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Thread: If you're going to San Francisco...

  1. #1
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    Default If you're going to San Francisco...

    What is your must see/stay/eat list?

    It seems like my husband is going to be sent there for a week this summer for work and we're thinking about the possibility of joining him after the assignment is done. I'm not crazy about the idea of taking the kids (assuming the kids vaccine won't be available yet)...but it's tempting to go for a couple days without the kids. It's our 15th anniversary and considering the last few years have been so insane that we haven't had time to even go to dinner alone, it would be nice to have a few days away.

    We did stay there for a day when we did our road trip but all (and I mean ALLLLLL) I remember is walking up hills everywhere, visiting the Boudin bread factory, and it was a 90 degree heat wave. This will be a long term project he has, so if we don't make it out there this summer, it's likely we will in the next few years.

  2. #2
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    I've been there quite a few times in the last few years on our way to various cruises. I'd stay in the Fisherman's Wharf area - lots of hotels and it's easy to walk to stuff along the water. We've stayed at Hotel Zoe (formerly a Best Western) and a Marriott in that area. We also stayed once at the Drake because I had a free night. That's near Union Square so it's also pretty centrally located and near the cable cars. Those are fun to ride, but it can be a wait. We ate a nice lunch at Ghirardelli Square in a restaurant that overlooked the bay and that was nice. Plus, it's fun to walk around the little shops there and try the chocolate. I'd check Viator for tours if you're interested in that... I think we took a couple of tours with a place called Tower Tours which had an office near our hotel in Fisherman's wharf.

    Have fun!
    “When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.”

    ~ Desiderius Erasmus

  3. #3
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    I lived in the city for 3 years - long ago but same basic principles remain the same.

    Get yourself on Zagats online, or at your local Borders (if those still exist) and pick out the best cheap Chinese food (Used to be House of Nanking on California St. near the Bank of America building). Another cannot miss is Ristorante Milano in the Russian Hill area. Pick out best Tacqueria, you're only there a few days to enjoy some of the best food on earth, you cannot afford to "miss" and the Zagats will keep prices down, and hits high.

    I would stay somewhere between Market Street and Union Square bc you're close enough to the BART station and Muni station that you'll get all over the city without even having to hire a cab, it's close to the theatre district, the Embarcadaro, it's actually ideal, which is why there are so many hotels right in that area.

    I actually wouldn't spend more than a day at Fisherman's Warf. It is so touristy that it's mostly ruined, especially Pier 39. One day is more than enough. Skip Alcatraz. I would find a way to go across the Golden Gate, it's sort of a "must see" and there's a park on the hillside.

    If you're baseball fans, the stadium is wonderful and there are lots of cool restaurants and pubs down there.

    One thing to keep in mind is that summer in San Francisco is cold, and I mean cold. It can be 95 in Palo Alto, and 95 in Davis, and it can be 61 windy as hell, and fog/cloudy in the city. The reasons are all to do with Central valley heating sucking air off the pacific and blasting it through. Just know, think "Early April" Pittsburgh when you pack. Throughout the day you will go from coat, sweater, long-sleeved shirt, back to sweater, back to coat, a hat isn't a bad idea either. Skip shorts, skip sandals, all that. Jeans and hiking boots or your best running shoes.

    Any other questions feel free to ask.
    Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
    Mark Twain.

  4. #4
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    It really does depend on the types of things you enjoy doing. I think one of the best ways to see the city is to do one of those hop on/hop off bus tours. They will take you by most of the big sights and you can get out to enjoy them at your own pace - with a little bit of research, you can plan your own perfect tour. One of the stops is the Golden Gate bridge and if it's a nice enough day, you can get off and walk across it, which gives you different views of the city, the bay and the ocean. And I wouldn't say flat-out skip Alcatraz, it is pretty cool if things like that interest you. Even if you don't actually go on the island itself and take the tour, you could still take one of the bay cruises, which would take you by the island for some great photo ops of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate bridge (some of them even take you under the bridge for a completely different view of things).

    The Muir Woods are just a few miles north of San Francisco, and there are several fun little hikes that take you through some nice redwoods there. I agree that Fisherman's Wharf is pretty touristy, but it's still cool to check out if you've never been there before. And if you have a car, it's actually kind of fun to make the drive down Lombard Street ("The Crookedest Street").

