultimate curse on Chicago for stealing the mighty Bean? Please leave your thoughts below!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Chicago.

If you’d like to visit the Chicago History Museum, add this itinerary. If you want to see the Field Museum, try this one. And if you’d like to a Chicago itinerary with the Lincoln Park Zoo, here you go.

A Perfect 24 Hours in Chicago

Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to 24 hours in Chicago! So you want to know what to do with 24 Hours in Chicago? If you’re anything like me, you’ve been dreaming of going to Chicago since you were a little girl for one reason and one reason only: gangsters.

As far back as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a gangster expert. My favorite movies as a little girl including The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Untouchables. When the Chicago mass transit system told me I needed to give my subway pass a nickname, I nicknamed it Scarface. Plus, I would never take sides against the family.

Yet Chicago is about so much more than organized crime. A perfect 24 Hours in Chicago starts with some natural history, continues with Great Lakes and exploding tapioca, and finishes with blues by a Legend. The question isn’t what are we going to do, the question is what aren’t we going to do.

24 Hours in Chicago

Where to Stay?

Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States, so there’s no shortage of places to stay here. But you want something that’s in a safe, convenient neighborhood. And if you’re anything like me, you want something within your price range.

So I recommend the Hampton Inn Chicago West Loop. It’s near many trendy restaurants like The Girl and the Goat, the staff is friendly and helpful. Plus breakfast is included! What more could you want?

If you want to find a great deal on this hotel, click here. If you are super skeptical of my taste in hotels for some strange reason, and would rather search on your own for great deals on hundreds of hotels in Chicago, just click here.

24 Hours in Chicago

What to Pack?

  • If you visit Chicago in the winter (and possibly in the spring or fall), you need a sturdy coat. I get compliments on this wine-colored, trendy Orolay number all the time, so I’m sure you will too.
  • But it’s not just cold in Chicago, it also sometimes rains. So try these cute rain boots that can take you from the streets to the tablecloths of a fancy Chicago restaurant.
  • A cell charger so you can take pictures of Chicago’s amazing architecture all day without your phone dying.
  • A light jacket with a hood because you’ll need a windbreaker in the Windy City
  • An umbrella that can stand up to those crazy winds
  • My favorite guidebook to Chicago
  • If you want a great nonfiction read about gangsters in Chicago, try Get Capone. It’s my favorite book about the amazing efforts it took to take down Mr. Alphonse Capone.
  • We’re hearing Buddy Guy live tonight, so get his album Buddy’s Baddest so you’re prepared to appreciate his genius.

24 Hours in Chicago

Morning: Field Museum

The Field Museum is the best natural history museum I have ever been to, and I say this as someone who went to the American Museum of Natural History in NYC about two times a year as a child. Basically every exhibit is worth exploring, but you should start your 24 hours in Chicago with the Field Museum’s specialty, the dinosaurs.

24 hours in Chicago

The Field Museum’s T-Rex is one of the largest T-Rexes ever found, which is about as large as a thing can be. She’s so impressive that she has her own name (Sue) and her own Wikipedia entry here. I’d like to point out that I still don’t have my own Wikipedia-entry, faithful readers!

24 hours in Chicago
24 Hour Tip

Because the museum is expensive, it’s only worth a visit if you spend a large part of the day there. I recommend arriving around nine and staying until at least 2. Having said that, you’re going to want to get lunch at the museum. 

The Field Bistro is a perfectly adequate place to get a soup/half sandwich combo before jumping back into the museum. If that sounds like I am damning with faint praise, I kind of am. But you’re not at the Field Museum for the food. You’re there for the dinosaur bones.

24 hours in Chicago
24 Hour Treasure

Ordinarily, I do not recommend that a first time visitor to a museum see the special exhibitions unless the museum is really small. But I make an exception for the Field Museum because their special exhibitions are truly specialriffic.

The two exhibitions I saw (one on Vikings, the other on Vodou) completely changed my perception on the two subjects. Did you know that the Vikings were mostly peaceful farmers? Did you know that if you can read French, you can read Haitian Creole even though the spelling is totally different?

These are just two of the fun facts I learned at the exhibits. But that is truly the best thing about the exhibits at the Field Museum; they spark that kind of child-like wonder that makes you want to learn all of the fun facts that you can.

If you want to see one special exhibit, the museum ticket costs 34 dollars. If you want to see all the special exhibitions and a 3D movie, it will set you back 40 Dollars. (This is if you are out-of-state; there are different prices for in-state visitors.) So think very carefully about what the special exhibition is and if it will change your life, like it did mine. If it won’t, the price might not be worth it.

If you’re going to see other things in Chicago, I really recommend the Chicago City Pass. It will save you money if you’re going to check out other major attractions like the Shedd or the Art Institute. But if all you’re seeing is the Field Museum, it isn’t worth the money.

24 Hours in Chicago

Afternoon: Explore!

Provided it is not too cold (and that is not always provided) Chicago is a wonderful city for walking. It has decades worth of wonderful architecture, but more importantly it is on a Great Lake. There are a grillion things to see and do during your 24 hours in Chicago, but I’ve tried to narrow your options down to the…

Approximately top 5: 24 Hours in Chicago

24 hours in chicago
1) Walk around lake michigan

Keep your eyes open, Internet Stranger, and check out that view! When you step out of the Field Museum, that is Lake Michigan you are stepping out on to! You should definitely spend at least an hour walking along the wall-less Lake Michigan. The views of the Chicago skyline are just dazzling.

24 hours in chicago
2) explore the chicago skyline

If you get tired (doubtful) or if it gets windy (doubtless), head inland and do some exploring there. You will definitely encounter a melange of gorgeous skyscrapers.

 24 hours in Chicago
3) walk to Paris

Just kidding! This is actually the entrance to the Van Buren subway Station. But I fooled you for a second, didn’t I?

If you get really bored, you can check out the Adler Planetarium or the Shedd Aquarium, which are right by the Field Museum, but I’m not sure I could do one of those and the Field Museum on the same day. My brain does not have an infinite capacity for fun facts, but perhaps yours does.

4) See Chinatown 

It’s pretty easy to get to Chinatown from the Field Museum. Just take the Red Line two stops to Cermac-Chinatown and presto! You are there. I of course walked because I am the original walking fool, but you don’t need to do that to yourself.

