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Old 04-24-2010, 10:18 PM   #1
PrincessInOz
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San Francisco thread - to discuss all things San Francisco

I've been posting about sightseeing downtown SF in various locations. Here's the summary. I'll add some shopping areas and outside of SF later.

Getting around San Francisco
Purchase a MUNI Visitor Pass/passport. They are about US$20 per person for the 3 day pass or $26 for a 7 day pass. All MUNI transport including the Cable Cars are included in the price. A 90 minute ticket on the MUNI is about $1.50 - $2.00 (can't remember the exact price) and a one-way ride on the Cable Car is $5 per person. The MUNI transport will get you to most places. You can buy this pass at the Cable Car turnaround at Market and Powell.
http://www.sfmta.com/cms/mfares/passports.htm

Fisherman's Whart and Lombard Street
Take a Cable car ride to Fisherman's Wharf. You can get off at Lombard Street to check out the crookedest street.

Should be pretty in the summer/autumn months, when the hydrangeas are blooming. Either get back on the Cable Car or if you are a good walker, walk down to the Wharf and Check out shops and Giradelli Square - towards Pier 39. Check out the outdoor food/chowder places. Spend some time at Pier 39.
You catch the ferry to Alcatraz at Pier 41.

Make sure you get the headsets at Alcatraz. They are worth the money in my opinion.
I also like going to Sausalito. Either drive there when you're across the bridge or catch a ferry from Pier 41.

F-line Street Car (Tram)
The F-line tram runs along Market to Fisherman's Wharf in one direction. In this direction, it passes the Ferry Building. The Farmer's Market is out on Tuesday and Saturday.

Growers will have stalls opened in front of the Ferry Building. If you take the F line in the opposite direction, you'll end up at the Castro. I went by myself mid-week and it was pretty quiet. Might be different at the weekend...and if you decide to go, make sure you go after 10 am in the morning; or you might feel a little bit uncomfortable walking around a near deserted street.

Yerba Buena Gardens and SFMOMA
Walk South of Market towards Yerba Buena Gardens. I normally pick the streets that are either side of the Westfield to walk down towards YBG; but you need to get to the corner of 4th and Mission for YBG. It's pretty nice there and your child might like to run around the gardens. Check out the Martin Luther King water feature.

There's also a carousel and a children's centre there. SF MOMA is located in this direction as well.

If you walk down Mission, there is a diner on the opposite side of the Westfield...a real american diner. I can't remember what it was called but they served a mean burger and fries there. The cherry pie wasn't bad either. It was quieter than heading to the diner in the tourist part of downtown.

Chinatown
Spend some time walking down Chinatown - Grant Street. You can walk to the top of Grant Street if in DownTown SF, near Union Square.

If you want to head a little further down Grant Street, you could catch the No 9, 30 or 45 down Stockton and walk the block over to Grant.

Grant will eventually cross over at Columbus, where Little Italy is. It is a long walk but I've done it with my then 6 year old son (with lots of stops).


Little Italy/North Beach
Go to Washington Square and visit the church there (St Peter and Paul).


I love looking at leadlight windows, so this may not be to everyone's taste.

Explore Columbus Street (between Grant and Washington Square). You'll find City Light Bookshops at 261 Columbus Ave.
If you're around North Beach, walk down Grant Street from Columbus towards Coit Tower area. There are about 2 or 3 small streets parallel with Grant that have cute shops.

If you feel inclined to, I really love walking down/up Filbert Steps.
From the church, walk up Filbert Street towards Coit Tower. I think it is worth paying the money to visit the top of the tower; but others might disagree.


At the very least, go inside the tower and check out the frescos.


I also like walking down the otherside of Coit Tower towards Levi plaza.


If you walk down this way you'll end up at Sansome St (one way street). The no 10 MUNI takes you towards North Pointe and Fisherman's Wharf. Go across Levi Plaza towards Battery St (one way street) to catch the No 10 back into the downtown area.

Getting to Haight Ashbury
The 6, 7 or 71 will take you to Haight Ashbury.

You catch these from Market (check the top of the bus stops for the numbers). I really enjoy spending an afternoon here and checking out all the shops.

Alamo Square
The 21 will take you to Alamo Square where the Painted Ladies are. Again you can catch this from Market.


A bit of this and that
I LOVE Golden Gate Park. You can catch the 5 down Market/McCalister. There's a Japanese Garden, conservatory, de Young museum, tulip garden...the list is endless.