    As far as restaurants, there are so many good ones, I definitely like the idea about doing some online research there as well. Unfortunately, most of the restaurants in Fisherman's Wharf don't give you the quality or the value for what you end up paying. You can get some great meals along with great views along the Embarcadero (some great oysters - and actually, lots of places all over the city have them). North Beach is not too far away, and there are some decent restaurants there (and a few "interesting" dive bars).

    As far as the ballpark, it's true that it's a beautiful park and there are lots of good bars/restaurants nearby, but I was just over there the other day and most of them are (at least) temporarily closed. A couple of my favorites look like they may be permanently closed. Hopefully, all of that will change here in the next couple of months, though. The park itself is still not what it was/will be again due to some of the restrictions that are going on right now. Depending on how adventurous you are (and depending on the day), you could even rent a kayak and take in a game from McCovey Cove, which is very fun when the weather is nice.

    Agree with the weather, as Mark Twain allegedly said, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." Also, a lot of the more popular things may require making reservations in advance.
    My posts indicate that I don't seem to follow college basketball all that closely.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Radbooks View Post
    I've been there quite a few times in the last few years on our way to various cruises. I'd stay in the Fisherman's Wharf area - lots of hotels and it's easy to walk to stuff along the water. We've stayed at Hotel Zoe (formerly a Best Western) and a Marriott in that area. We also stayed once at the Drake because I had a free night. That's near Union Square so it's also pretty centrally located and near the cable cars. Those are fun to ride, but it can be a wait. We ate a nice lunch at Ghirardelli Square in a restaurant that overlooked the bay and that was nice. Plus, it's fun to walk around the little shops there and try the chocolate. I'd check Viator for tours if you're interested in that... I think we took a couple of tours with a place called Tower Tours which had an office near our hotel in Fisherman's wharf.

    Have fun!
    I know we spent some time down near Fisherman's Wharf when we were there, that was the only flat area I remember walking lol. I do remember walking past the Ghirardelli building, that's a good idea about looking for tours, I didn't know the name of the company that organized them so thank you!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by DZ View Post
    I lived in the city for 3 years - long ago but same basic principles remain the same.

    Get yourself on Zagats online, or at your local Borders (if those still exist) and pick out the best cheap Chinese food (Used to be House of Nanking on California St. near the Bank of America building). Another cannot miss is Ristorante Milano in the Russian Hill area. Pick out best Tacqueria, you're only there a few days to enjoy some of the best food on earth, you cannot afford to "miss" and the Zagats will keep prices down, and hits high.

    I would stay somewhere between Market Street and Union Square bc you're close enough to the BART station and Muni station that you'll get all over the city without even having to hire a cab, it's close to the theatre district, the Embarcadaro, it's actually ideal, which is why there are so many hotels right in that area.

    I actually wouldn't spend more than a day at Fisherman's Warf. It is so touristy that it's mostly ruined, especially Pier 39. One day is more than enough. Skip Alcatraz. I would find a way to go across the Golden Gate, it's sort of a "must see" and there's a park on the hillside.

    If you're baseball fans, the stadium is wonderful and there are lots of cool restaurants and pubs down there.

    One thing to keep in mind is that summer in San Francisco is cold, and I mean cold. It can be 95 in Palo Alto, and 95 in Davis, and it can be 61 windy as hell, and fog/cloudy in the city. The reasons are all to do with Central valley heating sucking air off the pacific and blasting it through. Just know, think "Early April" Pittsburgh when you pack. Throughout the day you will go from coat, sweater, long-sleeved shirt, back to sweater, back to coat, a hat isn't a bad idea either. Skip shorts, skip sandals, all that. Jeans and hiking boots or your best running shoes.

    Any other questions feel free to ask.
    We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge on our trip but didn't get out to really appreciate it. Chinese food is definitely on our must get list because we failed on that front the first time, I think we also failed to get any Mexi-Cali food on our road trip too, what were we thinking!

    I was prepared for the cooler weather last time and it was shocking that it was above 90 and humid. I will definitely welcome cooler temps this time especially if we decide to walk around more, and I almost always wear tennis shoes especially on vacation.