Chicago’s Chinatown is not that impressive next to the Chinatowns in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Philadelphia, Montreal…basically any other Chinatown I’ve ever been to. But what it does have is some amazing boba tea.

5) drink boba tea

Boba tea, for those who don’t boba, is a delightful concoction from Taiwan consisting of some combination of tea + fruit + milk + tapioca balls (boba). The fruit and milk are optional, but the tea and boba are not, else how could it deserve the name boba tea?

I suggest a delightful palace of boba called Joy Yee. They have every kind of tea and boba you could want. They even have a kind of slushy base for the tea called a freeze.

When you’re there, try something like the pineapple freeze with strawberry popping boba. These were boba that exploded in my mouth, but in a gentle way. I can’t wait to go back to Joy Yee and try another demented flavor of boba tea that I can’t get here in NYC.

24 hours in chicago

24 Hours in Chicago

Evening: Buddy Guy’s Legends

Going to Chicago without hearing a blues performance is like going to New Orleans and not listening to jazz or visiting Nashville and screaming, “LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” any time you hear a country song. It’s just sick and wrong.

Buddy Guy’s bills itself as the greatest blues club in the country, and it just might be true. That’s because the joint is run by blues legend Buddy Guy himself. He plays the club regularly every January, but he shows up and plays on other nights randomly when he feels like it. If you get lucky, maybe he will show up and play for you!

Fun Fact!

Buddy Guy was ranked 30th in Rolling Stone’s list of greatest guitarists of all time. Eric Clapton once called him the greatest living guitar player. I’m not sure which of those is a bigger compliment, but I’m going to go with Clapton’s remark.

You should buy your ticket in advance online. The show will probably start at 9:30 but you can arrive at 8 and order dinner. Don’t be skeptical at the idea of blues club dinner because the food was good! Buddy Guy is from Louisiana, so the food is Southern-influenced.

I recommnend you try the BBQ chicken with homemade sauce and spicy fries. Buddy also makes his own beer called Buddy Brew, which is tasty and cheap! My two favorite words in the English language!

24 Hour Tip

 Please go to the bathroom when you are at Buddy Guy’s because it is beautifully appointed and there is a friendly attendant who will ply you with hand lotions and whatnot. Be sure to bring a dollar and tip her! If you don’t have cash, Venmo her. I’m really serious! She deserves everything she gets.

24 hours in chicago

I can’t predict who’ll be playing when you go to Buddy Guy’s, but I was there to see a terrific singer named Sheryl Youngblood. She had that kind of spontaneity in her style that makes the blues so exciting, as if she were singing straight from the heart. But the most exciting part of the evening was when Buddy Guy himself stepped out to join her!

Sadly he did not have his guitar with him, but he sang for us some old blues songs and some songs that he improvised on the spot that were definitely not safe for work because they were mostly about sex and drugs. The evening was a complete thrill for me because how often do you get to see a living legend perform? (And I only paid ten dollars for my ticket!)

When you are ready to go home, just step outside because there will be plenty of cabs waiting to take you to your hotel. The perfect end to a perfect 24 hours in Chicago!

That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Chicago!

What would you do with 24 hours in Chicago? Have you ever seen a blues legend perform live? And is this the first time Chicago has been mistaken for Paris? Please leave your thoughts below!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Chicago.

If you’d like to visit the Chicago History Museum, add this itinerary. If you want to try 24 hours in Chicago with the Art Institute, try this one. And if you’d like to spend 24 hours in Chicago at the Lincoln Park Zoo, here you go.

A Perfect One Day in San Francisco Itinerary

Greetings, Internet Stranger! So you want a perfect one day in San Francisco itinerary focusing on Downtown San Francisco? An excellent choice, my fine feathered friend. Downtown San Francisco has some of the best food and culture that SF has to offer.

A beautiful day in the neighborhood here has beignets, Hindu sculpture, modern art installations, Korean tacos, luscious burritos, and of course a ride on the iconic streetcar. It will be like going around the world in 24 hours. Hmm. That phrase sounds familiar to me.

One Day in San Francisco Itinerary

Where to Stay?

Literally no one could recommend the hotel where I stayed the first time I had a one day in San Francisco itinerary because I was so broke that I was desperately refreshing my bank account each day to see when the IRS would send me my tax refund so I could afford to finish my trip. (The IRS came through. WOOO IRS!)

The next time I go to San Francisco, I’m staying at the Cartwright Hotel. It’s located right by Union Square so it’s within traveling distance of anywhere we might want to reach like the cable cars or the Asian Art Museum! What more could you want?

If you want to chillax with me at the Cartwright, just click here. If you find me a little strange and want to find deals on hundreds of other hotel rooms in San Francisco, just click here.

One Day in San Francisco Itinerary

What to Pack?

  • You’ll want some cute sandals for strolling through the Asian Art Museum
  • But you’ll also want some practical yet hip rain boots that are waterproof in case it rains during your one day in San Francisco Itinerary
  • A cell charger so your cell won’t run out of juice when you’re taking Insta-worthy pictures of Golden Gate Park
  • A light jacket with a hood because you’ll definitely need one at some point during your one day in San Francisco itinerary
  • My favorite guidebook to the Golden Gate City
  • A safety purse just in case you meet a cutpurse on the cable car
  • For fiction about SF, try Armisted Maupin’s famous Tales of the City. (It’s not at all about Carrie Bradshaw, I promise; instead it’s about LGBTQ life in SF.)
  • If you’d rather nonfiction, try The Mayor of Castor Street, about groundbreaking gay politician Harvey Milk. Yes, there’s a movie about him, but we all know books are better.

One Day in San Francisco Itinerary

Morning: Asian Art Museum

As you can probably tell from the museum’s not-very-obscure title, it is an institution dedicated to all kinds of Asian Art: Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Korean. All Asian Art Always, that’s the museum’s alliterative motto. Or if it isn’t, I offer it to them free of charge.

You could never see all the museum in a one day in San Francisco itinerary, so let’s kick things off with the…

one day in san francisco itinerary

Approximately top 5: The Asian Art Museum

1) Brenda’s French Soul Food

Brenda’s French Soul Food is not in the museum, but it’s just a five-minute walk away, so I feel comfortable recommending it for breakfast. But why should you trust my judgement about French soul food?

