Your Out-of-Town Guests' Guide to San Francisco

Help your friends and family navigate the beautiful metropolis with these tips.

Your Out-of-Town Guests' Guide to San Francisco

Photo: Catherine Hall Studios

So, you’ve been invited to attend a wedding in San Francisco? Or perhaps you’re hosting your own nuptials in the lovely city, and you’re expecting a good amount of guests from out-of-town? Either way, having a insider’s guide to the great “city by the bay” is essential if you want to get the most out of your trip. So put on some of Train’s most popular songs – or some of E-40’s hits, if that’s more your style – and consider these suggestions for out-of-towners visiting the great city of San Francisco for a wedding weekend.

Where to Stay
Your first priority is determining exactly which area – or “district” – of the city the nuptials will be taking place. If the bride and groom have not specified a certain hotel or created a block of rooms for attendees, there are plenty of gorgeous properties in nearly every section: but book quickly, because San Francisco is a popular tourist destination, and rooms fill up quite fast.

-  If you can, find a place near the water – on the Embarcadero/Marina, near all of the numbered piers, or the Presidio – for the best views of the bay, Alcatraz, Angel Island, and the Marin Headlands.
-  If you’re looking for a place further inland, the area around Golden Gate Park is lovely, though it can get crowded.
-  Keep in mind: if there aren’t many hotels to your liking or you’d simply like a different kind of vacation experience, consider using a home-share site to book your stay – getting to live in a San Francisco townhouse as opposed to a hotel will make for a more interesting, perhaps more authentic, experience.

Where to Play
There are plenty of tourist attractions to choose from in San Francisco: a ferry ride and tour of Alcatraz Island, a stroll through the shops and restaurants on Pier 39, a ride on one of the city’s famous cable cars, and more. While we recommend you do everything – even the “touristy” stuff – once, we also know you’ll be looking to try out some local fun as well. San Francisco has some amazing nightlife to indulge in, whether you’re looking for a lively night or a mild-mannered evening.

-  “Speakeasy”-themed bars are perfect for a laid-back outing with friends. Local Edition on Market Street exemplifies the spirit of the 1920s in this underground lounge bedecked with typewriters.
-  If you’re looking to get into a more tropical mood, we suggest heading over to Pagan Idol – a tiki-themed bar on Bush Street – to sample tasty island cocktails and chat with one another at ship-inspired tables.
-  If you want a more lively, movement-centered excursion, travel over to Polk Street and visit Playland Bar. Though you’ll likely be charged a cover, the venue is worth it: enjoy a relaxed drink downstairs and then venture upstairs to an energetic dance hall with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the streets of San Francisco.

For a more family-oriented outing:
-  Consider visiting The Walt Disney Family Museum in the Presidio to travel through the life of Walt Disney and see some of his original sketches and concepts.
-  Don’t skip satisfying your sweet tooth at Ghirardelli Square slightly inland from Fisherman’s Wharf for a chocolate treat or two.
-  For a brief journey out of the city, take the ferry across the bay into Larkspur to enjoy the charms of small-town Northern California as a day trip. 

Where to Eat
The San Francisco restaurant scene is thriving and there is no shortage of great dining establishments to try. Since you'll likely be in town for just the weekend, we suggest these delicious destinations to get a taste of the city in a short amount of time.
-  Consider eating a light bite at the small, yet sophisticated, Presidio Social Club.
-  San Francisco is home to many a sourdough bread lover, and what better place to sample a baguette or two than at Boudin Bakery?
-  The Waterfront is, as the name suggests, right on the water between piers seven and nine – delicious fare and a killer view.
-  Farallon is conveniently located near Union Square and serves tasty seafood in an upscale space featuring an under-the-sea concept.

Find out what to do as an out-of-town wedding guest in Los Angeles and read up on more travel and honeymoon tips!

Opening photo by Michelle Walker Photography