    Hubby is actually working on the expansion of BART, funny that that didn't even occur to me to plan on it for transportation since we walked so much last time! We could have gotten a pretty sweet deal to relocate to San Fran for 5 years but it would have been a really hard transition with the ages the boys are, we didn't want to leave now and come back when our oldest was heading into freshman year. But it seems like this will probably be a semi frequent trip he'll get to take so we should be able to work some family vacations into it (we're hoping we can do another long road trip next summer since it seems like they'll want hubby there and in LA) he's been able to save a lot of vacation time during the pandemic so I'm really hoping we get to do something big.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by BayAreaZagFan View Post
    It really does depend on the types of things you enjoy doing. I think one of the best ways to see the city is to do one of those hop on/hop off bus tours. They will take you by most of the big sights and you can get out to enjoy them at your own pace - with a little bit of research, you can plan your own perfect tour. One of the stops is the Golden Gate bridge and if it's a nice enough day, you can get off and walk across it, which gives you different views of the city, the bay and the ocean. And I wouldn't say flat-out skip Alcatraz, it is pretty cool if things like that interest you. Even if you don't actually go on the island itself and take the tour, you could still take one of the bay cruises, which would take you by the island for some great photo ops of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate bridge (some of them even take you under the bridge for a completely different view of things).

    The Muir Woods are just a few miles north of San Francisco, and there are several fun little hikes that take you through some nice redwoods there. I agree that Fisherman's Wharf is pretty touristy, but it's still cool to check out if you've never been there before. And if you have a car, it's actually kind of fun to make the drive down Lombard Street ("The Crookedest Street").

    As far as restaurants, there are so many good ones, I definitely like the idea about doing some online research there as well. Unfortunately, most of the restaurants in Fisherman's Wharf don't give you the quality or the value for what you end up paying. You can get some great meals along with great views along the Embarcadero (some great oysters - and actually, lots of places all over the city have them). North Beach is not too far away, and there are some decent restaurants there (and a few "interesting" dive bars).

    As far as the ballpark, it's true that it's a beautiful park and there are lots of good bars/restaurants nearby, but I was just over there the other day and most of them are (at least) temporarily closed. A couple of my favorites look like they may be permanently closed. Hopefully, all of that will change here in the next couple of months, though. The park itself is still not what it was/will be again due to some of the restrictions that are going on right now. Depending on how adventurous you are (and depending on the day), you could even rent a kayak and take in a game from McCovey Cove, which is very fun when the weather is nice.

    Agree with the weather, as Mark Twain allegedly said, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." Also, a lot of the more popular things may require making reservations in advance.
    Quote Originally Posted by BayAreaZagFan View Post
    It really does depend on the types of things you enjoy doing. I think one of the best ways to see the city is to do one of those hop on/hop off bus tours. They will take you by most of the big sights and you can get out to enjoy them at your own pace - with a little bit of research, you can plan your own perfect tour. One of the stops is the Golden Gate bridge and if it's a nice enough day, you can get off and walk across it, which gives you different views of the city, the bay and the ocean. And I wouldn't say flat-out skip Alcatraz, it is pretty cool if things like that interest you. Even if you don't actually go on the island itself and take the tour, you could still take one of the bay cruises, which would take you by the island for some great photo ops of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate bridge (some of them even take you under the bridge for a completely different view of things).

    The Muir Woods are just a few miles north of San Francisco, and there are several fun little hikes that take you through some nice redwoods there. I agree that Fisherman's Wharf is pretty touristy, but it's still cool to check out if you've never been there before. And if you have a car, it's actually kind of fun to make the drive down Lombard Street ("The Crookedest Street").

    As far as restaurants, there are so many good ones, I definitely like the idea about doing some online research there as well. Unfortunately, most of the restaurants in Fisherman's Wharf don't give you the quality or the value for what you end up paying. You can get some great meals along with great views along the Embarcadero (some great oysters - and actually, lots of places all over the city have them). North Beach is not too far away, and there are some decent restaurants there (and a few "interesting" dive bars).

    As far as the ballpark, it's true that it's a beautiful park and there are lots of good bars/restaurants nearby, but I was just over there the other day and most of them are (at least) temporarily closed. A couple of my favorites look like they may be permanently closed. Hopefully, all of that will change here in the next couple of months, though. The park itself is still not what it was/will be again due to some of the restrictions that are going on right now. Depending on how adventurous you are (and depending on the day), you could even rent a kayak and take in a game from McCovey Cove, which is very fun when the weather is nice.

