Help! Need a San Fran itinerary.

Discussion in 'California & the West' started by kkmcan, Jul 5, 2010.

  1. kkmcan

    kkmcan Official Mouse Fan

    Apr 23, 2003
    We've got our airfare booked for Oct 9-13th. I need to work on an itinerary but I don't know where to start:confused3 This isn't as easy as planning a Disney vacation since I don't know where everything is and how long it takes to get there and tour. Ugh! I need help!

    Here's the list of everything we want to see/do:
    Fishermans Wharf
    Walking across golden gate
    Academy of Sciences- not sure of name on this??
    Ghiradelli chocolate factory for desserts
    Maybe see or drive thru Lombard Street
    China Town
    Rent car for one day to go to Jelly Belly factory and Napa

    We get in at noon or so on the Saturday the 9th. All I have so far is maybe to take the cable car to Ghiradelli after checking in and do a little looking around and get some ice cream, and some dinner later in the evening.

    We are staying at the Wyndham Canterbury which I've heard is close to Union Square:confused3

    Can anyone help me?
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  3. TukityTukers

    TukityTukers Earning My Ears

    Mar 4, 2010
    Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz, and Ghiradelli chocolate factory are all pretty much in the same big area. I would suggest starting off near Pier 39. Take the Ferry to Alcatraz and when you get back, walk along the shore until you get to Ghiradelli Square. You'll see pretty much the entire Fisherman's Wharf area (Pier 39, the Cannery, the Anchorage, Ghiradelli Square), and you'll end up with a great sundae as a reward for being on your feet for so long. You can then take the cable car back towards your hotel and it'll drop you off within walking distance of your hotel.

    Academy of Sciences is in Golden Gate Park. From where you're staying, you would need to take 2 busses. A great site to use for public transportation here is Use the trip planner and it'll take you anywhere in the city. Don't be intimidated by the busses here, they're really a piece of cake. I recently went to the museum and did everything. It took us around 6 hours, but I think we took a long time and we took a lunch break. I suggest getting there at opening so you can do all the shows and really explore everything - also, you'll have to schedule when you see Extreme Mammals, as they have return times for the exhibit, similar to a fast pass. Food and drink prices are high, and they don't sell bottled water (because it's not green), so go prepared.

    The Exploratorium is a lot of fun, very hands on, which is why I like it. It's been a while since I've been, though, so I'm not sure how much time it'll take you. It's close to the Golden Gate Bridge, so I would pair those two activities together, since you'll be in the general area, anyway. If you walk towards the water from the Exploratorium, you can get a great view of the bridge. Also, inside the Exploritorium is a thing called the Tactile Dome. It costs extra (not much.. $5 or under), but sometimes it sells out, so you might want to reserve a spot in advance. It's a pretty cool thing to check out. You're in a dome that's pitch black, so you have to make your way through a very softly-padded obstacle course using your sense of touch. It's a pretty neat experience and gives you a better understanding of what it must be like to be blind.

    Chinatown is only about 5 blocks from your hotel, so you can easily walk there. It's fun and I've been going there for years, but you'll find that after you do a few blocks of shops, you'll have seen everything it has to offer. Many of the shops carry the same items, priced exactly the same as the other stores. I've seen it all so many times, I now have 2-3 shops I go in and I skip all the rest. You might want to combine this with your Academy of Sciences day, since Chinatown shops tend to stay open late (8pm, maybe 9).
  4. lcasa

    lcasa DIS Veteran

    Feb 20, 2009
    What - no Walt Disney Family Museum? Not far from the Exploratoreum and Fisherman's Wharf and really worth the stop if you're a Disney nut. I'd allow 3-4 hours minimum for that.

    Lombard isn't that thrilling really - takes a long time to drive down it because of all the tourists. I'd go to the bottom and look up the street myself.