I also like the Presidio. You can catch the 30 down Stockton which ends at the Exploratorium.

If you have a car, its worth driving to Golden Gate Park and then across the Golden Gate Bridge. Make sure you stop off at both the Fort Point end (my preferred end of the bridge)

and the Marin County side.

Otherwise, you could walk the Bridge.

I also prefer to catch the Cable Car down California Street - less hectic and you're guaranteed of a seat - than the Hyde/Powell route. The turnaround is at California and Market; near the Ferry Building (walkable from the Ferry Building).

If you decide to catch this cable car, at the other end keep walking one block towards Franklin Street. There is a WholeFoods Market there. You'll get a value for money meal (we love the soups, salads and pizza/pasta) and also get to look at produce/groceries.

If you are planning to go shopping for non-chain stores, check out Union Street (yes, street; not square), Hayes Valley and Haight Ashbury.

You'll see the bridge from the Cable Car, Fisherman's Wharf and up the Coit Tower; from the Ferry, the Presidio and if you walk it. I like seeing the bridge from Fort Point.

Food and Restaurants
Here are some favourite places that I've visited within the last 2 years:
http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace....anted_door.php
Pan Pacific asian style, predominantly mixed with South East Asian cooking style. We love this place.

http://www.cafegratitude.com/
For something really alternative. This is a no/low-cook vegan restaurant. Most foods are served raw. I'm totally omnivorous but DH is vegetarian. This has got to be the BEST vegetarian restaurant I've ever eaten in any where in the world. We use the Muni bus to get out here.

Tommaso's for Italian in the North Beach area.
Cafe Trieste for coffee.

Cafe Corbas in Hayes Valley make the best coffee I've had in SF.

If you are in Pier 39, pick one of the restaurants that has a view as well as the menu that suits your $$. I don't particularly think anything is "outstanding" at the Pier - but the view cannot be beat.

I still haven't found a great chinese restaurant in Chinatown - but I was born in Malaysia and am particular about my Chinese/asian food.

I like going to Sausalito. When you get off the ferry, head to the right hand side. About 3 - 7 shops up on the opposite side of the road, there is hamburger flame grill shop. If you like burgers, these are pretty great.

For something quick, at the basement of Macy's in Union square is a Wolfgang Puck Express. Always good when you want something of quality.

Have FUN!
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Last edited by PrincessInOz; 06-17-2010 at 06:13 AM.
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Old 04-24-2010, 10:43 PM   #2
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Thanks for this Princessinoz - we have a week in San Francisco at the begining of October to finish up our trip.

Have been finding your posts really helpful. Will be great to have a dedicated space for it.

Last edited by zaccy; 04-24-2010 at 10:46 PM. Reason: spelling - or lack there of!!
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Old 04-24-2010, 11:03 PM   #3
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We've only got a day and a half in San Francisco unfortunately.

I've booked the fire engine tour on our first day

http://www.fireenginetours.com/

and the Alcatraz Day tour on our second day. I've also bought the Pier 39 attraction pass http://www.expedia.com/pub/agent.dll...d=3995&wtid=28 which gets us into the aquarium as well as a Bay Cruise and trolley tour.
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Old 04-25-2010, 02:53 AM   #4
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Shopping San Francisco

This post will solely be malls/shopping centers. I'll post later for individual shops in downtown SF.

Some of my favourite retail malls in San Francisco

Westfield Shopping Mall. A one stop shopping mall with all the chain brands. There's also a cinema in here (as well as the Metreon) if you want to catch a flick in SF.
http://westfield.com/sanfrancisco/directions/

Embarcadero Center - The shops may be not very exciting by today's standards; but this was the first place I ever shopped at in the US (back in 1986). There's a pretty good paper and card shop here; and the Gap, Banana Republic, Victoria Secrets etc are always less busy than in the downtown area.
http://www.embarcaderocenter.com/ec/

Ferry Building Marketplace. If you are a foodie, this isn't a bad place to come to. There are about 20 - 30 shops in this place and I would time this with the Tuesday or Saturday Farmer's market. If you come on a Saturday/weekend, go across the road towards the Embarcadero area and at the back and the side of the Grand Hyatt hotel, there should be an arts and crafts market.
http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com/