Well, I’m a native New Yorker, but I could almost as easily claim to be a New Orleanian. My mother was born and raised in New Orleans, her mother was born and raised in New Orleans, my family has lived in New Orleans since my great-great-great-grandfather Patrick McCloskey came over from Ireland in the 1860s. I’ve gone down to New Orleans once a year since I was one year old.

I know New Orleans food, is what I am saying. So believe me when I say that though Brenda’s French Soul Food is in San Francisco, it serves excellent New Orleans food.

24 Hour Treasure

Start your one day in San Francisco itinerary here for breakfast and get the beignet flight consisting of four beignets: plain, chocolate (filled with San Francisco’s own Ghirardelli, natch), a savory crawfish and cheddar, and my personal favorite: granny smith apple with cinnamon honey butter. Don’t feel disappointed by the idea of getting a plain because even a plain beignet is fried dough dusted with powdered sugar, and there is nothing to hate there.

24 Hour Tip

If you have your one day in San Francisco itinerary on the weekend, you’re going to have to wait an hour on line at least to get a table, so just plan accordingly! Fortunately they now accept reservations on Resy.

one day in san francisco itinerary
2) Docent led tour of the asian art museum

Every day there’s a free docent-led tour of the highlights of the museum collection that leaves at 10:30. You should definitely go on it! If it weren’t for my docent, I never would have met this camel, and that would be a tragedy for all.

one day in san francisco itinerary
3) Simhavaktra Dakini

Our docent also introduced me to many important Hindu and Buddhist deities, and I must admit that I am not up on either. It is so much easier to appreciate a work of art when you are familiar with the historical context. My favorite piece was this mind-boggling statue of a Buddhist deity named Simhavaktra Dakini.

How does she stand up like that? How did the sculptor get her to balance? She’s like the world’s coolest game of Jenga. My only complaint is that I wish the museum would move the exit sign because it would be easier to get a good picture of the sculpture that way. Museums do not think enough of the importance of Instagram.

one day in san francisco itinerary
4) Samurai armor

I love how lifelike this samurai armor looks. It almost feels like there’s an actual soldier sitting in a glass case in front of you, complete with beard. But that fluffy beard doesn’t look very practical for battle.

Couldn’t the enemy distract you by pulling on your beard? I know it was very distracting to the department store Santa Claus when I did that to him.

one day in san francisco itinerary
5) The jade collection

The Asian Art Museum has an amazing collection of Jade pieces, but this teeny Buddha is very favorite because he is so peaceful. I imagine he’d inspire some deep meditation if I kept him in my room…except that it would be hard to relax very much if I was responsible for such a valuable work of art.

One Day in San Francisco Itinerary

Afternoon: Explore San Francisco

You might think that after four beignets for breakfast, I would not be hungry. But you would be wrong, Internet Stranger! I am always hungry, and I am usually eating. In fact, the only reason I am not the size of a whale-moose is that I walk everywhere.

So that is why I suggest you continue the one day in San Francisco itinerary by taking the pleasant 30 minute walk down to the Ferry Building for lunch. By the time you arrive, you will want something to eat.

Approximately top 5: One Day in San Francisco Itinerary

Ferry Building San Francisco
1) Explore the ferry building

The Ferry Building is a food hall that contains just about every kind of delicious gourmet, locally-sourced snack food that there is in this world. The stands inside the EffBee are open every day, but the produce-drenched farmers market that sometimes congregates outside the building is only there Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

I had to restrain myself from trying all the foods at all the different places, but you shouldn’t resist snacking on a buttery Argentine alfajor cookie from the El Porteno stand. Do yourself a favor and grab one of their empanadas as well.

2) ice cream at humphry slocombe

Whether or not the farmers market is open, you must get ice cream at Humphry Slocombe inside the building. It is some of the most intensely flavored and creamy ice cream I have ever had, and I posed for the cover of Ice Cream Aficionado Magazine.

I recommend that you try the perfectly not-too-sweet Blue Bottle Vietnamese coffee flavor made with local Blue Bottle coffee. If you want Blue Bottle coffee, you can also buy some fresh in the Ferry Building. It’s a perfect San Francisco treat!

one day in san francisco itinerary
3) Cable car Tour

Speaking of San Francisco treats, it’s that time on our one day in San Francisco itinerary for the cable car tour! Do not confuse the San Francisco cable car with the similarly iconic New Orleans streetcar. First off, there is not even one streetcar in SF named Desire.

Second off, as much as I love New Orleans, I have to admit that the cable cars are even more impressive than the noble beast that is the streetcar.That is because SF is the last city in the whole wide world to have functioning cable cars. For that reason, you simply must ride the cable car when you are here.

one day in san francisco itinerary

All that is to explain why a ticket for the cable cars is worth a rather exorbitant price. You can pay for one ride using the Muni Mobile San Francisco transportation app, but you can also buy a one day public transportation pass for 20 dollars if you are going to be using public transpo a lot that day. I personally don’t think it sounds like a great deal, but then I never take transportation if my feet are still working.

There are three cable cars remaining in San Francisco: the Powell-Mason, the Powell-Hyde, and the California. I suggest that if you’re crunched for time, you shouold ride the California line because there was a very short line to get on the cable car. At the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde, the lines can be up to an hour.

I’m not sure why the California line was less popular because it was a blast! We went through Chinatown, and we went up and down enough hills that you will feel like a baby playing the “Up in the Air and Down Again” game.

one day in san francisco itinerary

Please remember that the price is only for a one-way ticket. If you want to go back to where you got on the cable car to continue your one day in San Francisco itinerary you need to pay another seven dollars.

24 Hour Treasure

The cable car driver was my 24 Hour Treasure because I tried to pay him another seven dollars for my return ticket after the first ride was over and he just shook my hand and refused to take my money. Bless you kind sir! With the money I saved, I was able to purchase an In-N-Out Burger.

4) Yerba buena gardens

When you’re done with the cable car excitement I recommend taking a fine book and relaxing in the Yerba Buena Gardens on 750 Howard St. It will be that time on your one day in San Francisco itinerary when you’ll want to rest your feet. You can also peruse the public art in the gardens, like this “Green Glass Ship—Deep Gradient/Suspect Terrain” by John Roloff.

one day in san francisco itinerary

I’m not making a joke. That’s actually what this sculpture is called. Just stay here and chillax with the deep gradients and suspect terrains until it is time for dinner.

