Planning First Trip to San Francisco

E&Cmom

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 1, 2011
I planning a trip during Spring Break to San Francisco for 4-5 days in late March . We are a family of 4 with 2 girls ages 15 and 12. Planning to visit that typical site you think of ( ie Alcatraz ( book early...I know) , Golden Gate Bridge etc) as well as the Walt Disney Family Museum.

What are other must do as well as other ideas that one might not typically think of? Also best areas to stay and any hotel recommendation or restaurant recommendations?

Thanks. :)
 

xlsm

Snow White
Joined
Oct 19, 2013
We made our first trip to San Francisco over the summer - we LOVED it!!

We flew in, and stayed two nights at Hotel Nikko near Union Square then rented a car and drove north to Eureka. We spent three nights there exploring the redwood coast and then drove back to San Francisco and stayed three nights at the Fairmont. The Hotel Argonaut was on our list of places to stay, but we couldn't make it work with our dates.

Alcatraz is awesome, and so is the Walt Disney Family Museum. We really enjoyed the Musee Mechanique, too. Definitely make time to visit Chinatown, and we loved the Ferry Building. El Porteno has the most amazing, amazing empanadas. Coit Tower ended up being more trouble than it was worth. That's my only regret, we crammed it in instead of visiting the Mission District and I wish we'd done the Mission instead.

Our favorite restaurants were Sweet Maple, Trestle, and Dumpling Time. The Tonga Room in The Fairmont is a blast, too.

We are anxious to go back!!
 

E&Cmom

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 1, 2011
We made our first trip to San Francisco over the summer - we LOVED it!!

We flew in, and stayed two nights at Hotel Nikko near Union Square then rented a car and drove north to Eureka. We spent three nights there exploring the redwood coast and then drove back to San Francisco and stayed three nights at the Fairmont. The Hotel Argonaut was on our list of places to stay, but we couldn't make it work with our dates.

Alcatraz is awesome, and so is the Walt Disney Family Museum. We really enjoyed the Musee Mechanique, too. Definitely make time to visit Chinatown, and we loved the Ferry Building. El Porteno has the most amazing, amazing empanadas. Coit Tower ended up being more trouble than it was worth. That's my only regret, we crammed it in instead of visiting the Mission District and I wish we'd done the Mission instead.

Our favorite restaurants were Sweet Maple, Trestle, and Dumpling Time. The Tonga Room in The Fairmont is a blast, too.

We are anxious to go back!!
Thanks! Great tips! Just book our flights. Trying to figure out where to stay.
 
  • bcla

    On our rugged Eastern foothills.....
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    The places to visit are all pretty well covered in guidebooks. There really are no "secret spots" unless maybe you have younger kids. I can think of a bunch of places that might be good with 5-10 year old kids but the older ones might not like them.

    I'd recommend driving Conzelman Road in the Marin Headlands. There are excellent views of the Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate Bridge, and San Francisco, but the drive is spectacular. Here's footage from a bike ride, but it's almost the same by car.


    I also like Point Reyes National Seashore, but it may depend on what your kids like. It takes a while to get there and back.

    If you're crossing the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco, you'll need either a FasTrak toll transponder or you'll need to register your rental car license plate with the bridge toll system. Your rental company might give you an option to rent one, but rental fees are ridiculous. They no longer accept cash tolls like the other bridges in the area. Also be aware of carpool lanes in the area. None of the toll bridges allow carpools (with a lower toll during specified hours) without a FasTrak transponder. I believe the Golden Gate Bridge issues an invoice to the registered owner, but it's kind of awkward with a rental car if there are additional fees involved.

    https://www.bayareafastrak.org/en/guide/GGBridgeToll.shtml

    I recommend figuring out what the tolls are, registering an account, and add funds to the account linking it to your rental vehicle.
     

    cruisehopeful

    Wishing I was taking a nap on a ship.
    Joined
    Oct 25, 2015
    I like Golden Gate Park. There is a nice Japanese Tea Garden and a Science Museum in there.

    Muir Woods is a nice escape from the city.

    Lombard Street makes for a fun little walk.
     

    Douglas Dubh

    True Fiscal Conservative
    Joined
    Nov 13, 1999
    I've driven west on Market St up to Twin Peaks at least three times - morning, mid day, and evening. It's a nice view from up there. Evening was really nice - we watched the sunset and then the fog rolled in.
     

    DLfan4

    Cant wait for another trip to DLR
    Joined
    Oct 23, 2013
    Some must do's are see the Golden Gate Bridge, see the The Palace of Fine Art, go to Fishermans Wharf / Pier 39. I did one day at SF recently as part of my trip. i will be posting some pictures in my trip report.

    Some other suggestions are Visit Ghiridelli, Visit Boudin Bakery.
     
  • Miss SD

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 25, 2008
    If you’re looking for something that’s not typically SF touristy, how about jumping on BART and heading to Oakland? My family and I enjoy walking down Broadway to Jack London Square. On the way, you can walk through Old Oakland and Preservation Park. I used to work in Oakland (I still do, occasionally), and grew to appreciate its many charms.
     

    nutshell

    Oh, Disney!
    Joined
    Dec 3, 2007
    I love eating at Hog Island Oyster Company in the Ferry Building. Lots of great food.
     