Crocker Gallery - I don't get it, but this is a personal opinion. It's written up as a shopping center; but I don't find this worth visiting. The farmer's market here is pretty similar to that at the Ferry Building.
http://www.shopatgalleria.com/

Ghirardelli Square. Love the Icecream and Chocolate shop here...
http://ghirardellisq.com/

If you have a car or means to get about:

Hillsdale Mall - This is one of the malls I frequent a lot when in Silicon Valley.
http://www.hillsdale.com/

Stanford Mall - This is the other mall that I shop at.
http://www.simon.com/mall/?id=841

Town and Country Village - If I want to hobnob with the Silicon Valley rich and famous, I go here.
http://www.tandcvillage.com/

Outlet malls around/outside San Francisco
Great Mall in Milpitas - http://www.simon.com/mall/default.aspx?ID=1250
Gilroy - http://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlets/outlet.asp?id=23
Napa Valley - http://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlets/outlet.asp?id=25
Petaluma Mall - http://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlets/outlet.asp?id=24
Vacaville Premium Outlets - http://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlets/outlet.asp?id=50
Folsom outlets - http://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlets/outlet.asp?id=27

If you're around Silicon Valley/San Jose, then Great Mall and Gilroy are in this direction. If you're driving the I-5 towards LA (or LA towards SF), then Gilroy will be on the way.

The Napa Valley outlet is the smallest of the lot; but a lot of people do a side trip to Napa - so you could always factor some time in for this.

Folsom and Vacaville are close to Sacramento. If you're heading towards Lake Tahoe or want to see where Arnie lives, then these are great to include. I've found the best bargains at Vacaville - only because it's where the locals shop; rather than tourists. And if you're heading in this direction, I highly recommend that you stop at the Jelly Belly factory at Fairfield. It's on the way to Sacramento and only a *slight* detour off from Napa. Aside from getting a free sample bag, the tour itself is fascinating!

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Last edited by PrincessInOz; 04-27-2010 at 07:46 AM. Reason: commentary about the outlet malls
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Old 04-25-2010, 03:22 AM   #5
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Ok, so my question is, what is the best way to get to San Francisco from LA?

Is it best to fly or can you take a bus or Amtrak? I am wanting to do a San Fran stop on our trip but it all depends on transportation really.

xxx
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Old 04-25-2010, 03:46 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aussiegirls View Post
Ok, so my question is, what is the best way to get to San Francisco from LA?

Is it best to fly or can you take a bus or Amtrak? I am wanting to do a San Fran stop on our trip but it all depends on transportation really.

xxx
We've flown and driven.

The drive is our preference. We've driven both up Pacific Highway 1 and also up the Interstate 5. PCH1 takes longer but is more scenic. If we drive up PCH1, we tend to build in an ovenight stay. We will try to stop at Solvang, Hearst Castle, Monterey/Carmel along the way; and anywhere else that takes our fancy along the coast road. Next time, I'm going to build in an Ojai stop as well.

Flying will take an hour air time; but then that adds costs to it. One way to keep the costs down is to look at an open jaw ticket from Australia into LAX and fly out of SFO back to Australia (or vice versa). Then you only need to work out the one-way flight from LAX to SFO (or vice versa depending on which way your open jaw ticket works).

I haven't looked at Amtrak. My girlfriend bought a Greyhound bus pass last year for her trip and said that the bus was a good option.
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Old 04-25-2010, 06:03 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ehsmum View Post
We've only got a day and a half in San Francisco unfortunately.

I've booked the fire engine tour on our first day

http://www.fireenginetours.com/

and the Alcatraz Day tour on our second day. I've also bought the Pier 39 attraction pass http://www.expedia.com/pub/agent.dll...d=3995&wtid=28 which gets us into the aquarium as well as a Bay Cruise and trolley tour.
My girlfriend did the fire engine tour in May last year and absolutely adored it. We did the Alcatraz tour, make sure to do the audio tour, it was fabulous. We didn't know whether our 7 year old son would like the audio tour but he adored it and we all had a fabulous time together.

Pier 39, we are at the Wipeout Bar I think it was called and the burrito was my husband's favourite meal of our trip.
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Old 04-25-2010, 06:33 AM   #8
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Shopping in Downtown (non-malls)

When in SF, you should be able to pick up a map that provides you with the downtown area and where all the shops are.

