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Old 10-25-2010, 07:56 PM   #1
tar heel
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Help me plan a trip to San Francisco and San Jose!

I had no idea this board was here until the helpful people on the Community Board suggested it!

I'm going to a conference in San Jose in November. DH is going along, and we're going to turn it into a vacation! Our plan is to fly into San Francisco very late Saturday night/early Sunday morning. My conference starts the following Friday in San Jose. We had originally planned to rent a car for the entire time, but sticker shock (the rental and the hotel fees) and hearing about how great transportation is has made me rethink that. We're open to renting one part of the time if it makes sense. We're both into the arts and history and just like to see new places. We like to eat and especially like to go where the locals go. I've not made our hotel reservations in SF yet, so I'd love suggestions. We'll be at the Fairmont in San Jose.

So tell me what I need to know! Thanks!
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Old 10-25-2010, 08:03 PM   #2
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Well San Jose is a pit but the Fairmont is the best in town. San Francisco is an amazing town - I've found many a deal at the Westin and other Starwood hotels. As long as your close to one tourist spot in SF you're usually OK. I like anything close to Market street.
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Old 10-25-2010, 08:22 PM   #3
tar heel
Where will we get our news if we lose The Daily Show and Colbert Report?
 
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So it sound like I'm making the right decision to say in SF until time for the conference, doesn't it? My DH will have a couple days to kill but he likes to sleep!
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Old 10-25-2010, 08:57 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tar heel View Post
So it sound like I'm making the right decision to say in SF until time for the conference, doesn't it? My DH will have a couple days to kill but he likes to sleep!
I would really try to stay in San Fransico. Union Square or by the Wharf. The public transit within the city is very simple and convienient.

As said around market street works too. I was shocked when I saw how much the 4 seasons there is compared to the one near me.

However there isn't a good link to San Jose where i assumer you will be going M-F. you might want to switch hotels for this. Maybe stay somewhere around San Jose where it's easy to take the light rail to the convention center. And take a bus to the BART. Bart goes into SF from either side of the bay.
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Old 10-25-2010, 10:22 PM   #5
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Old 10-26-2010, 06:30 AM   #6
tar heel
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Thanks. This is very helpful. We're planning to stay in SF from arrival Saturday night/Sunday morning until Friday. The conference is Friday-Monday, and we'll be at the Fairmont in San Jose then. We're going to rent a car for at least a couple days.

skiingfast -- are you saying we can get from San Jose to SF on public transportation? Top clarify, I will NOT be commuting between the cities for the conference. I'd love to ditch the car before we go to San Jose b/c we'll have to pay $26 a day at the hotel plus the rental itself. I'll be at work all day, too, although I guess DH might like having it.

Keep the ideas coming.
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Old 10-26-2010, 11:11 AM   #7
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Quote:
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skiingfast -- are you saying we can get from San Jose to SF on public transportation?
I'm not skiingfast (though I did in my younger days), but yes, CalTrain goes from SF to San Jose. The SF station is at 4th and King, which is a little inconvenient. But there are loads of busses that service the station, or you can take a taxi there (recommended if you have luggage). The main SJ station is San Jose Diridon, which is pretty close to downtown San Jose.

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Old 10-26-2010, 01:52 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tar heel View Post
skiingfast -- are you saying we can get from San Jose to SF on public transportation? Top clarify, I will NOT be commuting between the cities for the conference. I'd love to ditch the car before we go to San Jose b/c we'll have to pay $26 a day at the hotel plus the rental itself. I'll be at work all day, too, although I guess DH might like having it.

Keep the ideas coming.
GrandBob stated that Caltrains goes between the two cities. The SJ Fairmont is serveral long blocks away from the station. So you might want to use a cab for that or take a bus to SF.

If DH has a car he might like to day trip to Santa Cruz or Monterey while you are at the conference. Other than that you will have little need for one and probably but want to avoid the parking and rental costs. I sure the short taxi ride and public transit will work out cheaper.
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Old 10-26-2010, 06:58 PM   #9
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I'm headed to San Jose this weekend with my DD, we are going to head to the Tech Museum and to the Rosicrucian Museum. If there is no snow over the Sierras. I grew up in San Jose and we go a couple of times a year. We have spent about 11 days in SFO this year also. We love the city.

If it were me, I would attend the conference in San Jose and have a car there if you are planning on sight seeing etc. while in San Jose. A nice drive to Big Basin Redwoods State Park http://www.bigbasin.org/to see some redwoods, or perhaps out to Santa Cruz http://www.explorer1.com/santacruz/attractions.htmfor dinner on the wharf or even just to catch an amazing sunset on West. Cliff Drive.

In SFO, ditch the car. Use Muni, cabs, BART and cable cars. Parking in SFO is spendy, plan on $25-35 per day and that includes at most hotels.