One Day in San Francisco Itinerary

Evening: Dinner and a Show

“Dinner?” you may be asking. “Haven’t you already eaten four beignets, coffee ice cream, an empanada, and a cookie from the Argentine? Why are you still hungry?” To which I reply, “THE BEAST NEVER SLEEPS!” And by the beast, I mean my hungry tummy.

It is sheer folly to enjoy a one day in San Francisco itinerary and not try some Mexican food, and Tropisueno is a fine choice for a pre-theater meal. Make sure to reserve online in advance because it gets crowded.

one day in san francisco itinerary

The number one thing you must get at Tropisueno is one of their killer (and strong) margaritas. Remember that we are going to the theater next, so maybe don’t get more than one margarita unless you want to fall asleep. Now, you could almost make a meal out of the margarita and spicy salsa with chips alone. But un/fortunately the beast would not be satisfied, and there was more food to come.

Start with a light appetizer of a refreshing tilapia ceviche with lime. The lime was the perfect lip-puckering compliment to the fresh fish. Get a small appetizer because we’ll be indulging in a heartier main course: the chile verde, a rich slow cooked pork in a scrumptiously spicy green chile sauce.

I always like getting an appetizer and main course that are very different from each other because I feel like I notice the flavors in each more that way. Sadly I wasn’t able to get dessert because it was time for the final act of the one day in San Francisco itinerary: the theater!


Let’s finish our one day in San Francisco itinerary with some aht, dahlink. The American Conservatory Theater is an outstanding place at which to take in a contemporary play. They produce everything from established playwrights like Tom Stoppard to world-premieres by playwrights you have never heard of.

(Actually, I can’t be sure that you have never heard of them. I can only be sure that I have never heard of them. But if I haven’t heard of them, probably you haven’t either.)

I saw a new drama called Let There Be Love by British playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, about the relationships between an elderly West Indian who has lived in London most of his life, his English-born daughter, and his caregiver, who is a young Eastern European woman.

As I see it, the themes of the play were: there are many similarities and differences between West Indian immigration to England and contemporary Eastern European immigration to England, you should accept love in whatever form you find it, and Nat King Cole is awesome. All worthy themes!

The play also reinforced the most important lesson I have learned from my travels which is, “All over the world people have been terrible to each other throughout history, but then it is always such a lovely surprise when they are not terrible.”

Whichever play you see at ACT, I’m sure you will learn a similarly valuable life lesson. And with that, the curtain falls on our one day in San Francisco itinerary.

That’s a Perfect One Day San Francisco Itinerary!

What would you do on your one day in San Francisco itinerary? How do they get the Dakina to stand upright? AND WILL THE BEAST EVER SLEEP? Please leave your thoughts below!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend a one day in San Francisco itinerary.

If you want to add a one day in San Francisco itinerary with the Golden Gate Park, click here. And if you’re more interested in Alcatraz than cable cars, try this one day in San Francisco itinerary.

A Perfect One Day in Cape Town Itinerary

Greetings, Internet Stranger, and welcome to a one day in Cape Town itinerary. Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities you’ll ever visit in your life, with amazing food, gorgeous scenery, and elegant and friendly service.

But on the other side of that is Cape Town’s cruel and oppressive history of racism. It’s not possible to have a real trip to Cape Town without seeing both sides of this amazing city. Come along with me, and I’ll try to show you why.

full day cape peninsula tour

One Day in Cape Town Itinerary

Where to Stay?

I keep harping on about how gobsmackingly beautiful Cape Town is, so I’m sure you’ll love wherever you stay.

But my recommendation for the best hotel in Cape Town is the Cape Heritage Hotel. It has the nicest staff, an insanely convenient location, and gorgeous rooms with luxurious bath products.

one day in cape town itinerary

Also, just look at that amazing breakfast! The hotel will make you a hot breakfast to order every morning, but I was so happy with the yogurt, fruit, and coffee that I never needed it. Next time, I’ll have to try one of their breakfasts.

one day in cape town itinerary

Click here for a great deal on this hotel for your one day in Cape Town itinerary. Or if you’d rather find something in another location or price range, click here! I always find something I like on Booking.com

One Day in Cape Town Itinerary

What to Pack

  • Stylish and comfy sandals that will keep you looking trendy as we go shopping on our one day in Cape Town itinerary
  • Cute boots in case it rains, which it does in South Africa
  • An umbrella that won’t break under the pressure of Cape Town winds
  • A cell charger so you can keep snapping pics of the water all day
  • The best travel adapter so you can use your electronics (if you are not South African)
  • A rain jacket with a hood to keep you dry on Robben Island
  • My favorite guide book to Cape Town
  • Playing the Enemy, which is about Nelson Mandela’s attempt to rally the newly democratic South Africa behind the country’s rugby team, which was long associated with white South Africans and apartheid
  • Before you visit Robben Island, you must read Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela’s autobiography that includes his reflections about his time in prison
one day in cape town itinerary

One Day in Cape Town Itinerary

Morning: Visit Robben Island

Robben Island is the notorious island prison where political prisoners were kept during the apartheid years. The most famous political prisoner here was, of course, future South African president Nelson Mandela. But there were other important political prisoners kept here as well. You can’t really spend a one day in Cape Town itinerary without stopping on Robben Island.

My suggestion is to take the earliest possible ticket that you can and plan to spend the entire morning on the island. The tickets are very popular, so book as far in advance as you can on the website here. You’ll be well taken care of on the tour, which is mandatory. Exploring on your own is not allowed. But I’ll give you an idea of what to expect with…

Approximately Top 5: Robben Island

one day in cape town itinerary
1) Take the Ferry to Robben Island

You’ll have to pick up the ferry at the Nelson Mandela Gateway, located at the V&A Waterfront. Show up early, so you can explore the little museum located in the Gateway.

One warning: it’s possible that the ferry will be canceled due to bad weather. It didn’t happen to me, but it has been known to happen. So I suggest doing this trip to Robben Island as early in your trip to Cape Town as you can, so you’ll have a chance to reschedule. But hopefully you won’t have any trouble!

one day in cape town itinerary
2) Bus Tour

Once you arrive on the island, you’ll be taken to your bus tour, which in my case was led by a gregarious young man who looked all of twenty years old. He told us that the prisoners on Robben Island were released in 1991, thanks in large part to Mandela’s activism.