For outlet shops, I tend to visit the following:
  • Ross - Dress for Less. On Market Street and 4th Street.
  • Loehmann's. On Sutter Street between Grant and Kearney. Make sure you visit both stores. One of them sells discount shoes. The other side does bags and clothes.
You won't always find what you want and these shops take time to shift through. I would say that there is usually about 10% of the stock that I would consider getting.

Departmental shops are found around Union Square
Macy's - someone else has pointed out the 11% visitors pass. Guest Relations is on level 5 or 6 in this building. I ALWAYS go pick up a pass (valid at all Macy's for 30 days from date of issue) and will stop in the Macy's Guest Relations for a free instant coffee or tea. They also have filtered water, and I take the opportunity to fill up my drink bottle. There is also a Cheesecake Factory in one of the higher floors at Macy's and the Wolfgang Puck Express (and foodcourt) in the basement.

There is also Neiman Marcus and SAKS around Union Square.

Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom is at the Westfield, Market between 4th and 5th. If you go to Nordstroms.com, they now ship to Australia.

My favourite Clothes shops
Naturally, you'll find Gap, Banana Republic, H&M and Zara in the downtown area. All of which I love to visit and the BR on Grant, between Sutter and Post, is one of my favourite shops to visit.

Here's some of the others that I like to hit, aside from the above known chains:
  • Anthropologie - on Market, around the corner from the Powell Street trolley turnaround (and Gap).
  • Jessica McClintock -formal/ball/prom dresses. If you are at Union Square, and you look towards Neiman Marcus, you'll see the sign at the top of one of the buildings on Stockton. I like to go and try things on. Formal dresses are so much cheaper in the US than here. It's on level 4 and you enter the foyer of the building from the Geary Street entrance. There is a security guard at the desk - but he will just ask where you are heading to and then let you through.
  • Betsy Johnson and Juicy Couture are also located on Geary Street, between Stockton and Grant.
  • Forever21 and Sephora are at or near the corner of Market and Powell.
  • Victoria Secrets and BCGC Max Mara are next to each other in Union Square, the Powell Street side.
  • Ted Baker and Kenneth Cole are on Grant Street, between Geary and Post.
  • Ann Taylor Loft is on Sutter.
  • NineWest, Cole Haan and Arthur Beren shoes are on Stockton.

For kids:
  • Children's Place is at Kearney and Sutter
  • Gap is at the corner of Powell and Market

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Old 04-25-2010, 07:01 AM   #9
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If you are driving around...go HERE

http://www.schulzmuseum.org/

From San Francisco take Highway 101 North. Santa Rosa is about 60 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge (one hour by car, depending on traffic).

I LOVED visiting there. I love Snoopy. Just the store is great! And then there is an ice rink with Snoopy Theming
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Old 04-25-2010, 07:14 AM   #10
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SFO to downtown using the BART

When we stay in Silicon Valley, we normally pick up a hire car from SFO and drive ourselves around.

In my last trip in 2009, DH had to report into the downtown office. So, we decided not to hire a car and not to hassle about car parking in the downtown area.

To get to the downtown area, we could have caught a cab or a hire car but we decided to catch the BART for the experience. Admittedly, we only had carry-on luggage with us so we didn't have to worry about large suitcases nor did we have to worry about our son, who stayed home.
We also factored this in our hotel choice and we chose to stay at the Grand Hyatt, which is across the road from one of the BART stations (and a 5 minute walk away from my husband's office).

To get to the BART, we followed the signs in the airport. It was relatively straightforward. We bought tickets using cash and it was about $5.50 per person for a one way ticket.

It took about 30 minutes to get to the downtown area. I would recommend that you AVOID getting off at the Civic Center station and either of the Mission stations. I think it is relatively safe to get off at Powell, Montgomery or Embarcadero stations in the daytime.

Depending on where your hotel is and if it is walkable, taking the BART is a viable alternative to other forms of ground transportation.

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Old 04-25-2010, 07:17 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by queenie82 View Post
If you are driving around...go HERE

http://www.schulzmuseum.org/

From San Francisco take Highway 101 North. Santa Rosa is about 60 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge (one hour by car, depending on traffic).