    Napa is going to be a bit tricky to fit it - you'll need a full day- you can rent a car in the city and drive over, but make sure you have a designated driver for the return trip. Sonoma is a bit closer and also has fine wineries. If you do make it to Napa, we love the Silverado trail wineries - especially Silverado itself which is owned by Diane Disney Miller. We always share tastings since the wineries do charge and that way we can try more before our taste buds are gone. Everything shuts down by 5 or 6, but you'll find some excellent restaurants in the area.

    Book ahead for Alcatraz - it sells out often ( may not be so bad in October though).

    We do taxis, buses, and a lot of walking when we go. You can easily go without a car - plus parking is $$$$ ( often $30 or more a day)
    SF is a beautiful city. Have fun!
  5. skiingfast

    skiingfast <font color=teal>Has had no bacon<br><font color=b

    Mar 12, 2010
    For what you plan I would get a 3 day ticket for the City transportation. It will cover the Cable cars, buses, street cars and muni. It doesn't include BART but that is for going out of the city.

    It's easy to go carless in SF. Also Lumbard street is a few block from the cable car. So simple to walk to, not up.

    You should also look at City Pass. For what you want to do it will probably work out for you.
  6. kkmcan

    kkmcan Official Mouse Fan

    Apr 23, 2003
    Thanks for all the responses. I'm finding this so completely overwhelming! Yes, we do plan on getting the citypass which I think includes unlimited rides on cable cars and Muni.

    Ok so with your advice here's an outline. Let me know if this will work.

    Sat- arrive, go to hotel, check in. Exploratorium and then dinner???
    Sun- Alcatraz followed by lunch at Fishermans Wharf. Walk to Ghiradelli for afternoon ice cream.
    Mon- Academy of Sciences and maybe some browsing around at Golden Gate Park. China town in late afternoon
    Tues- Rent a car, Drive to Jelly Belly via Napa. No wine tasting, just driving through to see the beautiful country.
    Wed- check out, head to airport

    Now, here's where I have a problem. I don't want to do the Academy of Sciences and the Exploratorium on the same day- too much museum types of things for one day. Also, I need something nearby and fun to start off our vacation with on our check in day. I just stuck the Explotorium in there but we may not be able to do that as it will probably be 2pm when we get there. Not sure what time they close. We get in at noon so plenty of time to do something.

    Probably will skip the Walt Disney Museum as this is suppposed to be a Disney-free trip. :eek:
  7. skiingfast

    skiingfast <font color=teal>Has had no bacon<br><font color=b

    Mar 12, 2010
    If I were you. I would go to Chinatown the first day. It's leisurely shopping and you can walk to and from your hotel. You can also pick from about 50 places on Grant St. for dinner. If you feel like that is too much time for China town thier is lots of shopping near Union Sq. and places to eat. Lots of chains and SF only places.

    I can understand not doing the two museums in one day but I wanted to mention in Golden Gate Park is the Japanese Tea Garden which is great, this is semi near The CA Academy of Sciences. Though the park itself is pretty big so they aren't right next to each other.

    Also driving to Napa and back in a day, the traffic is not great, just a heads up to avoid the rush hours.
  8. LizEN

    LizEN Mouseketeer

    May 5, 2010
    Check out Disney's for great itineraries, they make things incredibly easy!

    Don't forget to go to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie factory in Chinatown they give warm samples! And you can get in close to see how they make them. We always get a bag of flat chocolate and regular cookies--YUM. Also stop at the Cable Car Museum, not far off from Chinatown.

    Fodor's has some great walking tours that we have done. I found them a great jumping off place for making up our itineraries for SF. (We go about every two years or so.)

    Have a great trip!
  9. mamacatnv

    mamacatnv That be a Mum Y'all - a Texas Mum

    Nov 7, 2005
    We just did almost an exact replica of your wish list in March.
    Here is what we did:

    We purchased CityPasses with the Alcatraz option, note, the CityPasses with the Alcatraz option can only be bought at the Alcatraz pier and I would suggest you do so the minute you arrive so that you can schedule your Alcatraz tour since the tours do sell out quickly.