My favorite place to stay is a bit off of the beaten path, in the somewhat quieter community of Cow Hollow/Marina Dist. I like the Travellodge Golden Gate on Lombard and Steiner. Not fancy by any means, but it is clean, very reasonably prices and close to shops, restaurants and Muni stops. It does have free parking as a perk. We usually arrive, park and never take the car out until we depart. We don't visit the city to go shopping so Union Sq. is not a draw for us. If you like shopping, a lot of shopping, then staying in Union Sq. would IMO be very desirable.

What not to miss really depends on your tastes. For me it would be a walking tour of the Golden Gate Bridge via City Guides (free tours) http://www.sfcityguides.org/
I also love china town, I love the sights, smells and restaurants as well as the atmosphere and if you are really adventurous, get off of Grant St. which is the main "tourist" drag, go up a block to Stockton and explore the local markets. The fish/poultry markets are incredible to see. SFO has super strict health codes, it is safe to eat anywhere, you may not like it but it won't harm you so give it a try. Our favorite restaurant is the Washington St. Bakery and Restaurant on Washington Street just below Grant St. http://www.washingtonbakerysf.com/

Cable car riding IMO is a must, I like the California line, far less crowded with tourists and it goes up and over Nob Hill, past beautiful hotels (Mark Hopkins and the Fairmont I believe) as well as Grace Cathedral on the corner of Taylor St and many beautiful homes. http://www.sfcablecar.com/routes.html
We always buy a Muni pass that is good for unlimited use of buses, trolleys and cable cars. FYI a muni pass is not good on BART, that is a separate entity.

The "Impressionist: Masterpieces from the Musee D'Orsay" currently on display at the DeYoung Museum is really beautiful and IMO worth the visit, we saw the first phase in July and will be returning in January to see the second phase. http://deyoung.famsf.org/

The newly remodeled Calif. Academy of Sciences is amazing. http://www.calacademy.org/

Coit Tower and Lombard Sr. would also be on my list of things to do. I think City Guides does tours of both, check their website for more details.

Then of course there is the tourist mecca of Fishermans Wharf which IMO is worth skipping, but if you have never been you might want to swing on by, have a clam chowder bread bowl so you can say you did and say hi to the sea lions. http://www.fishermanswharf.org/

Something else I would not miss would be an Alcatraz tour and I highly suggest you try for the one that is at night! Its amazing. Book in advance, these sell out quickly http://www.alcatrazcruises.com/

The Walt Disney Family Museum is really quite an extensive collection and I suggest you allow at least 4 hours. We really enjoyed the history that was there and learning the story of who Walt the man himself really was. http://disney.go.com/disneyatoz/familymuseum/index.html

Almost forgot, since you said you like History, a visit to Ft. Point might be worth your while. http://www.nps.gov/fopo/

Also refer to Yelp.com for great neighborhood restaurant reviews.

I would stay in SFO for the first leg of your trip and I would take a shuttle/cab to the hotel from the airport since you are arriving late.
If you get a car on Thursday, you could meander down Hwy 1 from the Golden Gate to Santa Cruz then cut inland to San Jose via Hwy 17 (880) or take the scenic Route Hwy 9 from Santa Cruz, and head to Big Basin - Goggle it, this is memory based and it has been many years since I went out Hwy 9 and even more years since I was at Big Basin.

If you are flying out of SFO you can return the car to the same place you got it and not pay what can be huge destination fee's.

November can be a great time of the year weather wise, the fog is not as prevelant as it is in the summer.

If you are set on not getting a car, there are ways around it but it would make the outlying destinations like the redwoods hard to get to unless you took some sort of tour. There are tours that go North from SFO to Muir Woods but I don't know anything about them. We drove up there last spring in our car.

If you opt out of a car, do a bit of research on getting to the South Bay from the North Bay and visversa. I am thinking it would be best to take BART to one of the Train stations and then take the train into San Jose. My Brother used to commute from San Jose to San Bruno via train on a daily basis so I know it is very possible if not easy, I'm just not familiar with it. Perhaps the hotel in San Jose could help you with that one. I also know that BART does go to the airport. Depening on how late you get in and where your hotel is in SFO BART could also be an option for getting to your hotel.


San Jose,
Comfort food:
Harrys Hofbrau http://www.harryshofbrau.com/
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Last edited by mamacatnv; 10-26-2010 at 07:26 PM.
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Old 10-28-2010, 07:24 PM   #10
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Since you're going to be at the Fairmont, another place to eat at and one's that's close is Original Joe's. They have really good food and they're decent priced. It's a combo of american and italian food. Their burgers and pastas are delicious. Don't know if you're sports fans, but there's always the Sharks games to check out. And a nice night area is in Downtown SJ in San Pedro Square around Santa Clara Street area. There's some nice bars and good atmosphere. Also, if you get out early 1 night you could always go over Highway 17 to Santa Cruz for a nice dinner and wander around downtown Santa Cruz.
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Old 10-29-2010, 12:39 PM   #11
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Yep, I love Original Joe's. But go hungry. One dish from them can feed an entire starving village in Africa.

