What is the quintessential San Francisco experience for a visitor with only a few days in the city?
This is my idea - may not be for you. the old fort at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge; walking across the GG bridge, Visiting the Presidio which is at the south side of the bridge. Walking along the beach from the Marina section of SF as far as you want - ends at the Cliff House and another beach. The ocean is so different from middle America. the original Fisherman's Wharf and not Pier 39 except for the seals. Golden Gate Park with its gardens, museums, buffaloes, and paddle boats - too much to write here. Take a ferry ride to Tiburon and back and you will see a lot - and pay less than a tourist ferry. You can get off and eat some of the good food in Tiburon and sail back - good views of the bridge and Alcatraz. Alcatraz is hard to get into but interesting. Walk around, ride the cable car but take the one that goes to the State Park at the foot - I have forgotten the name of that particular car but ask - not the one to fisherman's Wharf as you can walk along the wharf area to F/W to the east. Take same cc back and sit outside so you can see everything as you go up the hill. this is the most exciting route. SF has it's not so good points and what I do in a new city is watch my surroundings and if I do not see women I return to where there are women. I do not live there, spent most of my life in the Bay Area, some living in SF. It is a fascinating city and I have seen many. Maybe it is because I grew up being able to see it across the bay and worked and lived there at one time.