    I highly recommend City Guides (free walking tours all over the city)

    We arrived Friday evening - checked into our hotel and that was it.
    Saturday morning, we took muni to China Town where we went on a CityGuides walking tour, then had lunch followed by shopping and wandering thru the various markets. We hoped on the Market/Van Ness cable car at the South end of Stockton street and rode it up over Nob Hill and back. Took muni back to our hotel where we met up with my Brother for dinner.

    Sunday, walking tour of Golden Gate Bridge, then spent the rest of the day driving to Ft. Point and North to Pt. Bonita and Muir Beach (we went to the Exploratorium in January)

    Monday, muni to Academy of Sciences where we did spend the majority of the day. Then muni to Union Sq. from Union Sq. we took a cable car to the top of the hill and walked down to China Town for dinner. From China Town we took a cab to Ghiradelli and asked the driver to route us so that we could see Lombard St. We got out, wandered around a bit (while driver waited) then off to Ghiradelli for dessert, muni back to our hotel.

    Tuesday, this was our Alcatraz day and we were on the 11:30 boat, back to the Pier around 3, wandered thru the Aquarium by the Bay (Citypass attraction) then we had lunch and decided to head for home (4.5 hr drive).

    The Jelly Belly factory is okay, but IMO given the ages of your kids not something that would be on my must do list. Also, if you go on a weekend the tour is all video, there is no production going on - during the week you actually get to see the action of the workers (we went twice last year, once on a weekday the other a weekend)

    Couple of things to note:
    Both my kids (11 & 20) preferred the Exploratorium over the Academy of Sciences. The Academy of Sciences is beautiful but not hands on like the Exploratorium. My DD expressed that she would have preferred to visit the DeYoung again over the Academy. Also, be prepared for a very expensive lunch at Academy - high end gourmet, not burgers and fries type of food.

    A friend of mine and I are taking our DD's to SFO in a few weeks, our agenda is the DeYoung, the Exploratorium w/Tactile Dome and the Disney Museum - along with several meals in China Town!
  10. gatorfreud

    gatorfreud DIS Veteran

    Mar 23, 2008
    That is Fleet Week weekend. My favorite weekend of the year!! Usually the weather is gorgeous - except last year. So Saturday and Sunday expect it to be a mob scene at Crissy Field - down near the exploratorium. What I would do is plan Saturday or Sunday (check hours at exploratorium) and hit the museum at opening, then go to Crissy Field to walk the strip and then catch the air show. I think it starts around 1pm, Blue Angels fly at 3. There is a new cafe near there, haven't eaten there but I heard it is pretty good. Or you can grab sandwiches down at the Warming Hut. Or from the Exploratorium you could walk over to Chestnut street for lunch - tons of great stuff to eat there - Andale, Pacific Catch, Asqew, etc.... After lunch you could walk down and grab a spot for the airshow.

    Anyway, do you have a hotel yet? I would expect everything to be more crowded than usual. It's a really fun day watching the air show though. The Blue Angels usually start practicing Thursday so you will hear them whizzing all over the city!

    Have fun! Maybe you'll see me there - I would not miss it for the world! We usually go Sunday.

    Kim :)
  11. kkmcan

    kkmcan Official Mouse Fan

    Apr 23, 2003
    Thanks so much for posting this! This is right up our alley! Dh is so excited about it. So we'll do the Exploratorium on Sunday morning and then cross the street for some lunch and then grab a spot for the airshow.

  12. Noah

    Noah Easy, Direct, and Simple

    Jan 17, 2001
    It is good that you are not squeezing in 2 museums in 1 day. Museums in San Fran usually closes very early, at about 5pm. The good news is that a lot of these are located at wonderful parks and beaches and scenic areas that even if you have to exit, there's still much fun things to do and see.

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