    Agree with the weather, as Mark Twain allegedly said, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." Also, a lot of the more popular things may require making reservations in advance.
    Thanks so much! We did walk up Lombard Street, the landscaping was beautiful, but we didn't drive down it, we stayed on Lombard.st. a few blocks away from the crooked section.

    I didn't know about Muir Woods, we did see the Redwood Forrest previously, but missed Yosemite, so Muir Woods might be something fun to do if we get a rental car.

    I would say historical sites are definitely something we gravitate towards in different cities, but that can be a loose sort of all encompassing thing, like the Boudin bread factory, that was an interesting look at the 1906 earthquake that I don't know you'd get the same look at history at any other bread factory tours. I think cultural/theater interests us too, but I'm not sure that that will be going on indoors yet (or that I'd be comfortable with an indoor event yet) but if there's open air theater or symphonies in the park type of events (which we actually had a lot of pre pandemic) I'd enjoy that.

  8. #8
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    Feb 2021
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    All excellent guidance an fantastic ideas with so much to consider while visiting SF. Since I live here in the Bay Area, I would highly suggest to be overly cautious during your stay. SF and the surrounding areas offer so much to do for visitors to enjoy - for just about anything they have interest in. However while in San Francisco, please know there are a lot people in SF who look to take advantage of tourists (smash and grab on parked cars) and SF has just seen an overall increase in crime/homelessness. Much of this may/can be attributed to the current pandemic (per San Francisco Chronicle). So consider taking additional precautions. If you do, I'm sure you'll enjoy your time here in SF and the surrounding area.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by BayAreaZagFan View Post
    It really does depend on the types of things you enjoy doing. I think one of the best ways to see the city is to do one of those hop on/hop off bus tours. They will take you by most of the big sights and you can get out to enjoy them at your own pace - with a little bit of research, you can plan your own perfect tour. One of the stops is the Golden Gate bridge and if it's a nice enough day, you can get off and walk across it, which gives you different views of the city, the bay and the ocean. And I wouldn't say flat-out skip Alcatraz, it is pretty cool if things like that interest you. Even if you don't actually go on the island itself and take the tour, you could still take one of the bay cruises, which would take you by the island for some great photo ops of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate bridge (some of them even take you under the bridge for a completely different view of things).

    The Muir Woods are just a few miles north of San Francisco, and there are several fun little hikes that take you through some nice redwoods there. I agree that Fisherman's Wharf is pretty touristy, but it's still cool to check out if you've never been there before. And if you have a car, it's actually kind of fun to make the drive down Lombard Street ("The Crookedest Street").

    As far as restaurants, there are so many good ones, I definitely like the idea about doing some online research there as well. Unfortunately, most of the restaurants in Fisherman's Wharf don't give you the quality or the value for what you end up paying. You can get some great meals along with great views along the Embarcadero (some great oysters - and actually, lots of places all over the city have them). North Beach is not too far away, and there are some decent restaurants there (and a few "interesting" dive bars).

    As far as the ballpark, it's true that it's a beautiful park and there are lots of good bars/restaurants nearby, but I was just over there the other day and most of them are (at least) temporarily closed. A couple of my favorites look like they may be permanently closed. Hopefully, all of that will change here in the next couple of months, though. The park itself is still not what it was/will be again due to some of the restrictions that are going on right now. Depending on how adventurous you are (and depending on the day), you could even rent a kayak and take in a game from McCovey Cove, which is very fun when the weather is nice.

    Agree with the weather, as Mark Twain allegedly said, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." Also, a lot of the more popular things may require making reservations in advance.
    I couldn't possibly agree with this more.

    My take on Alcatraz was probably a bit too strong bc as you said, depends on someone's interests. I do find it a bit of a huge hit in time spent and like your Embarcador idea. As you said, a personal thing.

    I cannot believe that I forgot the bay cruises. A must. Just a ferry to Tiberon is great if one cannot get a reservation on a regular cruise. Tiberon is beautiful for a late lunch/early dinner and the ferry over is close to the most beautiful sites.
    Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
    Mark Twain.

  10. #10
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    Well, with the numbers on the rise in the Bay Area, we decided this probably isn't the best time for us to both go. We're really hoping that husband doesn't need to go either because the rest of their team is capable of explaining anything he would need to be there for (and he's the only one with kids younger than 13). When I first posted this, their numbers were significantly lower than ours at home, it's crazy how quickly things can change. I hope everyone in the Bay Area who gave suggestions, and their families, are well during this recent surge.

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