    Last edited:

    AlohaNow

    Just keep swimming...
    Joined
    Oct 19, 2008
    Here is the perfect trip to SF:
    1. exit your hotel, jump on a cable car, go eat somewhere
    2. jump on a vintage streetcar, go eat somewhere
    3. walk a few blocks while enjoying the amazing views, go eat somewhere
    Seriously, this city charmed us beyond measure! Just transiting around and eating. DS15 and I stayed at the Omni in the Financial District which was lovely and super convenient to transit. We did the typical Boudin, Ghiridelli, harbor tour by boat, Ferry Building, Cable Car Museum, etc. Fabulous breakfast around the corner from the Omni in Chinatown. My Japanese studying son wanted to take the bus to Japantown so we shopped and ate there too. Xlsm – We wanted to do The Tonga Room but couldn’t fit it in! E&Cmom – your girls can go to the Tonga Room, but it would need to be the earlier seating I believe due to age. Just call and check on that if interested. I fell in love with SF and am taking DH there for his first visit this year! Have fun planning!
     

    E&Cmom

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 1, 2011
    Thanks everyone for your suggestions. I will look into them.

    I booked our flight and hotel. We will be staying in the Fisherman’s Wharf area at Hotel Zephyr for 5 nights. Will book Alcatraz next. Someone I know suggested the Night Tour. Has anyone done that tour and is it better to go at night or during the day?
     
  • bcla

    On our rugged Eastern foothills.....
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    Thanks everyone for your suggestions. I will look into them.

    I booked our flight and hotel. We will be staying in the Fisherman’s Wharf area at Hotel Zephyr for 5 nights. Will book Alcatraz next. Someone I know suggested the Night Tour. Has anyone done that tour and is it better to go at night or during the day?
    The night tour isn't currently available because they're not allowed to operate them without park rangers. Not sure how long this is going to last. I believe they can still be reserved, but until the shutdown ends any tours are automatically cancelled if it hasn't ended.
     

    E&Cmom

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 1, 2011
    The night tour isn't currently available because they're not allowed to operate them without park rangers. Not sure how long this is going to last. I believe they can still be reserved, but until the shutdown ends any tours are automatically cancelled if it hasn't ended.

    On the website it says that if the shutdown is still on they will change it to a day tour for the same day and refund you the difference. The only thing is I don’t know how that works since you have to pick a time slot and they go fast.

    Wish I could predict what will be happening in late March.
     

    bcla

    On our rugged Eastern foothills.....
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    On the website it says that if the shutdown is still on they will change it to a day tour for the same day and refund you the difference. The only thing is I don’t know how that works since you have to pick a time slot and they go fast.

    Wish I could predict what will be happening in late March.
    Didn't check. I was reading local articles that claimed that they were being automatically cancelled if the day came up and the shutdown isn't over.
     

    RedVines2001

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Jun 14, 2018
    Good restaurants are everywhere. The one that stands out is the House of Prime Rib - old school san Francisco restaurant. there's also an In N Out burger on Jefferson St at Fisherman's wharf. Side note if you're getting a rental car do not leave ANYTHING in your car, not even the trunk. Auto burglary is rampant in all the touristy areas. Hope this helps. Have a good trip.
     

    E&Cmom

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 1, 2011
    Good restaurants are everywhere. The one that stands out is the House of Prime Rib - old school san Francisco restaurant. there's also an In N Out burger on Jefferson St at Fisherman's wharf. Side note if you're getting a rental car do not leave ANYTHING in your car, not even the trunk. Auto burglary is rampant in all the touristy areas. Hope this helps. Have a good trip.
    Thanks. We are not renting a car.

    We go in just over 2 weeks.
     

    ninergrl6

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 12, 2018
    Yeah don't drive in the city. It's a pain and it's expensive to park. There's enough public transportation + Uber/Lyft to get you where you need to go within the city. My advice would be to get OUT of the city because the rest of the Bay Area is awesome, but I don't think you have time for that.

    Someone up-thread mentioned Hotel Nikko-- it has a GREAT cabaret venue called Feinstein's that hosts Broadway artists if your fam is into that sort of thing. There are some incredible acts coming in the next few weeks. https://www.feinsteinsatthenikko.com/
     

    iivye

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 22, 2013
    We rented a car at the airport and drove to the Winchester House then to the Jelly Bean Factory, drove across the Golden Gate Bridge, down Lombard street and returned the car at a place near Fisherman's Wharf a couple blocks from our hotel. We didn't want a car for the whole trip but just having it for one day really worked out for us.
     

    ninergrl6

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 12, 2018
    We rented a car at the airport and drove to the Winchester House then to the Jelly Bean Factory, drove across the Golden Gate Bridge, down Lombard street and returned the car at a place near Fisherman's Wharf a couple blocks from our hotel. We didn't want a car for the whole trip but just having it for one day really worked out for us.
    I'm glad you saw the Winchester Mystery House! That's always one of my recommendations, but people who visit SF don't usually make time for it.
     

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