While on Robben Island, the prisoners were not allowed to speak any language except for Afrikaans or English, even though many of them would have spoken other languages like Xhosa, Nelson Mandela’s first language. It was then we learned that one of the tourists on the bus had been a political prisoner on Robben Island himself. Someone asked him why he wanted to take the tour, and he said he wanted to see what they’d done to the place just like everyone else did.

one day in cape town itinerary
3) A Photo Op?

Remember how I said you’ll keep going back and forth between unimaginable beauty and unimaginable hideousness during your time in Cape Town? The tour on Robben Island was no different. Our bus driver let us have a stop for the restroom and photo opportunities.

How strange to get a photo op in a former prison. I didn’t feel right about it, and then I felt guilty for not feeling right about it since the South Africans who work at Robben Island, some of whom are former prisoners themselves, set this all up. So I decided to join in the photo op. It’s true that you won’t find more beautiful scenery than this anywhere in the world.

one day in cape town itinerary
4) The Prison

Once the bus tour is over, you’ll be taken to the prison, where you’ll be led around by a guard who was a political prisoner himself. Our guard was from the South African city Port Elizabeth. You’ll be able to see Nelson Mandela’s cell, but not the actual things that he used personally. The cell was used as a prison for non-political offenders after Mandela’s release, so the items inside were changed.

one day in cape town itinerary

Our guide explained that there were three classes of prisoners kept on Robben Island: Asian, Coloured (multi-racial), and Bantu (Black). The Bantu were treated by far the worst. You can see the large replica above of a chart showing how poorly the Bantu prisoners were fed even compared to the other prisoners.

Our guard also reminded us that not all political prisoners were kept on Robben Island. Some, like Steve Biko, were killed by law enforcement. You can see more about Steve Biko in the movie Cry Freedom starring Denzel Washington. (He earned his first Oscar nomination for that film.)

one day in cape town itinerary
5) Remember

Our guides all told us that the South African apartheid government tried to cover up the crimes that were being committed on Robben Island. If international visitors came, they moved the prisoners from doing hard labor to making bags. But once the journalists and such left, they’d go back to brutal treatment. Prisoners had to complete 40 hours of hard labor a week, and if they couldn’t, they were shot. Their toilet was two buckets in a cave.

Many people who had family members kept on Robben Island never saw their family again. Probably their relatives died in prison and they were never informed, but it’s hard to be sure. At the end of the tour, our guide asked us to go back to our homes and tell other people what happened on Robben Island and persuade them to come visit. I hope that’s what I’ve managed to do with you here today.

one day in cape town itinerary

One Day in Cape Town Itinerary

Afternoon: V&A Waterfront

When you make your return trip from Robben Island, you’ll be dropped back off at the V&A Waterfront, so why not explore? The V&A stands for Victoria and Albert, as in the former queen of the UK and her beloved consort. After all, South Africa used to be a British colony.

But enough history! We’re in the mood for some sunshine and smiles. And we’re definitely in the mood for food. So let’s get started with…

Three Fun Facts: V&A Waterfront

one day in cape town itinerary
1) What is there to eat?

We’re having an early and massive meal this evening of our one day in Cape Town itinerary, so keep the lunch light. Stop off at Cooked for some Mediterranean fare. Try a salad with khoubiz…warm Lebanese flatbread that is so light it basically dissolves in your mouth like a tiny, starchy cloud.

one day in cape town itinerary
2) Where Can I Shop?

Cooked is located inside the Watershed, which just might be the best place to shop in South Africa. You can find someone for anyone on your Nice List or even someone on your Naughty List. All the shops here feature local makers, so it’s a great way to support South African creativity while you shop ’til you drop.

Some of the stores I recommend include:

  • African Fynbosgems, which sells jewelry made out of the precious South African plant family known as the fynbos. I pretended like I was going to buy something for a friend and then just bought a pair of earrings for myself because I collect earrings in every substance including things like lava and beetle wings.
  • Flick Inc, which sells fabulous ceramics and prints. I again pretended I was buying a gift and instead bought a ceramic wine stopper shaped like a fynbos and a print of a luggage tag going to Cape Town. I am the worst at buying gifts.
  • T-Bag Designs, which sells upcycled good made from used teabags. I finally bought a Christmas present for my oldest friend here, so I guess my reign of shopping terror finally ended. Thanks, teabags!
one day in cape town itinerary
3) WAAA! Where Can I Get Outside?

Had enough shopping, Internet Stranger? Let’s head out to explore the Waterfront. My favorite thing to do is run around and see as many of the brightly colored rhinoceroses as we possibly can. These rhinos were put up by a conservationist group to raise awareness of Crimes Against Rhinos, but they’ve since become popular selfie spots.

one day in cape town itinerary

Here’s another famous statue at the V&A Waterfront: the four South African Nobel Peace Prize winners. Their names are Nelson Mandela, FW de Klerk, Desmond Tutu, and Albert Lutuli. De Klerk was by far the least popular; many South Africans feel it was unfair that he received the Nobel Prize jointly with Mandela. After all, De Klerk was the president before Mandela, and he was still responsible for upholding many racist laws and policies, even if he did eventually agree to change them.

I know I said I’d steer clear of history, but in South Africa that’s very difficult to do! I’ll let you wander off by the water to enjoy your one day in Cape Town itinerary while I burble historical facts to myself over here.

one day in cape town itinerary

Fine, one more fact! This stone above was created to mark the visit of King George VI of the United Kingdom, whom you might know from his big hits The King’s Speech and The Crown. Apparently the King was not a fan of his racist bodyguards and referred to them as the Gestapo.

But nevertheless, the South Africans honored him with this engraving, which remains at the Waterfront to this day. I was surprised to find how many reminders there are in Cape Town of the fact that South Africa used to be part of the British Empire.

one day in cape town itinerary

One Day in Cape Town Itinerary

Early Evening: High Tea at Mount Nelson

Nothing is more luxurious than High Tea at the fabulous Mount Nelson Hotel. This is just one more example of things being Terribly British in Cape Town sometimes because Nelson comes from the famous British admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, not Nelson Mandela.