-Bob
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Old 10-30-2010, 11:10 PM   #12
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You can take the light rail train to and from Diridon Station to the Fairmont. It's very easy - the Fairmont is right by the Paseo de San Antonio station. I live very close to downtown SJ and use public transit all the time here. It's not as good as SF, but especially around downtown it's great. You'll be right by the light rail station and there's tons of bus routes that all converge right there. Is your conference at the Convention Center? If so, you'll be within walking distance or just one light rail stop away.

The South First street area has several museums and restaurants and is just a block or two from the Fairmont. Original Joe's is a SJ institution and many people count it as a "must do", and that's just down the street from the Fairmont. If you have a particular kind of food you really like or want to try, send me a PM and I can tell you what's near the hotel. DH is really into ethnic food so we've checked out all the ethnic restaurants in downtown, and there's a lot of them! Oh, and if you get a chance, they have a lovely afternoon tea at the Fairmont.

Getting to some of the farther out attractions in Silicon Valley will require a car, however. Hakone Gardens is lovely, but you'd definitely want a car to get there. You could get to Winchester Mystery House via bus from the Fairmont if you're comfortable with that. Some people don't like buses - don't know what your comfort level is with that - but if you want to know more on getting around the bay area, just go to www.511.org and there's a public transit trip planner on there that can help you get around.

Also in downtown SJ is the Peralta Adobe and Fallon House - both historical homes. www.historysanjose.org has more information on those and some of the other historical sites around town.

You can also check out www.artsopolis.com to find arts & cultural events going on during your visit. That can help you find museums around town, too. The Fairmont is just down the street from the San Jose Museum of Art if you like modern art. If you like Beethoven, the King Library has a very unique Beethoven collection - a mini-museum of sorts, and very interesting to fans of his music.

I moved to San Jose almost 7 years ago, and I love it! There's so much diversity, and I love how compact the downtown area is compared to other cities this size. It's very walkable, in my opinion, and I spend a lot of time walking around downtown with my son. Of course I'm not out super late when the nightclubs are getting out, but that's not my thing. If you have any questions about the San Jose leg of your trip, feel free to PM me. I can't help with SF - I'm still a tourist up there myself.
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Old 10-31-2010, 09:46 PM   #13
tar heel
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Thanks, everyone. My conference is the National Arts Marketing Conference and one of our events is actually at the San Jose Museum of Art. The Beethoven tip is great -- DH would enjoy that, and he'll need some things to do while I'm working.

Original Joe's and Harry's Hofbrau both sound great.

Sports fans, yes, but we've not done much hockey. If the trip were during baseball season, my Dh would have bought Giants tickets first thing.

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Old 11-09-2010, 05:45 PM   #14
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as others have said i would recommend staying in the city( SF ) the first leg them moving down to San Jose. If your flight back home is out of SF i would just rent a car for the whole time or at least for the SJ portion of the trip. Light rail( i will say I refuse to use it's just not my cup of tea for transportation) and everything is close to downtown but that is it. and our downtime is NOT big at all considering we are the silicon valley lol.
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Old 11-20-2010, 09:10 AM   #15
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I want to report that we had a wonderful trip and the comments on this thread were very helpful.

We ended up staying at the Best Western Tuscan Inn in Fisherman's Wharf. The location was good and the hotel was fine -- didn't blow me away but there was nothing wrong with it. Since hotel parking was $42 a day plus tax, we only rented the car for three days. Turned out we could park in Enterprise's section at the deck for $15 a night.

Some things that worked well for us:
Got a three-day MUNI pass for when we were visiting China Town, the Italian area, etc., which saved us a little money.

Ate at some good restaurants -- House of Prime Rib, Rose Pistola, Trattoria Pinnochio and House of Nanking in San Francisco and Original Joe's and Mezcal in San Jose.

Had a marvelous evening at a tiny little blues bar on FW called Lou's.

Did a two-hour open-top Greyline tour of the city. Enjoyed it but two hours was sufficient -- were really glad we didn't opt for the longer one.

Loved Napa Valley, Muir Woods and California Highway 1 along the Pacific.

Took Cal Train from SF to SJ and a cab from the station to the hotel. This was easy and cheap even with cabs at the beginning and end.

We did have a few mishaps. Took BART from the SF airport to downtown, which was great. At that point we SHOULD have called a cab, but we used the trolley and bus instead. By the time we arrived at the hotel, we were exhausted and grumpy.

Had two just awful meals. One was in an Italian restaurant at Fisherman's Wharf -- name escapes me. The other was in some little town in wine country and was called Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen. There were lots of people there who seemed happy, but we ordered different things and neither were good. We also got burnt bread. The server told me I was leaving the crust and leaving the middle like her son. I told her I loved crust but not when it was black. She did bring another loaf.

I can't wait to go back!
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