I LOVED visiting there. I love Snoopy. Just the store is great! And then there is an ice rink with Snoopy Theming
Another vote for the Charles Schulz museum. It's great
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Old 04-25-2010, 07:33 AM   #12
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South of the Bay Area, Silicon Valley

If you're driving or with kids, here are a few places worth considering:

Coyote Point museum. My son loved visiting here between the ages of 4 and 7. It's also a place that looks to conserve the ecosystem for the local wildlife.
http://www.coyoteptmuseum.org/

A good day trip involves these two activities. Catch the (steam or diesel) train from Roaring Camp and head towards Santa Cruz boardwalk.
http://www.roaringcamp.com/







http://www.beachboardwalk.com/





This one has to be seen to be believed.
http://www.winchestermysteryhouse.com/

I also like going to Half Moon Bay. We hit the beach, grab a cold shower and then head to the township. It's a cute little town that I can easily spend half a day looking at the shops. And there are a number of cafes where the food's pretty good. We drive over Highway 92; and that takes you through the farms. Along the way, the fruit stalls will be out - so we always stop and buy some produce (especially cherries and strawberries in May/June).

Driving Skyline Boulevard. It's off the 92 and takes you through young redwood forests and the occasional spectacular view of the Bay area. It's also one of the routes you could drive to get to roaring camp.

Saratoga and Los Gatos. Very pretty towns south of San Jose.

I also love driving the Cabrillo Highway along the beach from Half Moon Bay towards Santa Cruz. It's flat and not as spectacular as driving PCH1; but it's nice to see the other side of Pacific Ocean. And it feels all wrong; because the ocean is on the west coast; not the east coast .

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Old 04-25-2010, 08:00 AM   #13
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Napa Valley with kids

Napa Valley is considered to be one of the great wine growing areas in the US. It's about 1 - 1.5 hours out of San Francisco. We've visited there twice - once staying in Napa, a long time ago; and the second staying in Sonoma in 2007.


We pitched up at the Sonoma visitor's center in the heart of the town late in the day

and within 20 minutes had found a bed and breakfast to stay at.

The B&B was 10 minutes out of town and surrounded by vineyards on 3 sides.

We ended up having a 2 bedroom cottage, with lounge/dining, kitchen, bath and laundry for US$150 per night; which I bargained down from $175.

We stayed 2 nights. I found this to be a good way to find accommodation but it can be hit and miss.

Napa Valley is beautiful - not because of the vineyards; but because the Valley is broad at one end and narrows at the other with fairly picturesque hills on either side of the Valley.

At Napa, there is the wine train. We've driven ourselves each time but next time we go, we will be booking ourselves on this train.
http://winetrain.com/

If you drive, I recommend the circuit of going along highway 29, which is where all the vineyards are and on the way back, come back along the Silverado trail.

If you're doing Napa with kids and don't think the kids will be interested in visiting a vineyard, I recommend taking them to Sterling.

To get to the Sterling cellar, you take a cable (gondola) car up.

It was $10 return trip - and it kept my son interested. If memory serves me correctly, it cost us $20 for the return trip and 3 tastings.

The views from the Sterling cellars of the valley are also quite good.



If travelling with kids, I highly recommend going here.
http://www.traintown.com/

This place is 1/4 the size of Disneyland!


I would drive to Napa via Fairfield and the Jelly Belly factory

and head up towards Santa Rosa on the way back and hit the Charles Schulz museum.


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Old 04-25-2010, 08:15 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ms. Shuttergirl View Post
My girlfriend did the fire engine tour in May last year and absolutely adored it. We did the Alcatraz tour, make sure to do the audio tour, it was fabulous. We didn't know whether our 7 year old son would like the audio tour but he adored it and we all had a fabulous time together.

Pier 39, we are at the Wipeout Bar I think it was called and the burrito was my husband's favourite meal of our trip.
Good to know about the fire engine tour , it looks like a lot of fun .

I've booked the Alcatraz Day Tour that includes the audio guide . We've booked the 10am tour, do you think we'll be back in time for lunch? I'm counting on 2 hours on Alcatraz, hopefully being back 12-12.30pm.
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Old 04-25-2010, 08:24 PM   #15
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Posts: 91,835

Quote:
Originally Posted by ehsmum View Post
Good to know about the fire engine tour , it looks like a lot of fun .

I've booked the Alcatraz Day Tour that includes the audio guide . We've booked the 10am tour, do you think we'll be back in time for lunch? I'm counting on 2 hours on Alcatraz, hopefully being back 12-12.30pm.
I'd probably count on about 3'ish hours with the headset tour....and you might want to check the ferry schedule as well so that you can time it all appropriately.
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