When I went, they offered an afternoon tea seating at 5 PM, which was perfect for this itinerary, but check ahead because times may change. If you get there early, you can walk around the glam pink grounds and pretend you are a wealthy guest.

one day in cape town itinerary

Then it’s time for the savory course!

one day in cape town itinerary

Here’s the entire list of everything you will consume for the first half of the legendary Mount Nelson tea:

A smoked salmon sandwich, a cucumber and cream cheese sandwich, an egg salad sandwich, cured meats, a cheese puff, pate, and roast beef.

Are we done? Hell to the no. We’ve got a mushroom pastry, spicy meat pastry, a spinach bite, a chickpea bite, two sausages, one of which is spicy, assorted cheeses of different textures and milks, including goat, a fruit spread, hummus, peppers, cheese, crackers, bread, and grapes.

All right, still hungry after the first course? On to the sweets!

one day in cape town itinerary

Here we have a scone (pronounced scon) served with cream, cheddar, strawberry jam, and butter. Truly there is something for any Brit who wants to dress their scon like they do at home.

Think we’ve got dessert coming? Hahaha, foolish mortal. There will be six desserts:

A cheesecake bite, a caramel square, a coconut square, a vanilla eclair (that rhymes!), a carrot cake, and a raspberry dobos cake with lashings of cream. No, I was not able to finish all this food, though I did eat at least a bite of everything. If you can finish it all, please email me for your reward at [email protected]

one day in cape town

That’s a Perfect One Day in Cape Town Itinerary!

What would you do with a one day in Cape Town itinerary? Is there any way to avoid learning about history when you’re in Cape Town (and why would you want to)? And do you think one of those rhino statues could finish the Mount Nelson tea? Please leave your thoughts below!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have a one day in Cape Town itinerary.

A Perfect Bay Area Day Trip

Greetings, Internet Stranger! So you want to know how to have a perfect Bay Area day trip? Ordinarily, I prefer to spend my traveling days exploring one neighborhood at a time so that I really come to know a city.

However, sometimes it is preferable to spend the perfect Bay Area day trip exploring one or two major attractions like Alcatraz and Angel Island. And when it comes to the Bay Area’s most famous prison, even one day might not be enough time to fully unlock its secrets…

Bay Area Day Trip

Where to Stay?

I was embarrassingly broke when I enjoyed my Bay Area day trip, so I stayed in a SuperCheap Motel that I can’t recommend to you. (Yes, I’m pretty sure SuperCheap was the real brand name.)

The next time I have a Bay Area day trip, I’m staying at the Cartwright Hotel. It’s located right by Union Square so it’s not far from the Alcatraz ferry terminal, it has free wifi, coffee makers, and an airport shuttle, and there might even be a ghost or two. I’m sold!

If you’d like to join me for our Bay Area day trip at the Cartwright, just click here. But if you’d rather strike out on your own and you want to find deals on hundreds of hotel rooms in San Francisco, just click here.

Bay Area Day Trip

What to Pack?

  • It might be sunny even in Alcatraz, so bring some stylish sandals
  • But you’ll also want some Cute boots that are waterproof because you might get splooshed on all the boats we are taking
  • A cell charger so your cell won’t die just when you’re about to take the perfect photo of Al Capone’s cell
  • A light jacket with a hood because you’ll definitely need one at some point in the Bay Area
  • My favorite guidebook to San Francisco/the Bay Area
  • A safety purse just in case you are robbed by the Birdman of Alcatraz
  • The best children’s book ever set in a Bay Area restaurant, Fanny at Chez Panisse. (It’s a wonderful cookbook too.)
  • And of course we need an inside guide to America’s most notorious prison. Inside Alcatraz will do nicely.
bay area day trip

Bay Area Day Trip

Morning: Alcatraz

Alcatraz is one of the most popular tourist attractions for a Bay Area day trip, which is pretty funny when you consider that men used to risk their lives trying to get away from there.

Alcatraz or The Rock, as Michael Bay calls it, used to be a military prison before it became a notorious maximum security facility and home to one Alphonse Capone, among many other vicious criminals.

24 Hour Tip

If you want to visit Alcatraz, the only way to get there is to buy a ticket on the Alcatraz Cruises website. Please buy your tickets as soon in advance as possible because they do sell out several weeks in advance.

The website recommends that you buy tickets 90 whole days in advance, like Alcatraz is some restaurant that got featured on Chef’s Table. Also you will need a photo ID to pick up your ticket at Pier 33. I guess they’re afraid some criminals might try to bust INTO Alcatraz.

I recommend taking the Alcatraz/Angel Island joint tour, which leaves just after nine in the morning. Eat a hearty breakfast and take a snack with you because there is no food on Alcatraz. You won’t be able to get something to eat until you arrive on Angel Island in the afternoon.

Be sure to get to Pier 33 early so that you can pick up your tickets and get on line for the ferry to Alcatraz with time to spare. That way you can fit in…

Approximately top 5: alcatraz

bay area day trip
1) Take the audio tour

Absolutely the best thing to do on Alcatraz is taking the exciting and detailed audio tour of the prison, complete with credible voice acting of readings from the diaries of Alcatraz inmates.

This tour is included with your ticket, so all you have to do is accept it politely when you arrive. Is that so hard to do, Internet Stranger? Didn’t your mother teach you manners?

bay area day trip
2) Check out the prisoner cells

You actually get to peek inside the cells in which so many famous inmates from Whitey Bulger to Mickey Cohen to Andy Dufresne resided. (OK, Andy Dufresne is not a real person and he was actually fictionally held in an imaginary prison in Maine. But him aside, basically any prisoner who was any prisoner was kept here.)

You can walk from the regular cells to the more punitive solitary confinement cells.

bay area day trip

Solitary confinement doesn’t seem that bad when the door is open, but imagine being shut in this cement box by yourself for several days. It would be enough to make a man want to dig his way out slowly using only a Rita Hayworth poster for protection.

bay area day trip
3) Learn about Alcatraz’s most famous inmates

Capone and Robert Stroud (aka the Birdman of Alcatraz) aren’t the only famous prisoners to do time on the Rock. Another celebrity gangster was Elwood “Bumpy” Johnson, one of the most notorious gangsters in Harlem.

He was so famous that Clarence Williams III of The Mod Squad played him in the movie American Gangster. The informative signs scattered all around Alcatraz will help you learn all about these fascinating evildoers.

I always feel a little guilty spending so much time learning about murderers and miscreants. Sometimes I wish there were exciting tourist attractions dedicated to Very, Very Nice People. Get on that, Internet!

bay area day trip
4) Visit the library

Apparently the inmates were really into reading works of systematic philosophy in the prison library. I guess you have a lot of time to contemplate man and meaninglessness when you are doing ten to twenty. This may be one of my favorite signs I have ever seen. Who knew that bootleggers were into Schopenhauer?

5) Take a ranger tour

Because Alcatraz is run by the National Park Service, free ranger tours are available daily. The ranger tours are fascinating but keep an eye on the time if you are going to Angel Island in the afternoon.

If the tour goes too long, you won’t have enough time to do a ranger tour and the Alcatraz prison audio tour before your ferry to Angel Island will leave from Alcatraz around noon.

PS. I feel like calling Alcatraz a “National Park” really stretches the definition of park. But maybe that is why they’ve never put me in charge of the national parks department.

bay area day trip

24 Hours: Alcatraz and Angel Island

Afternoon: Angel Island

We’ll obviously continue our Bay Area day trip by going to Angel Island. After a harrowing morning spent listening to tales of prison breaks and solitary confinement, you will be happy to know that Angel Island is…even more depressing than Alcatraz!

But fortunately it is much prettier than Al Capone’s former summer (and winter) home, which makes sense given that it was never a maximum security prison. Some of the views of the Bay Area from here will absolutely take your breath away.

Approximately top 5: angel island ferry

angel island ferry
1) Take the tram tour

A tram tour is included with your ferry ticket, so you will be able to see all the most important spots on the island without having to do any walking at all. I know how lazy you can be, Internet Stranger! And I sympathize!

bay area day trip
2) visit fort mcdowell

Just as Alcatraz served as a military prison, Angel Island used to be home to Fort McDowell during the end of the 19th century. Before this Bay Area day trip, I never knew that the army was allowed in San Francisco! I thought if the military tried to show up in SF, the locals would just sing songs about flowers at them until the GIs ran away screaming.

You can still see the buildings left over from the island’s military days. I think they’re awfully cute for army barracks! And just look at those pretty purple flowers. This was my favorite spot on the island.

bay area day trip
3) learn the history of Asian immigration in the us

But Angel Island is not primarily famous for being a military fort; it is most known for being an immigration processing center for Asian immigrants. It is basically California’s answer to Ellis Island, only no one has set any Godfather movies here.

Sadly because of the racist Chinese Exclusion Act passed by the US government in 1882, many Asian immigrants were trapped on the island for years waiting for permission to enter the United States.

There’s a museum now where the Immigration Center used to be, but it’s not possible to visit it on the Tram Tour. If you want to fully explore Angel Island, you’ll have to come back on another day.

4) Eat lunch at the Angel Island Cafe on the island

I had the chili and it was just fine. But you might not be able to eat lunch until after the Tram Tour is complete, so again, make sure to bring a snack!

24 Hours: Alcatraz and Angel Island

Dinner: The Cafe at Chez Panisse

Since we are spending this Bay Area day trip exploring the environs of San Francisco rather than SF proper, I think it only appropriate to dine in the adjacent city of Berkeley, California.

It is very easy to get to Berkeley from San Francisco just by taking the BART train from Embarcadero Station. Part of the reason anyone would want to go on a Bay Area was so that I could eat at the legendary restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley.

An Amusing Anecdote From My Childhood

Any food historian knows that Alice Waters basically invented California cuisine in these hallowed halls on Shattuck Avenue in the 1970s, and she is still going strong today. I have wanted to come to this restaurant ever since I read her cookbook for children, Fanny at Chez Panisse, at the age of nine. As I’ve said before, I was a weird kid.

24 Hour Tip

It is very hard to get reservations at Chez Panisse, so be vigilant if you really want to dine here. They start taking reservations exactly one month in advance. Sadly, I was not able to book a table in the restaurant, but I had no trouble getting a table for the cafe upstairs.

The big difference between the restaurant and the cafe is that at the cafe you can order a la carte, but the restaurant only has one set menu offered every evening.

The food at Chez Panisse exactly lived up to my childhood expectations, and next time I have a Bay Area day trip, I will do everything in my power to get a reservation at the restaurant. Until then, I leave you with my thoughts on the food because I was too scared of Alice Waters to take photos.

24 Hour Treat

I feasted on salad greens fresh from the garden, ravioli with peas, mint, and pecorino, and tangerine sorbet with rose gelee. The salad greens indeed tasted like they’d just been plucked from Mr. McGregor’s garden, and the ravioli with peas bathed me in the warm glow of a perfect spring day. Perhaps May 2nd.

But the highlight was the tangerine sorbet which tasted like the most gorgeous tangerine ever. Like maybe this tangerine is Gisele Bundchen’s sister. Really, at Chez Panisse, anything could be possible.

That’s a Perfect Bay Area Day Trip!

What would you do on a perfect Bay Area Day Trip? Is it weird that a prison is a major tourist attraction? And what’s the sexiest citrus you’ve ever eaten? Please leave your thoughts below!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in the Bay Area.

If you have another 24 hours in San Francisco and want to see the cable cars, try this itinerary. If you’re more interested in Golden Gate Park, this 24 hour itinerary should help.

A Perfect 24 Hours in San Francisco

Greetings Internet Stranger! So you’re looking for things to do for 24 hours in San Francisco? Well, the most important thing to know is that we’re going to spend most of the 24 hours in San Francisco in Golden Gate Park. Between the museums, the bison, and the hippies, there’s simply not enough time to pack everything in in less than one day.

The second most important thing to know is that even though the term Golden Gate is in the Park, you will not be exploring the Golden Gate Bridge during this itinerary. That is because, weirdly enough, Golden Gate Bridge is not in Golden Gate Park. Get used to disappointment, Internet Stranger!

24 Hours in San Francisco

Where to Stay?

I was embarrassingly broke when I spent my 24 hours in San Francisco, so I needed to stay in the cheapest motel I could afford. But I can’t recommend a place like that to my beloved Internet Strangers!

The next time I go to San Francisco, I’m staying at the Cartwright Hotel. It’s located right by Union Square so it’s in a convenient location, it has free wifi, coffee makers, and an airport shuttle, and it might be haunted! What more could you want?

If you’d like to join me at the Cartwright, just click here. If you want to find deals on hundreds of hotel rooms in San Francisco, just click here.

24 Hours in San Francisco

What to Pack?

  • San Francisco weather is famously difficult to predict, so you’ll want sandals
  • But you’ll also want some Cute boots that are waterproof in case it rains while you are there.
  • A cell charger so your cell won’t run out of juice when you’re taking Insta-worthy pictures of Golden Gate Park
  • A light jacket with a hood because with 24 hours in San Francisco, we need to be prepared for all weather
  • My favorite guidebook to SF
  • A safety purse just in case you are robbed by a flower child in Golden Gate Park
  • The coolest book set in San Francisco, aka The Maltese Falcon (I won’t play the sap for you, Internet Stranger.)
  • If you’re looking for something with stronger female characters, try The Joy Luck Club, which has many scenes set in San Francisco.
A Perfect 24 Hours in San Francisco

24 Hours in San Francisco

Morning: The De Young Museum

There are so many fabulous museums in San Francisco and Golden Gate Park, but the De Young is possibly my favorite. The museum offers regular free guided tours throughout the day, and free guided museum tours are possibly the best things on this earth after food and mystery novels.

24 Hour tip

The De Young has excellent temporary exhibitions, but I suggest skipping them if this is your first time at the museum. The regular collection is large enough that you should concentrate on those works. Also, this tip will save you money because you won’t have to pay the extra charge for the temporary exhibition.


24 hours in san francisco

My favorite tour was the docent tour of the American Art collection. I loved this tour because we got to learn about the history of the depiction of California in painting. Our docent started by explaining that in the early 19th century, most painters did landscapes of the East Coast, as in this example shown above: “The Village of Catskill” by Thomas Cole.

24 hours in san francisco

Then our guide explained to us that painting nature on the East Coast was so early-1800s. By the second half of the 20th century, artists were much more interested in depicting the Western United States as the “New Eden”.

But some painters weren’t able to portray such an idyllic view of the West, either because of the Native Americans who were being chased off their land or because of the environmental damage being done by increased movement out West. The fog in the painting of the Bay Area above is meant to symbolize some of that environmental damage.

I wonder if artists really used to mix it up with each other about whether or not it was better to paint the East Coast or the West Coast. Maybe it was like the 19th century equivalent of Biggie vs. Tupac.

24 hours in san francisco

We finished our tour with this work “Three Machines” by contemporary California artist Wayne Thiebaud, who is famous for his somber colors and serious subject matter. Just kidding! As you can see from my photo above, Thiebaud is known for his brightly colored paintings of sweets.

There is something stereotypically Californian about the almost superficially cheerful nature of his work, but I like this painting anyway. What’s wrong with a work of art that puts a smile on your face?

24 hours in san francisco

I recommend spending three hours in the De Young, which gives you enough time to take two guided tours and explore a little of the museum on your own. At this point you will be hungry for some lunch. The De Young Museum has a solid and not too expensive cafe on the ground floor. As a bonus, the walls are glass so you can look out on the Golden Gate Park while you eat. Nosh on something like fresh soba noodles and tea, and then we will be ready to head out into nature!

24 Hours in San Francisco

Afternoon: Explore Golden Gate Park

I’m confident you won’t want to spend 24 hours in San Francisco without seeing the Golden Gate Park. This park has everything: palm trees, a Japanese tea garden, lakes, a Bison Paddock that is actually a paddock that contains real bison, something called a Hippie Hill which of course it does because this is San Francisco, and an Archery Range.

No matter what you are in the mood to do, just check out one of the many clear maps you will find posted around the park and head off! The Park is your oyster, even though oysters may be the only thing you cannot find in this park.


24 hours in san francisco

There is literally always an event in this park. No matter when you spend your 24 hours in San Francisco, you’ll be able to find something. I wasn’t even looking for something, and I came across an unidentifiable (at least by me) concert with a whole bunch of people in attendance dressed as fairies.

I’m not trying to be offensive; they were literally wearing glitter and little gauze wings on their backs. If you want to be better prepared than I was, just check this calendar for details.

24 hours in san francisco

Don’t you always enjoy a random collection of creepy trees? Fortunately Golden Gate Park has an abundance of them.

24 Hours in San Francisco

I hope those are beavers in the bottom of the picture, but probably they are just rocks.

24 hours in san francisco

I was lucky enough to spend 24 hours in San Francisco in the springtime, so the blossoms were especially lovely.

24 hours in san francisco

Daffodils make everything better.

24 hours in san francisco

Find this very San Francisco park bench and seranade Jean Scherr with “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”.  Or you can just wander around and look for Tony Bennett and see if he has located the heart he left in San Francisco. 

OK, I didn’t actually run into Mr. Bennett himself, but a girl can dream, can’t she?

24 Hours in San Francisco

Dinner: In-N-Out

Internet Stranger, you may be wondering why on earth I am recommending a fast food restaurant for dinner on our 24 hours in San Francisco. But to many Californians, In-N-Out is not just a fast food restaurant, it is THE fast food restaurant.

After years of hearing my California friends rave about the wonders of an In-N-Out burger, I was equal parts full of East Coast contempt for the burger and full of curiosity about trying it out. Lucky for me, I was able to taste this spectacful beef patty because there is an In-N-Out at Fisherman’s Wharf. I half wanted it to be terrible just because I am sick to death of hearing about how magical THE ALMIGHTY IN-N-OUT BURGER.

Sadly/happily it was not terrible at all. It was meaty and salty and bunny just like you want a hamburger to be. And it only cost 2.05! Well played, California, well played. But I’ll get you next time! *strokes cat while grinning fiendishly*

24 hours in san francisco

This was one of the first pictures of food that I ever took, and now I think I would know enough to take the wrapper off the hamburger before taking the picture.

That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in San Francisco!

What would you do with 24 hours in San Francisco? What was the deal with the fairy convention? And is the In-N-Out burger a fine treat that only a supervillain could hate? MWAHAHAHA! Also, please leave your thoughts below.

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in San Francisco. If you’re interested in the Bay Area and Alcatraz, try this itinerary. And if you have another 24 hours in San Francisco and want to ride the cable cars, give this a shot.